[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #14, April 4, 1975,
pp. 5-11. This famous article was later issued as a pamphlet.]
THE question of the dictatorship of the proletariat has long been the focus of the struggle between Marxism and revisionism. Lenin said: “Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat.” And it is for the very purpose of enabling us to go in for Marxism and not revisionism in both theory and practice that Chairman Mao calls on our whole nation to get a clear idea of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Our country finds itself at an important period of historical development. After more than two decades of socialist revolution and socialist construction, paricularly after the liquidation of the bourgeois headquarters of Liu Shao-chi and of Lin Piao in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, our dictatorship of the proletariat is more consolidated than ever, and our socialist cause is thriving. Full of militancy, the people of the whole country are determined to build China into a powerful socialist country before the end of the century. In the course of this effort and in the entire historical period of socialism, whether we can persevere in the dictatorship of the proletariat through to the end is a cardinal question that affects the future of our country’s development. Current class struggle, too, makes it necessary for us to get clear on the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Chairman Mao says “Lack of clarity on this question will lead to revisionism.” It won’t do if only a few peoplegrasp the point; “this should be made known to the whole nation.” Success in this study has a current and far-reaching significance that can never be overestimated.
As early as in 1920, Lenin, basing himself on practical experience in leading the Great October Socialist Revolution and directing the first state of proletarian dictatorship, sharply pointed out, “The dictatorship of the proletariat is a most determined and most ruthless war waged by the new class against a more powerful enemy, the bourgeoisie, whose resistance is increased tenfold by its overthrow (even if only in one country), and whose power lies not only in the strength of international capital, in the strength and durability of the international connections of the bourgeoisie, but also in the force of habit, in the strength of small production. For, unfortunately, small production is still very, very widespread in the world, and small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale. For all these reasons the dictatorship of the proletariat is essential.” Lenin pointed out that the dictatorship of the proletariat is a persistent struggle—bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and admistrative—against the forces and traditions of the old society, that it is an all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie. Lenin time and again stressed that it is impossible to triumph over the bourgeoisie without exercising a protracted, all-round dictatorship over it. These words of Lenin’s, especially those he underscored, have been proved by practice in subsequent years. Sure enough, the new bourgeois have been engendered in one batch after another, and their representative is none other than the Khrushchov-Brezhnev renegade clique. These people generally have a good class background; almost all of them have been brought up under the red flag; they have joined the Communist Party organizationally, received college training and become so-called red experts. But they are new poisonous weeds engendered by the old soil of capitalism. They have betrayed their own class, usurped Party and state power, restored capitalism, become chieftains of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat, and accomplished what Hitler had tried but failed to accomplish. At no time should we forget this historical experience in which “the satellites went up to the sky while the red flag fell to the ground,” especially at a time when we are determined to build a powerful country.
We must be soberly aware that there is still the danger for China to turn revisionist. This is not only because imperialism and social-imperialism always set their minds on aggression and subversion against us, and the old landlords and capitalists, unreconciled to their defeat, are still there, but also because new bourgeois elements are, as Lenin put it, being engendered daily and hourly. Some comrades argue that Lenin was referring to the situation before co-operation. This is obviously incorrect. Lenin’s remarks are not out of date. These comrades may look up Chairman Mao’s On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People published in 1957. There Chairman Mao presents the concrete analysis that, after basic victory in the socialist transformation of the system of ownership, which includes the achievement of co-operation, there still exist in China classes, class contradictions and class struggle, and there still exist harmony as well as contradiction between the relations of production and the productive forces and between the superstructure and the economic base. Having summed up the new experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat after Lenin, Chairman Mao answered in a systematic way various questions arising after the change in the system of ownership, set forth the tasks and policies of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and laid the theoretical basis of the Party’s basic line and of continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. Practice in the past 18 years, particularly in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, has proved that the theory, line and policies advanced by Chairman Mao are entirely correct.
Chairman Mao pointed out recently: “In a word, China is a socialist country. Before liberation she was much the same as a capitalist country. Even now she practises an eight-grade wage system, distribution according to work and exchange through money, and in all this differs very little from the old society. What is different is that the system of ownership has been changed.” In order to gain a deeper understanding of Chairman Mao’s instruction, let us take a look at the changes in the system of ownership in China and the proportions of the various economic sectors in China’s industry, agriculture and commerce in 1973.
First, industry. Industry under ownership by the whole people accounted for 97 per cent of the fixed assets of industry as a whole, 63 per cent of the industrial population, and 86 per cent of the value of total industrial output. Industry under collective ownership accounted for 3 per cent of the fixed assets, 36.2 per cent of the industrial population, and 14 per cent of the total output value. Besides these, individual handicraftsman made up 0.8 per cent of the industrial population.
Next, agriculture. Among the agricultural means of production, about 90 per cent of the farmland and of the irrigation-drainage machinery and about 80 per cent of the tractors and draught animals were under collective ownership. Those under ownership by the whole people made up a very small proportion. Hence, over 90 per cent of the nation’s grain and various industrial crops came from the collective economy. The state farms accounted for only a small proportion. Apart from these, there still remained the small plots farmed by commune members for their personal needs and limited household side-line production.
Then commerce. State commerce accounted for 92.5 per cent of the total volume of retail sales, commercial enterprises under collective ownership for 7.3 per cent, and individual pedlars for 0.2 per cent. Apart from these, there still remained a sizable amount of trade conducted at rural fairs.
The above figures show that socialist ownership by the whole people and socialist collective ownership by working people have indeed won great victory in China. The dominant position of ownership by the whole people has been very much enhanced and there have also been some changes in the economy of the people’s commune as regards the proportions of ownership at the three levels—the commune, the production brigade and the production team. On Shanghai’s outskirts, for example, income at the commune level in proportion to total income rose from 28.1 per cent in 1973 to 30.5 per cent in 1974, that of the brigades rose from 15.2 per cent to 17.2 per cent, while that of the teams dropped from 56.7 per cent to 52.3 per cent. The people’s commune has demonstrated ever more clearly its superiority of being larger in size and having a higher degree of public ownership. In so far as we have, step by step in the past 25 years, eliminated ownership by imperialism, bureaucrat-capitalism and feudalism, transformed ownership by national capitalism and by the individual labourer and replaced these five kinds of private ownership with the two kinds of socialist public ownership, we can proudly declare that the system of ownership in China has changed, that the proletariat and other working people in China have in the main freed themselves from the shackles of private ownership, and that China’s socialist economic base has been gradually consolidated and developed. The Constitution adopted by the Fourth National People’s Congress clearly records these great victories of ours.
However, we must see that the issue has not been entirely settled with respect to the system of ownership. We often say that the issue of the system of ownership “has in the main been settled”; this means that it has not been settled entirely, neither has bourgeois right been totally abolished in the realm of the system of ownership. Statistics cited above show that private ownership still exists in part of industry, agriculture as well as commerce, that socialist public ownership does not consist purely of ownership by the whole people but includes two kinds of ownership, and that ownership by the whole people is as yet rather weak in agriculture, the foundation of the national economy. The non-existence of bourgeois right in the realm of the system of ownership in a socialist society, as conceived by Marx and Lenin, implies the conversion of all the means of production into the common property of the whole society. Clearly we have not yet advanced to that stage. Neither in theory nor in practice should we overlook the very arduous tasks that lie ahead of the dictatorship of the proletariat in this respect.
Moreover, we must see that both ownership by the whole people and collective ownership involve the question of leadership, that is, the question of ownership by which class, not just in name but in reality.
Speaking at the First Plenary Session of the Ninth Central Committee of the Party on April 28, 1969, Chairman Mao said: “It seems that it won’t do not to carry out the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, for our foundation is not solid. Judging from my observations, I am afraid that in a fairly large majority of factories—I don’t mean all or the overwhelming majority of them—leadership was not in the hands of genuine Marxists and the masses of workers. Not that there were no good people among those in charge of the factories. There were. There were good people among the secretaries, deputy secretaries and members of Party committees and among Party branch secretaries. But they were following that line of Liu Shao-chi—simply resorting to material incentives, putting profit in command and, instead of promoting proletarian politics, handing out bonuses, and so forth.” “But there were indeed bad people in the factories.” “This showed that the revolution remained unfinished.” Chairman Mao’s remarks not only explain the necessity of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution but enable us to see more clearly that on the problem of the system of ownership, as on all other problems, we should pay attention not only to its form but also to its actual content. It is perfectly correct for people to attach importance to the decisive role of the system of ownership in the relations of production. But it is incorrect to attach no importance to whether the issue of the system of ownership has been resolved in form or in reality, to the reaction exerted on the system of ownership by the two other aspects of the relations of production—the relations between men and the form of distribution—and to the reaction exerted on the economic base by the superstructure; these two aspects and the superstructure may play a decisive role under given conditions. Politics is the concentrated expression of economics. The correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line, and the control of leadership in the hands of one class or another, decide which class owns a factory in reality. Comrades may recall how an enterprise owned by bureaucrat capital or national capital was turned into a socialist enterprise. Didn’t we do the job by sending there a representative for military control or a state representative to transform it according to the Party’s line and policies? Historically, every major change in the system of ownership, be it the replacement of slave system by feudal system or of feudalism by capitalism, was invariably preceded by the seizure of political power which was then used to change the system of ownership on a big scale and consolidate and develop the new system of ownership. This is even more so with socialist public ownership which cannot be brought forth under the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Bureaucrat capital, which controlled 80 per cent of the industry in old China, could be transformed and placed under ownership by the whole people only after the People’s Liberation Army had defeated Chiang Kai-shek. Likewise, a capitalist restoration is inevitably preceded by the seizure of leadership and a change in the line and policies of the Party. Wasn’t this the way Khrushchov and Brezhnev changed the system of ownership in the Soviet Union? Wasn’t this the way Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao changed the nature of a number of our factories and other enterprises to varying degrees?
Also, we must see that what we practise today is a commodity system. Chairman Mao says: “Our country at present practises a commodity system, the wage system is unequal, too, as in the eight-grade wage scale, and so forth. These can only be restricted under the dictatorship of the proletariat. So if people like Lin Piao come to power, it will be quite easy for them to rig up the capitalist system.” This state of affairs which Chairman Mao pinpointed cannot be changed in a short period. Take for instance the rural people’s communes on the outskirts of Shanghai where the economy at the commune and production brigade levels has developed at a rather fast pace. The commune accounts for 34.2 per cent of the fixed assets owned at all three levels, the brigade accounts for only 15.1 per cent while the production team still accounts for 50.7 per cent. Therefore, considering the economic conditions in the commune alone, it will take a fairly long time to effect the transition from the team to the brigade and then to the commune functioning as the basic accounting unit. Even when the commune is made the basic accounting unit, it will still remain under collective ownership. Thus within a short period no basic change will take place in the situation in which there are both ownership by the whole people and collective ownership. So long as these two kinds of ownership still exist, commodity production, exchange through money and distribution according to work are inevitable. Since “these can only be restricted under the dictatorship of the proletariat,” the growth of capitalist factors in town and country and the emergence of new bourgeois elements are likewise inevitable. If these are not restricted, capitalism and the bourgeoisie will grow faster. Therefore, on no account should we relax our vigilance just because we have won great victory in the transformation of the system of ownership and carried out a Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. We must realize that our economic base is not yet solid and that bourgeois right, which has not yet been abolished entirely in the system of ownership, is still prevalent to a serious extent in the relations between men and holds a dominant position in distribution. In the various spheres of the superstructure, some aspects are in fact still controlled by the bourgeoisie which is predominant there; some are being transformed but the results are not yet consolidated, and old ideas and the old force of habit are trying obstinately to hold back the growth of socialist new things. New bourgeois elements are engendered, group after group, in the wake of the development of capitalist factors in town and country. The class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the class struggle between the different political forces, and the class struggle in the ideological field between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie will continue to be long and tortuous and at times will even become very acute. Even when all the landlords and capitalists of the old generation have died, such class struggles will by no means come to a stop, and a bourgeois restoration may still occur if people like Lin Piao come to power. In his speech The Situation and Our Policy After the Victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan, Chairman Mao said that in 1936 near the site of the Party Central Committee in Pao-an there was a fortified village held by a handful of armed counter-revolutionaries who obstinately refused to surrender until the Red Army stormed into it to settle the problem. This story has a universal significance, for it tells us: “Everything reactionary is the same; if you don’t hit it, it won’t fall. This is also like sweeping the floor; as a rule, where the broom does not reach, the dust never vanishes of itself.” Today there are still many “fortified villages” held by the bourgeoisie; when one is destroyed, another will spring up, and even when all but one have been destroyed, this last, one will not vanish of itself if the iron broom of the dictatorship of the proletariat does not reach there. What Lenin said is entirely correct: “For all these reasons the dictatorship of the proletariat is essential.”
Historical experience shows us that whether the proletariat can triumph over the bourgeoisie and whether China will turn revisionist hinges on whether we can persevere in exercising all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie in all spheres and at all stages of development in the revolution. What is all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie? The most succinct generalization is found in a passage from a letter Marx wrote in 1852 to J. Weydemeyer, which we are all studying. Marx said: “No credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society, nor yet the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove: 1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phrases in the development of production, 2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” In this remarkable observation, Lenin said, Marx I succeeded in expressing with striking clarity the chief and radical difference between his theory on the state and that of the bourgeoisie, and the essence of his teaching on the state. Here it should be noted that Marx divided the sentence on the dictatorship of the proletariat into three points, which are nevertheless interrelated and cannot be cut apart. It is impermissible to accept only one of the three points while rejpeting the other two. For the sentence gives perfect expression to the entire process of the inception, development and withering away of the dictatorship of the proletariat and covers the whole task of the dictatorship of the proletariat and its actual content. In The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850, Marx deals in more specific terms with this dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of all class distinctions, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations. Here Marx says “all,” and in all four places! Not a part, nor a greater part, nor even the greatest part, but all! This is nothing surprising, for only by emancipating all mankind can the proletariat achieve its own final emancipation. The only way to attain this goal is to exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie and carry the continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through to the end, until the above-mentioned four “alls” are abolished on the earth so that it will be impossible for the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes to exist or for new ones to arise, and we must not call a halt along the path of transition. In our view, only those who have such an understanding can grasp the essence of Marx’s teaching on the state. Comrades, please think it over: If the point is not to be grasped this way, if Marxism is to be limited, curtailed and distorted in theory and practice, if the dictatorship of the proletariat is to be turned into an empty phrase, or all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie rendered incomplete and exercised only in some but hot all spheres, or only at some stages (for instance, before the transformation of the system of ownership) but not at all stages, or in other words, if the “fortified villages” of the bourgeoisie are not all destroyed but some are left to allow the bourgeoisie to expand its ranks again, doesn’t that mean to prepare the conditions for a bourgeois restoration? Doesn’t it mean to turn the dictatorship of the proletariat into something that protects the bourgeoisie, particularly the newly engendered bourgeoisie? All workers, all poor and lower-middle peasants and all other working people who refuse to suffer once again, all Communists who dedicate their lives to the struggle for communism, and all comrades who do not want China to turn revisionist, must firmly bear in mind this basic principle of Marxism: It is imperative to exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, and it is absolutely impermissible to give it up halfway. There are undeniably some comrades among us who have joined the Communist Party organizationally but not ideologically. In their world outlook they have not yet stepped out of the confines of small production and of the bourgeoisie. They do approve of the dictatorship of the proletariat at certain stages and in certain spheres and are pleased with certain victories of the proletariat, because these will bring them some gains; once they have secured their gains, they feel it’s time to settle down and feather their cosy nests. As for exercising all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie, as for following up the first step on the 10,000-li long march, sorry, let others do the job; here is my stop and I must get off the bus. We would like to offer a piece of advice to these comrades: It’s dangerous to stop half-way! The bourgeoisie is beckoning to you. Catch up with the ranks and continue the advance!
Historical experience also shows us that, as the dictatorship of the proletariat wins one victory after another, the bourgeoisie may pretend on the surface to accept this dictatorship while in reality it continues to work for the restoration of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. This is exactly what Khrushchov and Brezhnev have done. They changed neither the name of “Soviet,” nor the name of the party of Lenin, nor the name of socialist republic,” but accepting these names and using them as a cover, deprived the dictatorship of the proletariat of its actual content and turned it into a dictatorship of the monopoly capitalist class against the Soviet, the party of Lenin and the socialist republics. In open betrayal of Marxism, they put forward the revisionist programme of “the state of the whole people” and “the party of the entire people.” However, they flaunt the flag of the dictatorship of the proletariat to suppress the masses of the Soviet people who rise against their fascist dictatorship. Similar cases have occurred in China. Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao did not limit themselves to spreading the theory of the dying out of class struggle; they, too, flaunted the flag of the dictatorship of the proletariat when they suppressed the revolution. Didn’t Lin Piao preach his four “never forgets”? One of these was “never forget the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Indeed there was something he “never forgot,” only the words “to overthrow” should be inserted here to make it “never forget to overthrow the dictatorship of the proletariat,” or on the confession of his gang, “wave Chairman Mao’s banner to strike at Chairman Mao’s forces.” At times they acted “in submission” to the proletariat and even pretended to be more revolutionary than anyone else, raising “Left” slogans to create confusion and carry out sabotage, but they constantly waged a tit-for-tat struggle against the proletariat. You wanted to carry out socialist transformation? They said the new democratic order had to be consolidated. You wanted to organize co-operatives and communes? They said it was too early to do that. When you said literature and art should be revolutionized, they said it would do no harm to put on some ghost plays. You wanted to restrict bourgeois right? They said it was a very good thing indeed and should be extended. They are past masters at defending old things and, like a swarm of flies, hum all day long over the “birth marks” and “defects” of the old society as referred to by Marx. Taking advantage of the inexperience of young people, they are particularly keen to peddle among the youth the idea that material incentive, like odd-odour bean curd, smells awful but tastes good. And they always wave the banner of socialism while committing these acts of disgrace. Don’t some bad eggs engaged in speculation, graft and theft say that they are going in for socialist co-operation? Don’t some abettors who poison the minds of young people wave the banner of “care and love for the successors to the cause of communism”? We must study their tactics and sum up our experience so as to exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie in a more effective way.
“Are you out to stir up a wind of ‘communization’”? To fabricate rumours by posing such a question is a tactic which some persons have recently resorted to. To this we can answer explicitly: The wind of “communization” as stirred up by Liu Shao-chi and Chen Po-ta shall never be allowed to rise again. We have always held that, instead of having too big a supply of commodities, our country does not yet have a great abundance of them. So long as the communes cannot yet offer much to be “communized” with production brigades and teams, and enterprises under ownership by the whole people cannot offer a great abundance of products for distribution according to need among our 800 million people, we will have to continue with commodity production, exchange through money and distribution according to work. We have taken and will continue to take proper measures to curb the harm caused by these things. The dictatorship of the proletariat is a dictatorship by the masses. We are confident that under the leadership of the Party, the broad masses have the strength and the ability to fight against the bourgeoisie and finally vanquish it. Old China was a country submerged in a vast sea of small production. Conducting socialist education among several hundred million peasants is always a serious problem and requires the endeavour of several generations. But the poor and lower-middle peasants form the majority among the several hundred million peasants, and they know from practice that the one and only bright path for them is to follow the Communist Party and advance along the socialist road. Our Party has relied upon them to unite with the middle peasants for a step-by-step advance from mutual-aid teams to the elementary and advanced agricultural producers’ co-operatives and then to the people’s communes, and we can surely lead them onward.
We would rather call comrades’ attention to the fact that it is another kind of wind which is blowing—the “bourgeois” wind. This is the bourgeois style of life Chairman Mao has pointed out, an evil wind stirred up by those “parts” of the people who have degenerated into bourgeois elements. The “bourgeois” wind blowing from among those Communists, particularly leading cadres, who belong to these “parts,” does the greatest harm to us. Poisoned by this evil wind, some people are permeated with bourgeois ideas; they scramble for fame and gain and feel proud instead of ashamed of this. Some have reached the point of looking at everything as a commodity, including themselves. They join the Communist Party and do some work for the proletariat merely for the sake of upgrading themselves as commodities and asking the proletariat for higher prices. Those who are Communists in name but new bourgeois elements in reality manifest the features of the decadent and moribund bourgeoisie as a whole. Historically, when the slave-owning, landlord and capitalist classes were in the ascendancy, they did some good turns for mankind. The new bourgeois elements today act in diametrical opposition to their forefathers. They are nothing but a “new” heap of garbage and can only be destructive to mankind. Among those who spread the rumour about a wind of “communization” being stirred up, some are new bourgeois elements who have taken public property into their private possession and fear that the people would “communize” it again; others are people who want to seize the opportunity to grab some gains. These people have a better nose than many of our comrades. Some of our comrades say that study is a flexible task, whereas those people have sensed by instinct that the current study is an inflexible task for both classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. They may indeed stir up some wind of “communization” or take over one of our slogans deliberately to confuse the two different types of contradictions and create some trouble. This merits our attention.
Under the leadership of the Party Central Committee headed by Chairman Mao, the mighty proletarian revolutionary contingents formed by the masses in their hundreds of millions in China are striding forward. With 25 years of practical experience in the dictatorship of the proletariat and the international experience since the Paris Commune, and as long as the few hundred Members of our Party Central Committee and the several thousand senior cadres take the lead and join the vast numbers of cadres and masses of people in reading and studying assiduously, conducting investigation and study and summing up experience, we can certainly translate Chairman Mao’s call into reality, get a clear idea of the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and ensure the triumphant advance of our country along the course charted by Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought. “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win?” This infinitely bright future will surely continue to inspire growing numbers of awakened workers and other working people and their vanguard, the Communists, to keep to the Party’s basic line and persevere in exercising all-round dictatorship ever the bourgeoisie and carry the continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through to the end! The fall of the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes and the victory of communism are inevitable, certain and independent of man’s will.
(A translation of an article in “Honggi,” No. 4, 1975)
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