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Special> 30 Years of Reform and Opening Up> Beijing Review Archives> 1978
UPDATED: November 29, 2008
Uphold the Principle of Collective Leadership In the Party Committee
("Renmin Ribao" editorial, February 1. Subheads are ours.)

The Party's fine tradition of collective leadership has reappeared in the last two years and is being carried forward. However, there are still some units where everything is decided by a single individual and there are still instances of certain individuals in the higher and lower echelons being given inordinate publicity.

This "Renmin Ribao" editorial discusses the causes and effects of this phenomenon, the significance of adhering to the principle of collective leadership and upholding democracy, as well as the relationship between collective leadership and personal responsibility.

THE Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party has decided that Party committees at all levels, from the Central Committee down,must truly exercise collective leadership. At the central working conference held prior to the plenary session, Comrade Hua Guofeng proposed: "The Party Central Committee is a collective leadership and, from now on, when the local authorities and various units send reports to the Central Committee for its views, these reports should not be addressed to Chairman Hua and the Central Committee, but just to the Central Committee. When the Party, government and military organs at the central level send official communications to organs at lower levels, the same should apply Don't call me the wise leader, just call me comrade. I wish literary and art works would extol the Party, and eulogize the heroic deeds of the revolutionaries of the older generation, the workers, peasants and soldiers and not publicize me."

This proposal of Comrade Hua Guofeng's is very important because it not only expresses the modesty of a leader, but also conforms with Marxist principle. This indicates that the life of our Party is returning to its desired normalcy. At the two meetings, where democratic centralism and the Party's collective leadership were adhered to, everybody said what he wanted to say, engaged in animated discussions and practised criticism and self-criticism. The two meetings genuinely absorbed correct opinions,pooled the wisdom of the participants and really took the lead in putting our Party life on a sound and healthy basis. We must carry on this fine practice, make it prevail throughout the Party and all over the country.

Guarantees Victory of the Revolutionary Cause

Collective leadership has always been a glorious tradition of our Party. In the years when the Red Army was still in its infancy and there was continual fighting, our Party adhered to collective leadership. In the 1942 rectification movement in Yanan and the Seventh Party Congress in 1945, both positive and negative experience in handling inner-Party relations was summed up in an all-round way, the principle for political life inside the Party was further perfected and the system of collective leadership was also further strengthened and placed on a sounder basis. This was followed by a Party Central Committee decision in 1948 on strengthening the Party committee system (see Selected Works of Mao Zedong, Vol. IV), which played a still more important role in consolidating the Party's collective leadership.

Comrade Mao Zedong pointed out emphatically again in 1955: "In view of the various lessons of the past and the fact that only through being integrated with collective wisdom can individual wisdom be turned to better account so that fewer mistakes are made in our work, the Central Committee and the Party committees at all levels must adhere to the principle of collective leadership." (Speeches at the National Conference of the Communist Party of China.)

However, at one period democratic centralism was not adequately carried out and Lin Biao and the "gang of four" were allowed to run amuck and demolished this principle of democratic centralism. They were higher than the Party Central Committee, so they had merely to say so and people, units and mass organizations become stigmatized as counter-revolutionary. With a scribbled note they could start a movement rolling through the country. The most sinister, barbarous fascist dictatorship existed in places, departments and units under their control. Only after exposures and criticisms of Lin Biao and the "gang of four" in the last two years or so and after leading groups had been reshuffled has the Party's fine tradition of collective leadership returned and been carried forward.

But the foul influence of Lin Biao and the gang of four" has not yet been completely eliminated. In some places, there are still single individuals deciding everything. In such places, not everyone has his say but only one man, and what he says goes. There is no centralized leadership but individual leadership. Some leaders are so domineering and despotic that they fly into a rage if they hear a dissenting voice. This conduct completely contravenes Party democratic centralism and collective leadership and must be firmly corrected.

Adhering or not adhering to collective leadership is a major question of principle affecting the nature of our Party and state. The Party and state of the proletariat are founded on the principle of democratic centralism: collective leadership must prevail in their leading bodies, from the central authorities down to the grass roots. The cause of our Party is a collective one: it is the cause of millions upon millions of the people. Only collective leadership can assemble the wishes, wisdom and experience of the masses, ensure the correctness of the leadership and victory for the revolutionary cause. It is impossible for mistakes not to occur if a single individual makes all the decisions.

Comrade Mao Zedong once said: "How can we justify the idea that what one person says goes? I am referring to important matters here,not to the routine work coming after decisions. If a matter is important, it must be discussed collectively, different opinions must be heeded, and the complexities of the situation and the dissenting opinions must be analysed seriously. Thought must be given to the various possibilities and estimates made of the various aspects of a situation, what is good and what bad, what is easy and what difficult, what is possible and what impossible. This should be done as carefully and thoroughly as possible. To act otherwise is just one-man tyranny." (Talk at an Enlarged Working Conference Convened by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.)

This one-man tyranny is impermissible, for the ability of any individual is limited. Even the minds of fairly experienced leading comrades, when they become separated from collective leadership and the popular masses, will invariably. become stereotyped and will inevitably make impractical and wrong decisions. Of course, mistakes are also bound to crop up under collective leadership, but if the leading collective follows the mass line and keeps to the principle of collective leadership, these mistakes can be discovered and corrected fairly quickly without being developed into long-term mistakes of an overall nature.

Less Publicity for Individuals

To safeguard collective leadership, it is imperative to enforce the principle of giving less publicity to individuals as decided on at the Third Plenary Session of the llth Party Central Committee. This is also a question of one's fundamental attitude towards Marxism.Marxists hold that the people are the makers of history, for theirs is the decisive role in propelling history forward, but at the same time the important role outstanding figures play in promoting the development of history should be fully affirmed. Victory is impossible in the revolutionary struggles of the proletariat and the broad masses without a group of long-tested revolutionary leaders of great prestige to give concentrated expression to the people's wishes, to lead them and to organize them to fight.

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