Develop Socialist Democracy, Complete the Socialist Rule of Law

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Peng Zhen
22 July 1982

I have come to attend this meeting, in order to congratulate the establishment of the Law Society of China. Old Yang (Comrade Yang Xiufeng) wants me to speak, what should I speak about?

I, I hope that the Law Society, as Old Yang said, persists in the Four Cardinal Principles and contributes to the development of Socialist democracy as well as the completion of the Socialist legal system.

Persisting in the Four Cardinal Principles is not a problem in words, but in fact, not everyone understands matters in a consistent way. Are the Four Cardinal Principles only a theory, are they only one of the “hundred schools contending”? They are not, the Four Cardinal principles have been put forward by the CCP Central Committee, but they are no baseless imaginings, they are the summary of the experiences of our country in the 20th Century, they are the basic principles that our country’s history has summarized itself, and a are a truth tested in social practice. I won’t talk about faraway things, since the 20th Century, China has seen at least four great, earth-shattering events. The first was the Xinhai Revolution, led by Sun Yat-sen, which overthrew the feudal imperial system and established the Republic of China. But the fruits of the revolution were usurped by reactionary forces. The second event was the overthrow of the three large mountains [Note: imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism] that pushed down the heads of the Chinese people, and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. Who led this event to completion? The bourgeoisie? The enlightened gentry? Or some other hero? None of those. It was under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party with Comrade Mao Zedong at the head, it was the working class that led the people in the entire country to obtain this. The third was the abolition of the exploiting system. In the early days after the foundation of the nation, bureaucratic capital was confiscated, which disposed of 80% of capitalism. Through land reform, the feudal exploiting system was abolished. The Three Great Socialist Transformations of the ownership of the means of production abolished the exploiting system in which people ate people for millennia. The fourth event was the establishment of an independent, relatively complete and Socialist industrial basis and national economic structure. Before liberation, our country was agricultural, it was a place where raw materials were produced for colonialist and imperialist countries, and a sales market for capitalist goods. At that time, it couldn’t even produce on car, it only produced 200.000 tonnes of oil and only 40-something million tonnes of coal, it could not produce accurate, large machine tools, just this was the industrial basis at that time. Regardless of how many complications we underwent in just over thirty years, now we not only can produce cars and aircraft, we have also produced guided missiles and nuclear weapons. Now, our annual production of oil is 100 million tonnes, 600 million tonnes of coal, and more than 2,8 million machine tools of a relatively complete variety, this is not a little in comparison with various countries worldwide. The fruit of our more than thirty years of arduous struggle is that we now have a firm industrial basis with which we can equip ourselves. This great event is not some proposition of an academic school, but an iron fact. The facts are most convincing and most persuasive. History and practice demonstrate that we must persist in the Four Cardinal Principles. If it would not persist in the Four Cardinal Principles, where would China go? By persisting in the Four Cardinal Principles, our path will be promising and firm, the further we march, the wider it will become, regardless of whichever difficulty we encounter, we will certainly be able to overcome it, and will certainly be able to realize the Four Modernization of Socialism.

Old Yang said that we must contribute to carrying Socialist democracy forward and completing the Socialist legal system. Carrying Socialist democracy forward naturally does not mean capitalist democracy; completing the Socialist legal system naturally does not mean building a capitalist legal system; and it certainly is not that legalist stuff. Legalism and Confucianism are all feudal. What we must have is a Chinese Socialist legal system. What is Socialism? The abolition of the feudal system, the establishment of the Socialist public ownership system, the implementation of allocation according to labour, the implementation of the planned economy and the construction of a Socialist spiritual civilization. The abolition of the exploiting system is a fundamental symbol. Naturally, economic crimes still take place in our country, there still is covert exploitation, smuggling, corruption bribe-taking and all sorts of economic crimes are in essence covert forms of exploitation, but our country’s exploiting system has been abolished. In our country, smuggling, corruption and taking bribes are criminal acts in our country, they are not economic systems.

The main work of the Law Society is persisting in the Four Cardinal Principles, and contributing to the development of Socialist democracy and the completion of the Socialist legal system.

II, Theory must link up with reality. What good are social science and legal scholarship if they don’t link up with reality? As long as personal hobbies are harmless for the people, anything can be researched. But the research work of the Law Society must link up with reality? What is linking up with reality? It means starting from the real situation of China, summarizing our own experiences and lessons, and finding the development rules of China’s own society. At the same time, these must also be used in reality.

Is research work now linked to reality? Not necessarily. Some of it starts from Greece or Rome, some starts from viewpoints from the European Renaissance era and the Enlightenment era, starts from books, or starts from concepts. Every country as a national ruling ideology, every person has his own individual ideas, but there is only one objective reality. Social practice is the sole criterion to test truth. Start from reality, use reality to test matters, and it will be easy to distinguish whether individual ideas are correct or not. In this way, there are objective standards, if everyone starts from reality, and everyone uses social practice as a test, it will be easy to unite the thoughts of legal circles.

III, We must draw beneficial experiences and lessons from the past, the present, China and the outside world, this is very important. China is a large country, Yelang thought too highly of itself, it is not good for large countries to think too highly of themselves. In the early days after the foundation of the nation, all of imperialism blockaded our country, what should be done? Closing the doors and cleaning the house, the vestiges of the Three Great Enemies were swept away. It was in that period that we also researched the experiences of various countries worldwide. When the Constitution was formulated in 1954, the Constitutions of all countries worldwide were researched. Now, the situation has changed, we have established diplomatic relations and mutual contacts with more than 120 countries and regions. Research and legal scholarship must absorb the beneficial experiences of the past, the present, China and the outside world. We must not believe that in the millennia when China was a feudal society, there was nothing in legal scholarship. Our ancient laws bring rich experiences, there are many laws from the Spring and Autumn periods and the Warring states era to the Ming and the Qing, but these are merely feudal experiences, they must be researched, their dregs discarded and their useful quintessence absorbed. What good is researching laws from China’s past or foreign countries? Does that mean running after them? It does not. We must “use the past for the present” and “use the foreign for China”, we must serve China’s Socialist democracy and Socialist legal system. What is good for Chinese Socialism is to be absorbed, the dregs and poison must be discarded and criticized. This is different from pragmatism, we have the Four Cardinal Principles as a symbol of the objective laws of historical development. The Law Society must research old, new, Chinese and foreign laws, regardless of whether they are progressive, centrist or reactionary, regardless of whether they stem from slave owners, feudalism, or capitalism, they must all be researched, their useful essence must be selected, and their dregs and poison discarded.

IV, What is legal scholarship? It is the superstructure. It is decided by the economic base, and conversely serves the economic base. Society develops, the economic base develops, and law must develop in their wake. A capitalist society has become a Socialist society, law must also develop following this change. But legal scholarship has its own independent structure and its own logic. Legislation must start from reality, but must also have its own legal system, there can be no mutual contradictions from front to back and from left to right. It cannot be the case that we should rashly draft some law because of a brainwave that there should be some law.

These two seem to be two things. If both would not be consistent, what should be done? In this regard, I’m afraid that the thoughts of legal circles are not completely consistent. Is it law that should submit to reality, or reality that should submit to the law? Who is the mother, who is the child? Reality is the mother. Reality creates law, law and legal theory are the child. Law has its own independent structure, and it has its own logic, but it must start from social reality and be tested through social practice. If law is not suited to reality and the needs of Social development, it must be studied and revised. Legal revision drafts start from reality, this is the summary of more than thirty years of positive and negative experiences in our country, it has also absorbed the experiences of other countries, but also has its own system and logic, these cannot be mutually contradictory. Are matters to be understood in this way? The comrades are requested to consider this.

















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