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Practising Economy: A Principle of Socialist Economics

by Chi Ching

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #18, May 4, 1973, pp. 9-11.]

RUNNING factories and other enterprises through diligence and frugality has become part of the way of life in China.

Newspaper reports of people in all spheres of socialist endeavour practising diligence and frugality appear frequently, winning wide public commendation. There is the example of workers in a Hupeh textile mill who gathered up the broken ends of yarn from the workshop floor and made them into cloth. Then there is a veteran worker in northeast China who has been using the same lathe which is still as good as new for the last 20 years. A third account is about workers of a cement plant who collected and recycled some 40 million cement bags.

Working hard to increase production, workers do all they can to save raw and other materials as well as manpower. They know fully well that the means of production in our socialist society are publicly owned and everything is the common property of the people.

In the years of the revolutionary wars, Chairman Mao taught us the principle of “saving every copper for the war effort, for the revolutionary cause and for our economic construction.” Great achievements have been made in socialist revolution and socialist construction but China is still a developing country and her economy is still rather backward. To make China strong and prosperous requires many long years of hard work. Consequently, we should pay particular attention to economy. The principle laid down by Chairman Mao to build up our country through diligence and frugality is ingrained in the minds of the people.

Accumulating Funds

Practising economy, however, is no expediency; it is one of the basic principles of socialist economics. In socialist China, this principle is advocated now and will be in the future when the economy is much more developed. This is thoroughly understood by the workers.

Not long ago, in an article in Renmin Ribao some Shanghai workers made it crystal clear. They said the need for capital grows greater as the scale of socialist construction in the country continually expands. Where is the money to come from? ”We cannot exploit the people at home for we are not the bourgeoisie. Neither are we imperialists and so overseas expansion and plunder are out of the question. Nor can we depend on loans. Ours is a socialist state led by the working class and the only way to develop socialist construction is ‘to find funds for industry out of our own savings, the way of socialist accumulation.’

They cited their own Shanghai No. 3 Woollen Blanket Factory to demonstrate the value of practising economy. Since the beginning of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in 1966 this factory has accumulated for the state funds 13.4 times the factory’s fixed assets for that year, with thrift playing an important role.

For a country the size of China every bit saved by each enterprise adds up to a tidy sum. According to incomplete figures, state industrial and communication departments in 1972 saved 12 million tons of coal, 5,000 million kilowatts of electricity, 800,000 tons of steel, 60,000 tons of non-ferrous metals, 3 million cubic metres of timber, 600,000 tons of petroleum and 440,000 tons of major chemical materials.

Increase Production, Practise Economy

One major aspect of the struggle between the two lines in production and construction in out country has been over whether or not to practise economy.

There is a vigorous mass movement to increase production and practise economy, to strive hard to boost production on the one hand and carry out strict economy on the other. This is the line of building socialism by ”going all out, aiming high and achieving greater, faster, better and more economical results.” Liu Shao-chi and other political swindlers fanatically opposed and undermined this mass movement in order to sabotage China’s socialist construction and restore capitalism. They beat the drum for ”production first,” threw all considerations for economy overboard and indulged in extravagance and waste. During the Great Cultural Revolution the workers and staff repudiated this revisionist line and upheld the principle to “stress both production and economy” as pointed out by Chairman Mao. Manpower, funds, equipment and raw materials saved were funnelled back into production and construction. More and better products were turned out at lower per-unit costs in terms of labour, materials, etc.

Vast Potential

Technical innovations and improvements in technology, designing and equipment are just one important aspect of being effectively economical. As Chairman Mao has pointed out: “Socialism has freed not only the labouring people and the means of production from the old society, but also the vast realm of nature which could not be made use of in the old society.” With the socialist system’s superiority and a correct political line and in the wake of developments in science, technology and production, the ways and means to practise economy have been considerably enlarged.

Huge quantities of industrial waste liquids, gases and residue which formerly were unusable and were hazardous to the public, polluting the atmosphere and water sources, are now being put to use under the multiple utilization policy. Led by Party committees at all levels, the masses are taking steps to turn ”wastes” into wealth. Shanghai alone in one year recovered 1.4 million tons of sulphuric and hydrochloric acids, caustic soda, fats, fertilizers and dyestuffs from waste liquid and gas and more than 2 million tons of building materials from residue. From miscellaneous wastes the city recovered 6,500 tons of 20-30 kinds of precious and rare metals, including gold, silver, nickel and chromium, reclaiming 100 million yuan worth for the state.

Chairman Mao has taught us: “All our organizations … must pay attention to thrift.” Departments in charge of materials, supplies and production have all made contributions by being economical.

A timber store in Tunghsien County just east of Peking proper looks after timber supplies for the county’s rural areas. A service team of workers and and staff from this store making the rounds of the villages saw that many production teams had made rapid progress in pig-raising and needed vast quantities of timber to build pigsties. The team worked out a method with the local peasants to make use of the county’s abundant supply of straw to build more than 2,000 piggeries in one year. This represented a saving of more than 10,000 cubic metres of timber for more urgent purposes and nearly 10,000 yuan for the production teams.

In order to supply and use materials more rationally, the various enterprises often clear out stocks of material left idle due to changes in production plans or inadequate planning. Such items are reallocated among different enterprises and various districts and swiftly put into production.

To make practicing economy part of their regular work, factories and mines rely on the workers to strengthen management, improve the rules and regulations and see to it that the policy of “stressing both production and economy” is carried out in every aspect of work.

Rely on the Masses

As in all other work, relying or not relying on the masses in practising strict economy is the focus of contention in the struggle between the revolutionary line of Chairman Mao and the counter-revolutionary revisionist line of Liu Shao-chi and other political swindlers. Liu Shao-chi and other swindlers took the stand of bourgeois overlords, looking upon the people as ”rabble,” whereas Chairman Mao has always taken the stand that “the masses are the real heroes.” Workers in the frontline of production are the ones who are most familiar with production and best know where and how to achieve maximum economy. Reliance on the masses is highly rewarding.

Wide mobilization of the masses and close attention to the work of bringing down raw material, fuel and electricity consumption in large enterprises since last year in relatively more industrialized Liaoning Province sent 52 of the 71 consumption indices for 30 kinds of major products plummeting to their lowest level in local history. Coal consumption by locomotives, electric consumption by furnaces in major steel enterprises and timber consumption by major coal-mines throughout China have all shown substantial reductions compared with the years before the Great Cultural Revolution. In Peking, the masses successfully rebuilt more than 3,000 coal-fired boilers to lower coal consumption 20 per cent and raise heat efficiency 14 to 20 per cent. The Taching Oilfield, built up in the spirit of hard work, plain living and diligence and thrift more than a decade ago, continues its fine working style although it is now a large-scale modern enterprise. The workers and staff of Taching attach great importance to practising economy. Together with their family members, they recover, repair and recycle huge quantities of discarded or worn-out materials, including work-clothes, shoes, hats and gloves.

Since material wealth is created by the diligent efforts of the masses of labouring people, they cherish the fruits of their labour and are very conscientious in economizing on state wealth. The bourgeoisie and other exploiting classes rely on plunder and exploitation to get rich. In their blind greed for profits they despoil and waste social wealth and natural resources. The working class, however, insists on diligence and frugality and opposes all forms of extravagance and waste. This is not only of great economic significance but also of great political significance as it is an important measure for maintaining the fine qualities of the working people and preventing corrosion by bourgeois ideology.

Diligence and frugality are highly honoured social virtues while extravagance and waste are seriously frowned upon. This is the new social trend today. Workers and staff resolutely carry out all major economy measures as well as effecting the smallest economies. For example, nine members of a water supply depot of a railway bureau in Heilungkiang Province sift and recover cinders and slag from coal and mix them with sawdust to fuel their boilers instead of using coal. Over the last 20 years they have not drawn a ton of coal from the state. It is this spirit of the working people that is behind the ever-mounting movement to increase production and practise economy which in turn is hastening socialist construction in China.

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