Published: March 30, 1979
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine
This forum on the principles for the Party’s theoretical work has been in session for some time. With the meeting drawing to an end, the Central Committee has asked me to set forth a few views on the subject.
I. THE PRESENT SITUATION AND OUR TASKS
This meeting is being held in accordance with a decision of the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. That session and the Central Working Conference prior to it confirmed the important work of the Central Committee since the smashing of the Gang of Four. Those two meetings decided that the nationwide mass movement to expose and criticize Lin Biao and the Gang of Four could be considered successfully completed and that, beginning from this year, the Party must shift the focus of its work to socialist modernization. The Third Plenary Session solved a series of major problems left over from the recent history of the Party in order to rally the whole Party and army and our people of all nationalities to march forward towards the grand objective — the four modernizations. Both meetings were of great significance in the history of the Party. At this forum on the principles for theoretical work convened after the Third Plenary Session, the participants have spoken frankly and put forward a number of questions deserving our attention and study. On the whole, the meeting has been fruitful. As I said at the Central Working Conference, it is essential that we emancipate our minds, use our heads, seek truth from facts and unite as one and look to the future. We must continue to follow these principles unswervingly. The important thing now is to go a step further in popularizing and applying them by proceeding from reality and linking them closely with the present situation and our tasks.
We need to make an adequate assessment of all aspects of the situation since the toppling of the Gang of Four, and particularly since the Third Plenary Session. In the two and a half years since the overthrow of the Gang, we have destroyed most of its counter-revolutionary political forces and readjusted and strengthened our leading bodies at various levels. Leadership in the Party, the government and the army is now mainly in the hands of cadres worthy of the people’s trust, and most of the work in these three spheres has returned to normal. This is a momentous, hard-won achievement. We have freed ourselves from the effects of the decade of turmoil created by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four and secured a political situation marked by stability and unity; this situation is both a prerequisite and a guarantee for our socialist modernization. All of us present here, all members of our Party, and especially those in leading posts, should treasure this political situation and lay great stress on preserving it. Stability and unity, of course, must be based on principle. As regards our ideological and political orientation, it can be said that through our exposure and criticism of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four and, in particular, through our discussions of ideological and theoretical problems at the Central Working Conference and the Third Plenary Session of the Central Committee this past winter, we have basically returned to the correct path of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, which we mean to follow at all times. China’s economy has taken a turn for the better and production has been rapidly restored in all sectors. This political and economic situation has made it possible for the whole Party to begin shifting the focus of its work to socialist modernization this year. This is a great turning point in China’s history. Although we have been engaged in socialist construction for many years, we have good reason to consider this the beginning of a new phase of historical development. Events of the past three months have proved conclusively that the guiding principles laid down at the Third Plenary Session are correct and enjoy the firm support of the whole Party and people. Throughout the country, stability and unity are being consolidated and a buoyant democratic life is developing both inside and outside the Party. Our Party’s fine traditions have been largely revived, much progress has been made in emancipating thinking inside and outside the Party and the work style of seeking truth from facts is becoming ever more widespread. Furthermore, the implementation of the Party’s policies has aroused the enthusiasm of millions upon millions of people both inside and outside its ranks, and in the rural areas the two documents on agriculture adopted at the Third Plenary Session have been warmly received by the cadres and the masses of peasants. The victory in our counter-attack waged in self-defence on Viet Nam has immensely heightened China’s prestige in the international struggle against hegemonism as well as the prestige of the army among our own people. This counter-attack has demonstrated that our army still deserves to be called the valiant and battle-tested People’s Liberation Army, and that it remains the Great Wall of defence of our socialist modernization.
Furthermore, it must be stressed that we have done a lot of diplomatic work in the past two years and have secured an excellent international environment for the realization of China’s four modernizations. Judging from the international reaction to our defensive counter-attack on Viet Nam, we have the genuine sympathy of the vast majority of people. It is now even clearer to everyone how brilliant and far-sighted was the strategy of differentiating the three worlds formulated by Comrade Mao Zedong in the evening of his life. It is also clearer how brilliant and far-sighted were his policy decisions on this issue, namely, that China should side with the third-world countries and strengthen its unity with them, try to win over the second-world countries for a concerted effort against hegemonism, and establish normal diplomatic relations with the United States and Japan. This strategic principle and these policies have been invaluable in rallying the world’s people to oppose hegemonism, changing the world political balance, frustrating the Soviet hegemonists’ arrogant plan to isolate China internationally, improving China’s international environment, and heightening its international prestige.
In short, if we compare the country today with what it was at the time when Lin Biao and the Gang of Four ran riot, we see that radical changes have taken place in every respect. Under the correct leadership of the Central Committee, the Party, the army and the people are once again filled with confident hope for the future of our great socialist motherland. Anyone who fails to recognize that is bound to make major errors.
But at the same time we are confronted with some rather serious difficulties, and failure to recognize that too will likewise lead to major errors. First of all, we must make a sober appraisal of our country’s economy, which has long suffered damage from Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, and reach a common view of the subject. In the past decade we have failed to rid the economy of the serious imbalances which have made it impossible to achieve a steady and reliable high rate of growth. It appears that in the general process of advance, our economy — that is, our agriculture, industry, capital construction, transport services, domestic and foreign trade, and banking and finance — needs a period of readjustment in order to change from varying degrees of imbalance to relative balance. The present readjustment is different from that of the early 1960s. Being made at a time when the economy is growing, it aims to lay a solid foundation for the four modernizations. However, it is necessary to make a partial retreat. Some unrealistically high targets, which it would do more harm than good to aim at, must be resolutely lowered, and some ill-managed enterprises which run at a heavy loss must be consolidated within a certain time span or even temporarily shut down so that consolidation can be carried out. We must take one step back in order to take two steps forward. At the same time, in order to achieve the four modernizations, we must be earnest in solving a variety of problems related to our economic structure, and this too involves an extensive and complex readjustment. If we can smoothly carry out our tasks for 1979, the first year of readjustment, we will have made a big advance, a good beginning in shifting the focus of our work.
When there are disproportions in the economy, correct readjustment must be made in order for it to make steady progress; this fact is borne out by our historical experience in the economic readjustments of the years immediately following Liberation and of the early 1960s. We must therefore tell the people throughout China that no headway can be made unless such a readjustment is carried out, and that while the process is going on everyone must have full confidence in, and comply with, the arrangements made by the Party and the government. It should be recognized that, compared with the readjustment in the early sixties, the current one has many more conditions in its favour, but that it also faces some difficulties. During the readjustment of the sixties, the leadership at all levels and the sense of organization and discipline both inside and outside the Party were better than now, when there are certain elements of political and ideological instability. At present the various localities face the enormous task of clearing away the problems left behind by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four after their decade of trouble-making. Their poisonous influence — reflected particularly in factionalism and anarchism — has begun to spread again among a small section of people, along with doubts about socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Party’s leadership and Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. And some of our cadres, faced with entirely new historical tasks, have not sufficiently freed themselves from old ideas, nor are they good at studying the new situations and solving the new problems. Moreover, we are still plagued by the force of habit of the small producer and by the habits of bureaucracy. It is quite obvious that under these circumstances extensive readjustment may be accompanied by small or big disturbances. We can avoid them only if we have strong, centralized leadership and a strict sense of organization and discipline, only if we strengthen our efforts to maintain public and political order and to educate people in this regard, and only if we firmly improve the style of work in the Party and take further steps to restore its fine traditions of seeking truth from facts, following the mass line and working hard. Otherwise, these disturbances could become serious obstacles to our modernization programme at its very outset. The Central Committee has now decided to set up a Financial and Economic Commission, headed by Comrades Chen Yun and Li Xiannian, which will give unified direction to financial and economic work and to the current readjustment. The Central Committee, the State Council and the leading bodies in various localities have taken, and will continue to take, measures to strengthen public order, consolidate socialist legality and ensure stability and unity while resolutely promoting democracy. Discipline inspection commissions have been established by the Central Committee and local organizations of the Party. Their main task is to help the Central Committee and the local Party committees to improve their style of work. We have full confidence in our ability to surmount the temporary obstacles to our advance and to lead the Party and people to victory in our modernization drive.
What is our main task at present and for a fairly long time to come? To put it briefly, it is to carry out the modernization programme. The destiny of our country and people hinges on its success. Given our present conditions, it will be precisely by succeeding in the four modernizations that we will be adhering to Marxism and holding high the great banner of Mao Zedong Thought. And if we fail to proceed from this reality and to concentrate on the four modernizations, it will mean that we are departing from Marxism while indulging in empty talk about it. At the present time, socialist modernization is of supreme political importance for us, because it represents the most fundamental interest of our people. Today every member of the Communist Party and the Communist Youth League and every patriotic citizen must devote all his energies to the modernization drive and do all he can to overcome every difficulty under the unified leadership of the Party and government.
II. THE NECESSITY OF UPHOLDING THE FOUR CARDINAL PRINCIPLES IN THE DRIVE FOR THE FOUR MODERNIZATIONS
To achieve the four modernizations and make China a powerful socialist country before the end of this century will be a gigantic task.
In our democratic revolution, we had to act in accordance with China’s specific situation and follow the path discovered by Comrade Mao Zedong of encircling the cities from the rural areas. Now, in our national construction, we must likewise act in accordance with our own situation and find a Chinese path to modernization.
At least two important features of our situation must be taken into account in order to carry out the four modernizations in China.
First, we are starting from a weak base. The damage inflicted over a long period by the forces of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism reduced China to a state of poverty and backwardness. However, since the founding of the People’s Republic we have achieved signal successes in economic construction, established a fairly comprehensive industrial system and trained a body of technical personnel. From Liberation to last year, the average annual rate of growth in our industry and agriculture was fairly high by world standards. Nonetheless, because of our low starting point, China is still one of the world’s poor countries. Our scientific and technological forces are far from adequate. Generally speaking, we are 20 to 30 years behind the advanced countries in the development of science and technology. In the past three decades our economy has gone through reversals. The havoc wrought by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four in the decade 1966-76 has had particularly grave consequences. Our present readjustment is aimed precisely at eliminating those consequences.
Second, we have a large population but not enough arable land. Of China’s population of more than 900 million, 80 per cent are peasants. While there are advantages to having a large population, there are disadvantages as well. When production is insufficiently developed, it poses serious problems with regard to food, education and employment. We must greatly increase our efforts in family planning; but even if the population does not grow for a number of years, we will still have a population problem for a certain period. Our vast territory and rich natural resources are big assets. But many of these resources have not yet been surveyed and exploited, so they do not constitute actual means of production. Despite China’s vast territory, the amount of arable land is limited, and neither this fact nor the fact that we have a large, mostly peasant population can be easily changed. This is a distinctive characteristic which we must take into account in carrying out our modernization programme.
To accomplish modernization of a Chinese type, we must proceed from China’s special characteristics. For example, modern production requires only a small number of people, while our population is enormous. How shall we reconcile these two facts? Unless we take all factors into account, we shall be faced for a long time with the social problem of insufficient employment. There are many problems in this connection which Party comrades doing practical and theoretical work must study together. We can surely find ways of solving these problems. But I am not going to discuss them today.
What I want to talk about now is ideological and political questions. The Central Committee maintains that, to carry out China’s four modernizations, we must uphold the Four Cardinal Principles ideologically and politically. This is the basic prerequisite for achieving modernization. The four principles are:
1. We must keep to the socialist road.
2. We must uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat.
3. We must uphold the leadership of the Communist Party.
4. We must uphold Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.
As we all know, far from being new, these Four Cardinal Principles have long been upheld by our Party. The Central Committee has been adhering to these principles in all its guidelines and policies adopted since the smashing of the Gang of Four, and especially since the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee.
We have criticized, on both a theoretical and a practical level, the phoney, ultra-Left socialism pushed by the Gang of Four, which boils down to universal poverty. We have always followed the principles of socialist public ownership and distribution according to work. We have always followed the policy of developing socialist economic construction mainly through self-reliance-supplemented by foreign aid-and through the study and acquisition of advanced technology from abroad. We have tried to act in accordance with objective economic laws. In other words, we have adhered to scientific socialism.
We have smashed the feudal fascism of the Gang of Four, redressed many injustices, solved many problems left over from the past, consolidated the dictatorship of the proletariat, and restored and extended socialist democracy. And particularly since the Third Plenary Session, we have created a lively political situation of the type Comrade Mao Zedong had long looked forward to in his lifetime.
We have restored the three major features of the Party’s style of work, which had been trampled upon, improved the system of democratic centralism in the Party, and reinforced unity throughout the Party and between the Party and the masses. All this has enormously enhanced the Party’s prestige and strengthened its leadership of the state and society.
We have broken the mental shackles forged by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four and have insisted that leaders should be regarded as human beings, not demigods. We have always tried to understand Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought correctly and as an integral, scientific system, and have always proceeded from reality and sought truth from facts. In other words, we have restored the original features of Mao Zedong Thought and defended the eminence of Comrade Mao Zedong as a great figure in the history of the Chinese revolution and of world revolution.
Nevertheless, the Central Committee believes that today there is still a tremendous need to stress propaganda on the four principles. This need continues because some Party comrades have not yet freed themselves from the evil influence of the ultra-Left ideology of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four. A handful have gone so far as to spread rumors and calumnies, attacking the principles and policies adopted by the Central Committee since the toppling of the Gang of Four and particularly since the Third Plenary Session as running counter to Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. It is necessary to continue emphasizing the Four Cardinal Principles also because a handful of people in society at large are spreading ideas which are against them or at least cast doubt on them, and because individual Party comrades, instead of recognizing the danger of such ideas, have given them a certain degree of direct or indirect support. Although the number of such persons both inside and outside the Party is very small, we must not overlook their impact on that account. Facts show that they can do great damage to our cause and that they have already done so. Therefore, it is not enough for us to keep on resolutely eliminating the pernicious influence of the Gang of Four, helping those comrades who have been misled by it to come to their senses, and rebutting the reactionary statements of those who slander the Central Committee. While continuing to do all these things, we must also struggle unremittingly against currents of thought which throw doubt on the Four Cardinal Principles. Both the ultra-Left and Right currents of thought run counter to Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought and obstruct our advance towards modernization. We have conducted massive criticism of the ultra-Left thinking spread by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four (there is no question that this thinking too is in opposition to the four cardinal principles, only it is opposition from the “Left”), and we will go on criticizing it relentlessly. But what I want to emphasize now is criticism of a trend of thought which is sceptical of, or opposed to, our Four Cardinal Principles, but which comes from the Right.
First, we must keep to the socialist road. Some people are now openly saying that socialism in inferior to capitalism. We must demolish this contention. In the first place, socialism and socialism alone can save China — this is the unshakable historical conclusion that the Chinese people have drawn from their own experience in the 60 years since the May 4th Movement . Deviate from socialism and China will inevitably retrogress to semi-feudalism and semi-colonialism. The overwhelming majority of the Chinese people will never allow such a retrogression. In the second place, although it is a fact that socialist China lags behind the developed capitalist countries in its economy, technology and culture, this is not due to the socialist system but basically to China’s historical development before Liberation; it is the result of imperialism and feudalism. The socialist revolution has greatly narrowed the gap in economic development between China and the advanced capitalist countries. Despite our errors, in the past three decades we have made progress on a scale which old China could not achieve in hundreds or even thousands of years. Our economy has attained a fairly high rate of growth. Now that we have summed up experience and corrected errors, it will undoubtedly develop more rapidly than the economy of any capitalist country, and the development will be steady and sustained. Of course, it will take a considerable period of time for the value of our national output per capita to catch up with and surpass that of the developed capitalist countries. In the third place, let’s ask: Which is better, the socialist system or the capitalist system? Of course the socialist system is better. In certain circumstances, a socialist country may make serious errors, and even experience such major setbacks as the havoc created by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four. Naturally, this has its subjective causes, but basically it is due to influences inherited from the old society with its long history, influences that cannot be swept away overnight. Capitalist countries with a long feudal history — such as Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Italy — all experienced major setbacks and reversals at different times (counter-revolutionary restorations occurred in Britain and France while Germany, Japan and Italy had periods of fascist rule). But relying on the socialist system and our own strength, we toppled Lin Biao and the Gang of Four without too much difficulty and quickly set our country back on the road to stability, unity and healthy development. The socialist economy is based on public ownership, and socialist production is designed to meet the material and cultural needs of the people to the maximum extent possible — not to exploit them. These characteristics of the socialist system make it possible for the people of our country to share common political, economic and social ideals and moral standards. All this can never happen in a capitalist society. There is no way by which capitalism can ever eliminate the extraction of super-profits by its millionaires or ever get rid of exploitation, plundering and economic crises. It can never generate common ideals and moral standards or free itself from appalling crimes, moral degradation and despair. On the other hand, capitalism already has a history of several hundred years, and we have to learn from the peoples of the capitalist countries. We must make use of the science and technology they have developed and of those elements in their accumulated knowledge and experience which can be adapted to our use. While we will import advanced technology and other things useful to us from the capitalist countries — selectively and according to plan — we will never learn from or import the capitalist system itself, nor anything repellent or decadent. If the developed capitalist countries were to rid themselves of the capitalist system, their economy and culture would certainly make greater progress. That is why the progressive political forces in the capitalist countries are trying to study and propagate socialism and are fighting to eliminate the injustices and irrational phenomena endemic in capitalist society and to carry out socialist revolution. We should introduce to our people, and particularly to our youth, whatever is progressive and useful in the capitalist countries, and we should criticize whatever is reactionary and decadent.
Second, we must uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat. We have conducted a lot of propaganda explaining that the dictatorship of the proletariat means socialist democracy for the people, democracy enjoyed by the workers, peasants, intellectuals and other working people, the broadest democracy that has ever existed in history. In the past, we did not practise democracy enough and we made mistakes. Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, while boosting their so-called “all-round dictatorship”, exercised a feudal fascist dictatorship over the people. We have smashed this dictatorship, which had nothing in common with the dictatorship of the proletariat but was its diametric opposite. Now we have corrected the past mistakes and adopted many measures to constantly expand democracy in the Party and among the people. Without democracy there can be no socialism and no socialist modernization. Of course, democratization, like modernization, must advance step by step. The more socialism develops, the more must democracy develop. This is beyond all doubt. However, the development of socialist democracy in no way means that we can dispense with the proletarian dictatorship over forces hostile to socialism. We are opposed to broadening the scope of class struggle. We do not believe that there is a bourgeoisie within the Party, nor do we believe that under the socialist system a bourgeoisie or any other exploiting class will re-emerge after exploiting classes and the conditions of exploitation have really been eliminated. But we must recognize that in our socialist society there are still counter-revolutionaries, enemy agents, criminals and other bad elements of all kinds who undermine socialist public order, as well as new exploiters who engage in corruption, embezzlement, speculation and profiteering. And we must also recognize that such phenomena cannot be all eliminated for a long time to come. The struggle against these individuals is different from the struggle of one class against another, which occurred in the past (these individuals cannot form a cohesive and overt class). However, it is still a special form of class struggle or a special form of the leftover, under socialist conditions, of the class struggles of past history. It is still necessary to exercise dictatorship over all these anti-socialist elements, and socialist democracy is impossible without it. This dictatorship is an internal struggle and in some cases an international struggle as well; in fact, the two aspects are inseparable. Therefore, so long as class struggle exists and so long as imperialism and hegemonism exist, it is inconceivable that the dictatorial function of the state should wither away, that the standing army, public security organs, courts and prisons should wither away. Their existence is not in contradiction with the democratization of the socialist state, for their correct and effective work ensures, rather than hampers, such democratization. The fact of the matter is that socialism cannot be defended or built up without the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Third, we must uphold the leadership of the Communist Party. Since the inception of the international communist movement, it has been demonstrated that its survival is impossible without the political parties of the proletariat. Moreover, since the October Revolution it has been clear that without the leadership of a Communist Party, the socialist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat and socialist construction would all be impossible. Lenin said: “The dictatorship of the proletariat is a persistent struggle — bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative — against the forces and traditions of the old society…. Without an iron party tempered in the struggle, without a party enjoying the confidence of all that is honest in the given class, without a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, it is impossible to conduct such a struggle successfully.” This truth enunciated by Lenin remains valid today. In our country, in the 60 years since the May 4th Movement, no political party other than the Communist Party of China has integrated itself with the masses of the working people in the way described by Lenin. Without the Chinese Communist Party there would be no socialist new China. The misdeeds of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four aroused the resolute opposition of the whole Chinese people as well as of the whole Party precisely because Lin Biao and the Gang cast aside the Chinese Communist Party, the long-tested leading force that maintains flesh-and-blood ties with the masses. And if the Party’s prestige among the people throughout the country has been enhanced since the downfall of the Gang of Four, and particularly since the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, it is precisely because the entire nation pins all its hopes for the future on leadership by the Party. Although the mass movement of 1976 that culminated in the incident at Tiananmen Square where the people gathered to mourn Premier Zhou Enlai was not led by the Party organizationally, it staunchly supported the Party’s leadership and opposed the Gang of Four. The revolutionary consciousness of the masses in that movement was inseparable from the education given by the Party over the years, and it was precisely members of the Party and the Communist Youth League who were the principal activists among them. Hence we must on no account consider the mass movement at Tiananmen Square to have been a purely spontaneous one like the May 4th Movement, which had no connection with Party leadership. In reality, without the Chinese Communist Party, who would organize the socialist economy, politics, military affairs and culture of China, and who would organize the four modernizations? In the China of today we can never dispense with leadership by the Party and extol the spontaneity of the masses. Party leadership, of course, is not infallible, and the problem of how the Party can maintain close links with the masses and exercise correct and effective leadership is still one that we must seriously study and try to solve. But this can never be made a pretext for demanding the weakening or liquidation of the Party’s leadership. Our Party has made many errors, but each time the errors were corrected by relying on the Party organization, not by discarding it. The present Central Committee is persistent in promoting democracy in the Party and among the people and is determined to correct past errors. Under these circumstances, it would be all the more intolerable to the masses of our people to demand the liquidation or even the weakening of leadership by the Party. In fact, bowing to this demand would only lead to anarchism and the disruption and ruin of the socialist cause. Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, as they put it, kicked aside the Party committees to “make revolution”, and it is clear to all what kind of revolution they made. If today we tried to achieve democracy by kicking aside the Party committees, isn’t it equally clear what kind of democracy we would produce? In 1966 the Chinese economy, having gone through a few years of readjustment, was in a position to develop rapidly. But Lin Biao and the Gang of Four did it grave damage. Only now, under the leadership of the Central Committee and of the State Council, has our economy returned to the road of sound growth. If a handful of people are again allowed to kick aside the Party committees and make trouble, the four modernizations will vanish into thin air. This is not an exaggerated statement I am making to scare people; it is the objective truth corroborated by a wealth of facts.
Fourth, we must uphold Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. One of the key points of our struggle against Lin Biao and the Gang of Four was opposition to their falsification, doctoring and fragmenting of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. Since the smashing of the Gang, we have restored the scientific character of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought and have guided ourselves by them. This is a resounding victory for the whole Party and people. But a few individuals think otherwise. Either they openly oppose the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism, or else they uphold Marxism-Leninism in word only while in deed opposing Mao Zedong Thought, which represents the integration of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the practice of the Chinese revolution. We must oppose these erroneous trends of thought. Some comrades say that we should uphold “correct Mao Zedong Thought”, but not “erroneous Mao Zedong Thought”. This kind of statement is also wrong. What we consistently take as our guide to action are the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought or, to put it another way, the scientific system formed by these tenets. When it comes to individual theses, neither Marx and Lenin nor Comrade Mao could be immune from misjudgements of one sort or another. But these do not belong to the scientific system formed by the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.
Now I want to talk at some length about Mao Zedong Thought. China’s anti-imperialist and anti-feudal revolution went through innumerable cruel defeats. Was it not Mao Zedong Thought which enabled the Chinese people — about a quarter of the world’s population — to find the correct road for their revolution, achieve nationwide liberation in 1949, and basically accomplish socialist transformation by 1956? This succession of splendid victories changed not only China’s destiny but the world situation as well. From the international point of view, Mao Zedong Thought is inseparably linked with the struggle against hegemonism; and the practice of hegemonism under the banner of socialism is a most obvious betrayal of socialist principles on the part of a Marxist-Leninist party after it has come to power. As I have already mentioned, in the evening of his life Comrade Mao Zedong formulated the strategy of differentiating the three worlds and personally ushered in a new stage in Sino-American and Sino-Japanese relations. By so doing he created new conditions for the development of the worldwide struggle against hegemonism and for the future of world politics. While conducting our modernization programme in the present international environment, we cannot help recalling Comrade Mao’s contributions. Comrade Mao, like any other man, had his defects and made errors. But how can these errors in his illustrious life be put on a par with his immortal contributions to the people? In analysing his defects and errors, we certainly should recognize his personal responsibility, but what is more important is to analyse their complicated historical background. That is the only just and scientific — that is, Marxist — way to assess history and historical figures. Anyone who departs from Marxism on so serious a question will be censured by the Party and the masses. Isn’t that natural?
Mao Zedong Thought has been the banner of the Chinese revolution. It is and always will be the banner of China’s socialist cause and of the anti-hegemonist cause. In our forward march we will always hold the banner of Mao Zedong Thought high.
The cause and the thought of Comrade Mao Zedong are not his alone: they are likewise those of his comrades-in-arms, the Party and the people. His thought is the crystallization of the experience of the Chinese people’s revolutionary struggle over half a century. The case of Karl Marx was similar. In his estimation of Marx, Frederick Engels said that it was only thanks to Marx that the contemporary proletariat became conscious for the first time of its own position and demands and of the conditions necessary for its own liberation. Does this mean that history is made by any one individual? History is made by the people, but this does not preclude the people from respecting an outstanding individual. Of course, this respect must not turn into blind worship. No man should be looked upon as a demigod.
To sum up, in order to achieve the four modernizations we must keep to the socialist road, uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat, uphold the leadership of the Communist Party, and uphold Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. The Central Committee considers that we must now repeatedly emphasize the necessity of upholding these four cardinal principles, because certain people (even if only a handful) are attempting to undermine them. In no way can such attempts be tolerated. No Party member and, needless to say, no Party ideological or theoretical worker, must ever waver in the slightest on this basic stand. To undermine any of the four cardinal principles is to undermine the whole cause of socialism in China, the whole cause of modernization.
Is the Central Committee making a mountain out of a molehill when it takes this view of the matter? No, it is not. In the light of current developments the Party has no choice.
In the recent period a small number of persons have provoked incidents in some places. Instead of accepting the guidance, advice, and explanations of leading officials of the Party and government, certain bad elements have raised sundry demands that cannot be met at present or are altogether unreasonable. They have provoked or tricked some of the masses into raiding Party and government organizations, occupying offices, holding sit-down and hunger strikes and obstructing traffic, thereby seriously disrupting production, other work and public order.
Moreover, they have raised such sensational slogans as “Oppose hunger” and “Give us human rights”, inciting people to hold demonstrations and deliberately trying to get foreigners to give worldwide publicity to their words and deeds. There is a so-called China Human Rights Group which has gone so far as to put up big-character posters requesting the President of the United States to “show concern” for human rights in China. Can we permit such an open call for intervention in China’s internal affairs? There is also a so-called Thaw Society which has issued a declaration openly opposing the dictatorship of the proletariat on the ground that it “divides mankind”. Can we tolerate this kind of freedom of speech which flagrantly contravenes the principles of our Constitution?
In Shanghai there is a so-called Democracy Forum. Some of its members have slandered Comrade Mao Zedong and put up big counter-revolutionary posters proclaiming that “proletarian dictatorship is the source of all evils” and that it is necessary to “resolutely and thoroughly criticize the Communist Party of China”. They allege that capitalism is better than socialism and that, therefore, instead of carrying out the four modernizations China should introduce what they call “social reform”, by which they mean that it should turn to capitalism. They publicly declare that their task is to settle accounts with those whom the Gang of Four called the capitalist roaders but whom it had failed to deal with. Some of them have asked to go abroad to seek political asylum, and some have even made clandestine contact with the Kuomintang secret service, plotting sabotage.
It is obvious that these people are out to use any and all means to disrupt our effort to shift the focus of our work to the achievement of modernization. If we ignored these grave problems, our Party and government organs at various levels would be so harassed that they would find it impossible to function. How, then, could we concentrate on the four modernizations?
It is true that there are very few such incidents and that the overwhelming majority of our people disapprove of them. Nevertheless, they merit our serious attention. First, these trouble-makers generally say they speak in the name of democracy, a claim by which people are easily misled. Second, taking advantage of social problems left over from the time when Lin Biao and the Gang of Four held sway, they may deceive some people who have difficulties which the government cannot help to clear up at the moment. Third, the trouble-makers have begun to form all kinds of secret or semi-secret organizations which seek to establish contact with each other on a nationwide scale and at the same time to collaborate with political forces in Taiwan and abroad. Fourth, some of these people work hand in glove with gangster organizations and followers of the Gang of Four, trying to expand the scope of their sabotage. Fifth, they do all they can to use as a pretext — or as a shield — indiscreet statements of one sort or another made by some of our comrades. All this shows that the struggle against these individuals is no simple matter that can be settled quickly. We must strive to clearly distinguish between people (many of them innocent young people) and the counter-revolutionaries and bad elements who have hoodwinked them, and whom we must deal with sternly and according to law. At the same time, we must educate comrades throughout the Party about the necessity of sharpening their vigilance, bearing in mind the interests of the country as a whole and uniting as one under the leadership of the Central Committee. We must encourage them to continue the emancipation of their minds and consistently promote democracy so that they can mobilize all positive forces while at the same time endeavouring to clear up the ideological confusion among a small section of the people, especially young people.
We must make a special effort to explain the question of democracy clearly to the people, and to our youth in particular. The socialist road, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the leadership of the Communist Party and Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought — all these are tied up with democracy. What kind of democracy do the Chinese people need today? It can only be socialist democracy, people’s democracy, and not bourgeois democracy, individualist democracy. People’s democracy is inseparable from dictatorship over the enemy and from centralism based on democracy. We practise democratic centralism, which is the integration of centralism based on democracy with democracy under the guidance of centralism. Democratic centralism is an integral part of the socialist system. Under this system, personal interests must be subordinated to collective ones, the interests of the part to those of the whole, and immediate to long-term interests. In other words, limited interests must be subordinated to overall interests, and minor interests to major ones. Our advocacy and practice of these principles in no way means that we can ignore personal, local or immediate interests. In the final analysis, under the socialist system there is a unity of personal interests and collective interests, of the interests of the part and those of the whole, and of immediate and long-term interests. We must adjust the relations between these various types of interests in accordance with the principle of taking them all into proper consideration. Were we to do the opposite and pursue personal, local or immediate interests at the expense of the others, both sets of interests would inevitably suffer. In the final analysis, the relations between democracy and centralism and between rights and duties are the political and legal expressions of the relations between these diverse interests. This is precisely why Comrade Mao Zedong said that our aim is to create a political situation in which we have both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and personal ease of mind and liveliness. That is the political situation which exists when there is true socialist democracy — the situation we must strive to create today and in the years to come.
We have not propagated and practised democracy enough, and our systems and institutions leave much to be desired. The constant promotion of democracy is therefore a firm, long-term Party objective. However, while propagating democracy, we must strictly distinguish between socialist democracy on the one hand and bourgeois, individualist democracy on the other. We must link democracy for the people with dictatorship over the enemy, and with centralism, legality, discipline and the leadership by the Communist Party. At present when we are confronted with manifold difficulties in our economic life which can be overcome only by a series of readjustments and by consolidation and reorganization, it is particularly necessary to stress publicly the importance of subordinating personal interests to collective ones, interests of the part to those of the whole, and immediate to long-term interests. Only when everyone — whether inside or outside the Party, in a leading position or among the rank and file — is concerned for the overall interests shall we be able to overcome our difficulties and ensure a bright future for the four modernizations. Conversely, departure from the four cardinal principles and talk about democracy in the abstract will inevitably lead to the unchecked spread of ultra-democracy and anarchism, to the complete disruption of political stability and unity, and to the total failure of our modernization programme. If this happens, the decade of struggle against Lin Biao and the Gang of Four will have been in vain, China will once again be plunged into chaos, division, retrogression and darkness, and the Chinese people will be deprived of all hope. This is a matter of deep concern not only for the Chinese people of whatever nationality but also for all people abroad who wish to see China strong, and even for those who merely wish to expand trade with China.
Here I would like to raise the question of standards of social conduct. Thanks to the correct leadership of the Party and government, these standards were quite sound in our country for a decade or more after the founding of the People’s Republic. Most of the young people who grew up under the Party’s education had high ideals, ardently loved the socialist motherland, responded actively to the calls of the Party and government, defended the people’s interests, helped safeguard public order, and generally displayed a fine spirit of dedication and discipline. This type of conduct on the part of young people had a good influence on the conduct of other members of society, and vice versa. And this won the praise of foreigners as well as of our own people. However, in the decade of the Cultural Revolution, Lin Biao and the Gang of Four plunged our Party, government and society into chaos, poisoned the minds of many young people and did grave damage to socialist moral standards. The situation has improved considerably since the downfall of the Gang of Four, but we must not underestimate the residue of their pernicious influence in certain spheres. The present state of affairs is entirely incompatible with the requirements of the shift of focus in the Party’s work. We encourage normal contact between Chinese and foreigners, because it is essential to the growth of understanding and friendship between our people and other peoples and to the acquisition of foreign technology and funds. There will be a vast increase in such contact in the future. However, some unhealthy phenomena have emerged among a small number of young people, because we have not adequately educated or guided them. Some young men and women blindly admire the capitalist countries, and some even show a blatant disregard for both national and personal dignity in their contact with foreigners. This is a matter requiring our serious attention. It is imperative that we educate our younger generation, take effective measures in all spheres to raise the standards of social conduct and deal sternly with offensive behaviour which seriously lowers them.
To raise the standards of social conduct, we must first of all improve the Party’s work style, and in particular this requires that leading Party comrades at all levels set a good example. The Party is a model for our entire society, and the leading Party comrades at all levels are models for our entire Party. If the Party organization ignores the views and interests of the masses, how can it expect to win their trust and their support for its leadership? If leading cadres in the Party do not set strict standards for themselves and observe Party discipline and the laws of the state, how can they be expected to help reform the standards of social conduct? How can they do so if, in violation of Party principles, they engage in factionalism, use their positions to obtain personal privileges, seize advantages through connections or influence, indulge in extravagance and waste, and seek personal gain at the expense of the public interest? How can they do so if they fail to share the joys and sorrows of the masses, refuse to be the first to bear hardships and the last to enjoy comforts, disobey the decisions of the Party organization and reject supervision by the masses or even retaliate against those who criticize them? In the present period of historical change, when problems have piled up and a thousand things wait to be done, it is crucial for us to strengthen the leadership of the Party and correct its work style. Comrade Mao Zedong said: “Once our Party’s style of work is put completely right, the people all over the country will learn from our example. Those outside the Party who have the same kind of bad style will, if they are good and honest people, learn from our example and correct their mistakes, and thus the whole nation will be influenced.” Only if we improve the Party’s style of work can the standards of social conduct be improved and the four cardinal principles be upheld.
Is anything I have said here out of keeping with the spirit of the Third Plenary Session of the Party’s Eleventh Central Committee? No, everything I have said relates to measures that must be taken to carry out the principles and policies laid down at that session. Let me repeat: If we fail to adopt these measures, these principles and policies will come to naught. So will our effort to shift the focus of our work, so will our modernization programme, and so will the promotion of democracy inside and outside the Party. Therefore, it is entirely wrong to say, as some have said, that the Central Committee has decided on a “tightening up” policy, or that it has changed its policy of promoting democracy. Only by upholding the four cardinal principles to which our Party has always adhered, and by firmly correcting the unhealthy tendencies which hamper the implementation of the principles and policies set forth at the Third Plenary Session can we advance steadfastly and victoriously towards our great objective.
III. TASKS OF OUR IDEOLOGICAL AND THEORETICAL WORKERS
At the forums organized by the Central Committee and the various provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions to discuss the principles for the Party’s theoretical work, many questions have been raised. I cannot address them all now. But today I would like to discuss two matters related to the tasks of our ideological and theoretical workers. Since I am not thoroughly familiar with the situation, and particularly with local conditions, I ask you to decide whether what I say is entirely correct or not.
First, about the requirements of our present ideological and theoretical work.
Marxist ideological and theoretical work cannot be divorced from current politics. By politics here I mean the overall situation in the domestic and international class struggle and the fundamental interests of the Chinese people and the people of the world in current struggles. It is inconceivable that anyone can become a Marxist thinker or theorist if he is divorced from the overall political situation, if he doesn’t study it, if he doesn’t assess the actual development of the revolutionary struggle. If this is not so, what was the point of our devoting more than six months last year to discussions about practice being the criterion for testing truth? Scientific socialism develops in the course of actual struggle, and so do Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. We will not, of course, backtrack from scientific socialism to utopian socialism, nor will we allow Marxism to remain arrested at the level of the particular theses arrived at as long as a century ago. This is why we have often repeated that it is necessary to emancipate our minds, that is, to study new situations and solve new problems by applying the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.
What is the most important new problem in the new situation of China today? It is, of course, the realization of the four modernizations, or as I said before, the realization of a Chinese type of modernization. We have said that by studying in depth the new conditions and new problems encountered in realizing the four modernizations, and by working out solutions to those problems — solutions that will serve as guidelines for our action — our ideological and theoretical workers will be making a major contribution to Marxism and a genuine effort to hold high the banner of Mao Zedong Thought. Of course, this does not imply that we should neglect to make serious in-depth studies of ideological and theoretical problems not directly related to the four modernizations. We must on no account overlook the study of basic theories in philosophy and the social sciences any more than in the natural sciences, because such study is indispensable to major advances in all these spheres.
In the second part of my speech, I talked about the four cardinal principles which we must uphold in order to accomplish the four modernizations. Although, as I said, these principles are nothing new, they have taken on fresh significance in the new situation before us, and so we should make new and convincing expositions of them based on the wealth of new facts. Only in this way can we educate the people of the whole country, including our youth, the workers and all the officers and men of the People’s Liberation Army, and convince people abroad who look to present-day China for the truth. This is a momentous theoretical and political task, and it certainly cannot be accomplished just by rehashing the same old arguments copied from a book. It is honourable, creative and scientific work which places great demands on our revolutionary theorists. Because of the decade of troubles generated by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, so much ideological nonsense has been spread for so long that people have lost confidence in many cadres and teachers engaged in political and educational work. This is not the fault of these cadres and teachers. They too are deeply disturbed, as are many parents, old workers and veteran fighters. This is another significant circumstance exploited by the handful of hostile trouble-makers. Our comrades on the ideological and theoretical front must quickly organize their forces and draw up plans to fill the vacuum in the shortest possible time by publishing a series of articles and books, including readers and textbooks, new in content and ideas and presented in fresh language — in other words, works that will carry weight. I suggest that the Propaganda Department of the Central Committee take charge of this task. I also suggest that the authors of really good books and articles be awarded monetary prizes by the Party and government, so that the work in this sphere, which is seemingly routine but actually very demanding, is given due recognition.
Realizing the four modernizations is a many-sided, complex and difficult undertaking. The task of the ideological and theoretical workers cannot be confined to discussion of the basic principles. We are confronted with many questions of economic theory, including both basic theory and theory applied to particular spheres such as industry, agriculture, commerce and management. Lenin called for more talk about economics and less about politics. In my opinion, his words are still applicable with regard to the proportion of effort that should be devoted to theoretical work in these two spheres. I am not saying, of course, that there are no more questions to be studied in the political field. For many years we have neglected the study of political science, law, sociology and world politics, and now we must hurry to make up our deficiencies in these subjects. Most of our ideological and theoretical workers should dig into one or more specialized subjects. All those who can do so should learn foreign languages, so as to be able to read important foreign works on the social sciences without difficulty. We have admitted that we lag behind many countries in our study of the natural sciences. Now we should admit that we also lag behind in our study of the social sciences, insofar as they are comparable in China and abroad. Our level is very low, and for years we haven’t even had adequate statistical data in the social sciences, a lack that is naturally a great obstacle to any serious study. So our ideological and theoretical workers must make up their minds to catch up. They must concentrate on specialized fields, carry on investigations and studies of actual situations, familiarize themselves thoroughly with their subjects and guard against empty talk. Empty talk is of no help whatever to our modernization programme. Also, our ideological and theoretical workers should always guard against self-satisfaction, narrow-minded conservatism and ignorant boasting, failings which Comrade Mao Zedong warned us against. Only by admitting our backwardness can we overcome it. It should be pointed out that the responsibility for our present state of backwardness lies in the first place with the Central Committee and the Party committees at other levels, because they have not used the proper methods in guiding ideological and theoretical work, have set up too many forbidden zones, and have failed to give adequate attention or support to such work. Today, at this meeting, I make this self-criticism on behalf of the Central Committee. From now on, Party committees at all levels, from the Central Committee down, will be required to give the correct orientation to ideological and theoretical work and to recognize its importance. Ours is a big Marxist party. If we don’t stress the study of Marxism, if we don’t advance Marxism in step with the development of practice, how can we do our other work well? In that case, won’t our call to hold high the banner of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought be so many empty words?
Second, about my views on some theoretical questions.
A lot of questions have been raised in the discussions among theoretical workers in the last few months. Many of them need continued study. Here I would like to express my views on a few of the more pressing ones.
1. On the basic contradictions of socialist society and the principal contradiction in the current period. In regard to basic contradictions, I think it is still best to put the question the way Comrade Mao Zedong did in his “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People”. He wrote: “In socialist society the basic contradictions are still those between the relations of production and the productive forces and between the superstructure and the economic base.” He made a long statement in this connection which I shall not repeat here. Of course, pointing out the basic contradictions does not automatically solve the problem, and deep-going, concrete study is still required. But judging from practice over the past 20 years or so, Comrade Mao’s formulation is more accurate than others. As for the question of what is the principal contradiction in the current period — what is the main issue or central task confronting the Party and the people in the current period — actually this question was answered by the decision of the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee to shift the focus of our work to socialist modernization. The level of our productive forces is very low and is far from meeting the needs of our people and country. This is the principal contradiction in the current period, and to resolve it is our central task.
2. On class struggle in socialist society. I touched on this question earlier when discussing the dictatorship of the proletariat. Class struggle exists objectively in socialist society. It should be neither underestimated nor exaggerated. Otherwise, as practice has shown, we shall make serious mistakes. The problem of whether or not class struggle of one kind or another always exists throughout the entire historical period of socialism involves many complicated and difficult questions both of theory and practice, and they cannot be answered merely by quoting from books by our predecessors. We should continue to study these questions. But, to put it briefly, the class struggle in socialist society at present is, and will continue to be, clearly different from that in historical class societies. This, too, is an objective fact we cannot deny if we want to avoid serious mistakes.
3. On continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Practice has proved that this formulation is wrong if it is construed — as it was when it was advanced — to mean “seizing power from the capitalist roaders”, or making revolution by kicking aside the Party committees and toppling everything. As for making a new interpretation, that is something we can continue to study within the Party.
4. On whether there can be further discussion of certain formulations involving the line of the Party’s Eleventh Congress. The Party’s line, like its resolutions, should always be tested in practice. This is a principle repeatedly expounded by Comrade Mao Zedong. It should never be said that once a formulation has been adopted by a Party congress, there can be no further discussion of its correctness. If that were so, how could new formulations be put forward at a subsequent Party congress? It often happens that because of a change in the actual situation, the Central Committee has to amend the resolution of one Party congress before the next. Owing to the changes in the actual situation and in our own understanding of it, the line formulated by the Party’s Eleventh Congress underwent necessary readjustment at the successive plenary sessions of the Central Committee, and particularly at the Third Plenary Session. Further readjustments may also be required in the future. This is entirely normal. But according to Party discipline, discussion of formulations involving the line of the Eleventh Congress (except for those on which the Central Committee has made formal decisions) should be confined to appropriate Party meetings.
However, in the study and discussion of ideological and theoretical questions, we must always resolutely follow the policy of “letting a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend”, the principle of the “three don’ts” (don’t pick on others for their faults, don’t put labels on people, and don’t use a big stick), and the principle of emancipating our minds, abandoning blind faith and proceeding from reality in everything. All this was decided upon by the Third Plenary Session, and we reaffirm them here. We cannot allow the slightest deviation from these principles.
Comrades! The current period represents a momentous turning point in the history of our Party and state. The Party has led the Chinese people in surmounting the many difficulties created by the Gang of Four and in transforming a country that had been reduced to chaos into one of order and rapid progress. The magnificent prospect of the accomplishment of the four modernizations is inspiring our Party, army and people, and drawing them forward. Our cadres and masses are vying with one another to contribute to the realization of this bright future. In this period our ideological and theoretical workers have a particularly heavy responsibility. They have scored major successes since the downfall of the Gang of Four and significant achievements since the Third Plenary Session. It would be wrong to underestimate their achievements. However, the situation is developing very rapidly and our work must keep pace with it. I hope that this important meeting will help the Party’s ideological and theoretical workers to a better understanding of the current situation and our tasks, of the Party’s principles and policies and of their own work. I hope that it will inspire them to rally more closely around the Central Committee, and that they in turn, through their effective work, will inspire the whole people to rally more closely around the Communist Party. Let us work with one heart and one mind to firmly implement the principles of the Third Plenary Session of the Central Committee, to shift the focus of the Party’s work and to surmount all difficulties so as to win great victories in China’s four modernizations.
(A speech at a forum on the principles for the Party’s theoretical work.)