[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #22, May 30, 1975, pp. 7-11.]
STUDYING Chairman Mao’s important instruction on the question of theory well is a task of paramount importance for the whole Party, the whole army and the people of the whole country today. In this study, it is necessary to read again Chairman Mao’s Report to the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China made in March 1949.
In the report, Chairman Mao made an overall analysis of the new situation in class struggle at home and abroad and of the changes in the mutual relations between the various classes in society after the victory of the new-democratic revolution. He pointed out that the principal contradiction at home is “the contradiction between the working class and the bourgeoisie” and that the proletariat must learn how to wage struggles against the bourgeoisie in the political, economic, cultural and other spheres, and he laid down the line, principles and policies for carrying out the socialist revolution and establishing and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the light of the class relations and economic situation in China at that time, Chairman Mao explicitly pointed out: A policy of confiscation must be adopted towards bureaucrat-capital to effect its transfer to the state so as to “enable the state-owned economy to become the leading sector of the entire national etonomy”; it is necessary to “adopt well-measured and flexible policies for restricting” private capitalist elements beneficial to the national economy from several directions and according to specific conditions so as to utilize, restrict and transform them; the scattered and backward individual agriculture and handicrafts in large numbers “must be led prudently, step by step and yet actively to develop towards modernization and collectivization.” He also pointed out that we would commit Right deviationist errors if we negated the socialist nature of the state-owned economy built on the basis of confiscated bureaucrat-capital, discarded the policy of restricting capitalism and failed to see the necessity of transforming the individual economy, and that we would make “Left” deviationist errors if we thought private capital could be eliminated immediately and completely and overlooked the fact that the transformation of the individual economy would be protracted. A deep understanding of these important ideas of Chairman Mao’s helps us today to get clear the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie both in theory and in practice, persist in restricting bourgeois right under the dictatorship of the proletariat and correctly implement the various policies of the Party.
In 1956, our Party led the people of the whole country to complete in the main the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts and capitalist industry and commerce and thus turn private ownership of the means of production into socialist public ownership by following the direction and course pointed out by Chairman Mao in his report and acting in accordance with the Party’s general line for the transitional period. In the wake of the socialist revolution and socialist education movement on the political and ideological fronts in the ensuing 18 years, especially after the series of struggles such as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the criticism of Lin Piao and Confucius, the socialist economic base has become increasingly consolidated and the socialist system has shown its tremendous superiority. There is indeed a world of difference between the new and old societies.
But socialist society, after all, is born out of capitalist society. In this historical period, classes and class struggle still exist and the overthrown landlord and capitalist classes are bound to dream of getting back their lost “paradise”; it will take a fairly long time to accomplish the task of socialist transformation which remains unfinished with regard to the ownership of the means of production; socialist society is economically, morally and intellectually “still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges” (Marx: Critique of the Gotha Programme), and there are still the commodity system, distribution according to work and exchange through money as well as the differences between workers and peasants, between town and country and between mental and manual labour, and bourgeois right still exists. Pin-pointing this state of affairs, Chairman Mao pointed out: “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.” “Our country at present practises a commodity system, the wage system is unequal, too, as in the eight-grade wage scale, and so forth. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat such things can only be restricted. Therefore, if people like Lin Piao come to power, it will be quite easy for them to rig up the capitalist system.” This important instruction of Chairman Mao’s has provided us with a sharp ideological weapon for further understanding the characteristics of socialist society. If we see only the essential difference between socialist and capitalist societies but fail to see that the former “differs very little” from the latter in some aspects, we cannot possibly persist in exercising all-round dictatorship of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, restrict bourgeois right under the dictatorship of the proletariat and carry the struggle to combat and prevent revisionism through to the end.
Fundamentally, the reason why some comrades have failed for a long time tb have a clear understanding of bourgeois right with respect to the commodity system, exchange through money and distribution according to work and have even taken a great interest in them is that they do not recognize, in both theory and practice, that bourgeois right carries the birth marks of the old society and is not communist and that it is an important economic base for engendering capitalism, revisionism and new bourgeois elements. As we now can see, the emergence of new bourgeois elements from among the working class, Party members or personnel of state and other organs is inseparable from the fact that the areas or units they belong to are trying to preserve and extend bourgeois right and these elements themselves value and crave for it. At the same time, the overthrown landlord and capitalist classes often use bourgeois right as a tool to subvert the dictatorship of the proletariat and restore capitalism. Such being the case, an important task of the proletariat in exercising dictatorship over the bourgeoisie lies in imposing necessary restrictions on that part of bourgeois right which still exists and, through a protracted socialist revolution, gradually creating conditions in which it will be impossible for the bourgeoisie to exist, or for a new bourgeoisie to arise. (Lenin: The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government.)
Doing just the opposite, the chieftains of the revisionist line Liu Shao-chi and Lin Piao always stopped at nothing to consolidate, extend and-strengthen bourgeois right and used it to struggle against the proletariat. Chairman Mao has said: “Restriction versus opposition to restriction will be the main form of class struggle in the new-democratic state.” The struggle centring around the question of bourgeois right waged by our Party against the chieftains of the revisionist line is precisely one of restriction versus opposition to restriction, and it constitutes an important component part of the struggle between the two classes, the two roads and the two lines in the entire historical period of socialism.
Restriction of bourgeois right under the dictatorship of the proletariat involves an extremely arduous and complicated struggle. Restriction means gradually reducing the scope and role of bourgeois right and actively creating the ideological and material conditions for its final abolition in the future. But it is impossible to abolish bourgeois right until after a fairly long period of time. In the struggle to restrict it, therefore, we must resolutely implement Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line and policies, use Marxist-Leninist theory as our weapon to make a historical and class analysis of bourgeois right so that we can see both the inevitability of its existence and the necessity of restricting it, and study in what aspects it should be restricted and work out the ways and the proper extent of restriction. Without such a concrete analysis, mistakes of one kind or another will arise detrimental to the great cause of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Restriction of bourgeois right with regard to distribution is an important measure for preventing the emergence of new bourgeois elements and waging struggles against them. The socialist principle “He who does not work, neither shall he eat” and “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work” applied in our country at the present stage is a negation of the distribution system under which the capitalists extract surplus-value created by the workers. Since individual workers differ in physical strength, have a higher or lower cultural and technical level and have more or less mouths to feed, application of an equal standard of distribution to different workers inevitably gives rise to inequality in fact. Hence, “equal right” as embodied in distribution according to work “is still—in principle—bourgeois right.” (Marx: Critique of the Gotha Programme.) This principle of distribution, applied in the form of wages, divides people into different grades and inevitably causes some people to seek fame, higher position and better treatment. This runs counter to the attitude of communist labour which is voluntary, without quotas and in disregard of pay. Precisely because of this, our Party has stressed again and again that in applying the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work,” it is imperative to take the Party’s basic line as the key link and persist in putting proletarian politics in command. Departing from proletarian politics which is the “soul,” and making “more pay for more work” the “motive force” for mobilizing the masses’ enthusiasm, “putting bonuses in command” and “putting work-points in command” will lead people astray and on to the revisionist road, making them “calculate with ... coldheartedness ... whether one has not worked half an hour more than somebody else, whether one is not getting less pay than somebody else.” (Lenin: The State and Revolution.) Abusing that part of power in their hands, some people may even put up the signboard of “needs of the revolution” and “needs of work” and turn public property into private property and appropriate the fruits of labour of the masses by various subterfuges.
If such a state of affairs should be allowed to develop without any restrictions, the gap between those with more and those with less would become wider and wider to the extent that a polarization would take place. A few people then would convert their money into capital with which to engage in usury, set up underground factories or go in for speculation, all for carrying out criminal activities to exploit others. Once these newly emerged “vampires” come to power, the miserable plight in the old society where the broad masses of the labouring people were subjected to oppression and exploitation will occur again. If we fail to see the dire consequences arising from the extension of bourgeois right in distribution and fail to restrict it to a proper extent, but choose to extend it at will, we shall commit Right deviationist errors. Conversely, if we hold that the principle of “distribution according to work” can be done away with right now and there is no need to carry out the distribution policy for the rural areas at the present stage, we shall make “Left” deviationist mistakes.
The growth and spread of capitalism can be prevented only by restricting bourgeois right in the existing commodity system. Commodity production in our country is carried out under the unified leadership of the state economic plan to meet the needs of the state and labouring people. But commodities as such still contain the contradiction between their use-value and value, the law of value is still operative and money remains the medium of commodity exchange. If no restriction is imposed on bourgeois right in respect to the commodity system and exchange through money, the bourgeoisie and capitalism will still be engendered. It is for the purpose of plugging the loopholes in commodity economy giving rise to capitalism that we stress bringing the production and exchange of commodities into the orbit of the state plan and putting finance and the economy under the unified management and supervision of the state, giving full scope to state-owned commerce’s leading role and doing a good job of planned supply and normal circulation of commodities, and making earnest efforts to strengthen the leadership and management of trade carried out at rural fairs.
Lenin pointed out: “Without comprehensive state accounting and control of the production and distribution of goods, the power of the working people, the freedom of the working people, cannot be maintained, and ... a return to the yoke of capitalism is inevitable.” (The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government.) This is exactly how things stand. If and when we give up restricting bourgeois right in the commodity system, revisionists and those deeply imbued with capitalist ideas will disobey the state plan in departments and units under their control and go in for capitalist management by “putting profits in command.” They will make a big effort if there are large profits, little effort in the case of small profits and no effort at all when there are no profits. This way of doing things will lead to the supply of certain commodities being short or in excess of demand, with the result that social production and social needs contradict each other. Taking advantage of such a “breach” between supply and demand, some persons with capitalist ideas will, actually making use of each other in the name of mutual support, arbitrarily draw upon state and collective funds, equipment and products to exchange goods and buy state-controlled materials through illegal channels. In carrying out such so-called “co-operation,” they will not hesitate to engage in underhand dealings such as feathering their own nests at the expense of the public interest, embezzlement, graft, theft and speculation. Some people may even introduce the capitalist principle of the exchange of commodities into the political life of the Party and state and turn the relations between people into those of “naked self-interest” and “callous ‘cash payment’.” (Marx and Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party.)
If a unit should go that far, socialism would metamorphose into capitalism under which the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie would be exercised. If we do not persist in imposing proper restrictions on bourgeois right in the commodity system, we will commit Right opportunist errors. On the other hand, on no account should we negate the historical role of the commodity economy in socialist society just because its existence involves the possibility of engendering capitalism, and call for the immediate abolition of production and exchange of commodities, the small plots farmed by commune members for their personal needs and the limited household side-line production as well as trade conducted at rural fairs under state leadership. As a matter of fact, those who put forward such ‘Left’ slogans as “abolishing commodities” were none other than Liu Shao-chi, Lin Piao, Chen Po-ta and their like who clung to the reactionary programme for restoring capitalism.
Gradually reducing the three major differences is one of the conditions to be created in which it is impossible for a new bourgeoisie to arise. The opposition between workers and peasants, between town and country and between mental and manual labour was the result of thousands of years of private ownership and an indispensable condition by which the reactionary ruling classes oppressed and exploited the labouring people and consolidated and developed private economy. Compared with the state of opposition between town and country in the old society, these differences have been greatly reduced in socialist society as a result of the conversion of private ownership of the means of production to public ownership. This notwithstanding, it is still an objective fact that industry is more advanced than agriculture, the cities are more modernized than the countryside and mental workers are in a better position than manual workers. Moreover, the ideology of bourgeois right which reflects these three major differences still corrodes people’s minds. Some people attach importance to industry while disdaining agriculture, others are so enamoured with city life that they are unwilling to go to the countryside, still others regard themselves head and shoulders above others and despise physical labour and the labouring people once they acquire cultural and technical knowledge, thinking they are entitled to some special position and treatment. All these are nothing but manifestations of the influence of the ideology of bourgeois right.
An important task in continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat is to gradually reduce the differences between workers and peasants, between town and country and between mental and manual labour until their final elimination. Chairman Mao and the Party Central Committee have issued the call that the whole Party should go in for agriculture and that industry and all other trades should give substantial support to agriculture so as to gradually bring about its modernization; they have also called on the vast numbers of cadres, workers, peasants, commercial workers, students and soldiers, to take the May 7th road, urged the cadres to take part in collective productive labour and the educated young people to settle in the rural areas, and initiated the socialist revolution in the spheres of education, health and literature and art so that working people can master intellectual work and intellectuals can integrate with the working people. These are revolutionary measures taken to gradually reduce the three major differences. The fulfilment of this task requires arduous efforts for a long time to come. If these differences are not reduced but extended without limit, the worker-peasant alliance will inevitably be undermined, town and country will be seriously opposed to each other, the working class will lose its reliable ally, and a handful of bourgeois intellectual aristocrats will be engendered monopolizing the cultural, educational and other undertakings in society whereby they proceed to look for economic and political privileges. This will then be followed by a recurrence of the bygone situation when industry exploited agriculture, cities plundered the countryside and mental workers ruled over manual workers. If we do not look at the problem in this way, we are liable to commit Right deviationist errors. However, it should be noted that the three major differences can only be eliminated step by step, which requires a process taking a long period of time and calls for the creation of material and ideological conditions; it is impossible to try to solve this problem all at once. Attention shiould be paid to guarding against such sentiments which are divorced from reality.
On the question of how to deal with bourgeois right, our Party waged an extremely sharp and intense struggle against Liu Shao-chi and Lin Plao, chieftains of the revisionist line, in the 25 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It is therefore very instructive and beneficial to us to review and sum up in earnest the historical experience gained in this period. From 1949 until 1956 the struggle was focused on the question of retaining or abolishing the private ownership of the means of production. Liu Shao-chi raised such slogans as “exploitation has its merits” and “consolidating the new-democratic order” and prattled that “hiring labour and farming on one’s own should be allowed to take their own course” and “should not be restricted.” Lin Piao on his part had notices put up giving the green light to the “four freedoms” (freedom to practise usury, hire labour, buy and sell land and engage in private enterprises) in that area under his leadership. Their programme and slogans were diametrically opposed to the spirit of Chairman Mao’s report to the Second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. This shows their mortal fear and hatred for the socialist revolution; what they followed was the bourgeois motto that “private property is sacrosanct.”
After a series of struggles under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the guidance of the Party’s general line for the entire transitional period, we had by 1956 basically abolished bourgeois right as far as the ownership of the means of production is concerned, though we had not yet completely abolished it. Following the rectification campaign and the struggle against the Rightists in 1957, the broad masses of the people who had broken down blind faith and emancipated their minds began pounding hard at all decadent ideology and other incongruous parts of the superstructure. Speaking highly of the masses revolutionary enthusiasm, Chairman Mao said with elation in Introducing a Co-operative: “The communist spirit is growing apace throughout the country.” “Never before have the masses of the people been so inspired, so militant and so daring as at present.” Expressing the revolutionary demands of the masses in a concentrated form, he explicitly pointed to the need of doing away with the ideology of bourgeois right. Out of their counter-revolutionary nature of the landlord and capitalist classes, Liu Shao-chi and his gang, however, held on to bourgeois right like grim death. The big polemics on restricting or upholding bourgeois right carried on in the newspapers and periodicals at that time constituted an important aspect of the struggle between Chairman Mao’s proletarian revolutionary line and Liu Shao-chi’s revisionist line. After the “bourgeois limitation” (Marx: Critique of the Gotha Programme) had been broken through by the masses’ revolutionary actions, Liu Shao-chi and his followers changed their tactics and took on a “Left” appearance, crying for the immediate abolition of commodity production and the law of value. Showing their true colours again in 1962, they came up with their sinister wares such as san zi yi bao (i.e., the extension of plots for private use, the extension of free markets, the increase of small enterprises with sole responsibility for their own profits or losses, and the fixing of farm output quotas for individual households with each on its own) and “putting profits in command,” in a vain attempt to restore bourgeois right which had already been abolished with regard to the system of ownership. It was only after repeated trials of strength culminating in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution that their criminal schemes were smashed to pieces.
As representatives of the old and new bourgeoisie, Lin Piao and his gang, however, jumped out in frenzied opposition to the revolutionary measures taken by our Party to restrict bourgeois right under the dictatorship of the proletariat. They maliciously attacked a host of socialist new things which are pounding away at bourgeois right, slandering revolutionary cadres taking the May 7th road as “unemployment in a disguised form” and smearing educated young people settling in the countryside as “reform through forced labour in a disguised form,” and so on. From Outline of Project “571,” which was their programme for a counter-revolutionary coup, it can be clearly seen that in doing their utmost to preserve and extend bourgeois right, they vainly tried to use the soil it provided to foster a bunch of new bourgeois elements as their “basic force” to carry out counter-revolutionary restorationist activities. Though the Lin Piao anti-Party clique had met its doom, its social basis has not yet completely disappeared. Representatives of new bourgeois elements like Lin Piao still will arise. This requires us Communist Party members and revolutionary cadres, and leading cadres at all levels in particular, to follow Chairman Mao’s teachings to “do more reading of Marxist-Leninist works” and conscientiously study and have a good grasp of the Marxist theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat, so as to give a scientific interpretation and theoretical explanation of the economic, political, cultural and other problems in socialist society. Only in this way can we, in accordance with the Party’s line and policies, guard against and overcome all kinds of erroneous tendencies and carry the great struggle to restrict bourgeois right and rake out the soil engendering the bourgeoisie through to the end.
(Translation of an article in “Hongqi,”
No. 4, 1975. Subheads are ours. [Peking Review’s])
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