Deng Xiaoping

Concerning Problems On the Ideological Front


Published: July 17, 1981
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


A short time ago I told Comrade Hu Yaobang that I wanted to talk with the propaganda departments about problems on the ideological front, especially those in literature and art. The Party’s leadership on this front — including literature and art — has achieved noteworthy success. This should be affirmed. But certain tendencies towards a crude approach and over-simplification cannot be ignored or denied. However, a more important problem at present, I think, is laxity and weakness and a fear of criticizing wrong trends. As soon as you criticize something, you are accused of brandishing a big stick. It is very hard nowadays for us to carry out criticism, let alone self-criticism. Self-criticism is one of the three major features of our Party’s style of work, one of the chief characteristics distinguishing our Party from other political parties. For quite a number of our people, however, it now seems difficult to practise.

Prior to the Sixth Plenary Session of the Central Committee [late June 1981], the General Political Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army raised the question of criticizing the film script Unrequited Love. I have been taken aback by some other things I’ve read recently too. A young poet made an irresponsible speech at Beijing Normal University. Some students commented that although the Party organization had done a lot of ideological and political work among the students, that speech blew it all away. The university Party committee was aware of this matter but took no measures. It was a woman student who wrote a letter to the Party committee criticizing our weak ideological work. Recently in Urumqi, Xinjiang, a person in charge of the preparatory group for the formation of the local federation of writers and artists talked a lot of nonsense. Many of his views went far beyond certain wrong, anti-socialist statements criticized during the anti-Rightist struggle of 1957. There are many other examples. To put it in a nutshell, these people want to abandon the road of socialism, break away from Party leadership and promote bourgeois liberalization. Let us recall the 1957 experience. It was incorrect then to broaden the scope of the anti-Rightist struggle, but it was necessary to oppose the Rightists. You will certainly all remember how aggressive some Rightists were. So are some people today. We are not going to launch an anti-Rightist campaign again. But on no account should we give up serious criticism of erroneous trends. This type of problem has arisen not only in literary and art circles but elsewhere as well. Some persons are not on the right track ideologically. They make statements contrary to Party principles and are neither honest nor upright. Yet there are other people who admire them and eagerly publish their articles. This is quite wrong. Some Party members don’t act in accordance with Party spirit but persist in factionalism. They must not be allowed to influence others, let alone to become leaders. Some persons now fancy themselves as heroes. Before they were criticized, they didn’t attract much attention. But once they were criticized, they began to be sought after. This is an abnormal phenom”ienon and we must work seriously to eradicate it. Its social and historical background can be traced mainly to the 10-year turmoil of the “cultural revolution”; it is also connected with corrosion by bourgeois ideology from abroad. We must analyse each case concretely. At present, the main problem is not so much the existence of this phenomenon as the fact that we are too soft in handling it. There is laxity and weakness. Of course, in solving current problems, we should learn from past experience and refrain from launching a movement. We must analyse each case on its merits and treat each person who has made errors appropriately, according to the nature and seriousness of the mistakes. Methods of criticism must be studied. Arguments must hit the nail on the head. We must not resort to converging attacks and movements. But there must be ideological work, criticism and self-criticism. We must not lay aside the weapon of criticism. After that young poet delivered his speech at Beijing Normal University, some students said that if we allowed things to go on this way, our country would be ruined. He took a position opposite to ours. I have seen the movie Sun and Man, which follows the script of Unrequited Love. Whatever the author’s motives, the movie gives the impression that the Communist Party and the socialist system are bad. It vilifies the latter to such an extent that one wonders what has happened to the author’s Party spirit. Some say the movie achieves a fairly high artistic standard, but that only makes it all the more harmful. In fact, a work of this sort has the same effect as the views of the so-called democrats.

The essence of the Four Cardinal Principles is to uphold Communist Party leadership. Without Party leadership there definitely will be nationwide disorder and China would fall apart. History has shown us this. Chiang Kai-shek was never able to unify China. The keystone of bourgeois liberalization is opposition to Party leadership. But without Party leadership there will be no socialist system. In confronting these problems, we must not take the old path and resort to political movements. We must, however, make appropriate use of the weapon of criticism.

It was right for Jiefangjun Bao (Liberation Army Daily) to criticize Unrequited Love. The criticism was necessary, which must be affirmed. But the articles were not always entirely reasonable, and some of their tactics and arguments were not carefully thought out. Wenyi Bao (Literary Gazette) should publish several articles of high quality to comment on both Unrequited Love and related problems. We can’t declare that a criticism is incorrect just because the methods used are not good enough.

Some young people are discontented with certain social conditions today. There is nothing strange about this and it is nothing to be afraid of. But we must guide such young people or they may go astray. It is good that many young writers have emerged in recent years. They have written a number of fine works. But we must admit that among them — and among some middle-aged writers too — there are also bad tendencies that have an adverse influence on some young readers, listeners and viewers. Our veteran writers who stick to the socialist position have the responsibility to unite and give proper guidance to the new generation. Otherwise, it won’t be able to advance along the right path. If we don’t do a good job in this respect, contradictions may intensify and result in major disruptions. In a word, we must uphold Party leadership and the socialist system. They must be improved, but that doesn’t mean we can have bourgeois liberalization or anarchy. Just imagine what sort of influence Sun and Man would have if shown to the public. Someone has said that not loving socialism isn’t equivalent to not loving one’s motherland. Is the motherland something abstract? If you don’t love socialist New China led by the Communist Party, what motherland do you love? We do not ask all our patriotic compatriots in Hong Kong and Macao and in Taiwan and abroad to support socialism, but at the least, they should not oppose socialist New China. Otherwise, how can they be called patriotic? Of every citizen — and every young person — living under the leadership of the government in the People’s Republic of China, however, we demand more. Above all, we demand that writers, artists and ideological and theoretical workers in the Communist Party observe Party discipline. Yet today many of our problems stem from inside the Party. If the Party can’t discipline its own members, how can it lead the masses? We insist on the policy of “letting a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend”, and on handling contradictions among the people correctly. This will remain unchanged. True, the “Left” tendency still exists in the guidance of our ideological and cultural work, and we must resolutely guard against it and correct it. But that certainly doesn’t mean we should stop practising criticism and self-criticism. The main way to correctly handle contradictions among the people is to start from the desire for unity, carry out criticism and self-criticism and arrive at a new unity. The policy of “letting a hundred flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend” cannot be separated from the practice of criticism and self-criticism. In criticizing, we must be democratic and reason things out, but criticism should never be dismissed offhand as using the “big stick”. We must get clear on this whole question of criticism and self-criticism, for it is important in bringing along the next generation. I have mentioned a few works and views that need to be criticized. There are other works containing similar views. There also are certain tendencies towards bourgeois liberalization among theorists, but I am not going to elaborate on them here. Why is it the Unrequited Love and the speech by the young poet have the support of some people? That is something our comrades on the ideological front should ponder.

Since we began stressing the need to uphold the Four Cardinal Principles, comrades in our ideological circles have become clearer in their thinking. Because of this and also because of the resolute steps taken to get rid of illegal organizations and publications, the situation has improved. But we must remain on the alert. Some people are raising a banner in support of Comrade Hua Guofeng, while actually trying to overthrow you know who. Watch out! This shows how complicated the present struggle is, and how necessary it is to sharpen our vigilance.

It is no longer necessary for Jiefangjun Bao to continue its criticism of Unrequited Love. Wenyi Bao should publish some first-class articles on the subject, and they should be reprinted in Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily).

To sum up, our entire Party, army and people should unite as one, march in step, and work hard to achieve further success on the ideological, literary, art and other fronts under the firm leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and on the basis of the “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China”, adopted at the Sixth Plenary Session of the Central Committee.

(Summary of a talk with leading comrades of the central propaganda departments.)