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Cadres Taking Part in Collective Productive Labor

by the Huihsien County Committee of the Communist Party of China

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #15, April 11, 1975, pp. 15-20. It includes two side-bars, one on cadre productive labor in China, and another on the geography and development of Huishien County.]

HUIHSIEN County in Honan Province was a poor place with barren mountains, scarce water and thin top soil. There have been big changes in the county since liberation, especially since the start of the Great Cultural Revolution. Per-hectare yield of grain in 1973 went up 2.5-fold compared with 1965, the year before the Cultural Revolution began. Last year witnessed the conquest of a big drought unseen in decades and collective grain reserves were 21 times that prior to the Great Cultural Revolution. Commune members’ living standards have been steadily improving year after year.

Why is it possible that our county has achieved such great changes in the last few years? According to our understanding, the fundamental reason is that the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the movement to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius have done away with the interference of the counter-revolutionary revisionist line of Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao, and Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line has been better implemented. This is the fundamental reason for the growth of production and other changes. Guided by Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, cadres in our county have persistently carried out the system of taking part in collective productive labour and engaged in investigation and study. This has helped forge still closer ties between cadres and the masses and enabled the leadership to grasp the actual conditions in the county. All this has played an important part in fully mobilizing the masses enthusiasm for socialism.

A Major Measure of Fundamental Importance

Chairman Mao has taught us: “It is necessary to maintain the system of cadre participation in collective productive labour. The cadres of our Party and state are ordinary workers and not overlords sitting on the backs of the people. By taking part in collective productive labour, the cadres maintain extensive, constant and close ties with the working people. This is a major measure of fundamental importance for a socialist system; it helps to overcome bureaucracy and to prevent revisionism and dogmatism.” (Quoted in On Khrushchov’s Phoney Communism and Its Historical Lessons for the World.) Through practice in the last few years, we have obtained a better understanding of this point. The Party’s line is implemented through cadres and whether they regularly take part in collective productive labour or not has a close bearing on their correctly carrying out the Party’s basic line or not.

Before the start of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the county Party committee had drawn up plans to change the county’s appearance. But they could not be put into effect, primarily due to interference by Liu Shao-chi’s revisionist line. Liu Shao-chi and his gang did their utmost to preach ”those who work with their minds govern, those who work with their hands are governed,” a doctrine of Confucius and Mencius. The result was some cadres sat on high without going deep among the masses, feared hardship and did not take part in labour. So how could the face of the county be changed?

With the help of the masses after the Great Cultural Revolution began, the cadres criticized the revisionist line and the traditional exploiting-class idea of looking down on labour, raised their consciousness of the two-line struggle and went to the forefront of the three great revolutionary movements—class struggle, the struggle for production and scientific experiment. This has made relations between cadres and masses still closer, brought into play the masses’ socialist enthusiasm and turned the county’s situation in revolution and production all to the better.

Educated by both positive and negative experience, we have come to realize that whether cadres persevere in doing collective productive labour or not is really an important aspect in the struggle between Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line and the revisionist line. It is also a major question concerning whether cadres persevere in continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. In sabotaging the system of cadre participation in collective productive labour and slandering cadres taking part in labour as ”reform through forced labour in a disguised form,” Liu Shao-chi, Lin Piao and their like wanted to corrupt our cadres with revisionist ideas and tried to subvert the dictatorship of the proletariat and restore capitalism.

Cadres persevering in taking part in collective productive labour is a profound revolution. It cannot be plain sailing because sharp struggles between the proletarian and bourgeois ideas exist. We have come to know through practice that if cadres are divorced from labour for a long time, they will have no common practice or common feeling and language with the working people, lose the qualities of the working people, deteriorate step by step and slide on to the wayward road of revisionism.

Therefore, our county Party committee has over the last few years consistently criticized the revisionist line of Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao and the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius and set up a system for cadre participation in collective productive labour. Secretaries of the county Party committee and other leading cadres have often gone to the grass-roots level and taken part in physical labour wherever they stay. Annually in the last six years, the first secretary of the committee averaged 110 days of work in collective production, members of the standing committee of the county Party committee 96, commune cadres 175 and brigade cadres 265 days.

Better Implementation of Party’s Basic Line

Participation in collective productive labour helps the cadres better grasp the key link of class struggle and the two-line struggle, implement the Party’s basic line and promote the vigorous and fast growth of agriculture. Though we knew that there is class struggle in the period of socialism and expressed the desire to grasp it, we were not very clear about the concrete manifestations of class struggle in the rural areas. Some brigades in the county lagged behind and for a long time production had failed to go up.

Later we made up our minds to go to one such brigade. The first thing we did was to take part in collective productive labour, make extensive contacts with the poor and lower-middle peasants in the fields, barns and other places and get better acquainted with the situation there. Our investigations and study revealed that the basic reason for the backwardness there was the corruption of its principal cadre by the class enemy. Capitalist tendencies on behalf of private interests were rampant in the brigade and collective production and construction had been seriously affected.

For Your Reference

China’s System of Cadre Participation in Collective Productive Labour

THE movement to criticize Lin Piao and Confucius is continuously deepening and the movement to study the theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat is surging ahead. This has aroused the revolutionary enthusiasm of the masses of cadres. Inspired by the examples set by a great many leading cadres in the central organs as well as in provincial, municipal and autonomous regional organs, the cadres in cities and rural areas are paying more attention to participating in collective productive labour. Recently they are going to industrial enterprises, transport units, construction sites, state farms and people’s communes to take part in physical labour together with the workers and peasants. They are doing this to narrow the differences between manual and mental labour, overcome bureaucracy, prevent revisionism and better implement the principle of grasping revolution and promoting production.

In socialist China, the Chinese Communist Party has long maintained a system of regular participation in collective productive labour by leading cadres. This applies to all levels of the Party, government organizations, army units, enterprises, cultural and educational institutions and rural people’s communes.

Cadres of the Communist Party of China have always upheld the fine tradition of keeping close ties with the labouring people. As early as in the late 1920s, when Chairman Mao led the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army in setting up the first revolutionary base area in the Chingkang Mountains in east China, cadres of the Party and Red Army already joined the people in productive labour as a matter of principle.

Chairman Mao issued the great call for “Ample food and clothing by working with our own hands” during the period of the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-45) in order to smash the blockade of the Liberated Areas imposed by the Japanese aggressors and the Kuomintang reactionaries. Armymen and civilians were mobilized to launch a great production campaign. Chairman Mao and other Party leaders then in Yenan often took part in productive labour, setting a brilliant example for all the cadres.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the system of cadre participation in physical labour was defined more specifically. In 1958 during the building of the Ming Tombs Reservoir on the outskirts of Peking, Chairman Mao, Premier Chou and other leading comrades of the Central Committee of the Party went to the construction site and joined the masses in their work. This greatly encouraged on-the-site cadres and reservoir-builders.

During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, Chairman Mao issued the important directive: “Going down to do manual labour gives vast numbers of cadres an excellent opportunity to study once again; this should be done by all cadres except those who are old, weak, ill or disabled. Cadres at their posts should also go down in turn to do manual labour.” This great call met with enthusiastic response from all departments and organizations and led to the setting up of large numbers of ”May 7” cadre schools in the rural areas. Cadres, veteran and young, go to these schools in turn to take part in productive labour while studying works by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and by Chairman Mao. These schools are very good institutions for training proletarian cadres. Participation in farm work and the many different contacts with poor and lower-middle peasants strengthen the proletarian thinking and feelings of the cadres and keep alive their revolutionary vigour.

In addition to ”May 7” cadre schools, government organizations, factories, mines and other departments have avenues of their own for cadre participation in productive labour. Leading cadres at factory level generally spend one day a week in production together with workers, while workshop directors often engage in production alongside the rank and file. Cadres in government organizations and schools go to do a certain amount of physical labour every year.

Rural cadres work most of their time in the fields with the peasants. For example, in Hsiyang County, Shansi Province, where the country’s agricultural pace-setter, the Tachai Brigade, is located, cadres there at the county level average 100 days a year of farm work; at the commune, level, 200; at the brigade level, 300 days. Production team leaders throughout the rural areas work with commune members the year round.

In view of this situation, we made a big effort to educate the masses in the Party’s basic line, mobilize them to deal blows to a handful of class enemies who had sparked the capitalist tendencies, and save the cadre who had made mistakes. This quickly put a stop to the evil wind of capitalism and further enhanced the enthusiasm of cadres and commune members. In three years the brigade built three water-storing ponds and 8,000 metres of stone-lined channels, bringing practically all its land under irrigation. Grain output rose nearly eightfold in that period.

The county Party committee popularized the experience gained from this brigade and the county’s more than 60 relatively backward briaades also successively changed in appearance. We have learnt through practice that class struggle, manifested in different forms, is very complicated in the rural areas. Only by going deep among the masses, making investigations and study and personally taking part in collective productive labour can leading cadres see the essence through the superficial and get hold of the initiative in class struggle.

Struggle in the ideological field is also very complicated in the rural areas. Remnants of exploiting-class ideas cannot be easily eliminated. For instance, old ideas preached by the doctrines of Confucius and Mencius for centuries such as ”everything is decided by heaven” and ”man is superior to woman” often find expression in one way or another and thereby prevent people from fully developing their creativeness and initiative. By going to the grass-roots level and working side by side with the peasants, cadres can find in time the trends of ideological struggle, educate the masses in socialist thinking with clear aims and break down old traditional ideas. This is also quite important for promoting farm production.

Discovering the Masses’ Socialist Enthusiasm

Cadre participation in collective productive labour helps us discover, in essence, the masses’ enthusiasm for socialism, concentrate their wisdom and rely on their strength to transform nature. In the past, Whenever we wanted to transform hills and build up land, some cadres always cited the unfavourable conditions and difficulties. Years passed without anything done and we continued to worry about the barren mountains and untamed rivers. Then we took part in labour in a commune and made wide contacts with the poor and lower-middle peasants there. We learnt that they not only urgently wanted to build up the land but believed they could do it by relying on the collective strength of the people’s commune. This helped clear our minds and we knew that we had to bring into play our revolutionary spirit and lead the masses in vigorously building various projects.

County and commune cadres led the masses to plunge into construction work for two winter-spring periods and build 200 hectares of fertile farmland in a rock-strewn gully. We then led a contingent of 10,000 peasants to a stone-packed river bank and built nearly 700 hectares of flat fertile land, with one-metre-deep loose top soil.

Facts taught us that the ”difficulties” we had emphasized before came from our lack of correct appraisal of the masses who have inexhaustible wisdom and strength, and once their initiative and creativeness are developed they can do things which were inconceivable in the past and perform every kind of miracle.

Deep-Going Investigations and Study

By participating in collective productive labour, the cadres can carry out deep-going investigations and study, gradually master the laws of nature and get hold of the initiative in leading the masses to conquer nature. Although the majority of our comrades on the county Party committee were born and bred in Huihsien, we did not really know it. Some said: ”Huihsien has too many mountains and poor conditions to start with, it is impossible to try to make big and rapid changes.” How, after all, can the county make big, rapid and thorough changes?

Chairman Mao has said: “You can’t solve a problem? Well, get down and investigate the present facts and its past history! When you have investigated the problem thoroughly, you will know how to solve it.” (Oppose Book Worship.) Since the start of the Great Cultural Revolution, we have carried out four extensive investigations. With bed-rolls and work tools we climbed mountains, went across dangerous paths, called on people during our spare time in farm work, examined the topography and traced water sources. We went to all the county’s mountains and rivers, visited more than 90 per cent of the brigades and solicited the opinions of the poor and lower-middle peasants on a wide scale. The large amount of first-hand material we collected helped us gradually get a fairly overall picture of the county’s physical features.

We saw only the difficulties posed by the barren mountains and untamed river in the past, but failed to see the possibility of transforming these conditions. Now we know the advantages of mountainous areas. There are ravines for building reservoirs, rocks for building irrigation channels, raw material for making cement and ample space for creating land by removing mountain-tops. Based on investigations and study, we worked out a plan to transform the mountains and rivers and are confident of fulfilling it.

We profoundly understand that, in leading socialist agricultural production, we should not limit our activities to minor remedies as in the case of the small-peasant economy, but should set high goals and draw up a positive and reliable plan for permanently transforming the natural features. To do this and lead the masses to fulfil it step by step, leading cadres at all levels must persevere in the system of taking part in collective productive labour, consistently go deep among the masses, earnestly conduct investigations and study, acquire a correct knowledge of society and nature, and be adept at concentrating the masses’ opinions so as to give correct guidance.

Huihsien County in Honan Province

HUIHSIEN County in at the foot of the Taihang Mountains in the northern part of Honan Province in central-south China. To its north lies Linhsien, a county known for its Red Flag Canal which was built on cliffs. The central plain region in which Huihsien is situated was the cradle of Chinese civilization. Not far from the county to the northeast is Anyang which was the capital of the Yin Dynasty (16th century-llth century B.C.) and the site of the famous Yin ruins.

Since most of its land is mountainous, Huihsien was plagued by drought in varying degrees almost every year in its recorded history of farming for more than 3,500 years; sometimes floods rushing down the mountains brought catastrophe to the local inhabitants. In the years of natural calamities large numbers of peasants fled to other places and many died of hunger. Even in a normal year before liberation grain yields never surpassed 750 kilogrammes per hectare.

Led by Chairman Mao and the Communist Party of China, the people of Huihsien have since liberation, and especially since the start of the Great Cultural Revolution, relied on the superior socialist system and the strength of the collective economy of the people’s communes to conquer nature and develop farm production by their own labour and wisdom. Compared with 1949, the year of liberation, total grain output in the county increased sixfold in 1973 while its population growth was less than double. The 550,000 people in the county not only have sufficient food grain but ample collective and household grain reserves. Many communes have built up enough reserves to feed all their members for a whole year.

These successes were achieved through hard work by the masses led by the cadres of the county under the guidance of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line. To solve water shortages, the people of Huihsien used rocks, of which the county has an abundant supply, to build dams across the ravines to hold the water from mountain springs and streams as well as rain water and divert it to reservoirs or water-storage ponds. The water then flows into the fields through aqueducts or stone-lined channels which wind around the mountain sides or lie underground. To accomplish all this, the county moved a total of 175 million cubic metres of earth or stone in the eight years since the beginning of the Great Cultural Revolution in 1966.

When the first medium-sized reservoir was being built, there were not enough stonemasons. Secretary of the county Party committee Cheng Yung-ho personally led county and commune cadres to learn the required skill. Together with the commune members at the work-site, they quarried over 500,000 cubic metres of stone in the mountains and built the reservoir on time. In those eight years the county built 33 medium-sized and small reservoirs, 850 water-storage ponds and 140 pumping stations, sank more than 20,000 wells and paved 2,800 kilometres of channels. This has brought 70 per cent of the county’s farmland under irrigation.

The people of Huihsien also launched a mass campaign to improve soil and build up land. In the last few years 80 per cent of the county’s farmland have been deep-ploughed and levelled. They also terraced 18,000 hectares of fields according to the prototype of the Tachai Brigade in Shansi Province, China’s advanced farming unit, and built 2,200 hectares of new farmland. There are some rivers in the county which are flooded in summer and autumn but are dry and littered with rocks at other times of the year. The commune members living along these rivers have built channels to divert the floodwaters to designated places and built fertile land on the banks by removing rocks, erecting necessary dykes or dams and bringing in rich soil.

The people’s communes in Huihsien have increased their income by extending their activities to forestry, livestock breeding, side-line production and fish breeding. The collective economy provided about three-fourths of the investment in building farmland water conservancy works in the last eight years. Making use of local resources, the people have set up a small coal mine and more than 60 factories making dynamite, cement, chemical fertilizer, farm machines and other products. These supply inexpensive material and equipment for farmland capital construction and the development of farm production.

The people’s standards of living have improved noticeably with the growth of production. Total sales of consumer goods in the county last year were 138 times those of 1949. Products never seen, by most of the peasants before liberation such as wrist-watches, sewing machines and radios now are quickly snapped up in stores. Peasants’ savings deposits show a tenfold increase over the last 15 years. Housing conditions have improved steadily. In the Szulimiao Brigade alone, the 200 households have built a total of 1,157 new rooms since liberation.

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