ADHERE TO THE PARTY LINE AND IMPROVE METHODS OF WORK
February 29, 1980
Today I want to discuss three subjects: first, this session itself; second, the political, ideological and organizational lines of the Party; and third, methods of work.
First, about this session. It is a highly important one and has been very successful, as successful as the Third and Fourth Plenary Sessions of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Party. The political life of the Party is more spirited now than it has been for many years. This session, at which everyone has spoken his mind freely, has given genuine expression to the collective wisdom and leadership of the Central Committee, and has set a good example for our inner-Party life which should be emulated in the Party’s leading organs at all other levels.
The issues resolved at this session are all significant ones, namely: the strengthening and improvement of the Party’s leadership, including leadership by the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee; the re-establishment of the Secretariat of the Central Committee; the drafting of a revised Party Constitution, and the formulation of the “Guiding Principles for Inner-Party Political Life”. Ours is a party in power. It must be admitted that the Party’s leadership has been impaired for a fairly long period. To restore the position and role of our Party among our own people of whatever nationality and on the international scene is a vital task for us. I think the decisions and documents adopted by the present session with a view to accomplishing this task are all correct. This session genuinely embodies our Party’s work style, namely, that of seeking truth from facts. The rehabilitation of Comrade Liu Shaoqi is a major matter and we have handled it very well. Could it have been settled earlier? I think not. But we would probably be making a mistake if we didn’t settle it now. The session has also decided to propose to the National People’s Congress the deletion of the provision in Article 45 of the Constitution concerning the si da, that is, speaking out freely, airing one’s views fully, writing big-character posters and holding great debates. This action will be of great value in ensuring stability in the country’s political life. In short, the questions discussed at this session are very important ones and have been well handled.
The news of this session and its documents can be expected to evoke widespread and favourable response not only inside our Party and among the whole Chinese people but also in the rest of the world. For some time, people abroad have been saying that though the line and policies of the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China may be correct, their continuity and stability are in some doubt. The documents of this session and the series of political and organizational measures it has adopted provide a good answer to this sort of talk. I believe that our entire Party and our people of all nationalities will be satisfied with our decisions. Internationally, they will certainly help strengthen the confidence reposed in us by foreign comrades and friends and by others who co-operate with us in varying degrees. This will help both in China’s struggle to achieve the four modernizations and in the international struggle against hegemonism.
Second, the question of adhering to the Party’s political, ideological and organizational lines, which I want to speak about at greater length.
Our political line for the present stage has gradually taken shape since the Eleventh National Congress, and especially since the Third and Fourth Plenary Sessions of the Eleventh Central Committee. The Third Plenary Session formulated or, one might say, reaffirmed the Party’s ideological line. Subsequently the Central Committee came to feel that it would be impossible to ensure the carrying out of the Party’s political and ideological lines without going on to settle the question of organizational line. Indeed settling it is one of the main tasks of our present session. Of course, the Central Committee had started to deal with it after the smashing of the Gang of Four, and much has been done already. For instance, a group of people, including me, have re-emerged to work. But it is only since the Third Plenary Session that the issue has been raised more explicitly. This shows that we have made much progress in our work since then.
In sum, the political line of the Party at the present stage is to work with one heart and one mind for our country’s four modernizations. This should be done resolutely and wholeheartedly despite all interference. Without the four modernizations, many problems are incapable of solution. The growth of the economy, increasing the national income, gradually improving the people’s standard of living, and the corresponding consolidation and strengthening of our national defence — all these hinge on the success of the four modernizations. The present plenary session has discussed the draft of the revised Party Constitution. The purpose of this revision is to further clarify the position and role of the Party in carrying out modernization. What should a party in power be like? What should a member of such a party be like if he is to be worthy of the name? How are we to judge whether its leadership is competent? Comrades taking part in the discussion of the draft revised Constitution think it gives satisfactory answers to these questions as no previous document has done. This does not mean that the draft is already perfect. It may have to undergo several more revisions before it can be really satisfactory. As for the formulation of the political line, the draft of the revised Party Constitution has made it more comprehensive by adding a new point — that China should be transformed into a culturally and ideologically advanced and highly democratic socialist country. But the relevant sentence is a bit too long and should be made more concise so that it can be easily remembered. No matter how the Party’s political line is formulated, however, the essence is to work for the four modernizations, and our most important tasks are economic construction and the development of the economy and the productive forces. We must stick doggedly to this undertaking and not delay its fulfilment by a single day. Although our comrades have a multitude of other matters to deal with, I hope they will pay constant attention to economic work.
While working with complete dedication for the four modernizations, we must, with equal dedication, preserve and develop a political situation marked by stability, unity and liveliness. This is a most significant task for us at all times. And it is with this task in mind that we are proposing the deletion of the provision on the si da from the Constitution. We are doing so not because we are against socialist democracy, but because practice over the years has shown that the si da are not a good method of promoting either stability or democracy. Promoting socialist democracy and improving the socialist legal system are two aspects of a single whole. Democracy can be promoted through many channels. For instance, the document “Guiding Principles for Inner-Party Political Life” stipulates that every Party member should speak the truth and place all his ideas on the table for discussion. At our present session, everyone has spoken his mind freely and if anyone, including members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, has said anything inappropriate, others have been able to correct that person. This is very good. How can anyone be faultless in what he says? How can every remark one makes in impromptu discussion be perfectly correct? Our session has proceeded in a very good atmosphere, and the spread of this democratic atmosphere will help to preserve and develop a political situation marked by stability, unity and liveliness. That can never be achieved through the si da.
To bring about such a political situation, we must solve problems inherited from the past and distinguish between right and wrong on major issues. We have already solved many such problems, but quite a few others still await solution. Our purpose in solving them is, as stated in the Third Plenary Session documents, to become united as one and look to the future. We want everybody to be concerned with, and work for, the four modernizations, rather than waste a lot of time settling old scores. If we can’t unite people and get them to look forward, it will just show that we haven’t done our job well. That is why we often say that it is better to solve the major historical problems in broad outline than to go into too much detail. Here I am referring not to any specific case but to general historical problems — the sort of problems we will have to deal with when we draft the resolution on certain questions in the history of the Party. It will not be appropriate for us to go into too much detail.
The resolution on the rehabilitation of Comrade Liu Shaoqi states that our Party made some mistakes before the Cultural Revolution and that Liu Shaoqi did so too like a number of other comrades. I think this formulation is fair and conforms to reality. We must not give the impression that only one particular individual made mistakes while all the others were correct. I am qualified to say this, because I too made mistakes. We were among the activists in the anti-Rightist struggle of 1957,100 and I share the responsibility for broadening the scope of the struggle — wasn’t I General Secretary of the Central Committee then? We also let ourselves get carried away in the Great Leap Forward of 1958,76 and I think quite a few of the older comrades present here did too. So these aren’t just the problems of one individual. We should admit that no one is exempt from making mistakes. Speaking personally, if I am given an assessment of 60 per cent for good deeds and 40 per cent for those which were not so good, I’ll be quite satisfied, because there will be more good than not so good. Since we maintain that even Comrade Mao Zedong made mistakes, how was it possible for Comrade Liu Shaoqi not to have made any? And how was it possible for other comrades not to have done so too? The assessment of Comrade Liu Shaoqi in the resolution on his rehabilitation will enable people both inside and outside the Party and both at home and abroad to see still more clearly that the Chinese Communist Party is a party which seeks truth from facts and which dares to face up to reality and tell the truth. Any other assessment of Comrade Liu Shaoqi would not correspond to reality. There is no one who never makes mistakes; the only difference lies in the gravity of the mistakes people make.
We must continue to solve problems left over by history. Take the question of Comrade Qu Qiubai, who was mentioned at this session. It was unjust to call him a renegade, and that assessment must be corrected. But when handling such historical problems, we should ask people to look forward rather than get bogged down in minor issues. Some comrades whose problems have in fact been solved should not ask the Central Committee to issue more documents concerning them. It isn’t good to issue too many documents.
Next, I would like to say something about the ideological line. The Third Plenary Session laid down — or more precisely, reaffirmed — the Party’s Marxist ideological line. Marx and Engels propounded the ideological line of dialectical and historical materialism, a line which Comrade Mao Zedong summarized in the four Chinese characters “Seek truth from facts”. To seek truth from facts, we must proceed from reality in all things, link theory with practice and hold practice to be the touchstone of truth — that is the ideological line of our Party. When we say this line has been reaffirmed, we mean it has been restored. It was abandoned for a period to the great detriment of the Party’s cause, the country and the image of the Party and the state. But still, it must be remembered that this ideological line was laid down by Comrade Mao Zedong, and that he adhered to it through most of the years during which he led the Chinese revolution. In implementing this ideological line, we must oppose dogmatism and revisionism and stick to the four cardinal principles.181 If we deviate from the four cardinal principles, we will lose the essence, lose our bearings, and then it will be impossible to implement the Party’s ideological line. The principle we advocate — seeking truth from facts — is a basic component of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. Therefore, our advocacy of it can in no way be construed to mean that we can separate ourselves from the basic tenets of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, or that we can neglect the great contribution Comrade Mao Zedong made in formulating this principle. We must never sully the glorious image of Comrade Mao Zedong in the entire history of the Chinese revolution, and never waver on the principle of holding high the banner of Mao Zedong Thought. We should understand this and bear it in mind. For it serves the interests not only of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese nation but also of the international communist movement.
The importance of the discussion of practice as the criterion of truth is becoming clearer all the time. This discussion has been launched to counter the “two-whatevers” viewpoint and is intended to prevent Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought from turning into dogma. At the Third Plenary Session, this notion was expressed in the phrase “studying new situations and solving new problems”. We said last year that this discussion should be related to reality and that problems should be solved in the light of concrete conditions. That is to say, in adhering to the Party’s ideological line, we must also look forward rather than back. All problems should be handled in such a way as to focus the attention of the whole Party and people on how to restore and raise the Party’s prestige and strengthen and improve the Party’s leadership, and how to solve our new problems at home and in foreign relations.
It is impossible to achieve the four modernizations without using our brains and emancipating our minds. What does emancipating our minds mean? It means that, guided by Marxism, we should break the fetters of habit, subjectivism and prejudice, and study new situations and solve new problems. In emancipating our minds, we should never deviate from the four cardinal principles or impair the political situation marked by stability, unity and liveliness. The whole Party should be united in its understanding of this question. If, like some of the people who put up big-character posters on the “Xidan Wall”, a person “emancipates his mind” by departing from the four cardinal principles, he is actually placing himself in opposition to the Party and the people.
Emancipation of the mind should be accompanied by really solving problems. We have not a few ideological sluggards who indulge in empty talk or stereotyped phrases. We don’t yet have many comrades who carefully study fresh situations and solve fresh problems and who really use their minds to think out ways of accelerating our advance, the development of the productive forces and the rise in national income or of improving the work of the leading bodies. For instance, right now, we are badly in need of qualified personnel. So we urgently need to think over carefully such questions as just why some outstanding people cannot be promoted at present, and how we can remove the obstacles in their path. And we should adopt some effective measures. If we older comrades, myself included, fail to do this well, we won’t be able to hold our heads up. Some local authorities act only on instructions from above; without them they daren’t make a move. Can we call this having emancipated minds? We’ve often said that people in production teams too should emancipate their minds, use their brains, and solve their own concrete problems. I think that if, when faced with concrete problems, a Party organization in a production team, factory, workshop or section can follow the mass line, consult the rank and file, offer good advice, call on the Party members to lead by example and so really solve the problems, such a Party organization is making valuable contributions to the four modernizations.
This session has made a series of highly important policy decisions with regard to organizational line. However, in the Party as a whole, a number of vital questions have yet to be settled, and that is a fact we must soberly recognize. For example, our present institutions are far from suited to the needs of the four modernizations. But the crucial task before us remains the selection of worthy successors. Party committees at all levels from the Central Committee down, and especially our older comrades, should never forget to confront this issue seriously and take on this solemn responsibility. Time is pressing and we must solve this problem properly and as soon as possible. In 1975, Wang Hongwen said that they [the Gang of Four] would wait and see how things stood in 10 years’ time. I talked about this with Li Xiannian and some other comrades. I was then already 71. In terms of life expectancy we were no match for the Gang. So already at that time we felt that we really must promote younger comrades to leading positions. This is a very practical and pressing issue. When we hold a plenary session of the Central Committee five years from now, quite a few of us here today will no longer be able to work, and by then it will be too late to consider the question of successors.
There are two sides to the present situation. On the one hand, there are still a number of factionalists who stick to the ideological system of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, people who used to engage in beating, smashing and looting, and who were so ferocious that, as the saying goes, they had “horns on their heads and spikes on their backs”. They are a major destabilizing factor. In the course of implementing the Party’s line, principles and policies we will always find some of these obstructive people who may bring things to a halt at any moment. We shall be making a grave mistake if we are soft on the remnants of the Lin Biao clique and the Gang of Four — especially on those who reject education and refuse to change their stand — and if we let such persons remain in important positions. On the other hand, we do have a number of fine young people. And in the fields of economic construction, science and technology, culture and education and so on, there are many people who are professionally competent, have managerial ability and really know how to do their work. People who are politically and ideologically sound, strong in Party spirit, thoughtful and vocationally skilled are to be found in large numbers in all departments and localities. So, on the one hand, we must deal sternly with the factionalist elements and, on the other, we must select successors from among comrades who are young, healthy and have a good all-round record. The prospects for our cause will become more and more promising if we can solve this major problem within three to five years.
I would like to ask the comrades present here to consider whether we can elect as members of the next Central Committee 50 people who are under 50 years old. And a fair number of delegates to the next National Congress of the Party should also be under 50. If we can’t achieve these two things, our next Party Congress cannot be reckoned a success. Later on, the average age of Party Congress delegates and members of the Central Committee should continue to fall. This will be one of the chief signs that our cause continues to flourish.
At present, our Party really needs to be consolidated. Although this question we raised back in 1975, it has yet to be resolved. A significant portion of the 38 million Party members are not up to standard. After this session, we should conduct Party-wide education in conjunction with the discussion of the draft of the revised Party Constitution and with the implementation of the “Guiding Principles for Inner-Party Political Life”. All veteran cadres should join in. It would also be good to have a small-scale rectification, which simply means seeing whether or not we measure up to the standards set in the relevant Party documents. If a Party member can meet 90 or even 70 to 80 per cent of the requirements, that will be very good. Of course, there are a great many Party members who are 100 per cent qualified. Criticism and self-criticism will be needed in the case of those members who don’t meet the standards, and we should require them to change for the better.
The third subject I want to discuss today is our methods of work and ways to overcome bureaucracy. This is another urgent problem facing us. In order to overcome bureaucracy, we must first of all study the question of structural reform. Of course, we have to improve our methods of work as well. We can’t just sit and wait for the various structures to be reformed. Our methods of work should meet the needs of the four modernizations, and we should improve them more quickly.
We should promote democracy, but at the same time we need centralism. Now and perhaps for a rather long time to come, we will have to stress centralization where it is really required, so as to increase efficiency. We stress collective leadership, and when we discuss succession nowadays we mean collective succession; this is very good and very important. However, we must at the same time establish a system of division of labour with individual responsibility. There should be collective leadership in settling major issues. But when it comes to particular jobs or to decisions affecting a particular sphere, individual responsibility must be clearly defined and each person should be held responsible for the work entrusted to him. I think it is fair to say that the former Secretariat of the Central Committee was quite efficient, partly because once the relevant decisions were made, specific tasks were assigned to particular persons, who were given broad powers and allowed to handle matters independently. But now we only tick off documents [indicating that we have read them] and no one is responsible for any thing in particular. Consequently, the solution of a simple problem can be delayed for six months or a year or even indefinitely, vanishing without a trace in red tape. The people are dissatisfied with our low level of efficiency. How can we achieve the four modernizations this way? I hope that once the Secretariat is re-established, the members of the Central Committee and the State Council will set an example by solving problems collectively and stop the practice of just ticking off documents in their separate offices. It isn’t necessary for all members of the Secretariat or the State Council to take part in settling every question — sometimes it is enough for a few persons to discuss and decide on them. Some matters can be acted on as they are being reported to the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee. Those which require discussion by the higher bodies can wait, but not those which only need to be reported for the record. Collective leadership with division of labour and individual responsibility should be practised at all levels. Take the case of a factory in which the director assumes overall responsibility under the leadership of the Party committee. The committee need only handle important political matters and questions of principle, while all matters relating to production and administration should be left to overall management by the director. On no account should the Party committee monopolize responsibility for all matters, great and small. The director and deputy directors should each bear specific responsibility for one area or another — technology, scientific research, financial affairs, support services and the like — though they can, of course, discuss and decide matters together when necessary. People working at all levels should be efficiency-minded. Naturally, under this system it may be difficult to avoid mistakes, but that is still a better situation — and easier to rectify — than one in which there are discussions without decisions, decisions without implementation, and endless procrastination and delays in solving problems.
Meetings should be small and short, and they should not be held at all unless the participants have prepared. People should speak briefly and to the point. Give your opinions on the question under discussion, say what you are for or against and state your reasons concisely. If you don’t have anything to say, save your breath. Don’t hold meetings which are marathons of empty talk, and don’t stray from the subject at hand. It will be disastrous if even after we have shifted to short meetings and the collective solution of problems we still go on talking things to death. To sum up: the only reason to hold meetings and to speak at them is to solve problems.
This session has been quite efficient: we have solved a lot of problems quite satisfactorily within a few days. Our plenum has set a good example, and I find that very encouraging for the future of our cause.
(Speech at the third meeting of the Fifth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.)