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Special> CPC Celebrates 90th Anniversary 1921-2011> Previous Covers> 1970s
UPDATED: June 30, 2011 NO. 47, 1973
Democratic Centralism in Party Committees

The new Party Constitution adopted by the Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China clearly stipulates that "the organizational principle of the Party is democratic centralism." In both of their reports to the congress, Comrades Chou En-lai and Wang Hung-wen stressed that Party committees at all levels must practise and better apply democratic centralism. Carrying out democratic centralism seriously in the spirit of the Tenth Party Congress is a matter all Party committees should pay constant attention to in building up the Party. This is of great importance in strengthening the Party's centralized leadership and implementing Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line still better.

That the organizational principle of democratic centralism must be followed is determined by our Party's correct political line and is necessary for carrying it out. The political line formulated for our Party by our great leader Chairman Mao scientifically elucidates the objective law governing social development and represents the will and fundamental interests of the proletariat and the broad masses of the people. To implement Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line, it is necessary to bring out the initiative of the whole Party and lead the masses to make concerted efforts. Ours is a big Party which has a membership of 28 million and which is giving leadership to the hundreds of millions of people of all nationalities in our country in carrying out the great task of socialist revolution and socialist construction. A large country like ours coupled with a big Party membership, however, entails a greater number of problems. Only by practising democratic centralism, letting everyone speak out and express his views and bringing into full play their wisdom and initiative and at the same time effecting a correct centralization on the basis of democracy and laying down strict discipline to achieve unity in thinking and action can we implement Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line well and seize one new victory after another. Historical experience tells us that to uphold or oppose democratic centralism is an important question in the inner-Party struggle between the two lines. As seen from the ten major two-line struggles in the history of our Party, all the chieftains of the opportunist lines - from Chen Tu-hsiu, Wang Ming, Peng Teh-huai, Kao Kang and Liu Shao-chi to Lin Piao - frantically undermined the Party's democratic centralism. Their pursuance of opportunist lines in total betrayal of Marxism-Leninism and the fundamental interests of the proletariat and the revolutionary people could not stand the light of day. In the presence of proletarian democracy, they could not conceal themselves and their counter-revolutionary features were clearly exposed. With centralization on the basis of democracy as well as unified discipline for the whole Party, they could not possibly succeed in splitting the Party and all their conspiracies and intrigues met with complete bankruptcy. The criminal aim of the Lin Piao anti-Party clique in doing everything possible to undermine the Party's democratic centralism was to usurp the supreme power of the Party and the state, change the Party's line and policies, subvert the dictatorship of the proletariat and restore capitalism. From the struggle to smash this clique we have arrived at a deeper understanding that democratic centralism is closely linked with the Party's political line. By conscientiously carrying out democratic centralism, Party committees at all levels will be able to carry through the basic principle "Practise Marxism, and not revisionism; unite, and don't split; be open and aboveboard, and don't intrigue and conspire" put forward by Chairman Mao.

Give Full Play to Democracy

Chairman Mao has pointed out: "In the present great struggle, the Chinese Communist Party demands that all its leading bodies and all its members and cadres should give the fullest expression to their initiative, which alone can ensure victory. This initiative must be demonstrated concretely in the ability of the leading bodies, the cadres and the Party rank and file to work creatively, in their readiness to assume responsibility, in the exuberant vigour they show in their work, in their courage and ability to raise questions, voice opinions and criticize defects, and in the comradely supervision that is maintained over the leading bodies and the leading cadres. Otherwise, 'initiative' will be an empty thing. But the exercise of such initiative depends on the spread of democracy in Party life. It cannot be brought into play if there is not enough democracy in Party life." (The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War.) This teaching of Chairman Mao's profoundly indicates that democracy in Party life is an important condition for bringing the initiative of the whole Party into play. Our Party members and cadres are imbued with extremely great enthusiasm and initiative in implementing Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line. By developing democracy to the full in Party committees which constantly discuss how the Party's line is being carried out, favourable conditions will be created for each of their members to have a chance to voice opinions. This will enable all the members to increase their sense of responsibility, be concerned with the Party's line, give full play to their own initiative and creativeness and set an example by deeds.

When Party committees develop democracy fully and let all express their views fully on problems under discussion, when they "let all people have their say" and do not "let one person alone have the say," they will be able to avoid or reduce one-sidedness, do their work better, handle problems and take decisions more correctly and thus prevent or reduce mistakes in matters of line. This is because "people always examine and handle problems and express their views in the light of their own experience, and unavoidably they sometimes show a little one-sidedness." (Speech at the Chinese Communist Party's National Conference on Propaganda Work.) As class struggle and the two-line struggle in the socialist period are sharp and complex, it is difficult for Party committees, no matter what the level, to demand that each of their members be free from any one-sidedness in studying and handling problems. Chairman Mao has said: "To fulfil its task of exercising leadership, a Party committee must rely on its 'squad members' and enable them to play their parts to the full." (Methods of Work of Party Committees.) By "letting all people have their say," relying on the "squad members" [meaning all members] of a Party committee and enabling them to fully air their views when discussing problems and then making a comparison and analysis - this will help the Party committee enhance its cognitive ability, correctly size up the situation of class struggle, clearly see the orientation and distinguish right from wrong, so as to better implement Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line and improve their art of leadership.

When problems are discussed, the Party committees should not be afraid of the many opinions expressed, for this is not a bad but a good phenomenon. Indeed, it is bad if everyone keeps silent. "The law of contradiction in things, that is, the law of the unity of opposites, is the basic law of materialist dialectics." (On Contradiction.) All things exist in contrast with one another and they develop through struggle. When everyone is allowed to speak out, what is said is bound to be correct, incorrect or utterly wrong. However, after serious and full, instead of perfunctory and hasty discussion, what is correct can be promoted, what is one-sided and imperfect supplemented and perfected and what is wrong corrected. The process of discussion with everyone voicing opinions is one of achieving unity in thinking among the "squad members" of a Party committee and also one of effecting correct centralization on the basis of democracy. Unanimity among "squad members" is realized in the course of unifying the different opinions of all the members. There will be no real unanimity in thinking without such a process. All comrades on a Parly committee must be good at using, the Marxist-viewpoint to analyse different views and must listen to all words, nice or nasty, right or wrong. When something wrong is said, it helps us to make comparisons and differentiate right from wrong, and call our attention to guarding against certain tendencies and strengthening ideological work. This is all to the good.

Chairman Mao has pointed out: "Only in an atmosphere of democracy can large. numbers of able people be brought forward." (The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War.) Applying democratic centralism in earnest in Party committees is also of great significance in raising their members' consciousness of the two-line struggle and bringing up successors to the proletarian revolutionary cause. Now that all Party committees are made up of the old, the middle-aged and the young, this is an important manifestation that our Party's cause is prospering. Among the "squad members" of a Party committee, the three categories of cadres have their own strong points. Constant study and discussion of major issues related to class struggle and the two-line struggle in an atmosphere of inner-Party democracy is helpful to all members using their heads and giving full play to their strong points and enables them to learn from one another's strong points and overcome their own shortcomings and advance together in the course of studying and discussing problems. With democracy in Party life, the new cadres who have come to the fore in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the movement to criticize Lin Piao and rectify the style of work can better display their vigorous revolutionary spirit of daring to think and speak out and constantly increase their ability, while the veteran cadres who have been tempered through long years of revolutionary struggle and have rich experience in class struggle and the two-line struggle can play their role to the full, passing on their experience to the new cadres and helping them mature quickly while learning from their strong points. Since in this way each Party committee member is being constantly tempered and making progress in inner-Party democratic life, there is a better guarantee for the implementation of Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line.

Strengthen Party Centralization

Chairman Mao has taught us: "The Communist Party not only needs democracy but needs centralization even more." (Rectify the Party's Style of Work.) Fundamentally speaking, to develop democracy, extend democracy in the Party and "let all people have their say" are aimed at achieving still better centralization, that is, unifying the "squad members' " thinking and action under Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line and enabling them to work in unison in leading the revolutionary masses to strive to fulfil the tasks set by the Party. Putting democracy into practice without centralization and unity is aimless. In practising democratic centralism, therefore, it is essential to strengthen Party centralization on the basis of democracy. A Party committee's "squad members" must observe the unified discipline for the whole Party, namely, "the individual is subordinate to the organization, the minority is subordinate to the majority, the lower level is subordinate to the higher level, and the entire Party is subordinate to the Central Committee." They must consciously safeguard the decisions made by the collective which conform to Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line. When discussing problems, all Party committee members should voice their opinions. And all members should carry out the decisions made after collective discussion and, in the course of implementation, they should give play to their initiative and creativeness and assume responsibility of their own accord. All of them, secretaries and members alike, must not take it upon themselves to revise the decisions made by Party committees and go their own way according to their own will. Our Party is one that has discipline. If everyone only wants others to listen to his views and does not carry out the decisions made by the collective, if one only wants the initiative of the individual and renounces unified action, if one only puts stress on the work charged to him and does not take into consideration the overall work, he is liable to sink into mountain-stronghold mentality and sectarianism and will undermine the centralization and unity of the Party. If this is the case, how can Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line be carried through? "Discipline is the guarantee for the implementation of the line," "whoever violates these articles of discipline disrupts Party unity." We must keep these teachings of Chairman Mao's firmly in mind and constantly heighten our sense of the Party's discipline.

So long as Party committees carry out democratic centralism, strengthen collective leadership and persevere in the mass line, they will be able, under the leadership of the Party Central Committee headed by Chairman Mao, to bring into full play their leading role as vanguards of the proletariat and carry out the Party's centralized leadership even better. In his report on the revision of the Party Constitution, Comrade Wang Hung-wen pointed out: "Organizationally, the Party's centralized leadership should be given expression in two respects: First, as regards the relationship between various organizations at the same level, of the seven sectors - industry, agriculture, commerce, culture and education, the army, the government and the Party - it is the Party that exercises overall leadership; the Party is not parallel to the others and still less is it under the leadership of any other. Second, as regards the relationship between higher and lower levels, the lower level is subordinate to the higher level, and the entire Party is subordinate to the Central Committee," As far as the relationship between Party committees and other organizations at the same level is concerned, only by practising democratic centralism and achieving unity in thinking, policy, plan, command and action on the basis of Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line can the Party committees shoulder the responsibility of giving leadership to all other sectors and correctly exercise their power of leadership. As regards subordination to the leadership of the Central Committee and Party committees at higher levels, it is also by practising democratic centralism that there will be effective guarantees for the thorough implementation of the line, principles and policies laid down by the Central Committee and the directives and decisions of the Party committees at higher levels. Nothing will come of the Party's centralized leadership if Party committees do not carry out democratic centralism, that is to say, if they let only one, two or a few people have the final say with the result that the "squad members" do not think alike and march in step but go their own way.

Chairman Mao has said: "A secretary or deputy secretary will find it difficult to direct his 'squad' well if he does not take care to do propaganda and organizational work among his own 'squad members,' is not good at handling his relations with committee members or does not study how to run meetings successfully." (Methods of Work of Party Committees.) To carry out democratic centralism well, it is necessary for "squad leaders" to do much patient and painstaking work. They must be good at looking into matters related to the "squad members" and pay attention to bringing into play each member's strong points, while they themselves work in a democratic way. Only when "squad leaders" have a democratic style of work and give full play to each member's initiative can they unite people "from all corners of the country" and "let all people have their say," and the whole squad is united in implementing Chairman Mao's proletarian revolutionary line and "leading tens of millions of people in fighting and construction."

Remould World Outlook

The Tenth Party Congress called on us to criticize revisionism and the bourgeois world outlook. This is of great importance for practising democratic centralism well. Whether a Party committee practises democratic centralism well or not is always closely linked with the world outlook of the "squad members." Only when a Party member has established the proletarian world outlook and always gives first place to the interests of the Party and the revolution can he, in an atmosphere of democracy in Party life, dare to express his views on cardinal issues of right and wrong concerning the line and, proceeding from the Party's interests, voice criticism and make suggestions about shortcomings and problems in work, taking a clear-cut stand and not mincing words. Only thus can he correctly handle the relationship between the individual and the organization, between the minority and the majority and between the lower and higher levels, and consciously safeguard the unity of the Party committee and carry out its decisions. On the other hand, the bourgeois world outlook is incompatible with democratic centralism. Those with such a world outlook cannot take a correct attitude towards democracy in Party life, nor can they observe the Party's discipline. More often than not they speak and deal with problems out of self-interest and in the light of personal loss and gain, and place themselves in an improper position, asking others to respect them while showing no respect for others. They are afraid of assuming responsibility and being at variance with others. Faint-hearted in upholding what is right and correcting what is wrong, they take the attitude of "being worldly wise and playing safe" and "saying as little as possible." With all these drawbacks, the Party's democratic centralism is out of the question. While putting democratic centralism into practice, all Party committees should make it a process of remoulding the world outlook of their "squad members." They must see to it that each and every person reads and studies conscientiously in the light of what is on their minds and consciously uses the stand, viewpoint and method of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought to look at and handle problems.

(Slightly abridged translation of an article published in Hongqi, No. 10, 1973. Subheads are ours.)

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