Liu Shaoqi

How to Be a Good Communist

VII. Examples of Wrong Ideology in the Party

In the light of what has been said, we can see that if an understanding of communism and a correct correlation between personal and Party interests are taken as the standard for evaluating Party members and cadres, many measure up to it and can serve as models, but some do not yet measure up to this standard and still have various wrong ideas to some degree or other. It may not be amiss if I outline these wrong ideas for our comrades' attention.

What are fundamentally the wrong ideas to be found among comrades in our Party?

First. The people joining our Party not only differ in in class origin and personal class status but also carry with them aims and motives of every description. Many, of course, join the Party in order to bring about communism and attain the great goal of the emancipation of the proletariat and all mankind, but some do so for other reasons and with other aims. For example, some comrades of peasant background used to think that communism meant "expropriation of local tyrants and distribution of the land". When they first joined, they had no understanding of the real meaning of communism. Today, quite a number of people join the Party chiefly because it is resolute in resisting Japan and advocates the Anti-Japanese National United Front. Others join our ranks because they admire the communist Party for its good reputation or because they realize in a vague way that it can save China. Still others are seeking a future for themselves, chiefly because they have no other way out - they have no fixed occupation, are out of work, lack the means of study, or want to escape from family bondage or forced marriage, etc. A few even join because they count on the Party to get their taxes reduced, or because they hope to "make their mark" some day, or because their relatives or friends have brought them in, etc. Naturally, such comrades do not have a clear-cut and stable communist world outlook, do not understand the greatness of the communist cause and the difficulties besetting it, and lack a firm proletarian stand point. Naturally too, some of them will waver or change somewhat in certain circumstances at certain critical turning points. Since they bring all sorts of ideas with them into the Party, it is most important that they should be educated and should train and temper themselves. Otherwise they cannot become revolutionary fighters of the proletariat.

Nevertheless, there is no terrible problem here. After all, it is not a bad thing that people turn to the Communist Party, enter it seeking a way out of their predicament and approve of its policy. They are not mistaken in coming to us. We welcome them - everyone except for enemy agents, traitors, careerists and ambitious climbers. Provided they accept and are ready to abide by the Party's Programme and Constitution, work in one of the Party's organizations and pay membership dues, they may be admitted into the Communist Party. As for deeping their study and understanding of communism and the Partys Programme and Constitution, they can do so after joining the Party and can temper and train themselves in revolutionary struggle on the basis of what they learn; in this way they have every possibility of becoming very good Communists. Indeed, for most people it is impossible to have a proufound understanding of communism and the Partys Programme and Constitution before joining the Party. That is why we can only prescribe acceptance, and not a thorough understanding of the Partys Programme and Constitution as a condition for admission. Although many people do not have a thorough understanding of communism before joining, it is possible for them to become active fighters in the communist and revolutionary movements of the time. They can become politically conscious Communists provided they study hard after joining the Party. Furthermore, our Party Constitution stipulates that members are free to withdraw form the Party (there is no freedom of admission). Any member is free to notify the Party that he is withdrawing from it if he lacks a profound belief in communism, or cannot live a strict Party life, or for any other reason, and the Party gives him the freedom to withdraw. It will do nothing against him unless he gives away Party secrets or engages in wrecking activities against the Party after he leaves. As for careerists and spies who have wormed their way into the Party, of course they have to be expelled. Only thus can we preserve the purity of our Party.

Second. Fairly strong individualism and selfishness are still to be found in some members of our Party.

The individualism expresses itself as follows. Some people habitually place their personal interests above those of the Party when it comes to practical matters; they are preoccupied with personal gain and loss and always calculate in terms of personal interests; they abuse the public trust, turning their Party work to private advantage of one kind or another; or they attack comrades they dislike and wreak private vengeance, on high-sounding pretexts of principle or Party interests. When it comes to status, material benefits and other questions affecting everyday life, they invariably try to get more than others, compare themselves with those at the top, diligently strive after greater personal benefits and crow when they get them. But when it comes to work, they like to compare themselves with those who are less capable. When there hard hardships to beat they make themselves scarce. In times of danger they want to run away. When it comes to orderlies they always want more. Their living quarters must be of the best, and they want to show off and bask in the Party's glory. They want to grab all the good things of life, but when it comes to the "unpleasant things", they think these are for others. The heads of such people are stuffed with the ideology of the exploiting classes. They believe that "every man is for himself or that Heaven and Earth will destroy him", man is a "selfish animal", and "no one in the world is genuinely unselfish, unless he is a simpleton or an idiot". They even use such exploiting class rubbish to justify their own selfishness and individualism. There are such people in our Party.

This type of self-seeking individualism often manifests itself inside the Party in unprincipled quarrelling, factional struggle, sectarianism and departmentalism; it manifests itself in disrespect for and wilful violation of Party discipline. Most unprincipled struggles originate in personal interests. Those who go in for factional struggle and are given to sectarianism usually place their own individual interests or the interests of a small minority, above those of the Party. Often, in their unprincipled factional struggles they deliberately undermine Party organization and discipline, making unprincipled and sometimes calculated attacks on certain people, while contracting unprincipled friendships to avoid giving offence, to cover up for one another, to sing each other's praises, etc.

Departmentalism within the Party arises chiefly because some comrades only see the interest of the part, i.e., the work of their own department of locality, and fail to see the interests of the whole, i.e., the interests of the entire Party and the work of other departments and localities. Politically and ideologically, this resembles the guild outlook. Not all comrades who make the mistake of departmentalism are necessarily prompted by individualism, but people with an individualist ideology usually make the mistake of departmentalism.

Third. Conceit, the idea of individualistic heroism, ostentatiousness, etc., are still to be found, to a greater or lesser extent, in the minds of quite a few Party comrades.

The first consideration of people with such notions is their position in the Party. They like to show off and to have people sing their praises and flatter them. They are ambitious, they like to cut a dash, to claim credit for themselves and to get the limelight, and they like to keep everything in their own hands and lack a democratic style of work. They are extremely vain and unwilling to immerse themselves in hard work or do routine or technical jobs. They are arrogant, and whenever they accomplish something they throw their weight about, become overbearing and try to domineer, and they do not treat others as equals in a modest and friendly way. They are complacent, talk down to and lecture people and order others about, and they are always trying to tread on people's necks; they do not learn modestly from others, particularly from the masses, and do not accept even well-grounded opinions and criticisms. They can bear promotion but not demotion, they can bear fair weather but not foul, and they cannot bear being misunderstood or wronged. As their baleful yearning for fame has not yet been uprooted they try to dress themselves up as "great men" and "heroes" in the communist movement and stop at nothing to gratify their desire. When they fail to achieve this object, or when they are misunderstood or wronged there is a danger that they will vacillate. Quite a number of people have vacillated and left our Party for such reasons in the course of its history. Exploiting class ideas still linger in the minds of such people, who fail to understand the greatness of the cause of communism and who lack the communist breadth of vision.

Communists must not be in the least complacent or arrogant. Granted that some comrades are very capable, have done some good work and have to their credit considerable achievements which may be reckoned "great" and on which they might well preen themselves (for example, our army comrades who have led thousands and tens of thousands of men in battle and won victories, or the leaders of our Party and mass work in various places who have brought about fairly significant changes in the situation). Yet after all, how great are these achievements compared with the communist cause as a whole?

And for persons with a communist world outlook, what is there worth preening oneself about in these achievements?

For a Communist to do his work properly and well is no more than his duty. He should guard against complacency and arrogance and do his best to make no mistakes, or as few as possible.

What is there in personal position for a Communist to bother about? No one's position is higher than an emperor's, and yet what is an emperor compared with a fighter in the cause of communism? Is he not just "a drop in the ocean" as Comrade Stalin put it? So what is there in personal position worth bothering or bragging about?

Yes, we need countless communist heroes and many mass leaders of great prestige in our Party and in the communist movement. At present we really have too few of them and have yet to train and temper large numbers of good communist revolutionary leaders and heroes in all fields. This is indeed very important for our cause and must not be neglected. Whoever takes it lightly is ignorant of how to advance the cause of communism. Its advancement requires that we should greatly enhance the revolutionary spirit of enterprise among our Party members and bring their vitality into full play. We have to admit that so far we have not done enough in this respect. This is shown, for instance, by the fact that some Party members do not study hard and have little interest in politics and theory. Therefore, while we are opposed to individualistic heroism and ostentatiousness , we are certainly not opposed to a spirit of enterprise in the Party members. The desire to make progress in the interests of the people is the most precious quality in a Communist. But the communist, proletarian spirit of enterprise is entirely different from the individualist "spirit of enterprise". The former means seeking truth, upholding it and fighting for it with the greatest effectiveness. It is progressive and opens up unlimited prospects of development, while the latter offers no prospects even for the individual, for people with an individualist ideology are usually driven by their personal interest into deliberately brushing aside, covering up or distorting the truth.

Our comrades must understand that genuine leaders and heroes in the communist movement are never individualistic, nor are they ever self-styled or self-appointed. Anyone who styles himself a leader or reaches after leadership can never become a leader of the Party. The rank and file of our Party will not make leaders of people who are prone to conceit, individualistic heroism, ostentatiousness, personal ambition and vanity. No member of our Party has any right to demand that the rank and file should support or keep him as a leader. Only those who are entirely selfless and devoted to the Party, only those with an excellent communist morality and fine communist qualities, who have grasped the theory and method of Marxism-Leninism, who have considerable practical ability, who can direct Party work correctly and who study hard and make constant progress can win the trust of the Party and the confidence and support of the rank and file, and so become leaders and heroes in the communist movement.

Our comrades must also understand that a member, or a leader and hero, whoever he may be, can only do part of the work, can only carry part of the responsibility, in the communist movement. The communist cause is an undertaking which requires the collective efforts of tens of millions of people over a long period of time and which cannot be encompassed by any one individual alone. Even such great men as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin could only perform part of the work needed by the communist cause. The cause for which they worked requires the joint effort and sustained labour of tens of millions of us. We ordinary Communists are also doing part of the work of the communist cause and carrying part of the responsibility. Of course, our part is much smaller than that of Marx, Engles, Lenin or Stalin. Nevertheless, we have a small part. Big or small, it is all part of the great cause. Therefore, if only we do our part of the work well, we can consider that we have done our duty. Naturally we should try our best to do more, but if we cannot and can only do a little, that is also useful and just as honourable. In any case, we should at least not hamper the progress of the communist cause, but should do our part, whether big of small, and perform our work well, be it heavy or light; that is the correct attitude for every member of our Party. Comrades who are unwilling to undertake technical work think that it stifles their talents, that it prevents them from becoming famous (actually it does not, as witness the technical worker Stakhanov1 and from giving full play to their abilities and that it kills some of the enterprising spirit which all Communists should have. This view is wrong. Technical work occupies a very important place in our Party work, and comrades engaged in it are doing their share in the communist cause no less than comrades engaged in other jobs. The proper attitude for a Communist is to do whatever work the Party requires of him and do it happily and well, whether it suits his inclinations of not.

Naturally, in assigning work to members, the Party organization and the responsible Party comrades should, as far as possible, take their individual inclinations and aptitudes into consideration, develop their strong points and stimulate their zeal to go forward. However, no Communist must refuse a Party assignment on the grounds of personal preference.

Fourth, A small number of comrades are deeply imbued with the ideology of the exploiting classes. They are usually unscrupulous in dealing with comrades and in handling problems inside the Party, and are utterly devoid of the great and sincere proletarian communist spirit of mutual help and solidarity.

People with this ideology always want to climb over the heads of others in the Party and, to this end, resort to attacking others and doing them harm. They are jealous of those more capable than themselves. They always try to pull down those who are moving ahead of them. They cannot bear playing second fiddle and think only of themselves and never of others. When other comrades are suffering difficulties of setbacks, they gloat or secretly rejoice and have no comradely sympathy at all. They even scheme to injure comrades "drop on one who has fallen into a well", and take advantage of comrades' weaknesses and difficulties to attack and harm them. They "crawl through any crack" and exploit and exacerbate any weakness in Party organization and work for their personal advantage.. They love to stir up trouble in the Party, speak ill of others behind their backs and engage in intrigues in order to sow dissension between comrades. They love to join in any unprincipled dispute that may occur in the Party and take great interest in unprincipled quarrels. They are especially active in stirring up and aggravating such quarrels when the Party is in difficulties. In short, they are thoroughly crooked and lack all integrity. Would it not be absurd to describe such people as being able to grasp the Marxist-Leninist theory and method and give expression to proletarian ideology? It is only too clear that all they express is the ideology of the declining exploiting classes.

All exploiters must do harm to other people in order to expand. To increase their wealth, or to avoid bankruptcy in an economic crisis, bigger capitalists must squeeze many smaller capitalists out of existence and drive countless workers to starvation. To enrich themselves, landlords must exploit peasants and deprive many of them of their land. In order to expand, fascist Germany, Italy and Japan must devastate other countries; they have subjugated Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Abyssinia2 and are committing aggression against China. Exploiters always harm and ruin other people as a necessary precondition for their own expansion; their happiness is founded on the suffering of others. Among the exploiters, therefore, genuine firm unity, genuine mutual help, and genuine human sympathy are impossible; they inevitably engage in intrigues and underhand activities in order to ruin others. Yet they have to lie and pose as saints and pillars of justice before the people. Such are the distinguishing characteristics of all declining exploiting classes. These man be models of "fine" ethical conduct for the exploiters, but they are most criminal from the point of view of the proletariat and the masses.

The proletariat is the complete antithesis of the exploiting classes. It does not exploit others but is itself exploited. There is no conflict of basic interests within its ranks or between it and the other oppressed and exploited working people. Far from needing to harm other working people or impede their development for the sake of its own development and emancipation, the proletariat most forge the closest unity with them in the common struggle. If the proletariat is to emancipate itself, it must at the same time emancipate all other working people and emancipate all mankind. There can be no such thing as the separate emancipation of a single worker or section of workers. The proletariat must carry the cause of the emancipation of humanity through to the end, fighting step by step for the liberation of all mankind, and there can be no giving up or compromising half-way.

As a result of this objective position occupied by the proletariat, the ideology of the politically conscious workers is the diametrical opposite of that of the exploiters. Communists are vanguard fighters of the proletariat, who arm themselves with Marxism-Leninism and are ruthless towards the people's enemies but never towards the toilers, their class brothers and comrades. They differentiate clearly and sharply between the attitudes and methods to be adopted against the enemy and those to be adopted towards their comrades and friends. They cherish great and sincere friendship, warmth and sympathy for other members of their own class and for all oppressed and exploited working people, towards whom they show a fine spirit of mutual help, firm unity and genuine equality. They are absolutely opposed to privileges of any kind for anyone, consider it impermissible to think in terms of privilege for themselves, and would deem it unthinkable and even a disgrace, to occupy a privileged position among the people. If they themselves are to develop and improve status, they must develop others and improve the status of all the working people at the same time. They are anxious not to fall behind, whether ideologically or politically or in their work, and they have a sturdy spirit of enterprise, but at the same time they esteem, cherish and support those who are ahead of them in these respects and, without any jealousy, do their best to learn from them. They are deeply concerned with the sufferings and privations of their own class and of all working people, they are concerned with all the struggles of the working people for emancipation anywhere in the world, regarding every victory or defeat for the working people anywhere as their own victory of defeat, and therefore displaying the greatest solidarity. They consider it wrong to be indifferent to the struggle of the working and oppressed people for liberation and criminal to gloat over their set-backs They cherish their own comrades and brothers, whose weaknesses and mistakes they criticize frankly and sincerely (and this shows genuine affection); in matters of principle they never gloss over and accommodate, let alone encourage mistakes (to accommodate or even to encourage others' mistakes does not betoken genuine affection for one's comrades). They do everything possible to help comrades overcome weaknesses and correct mistakes and never exploit or aggravate these weaknesses and mistakes to get comrades into trouble, let alone cause the mistakes to develop beyond correction. Not harbouring any desire to settle old scores, they can return good for evil to their own comrades and brothers and help them straighten themselves out. They can be strict with themselves and lenient with others. The stand they take is firm, strict and principled, their attitude is frank, upright and responsible, they do not give way on matters of principle, they do not tolerate anyone who harms the Party, they do not permit anyone to insult them and are particularly contemptuous of adulation and flattery as contrary to all principle. They oppose all unprincipled struggles; they do not let themselves become involved in such struggles and are not swayed or affected by irresponsible or casual criticism made behind their backs as to depart from principle, become incapable of thinking calmly or lose their composure. Such are the proletarian qualities in the most concentrated, exemplary and concrete form. These qualities represent everything of integrity in present-day society. Indeed it is the Communist Party that represents human integrity. We must foster and enhance such proletarian integrity and overcome all that is crooked and evil.

Fifth. Pettiness, fussing over trifles and ignoring the general interest are faults still prevalent among some Party members. These comrades lack the nature and breadth of vision of Communists and are blind to the bigger things; they relish only the immediate and petty. They do not take much interest in the great problems and events in the Party and the revolution, but are always fussing over the merest trifles about which they enter into ponderous and endless arguments and become highly disturbed. Such people are also easily led by the nose when they receive some small favour or kindness. They have the petty-mindedness characteristic of small rural producers.

There are other people who do not seem to have a clear-cut and definite attitude in their Party life, people who shift and hedge. They are actually of two kinds; for one kind the question is one of understanding and for the other, of moral character. The latter are always opportunistic in their personal behaviour, curry favour with all sides and try to please everybody. They tailor their words to the person and the circumstances, tack with the wind and show no principle whatsoever. Such are their characteristics. Sometimes, they wait and see what will suit the occasion, like the bat in Aesop's Fables,3 and then move over to the winning side. Such-double faced creatures, who are neither fish nor fowl, are not altogether unknown in our ranks. They have the traits of the old-fashioned merchant. In addition, there are some individuals who, unable to resist the lure of the old society's exploiting classes, with their glittering world, their money and their women, begin to waver, go wrong and eventually to betray the Party and the revolution.

Finally, the ideology of some of our Party comrades often reflects the impetuosity and vacillation of the petty-bourgeoisie and the destructiveness of the lumpen-proletariat and certain bankrupt peasants, but I shall not go into this question here.

To sum up, our Party represents the great and powerful proletarian communist ideology, but it must be noted that all kinds of non-proletarian ideology - including even the ideology of the declining exploiting classes - are still reflected to a greater or lesser degree in the minds of certain comrades. At times such ideology is dormant in the Party, revealing itself only in insignificant matters of everyday life; but at other times it becomes active, systematically revealing itself in a whole variety of questions of Party principle, in major political questions and in problems of inner Party struggle. Certain sections of links in the Party organization may come to be dominated and corroded by such erroneous ideology, and in extreme cases in may even temporarily dominate key links in the Party leadership, as in the periods when people like Chen Duxiu4 and Zhang Guotao5 were in control. In normal periods, however, it is held in check by the correct proletarian ideology. These are all manifestations within the Party of the struggle between the proletarian and non-proletarian ideology. Similarly with some individual Party members. At times what is wrong in their ideology lies dormant and under control, but at other times it may grow and even dominate their actions. This is a manifestation among individual Party members of the contradiction and struggle between proletarian and non-proletarian ideology. For our Party members, ideological self-cultivation means that they must conscientiously use the proletarian ideology and the communist world outlook to overcome and eliminate all the various kinds of incorrect, non-proletarian ideology.

1. A.G. Stakhanov (1906- ), a coal miner in Donbas in the Soviet Union, was a well-known innovator in the coal industry. He adopted new techniques and improved the organization of labour, thus setting a record pace for the mining of coal with an air pick. He was able to mine 102 tons of coal in five and three quarters hours, fourteen times the standard output. His deed was quickly given wide publicity and led to a mass movement of socialist emulation, known as the Stakhanov Movement.

2. Abyssinia is Ethiopia.

3. See ≴The Bat and the Weasels≵, Aesop's Fables. A bat once fell down and was caught by a weasel. He begged the weasel to spare his life. The weasel said, ≴I hate birds. I will not let you go.≵ The bat said, ≴I am not a bird but a mouse,≵ and was set free. Sometime later, the bat again fell to the ground and was caught by another weasel. He begged the weasel not to kill him. The weasel said he hated mice. The bat argued that he was not a mouse but a bat and so he was set free a second time. The bat thus saved his life twice by changing his name.

4. Chen Duxiu (1880-1942), a native of the city of Anqing, Anhui Province (originally Huaining County), began editing the magazine Youth or New Youth as it was later called , in September 1915. In 1918, together with Li Dazhao, he founded the Weekly Review, and he was an advocate of the new culture and one of the chief leaders of the May 4th new cultural movement. After the May 4th Movement, he accepted and propagated Marxism. He was one of the main founders of the Communist Party of China and served as its chief leader for the first six years after its founding. In the last period of the First Revolutionary Civil War, he committed a serious error of Right capitulationism. Later, he lost his faith in the future of the revolution and denied that it was necessary for the proletariat to continue to carry out the tasks of the democratic revolution in China. He formed a faction inside the Party, engaged in anti-Party activities and was consequently expelled in November 1929. He later linked up with the Trotskyites, and in May 1931 he was made general secretary of a Trotskyite organization. In September 1932, he was arrested and imprisoned by the Kuomintang. He was released in August 1937.

5. Zhang Guotao (1897-1979), a native of Pingxiang, Jiangxi Province, attended the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 1921 and was elected a member of the Central Committee at its Second, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth National Congresses. At the First Plenary Session of the Sixth National Congress, he was electec a member of the Political Bureau. In 1931 he served as secretary of the Hubei-Henan-Anhui Sub bureau of the Central Committee and vice-chairman of the Provisional Central Government of the Chinese Soviet Republic. In June 1935, when the First Front Army of the Red Army joined forces with the Fourth Front Army in western Sichuan, he became general political commissar of the Red Army. He opposed the Central Committee's decision to have the Red Army continue its northward march. As a result, he carried out criminal activities to split the Party and the Red Army and set up a separate ≴party central committee.≵ In June 1936, forced to abolish the ≴second party central committee≵, he continued the northward march with the Second and Fourth Front Armies, reaching the northern part of Shaanxi Province in December. He became the vice-chairman of the Government of Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Region in 1937. In April 1938, while allegedly attending a ceremony to sweep the grave of the Yellow Emperor, Huangdi, he fled the region, went to Wuhan via Xi'an and joined the Kuomintang secret police. He thus became a renegade from the Chinese Revolution, and he was subsequently expelled from the Party.

Next: VIII. The Source of Wrong Ideology in Our Party