REMARKS ON SUCCESSIVE DRAFTS OF THE
“RESOLUTION ON CERTAIN QUESTIONS IN THE
HISTORY OF OUR PARTY SINCE THE FOUNDING
OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA”
March 1980-June 1981
(The “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party Since the Founding of the People’s Republic of China” was drafted under the guidance of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee and of its Secretariat, with Comrades Deng Xiaoping andHu Yaobang presiding over the work. A drafting group was set up, with Comrade Hu Qiaomu as its principal leader. On a number of occasions between March 1980 and the Sixth Plenary Session of the Party’s Eleventh Central Committee in June 1981, Comrade Deng Xiaoping gave his opinions on the drafting and revision of the resolution. Here are excerpts from nine of his talks.)
I have gone over the outline of the resolution prepared by the drafting group, and my impression is that it is over-extended. We should avoid the narrative method and make the writing more succinct. There should be expositions of important questions, and a bit more expository language generally. And of course we have to be accurate.
The document should cover three main points:
First, affirmation of the historical role of Comrade Mao Zedong and explanation of the necessity to uphold and develop Mao Zedong Thought. This is the most essential point. We must hold high the banner of Mao Zedong Thought not only today but in the future. There has been considerable ideological confusion among a number of people ever since the decision of the Fifth Plenary Session of the Party’s Eleventh Central Committee on the rehabilitation of Comrade Liu Shaoqi was transmitted to the lower levels. Some people disagree with the decision, believing that it contravenes Mao Zedong Thought. Others think that the rehabilitation of Comrade Liu Shaoqi shows that Mao Zedong Thought is wrong. Both views are incorrect, and all such confused thinking must be clarified. The appraisal of Comrade Mao and of Mao Zedong Thought is a matter of great concern both inside and outside the Party, both at home and abroad. Not only all our Party comrades but also our friends in various quarters are concerned about what we have to say on this question.
The history of Mao Zedong Thought — its origins and development — should be written into the document. It can be said that Mao Zedong Thought assumed relatively complete form during the Yan’an period. The theories on the new-democratic revolution, including those on Party building and the principles on the handling of inner-Party relations, all essentially took shape around the time of the rectification movement [of the early forties] in Yan’an. The resolution on certain questions in the history of our Party adopted [in April 1945] by the [enlarged] Seventh Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee in the main criticized the three “Left” lines in contrast to the correct line represented by Comrade Mao Zedong. But it did not systematically expound the entire content of Mao Zedong Thought. This time, as we intend to give a correct evaluation of Mao Zedong Thought and scientifically establish its guiding role, we have to expound its main contents in general terms, especially those elements which we shall continue to implement in the future. Comrade Mao Zedong made mistakes during the decade of the “cultural revolution” [1966-76]. In our appraisal of him and of Mao Zedong Thought, we must analyse those mistakes in the spirit of seeking truth from facts.
The second main point should be an analysis, in the same spirit, of the rights and wrongs in the major events of the 30 years since the founding of New China, including a fair evaluation of the merits and demerits of some leading comrades.
Third, there should be a basic summary of our past work. As I said before, it is better to write it in broad outline and not go into too much detail. The purpose of summing up the past is to encourage people to close ranks and look to the future. We should try to ensure that when this resolution is adopted, the thinking of Party members and non-Party people alike will be clarified, common views will be reached and, by and large, debate on the major historical questions will come to an end. Of course, it will be difficult to avoid debates over the past completely. However, such discussions may be conducted in connection with the ongoing work in each period in the future. For the present, we should work with one heart and one mind for China’s four modernizations, and all of us should unite as one and look forward. But that’s not so easy to achieve. We must do our best to work out a good resolution so that we can reach a consensus and not let major differences arise again. Then, even if the past is brought up, people won’t differ significantly in their views. They will stick to talking over the content of the resolution and the lessons to be learned from past experience.
These three points constitute the general requirements or principles or guidelines for this resolution. The first is the most important, the most fundamental, the most crucial.
In the past, we often talked about 10 struggles between two opposing lines. How should we regard them now?
The struggle against Comrade Peng Dehuai cannot be viewed as a struggle between two lines. Nor can the struggle against Comrade Liu Shaoqi. That makes two such struggles less. Lin Biao and Jiang Qing formed counter-revolutionary cliques. Chen Duxiu and Comrades Qu Qiubai and Li Lisan did not engage in conspiracies. Luo Zhanglong tried to split the Party by setting up another central committee. Zhang Guotao engaged in conspiracy, and so did Gao Gang. And, of course, so did Lin Biao and Jiang Qing.
It was correct to expose Gao Gang and Rao Shushi. Whether this struggle can be regarded as one between two lines is something that can be looked into further. I am quite clear on the whole story. After Comrade Mao Zedong proposed at the end of 1953 that the work of the Central Committee be divided into a “front line” and a “second line”, Gao Gang became very active. He first gained the support of Lin Biao, which was what emboldened him to go ahead full steam. At the time, he was in charge in northeast China, while Lin Biao was in charge in central-south China and Rao Shushi in east China. So far as southwest China was concerned, he tried to win me over and had serious talks with me in which he said that Comrade Liu Shaoqi was immature. He was trying to persuade me to join in his effort to topple Comrade Liu Shaoqi. I made my attitude clear, saying that Comrade Liu’s position in the Party was the outcome of historical development, that he was a good comrade on the whole, and that it was inappropriate to try to oust him from such a position. Gao Gang also approached Comrade Chen Yun and told him that a few more vice-chairmanships should be instituted, with himself and Chen each holding one of them. At this point, Comrade Chen Yun and I realized the gravity of the matter and immediately brought it to Comrade Mao Zedong’s attention. It was highly irregular for Gao Gang to engage in behind-the-scene deals and conspiracies in his attempt to bring Comrade Liu Shaoqi down. Therefore, we should reaffirm that it was correct to struggle against Gao Gang. The Gao-Rao case was handled rather leniently. Hardly anyone was hurt. In fact, care was taken to protect a number of cadres. All in all, we had no choice but to expose Gao Gang and Rao Shushi and deal with their case as we did. Our handling of it was correct from the present perspective as well. But so far as Gao Gang’s real line is concerned, actually, I can’t see that he had one, so it’s hard to say whether we should call it a struggle between two lines. Please discuss this further.
The necessity for the anti-Rightist struggle of 1957 should be reaffirmed. After the completion of the socialist transformation, there was indeed a force — a trend of thought — in the country that was bourgeois in nature and opposed to socialism. It was imperative to counter this trend. I’ve said on many occasions that some people really were making vicious attacks at the time, trying to negate the leadership of the Communist Party and change the socialist orientation of our country. If we hadn’t thwarted their attempt, we would not have been able to advance. Our mistake lay in broadening the scope of the struggle. The United Front Work Department wrote a report to the Central Committee suggesting that in all cases of persons wrongly labelled as Rightists, the judgements should be corrected, but that where the labels had been correct, the judgements should be allowed to stand. However, in the case of figures formerly prominent in the democratic parties who were correctly labelled Rightists, it should be written into the judgements on their cases that they had performed good deeds before the anti-Rightist struggle, and especially during the period of the democratic revolution. Their family members should not be discriminated against but should be properly looked after politically and in terms of their daily life and work.
The several points about our experience mentioned towards the end of your outline are well written, but I suggest you consider adding one or two more.
To sum up, historical questions should be expounded only in broad or general outline, and not in too much detail. As for the erroneous opinions of some of our comrades on a number of questions, you should brace yourselves and resist them. On the major issues, further exposition is needed. I suggest that you work out the draft as soon as possible.
(Talk with some leading comrades of the Central Committee, March 19, 1980)
Generally speaking, Comrade Mao Zedong’s leadership was correct before 1957, but he made more and more mistakes after the anti-Rightist struggle of that year. “On the Ten Major Relationships” is a fine speech. So is “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People”. In his article “The Situation in the Summer of 1957”, Comrade Mao said that we must build a modern industrial and agricultural base in China and that only with its achievement could our socialist economic and political system be said to have obtained a fairly adequate material base. He said that to build socialism the working class must have its own army of technical cadres and of professors, teachers, scientists, journalists, writers, artists and Marxist theorists, and it must be a vast army, as a few would not suffice. He said that we should create a political situation in which we had both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and personal ease of mind and liveliness. The two Zhengzhou Meetings were most timely. In the first half of 1959 we were correcting “Left” mistakes. And the early stage of the Lushan Meeting was devoted to economic work. With the issuing of Comrade Peng Dehuai’s letter, however, there was a change of direction. Comrade Peng’s views were correct, and it was normal for him as a member of the Political Bureau to write to the Chairman. Although he had his shortcomings, the way his case was handled was totally wrong. After that came the period of economic difficulties. In 1961, the Secretariat of the Central Committee presided over the drafting of the “Seventy Articles on Industrial Work” and of a resolution on industrial questions. At the time Comrade Mao Zedong was quite satisfied with these articles and spoke highly of them. He said that we had finally managed to work out some guiding rules for industrial work. Earlier, we had drawn up the “Twelve Articles on Agricultural Work” and the “Sixty Articles on the Work of the People’s Communes”. It seemed that Comrade Mao Zedong was then earnestly correcting the “Left” mistakes. His address at the conference attended by 7,000 comrades in early 1962 was also fine. At the Beidaihe Meeting of July-August that year, however, he reversed direction again, laying renewed and even greater stress on class struggle. Of course, Comrade Mao Zedong did say in his speech at the Tenth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee that the renewed emphasis on class struggle should not interfere with the economic readjustment then in progress. That speech had a positive effect. But after that session, he personally focused on class struggle by initiating the movement of the “four clean-ups”. Later he wrote the two instructions on literary and art work, and Jiang Qing’s stuff began to surface. Towards the end of 1964 and the beginning of 1965, in the discussions on the “four clean-ups” movement, Chairman Mao held not only that there were capitalist roaders in power but that there were two “independent kingdoms” in Beijing. Judging from the developments between 1961 and 1966, we can see that the economic readjustment had obtained good results, that the economic and political situation was favourable, and that public order was good. In a word, in the 17 years following the founding of the People’s Republic, our work was basically correct, although there were setbacks and mistakes. We carried out the socialist revolution well, and Comrade Mao Zedong wrote good articles and put forth good ideas after we shifted our attention to socialist construction. When we talk about mistakes, we should not speak only of Comrade Mao, for many other leading comrades in the Central Committee made mistakes too. Comrade Mao got carried away when we launched the Great Leap Forward,76 but didn’t the rest of us go along with him? Neither Comrade Liu Shaoqi nor Comrade Zhou Enlai nor I for that matter objected to it, and Comrade Chen Yun didn’t say anything either. We must be fair on these questions and not give the impression that only one individual made mistakes while everybody else was correct, because it doesn’t tally with the facts. When the Central Committee makes a mistake, it is the collective rather than a particular individual that bears the responsibility. We should analyse these matters by combining Marxism-Leninism with our practice so that we can make new contributions and push things forward.
The several points in the outline concerning our experience are good. The question is where to place them.
As far as the general organization is concerned, we should consider whether there should be a foreword containing a brief history of the new-democratic revolution prior to the founding of the People’s Republic, followed by a section covering the first 17 years of New China, a section about the “Cultural Revolution”, a section about Mao Zedong Thought and, finally, the concluding remarks. These concluding remarks should make it clear that, when all is said and done, our Party is a great party with the courage to face up to, and correct, its own mistakes. The most essential, the most fundamental, point in the resolution is that we must adhere to and develop Mao Zedong Thought. People inside and outside the Party and at home and abroad all expect us to expound and elucidate this issue and make some relevant generalizations.
(Talk with some leading comrades of the Central Committee, April 1, 1980)
I have gone over the draft of the resolution. It is no good and needs rewriting. We stressed at the very beginning that the historical role of Comrade Mao Zedong must be affirmed and that Mao Zedong Thought must be adhered to and developed. The draft doesn’t reflect this intention adequately. The passages dealing with the events before 1957 are all right as to the facts, but the way they are presented — the sequence and especially the tone of presentation — should be reconsidered and altered. We have to give a clear account of Comrade Mao Zedong’s contributions to China’s socialist revolution and construction. Mao Zedong Thought is still in the process of development. We should restore and adhere to Mao Zedong Thought and go on developing it further. Comrade Mao laid a foundation for us in all these respects, and the resolution should fully reflect his ideas. It should cite some of his important articles and speeches in the period of socialist revolution and construction, such as “On the Ten Major Relationships”, “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People” and “The Situation in the Summer of 1957”. They contain the ideas which we must continue to adhere to and develop today. We must give people a clear understanding of what specific ideas we have in mind when we say we will hold high the banner of Mao Zedong Thought and adhere to Mao Zedong Thought.
The tone of the draft as a whole is too depressing — it doesn’t read like a resolution. It seems it will have to be revised, which will take a lot of work. The emphasis should be on what Mao Zedong Thought actually is and what Comrade Mao Zedong’s correct ideas were. Criticism of mistakes is necessary but it must be appropriate. Criticizing Comrade Mao’s personal mistakes alone will not solve problems. What is most important is the question of systems and institutions. Comrade Mao made many correct statements, but the faulty systems and institutions of the past pushed him in the opposite direction. The mistakes Comrade Mao made in both theory and practice in his later years should be mentioned, but they should be dealt with properly and only in general outline. The main thing is to concentrate on the aspects in which he was correct, because that conforms to historical reality. Shouldn’t the concluding section include a passage about our determination to go on developing Mao Zedong Thought? We should also criticize the “two whatevers”. Comrade Mao Zedong’s mistakes consisted in violations of his own correct ideas. According to the “two-whatevers” viewpoint, we should adhere, without the slightest change, to Comrade Mao’s erroneous views in his later years. The slogan “Act according to the principles laid down” meant to act in accordance with the erroneous principles Comrade Mao laid down in the evening of his life. The resolution should also discuss the influence of the vestiges of feudalism, but again in a proper way. Comrade Mao said on numerous occasions that he was against adulation of anyone, and he proposed that no places or enterprises should be named after leaders and that there should be no celebration of their birthdays and no presentation of gifts. It is precisely Mao Zedong Thought that the present Central Committee upholds, only we have given it concrete content.
(Talk with some leading comrades of the Central Committee, June 27, 1980)
The inner-Party discussions, in which 4,000 comrades are participating, are still going on. I have read some summaries. The comrades have been airing their ideas freely and putting forward different views, some of which are very good. I think the draft of the resolution being discussed is still too long and needs to be condensed. Delete what is dispensable and give more prominence to the essentials. Many discussion groups want a section in the draft to be devoted to the period following the smashing of the Gang of Four. It seems we shall have to write one.
One most important question is whether the resolution should include an appraisal of the merits and demerits of Comrade Mao Zedong and Mao Zedong Thought. If so, how should they be appraised? I talked to some comrades from the Guards Bureau under the General Office of the Central Committee; they told me they had read to their soldiers the transcript of my recent interview with the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci and had organized some discussions on it. All the officers and men felt that what I had said was appropriate and acceptable. If we don’t mention Mao Zedong Thought and don’t make an appropriate evaluation of Comrade Mao’s merits and demerits, the old workers will not feel satisfied, nor will the poor and lower-middle peasants of the period of land reform, nor the many cadres who have close ties with them. On no account can we discard the banner of Mao Zedong Thought. To do so would, in fact, be to negate the glorious history of our Party. On the whole, the Party’s history is glorious. Our Party has also made big mistakes in the course of its history, including some in the three decades since the founding of New China, not least, so gross a mistake as the “Cultural Revolution”. But after all, we did triumph in the revolution. It is since the birth of the People’s Republic that China’s status in the world has been so greatly enhanced. It is since the founding of the People’s Republic that our great country, with nearly a quarter of the world’s population, has stood up — and stood firm — in the community of nations. That’s how Comrade Mao Zedong put it: The Chinese people have now stood up. Our people at home and Chinese nationals abroad all felt this change deeply and strongly. It is also since the founding of thePeople’s Republic that the country (excepting Taiwan) has been truly reunified. In old China, there was no national reunification in the true sense under the rule of the Kuomintang, much less in the previous years of constant fighting among warlords. Provinces like Shanxi, Guangdong, Guangxi and Sichuan could not be considered as being really united with the rest of China. Our country would still be in its old plight were it not for our Communist Party, our new-democratic revolution, our socialist revolution and the establishment of our socialist system. What we have achieved cannot be separated from the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and Comrade Mao Zedong. It is precisely this point that many of our young people don’t sufficiently appreciate.
The appraisal of Comrade Mao Zedong and the exposition of Mao Zedong Thought relate not only to Comrade Mao personally but also to the entire history of our Party and our country. We must keep this overall judgement in mind. We have emphasized it repeatedly ever since we started drafting this resolution. It must contain a section expounding Mao Zedong Thought. It’s not merely a theoretical question that is involved but also and especially a political question of great domestic and international significance. If we don’t have this section, or if it is badly written, it would be better to have no resolution at all. As to how to write it, we should of course give serious consideration to the suggestions made by the comrades.
It is right not to say that Mao Zedong Thought is a development of Marxism-Leninism in all its aspects or that it represents a new stage of Marxism. But we ought to recognize that Mao Zedong Thought is the application and development of Marxism-Leninism in China. In the course of applying it to the solution of China’s practical problems, our Party has indeed developed Marxism-Leninism in many respects. This is an objective reality and a historical fact. The draft resolution, however it is written, should also contain a clear exposition of the merits and demerits of Comrade Mao, the content of Mao Zedong Thought and its guiding role in our work both at present and for the future. Since the Third Plenary Session, we have been restoring the correct things advocated by Comrade Mao Zedong; we have been studying and applying Mao Zedong Thought correctly and as an integral whole. The basic points of Mao Zedong Thought are still those we have enumerated. In many respects, we are doing things Comrade Mao suggested but failed to do himself, setting right his erroneous opposition to certain things and accomplishing some things that he did not. All this we shall continue to do for a fairly long time. Of course, we have developed Mao Zedong Thought and will go on developing it.
Mao Zedong Thought was set as the guiding thought for our whole Party at its Seventh National Congress. The Party educated an entire generation in Mao Zedong Thought, and that is what enabled us to win the revolutionary war and found the People’s Republic of China. The “Cultural Revolution” was really a gross error. However, our Party was able to smash the counter-revolutionary cliques of Lin Biao and the Gang of Four and put an end to the “Cultural Revolution” and it has continued to advance ever since. Who achieved all this? Is it not the generation educated in Mao Zedong Thought? Now, when we speak of setting things right, we mean that we should undo the damage done by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, criticize the mistakes Comrade Mao Zedong made in his later years, and put things back on the right track of Mao Zedong Thought. In short, if we fail to include in the resolution a section concerning Mao Zedong Thought, which, since it has been proved correct in practice, ought to serve as the guideline for our future work, we will diminish the practical and historical significance of the revolution and construction we have engaged in and will continue to engage in. It would be a grave historical mistake not to expound Mao Zedong Thought in the resolution or to cease to adhere to it.
Today, some comrades attribute many problems to the personal qualities of Comrade Mao Zedong. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few problems that cannot be explained in that way. Mistakes are unavoidable under some circumstances even for people of fine quality. During the period of the Red Army, a campaign was mounted against the A-B [“Anti-Bolshevik”] Group in the Central Revolutionary Base Area. Can it be said that all the participants in the campaign were bad people? At first, Comrade Mao Zedong also took part in this struggle, but he came to see what was wrong with it earlier than others and drew the necessary lessons. Later, in Yan’an, he put forward the principle of “killing none and arresting few”. In the exceptionally tense wartime conditions that then prevailed, when bad elements were discovered within our ranks, it was necessary to heighten our vigilance. However, when we failed to act soberly and make clear analyses but simply believed in confessions by the accused, it was hard to avoid mistakes. Objectively, the situation then was really tense but subjectively, of course, there was also the problem of our lack of experience.
And, in the “Cultural Revolution”, Comrade Mao Zedong did not intend to overthrow all the veteran cadres. For instance, from the very beginning Lin Biao was bent on persecuting Comrade He Long, but Comrade Mao Zedong wanted to protect him. Despite the fact that Comrade Mao wanted to “rectify” anyone who disobeyed him, he still gave some consideration to how far he should go. We cannot say that he bore no responsibility for the intensified persecution of veteran cadres that occurred later, but he was not the only one to blame. In some instances, persecutions had already been carried out by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four, while in others they took place behind Comrade Mao’s back. This notwithstanding, it must be said that the overthrow of a large number of cadres was one of the biggest tragedies of Comrade Mao Zedong’s later years.
In those years, Comrade Mao Zedong was in fact not so consistent in his thinking as he previously had been, and some of his statements were mutually contradictory. For instance, in appraising the “Cultural Revolution”, he said that its mistakes amounted to only 30 per cent and its achievements to 70 per cent. And when he referred to the 30 per cent of mistakes, he meant “overthrowing all” and waging a “full-scale civil war”. How can anyone reconcile this with the idea of 70 per cent achievements?
We should unequivocally criticize mistakes, including those by Comrade Mao Zedong. But we must seek truth from facts and analyse the different situations — and not attribute everything to the personal qualities of particular individuals. Comrade Mao Zedong was not an isolated individual, he was the leader of our Party until the moment of his death. When we write about his mistakes, we should not exaggerate, for otherwise we shall be discrediting Comrade Mao Zedong, and this would mean discrediting our Party and state. Any exaggeration of his mistakes would be at variance with the historical facts.
(Talk with some leading comrades of the Central Committee, October 25, 1980)
I think we can settle for this outline of the draft resolution.
We all agree that much was achieved during the first seven years of the People’s Republic. China’s socialist transformation was a success — a truly remarkable success — and it represented a major contribution by Comrade Mao Zedong to Marxism-Leninism. Even today, we need to elaborate upon it in terms of theory. Of course there were shortcomings. Sometimes, in certain spheres, we were a bit too impetuous in our work.
Our work in the 10 years before the “Cultural Revolution” should be assessed as generally good; in the main, it proceeded along the right road. We suffered setbacks and made mistakes during that period, but the achievements were the main thing. The Party was then close in feeling to the masses and its prestige among them was high. The general atmosphere in society was fine, and the cadres and the people in general were in high spirits. Therefore, when we met with difficulties, we were able to get through them quite smoothly. There were some problems in the economy, but on the whole it made progress. While fully affirming our achievements, the resolution must also discuss the mistakes we made in the anti-Rightist struggle, in the Great Leap Forward and at the Lushan Meeting. In general, these mistakes were due to our inexperience and, of course, to the fact that success went to our heads. Naturally, Comrade Mao Zedong bore the chief responsibility for them, for which he criticized himself and assumed the blame. When all these matters are clearly set forth, we can move on to discuss how the “Left” ideology developed and how it eventually led to the outbreak of the “Cultural Revolution”.
The section dealing with the “Cultural Revolution” should be written in broad outline. I agree with Comrade Hu Qiaomu’s views. Compared with the mistakes made in the preceding 17 years, the “Cultural Revolution” was an error of particular gravity, one affecting the overall situation. Its consequences were so serious that they are still being felt today. We say that the “Cultural Revolution” wasted the talents of a whole generation of our people. In fact, it didn’t stop with just one generation. It opened the floodgates to anarchism and ultra-individualism, and seriously debased standards of social conduct. However, there were also some healthy phenomena even in that decade. The so-called February adverse current was not adverse at all; rather, it was a good current of repeated struggles against Lin Biao and the Gang of Four.
Comrade Hu Yaobang has suggested that after the draft is completed we take it to some veteran cadres and statesmen, including Comrades Huang Kecheng and Li Weihan, and hear what they have to say. This is a good suggestion and I am in favour of it.
(Talk with leading comrades of the drafting group for the “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party”, March 18, 1981)
I went to see Comrade Chen Yun the day before yesterday. He made two more suggestions for the revision of the draft resolution. One is that we should add a section reviewing the entire history of the Party in the 60 years since its founding, including the years before Liberation. With this 60-year review, he said, it will be possible to make a more comprehensive summary of Comrade Mao Zedong’s merits and contributions, and we will have an adequate basis for affirming Comrade Mao Zedong’s historical role and the necessity of adhering to and developing Mao Zedong Thought. This is a fine suggestion. Please convey it to the other members of the drafting group. The other suggestion by Comrade Chen Yun is that the Central Committee should encourage people to study, principally to study Marxist philosophy, with the emphasis on Comrade Mao Zedong’s philosophical works. Comrade Chen Yun says that he has benefited a lot from studying them. Comrade Mao told him on three occasions that he must study philosophy. While in Yan’an, he read Comrade Mao’s writings attentively, and that had a great influence on his own later work. Many of our cadres still don’t understand philosophy and very much need to improve their way of thinking and work. We should select and publish in one book such articles as “On Practice”, “On Contradiction”, “On Protracted War”, “Problems of War and Strategy” and “On Coalition Government”. We should also select some works by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin for study. In a word, it is essential to study Marxist philosophy and a little history as well. Young people don’t know Chinese history, especially the history of the Chinese revolution and of the Chinese Communist Party. Please report these suggestions to Comrade Hu Yaobang. The resolution should contain a richer and more substantial exposition of Comrade Mao Zedong’s contribution to Marxist philosophy. The conclusion should include some remarks encouraging people to study.
(Talk with a leading comrade of the drafting group for the “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party”, March 26, 1981)
There have been several rounds of discussion of the draft resolution. Many good suggestions have been made that should be accepted. However, there have also been some suggestions that are unacceptable. For instance, some people have suggested we declare that the Twelfth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee and the Ninth Party Congress were not legitimate. But to deny their legitimacy would pull the rug out from under us when we say that during the “Cultural Revolution” the Party was still functioning and the State Council and the People’s Liberation Army were still able to do much of their essential work. Comrade Zhou Enlai gave an explanation at the Twelfth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee, saying that 10 members of the Central Committee had died by then and that the vacancies had all been filled by alternate members. Thus 50 members of the Central Committee, or more than half the total, were present at the session. That means the session was legitimate. So it’s not right to say that neither the Twelfth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee nor the Ninth Party Congress was legitimate. This is clear if we take into consideration Comrade Mao Zedong’s policy decision (a wise one) in Yan’an concerning the legitimacy of the provisional central leadership set up in Shanghai in 1931 and of the Fifth Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee that it later convened. Some comrades have argued that the Party ceased to exist during the “Cultural Revolution”. We can’t say that. Though the Party’s regular activities stopped for a period, it did in fact exist. If it didn’t, how could we have smashed the Gang of Four without firing a single shot or shedding a single drop of blood? The Party did exist during the “Cultural Revolution”. To deny the legitimacy of the Twelfth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee or of the Ninth Party Congress would be tantamount to saying that the Party ceased to exist for a period of time. This is not in accord with the facts.
During the “Cultural Revolution” great successes were achieved in our work in foreign affairs. Despite the domestic turmoil, internationally China’s status as a great nation was recognized and its stature rose. Kissinger visited China in July 1971, and in October of that year more than two-thirds of the member states of the United Nations voted to restore the lawful seat of the People’s Republic of China in that organization, an event that greatly discomfited the United States. In February 1972, Nixon visited China, and the “Shanghai Joint Communique” was signed. In September of that year, China and Japan restored diplomatic relations. In April 1974, I attended the Sixth Special Session of the UN General Assembly, where I spoke on behalf of the Chinese Government and was accorded a warm welcome. After my speech, delegates from many countries came up to shake hands with me. All these are facts.
(Talk with leading comrades of the drafting group for the “Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party”, April 7, 1981)
We have spent more than a year writing this document, and it has gone through I don’t know how many drafts. In October 1980, it was discussed by 4,000 comrades, who made many good and important suggestions. On the basis of their discussion and the more recent one by more than 40 comrades, it was again revised several times. More than 20 comrades, who worked really hard on it, have now produced the present draft.
Some comrades have said that perhaps we shouldn’t be in such a rush to write this resolution. But that’s wrong because people are waiting for it. In China, people both inside and outside the Party are waiting. If we don’t come out with something, there can be no unity of views on major issues. The world is waiting, too. People are watching events in China with some doubts about its stability and unity. And one of their doubts is about whether we can produce this document, and if so, when. So we can’t take any longer because further delay will be unfavourable. Of course, we want the draft to be good. In my estimation, the present draft can at least serve as a good basis. It has been prepared in conformity with the three basic requirements set down at the beginning, and it has fulfilled them.
If we are to get this document out soon, we cannot — and need not — hold another round of discussion by the 4,000 comrades. They have already aired their opinions, which have been fully incorporated in the revised draft. Our present method is to hold this enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau attended by more than 70 comrades, who will spend some time and energy scrutinizing the draft so as to further improve and finalize it. Once it is finalized it will be submitted to the Sixth Plenary Session of the Central Committee. We plan to publish it on the 60th anniversary [July 1, 1981] of the founding of our Party. There’s no need to write much else to mark the anniversary. We should, of course, do something to commemorate it, and publishing this document will be the main thing.
In my opinion, a defect of this draft is that it is a bit too long. We tried to condense it to no more than 20,000 characters but finally set the limit at 25,000. Now it runs to 28,000. My view now is that an excess of three to five thousand characters doesn’t matter and that it needn’t be cut further if that proves difficult. Of course, it would be better if, through discussion, you could condense it in some places.
This draft was revised on the basis of the discussion by 4,000 comrades and the recent discussion by more than 40 comrades. Many good suggestions have been incorporated. For instance, Comrade Chen Yun suggested that the resolution begin with a review of the Party’s history in the 28 years before the founding of the People’s Republic. That was a very valuable suggestion, and we now have this review at the beginning of the draft. There were many other valuable suggestions, and a reading of the draft will reveal the corresponding changes. Of course, some suggestions were rejected.
In short, there are two key questions. First, with regard to Comrade Mao Zedong: Which were primary, his achievements or his mistakes? Second, in the last 32 years, and especially the 10 years before the “Cultural Revolution”, were our achievements or our mistakes primary? Was the situation in those years all dark, or was its bright side dominant? There is also a third question: Should we blame Comrade Mao Zedong alone for all the mistakes of the past, or should others also take some responsibility? This draft says in more than one place that the Central Committee of the Party should be held responsible for those mistakes and that other comrades should share the blame. I think that, relatively speaking, this conforms to reality. The fourth point is that although Comrade Mao Zedong made mistakes, after all they are the mistakes of a great revolutionary, a great Marxist.
(Speech at an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, May 19, 1981)
On the whole, this is a good resolution and a good draft. From the beginning we have intended that this resolution should hold high the great banner of Mao Zedong Thought and make a balanced appraisal of the “Cultural Revolution” and of Comrade Mao Zedong’s merits and demerits, his achievements and mistakes, an appraisal based on facts. In this way the document can perform the same function as the 1945 resolution on the history of our Party, that is, to sum up experience, unify thinking and unite all our comrades as one in looking to the future. I think this draft meets these requirements.
Drafting this resolution has taken more than a year, during which time it was discussed by 4,000 comrades and then by several dozen more and by an enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau. Our discussion at this preparatory meeting for the Sixth Plenary Session, then, is the fourth round. I think we have been rather careful and conscientious in this matter.
The central issue remains how to assess Comrade Mao Zedong, and the draft deals with it in a well-measured way. For instance, whether or not to categorize his errors as errors of line is a question that has to be handled judiciously. We have decided not to refer to them by that term because in the past the formulations “struggle between two lines” and “error of Party line” were used inaccurately, indiscriminately and too often. Formerly we used to talk about several two-line struggles in the Party’s history, but from our present point of view it seems clear that at least two such designations cannot stand and ought to be reversed once for all. I am referring to the case of Liu Shaoqi, Peng Zhen, Luo Ruiqing, Lu Dingyi and Yang Shangkun and the case of Peng Dehuai, Huang Kecheng, Zhang Wentian and Zhou Xiaozhou. The basic verdict on the case of Gao Gang and Rao Shushi remains unchanged, but it too can hardly be categorized as a struggle between two lines. Luo Zhanglong was said to have committed errors of Party line, but frankly I think that this categorization missed the mark. What Luo Zhanglong actually did was to engage in factional strife, split the Party and form another central committee. The case of Gao Gang and Rao Shushi was of a similar nature though, of course, they did not form a separate central committee. Qu Qiubai’s errors lasted less than half a year and Li Lisan’s only three months. In the past, certain struggles in the Party’s history were inaccurately categorized as two-line struggles, and that’s one reason why we don’t favour using this term. Another reason is that, for a long period, whenever differing views arose in the Party, they were dubbed differences of line and criticized as errors of line. So we must approach this issue very seriously, as it has to do with the improvement of our Party’s style of work. We shouldn’t refer to the Party’s Eleventh National Congress as having made errors of line. Neither should we describe the “Cultural Revolution” as an error of line; we should analyse its essence and see it for what it really was. As a matter of fact, the present analysis of the mistakes of the “Cultural Revolution” goes beyond the old concept of “error of line”. Of course, the fact that we don’t use the term “two-line struggle” doesn’t mean that the word “line” should never be used again in any context. For instance, we used it to say that the Third Plenary Session established a correct ideological line, a correct political line and a correct organizational line, and we may use such formulations again in future. Not only the word “line” but also the term “general line” can still be employed. We use it now when we say that the four modernizations constitute our general line-in the new period. We have used the word “line”in our current draft resolution, too, so it isn’t a matter of always avoiding it. In certain contexts, it reads quite smoothly and naturally, and the meaning is clear. However, so far as inner-Party struggles are concerned, we should judge their nature and the errors involved in each on their own merits. We should make their content clear and, in principle, should no longer present them as “struggles between two lines”. In this respect, our resolution can be seen as a precedent to be followed in the future. This is the first point I want to make.
Second, why are we now stressing that assessments must be balanced? Because certain recent remarks about some of Comrade Mao Zedong’s mistakes have gone too far. These excesses should be corrected so that, generally speaking, the assessment will conform to reality and enhance the image of the country and the Party as a whole. Part of the responsibility for some past mistakes should be borne collectively, though the chief responsibility, of course, lay with Comrade Mao. We hold that systems and institutions are the decisive factor, and we all know what they were in those days. At the time, we used to credit everything to one person. It is true that there were certain things which we failed to oppose and for which we should be held partly responsible. Of course, in the circumstances, it was really difficult to express any opposition. However, we cannot evade our own responsibility. It does us no harm to accept our share of the blame. On the contrary, we will benefit by drawing lessons from the experience. I am talking here about the matter insofar as the Central Committee is concerned. The local leaders bore no responsibility. Comrade Chen Yun and I were members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau then, so at least we two should be held responsible. But other leading comrades in the Central Committee should also bear some responsibility. Does this conform to the reality? Yes, it does. This is a tenable approach and will do us much good. It is what we meant when we originally said the assessment of Comrade Mao Zedong should be balanced and, moreover, based on facts.
Now the third point. The discussion of the draft touched on the problems in the first two years after the downfall of the Gang of Four. Some comrades asked whether Comrade Hua Guofeng should be mentioned by name. After careful consideration, we decided that it wouldn’t do not to name him. In this regard, the resolution should tally with the circular on the Political Bureau meetings held last November. But the wording relating to him in our present draft resolution is much milder on many points and sounds more moderate or less severe than the language of the circular. I think that’s better. Why? Because this is to be a resolution on certain questions in the history of our Party since the founding of the People’s Republic, while the other was a decision of the Political Bureau. The resolution is a document that will enter the historical record. So, of course, will the documents of the Political Bureau, but the resolution is more weighty. I think, therefore, it does us no harm to word the resolution in more measured terms. However, Comrade Hua Guofeng’s name must be mentioned, because that is in keeping with reality. If he were not mentioned by name, there could be no apparent reason for changing his post. That is the primary question. Was the decision of the Political Bureau correct and should Comrade Hua Guofeng’s post have been changed? We must answer this question. Furthermore, it is necessary to do so in the light of current political developments. You all know what banner is being waved by the remnants of the Gang of Four and others who have ulterior motives. They used to wave the banner of the Gang of Four. What about now? Now it’s the banner of Hua Guofeng, that is, they support Hua Guofeng. This trend merits serious attention. Of course, we should say — and I have said so to many comrades — that Comrade Hua Guofeng himself is not responsible for any of this, for he himself is not involved in any of these activities. Still, this trend in society warrants our attention. So it is beneficial to the Party and people that this resolution should mention Comrade Hua Guofeng by name and point out his mistakes. It is also most beneficial to Comrade Hua Guofeng himself.
There are some other questions. For instance, when we analyse the causes of the “Cultural Revolution”, should we mention the influence of petty-bourgeois ideology? I think it does no harm to omit that reference. If and when it becomes necessary to counter the influence of petty-bourgeois ideology, we can deal with it in future documents. There is no hurry. That is not the question involved here. What should be criticized here is something else, to wit, the misunderstanding, dogmatic interpretation and erroneous application of Lenin’s statement that small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie daily, hourly, and on a mass scale. In analysing the causes of the “Cultural Revolution” this time, we need not refer to the petty bourgeoisie, neither need we copy the past formula that every mistake must necessarily have three causes, social, ideological and historical. We have used a new formulation this time, and that too is a good thing.
(Speech during the preparatory meeting for the Sixth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, June 22, 1981)