Deng Xiaoping

The Organizational Line Guarantees the Implementation of the Ideological and Political Lines


Published: July 29, 1979
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


Taking the country as a whole and considering the major issues, we can say that the debate over the thesis that practice — as opposed to the “two whatevers” — is the sole criterion for testing truth has pretty definitely settled the question of what our ideological line should be. It has restored and developed the ideological line advocated by Comrade Mao Zedong, that is, to seek truth from facts, to integrate theory with practice and to proceed from reality in everything. This is very important. The article on the criterion of truth in the daily Guangming Ribao had immediate and strong repercussions. When some people said that its author was “chopping down the banner” [of Mao Zedong Thought], my interest and attention were further aroused. Lin Biao was the first to cause confusion about our Party’s ideological line. The Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong which he launched vulgarized and fragmented Mao Zedong Thought instead of helping people to study and apply it correctly and as an integral whole in considering problems, raising them for discussion and solving them. I disapprove of the “two whatevers” because they don’t represent Marxism-Leninism or Mao Zedong Thought. That is why I proposed that Mao Zedong Thought should be studied correctly and as an integral whole and later elaborated on how this should be done. At the outset, quite a few people opposed the view that practice is the only criterion for testing truth, but now it is gradually being accepted by most of the cadres and masses throughout the country. The debate is still going on, and it is highly significant that the Navy is beginning to pay more attention to the question. The discussion on the criterion of truth is a fundamental one, for it is impossible to establish a correct political line — let alone carry it out — unless we clarify our ideological line and emancipate people’s minds. Our political line is to achieve the socialist modernization of our country. The Gang of Four came up with the idea, rather an impoverished socialism than a rich capitalism. But socialism cannot endure if it remains poor. If we want to uphold Marxism and socialism in the international class struggle, we have to demonstrate that the Marxist system of thought is superior to all others, and that the socialist system is superior to the capitalist. Without emancipating our minds, seeking truth from facts, proceeding from reality and integrating theory with practice, it would have been impossible for us to work out our present set of general and specific policies and thus arouse the people’s enthusiasm; and we could not possibly succeed in modernizing and in demonstrating the superiority of our socialist system. Yesterday some comrades from Shandong Province said that in one of their counties which used to be very backward, the people have overcome their long-standing difficulties and made notable progress by emancipating their minds and developing production in accordance with local conditions. Our ideological line is important because it serves as the basis for working out our political line. Whether a correct political line can be implemented depends primarily on whether we have a correct ideological line. Therefore, we should not belittle the importance of the discussion about practice being the sole criterion for testing truth. This discussion is of tremendous significance, for the essential question it involves is whether or not we shall adhere to Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.

Despite the fact that some people still have reservations, the Party’s ideological line and political line have been established. What question remains to be settled, then? The extremely important question of organizational line. Once a political line has been set, it has to be concretely implemented by people, and the results will vary depending on who does the implementing, those who are in favour, those who are against, or the middle-of-the-roaders. This raises the question of what kind of people should be our successors.

Since the overthrow of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, and especially in the past year, we have made remedies with regard to cases in which the charges were false or which were dealt with unjustly or incorrectly. Many veteran cadres have returned to their previous posts or to similar ones. All this was necessary. But now the average age of members of our leading bodies is too high and their level of energy is too low. That is true in the army as well. The task that now faces the veteran comrades is to select healthy young people to take over from us. We should try to solve this problem while we are still around, because it will be hard for others to do so after we’ve left the scene. We are pretty clear now about the thinking and political stand of different people and we can tell who supports the Party’s line, has strong Party spirit and steers clear of factionalism. Party spirit includes keeping in contact with the masses, working hard and living simply, and seeking truth from facts. We have several criteria for selecting cadres, but two of them are most important. One is support for the political and ideological lines established by the Third Plenary Session of the Party’s Eleventh Central Committee, and the other is strength of Party spirit and avoidance of factionalism.

We must take note of the fact that a fair number of people are still opposed to the Party’s current political and ideological lines. The system of ideas they cling to is, generally speaking, that of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, according to which the present policies of the Central Committee are retrograde and Right opportunist. On the pretext of supporting Comrade Mao Zedong, they are following the principle of the “two whatevers”. In fact, they are merely peddling the old stock in trade of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four in new guise. Most of them were promoted during the “cultural revolution” and they have their own vested interests. They yearn for the past, because the present policies do not yield much advantage to them. Through effort on our part, some of them may change their attitude, but perhaps not all can do so. If we entrust power to those who have not changed, how can we expect them to listen to the Party? They’ll stir up trouble whenever there’s a chance. When I took charge of the work of the Central Committee in 1975, Wang Hongwen said, “Let’s wait and see how things stand 10 years from now!” Some people still take that wait-and-see attitude. We mustn’t be so naive as to underestimate the influence of Lin Biao and the Gang. We must take the long view and select competent successors for our cause while we are still around. We should enlist those comrades who have given a good account of themselves, give them a few years of training and personally watch them mature, and if we find we’ve chosen the wrong people we can still change them for others. The biggest, most difficult and most pressing problem in our organizational line is to select the proper successors. Of course, the organizational line also involves other problems, such as how to reduce overstaffing and establish a retirement system. The temple isn’t big enough for too many deities. Clearly, unless the old withdraw, there will be no room for the young. So the veteran comrades should deliberately make way. We should have an overall point of view and subordinate minor interests to major ones. We shouldn’t get upset when our concrete personal interests are affected. A retirement system will be worked out. But what is most important is to select and train our successors. In some places, because the leading bodies are still wedded to seniority, they do not give full play to the ability of newly recruited young members. We have a lot of talented people. The key thing is to emancipate our minds and break away from convention. If we boldly promote these younger people and give them a free hand at their new posts, within one or two years they’ll be able to handle things. I have often reminded people that during our advance into southwestern China in the War of Liberation [1946-49], when there weren’t enough local cadres some of our platoon leaders, company political instructors and battalion and regimental cadres had to serve as secretaries of county Party committees. Tempered through several years of work, those platoon and company cadres (all of whom were good to begin with, of course) became as competent as those of battalion and regimental rank, and they made very good county secretaries.

A correct organizational line guarantees that a political line will be put into effect. The organizational line is now on our agenda. We’ll be ashamed to go to face Marx if we fail to solve this problem well. It is a comparatively easy one to solve while veteran comrades are still around. But there will be total chaos if it remains unsolved when we have gone. Don’t think that there can be no more chaos in China: those who belong to the factional systems of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four are deaf to the Party’s directives and would like nothing better then nationwide confusion. We must guarantee China’s stability and the realization of the four modernizations by following the correct organizational line and by choosing successors who truly uphold Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought and have strong Party spirit.

(Talk to comrades attending an enlarged meeting of the standing committee of the Chinese Communist Party committee of the Navy.)