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Always Be One of the Working People

— Notes on studying The Civil War in France

by Wei Feng-ying

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #50, Dec. 15, 1972, pp. 11-13. A footnote says: "The author, a woman, is a Member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, Vice-Chairman of the Liaoning Provincial Revolutionary Committee and a punching machine operator."]

AFTER studying The Civil War in France, that brilliant work by the great revolutionary teacher Marx which summed up the historical experience of the Paris Commune, I have come to a much deeper understanding of the Marxist theory of proletarian revolution and proletarian dictatorship. My determination to continue the revolution under this dictatorship has become even greater. It has been driven home to me that, under the socialist system, whether cadres of the Party and the state keep on being ordinary working people, oppose having ideas of the privileged and overcome bureaucracy is an important question concerning the consolidation of the proletarian dictatorship and the prevention of capitalist restoration. As a rank-and-file worker, I must pay particular attention to retaining the fine qualities of an ordinary working person now that I have assumed some responsibility.

Opposing and Preventing Revisionism

The Paris Commune was the first great attempt by the proletariat to overthrow the bourgeoisie and set up a proletarian dictatorship. Marx made this point about the Commune: "Its true secret was this. It was essentially a working-class government, the produce of the struggle of the producing against the appropriating class, the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour."

An important feature of the Commune’s proletarian dictatorship was the smashing of the old state machinery through revolutionary violence and the abolition of the bourgeoisie’s bureaucratic system and, in a fully democratic way, the election of ordinary workers or acknowledged working-class representatives to the new organs of power. The ordinary workingmen assumed various leading posts and took a direct part in running the state. This was a great pioneering undertaking by the Commune which enabled the working class and other labouring people to rule their country. Everybody in a leading position, whether from the working class or some other strata, retained the characteristics of the working people, ensuring that the power of leadership in the revolution was really in the hands of the proletarian revolutionaries so as to safeguard "against this transformation of the state and the organs of the state from servants of society into masters of society."

Chairman Mao has pointed out: "The cadres of our Party and state are ordinary workers and not overlords sitting on the backs of the people." It is of fundamental importance under the socialist system for Cadres to take part in collective productive labour as ordinary working people and maintain the most extensive, constant and closest ties with the working people. This instruction of Chairman Mao’s is of great significance to us in preventing and opposing revisionism, building socialism and realizing the lofty ideals of communism. Socialist society covers a considerably long historical period. Throughout this historical period, there are classes, class contradictions, and class struggle, there is the struggle between the socialist road and the capitalist road, and there is the danger of capitalist restoration. Only by continuing to be ordinary working people, maintaining close ties with the masses and constantly sweeping away the cobwebs of bureaucracy can our cadres resist the attacks of the bourgeoisie’s sugar-coated bullets and smash the class enemy’s plots for "peaceful evolution."

After the October Socialist Revolution in Russia, the great teacher Lenin pointed out not once but many times that degenerates and new bourgeois elements may emerge among the staff in organs of state owing to bourgeois influence and corrosion. He took measures to prevent state workers from degenerating. When the Soviet revisionist renegade clique usurped power, however, it betrayed Marxism-Leninism and pushed a revisionist line, setting up a bourgeois privileged stratum opposed to the labouring people and turning the world’s first socialist state under the proletarian dictatorship into a state under a bourgeois dictatorship through "peaceful evolution." We must remember this profound historical lesson of the international communist movement.

Performing One’s Duties Without Leaving Productive Labour

In the old society, I was a child in a poverty-stricken family. From early childhood, I helped eke out a living by gathering wild vegetables and picking coal cinders out of garbage heaps. In the new society, I became a member of the working class, and have now even taken on leading work. I often remind myself that although my position has changed, my status as a working person must never change. Referring to comrades working at the grass-roots level like me at the Ninth Party Congress in 1969, Chairman Mao said: "See to it that they do not divorce themselves from the masses or from productive labour while performing their duties." Following this instruction, I went back to the bench. My mates welcomed me with open arms and showered me with attention, making me take frequent rests and not letting me know when there was overtime work. Careful there, I thought to myself. You’re an ordinary worker, and taking part in labour is your duty. If you don’t handle this problem correctly, pretty soon there won’t be anything "ordinary" about you any more….

I set strict demands on myself, observed labour discipline and took part in making technical innovations and fulfilling production quotas like everybody else. Because I did not consider myself any different from my co-workers, they began treating me like one of the group again. Relations became closer and I learnt a great deal from their fine ideology and experience. Through all this, I increased my understanding of the Party’s line and policies and raised my consciousness in carrying out Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line.

The only difference between us cadres and the masses, both of whom are members of the working people, is that we are doing leading work. Chairman Mao says: "Who is it that gives us our power? It is the working class, the poor and lower-middle peasants, the labouring masses comprising over 90 per cent of the population." The Party and the people gave us power and the necessary conditions for work, so we must serve the people wholly and entirely. Since I took on a leading position, I always remind myself that I am a servant of the people. The leadership and the masses show concern for me so that I can serve the people better. So I always ask myself to remember that, in doing any work for the public, I represent the masses and must do it well; in private affairs, I’m part of the masses and must never try to be special. "If a small hole is not mended, it becomes a big one," accordingly to a folk saying. The sort of living quarters one may want, whether one uses the office car or not - things like that seem trivial, but if he is not careful and starts to yearn for ease and comfort, he will soon degenerate politically and ideologically. To preserve the style of plain living and hard struggle, therefore, is an effective antidote to degeneration.

To retain the fine quality of an ordinary working person, one should consciously put oneself under the supervision of the Party and the masses. The Paris Commune’s leaders at various levels, no matter how high their posts, were all servants of the people who "act continuously under public supervision." Masses’ supervision of cadres and cadres conscientiously putting themselves under masses’ supervision are all manifestations of a high sense of responsibility towards the revolutionary cause. We should not become self-conceited as soon as we take on a leading post, still less should we indulge in being praised by others and reject their criticism and thus grow cocky. Instead, what we need is the spirit of being a pupil, to conscientiously accept the criticism and supervision of the masses. We should incessantly draw political nourishment from them and do our best to remould our world outlook in order to do the revolutionary work well. I deeply realize from practice that the masses’ criticism and supervision of cadres reveals their concern for the latter and is an important guarantee that we correctly carry out the proletarian revolutionary line.

The People Make History

In The Civil War in France, Marx highly appraised the revolutionary initiative of the working class and other labouring masses of Paris and elaborated the historical materialist viewpoint that it is the masses who make history. Chairman Mao has also taught us: "The masses are the real heroes, while we ourselves are often childish and ignorant, and without this understanding it is impossible to acquire even the most rudimentary knowledge." Only after we have had full confidence in the masses’ infinite wisdom and great creative power and after coming to know their great role in creating history can we consciously be one of them.

Since I assumed a leading post, the scope of my work has been much wider and I have heard more praise than before. When I had some success while working among the masses, some comrades often mentioned my name and my role. I considered these as their encouragement and spur to me. Whatever success there is in our work is the result of joint efforts. Had it not been for the wise leadership of Chairman Mao and the Party and if there weren’t the masses’ wisdom and strength, there was nothing I could do. What cannot be replaced by any individual force is the tremendous force of the Party’s line and policies and the great role of the masses in creating history. Whether one in a leading post can retain the fine qualities of an ordinary worker or not is, in essence, a question of whether he upholds the materialist conception of history which holds that slaves make history or the idealist conception of history which holds that heroes make history. To be an ordinary working person consciously, the fundamental thing is to study and apply Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, thoroughly criticize the idealist conception of history and firmly foster the materialist conception of history. Having realized this truth, I often remind myself of my weak points, short-comings and errors, learn from the masses modestly and strive to do my work well.

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