Liu Shaoqi

How to Be a Good Communist

III. The Self-Cultivation of Communists and the Revolutionary Practice of the Masses

In order to become faithful and worthy pupils of the founders of Marxism-Leninism, we must engage in all round self-cultivation in the course of the great and protracted revolutionary struggles of the proletariat and the masses. We must engage in self-cultivation in the Marxist-Leninist theory; self cultivation in applying the Marxist-Leninist stand, view point and method to the study and handling of all problems; self-cultivation in proletarian ideology and morality; self-cultivation in upholding unity in the Party, practising criticism and self-criticism and observing discipline; self cultivation in developing the style of hard work and persistent struggle; self-cultivation in building close ties with the masses; self cultivation in various branches of scientific knowledge, etc. We are all members of the Communist Party and therefore we must all without exception carry on self-cultivation in these respects. However, since Party members differ from one another in political consciousness, experience of struggle, field of work, cultural level and in the conditions in which they work, it is natural that comrades should differ to some extent in the various aspects of self-cultivation to which they must pay special attention of which they must stress.

When Zeng Zi, in ancient times, said, "I reflect on myself three times a day,"1 he was discussing self-examination. The Book of Odes in the famous lines, "As knife and file make smooth the bone, as jade is wrought by chisel and stone, 2 referred to the need for help and criticism among friends. What all this shows is that very hard work and very earnest self-cultivation are essential if one is to make progress. But the "self-cultivation" perused by many people in the past was generally idealistic, formalistic, abstract and divorced from social practice. They exaggerated the role of subjective intentions, thinking that so long as they had "good will" in the abstract, they could transform reality, society and themselves. Of course this is absurd. Our self-cultivation cannot be done that way. We are revolutionary materialists; our self-cultivation cannot be separated from the revolutionary practices of the masses.

For us it is most important to never divorce ourselves from the current revolutionary struggle of the masses, but to identify ourselves with it, in order to study, sum up and apply the revolutionary experience of the past. This means that we must cultivate and temper ourselves in revolutionary practice and that in turn our self-cultivation and tempering are undertaken solely for the sake of the people and of revolutionary practice. It means that we must modestly learn the Marxist-Leninist stand, viewpoint and method, learn from the noble proletarian quality of the founders of Marxism-Leninism and apply all this in our practice, in our words and deeds, our daily life and work, constantly correcting or eliminating anything in our ideology contrary to it and strengthening our own proletarian communist ideology and character. It means that we should listen modestly to the opinions and criticisms of our Party comrades and of the masses, make a careful study of the practical problems in our life and work, carefully sum up and draw lessons from our experience in work, and that, in the light of all this, we should ascertain whether our understanding of Marxism-Leninism and our use of the Marxist-Leninist method are correct and check up on our shortcomings and mistakes so as to overcome them and improve our work. Furthermore, on the basis of new experience we should ascertain whether there are any individual conclusions or aspects of Marxism-Leninism that need supplementing, enriching and developing. In short, we must integrate the universal truth of Marxism- Leninism with the concrete practice of the revolution.

This is the method of self-cultivation for us communists. It is entirely different from those methods of self-cultivation which are idealistic and divorced from the revolutionary practice of the masses.

In order to persevere in this Marxist-Leninist method of cultivation, we must resolutely oppose and thoroughly eradicate one of the worst vices bequeathed to us by the old society in the field of education and study, namely, the separation of theory from practice. In the old society many people who studied thought it unnecessary, or even impossible to act upon what they had learned, and though they wrote and spoke abundantly of justice and morality, in fact they were out and out scoundrels. Although the Kuomintang reactionaries memorize the "Three People's Principles"3 and recite Sun Yat-sen's Testament,4 in actual fact they bleed the people white with taxes, practice corruption and slaughter, oppress the masses, are opposed to "those nations who treat us as equals", and go as far as to compromise with or surrender to the national enemy. An old ixucai5 once told me that of all the teachings of Confucius he was able to observe only this one, "For him no food can ever be too dainty and no minced meat too fine"5 and that he could not observe the rest and had never intended to. Since that is what these people are like, why do they run schools and study the "teachings of the sages"? They are after advancement and money, use the "teachings of the sages" to oppress the exploited, and deceive the people by paying lip service to justice and morality. This is typical of the attitude of the exploiting classes of the old society towards the sages they "worship". Needless to say, when we Communists study Marxism-Leninism an all that is best in our national heritage, we must never adopt such an attitude. What we learn we must practice. Being proletarian revolutionaries who are honest and pure in purpose, we cannot be untrue to ourselves, to the people, or to those who went before us. This is an outstanding characteristic as well as a great merit of Communists.

Is it possible that the old society's separation of theory from practice can have no influence on us? No, it is not! It is true that none of you students are studying Marxism-Leninism for the sake of advancement and money and or oppressing the exploited. Yet is it possible to maintain that none of you ever entertains the idea that your thoughts, words, deeds and life do not necessarily have to be guided by Marxist-Leninist principles or that you do not intend to put all the principles that you have learned into practice? Is it possible that none of you ever thinks of studying Marxism-Leninism or going deeper into the theory as a means of getting ahead in life, of showing off and becoming famous? I cannot guarantee that none of you thinks along these lines. That kind of thinking runs counter to Marxism-Leninism and to the basic Marxist-Leninist principle of the integration of theory and practice. Certainly we must study theory, but we must also practice what we learn. And it is for the sake of practice, of the Party, of the people, and of the victory of the revolution that we study theory.

Comrade Mao Zedong has said:

The great strength of Marxism-Leninism lies precisely in its integration with the concrete revolutionary practice of all countries. For the Chinese Communist Party, it is a matter of learning to apply the theory of Marxism-Leninism to the specific circumstances of China. For the Chinese Communists who are part of the great Chinese nation, flesh of its flesh and blood of its blood, any talk about Marxism in isolation from China's characteristics is merely Marxism in the abstract, Marxism in a vacuum. Hence to apply Marxism concretely in China so that its every manifestation has an indubitable Chinese character, i.e., to apply Marxism in the light of China's specific characteristics, becomes a problem which it is urgent for the whole Party to understand and solve. Foreign stereotypes must be abolished, there must be less singing of empty, abstract tunes, and dogmatism must be laid to rest; they must be replaced by the fresh, lively Chinese style and spirit which the common people of China love.6

Our comrades must study the theory of Marxism-Leninism by following the method Comrade Mao Zedong speaks of here.

1. Zeng Zi (505-436 B.C.), also known as Zeng Sheng, was a native of Wucheng in the state of Lu (now Feixian County, Shandong Province) in the Spring and Autumn Era, and one of Confucius' disciples. This quotation is from the Confucian Analects, “Xue Er”.

2. Originally entitled Poems and later, The Book of Odes, this is the earliest collection of poetry in China. Edited in the Spring and Autumn Era, its 305 poems fall into three categories: “ballads”, “dynastic hymns” and “sacrificial songs”. The quotation here is from the “Odes of Wei”, “Qi Ao”.

3. The Three People's Principles were the principles and programmes put forward by Sun Yat-sen on the questions of nationalism, democracy and the people's livelihood during China's bourgeois-democratic revolution. At the First National Congress of the Kuomintang in 1924, Sun Yat-sen restated the Three People's Principles. Thus the old Three People's Principles were transformed into the new Three People's Principles characterized by the Three Great Policies [cf. Note 5].

4. The Testament made by Sun Yat-sen on his deathbed on March 11,1925. reads as follows:

For forty years I have devoted myself to the cause of the national revolution with the aim of winning freedom and equality for China. My experience during these forty years has firmly convinced me that to achieve this aim we must arouse the masses of the people and unite in a common fight with those nations of the world which treat us as equals. At present the revolution is not yet completed. All my comrades must Programme of National Reconstruction, the Three People's Principles written by me, and the Manifesto of the First National Congress of the Kuomintang, until this aim is advocated recently must be realised within the shortest possible time. This is what I wished to call your attention to.

5. From the Confucian Analects, “Xiang Dang”

6. "The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War" Selected Works of Mao Zedong of Mao Zedong, Eng. ed., FLP, Beijing, 1975, Vol. II, pp. 209-10.

Next: IV. The Unity of Theoretical Study and Ideological Self-Cultivation