Deng Xiaoping

Speech at the Mobilization Meeting on Rectification in the Party School of the Northern Bureau


Spoken: November 10, 1943
First Published: December 4, 1943
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine



The rectification movement launched by the Party Central Committee and Comrade Mao Zedong last year has yielded substantial results across the country, especially in the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region. Unprecedented in the Party’s history, the movement is not only of great significance to the building of the Chinese Communist Party, but also constitutes a very important contribution to the building of communist parties in the world.

As we all know, the aim of rectification is to overcome non-proletarian, non-Marxist-Leninist ideology, still extant among our comrades, with proletarian, Marxist-Leninist ideology, so that our entire Party membership can have unified thinking and will, rallying more closely around the Central Committee headed by Mao Zedong and bringing the Chinese revolutionary cause to fruition. Naturally, our rectification movement should start with each individual comrade. The Party is composed of many individuals; when one individual rectifies his way of thinking he can improve the work for which he is responsible, thus helping to strengthen the Party as a whole, and when all our comrades discard their unhealthy practices, the strength of our Party will multiply miraculously! The rectification movement is of vital and lasting importance for building our Party, so every comrade should become involved.

Do all the comrades truly understand the significance of the movement, however? I am afraid that so far our comrades, including both rank-and-file comrades and leading comrades, still lack a deep understanding of it. Otherwise, there is no way to explain why the movement has not been started over the past year and a half. Therefore, at a time when the present term of the Party School begins and all the departments and army units in the Taihang area are about to start the movement, I think it is necessary to stress the significance of the movement once again.

Why did the Central Committee and Comrade Mao Zedong call for rectification last year? I think rectification is a policy measure formulated by Comrade Mao Zedong after he analysed the historical experience and lessons of the Party over the past 21 years, especially after he studied present conditions prevailing in the Party — a policy measure for further Bolshevizing the Party to make it better armed and unified ideologically, in order to successfully lead the Chinese revolution to victory.

Our Party now has a history of more than 22 years, in which it has gone through three great revolutionary wars. It has always stood in the forefront, fighting heroically for the liberation of our nation and people and consistently guiding the Chinese revolution forward. However, we have met with a number of setbacks and failures, each of which was caused by people who dominated the Party leadership with their erroneous style of study, style in conducting the Party’s internal and external relations and style of writing. Take the First Great Revolution, for example. It was a vigorous revolution launched after our Party had gathered some strength, but it was strangled under the leadership of Chen Duxiu’s opportunism, which was prevalent for a short time towards the end of this revolution. Again, under the leadership of Comrade Li Lisan’s adventurism, the strength that had been built up after overcoming Chen Duxiu’s opportunism was greatly weakened. The “Left” opportunism that emerged during the late Soviet period dominated the Party even longer and caused much more damage, with the bulk of the Red Army in the Soviet areas and the Party organizations in the White areas destroyed at the hands of leaders who dominated the Party with these three erroneous styles. These experiences have taught us that when the Party exercises correct leadership, its work and the revolutionary movements will develop, but when the three erroneous styles predominate in Party leadership, the groundwork laid through protracted, painstaking struggle will be undermined and the revolution will suffer setbacks and defeats. The longer subjectivism, sectarianism and stereotyped Party writing dominate the Party leadership, the more serious the damage they will do to the Party and to the revolution. This is the first lesson.

There is another lesson we have learned. Since the Zunyi Meeting of January 1935, the Party, under the leadership of the Central Committee headed by Comrade Mao Zedong, has eradicated “Left” and Right opportunism within the Party, swept away subjectivism, sectarianism and stereotyped Party writing, and placed the Party’s cause entirely under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism suited to Chinese conditions, that is, Mao Zedong Thought. Over the past nine years, not only has the Party made no mistakes, but it has moved ahead triumphantly. This is obvious to all. Indeed, all the comrades, recalling the past bitter lessons under the leadership of opportunists, can see that they have been doing well over these years under the leadership of a Central Committee that has been guided by Mao Zedong Thought; at the same time, they have become more aware of the pernicious influence exerted on them by the three erroneous styles. Anyone who has studied the Party’s history will fully realize the importance of the rectification movement.

Now that we have such an excellent Central Committee and a wise leader like Comrade Mao Zedong, both so vital to our Party, can we say that all our problems have thus been solved? No. To the correct leadership of the Central Committee must be added Party organizations and cadres at the various levels that faithfully carry out the Central Committee’s instructions. Otherwise, if the Party organizations and cadres are thoroughly tainted with subjectivism, sectarianism and stereotyped Party writing, it would be impossible for them to follow the correct leadership of the Central Committee. Unfortunately, these bad styles and non-proletarian ideologies still remain serious among them and have severely impaired our work. Comrade Mao Zedong’s call for rectification is, of course, not a shot in the dark; it is precisely directed against our weaknesses. If all of us carefully review our work over the past few years and examine our ideology, we shall understand this point. In Taihang and Taiyue areas and southern Hebei, for instance, we have achieved much in our work during this period under the leadership of the Central Committee. However, it is distressing that some of our comrades, especially some leading comrades, still follow erroneous ways in doing things and so have seriously impaired the work. For example, in the period of the Party’s great expansion, people were forced to join the Party, which, to this day, still hampers our efforts to consolidate the Party and increase its fighting capacity. Sectarianism among our comrades has driven large numbers of intellectuals in rural areas to the Kuomintang. Comrades working in the government based on the “three-thirds system” still do not know how to unite with non-Party people or to broaden and consolidate the united front. There were prolonged “Left” financial and economic policies and vacillation (now to the “Left”, now to the Right; mostly to the “Left”) in executing the policy of eliminating traitors. In addition, there were a formalistic style of leadership in production, an oversimplified, rigid approach to work, and so on. Many failings can be found everywhere at any time. These unhealthy practices have done us much harm; some still remain to do so, and others will cause us to suffer in the future. Anyone who has examined his own work will surely realize the need for the rectification movement.

As for ourselves, we must definitely admit that the ideology and work style of both rank-and-file Party members and many leading cadres still have something to be desired to varying degrees. We are not exaggerating if we say that a great many comrades still harbour non-proletarian ideas. Our comrades used to overestimate themselves and Party organizations lacked a profound understanding of their cadres. Our experience in the rectification movement has shown that knowing oneself is no easy matter, for people are prone to exaggerate their strong points and forgive their weaknesses, even taking their weaknesses for strong points. Therefore, it is only through the rectification movement conducted among groups of people that we can discover our weaknesses and know and remould ourselves anew through our own individual efforts and with the help of others. Reports of the rectification movement from various places show that although some comrades have fought for the revolution for many years, it was only through their recent deep self-examination and the help of others that they came to realize that they had not yet become true proletarian fighters and had not finally established a revolutionary outlook on life, or had joined the Party only organizationally, but not entirely ideologically, with one foot in and the other foot outside the Party organization. Can such comrades withstand revolutionary storms? Naturally, it would be difficult for them if they do not remould themselves. Unfortunately, there are quite a few such comrades, among whom there are even many members of prefectural Party committees who still have serious ideological weaknesses. Frankly, it is not a question of whether or not one has weaknesses, but how many and how serious they are. When Comrade Mao Zedong says that subjectivism and other erroneous practices are not predominant in the Party, he is speaking of the Party as a whole. So we should not forgive ourselves, believing that we have only a vestige of such practices and that it does not merit serious attention and vigilance. As a matter of fact, many comrades exhibit not just a vestige of subjectivism and sectarianism, but are ideologically dominated by them. These bad practices are manifested to varying degrees in different areas, some of them serious in one area, but less serious in another. They are holding sway in some districts, causing these districts to meet defeat (for instance, the Huxi area in Shandong Province). In short, weaknesses can be found, more or less, in all districts and among all comrades. We should carefully examine ourselves if we want to know, remould and better ourselves.

Comrade Peng Dehuai said that anyone who does not take part in the rectification movement will not understand its importance. Indeed, our experience from the previous term of the Party School has proved this. Many comrades arrived at a deep understanding of the rectification movement as it gradually developed in depth. It is not until they knew themselves and learned how to remould themselves that they realized the great power of the movement.

So far I have discussed the importance of the rectification movement.

Since the rectification movement is so important, why have we failed to practise it over the past year and a half? In my opinion, it is chiefly because the leading cadres have not gained an adequate understanding of the movement and, therefore, have not paid sufficient attention to it or devised practical ways of implementing it. Were there objective difficulties? Of course there were — for instance, wartime conditions, a heavy workload, and so on — however, these were definitely not the main reasons. If we had a full understanding of the importance of the rectification movement, we would try to overcome the difficulties by all possible means.

As this term of the Party School begins, the rectification movement is commencing throughout the Taihang area. We must overcome our past failings, continue conscientiously and fulfil the tasks set in the movement. In order to achieve this goal, instead of giving it up halfway as we did before, we must, above all, make sure we have good leadership. Leading cadres must keep tabs on the movement. They should plunge themselves into it, making a breakthrough at some point, and gaining experience with which to guide other departments. At the same time, specific methods will be adopted. For example, only a small number of cadres will take care of the day-to-day work in each department or government office, making it possible for the rest to concentrate on the movement. This method is better and more practicable than the one we used in the past, when we spent half a day on the movement and the other half on work; now all comrades can devote their attention to the movement. So long as we do not do a halfway job, we are sure to achieve our goal.

Leading cadres are paying closer attention to the rectification movement, but it is more important for each comrade to adopt a correct attitude towards the movement. Therefore, in the light of our experience from the previous term of the Party School, I should like to make the following suggestions to the comrades who are taking part in the present rectification movement.

First, each of you should resolve to correct your way of thinking. You should first and foremost examine yourself to see whether or not you have weaknesses in your thinking and what they are before you become determined to remould yourself. In the past some comrades came to the Party School for the purpose of listening to reports, but they were wrong there. One should understand that rectification requires one’s own painstaking effort. Only when one has unbounded revolutionary enthusiasm and a sense of responsibility to the Party can one be open-minded and possess the mettle to reveal one’s weaknesses and rectify one’s way of thinking. Anyone who does not have the resolve to do so or, being reluctant to make public his mistakes, intends to correct them only in private can absolutely not succeed in rectifying his thinking. Some comrades who attended the previous term of the Party School did just that, coming to grief themselves and harming the Party.

Second, each of you should have the courage to help others in the movement. This is the correct attitude for us to adopt towards the Party and other comrades. We should have a spirit of both self-criticism and criticism of others and oppose the vulgar liberalistic attitude of the petty bourgeoisie. The rectification movement conducted during the previous term of the Party School shows that some comrades in southern Hebei had many weaknesses, but because they criticized themselves and each other frankly, they achieved a great deal. In contrast, because they lacked this spirit, some comrades in the Taihang area did not achieve such good results. Of course, criticism is aimed at helping comrades or, in other words, curing the sickness to save the patient, so we should be particularly open-minded in accepting criticism from others as a piece of advice for self-examination. Even if other people only give their impressions of us, that is still of value.

Third, rectification should be linked to the checking of your work. This means integrating theory with practice. Checking on your work here does not mean a special summary of your work; that can only be done when rectification is over. The purpose of conducting the present rectification in connection with the check on work is to make it easier for you to straighten out your thinking. At the outset of rectification in the previous term of the school, some comrades made a point of generally checking on their work, thus evading the cutting edge of the rectification movement. You should also watch out for this practice.

Fourth, during rectification you may feel weighed down with a heavy load mentally. When a comrade places truth in conflict with his personal interests, lacks the courage to be frank and lay bear his weaknesses and is overwhelmed by misgivings, especially when being helped and criticized by others, he is bound to feel depressed. In that case you should go a long way to explain things to him, making it clear that rectification is not directed at individuals but at the mistakes and that it is nothing to feel ashamed of, but rather something commendable, to yield when faced with the truth. You should encourage him to speak his mind so that other people can help him. As for those who have lost their bearings and are not of one mind with the Party, you should also earnestly persuade them to confess their errors to the Party, telling them that the Party will surely forgive them. Our experience in the previous rectification movement proved that when a comrade had struggled with himself mentally, received other people’s help and made a clean breast of everything, he became cheerful at once, taking a more active part in the movement and trying harder to help other people. You should warmly encourage and welcome such comrades.

Fifth, it is essential to advocate the attitude of “saying all you know and saying it without reserve” to one’s comrades and superiors, and to oneself. If you have something to say about the Northern Bureau, the sub-bureaus or the Party committees at the district level, you should say it frankly. Although in our work we are divided into higher and lower positions, you do not need to worry about this difference. People holding higher posts should be frank and outspoken with those holding lower ones, and vice versa; they should also help each other. All group leaders and heads of study committees should be chosen from among rectification activists regardless of their regular positions.


These are the suggestions I should like to offer for your reference on the occasion of the new term of the Party School. For comrades to leave their posts and devote themselves fully to the rectification movement represents an opportunity that is hard to come by. You may feel pressed for time, but so long as you are determined to remould yourselves and improve your work, you will see enormous results. A few months from now you will have a fresh understanding of yourselves and a new attitude towards your work, and I am convinced that the Party’s cause will be advanced markedly.

(Delivered at the beginning of the eighth term of the Party School of the Northern Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, the speech was carried in Rectification Weekly No. 2, published on December 4, 1943 by the study committee of the departments directly under the Northern Bureau and the General Headquarters of the Eighteenth Group Army.)