Excerpts by Liu Shaoqi

ON THE PARTY (Excerpts) by Liu Shaoqi 

Stage 4: Organization takes the theoretical foundations from the previous three stages and directs the use of the following concepts toward real-world organization: Organization, Mass Line, Democratic Centralism, and Criticism.

Concerning the Mass Line of Our Party

Another feature of the present revised Constitution is that particular stress has been laid on the Party’s mass line in the General Program and in the detailed provisions of the Party Constitution, because the mass line is the fundamental political and organizational line of our Party. This means that all our Party organizations and Party work must be closely linked with the masses.

Comrade Mao Zedong has repeatedly pointed out to us that the mass line should be applied in all our work. In his report to this Congress, he again urged us in most sincere terms to carry out our work in accordance with the mass line. He said that one hallmark distinguishing our Party from all other political parties was that we have very close ties with the broadest masses of the people. He asked us “to serve the people whole-heartedly and never for a moment divorce ourselves from the masses, to proceed in all cases from the interests of the people and not from the interests of individual groups”.

He wanted our comrades to understand that “the supreme test of the words and deeds of a Communist is whether they conform with the highest interests and enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of the people”. He further told us that we would be invincible “as long as we rely on the people, believe firmly in the inexhaustible creative power of the masses and hence trust and identify ourselves with them”. He pointed out that “commandism is wrong in any type of work, because in overstepping the level of political consciousness of the masses and violating the principle of voluntary mass action it reflects the disease of impetuosity”. And he added, “Tailism in any type of work is also wrong, because it is falling below the level of political consciousness of the masses and violating the principle of leading the masses forward it reflects the disease of dilatoriness.” All these teachings of Comrade Mao Zedong are extremely important, and every Party member should carefully study and grasp them and earnestly carry them out.

This mass line of ours is possible only in a proletarian party. It is a class line—the mass line of the proletariat. Our view of the masses and our relationship with them are diametrically opposed to those of the exploiting classes.

We fully understand the decisive role which the vanguard of the masses can play throughout the people’s struggle for emancipation. The complete emancipation of the people is possible only when they have a vanguard of their own, such as our Party. Otherwise they would be without revolutionary leadership, and the people’s revolution would consequently meet with failure. Only under the firm and correct leadership of our Party and only by carrying on the struggle along the political orientation given by our Party can the Chinese people achieve their complete emancipation.

This is one aspect of the question.

The other aspect is that the vanguard of the masses must establish proper and close relations with the masses. It must stand for the people’s interests in all fields, above all in the political field and it must adopt a correct attitude towards the people and lead them by correct methods before it can forge close links with them. Otherwise, it is fully possible for the vanguard to become divorced form the people. In that case, it will no longer be the vanguard of the people, and it will not only fail to perform the task of emancipating the people, but will also face the danger of outright destruction by the enemy. This means that the vanguard of the masses must follow a thorough-going and clear-cut mass line in all its work.

Under what conditions will the vanguard become divorced form the masses?

First of all, the vanguard will divorce itself from the masses when it fails to perform its obligations as the vanguard of the people, when it fails to represent at all times and in all circumstances the maximum interests of the broadest possible sections of the people, when it fails to define correct tasks, policies and methods of work at the right time and when it fails to stick to the truth and correct its mistakes in good time. In other words, tailism and negligence will lead to our estrangement from the masses.

In our Party, there has not been any open advocacy or spontaneity nor has any tailist “theory” been put forward advocating following at the heels of the spontaneous mass movements or dispensing with the leadership of the proletarian party. But Chen Duxiuism in the latter period of the 1924-27 Revolution and capitulationism in the early period of the War of Resistance Against Japan were both a kind of tailism since their protagonists lagged far behind the mass revolutionary movement of the time. They were incapable of setting forth correct tasks, policies of methods of work to represent the people or inspire them to go forward. Thus they alienated themselves from the people and brought damage or defeat to the revolution. In addition, some comrades have committed errors of a tailist nature in various fields of our work.

For instance, in their practical work some regarded the Party an appendage to the army, to the leading Party groups in the government, or to the trade unions, instead of the highest form of class organization. Others were lackadaisical, complacent or so bogged down that they just let things drift along and had no desire at all to make improvements. They failed to set forth, based on the prevailing local conditions, correct tasks, policies and methods of work with which to lead the people forward thereby violating the principle of leading the masses step by step. They yielded to the backward ideas of the masses and reduced themselves to the level of ordinary workers, peasant or even backward elements, thus abandoning their vanguard role. At times they gave way to the erroneous ideas of the masses, followed at the tail of spontaneous mass movements and, as a result, failed to give the masses correct and far-sighted leadership. This kind of tendency necessarily isolates us from the broad masses; they do not need such people to lead them.

Secondly, the vanguard divorces itself from the masses when it fails to adopt a correct attitude and correct methods to lead them, when it fails to help them recognize in their own experience the correctness of the Party’s slogans and act accordingly, when the slogans it adopts are too radical and the policies ultra-Left, or when the forms of struggle and organization it advocated are impossible to carry out at the time or unacceptable to the masses. In other words, commandism, adventurism and closed-doorism will lead to isolation from the masses.

Some Comrades made the mistake of engaging in commandism, adventurism and closed-doorism. Some of them, for instance, were not responsible to the masses in their work. They did not believe that the masses must emancipate themselves through their own efforts. Instead, they stood above and ordered the masses about in order to fight in their stead and to bestow emancipation upon them. Such comrades were impetuous so that while they appeared active, in fact they did not know how to transform the Party’s slogans and tasks into those of the people. Nor did they know how to enlighten the masses or patiently await their awakening, nor did they know how to take steps to help the masses become revolutionary of their own accord. Rather, they tried to compel the masses to accept the Party’s slogans and tasks simply by issuing arbitrary orders and forcing the masses into action. Thus they violated the principal of volition on the part of the masses. And, especially when the masses harbored misgivings about their radical slogans and ultra-Left policies and felt dissatisfied, they pushed all the harder for their implementation by issuing orders, by coercion or even by threat of punishment. An extreme example of this is the way some of them attempted to frighten the people and cadres into getting the work done by finding mistakes, shortcomings and bad examples wherever they went and by criticizing, condemning and punishing those involved. They did not try to find the strong points or to hold up the good examples, in order to study, develop and systematize them. They did not try to inspire the Party members and the people to go forward and help to overcome the mistakes and shortcomings by commending heroes and model workers or disseminating useful experience. Lashing out in all directions, they tried to get things done by simply issuing orders. Instead of learning from the masses and benefitting from the peoples’ new ideas and suggestions, they tried to force everyone to do things their way. This tendency led to serious isolation from the masses and aroused resentment not only against the individual comrades but against the Party as well.

In addition to the two tendencies mentioned above, bureaucratism and warlordism have been found among some of our comrades. These tendencies also lead to serious isolation from the masses.

The tendency to bureaucratism is manifested in the fact that some comrades lack the spirit to serve the people and to be responsible to the people and the Party. Some typical examples are the way they loaf about all day long, never using their brains; issue orders without investigation and study, or learning from the masses; reject criticism from the masses, ignore their rights or even demand that the people serve them; seek their own benefit at the expense of the interests of the people, not scrupling to waste public money and manpower; and become corrupt and degenerate and lord it over the people.

The tendency to warlordism is manifested in the fact that some comrades, failing to understand that our army—as the armed force of the people—is a most important instrument of the people for defeating their enemies and winning their liberation, look on the army as a special force standing beyond or above the people, or even as the means of building up their personal influence or position. Consequently, they resort to bureaucratism and commandism in the people’s army.

They are most conspicuously manifested in the relations between officers and men and between superiors and subordinates. The troops and subordinates are commanded merely through the issuing of orders and the threat of punishment, not through relying on their initiative and consciousness. Secondly, these tendencies are manifested in the relations between the army and the people. In relations with the people some comrades do not try to enforce strict discipline among their subordinates and, instead of cherishing the people, coerce, beat and swear at them. As a result the troops become alienated from the people. Thirdly, these tendencies are manifested in the purely military approach to the relationship between the revolutionary army and the revolutionary government; that is, it places the army above the government and puts the government under army control as the warlords used to do.

Obviously, this tendency is incompatible with the character of a people’s army.

These erroneous tendencies in our Party, which alienate us from the masses, arise from the low educational level of the working people and the influence of the exploiting classes of the old society. The petty-bourgeois elements and the other elements in our Party who have long been disengaged from production have generally been susceptible to such influences and tend to divorce themselves from the masses. These tendencies are deep-rooted in society, and we have felt necessary to mention them in the General Program of our Party Constitution. The more the revolution develops and the more onerous our work becomes, the more likely it is that such tendencies among us will grow. We must, therefore, wage a constant struggle against them in order to maintain and cement our ties with the broad masses of the people. As comrade Mao Zedong puts it, we must constantly “sweep the floor and wash our faces” so as to prevent political dust and germs from clouding the minds of our comrades and decaying the body of our Party.

The masses must have their own staunch vanguard which, for its part, must maintain close ties with the widest possible section of the masses. Only thus will the emancipation of the people be possible. Our Party, the vanguard of the Chinese people, must constantly try to eradicate tendencies such as those described above which estrange it from the masses, so that we can follow a line of close unity with them. This is the mass line of our Party—the mass line set forth by Comrade Mao Zedong. It is a line designed to enable our Party to establish a correct relationship with the people and to adopt a correct attitude and correct methods for leading them. This line will enable our Party’s leading organs and individuals to establish a correct relationship with their followers.

According to Comrade Mao Zedong, our Party’s policies and methods of work must be “from the masses and to the masses”. That is to say, the organizational as well as the political line of our Party should stem genuinely from the masses and be genuinely relayed back to them. Our Party’s correct political line cannot be separated from its correct organizational line. Although partial, temporary disharmony may occur between these two, it is impossible to imagine a correct political line existing alongside an incorrect organizational line or vice versa The one cannot be isolated from the other. By a correct organizational line we mean the Party’s mass line, which calls for closely linking the Party’s leading cadres with the rank and file inside and outside the Party, for the principle of “from the masses and to the masses” and for supplementing the general call with specific guidance through leadership.

For the implementation of the mass line of our Party and of Comrade Mao Zedong, the General Program and provisions of the Party Constitution has laid emphasis on certain viewpoints concerning the masses. Those viewpoints, which every Party member should bear in mind, are as follows:

The first is the viewpoint of doing everything in the interests of the people and of serving them whole-heartedly. From the outset, our Party was founded to serve the people. All the sacrifices, efforts and struggles of our Party members have been made for no other purpose than the welfare and emancipation of the people. Here lies our greatest glory as Communists, the thing we are most proud of. Therefore any viewpoint that stands for personal interests or the interests of small groups at the expense of those of the people is wrong. So long as they are devoted to their duty and have some achievements to their credit, all our Party members and all those who have joined our ranks are serving the people and putting themselves at their disposal no matter whether they are aware of it or not, or whether they occupy important, leading positions or are ordinary fighters, cooks or grooms. They are all directly or indirectly serving the people at their different posts. Therefore, they are all equal and honorable. We must enhance the political consciousness of all our Party members and personnel so that they may serve the people and hold themselves responsible to the people.

The second is the viewpoint of holding oneself fully responsible to the people. In serving the people, we must we must hold ourselves responsible to them so that they will benefit by our effort and win emancipation. We must try our best to avoid mistakes or reduce them to a minimum in order not to harm the people or cause them losses. To benefit the people, the tasks, policies and methods of work we adopt must all be correct. If they are not correct, they will adversely affect the peoples’ interests. Should this happen, we must make earnest self-criticism and ensure prompt rectification. This means that we must know how to serve the people and that we must serve them well and not otherwise. Under no circumstances should we adopt a reckless attitude towards the people; we must adopt a serious and responsible attitude.

It is also necessary to understand that being responsible to the people is identical with being responsible to the leading bodies of the Party. This means that although our Party members will be responsible to a leading organ or an individual leader in carrying out its of his instructions, they will err if they separate responsibility to the Party leadership from that to the people. Only by holding oneself responsible to the people can one be considered to have done one’s best and utmost. It must be understood that the interests of the Party are identical with those of the people. That which benefits the people benefits the Party, and every Party member must work for all such things with might and main. Likewise, whatever harms the people harms the Party and must be opposed or avoided by every Party member. The interests of the people are the interests of the Party. Apart from the interests of the people, the Party has no special interests of its own. The ultimate interests of the greatest number of people is the highest criterion of truth, and consequently, the highest criterion of all the activities of our Party members. A Party member who is responsible to the people is responsible to the Party. It must be understood that responsibility to the Party and responsibility to the people are identical. They should be integrated and must not be separated or set against each other.

When shortcomings or mistakes are found in the directives of leading organs or individual leaders with regard to tasks, policies or methods of work, suggestions for their correction should be made with a sense of responsibility to the people. We must not be indifferent about what is right and what is wrong; to be so means acting irresponsibly both to the people and to the Party.

The basic interests of the Chinese people demand that Party discipline be observed and Party unity maintained. Party discipline and unity must not be undermined on the pretext of being responsible to the people. Nevertheless, any shortcoming or mistake made by a leading body or individual must be corrected. It is the duty as well as the right of every Party member to help in this respect, for any such shortcomings or mistakes are harmful to the people and so also to the Party. Sincere criticism of one’s own mistakes and those of the leadership and observance of Party discipline constitute the spirit of responsibility to the people.

The third is the viewpoint of believing in the self-emancipation of the people. Comrade Mao Zedong has pointed out more than once that the people are truly great, that their creative power is inexhaustible, that we are invincible only when we rely on them, that the people alone are the true makers of history and that genuine history is the history of the people. Marx pointed out long ago that the toilers will emancipate themselves, and The Internationale states that their salvation depends not upon emperors, gods, or heroes but upon themselves. This means that only through their own struggles and efforts can the people win their emancipation, maintain it and consolidate it. It cannot be bestowed or granted, nor can it be fought for or secured by anybody on their behalf. Hence, any attitude of gratuitously bestowing emancipation on the masses or carrying out their fight for them is wrong.

The people make their own history. Their emancipation must be based on their own consciousness and willingness. They select their vanguard, and under its leadership they get themselves organized and fight for their own emancipation. Only thus can they make conscious efforts to secure, retain and consolidate the fruits of their struggles. The enemies of the people can be overthrown only by the people themselves. It cannot be done in any other way. Without their own genuine consciousness and mobilization, the efforts of their vanguard alone will not suffice for the people to win emancipation, to make progress or to accomplish anything. Even tasks which concern the immediate interests of the people such as the reduction of rent and interest, mutual aid teams, and cooperatives will result in pseudo-reduction or formal, empty things, unless, instead of being bestowed on them or organized for them by other people, these tasks are taken up voluntarily and consciously by the masses themselves.

The cause of the Communists is the cause of the people. No matter how correct our program and policies may be, they cannot be put into effect without the direct support and sustained struggle of the people.

With us, therefore, unless everything is dependent on and determined by the people’s political consciousness and willingness to act, we can accomplish nothing and all our efforts will be to no avail. With our reliance upon their political consciousness and willingness to act, with their genuine awakening and mobilization and with the Party’s correct leadership, we will assuredly win final victory in all aspects of the great cause of our Party. Hence, when the masses are not fully awakened, the duty of Communists, the vanguard of the people, in carrying out any kind of work is to develop their consciousness by every effective and suitable means. This is the first step in our work and it must be done well however difficult and time-consuming it may be.

Only when the first step has been taken can we start on the second step. In other words, when the masses have reached the necessary level of consciousness, it is our duty to guide them in their actions—to guide them to organize and to fight. When this has been accomplished, we may, in the course of their actions try to enhance their consciousness a step further. This is how we lead the masses step by step to fight for their basic slogans as put forward by our Party. We Communists and the advanced elements and outstanding figures among the masses can do no more than this for the people’s cause and nothing more than this can be expected. Whoever attempts to go beyond this point is liable to commit all kinds of errors, including individualist heroism, commandism monopolization of affairs and the favor-bestowing viewpoint.

In the struggle for the emancipation of the people, a Communist should act and, indeed, can only act as a leader or guide to them. He should not and cannot possibly act as a “hero” taking for himself the role of conquering the world. In their revolutionary struggle the people are in dire need of far-sighted and staunch leaders and guides and such persons are in fact a prerequisite for the people’s success. But the people do not need “heroes” to conquer the world for them, because such “heroes”, isolated as they are from the masses, can achieve nothing for the cause of emancipating the people.

The fourth is the viewpoint of learning from the people. In order to serve the people well, to kindle their consciousness and to guide their actions, we Communists must first of all possess certain qualifications such as foresight and the ability to anticipate various problems. This means we must be harbingers, for only such people are capable of helping to enlighten others. In addition to our whole-hearted devotion to the cause of the people’s emancipation, our inexhaustible enthusiasm and our sprit of sacrifice, we must acquire adequate knowledge, experience and vigilance before we can successfully raise the people’s consciousness, guide their actions and serve them well. Study is indispensable if we are to acquire knowledge, experience and foresight.

We can enrich our knowledge by studying Marxist-Leninist theories, our own history and the lessons of the people’s struggles in foreign lands. We can also expand our knowledge by learning from our enemies. Most importantly, however, we must learn from the masses, because their knowledge and experience are the most abundant and practical and their creative power is the greatest. This is why Comrade Mao Zedong has time and time again asked us to learn from the masses before we attempt to educate them.

Only when our comrades have learned from the masses with an open mind and have crystallized the knowledge and experience of the people into a system of knowledge of a higher order, will they be able to take specific steps to develop the consciousness of the people and give guidance to their activities. If, instead of learning from the masses, we think ourselves clever and try to develop the consciousness of the masses and guide them by devising a set of schemes out of our own imagination or mechanically introducing a set of schemes based on historical or foreign experiences, the attempt will certainly prove futile. In order to keep on learning from the masses, we must not stand apart from them for a single moment. If we isolate ourselves from them, our knowledge will be extremely limited and we will certainly not be clever, well-informed, capable or competent enough to give them leadership.

“Simple people sometimes prove to be much nearer to the truth than some high institutions.

“Our experience alone. the experience of the leaders, is far from enough for the leadership of our cause. In order to lead properly the experience of the leaders must be supplemented by the experience of the Party membership, the experience of the working class, the experience of the toilers, the experience of the so-called ‘little people.’

“It is possible to do that only when the leaders are most closely connected with the masses, when they are connected with the Party membership, with the working class, with the peasantry, with the working intelligentsia.

“Connection with the masses, strengthening this connection, readiness to head the voice of the masses—herein lies the strength and invincibility of the Bolshevik leadership.”[1]

Such is Stalin’s advice to the Communists of the Soviet Union. It is a universal truth.

The task of the leaders and the leading bodies is to exercise correct leadership, size up the situation correctly, grasp its essence, set forth the tasks, make decisions, mobilize and organize the masses to implement these decisions and supervise the work of implementation. To do this well it is essential to learn from the masses and to follow the line of “from the masses to the masses”; otherwise no leadership can be satisfactorily exercised.

This is what the viewpoint of learning from the masses means.

The viewpoints of doing everything in the interests of the people, of holding oneself fully responsible to them, of believing in their self-emancipation and of learning from them to constitute our mass viewpoints, which are the viewpoints of the vanguard of the people. Only with such viewpoints, the firm and unequivocal mass viewpoints, can our comrades follow a clear-cut mass line in their work and exercise correct leadership.

Some comrades consider mass work to be, to the exclusion of other kinds, only the work of such mass organizations as trade unions or peasant associations. This is wrong. All Party activities and all activities under the Party leadership are mass activities and, therefore, should be carried out without exception, through the masses, from a mass viewpoint and on the basis of the mass line. The mass line and mass viewpoints cannot be dispensed with in any work.

Because our Party itself is a part of the people and, moreover, is dedicated to serving the people, our work in the Party is also a kind of mass work and should follow the mass line.

Because the army is also a part of the people and is likewise dedicated to serving the people, our work in the army is also a kind of mass work and should follow the mass line.

Of course, different kinds of work call for different procedure and these should not be confused with one another. For instance, forms of work in trade unions and peasant associations should be distinguished from those within the Party and the army. Nevertheless, all of these are kinds of mass work.

Naturally, the masses of the people are not all alike and our work is therefore varied and intricate. In his respective field, each comrade must directly serve a specific section of the people, such as the workers of a factory, the peasants in a village, the staff members of an office, the soldiers of an army unit, or just a few individuals. All the various kinds of work add up to the common objective of serving the Chinese people as a whole.

Our comrades, therefore, must correctly grasp the relationship between the part and the whole, realizing that being directly engaged in limited activities and serving a section of the people, they are indirectly promoting and fostering the revolutionary work as a whole and serving the entire people. They must take both the part and the whole into consideration. It is wrong to keep an eye only on the part to the neglect of the whole or vice versa. The part must be integrated with the whole.

When the partial, temporary interests of the people conflict with their total, long-range interests, the former must be subordinated to the latter. This means that less significant issues must be subordinated to greater issues, and minor principles to major ones. Though this is a very complicated question, our comrades will be able to follow a thoroughgoing mass line, provided they know how to use their brains to correctly distinguish and coordinate the limited with the basic interests of the people under all circumstances. Otherwise they may wittingly or unwittingly stand for the temporary interests of a section of the people in opposition to the long-range interests of the majority, thereby isolating themselves from the masses.

The people are generally composed of relatively active elements, intermediate elements and backward elements. In the initial stage of an undertaking the active elements are usually in the minority, while the intermediate and backward elements make up the majority. Our mass line demands consideration for the majority, that is, the intermediate and backward elements; otherwise the advanced section will become isolated and nothing can then be accomplished. The slogans for action and the forms of struggle and organization that we propose to the masses must be acceptable to the intermediate and backward elements. To foster the people’s own consciousness and initiative means chiefly fostering the consciousness and initiative of these elements. A mass movement is possible only when these people are awakened and inspired into action.

We must pay particular attention to educating, uniting and organizing the active elements so that they may become the nucleus of leadership among the masses. However, it is definitely not our intention to organize the active elements merely for their own sake, and under no circumstances must they become isolated from the intermediate and backward masses. Our aim is to draw over the intermediate and backward elements and encourage them to go into action with the help of the active elements. In other words, it is to rally the masses on a broadest possible scale. When the intermediate and backward masses are not yet awakened, we should know how to enlighten them and to patiently wait for their awakening. If, unwilling and leading just a small number of active elements, we recklessly rush forward, we shall isolate ourselves and end in failure.

Looking at the nation as a whole we see that the peasantry constitutes 80 percent of China’s population, and so consideration of the majority of the people chiefly means considering the peasantry. Our mass viewpoint is closely connected with our rural viewpoint. Under the present conditions, the Chinese working class would certainly not be able to fulfill its own tasks if it ignored China’s peasantry or if it did not focus on the emancipation of the countryside.

In view of the low cultural level of the Chinese peasants and other sections of the Chinese people (with the exception of the intelligentsia), it is all the more necessary for us to combine our general call with specific guidance in our work to set things in motion by making a breakthrough at one point. The general call alone will defiantly not succeed in guiding the masses who have a low cultural level. This is due to the fact that the masses, especially the peasantry, accept things only on the strength of their own personal experience instead of on the strength of our general propaganda and slogans. Therefore, in our work we should try to break through at a single point in order to set up a model, which the masses can see for themselves. Only through examples can we help the masses, particularly the intermediate and backward elements, to understand things, become confident and courageous and respond to the call of the Party in the form of a vigorous mass movement.

Our combat heroes, our labor heroes and model workers have played an outstanding role in various places and have become the best propagandists and organizers among the masses because, through such personalities, examples and experience, the masses have come to understand things and thus enhance their consciousness and self-confidence. Similarly, revolutionary reconstruction in Chinas revolutionary base areas has played an educational and enlightening role for the whole people and has helped heighten their confidence and self-confidence. The same approach is at work whenever the leadership breaks through at one point in order to provide concrete experience for the reinforcement of the general call. It is difficult for the masses to understand a call without familiar, concrete experience to substantiate it.

Hence, we must give consideration to the whole and to the majority and reject closed-doorism and sectarianism. We must maintain close ties with the masses and reject bureaucratism and warlordism.

We want to lead the masses forward but without commandism. We want to keep close ties with them, but without tailism. We should raise the consciousness of the masses and lead them forward from where there are now. In our work we must adhere to the highest principles while at the same time maintaining the closest possible ties with the masses. Such is our mass line. And while it is, of course, no easy job to carry it out, only by doing so can we become Marxists, worthy of the name Communist.

[1] Stalin, Selected Works, Vol. V, p. 322.

Democratic Centralism Within the Party

Our Party is not simply an aggregate of individual members. It is a unified, organic body established according to a definite principle. It is a composite of its leaders and its rank and file. It is a unified body consisting of a headquarters (the Central Committee), Party organizations at all levels and the broad body of the membership, and it has been established in accordance with a definite principle, that is, democratic centralism in the Party.

Three individual Party members in a factory or village do not constitute a Party organization until they are organized according to the principle of democratic centralism. Under normal conditions, one of the three should be the leader of the group and the other two its members. In this way, in all activities there will be a leader and two followers. and only when this happens does such a group become the kind of Party organization which generates new strength. The strength of the proletariat lies in organization.

As laid down in the Party Constitution, democratic centralism means centralism on the basis of democracy and democracy under central guidance. It is both democratic and centralized. It embodies the relationship between the leader and the led, between higher and lower Party organizations, between individual Party members and the Party as a whole and among the Party’s Central Committee. Party organizations at all levels and rank-and-file Party members.

What does it mean when we say that Party centralism is centralism based on democracy? It means that the leading bodies of the Party are elected by the membership on a democratic basis and enjoy their confidence. It means that the resolutions and policies of the Party are the crystallization of the ideas of the rank and file as expressed on a democratic basis, that they are decided on by the rank and file as expressed on a democratic basis, that they are decided upon by the rank and file or its representatives and that they are then adhered to and carried out by the leadership in conjunction with the rank and file. The authority of leading bodies of the Party is conferred by the Party membership. Therefore, these bodies are empowered to exercise centralized leadership in the management of all Party affairs on behalf of the membership and to command obedience from the organization at lower levels and from Party members. Order within the Party is built on the principle that the individual is subordinate to the organization, the minority to the majority, the lower level to the higher level and all the constituent organizations to the Central Committee. In other words, the Party’s centralism is based on, and not separated from democracy. It is not absolutism.

Why do we say the Party’s democracy is democracy under centralized guidance? This means that every Party meeting is convened by a leading body and carried through under proper leadership. The adoption of every resolution or ruling is preceded by a full preparation and careful deliberation. Every election is based on a carefully prepared list of candidates. The Party as a whole has a unified Party Constitution and unified discipline for its membership to observe, and there is a unified leading body which the entire membership must observe. In other words, inner-Party democracy is not a democracy devoid of leadership, nor is it ultra-democracy, nor is it anarchy in the Party.

Democratic centralism is a discipline which unites the Party’s backbone leaders with the rank and file of the Party membership. It is a system through which to crystallize the ideas of the rank and file and to have the crystallized ideas carried out by them. It is the expression of the mass line within the Party.

Some members do not understand that centralism in the Party is based on democracy. Consequently, they separate their leadership from inner-Party democracy and from the rank and file of the Party membership and call this “centralism”. They think that their authority as leaders need not be conferred by the Party membership but can be arrogated by themselves. They think that they need not gain leading positions through election, nor need confidence of the Party membership and the lower Party organizations, but that they can simply proclaim themselves leaders. They think that they can arbitrarily adopt guidelines and resolutions without going through the process of pooling the ideas of the rank and file. Instead of identifying themselves with the rank and file of the Party membership, they stand above it. Instead of acting within the organization of the Party and obeying and submitting to its control, they command and control the Party and lord it over the Party organizations. With respect to their superiors, they assert independence on the pretext of preserving inner-Party democracy, while with respect to their subordinates and Party members, they suppress their democratic rights on the pretext of exercising inner-Party centralism. In fact, they neither practice democracy in dealing with their subordinates nor accept centralism in relations with their superiors.

While others are obliged to adhere to resolutions adopted by the majority and observe Party discipline, they, as leaders, feel entitled to do otherwise. They observe none of such basic organizational principles as the subordination of the individual to the organization, of the minority to the majority and of the lower level to the higher level. Party rules and resolutions, in their opinion, are written for rank-and-file Party members but not for leaders. This is an anti-democratic, autocratic tendency in the Party and a reflection of the ideology characteristic of a privileged social class. It has nothing in common with our Party’s centralism. It is a derivation which does, however, exist in our Party and ought to be done away with completely.

There are other comrades who, failing to understand that democracy in the Party is democracy under centralized guidance, divorce their actions from the Party’s centralized leadership and from the Party as a whole. They act as they like, guided solely by their own whims and views., and they disregard the overall situation and the long-range interests of the Party as a whole. They neither strictly abide by Party discipline nor carry out the decisions of the Party’s leading bodies. They make all kinds of apolitical, unprincipled remarks and spread their views in disregard of organizational principles. They exaggerate things in order to sow dissention within the Party, and they indulge in endless empty talk or wrangling even during perilous emergencies. They go so far as to take advantage of the temporary confusion of some Party members who are caught unprepared, to press for votes for their own proposals in order to have their own designs carried out in the name of the “majority”.

These are manifestations of ultra-democracy which have nothing in common with our Party democracy. The danger of ultra-democracy, as Comrade Mao Zedong has pointed out, “lies in the fact that it damages or even completely wrecks the Party organization and weakens or even completely undermines the Party’s fighting capacity.”[1]

It stems from “the petty-bourgeoisie’s individualistic aversion to discipline. When this characteristic is brought into the Party, it develops into ultra-democratic ideas politically and organizationally. These ideas are utterly incompatible with the fighting tasks of the proletariat.”[2]

Though the tendencies towards anti-democratic absolutism and ultra-democracy found in the Party are two extremes of inner-Party life, the latter often comes into being as a kind of penalty for the former. Thus wherever there is a serious tendency to absolutism, ultra-democracy is bound to rise. Both are erroneous tendencies detrimental to and destructive of genuine Party unity and solidarity. The whole Party must maintain stern vigilance against their occurrence.

We must now fully extend democracy within the Party and bring about a high degree of inner-Party democracy. At the same time, we must affect a high degree of centralism in Party leadership on the basis of this highly developed democracy.

In his report to the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee of the Party, Comrade Mao Zedong said:

“Ours is a country in which small-scale production and the patriarchal system prevail, and taking the country as a whole there is as yet no democratic life; consequently, this state of affairs is reflected in our Party by insufficient democracy in Party life. This phenomenon hinders the entire Party from exercising its initiative to the full. Similarly it has led to insufficient democracy in the united front and in the mass movements.”[3]

Things are somewhat different now. Considerable progress has been made both in the democratic movement in China’s liberated areas and in inner-Party democracy, especially through the rectification movement and the review of our work. The free and penetrating discussion of Party history and the Party line by cadres prior to the present Seventh National Congress represents a vigorous flourishing of inner-Party democracy and has provided adequate preparations for the Congress. However, democracy in the Party as a whole and in the local Party organizations is still inadequate and needs to be further fostered. This is why many provisions for the extension of inner-Party democracy are included in the Party Constitution.

Our Party is still waging a war and a protracted war at that. Until there are changes in our technical conditions and in the situation of our enemy, this war remains basically a kind of guerrilla war. Therefore, meetings and elections must be held where the guerrilla war permits. There should be no unwarranted curtailment of inner-Party democracy on the pretext of war.

In the Liberated Areas, Party congresses at all levels and general membership meetings must be called, wherever possible, according to the provisions of the Constitution in order to elect the various levels of the Party’s leading bodies.

The Party Constitution provides that, in the election of a leading body in the Party, in addition to the presidium of the Congress having the rights to submit a list of candidates, every delegation and every delegate is ensured the right to nominate candidates and every elector, of the right to criticize any candidates or propose alternative ones. The candidate list must be fully discussed, and the list must serve as the basis of elections conducted either by secret ballot or by open vote.

The Party Constitution provides that local Party congresses shall be convened once every two years. This means that new leading-bodies of the local Party organizations must be elected once every two years. Between congresses, however, the convocation of conferences of representatives to deliberate and decide on immediate tasks is both necessary and feasible. In the past we held cadres’ meetings of various sizes to review and decide on our work; in the future we should hold congresses and conferences of representatives. Elections should be conducted no more than once every two years, because too many elections are unnecessary and handicap our work. Therefore, in addition to Party congresses, conferences of representatives are needed to review and plan our work. Such conferences may be held once or twice a year according to local Party needs, with representatives selected by the lower Party committees. Such a conference has the power to remove or replace members of Party committees or to add further members through by-elections, but its resolutions and the removal, replacement or addition of Party committee members must be approved by the Party committee in question. The reason for this is that the conference is subordinate to the Party committee, although its power is greater than that of the cadres’ meetings of the past.

Party congresses and conferences at the provincial or border region, regional, county or district levels may be held in rotation. For instance this year, congresses at the provincial or border region and county levels may be held at the same time as conferences at the regional and district levels are held. This should then be reversed the next year.

The Party committees at various levels should be broadened to include people in charge of various fields of work as well as cadres who maintain close ties with the masses. According to the Constitution, a standing committee should be formed in each Party committee to take charge of the day-to-day work. Similarly, the standing committee should include leading cadres in various fields of work so that it may function as a regular leading nucleus of each of the different kinds of work in the locality. A Party committee may, when necessary, avail itself of one or two assistant secretaries to help the secretary and to ensure that nothing is neglected. The committee is not designed to just do inner-Party organizational work but should serve as the body which directs all the activities in its locality. (Inner-Party organizational work is only part of its activities and should and should be specially assigned to its organizational department.) Therefore, decisions and plans of a general character should be made only after being discussed at committee meetings. And after decisions are reached, individuals should be assigned to put them into effect.

The effort to encourage criticism and self-criticism among Party members and cadres is a crucial factor in extending inner-Party democracy. Comrade Mao Zedong stresses the importance of self-criticism in his report by pointing out that the conscientious practice of self-criticism is a hallmark distinguishing our Party from other political parties. We must develop a positive sense of responsibility among our Party members and cadres with regard to our Party’s policies and work, and we must encourage them to use their brains to raise questions boldly and express their views to the point. To this end, those in charge of the leading bodies at all levels must be the first to make detailed self-criticism of the shortcomings and mistakes found in the work under their leadership. They must set an example to the Party membership and the cadres by being fully prepared in their minds to accept criticism from others, without being upset or impatient and without resorting to repressing or punishing their critics. This is the only way to foster inner-Party democracy with success. Without such an approach, Party congresses and conferences, even if regularly convened, must be lifeless, undemocratic gatherings filled with dull and repetitious speeches and purely routine voting.

Many of our comrades, including some in responsible positions, still do not know how to conduct a successful meeting. As a result, many meetings have ended in failure or produced poor results, and sometimes meetings become a heavy burden on Party membership and the masses. Clearly, holding meetings does not in itself constitute democracy. They must be well conducted so that they are permeated with democracy, criticism and self-criticism. For guidance in this area we must observe Comrade Mao Zedong’s directive in the “Resolution of the Gutian Meeting”, which deals with the question of how to kindle the Party members’ interest in attending meetings.

Experience proves that whenever a leading comrade undertakes sincere and necessary self-criticism in public, the Party members and the people will develop their own criticism and self-criticism, have greater initiative and better unity, overcome their shortcomings and improve their work. At the same time the comrade’s prestige is augmented instead of being impaired. This has been borne out by a great deal of experience both in the Party and among the masses. On the other hand, whenever a leading comrade, lacking the spirit of self-criticism, refuses or fears to criticize or reveal his own shortcomings or mistakes and tries to cover them up or, failing to be pleased, to learn from his mistakes or to express gratitude for the criticism, becomes flushed with anger, makes acrimonious retorts and looks for chances to take revenge on his critics. In that place, the Party members and the people are unable to foster democracy or self-criticism, they lack initiative and unity and they are unable to overcome their shortcomings and improve their work. This, of course, causes the leading comrades to lose prestige. Therefore the leading personnel of all local Party organizations have a tremendous responsibility for the promotion and broadening of democracy within the Party.

The Party Constitution provides that the leading bodies and the personnel of the Party organizations at all levels should regularly report on their work to the Party members and lower Party organizations that have elected them. In every such report they should not only discuss the current situation and the successes but also the shortcomings, weaknesses and mistakes, and they should request comments and criticisms from the electors and the lower Party organizations. Experience shows that the responsibility for errors and shortcomings in the work of many lower Party organizations or cadres rest not with them but with the higher leading bodies. Many such errors and shortcomings are due to the failure of the higher leading bodies to assign tasks and clarify policies at the right moment. Even when they have done this, errors are still caused by their failure to be systematic and thorough with the pertinent problems, or by the fact that the very tasks and policies that they worked out are erroneous. In such cases, it is not permissible to shift the responsibility onto, or lay blame on, the lower Party organizations or Party members and cadres, because such action destroys their confidence and crushes their initiative. Of course, lower Party committees, Party members and cadres must, on their part, show a similar spirit of self-criticism towards their own shortcomings and mistakes.

The essential aim of inner-Party democracy is to promote the initiative and activity of the Party members, raise their sense of responsibility towards the cause of the Party and encourage them and their representatives to voice their views fully, within the framework of the Party Constitution. In this way they can take an active part in the Party’s leadership of the people’s cause and help strengthen the unity and discipline of the Party. Only through a genuine extension of inner-Party democracy can voluntary Party discipline be strengthened, inner-Party centralism established and consolidated and correct leadership given by the leading bodies. Therefore, the Party Constitution provides that the leading bodies of the Party at all levels shall carry on their work in accordance with the principle of inner-Party democracy.

Giving reign to a high degree of democracy within the Party does not mean weakening inner-Party centralism in any way. On the contrary, we intend to bring about a high degree of centralism on the basis of a high degree of democracy. The two should be combined and not be counterposed. Centralized leadership cannot be attained without the latter which can prevail only under a democratically based and highly centralized leadership. It is wrong to hold that centralized leadership will be weakened by a high degree of democracy. Thus, the Constitution provides that, in performing their functions in accordance with the principle of inner-Party democracy, the leading bodies at all levels should not hamper inner-Party centralism or misconstrue as anarchistic tendencies (such as assertations of “independence” or ultra-democracy) any inner-Party democracy legitimate and beneficial to centralized action.

We must see to it that inner-Party democracy contributes to the cause of the Party, which is the cause of the people, and that it neither weakens the fighting will and unity of the Party nor becomes a tool for saboteurs, anti-Party elements, splitters, time-servers and careerists. Thus the Constitution provides that a thorough review of, and debate on, the policy and line of the whole Party or of a local Party organization may be conducted only under proper guidance and when time permits, that is to say, not in times of emergency. It must be based on the resolutions of the Central Committee of the Party or of the local leading bodies as the case may be. Such a review can be conducted based on a proposal by more than one half of the members of the lower Party organizations or a proposal by a higher organization.

Inner-Party democracy must be broadened, but Party resolutions must be put into effect unconditionally. The subordination of the individual to the organization, of the lower level to the higher level, of the minority to the majority and of all the constituent Party organizations to the Central Committee—this principle laid down in the Constitution must be observed unconditionally.

Some comrades might impose such conditions as refusing to adhere to the resolutions or instructions unless they consider them correct, unless they think that their superior is qualified in terms of ability, rank, length of Party membership or cultural level, or unless the leader has treated them well or belongs to the same group. It must be pointed out that such conditions are unjustifiable. A Communist expresses how keen his sense of discipline is and how strictly he observes discipline precisely when he is in danger or when serious differences arise between him and the Party organization over issues of principle or relations among comrades. It is only when he unconditionally carries out organizational principles from a minority position that he can be considered a Party member with a keen sense of discipline and principle, who looks at the total situation and knows that local interests should be subordinate to overall interests, less significant issues to greater issues, and that specific differences of principle and differences over relations among comrades should be subordinate to the supreme interests of Party unity and Party discipline.

Under no circumstances should we Communists encourage blind obedience. Since we are now in the midst of guerrilla warfare conducted over vast rural areas and since the conditions differ widely inside and outside these areas, we should pursue a policy of “decentralized operations under centralized leadership” in our work. Policies which either over-centralize operations or put decentralized operations and centralized leadership on an equal footing are erroneous. By decentralized operations, we do not mean assertions of “independence”; we mean independent actions and the ability to operate independently. Rather than being separated from centralized leadership, decentralized operations must be put under it.

Conditions being what they are, it often happens that the decisions and instructions of a leading body are necessarily of a general character and so fail to cover the conditions in all places. Consequently, while applicable to ordinary areas, such decisions and instructions suit certain special areas, and it also often happens that they contain mistakes and are impracticable. In such cases, we should not advocate blind implementation or obedience. Instead, we should encourage intelligent and conscientious action which calls for serious study of the circumstances, the decisions and instructions. When we find that they contain mistakes or are at variance with the local situation, we should have the courage to bring the matter to the attention of a higher body with a request for their withdrawal or an amendment. We should not enforce them blindly and obstinately, for this will lead to a waste of money and manpower and isolate us from the masses. By pointing to mistakes, a subordinate is by no means being disobedient to his superior, nor is he asserting “independence”, but is conscientiously carrying out decisions and instructions. Such Party members are the best Party members, for they are capable not merely of independent deliberation but of also helping to correct the errors and shortcomings of the higher body. They should be especially commended.

There are three possible approaches towards the decisions and instructions of the higher bodies. The first is to carry out those decisions and instructions which appeal to you and ignore those which do not. This is an assertion of “independence” pure and simple, whatever the pretext, and must not be permitted. The second is to carry them out blindly and mechanically, without taking the trouble to study them or the specific circumstances. This is a blind rather than a careful implementation of the decisions and instructions of a higher body and is consequently also impermissible. And the third is to study both the circumstances and the decisions and instructions, to resolutely carry out what is practicable and to report what is impracticable to the higher body, giving detailed reasons and requesting amendments. This is the way to carry out decisions and instructions intelligently and conscientiously, and it is the only correct approach. Not only do we not oppose, but we should by every means encourage this initiative and activity on the part of every Party member. While opposing any disregard for discipline or assertion of “independence”, the Party encourages the initiative of every member in tackling problems and doing work independently under the guidance of the Party line.

A leading body should allow its lower organizations and members to make suggestions, raise questions and propose revisions with regard to its decisions and instructions which, when the existence of shortcomings or mistakes is substantiated, should be corrected accordingly. If the lower ranks are wrong, a satisfactory explanation should be given to straighten out their ideas, and no harsh measures should be taken against them. If the higher body insists on the execution of a decision or instruction despite the appeals for revision, then it should be carried out and the lower ranks must not persist in their own stand or resist the decision.

The discipline of the Communist Party is based on voluntary subordination. It should not be turned into something mechanical, which restricts the activity and initiative of the membership. The sense of discipline and the initiative of the membership should go hand in hand.

The Party Constitution provides that a Party organization at every level shall ensure that the publications under its guidance disseminate the decisions and policies of higher organizations and of the central organs. This is necessitated by the Party’s unified and national character. Decisions and policies should be disseminated in all places, while conflicting ideas should not be publicized at all Marxist ideology should be disseminated while ideologies contrary to it should not. This task is not being satisfactorily performed by some of our lower Party organizations. Some papers have failed to give sufficient publicity to the decisions and policies of the Central Committee and have sometimes even carried articles at variance with them. Party organizations at all levels must check up on this and make corrections.

Regarding national issues, the Party Constitution provides that prior to a statement or decision by the Central Committee, no lower Party organizations or their leading personnel shall take the liberty of making public their views or decisions on such issues, although they may hold discussions among themselves and put forward their proposals to the Central Committee. This is necessary to ensure the Party’s unified and national character. The Party as a whole can have but one line to follow, not several. Lower Party organizations should not exceed their powers by making their views public in place of, or prior to the Central Committee on those issues which the Committee should and must decide upon and make public. No leading comrade in the Party, including members of the Central Committee, should publicize their views on issues of a national character without the Central Committee’s approval. While they may discuss their views at the meetings of local Party committees and make suggestions to the Central Committee, it is impermissible for them to make public, inside or outside the Party, views not yet made known by the Central Committee, or to dispatch circular messages among other local Party committees for the dissemination of these views. The reason for this is that, should such views or decisions conflict with those of the Central Committee, this would adversely affect the Party and the people and aid our enemies. When we lacked radio facilities, we didn’t stress this point. But now that such facilities are in general use, it must be emphasized. The Central Committee has called attention to this a number of times during the War of Resistance Against Japan.

Concerning local questions, the Constitution authorizes lower Party organizations to make independent decisions, provided these decisions do not conflict with those of the Central Committee or of other higher organizations. In this connection, higher organizations should, on their part, avoid interfering in the affairs of lower organizations and refrain from making decisions for them. While it is necessary for a higher body to make suggestions to a lower organization in order to help it to resolve questions correctly, the power of decision must rest with the latter.

Our Party organizations are still working underground in many areas. In such circumstances they must adopt special forms to carry out their tasks. Hence the Constitution provides that those organizational forms and methods of work which are suited to overt Party organizations but not to the covert ones may be modified. This provision is necessary. Organizational principles provided in the Constitution must be carried out by the whole Party, but the organizational forms and methods of work should be changed according to changing circumstances and conditions. This point has been already dealt with.

[1] Mao Zedong, “On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party”, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Eng. ed., FLP, Beijing, 1965, Vol. I, p. 108.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Mao Zedong, “The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War”, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Eng. ed., FLP, Beijing, 1965, Vol. II, pp. 204-205.

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