SOME PROBLEMS OUTSTANDING IN THE
IRON AND STEEL INDUSTRY
May 29, 1975
The Central Committee of the Party has added its instructions to the report submitted a few days ago to Chairman Mao and the Central Committee by the Ministry of Metallurgical Industry. Now the document will be transmitted to the lower levels. In my opinion, the prospects for improving our iron and steel production are excellent provided the policies and requirements embodied in the Central Committee’s instructions are followed.
There are four key problems now confronting the iron and steel industry which must be solved.
First, it is imperative to build a strong leadership.
Iron and steel production is not increasing at the moment; this refers mainly to the major steel complexes at Baotou, Wuhan, Anshan and Taiyuan. In particular, if instead of increasing, the output of Anshan Iron and Steel Company falls short by two or three thousand tons a day, others will be unable to make up the difference. Of course, some medium-sized and small steel plants also fall short. The main cause of our sluggish iron and steel production is the leadership, which is weak, lazy and lax. That of the Ministry of Metallurgical Industry is weak, though we can’t as yet go so far as to say it is lazy and lax. But being weak, it needs to be strengthened. The quality of the leading groups varies from one factory or enterprise to another. Some are lax, which is a failing related to factionalism. One of the major problems with cadres at present is that they are afraid to touch thorny issues the way one is afraid to touch a tiger’s backside. The leaders of a unit or an enterprise must not be so timid. We should try to find and recruit into the leading groups cadres who are not afraid of losing their jobs; they will have the support of the Central Committee and the provincial Party committees. Unless we do this, things cannot be changed for the better. A leading group is like a command post, and efforts to boost production, carry on scientific research or combat factionalism are all like military operations. If the command post is weak, the operations cannot be effective. The Ministry of Metallurgical Industry has not had the strength to conduct effective operations, nor have the leading groups of some steel companies and plants. This question of the leading groups has a bearing on whether or not the Party line will be implemented. Unless the matter is properly handled, it will be difficult even to begin to move, let alone to lead the masses forward. That is why we have placed primary emphasis on properly tackling the problem of the leading groups. We must strengthen not only the leading group of the Ministry of Metallurgical Industry, but also that of every company, factory, mine and workshop, as well as the operational units. We must see to it that no leading group is weak, lazy or lax. Only then will its opinions be listened to and its directions followed; only then will it be truly able to lead.
Second, it is imperative to struggle against factionalism.
After the decision of the Central Committee on improving railway work was made known to the lower levels, all trades and professions felt its great impact and impetus. One clear example is the rapid growth in coal production, which was achieved because the leadership was bold and firm in combating factionalism. Production in the Taiyuan Iron and Steel Company also improved as soon as the problem of factionalism was solved. The railway departments have done an even more remarkable job in this respect, and the experience gained in Xuzhou is quite typical. We should all learn from these experiences.
The leadership must be clear-cut and firm in its opposition to factionalism. How long can we afford to wait for persons who have wrought havoc with the Party’s cause to recognize their mistakes? Courage is of primary importance here. Those who cling to factionalism should be transferred to other posts, criticized or struggled against whenever necessary. We should not drag things out and wait forever. Moreover, we should call on the masses to join in the effort against factionalism. Do those who cling to their factionalist ways fear the Central Committee or the provincial Party committees? They do not. Still less do they fear the city Party committees and the leadership in companies, factories or mines. But they do fear the masses, especially when the latter rise in action. So the way to deal with these people is to mobilize the masses to struggle against them, and not give an inch. What’s more, we need to make a show of strength, and we must not be hesitant. We must have faith in the masses. We must bring the documents of the Central Committee directly to them so that its line is truly made known to every family, including housewives and children, and the initiative of the masses against factionalism is thus brought into play. Experience in different localities shows that over 95 per cent of the masses support the Central Committee’s essential points. I certainly don’t mean to say that no one is opposed to them. My speech last March at the national meeting of Party secretaries in charge of industrial work was described by some persons as a “restorationist programme”. Individuals who express such views do exist. But don’t be afraid of them. If we take a clear-cut attitude and have correct policies, the situation will be easy to handle.
Those who still engage in factional activities are a minority. Among them, some are true enemies who capitalize on factionalism to cause serious disruption; others engage in factional strife merely for personal gain and fame; still others are obsessed by factionalism after having gone through several years of such strife. As the experience of the railway departments and of the city of Xuzhou and other areas shows, the number of those who should be made targets of attack in the struggle against factionalism is very small. Factional activities in Xuzhou were very serious, but in the end only three persons were brought under attack. The overwhelming majority, including those who were obsessed by factionalism, were redeemable. So the actual result was that the target of attack was very narrow and a great many people were helped through education. We must be determined to win in our anti-factionalist struggle.
Third, it is imperative that policies be conscientiously implemented.
To judge by the experience gained in solving the problems in railway work and in the city of Xuzhou, carrying out Party policies is very important. In the campaign to ferret out members of the “May Sixteenth Group”, over 6,000 persons in Xuzhou came under attack. This figure is quite shocking. When so many people have been attacked, it is essential to implement the policy concerning them; otherwise, how can we arouse the enthusiasm of the masses?
When I say that we must implement the policy concerning these people, I am not talking only about the individuals who were labelled this or that, but also about the people around them who have been implicated. The treatment of those 6,000 people in Xuzhou affects tens of thousands of others, if we count an average of five members in each of their families, plus other relatives, friends and social connections. Measures must be taken to help them shed their mental burden as soon as possible.
In implementing the policies, we should also pay attention to other cases. For example, although some people were not officially labelled, they were criticized or attacked and suffered great mental distress. This sort of thing happened even in areas where there was no campaign to uncover members of the “May Sixteenth Group”. All these problems should be dealt with appropriately.
In implementing the relevant Party policies, we should particularly concentrate on arousing the enthusiasm of veteran workers, key technicians and veteran model workers. Those who should be returned to leading posts ought to be brought back and assigned appropriate jobs. Of course, I am not suggesting that all the people I’ve referred to should be put back in their previous posts.
Fourth, it is imperative to establish essential rules and regulations.
After the aforementioned matters have been well handled, the next step is to mobilize the masses to establish and improve essential rules and regulations. This is also a matter of enhancing the sense of organization and discipline. In recent years, there have really been no rules and regulations to speak of, and many problems have consequently arisen. Not long ago, in a single day the Wuhan Iron and Steel Company had two major accidents in which molten steel escaped. It is even difficult to determine who should be held accountable for some accidents that have occurred. Therefore, it is imperative to establish and improve essential rules and regulations. Discipline in some factories is very lax. The personnel may or may not come to work and may or may not observe the regulations. It should be clearly stated that although previous instances of this kind may be excused, no recurrence will henceforth be tolerated. How can an individual be allowed to casually absent himself from work whenever he feels like it? If a man doesn’t come to work, cross his name off the payroll. If he refuses to work, tell him to leave! Since you’re not willing to work, why should the state continue to pay you wages as if you were? In enforcing the rules and regulations, it is better to be a bit on the strict side; otherwise, they cannot be properly established. In the past, some rules and regulations were too complicated, and they should be improved. We should sum up both positive and negative experience and restore or establish such rules and regulations as are essential.
In a word, there is a lot to be done to improve the production of iron and steel. In my opinion, it is most important to pay special attention to the four points I have discussed.
(Speech at a forum on the iron and steel industry.)