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Special> 30 Years of Reform and Opening Up> Beijing Review Archives> 1988
UPDATED: November 29, 2008
New Starting Point for Mind Emancipation
by Gong Yuzhi

The historical tasks of the mind emancipation movement are to emancipate the thinking of the whole Party from the personality cult of Mao Zedong, and extricate the people from the trammels of dogmatizing and deifying his directives and policy-decisions. This article traces the origins of the movement and discusses three materials little known to the public before, etc.

The thesis expounded at the CPC's 13th Congress held in 1987 on China's primary stage of socialism was the result of emancipation of the mind since 1978 and should be a new starting point for further emancipation of the mind.

Is there a point at which mind emancipation will be complete? The brief answer is no, as it calls for the use of practice to examine people's acquired knowledge and help rid it of rigid and petrified concepts so that further development is possible. "Practice, knowledge, again practice, and again knowledge." This is an endless process, and, in this sense, mind emancipation has no limit. But, it should have stages, and each stage has its own historic tasks and demands. Each stage also has its own historically determined starting point.

One of these new starting points was in 1978. The nationwide discussion on practice being the only criterion for truth and the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Party Central Committee in December ushered in a great mind emancipation movement. The historic tasks of this movement were to revive Mao Zedong's ideological line of seeking truth from facts and emancipate the thinking of the whole Party from the personality cult of Mao Zedong, and extricate the people from the trammels of dogmatizing and deifying his directives and policy-decisions. It was this movement which led to the great changes of the last decade.


The origin of this mind emancipation movement can be traced back to 1956. In that year, our Party broke with the Soviet model and explored many new directions in search of its road to advance along. It should have become a new starting point for mind emancipation. At the Supreme State Conference held in January 1956, Mao Zedong made a speech which stressed the Chinese people should have a long-term plan to abolish China's backward economic and cultural status over the next few decades. Following this, Zhou Enlai noted at an intellectuals' work conference that China's intellectuals had become a component of the working class. He then called on them to march towards to the modernization of science and meet the challenge of a new technological revolution.

In April, Mao Zedong made a report titled "On the Ten Major Relationships" which elaborated the relationships between heavy industry on the one hand and light industry and agriculture on the other, between industry in the coastal regions and industry in the interior, between economic construction and defence construction, between the state, the units of production and the producers, between the central and local authorities, between the Han nationality and the minority nationalities, between Party and non-party, between revolution and counter-revolution, between right and wrong, and between China and other countries.

He emphasized that we must learn a lesson from the roundabout road travelled by the Soviet Union, and instead mobilize all direct and indirect forces to make China a powerful socialist country. He also laid down the basic principles of letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend in art and academic studies, and of allowing the long-term coexistence and mutual supervision between the Communist Party and China's democratic parties.

In July that year, Zhou Enlai made a speech titled "Dictatorship Should Be Continued, Democracy Expanded." In it he noted that as the dictatorship became ever more strongly consolidated, democracy should be expanded. He added, "We must constantly pay attention to expanding democracy because it is of essential significance."

In their reports to the 8th Party Congress held in September, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping all discussed the resolution of China's one remaining principal contradiction. They pointed out that a decisive victory had been achieved in the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicraft and capitalist industry and commerce. Thus, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in China had been basically resolved, leading to the establishment of a socialist system. Because of this, the contradiction between the people's demand for the establishment of an advanced industrialized country and backward agriculture had risen to become China's principal contradiction. They forwarded the principle of actively and steadily carrying out economic construction, stressing that the Party's strength should be consolidated and warning it not to deviate from reality and the masses.

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