Deng Xiaoping

The Working Class Should Make Outstanding Contributions to the Four Modernizations


Spoken: October 11, 1978
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine



This Ninth National Congress of Chinese Trade Unions will play an important part in advancing the workers’ movement in China and in speeding up the four modernizations. On behalf of the Central Committee of the Party and the State Council, I extend warm congratulations to the congress and cordially greet all the delegates and all the comrades working in various fields.

The line, principles and tasks set for the workers’ movement by the Sixth All-China Labour Congress and the Seventh and Eighth National Congresses of Chinese Trade Unions72 were correct. Under the Party’s leadership, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions and the trade unions at all other levels have done much good work, and they have played an important role in the successful development of China’s socialist revolution and construction. Under the Party’s leadership and with the help of the trade unions, a contingent of model workers and other outstanding revolutionary workers by hand and brain from all of China’s nationalities has emerged in the various regions and industrial sectors. They remain the core around which our unity is built and the examples for us to emulate.

However, Lin Biao and the Gang of Four brought trade union work to a complete halt for a number of years. They cultivated a number of bad elements in order to gain control of certain workers’ organizations and use them as tools in their plot to usurp Party and state power. They fanned factionalism and provoked armed clashes among workers in factories, mines and other enterprises, incited them to stop work and opposed or even brutally persecuted revolutionary cadres, model workers and trade union activists. They created anarchy in individual enterprises in industry and in the economy as a whole. They opposed socialist planning of the economy, the principle of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work”, and all rational rules and regulations. And they sabotaged labour discipline. All these counter-revolutionary crimes had most serious consequences. At the same time, they aroused fierce revolutionary indignation among workers all over the country. Everywhere, large numbers of advanced people defied the White terror imposed by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four and fought them courageously. These struggles show that our working class is indeed the steadfast and time-tested revolutionary leading class.

In the two years since the downfall of the Gang of Four, under the leadership of the Central Committee we have exposed and criticized them and set things to rights so that the situation is constantly improving. However, it is obvious that immense efforts are still needed to eliminate the pernicious influence Lin Biao and the Gang had on the workers and its disastrous consequences, and it is still necessary for every enterprise to consolidate the ranks of its personnel. We must carry the exposure and criticism of the Gang through to the end without fail. On the other hand, it is clear that decisive victories in this struggle have already been won on a nationwide scale. On the basis thus laid, we are now able to tackle our new revolutionary tasks.

The Eleventh National Congress of the Party and the Fifth National People’s Congress have set the great nationwide goal of achieving the four socialist modernizations before the end of this century. Now the Central Committee and the State Council are urging us to quicken the pace of our modernization and have set forth a series of relevant policies and organizational measures. The Central Committee points out that this is a great revolution in which China’s economic and technological backwardness will be overcome and the dictatorship of the proletariat further consolidated. Since its goal is to transform the present backward state of our productive forces, it inevitably entails many changes in the relations of production, the superstructure and the forms of management in industrial and agricultural enterprises, as well as changes in the state administration over these enterprises so as to meet the needs of modern large-scale production. To accelerate economic growth it is essential to increase the degree of specialization of enterprises, to raise the technical level of all personnel significantly and train and evaluate them carefully, to greatly improve economic accounting in the enterprises, and to raise labour productivity and rates of profit to much higher levels. Therefore, it is essential to carry out major reforms in the various branches of the economy with respect to their structure and organization as well as to their technology. The long-term interests of the whole nation hinge on these reforms, without which we cannot overcome the present backwardness of our production technology and management. The Central Committee of the Party is confident that, in the interests of socialism and the four modernizations, our whole working class will play a selfless, model, vanguard role in these reforms. It is also confident that the trade unions will make new and outstanding contributions to the cause of revolution and construction by conducting deep-going educational and organizational work among the masses and thus helping the enterprises to carry out these reforms smoothly. One of the main characteristics of the working class is its direct association with large-scale production. Consequently it has the highest political consciousness and the strongest sense of discipline, and is able to play a leading role in our present-day economic, social and political progress. We hope that this congress will have a penetrating discussion of the current situation so that, on the basis of complete victory in the struggle to expose and criticize the Gang of Four, it can unite all union members to undertake the great task before us, that is, the four modernizations.

Trade unions should educate all their members to recognize the tremendous importance of the four modernizations and strive to raise their political, managerial, technical and educational levels. The workers should carry forward their glorious traditions of working hard and selflessly, maintaining strict discipline, readily accepting work assignments and loving their enterprises as they do their own families. They should unite and rid themselves of all vestiges of the factionalism and anarchism stirred up by the Gang of Four. The working class should do everything possible to master modern technology and managerial skills so that they can make outstanding contributions to the four modernizations. It is only right and proper that those who make bigger contributions should be accorded higher honour and larger rewards by the state and society. The Central Committee and the State Council have decided that a national conference of model workers will be held next year to greet the 30th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and to commend the best workers in industry and transport, capital construction, agriculture and forestry, finance and trade, culture and education, and science and technology. I hope that working personnel throughout the country will achieve outstanding successes with which to welcome the first great gathering of heroes and heroines to be held in the course of the new Long March.

Enterprises should institute the system in which the factory director or manager assumes overall responsibility under the leadership of the Party committee, and they should set up effective systems for directing production. The trade unions should teach their members to support the highly centralized administrative leadership in their enterprises and to help maintain the full authority of those who direct production. Only thus can we organize production in a normal and orderly fashion and correct the situation, now common in our enterprises, in which no one takes responsibility. And only thus can we steadily carry out expanded reproduction, increase profits and, at the same time, constantly improve the standard of living of the whole labour force, so that the interests of the state, the collective and the individual are truly co-ordinated. The unions should encourage their members to take an active part in the management of their own enterprises. In order to accomplish the four modernizations, all our enterprises, without exception, must adopt democratic forms of management, combining them with centralized leadership. Henceforth, workshop directors, section chiefs and group leaders in the enterprises should be elected by the workers in their respective units. Major issues in an enterprise should be discussed at congresses or general meetings of workers and office staff at which the leading cadres listen to their opinions and criticism and accept their supervision. These congresses and meetings should have the right to suggest to higher levels that certain leading or managerial personnel be punished or replaced for serious negligence of duty or a bad style of work. The trade union organization of each enterprise will function as the executive organ of the congresses and general meetings. Thus they will not be superfluous as some people think they are. Whether the unions function well or badly affects the extent to which the workers exercise their rights as masters of the enterprise. It also affects the quality of management and the efficacy of centralized leadership there. That is to say, when an enterprise is well managed, its success is due not only to the Party and administrative cadres but also to its workers and its trade union.

Unions must be active in protecting the workers’ welfare. As our country is still backward, the workers’ conditions cannot be improved overnight, but only gradually on the basis of increased production and particularly of higher productivity of labour. But this circumstance must not be used by the leadership in enterprises — still less by the trade unions — as a pretext for indifference to the workers’ welfare. Even under present conditions enterprise leadership can do much in this respect and the unions should do even more. They should urge and assist the administrations of enterprises and of localities to do everything currently possible to improve the working and living conditions of the workers, their canteens and sanitary facilities, and at the same time they should encourage various forms of mutual aid among the workers.

To be successful in each of these types of work, the unions must maintain close ties with the workers. They must get the workers to regard them as truly their own organizations, which they can trust and which speak for them and work in their interests — not organizations whose leaders lie to them, lord it over them or work for their own private interests while living off the members’ dues. If they are to fight for the democratic rights of the workers and oppose bureaucracy in all forms, the unions must themselves be models of democracy. And union leaders, if they are to persuade the workers through education that they should work hard, be selfless and completely devoted to the public interest, observe discipline strictly, accept assignments and love their enterprises as they do their own families, must themselves set an example in every one of these respects. So long as the unions perform all these duties, they will enjoy high prestige among the workers and be able to make important contributions to the four modernizations. In an enterprise where exposure and criticism of the Gang of Four have been reasonably thorough, it is the duty of the trade union as well as of the Party organization, the administration and the Youth League organization to see that they all register significant successes. Two years have already passed since the Gang of Four was smashed, so we can’t continue blaming all the problems in our work on its pernicious influence. If it still persists, the fault is ours. If we all place high demands on ourselves, the cause of our Party and our state will surely prosper and we shall achieve the great goal of the four modernizations ahead of time.

Comrades! While building our own country, our working class must always keep in mind the proletariat and the oppressed people and nations of the world. We must go on strengthening our unity with the workers and revolutionary people the world over and support their struggles against imperialism, colonialism and hegemonism as well as their struggles to win or safeguard national independence and to make social progress. We must make our contribution to the emancipation of the working class throughout the world and to the progress of all mankind. With due modesty about our own achievements, our working class must also learn from the experience of working-class struggles in other lands and study the science and technology of the advanced countries so as to speed up the four modernizations in China.

Comrades! Our cause is glorious and our future is bright. Let us hold high the great banner of Mao Zedong Thought and, under the leadership of the Central Committee of the Party, work unremittingly and in concert to fulfil the new historic mission of the Chinese working class — to turn China into a great modern and powerful socialist country within this century.

(Speech at the Ninth National Congress of Chinese Trade Unions.)