Liu Shaoqi

Liu Shaoqi

Eliminate Menshevist1 Ideology Within the Party[A]

Written: July 1943
First Published: Liberation Daily, July 6, 1943
Source: Selected Works of Liu Shaoqi, Volume 1, pages 293 - 302
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Mike B. for MIA, August 2005

July 19432

It is twenty-two years since the birth of the Communist Party of China, the greatest and the most progressive political party in Chinese history. These have been great years, during which enormous changes have taken place in China and in the world at large.

Since its birth, the Chinese Communist Party has waged three great revolutions and three great revolutionary wars. The first Great Revolution,3 or the Northern Expedition,4 was conducted jointly with the Kuomintang, as is the present anti-Japanese national revolutionary war. The ten years of Agrarian Revolutionary War, however, were conducted under the sole leadership of our Party. As far as our Party is concerned, the three revolutionary wars have continued without interruption to the present day. Many Communists have not been able to put aside arms for over a decade. This fact demonstrates that armed struggle is the chief form of struggle and of organization in the Chinese revolution. The existence and development of the Communist Party of China are inseparable from armed struggle.

In the three successive nationwide revolutionary wars during these twenty-two years, our Party has undergone severe trials of every kind. It has scored many victories and also suffered many setbacks. Though it has followed, and still follows, an extremely circuitous path, it has been able to stand steadfastly in our great Chinese motherland as an invincible force and as one of the important and decisive factors in China's political life and history. Precisely because our Party has traversed the circuitous path and withstood every severe test, it has steeled itself and has gained particularly rich experience in all aspects of the revolutionary struggle. It may be said that within these twenty- two years our Party has undergone more important changes and accumulated more experience in revolutionary struggle than any other Communist Party in the world. It has gone through revolutionary struggle in various complicated forms and has accumulated rich experience through armed and non-armed struggle, civil war and national liberation war, legal and illegal struggle, economic and political struggle, and struggles inside and outside the Party. Especially worthy of mention is the fact that through the protracted, arduous and complicated revolutionary struggle in the past twenty-two years, our Party, the proletariat and the revolutionary people of our country have finally found their own leader in Comrade Mao Zedong. Comrade Mao Zedong is a staunch and great revolutionary who has undergone long tempering in these struggles, who has completely mastered Marxist-Leninist strategy and tactics and who is infinitely loyal to the cause of the liberation of the Chinese working class and the Chinese people.

Our Party has gained extremely rich experience in all aspects of revolutionary struggle, but that experience has not yet been very well analysed. One of the most important tasks of our entire Party today is to properly analyse this experience under the guidance of the general principles of Marxism-Leninism. Such an analysis is the most significant link in unifying, educating and advancing the entire Party and, indeed, in winning victory for the Chinese revolution. If our Party members truly understand the historical experience of our Party, they will have infinite faith and courage and thus be able to propel forward both their own work and that of our Party as a whole. They will be able to avoid many past errors and considerably shorten the course of their work and the revolution. The experience of the Chinese revolution must be used to educate the Chinese revolutionaries and the experience of the Communist Party of China used to educate the Chinese Communists. Only in this way can more direct and practical results be achieved. If we reject the rich experience of the revolutionary struggle in China, if we think lightly of the experience of our Party's struggle in the great historical developments of these twenty-two years or if, confining our study to the experience of foreign revolutions somewhat removed from us, we fail to study carefully and learn from our own experience, then we will misunderstand the true order of things and, traversing an even more tortuous road, suffer many more setbacks.

During these twenty-two years, our Party's experience in struggle has been most rich and varied. I will not go into it here at length. But what has been our most important experience? I consider it to be the question of what it means to be a true Marxist, a true Bolshevik. As we all know, only Marxism can save China. There are many people in China who claim to be Marxists. But what is true Marxism and what is a true Marxist? What is pseudo-Marxism and what is a pseudo-Marxist? These are questions of long-standing, which have never been completely resolved among the revolutionary masses in China or even within the Communist Party. There is a difference between true and false Marxism, between true and false Marxists. This difference cannot be determined by subjective standards or by the claims of various individuals, but must be settled by objective standards. Nothing could be more dangerous than for our Party members to be ignorant of the objective standards which differentiate true from false Marxists and, therefore, to unconsciously and blindly follow pseudo-Marxists in the revolution. This is probably the most painful of the many lessons our Party has learned. In the past our Party suffered many unnecessary setbacks and failures and made quite a number of detours which could have been avoided. Above all, this has happened because pseudo- Marxists operated inside our Party and many Party members unconsciously and blindly followed them, thereby allowing them to occupy leading positions in certain organizations and certain movements and sometimes even in the Party as a whole. In this way the revolutionary movement was led on painful and difficult paths. This is a bitter experience which should serve as a serious warning to all our Party members.

The Chinese Communist Party is not inferior to the Communist Party of any other country in its spirit of hard struggle and heroic sacrifice nor in its ability to perform propaganda and organizational work. We have always done an excellent job in carrying out various kinds of work. We have succeeded in organizing hundreds of thousands and even millions of people, in undertaking the Long March of 25,000 Ii (8,000 miles), in establishing base areas and in persisting, unaided and under the most difficult conditions, in the war of resistance behind enemy lines for six or seven years. The revolutionary and hard-working spirit of the Chinese Communists is highly admirable. But for a long period, we were inadequately prepared in scientific Marxism-Leninism. We suffered most in the past from errors which arose in the leadership of the revolutionary movement — errors which caused the movement partial, sometimes even serious, unwarranted losses. We must remember this historical lesson and earnestly work to solve this problem in the days to come. We can be assured that if we can guarantee against serious errors in matters of principle by the leadership of various fields of the revolutionary movement, then victory is ensured for the Chinese revolution. Because we have a very good revolutionary spirit, the will to work hard and generally favourable objective conditions for the Chinese revolution, we need only to add correct Marxist-Leninist leadership for the revolution to advance steadily towards victory.

But how is it possible to guarantee that our Party will not commit serious errors in matters of principle while leading the various fields of the revolutionary movement? To guarantee this, our Party members and, above all, our cadres must be able to distinguish between true and false Marxism-Leninism, must be able to smash the different schools of pseudo-Marxist thought and various pseudo-Marxist factions in the revolutionary ranks and in the Party, must properly analyse the abundant historical experience our Party gained during these twenty-two years, must become sharper politically through diligent study and must put every field of work and every department under the guidance of Comrade Mao Zedong.

Ever since Marxism came into being, there have been true and false Marxists in the Marxist movement. The whole history of this movement is full of struggles between these two groups. Similarly, the Marxist movement in China has also been full of such struggles. This must be thoroughly understood by all our Party members.

Twenty years ago, Stalin correctly described these two groups. Let me quote him here in full:

There are two groups of Marxists. Both work under the flag of Marxism and consider themselves 'genuinely' Marxist. Nevertheless, they are by no means identical. More, a veritable gulf divides them, for their methods of work are diametrically opposed to each other.

The first group usually confines itself to an outward acceptance, to a ceremonial avowal of Marxism. Being unable or unwilling to grasp the essence of Marxism, being unable or unwilling to put it into practice, it converts the living, revolutionary principles of Marxism into lifeless, meaningless formulas. It does not base its activities on experience, on what practical work teaches, but on quotations from Marx. It does not derive its instructions and direction from an analysis of living reality, but from analogies and historical parallels. Discrepancy between word and deed is the chief malady of this group. Hence the disillusionment and perpetual grudge against fate, which time and again lets it down and makes a "dupe" of it. The name for this group is Menshevism (in Russia), opportunism (in Europe). Comrade Tyszka (Jogiches) described this group very aptly at the London Congress when he said that it does not stand by, but lies down on the point of view of Marxism.

The second group, on the contrary, attaches prime importance not to the outward acceptance of Marxism, but to its realization, its application in practice. What this group chiefly concentrates its attention on is determining the ways and means of realizing Marxism that best answer the situation, and changing these ways and means as the situation changes. It does not derive its directions and instructions from historical analogies and parallels, but from a study of surrounding conditions. It does not base its activities on quotations and maxims, but on practical experience, testing every step by experience, learning from its mistakes and teaching others how to build a new life. That, in fact, explains why there is no discrepancy between word and deed in the activities of this group, and why the teachings of Marx completely retain their living, revolutionary force. To this group may be fully applied Marx's saying that Marxists cannot rest content with interpreting the world, but must go further and change it. The name of this group is Bolshevism, communism. The organizer and leader of this group is V. I. Lenin. 5

As Stalin has said very clearly here, both groups work under the flag of Marxism and consider themselves "genuinely" Marxist, but their methods of work, that is, their ways of thinking, are diametrically opposed.

The first group are pseudo-Marxists. They are the Mensheviks and opportunists. They usually confine themselves to outward acceptance, to a ceremonial avowal of Marxism, but are unable to grasp its essence or to put it into practice. They convert it into formulas and dogmas. In their work, they do not base their activities on experience, on practical appraisals of the work itself, but on books. In deciding what instructions to give or what direction to pursue they do not work from an analysis of actual circumstances, but from books, from historical analogies or parallels. There are discrepancies between their words and deeds. They talk Marxism, but what they actually do is entirely non-Marxist. The development of objective facts time and again makes dupes of them, leaving them in constant despair and frustration.

The other group are genuine Marxists. They are Leninists and Bolsheviks. They apply Marxism and translate it into reality. They lay stress on finding the ways and means of applying Marxism that best answer the situation and on changing these ways and means as the situation changes. In deciding what instructions to give or direction to pursue, they do not work from historical analogies or parallels, but from the investigation and study of surrounding conditions. In their work, they do not base their activities on quotations and maxims, but on practical experience. They test their work against experience, learn from their mistakes and help others advance their work. There is no discrepancy between words and deeds within this group. They talk Marxism, and they act as Marxist should. They not only explain the world; they concentrate their efforts on changing it. They always preserve the living, revolutionary force of Marxism.

These two kinds of Marxists have existed from the beginning in the communist movement in China and in the Chinese Communist Party. To the first kind, the pseudo-Marxists, belonged Chen Duxiu,6 Peng Shuzhi,7 China's Trotskyites, the protagonists of the Li Lisan line,8 the "Left" opportunists 9 in the period of the civil war and the dogmatists. They are all, in essence, Chinese Mensheviks Belonging to the second kind, the genuine Marxists in China, are Comrade Mao Zedong and the many other comrades who have rallied round him. The line they have consistently pursued and struggled for and their methods of work constitute, in essence, Chinese Bolshevism.

Our comrades and cadres must understand and be alert to the fact that there has been a Menshevist line and a Menshevist ideology in the history of our Party. Though different in form in different periods and not necessarily connected with each other organizationally, Chen Duxiu, Peng Shuzhi, Li Lisan and the various opportunists and dogmatists of the latter years have been basically the same in substance, in methods of work and in ways of thinking. Politically and ideologically, they are consistent. They have done serious harm to the Party and the Chinese revolution.

Apart from the Trotskyite Chen Duxiu's liquidationist clique, which had direct links with the European Trotskyite Tradition,10 the other forms of Menshevism in China did not derive directly from European Social-Democracy 11 or Russian Menshevism but grew independently out of the Chinese petty bourgeoisie under the particular conditions in China. Hence, compared with the European Social-Democrats and the Russian Mensheviks, these people had many distinctive characteristics in outward form. Menshevism in China appeared as "anti-Menshevism", "Leninism", "Bolshevism", "the line of the Communist International", etc. in form and in words. In the guise of such attractive outward forms and revolutionary phrases, the Chinese Mensheviks in fact conducted anti-Leninist, anti-Bolshevist struggles and publicized and practised what was essentially Menshevism. And because many Party members and cadres had a low theoretical level and were not sharp enough to recognize the substance of Menshevism, they were frequently misled. It has thus been possible for the Mensheviks to win the support of many Party members and cadres for a time and to seize leading positions in the Party or in certain sections of it. What is more, they developed the sectarianism and individualism characteristic of the petty bourgeoisie in semi-feudal China and linked up with the hooliganism in our society. Because they are given to superficiality and vulgarity, extremism and duplicity, the harm they have done in the Party has been particularly serious. These have been the main features of Menshevism in China.

There has been no tradition of European Social-Democracy in the Chinese Party, but there has existed a system and a tradition of Chinese Menshevism.

It is impossible to identify such false Marxist-Leninists, false Bolsheviks, just by their words and outward appearances. In speech, they may use more Marxist-Leninist expressions than anyone else; outwardly they may appear to be far more revolutionary than others. But what they fear most are the tests of practice and the critical examination of their work. It is therefore necessary to identify these individuals and expose their true features through examining their practice, their work, their way of looking at and tackling problems, and the results of their work. Because they are Marxist-Leninists in words, but not in actual deeds, their activities, as a rule, are not strictly guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism. They usually base their work on books, on isolated words and phrases quoted from Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, or on passages from resolutions, that is, on general ideas or theories and not on practical experience or practical appraisals of work. In solving problems and making decisions on policies, they do not proceed from reality by investigating and researching prevailing conditions, but from formulas in books, from historical analogies or analogies from the Soviet Union and Western European countries or from other apparent parallels. In practice they are idealists. Thus, they frequently commit errors in work and are unable to do it well. What they achieve in practice is bound to be contrary to their initial intentions and verbal declarations. If you observe their work methods and if you subject their work and its results to critical examination, they will be exposed in their true colours. In his reports on rectifying subjectivism, sectarianism and stereotyped Party writing, Comrade Mao Zedong strongly criticized such people.12

But the danger lies in their use of numerous Marxist-Leninist phrases, their cloak of Bolshevism and their inborn duplicity. They can browbeat and mislead many comrades of worker or peasant origin and immature young comrades. Even comrades who are experienced in work but weak in theory are frequently misled and become their captives. That is why they can seriously jeopardize the Party's cause.

The history of our Party has been full of struggles between the Bolshevik line and the Menshevik line. Throughout our history, two lines and two traditions have existed. One is the line and tradition of Bolshevism, the other, the line and tradition of Menshevism. The exponent of the former is Comrade Mao Zedong and that of the latter, the various cliques of opportunists in the Party. Since the fierce struggle between these two lines and two traditions has extended over a long period, the accumulated experience is extremely rich. In these struggles in the Party, although the wrong line — the Menshevik line — gained the upper hand and won brief victories several times, it has been defeated in the majority of cases. Our Party has frequently overcome the erroneous line in its work, but ideologically the Menshevik system has not been thoroughly overcome, thoroughly liquidated, or given its final death-blow. Thus, this ideology, this tradition, still survives in the Party and may, during certain periods and in certain circumstances, even run rampant again and imperil our Party.

Now is the time to eliminate the remnants of Menshevism in the Party ideologically, politically and in our work, to analyse the historical experience of our Party, especially that of the struggle between the two lines, and to use the results to educate our cadres and Party members. This is the way to learn from past mistakes to avoid future ones, to "cure the sickness and save the patient", to achieve unity and discipline in our ranks, to guarantee continuous and correct leadership in our Party and to lead the Chinese revolution to future victory. Otherwise, in the strenuous, complicated, important times which lie ahead, we will be unable to properly fulfill our historic mission as the advanced political Party.

Menshevism in our Party is the reflection and a more developed form of expression of petty-bourgeois ideology, and it has a system of its own. To eradicate the Menshevist ideas and system in the Party, it is necessary to use proletarian ideology to overcome petty-bourgeois ideology and to see to it that our Party members can distinguish between proletarian ideas and all forms of petty-bourgeois ideas. We have already done this kind of work and are still doing it in some places. This movement, called for by Comrade Mao Zedong, has been going on since last year to rectify subjectivism, sectarianism and stereotyped Party writing.13 It is a movement of self-education and self-criticism unprecedented in the twenty-two years of our Party's history. It has given an unprecedented impetus to the Bolshevization of our Party. On the basis of this rectification, we should go a step further and sum up our rich experience of these twenty-two years, liquidate the remnants of Menshevist ideology in the Party and push its Bolshevizastion to an ever higher level. This is our central task today in building the Party.

The history of the Communist Party of China is the history of the development of Marxism-Leninism in China and of the struggle between Marxist-Leninists and various opportunist groups in China. Objectively, this history has centred round Comrade Mao Zedong. The history of the various opportunist groups in our Party is in no case the history of the Party, nor are the Menshevist ideology and tradition the ideology and tradition of the Party. The history of our Party has been one of struggle against and defeat of Menshevist ideology and tradition. In order to eliminate their remnants, it is particularly necessary to expose them. There is no need for us to cover them up or deny their existence. That would be harmful rather than beneficial to the Party.

All cadres and all Party members should carefully study the experience gained by the Chinese Party during these twenty-two years, carefully study and grasp Comrade Mao Zedong's theories on the Chinese revolution and other questions, arm themselves with the thought of Comrade Mao Zedong and use it to eradicate the Menshevist ideology in the Party.

However, our cadres and Party members should be especially alert to the fact that some secret agents sent by the enemy have wormed their way into our Party and that they, too, appear in the guise of Marxist-Leninists. They are different from the pseudo-Marxist-Leninists referred to above in that they are counter-revolutionaries We must sift out these elements, and this means that a distinction must be drawn between revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries in the Party. To eradicate the remnants of Menshevism in the Party we must also dearly distinguish between proletarian and petty-bourgeois ideology. Each distinction must be made clearly, but the ways and means employed should be different. The former distinction should be drawn by using the method of examining the personal records of cadres and Party members, while the latter by using methods of rectification and analysis of experience.

Eliminating the petty-bourgeois ideology and system in the Party with the aid of Marxism-Leninism and combing out enemy agents are the two major tasks we are now facing in consolidating and elevating the Party. Accomplishing these will prepare us ideologically and organizationally, so that we shall be completely consolidated and ready to meet the great and splendid period ahead.

So long as we master scientific Marxism-Leninism and eradicate the remnants of opportunism inside the Party, we will be invincible.

[A] In the original transcription of this work, the Editorial Committee on Party Literature (Central Committee of the Communist Party of China) opted to separate editorial and explanatory notes into two separate categories, independently numbered relative to (1) the type of note and (2) chronological appearance in the text.

Both editorial and explanatory notes are presented in the present transcription in chronological order based solely on the current order of relevance to the selected text.

Additionally, the Pinyin (Chinese phonetic alphabet) spellings of Chinese proper names are used exclusively throughout the present transcription to preserve the continuity of the original transcription.

1. In 1903, when the second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party drafted programme and constitution, L. Martov and other opportunists opposed the view of the Marxists led by Lenin. In the voting for the organ of the Central Committee, they received a minority of votes and so became known as the Mensheviks (from МенЬшевик, meaning minority). Their views were known as Menshevism.

2. Written in celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China and carried on July 6, 1945 in the Liberation Daily. Yan'an. In this article, Menshevism refers to opportunism generally.

3. The Great Revolution was a revolutionary movement against imperialism and feudalism lasting from 1925 to 1927.

4. The Northern Expedition was a revolutionary war waged jointly by the Chinese Communist Party and Kuomintang against the imperialists and feudal warlords. With the support and participation of the Communist Party, Dr. Sun Yat-sen convened the Kuomintang's First National Congress, laid down the Three Great Policies of alliance with Russia, co-operation with the Communist Party, and assistance to the peasants and workers, reformed the Kuomintang, achieved Kuomintang-Communist co-operation and organized a revolutionary army. In May 1926, an independent regiment, commanded by Ye Ting and under the direct leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, drove boldly into Hunan Province as the advance force of the Northern Expeditionary Army. On July 9. the National Revolutionary Army formally began its Northern Expedition. It routed the main forces of Hubei warlord Wu Peifu in August, wiped out the main forces of Jiangxi warlord Sun Chuanfang in November, occupied Fujian and Zhejiang in December and entered Nanjing and Shanghai in March 1927. The Chinese Communists played a key role in these operations and it was due to their efforts in organizing the active support of the broad masses of workers and peasants, that the revolutionary forces were able to move forward rapidly to the Changjiang and Huanghe river basins. On April 12 and July 15, 1927, Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Jingwei launched counter-revolutionary coups in Shanghai and Wuhan respectively, thus usurping the fruits of these victories.

5. From J.V. Stalin, "Lenin As the Organizer and Leader of the Russian Communist Party", Works, Eng. ed., FLPH, Moscow, 1953, Vol. IV, p. 318.

6. Chen Duxiu (1880-1942), a native of the city of Anqing, Anhui Province (originally Huaining County), began editing the magazine Youth, or New Youth as it was later called, in September 1913. In 1918, together with Li Dazhao, he founded the Weekly Review, and he was an advocate of the new culture and one of the chief leaders of the May 4th new cultural movement. After the May 4th Movement, he accepted and propagated Marxism. He was one of the main founders of the Communist Party of China and served as its chief leader for the first six years after its founding. In the last period of the First Revolutionary Civil War, he committed a serious error of Right capitulationism. Later, he lost faith in the future of the revolution and denied that it was necessary for the proletariat to continue to carry out the tasks of the democratic revolution in China. He formed a faction inside the Party, engaged in anti-Party activities and was consequently expelled in November 1929. He later linked up with the Trotskyites, and in May 1931 he was made general secretary of a Trotskyite organization. In September 1932, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Kuomintang. He was released in August 1937.

7. Peng Shuzi (1896-1983), a native of Baoqing, Hunan Province, joined the Chinse Communist Party in 1921. In the last stage of the First Revolutionary Civil War, he followed Chen Duxiu closely and actively promoted the Right opportunist line. After the revolution suffered defeat, he became a liquidationist, organized a faction the Party and conducted anti-party activities. He was expelled in November 1929 and subsequently became a Trotskyite.

8. Li Lisan (1899-1967), from Liling County, Hunan Province, was one of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party in the early period. On June 11, 1930, under his leadership, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Party adopted a resolution entitled "The New Revolutionary High Tide and Winning Victory First in One or More Provinces", which advocated that preparations be made for immediate armed insurrections throughout the country. He drew up an adventurist plan to organize such insurrections in the key cities and to amass all the forces of the Red Army to attack these cities. He subsequently combined the leading organs of the Party, the Youth League and the trade unions at all levels into action committees for insurrection. These "Left" mistakes became known as the "Li Lisan line". In September the same year, the Third Plenary Session of the Party's Sixth Central Committee began to correct those "Left" mistakes. Li Lisan admitted his mistakes at the session and relinquished his leading position on the Central Committee. When he proved that he had corrected his erroneous views in revolutionary practice over a long period of time, he was re-elected a member of the Central Committee at the Seventh and Eighth National Congresses of the Party.

9. The "Left" opportunist line referred to here is the "left" adventurism of Wang Ming was the exponent.

10. The Trotskyite Chen Duxiu liquidationists had direct links with Trotsky, both ideologically and organizationally. In the programme laid out in their paper entitled "Our Political Views," they indiscriminately applied the views of Trotsky to the problems of the Chinese revolution. In 1929, on his way back to China from Moscow via Europe, Liu Renjing, a Trotskyite, went to Turkey specifically to meet Trotsky, and he brought back a programme drafted by the latter for the Chinese Trotskyites. it was adopted as the political programme of the Chinese Communist League" at the united conference of the Chinese Trotskyites held in May 1931.

11. The Social-Democratic parties referred to here are the "Social-Democratic Parties", "Socialist Parties" and "Labour Parties" of various European countries. Most of these parties developed during the period between the failure of the Paris Commune and the beginning of the 20th century when capitalism was expanding in relative peace. In their early days, these parties played a positive role in the workers' movement. But by the end of the 19th century, as a result of the swift development of revisionism and opportunism inside the various parties, each supported its own government's imperialism during the First World War. However, the Left of many of these parties withdrew and established communist parties after 1919.

12. The reports referred to here are: "Reform Our Study" (delivered in May 1941); "Rectify the Party's Style of Work" (February 8, 1942); and "Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing" (February 8, 1942). See Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Eng. ed., FLP, Beijing, 1975, Vol. III, pp. 17-25, pp. 35-51, pp. 53-68, respectively.

13. The rectification movement was a Party-wide Marxist-Leninist ideological education movement launched by the Chinese Communist Party in 1942.

Liu Shaoqi Internet Archive
Back to Reference Archive