Li Jie: The Successes of Mao Zedong in Exploring the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics May Not Be Written Off.
Originally published on 16 September
[Core Summary] The Chinese Communist Party members with Mao Zedong as representative have explored the path of constructing Chinese Socialism, this is an important and inseparable component part of the scientific structure of Mao Zedong Thought, it is the continuation and development of the first historical leap of the Sinification in Marxism after the foundation of the New China, and is an ideological driver and source of wisdom for the Chinese Communist Party to incessantly conduct theoretical innovation in a new era of reform, opening up and modernization construction.
After Mao Zedong passed away, ‘de-Maoization’ thinking trends emerged now and then, which mainly manifested themselves in three ways. First, there was wilfully describing the mistakes that Mao made in the process of exploration as “evil crimes”. For example, because the major policy mistakes of the “Great Leap Forward” and the People’s Commune movement resulted in grave difficulties and the situation of famine occurred, it is described as an intentional act “treating human life as if worth less than straw”. Second, there was the Western “power struggle” theory which distorted and oversimplified the Party’s history, the Yan’an Rectification, the Gaorao incident and even the mistaken criticism of Peng Dehuai at the Lushan Conference, the case of injustice against Liu Shaoqi during the “Cultural Revolution”, etc., are all said to be part of an intra-Party struggle by Mao Zedong for the sake of “individual power”. Third, there was the wilful obliteration of the achievements of the Socialist revolution and construction obtained under the leadership of Mao Zedong, it described the new China under the leadership of Mao Zedong as completely black, and devoid of any merit.
Against this background of ‘de-Maoization’ thinking trends, in fact, it is the thinking trend of historical nihilism that has been in vogue for the law few years that is haunting us. Historical nihilism thinking trends fly the manner of “rethinking history”, they especially collect the history of mistakes made by our Party to make a big fuss. Under their pens, the main themes and strands of recent Chinese historical developments disappear, and are replaced by a period of so-called “retrograde development history” in which the present isn’t as good as the past and even not as good as again becoming a colony of Western powers; the image of Mao Zedong as a most magnificent national hero and leader of the people in recent Chinese history disappears, and is superseded by a “feudal autocratic despot” who is seemingly even more ruthless than the Qin Emperor. This, it can be seen that what they want to vitiate is the spine and spirit of the Chinese nation, and are the prides and hopes of the Chinese nation.
The Qing Dynasty thinker Gong Zizhen said it well: “If you wish to know the Great Way, you must first know history”. Conversely, “to annihilate a country of men you must first remove its history”. Thus it can be understood that ‘de-Maoization’ absolutely is not a question of history, but a question of a historical view. A historical view is the concrete reflection of the value concept of a nation, an era and a country. It involves the basic issue of national ideological construction, and is a fundamental issue in constructing the Socialist core value system. Which kind of historical view there is, such kind of value view there is as well. Speaking ill of historical persons, historical phenomena and historical events directly influence the value judgment about related present people, phenomena and events. We must absolutely fully understand, from the height of constructing the Socialist core value system, the importance of establishing a Marxist historical view and conduct corresponding education among the people.
In order to achieve the objective of ‘de-Maoization’, some people also go after his image, they cut it apart from history, and concoct the slogan “Mao Zedong has not contributed in the slightest to Socialism with Chinese characteristics”, this is clearly contrary to historical fact. China has progressively explored and marched its own path of Socialist contribution, and this was begun by the Chinese Communist Party with Mao Zedong as representative. When discussing the starting point of the exploration of a Chinese path of Socialist construction, people naturally may think of 1956. In fact, before then, that exploration had already begun. Its results are concretely reflected in the first Constitution of the republic in 1954, and are reflected in the Socialist institutional structure that was established through the Three Great Socialist Transformations
For example, in the political system, the most important is the People’s Congress system. The 1954 Constitution clearly provides that: “the People’s Republic of China is a people’s democratic country led by the working class and with the union between workers and peasants as a basis.” “All power within the People’s Republic of China belongs to the people. The organs in which the people exercise power is the National People’s Congress and all local levels’ People’s Congresses.” This not only clarified the nature of the republic, but also established the People’s Congress system that was different from the Soviet Union Soviet Congress system in fundamental institutional terms. Furthermore, there is the multi-party cooperation under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the Consultative Conference system. As early as 1949, the “Common Programme” it formulated provided that: “Representatives of the Chinese Communist Party, all democratic parties, all people’s organizations, all localities, the People’s Liberation Army, all ethnicities, all overseas Chinese and other patriotic and democratic elements compose the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which is the organizational form of the people’s democratic united front.” In this way, the multi-party cooperation under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the Consultative Conference system were born together with the new China, and continued as China entered into a Socialist society, becoming a basic system that has continued for a long time. Furthermore, there is the ethnic autonomous region system. The 1954 Constitution provides that: “The People’s Republic of China is a unified, multi-ethnic country.” “Regional autonomy is implemented in all localities inhabited by ethnic minorities. All ethnic autonomous localities are inseparable parts of the People’s Republic of China.” This established the ethnic autonomous region system which is fundamentally different from the Soviet Union federal system.
All of the above are political structures which have unique characteristics and are rich in innovation compared with the Soviet Union and various other Socialist countries at that time, they are the institutional crystallization of China’s new democratic revolution and the result of the Socialist revolution.
The exploration of the path to construct Socialism in China by the Chinese Communist Party with Mao Zedong as representative is an inseparable and important component part of the scientific structure of Mao Zedong Thought, is an inheritance and development of the first historical leap of the Sinification of Marxism after the establishment of the new China, it is an ideological driver and source of wisdom for incessant theoretical innovation by the Chinese Communist Party during a new era of reform, opening up and modernization construction. As Hu Jintao pointed out in the 17th Party Congress Report: “We must forever remember that the magnificent undertaking of reform and opening up is conducted on the basis of Mao Zedong thought, which was collectively established by the first generation Party leadership with Comrade Mao Zedong at the core, which lead the entire Party and the people of all ethnicities in establishing the New China, and has obtained magnificent achievements in the Socialist revolution and construction as well as precious experience through the hardships of exploring the laws of Socialist construction.
At the same time, we must also consider that, just as with all great thinkers, Mao Zedong’s arduous exploration of the path of Chinese Socialist construction was limited by the times and history. This is mainly reflected in two aspects: first, even though he put forward the historical task that we must explore our own Socialist development path, reflecting a high level of consciousness in theoretical innovation, and began to have its own characteristics in many aspects, in economic structural terms, he was unable to break through the restrictions of traditional Socialism, and those structures having Chinese characteristics could either not be continuously perfected or could not be sustained very well because of incessant “leftist” attacks. Second, after the second half of 1957, the mistaken tendency of the expansion of class struggle began to develop, the 8th Party Congress’ correct judgment on the main domestic social contradictions was fundamentally overthrown, and this was experienced several times, and in the end, after the 10th Plenum of the 8th Party Congress in September 1962, the Party’s guiding ideology of “taking class struggle as the key link occupied the guiding position, which finally resulted in the start of the “Cultural Revolution”, and evolved into “internal chaos started by leaders’ blunders, used by counterrevolutionary factions, and bringing grave disaster to the Party, the country and the people of all ethnicities.” Essentially realizing that Chinaese Socialism made the great historical shift from a highly concentrated planned economic structure into a Socialist market economy brimming with vitality, and from “taking class struggle as the key link” into putting economic construction at the centre, is historically placed on the shoulders of the Chinese Communist Party members with Deng Xiaoping as representative, and thus a new era of reform, opening up and modernization construction began from there, which initiated the second historical leap of the Sinification of Marxism.
(The author is a vice-head of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the head of the Modern China Research Department)