Accurately Grasping the Main Aspect and the Essence of the Party’s History

—Marking the Publication of Volume II of The History of the Communist Party of China

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2011-09-21 09:35
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 Volume II of The History of the Communist Party of China (1949-1978) (abbreviated as The Party History below) was recently published under the authorization of the CPC Central Committee. The publication of Volume II of The Party History is both a major achievement and a milestone event in the research of Party history.

 Volume II of The Party History is not only based on extensive research into historical archives, but also draws from academic research into this subject matter over the past 30 years. As the second volume in The History of the Communist Party of China, it gives an exhaustive account of the period spanning from the founding of the People's Republic of China in October 1949 to the convening of the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee in December 1978. This period, altogether 29 years in length, represents an important chapter in the 90-year history of the CPC. As a faithful historical account, Volume II of The Party History accurately identifies the underlying themes, the predominant course, the overriding current, and the core essence of the CPC’s development during this period of history. For this reason, its significance cannot be underestimated.

 In modern times, the Chinese people have committed themselves to the attainment of two historic goals: the first being national independence and the liberation of the people; and the second being the strength and prosperity of the country and the common affluence of the people. Over the past 90 years, the Party has united people of all ethnic groups in China, and has led them forward in an unremitting struggle to realize these goals. This is not only an underlying theme which runs throughout the entire history of the CPC, but also represents the predominant course according to which the history of the Party has progressed. In line with this fundamental theme, Volume II of The Party History accurately identifies the essential aspect and the core essence of the Party’s development during the 29 years from 1949 to 1978. First, this was a period in which the Communist Party of China, guided by Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, led the Chinese people toward the great success of the socialist revolution and socialist development. Second, this was a period in which the CPC sought to identify the path toward socialism in China, continued to promote the adaptation of Marxism to suit China, and achieved major ideological results through these efforts. Third, this was a period in which the Party sought to improve itself, and in which it was made stronger by the various trials and tribulations it weathered.

 I. The narrative and layout of Volume II of The Party History

 Volume II of The Party History documents the history of the Party in the 29 years that followed the success of the New Democratic Revolution in China, a 28-year period that spanned the early years of the Party’s history. This 29-year period witnessed the beginning of a new socialist era and the launch of a nationwide campaign of socialist development in China. It shows us that the rise of the CPC as a leading core, the people’s decision to embrace socialism, and China’s adoption of policy of reform and opening up and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics were all inevitable historical events with far-reaching significance.

 To mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of the CPC, the publicity and organization departments of the CPC Central Committee have jointly compiled a list of recommended reading material for Party members, which includes Volume II of The History of the Communist Party of China. Reading these books will allow Party members to better understand the Party and its history, and will help to promote the development of the CPC as a party that emphasizes study. / Photo by Xinhua

 Volume II of The Party History is structured in line with the guidelines set forth in the Resolution of the CPC Central Committee on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People's Republic of China. Based on the inherent logical progression of history, it divides the history of the CPC during the first 29 years of the People's Republic of China into four distinct periods: the socialist transformation (7 years), comprehensive socialist development (10 years), the “Cultural Revolution” (10 years), and moving ahead amidst uncertainty (2 years). Corresponding to this timeline, the volume is divided into four separate parts.

 The first part is named The Founding of the People's Republic of China and the Transition to Socialism (October 1949-September 1956). This part is primarily centered on China’s transition from new democracy to socialism, which took place after the CPC led the Chinese people in the dismantling of China’s semi-colonial, semi-feudal society and the founding of a new society in which national independence was achieved and the people became the masters of the country. On the basis of fact, it shows that China’s transition to socialism was a historical inevitability, that it was the choice of the people, and that it was necessary for the development of China.

 The second part is named Comprehensive Socialist Development and the Painstaking Search for a Socialist Path in China (September 1956-May 1966). This part stresses that socialism was an entirely new concept in China at that time, and that as a result, its development was inevitably a process of constant learning and understanding on the basis of practice. This period was characterized by an all-out campaign to develop socialism, and also by the difficulties and setbacks that were experienced during this process. In line with these characteristics, this part vividly depicts a magnificent scene of the Party leading the people in a concerted effort to develop socialism, while at the same time offering an authentic account of the difficulties and setbacks experienced by the Party in its exploration of socialism. Overall, while acknowledging the occurrence of mistakes and setbacks, this part demonstrates that the work of the Party during this period was predominately defined by its achievements.

 The third part is named The Internal Disorder of the “Cultural Revolution” and the Collapse of the Counter-Revolutionary Cliques of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing (May 1966-October 1976). This part covers a special period in the Party’s history after the founding of the People's Republic of China. On the basis of fact, it demonstrates that the “Cultural Revolution” was in no sense a revolution or a period of social progress, but was, in fact, a period of internal disorder. Initiated erroneously by the leadership and exploited by counter-revolutionary groups, the “Cultural Revolution” had disastrous effects on the Party, the entire country, and people of all ethnic groups in China. However, the historical account given in this part asserts that the devastation of the “Cultural Revolution” was, to a certain degree, lessened by joint opposition to the movement among the whole Party, workers, farmers, intellectuals, educated youths, cadres, and members of the People’s Liberation Army. Ultimately, the “Cultural Revolution” did not change the nature of the CPC, the people’s political power, the people’s army, and society in general, and history once again demonstrated that we are a great people, and that our Party and socialist system have an incredible capacity for survival.

 The fourth part is named Moving Ahead Amidst Uncertainty and the Birth of a Historic Turning Point (October 1976-December 1978). This period of history was not only characterized by the continuation of certain characteristics from the period that preceded it, but also by the birth of new factors that would define the period to come. On the basis of this understanding, this part gives a factual account of how a step forward was taken amidst the uncertainty of this time, and how this progress was sustained. With this, the 29-year period documented by Volume II of The Party History points to a prospect of hope and optimism.

  The concluding remarks of the volume are entitled The Great Achievements and Fundamental Experiences of the Party in Leading Socialist Revolution and Development. The “Great Achievements” summarizes the great changes that swept the country, society, and the lives of the people under the devoted leadership of the Party during this 29-year period. The “Fundamental Experiences” looks at the reasons why the Party was able to bring about these far-reaching changes to the state, society and the people, and also explores the reasons why serious setbacks occurred during this period. The volume identifies the Party’s acknowledgment of both the great achievements and the basic lessons of this period as being fundamental to its later success in guiding China onto a new path of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

  II. The basic grasp of the 29 years by Volume II of The Party History

 Volume II of The Party History views this 29-year period from the context of a wider historical process, namely, the CPC’s leadership of the Chinese people in their struggle to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It presents these 29 years as a period in which Chinese Communists probed the path ahead, a period in which the socialist cause experienced setbacks as it progressed, and a period which had a profound impact on the developmental course of the People’s Republic of China. Looking at this period as a whole, we can appreciate that the achievements of the Party in its leadership of China’s socialist revolution and socialist development had a decisive influence on history. These achievements not only changed the destiny of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation, but also laid down solid foundations for the development and progress of contemporary China, and exerted a far-reaching and profound influence on the entire world. This is the fundamental light in which Volume II of The Party History views this period of history.

 1. Basing its account on historical fact, Volume II of The Party History fully affirms the great achievements of the Party in China’s socialist revolution and socialist development.

 Volume II of The Party History divides the achievements made by the Party during this period into six aspects.

 First, the establishment of the people’s democratic dictatorship led to the realization and consolidation of the great unity of all ethnic groups in China. The founding of the People’s Republic of China realized and consolidated unification of the whole country (with the exception of Taiwan and certain other islands), putting an end to the torn and divided society of the past. With the establishment of the people’s democratic dictatorship, the people become the masters of their country, their society, and their own destinies. Following the establishment of people’s congresses, the system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Party, and the system of regional ethnic autonomy, the fundamental political systems of socialism had been put in place. The great unity of all ethnic groups and all social strata put an end to the weak and divided China of the past, thereby bolstering the extensive united front led by the CPC.

 Second, the establishment of socialism as the basic system marked the beginning of attempts to identify a socialist path suited to China. Following the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the CPC led the people in creatively realizing the transition from new democracy to socialism. This process led to the establishment of socialism as China’s fundamental system, and gave birth to the greatest and most profound social changes ever to take place in China. Thereafter, the CPC led the people in a comprehensive campaign of large-scale socialist development, and during this magnificent historical process, engaged in painstaking attempts to identify a socialist path that was right for China. In spite of setbacks, the practical experiences and important realizations of this period paved the way for subsequent efforts to put China on a path toward socialism with Chinese characteristics.

 Third, large-scale economic development led to the establishment of independent and relatively complete industrial and national economic systems. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the CPC engaged in a large-scale campaign to develop the economy, which succeeded in changing the poor and weak face of the old China. It established a relatively-complete and rationally laid-out system of industrial production, progressively boosting the role of industry as a predominant force in the national economy. At the same time, conditions for agricultural production were improved, productivity was increased by a significant margin, and standards of living became notably higher. A series of major scientific breakthroughs in this period, such as the development of atomic bomb, missile, and man-made satellite, demonstrated the major achievements that China made in science and technology. These achievements helped to lay down an important material and technological foundation for the socialist modernization drive that would follow; they cultivated a large number of talents in economic development and other fields, and helped China to gain the valuable experience that would support its development of socialism.

 Fourth, major efforts to promote socialist ideological and cultural development led to significant improvements in the ideological and ethical standards and the scientific and cultural attainment of the people. The founding of the People’s Republic of China saw the establishment of Marxism as the guiding thought in the affairs of the Party and the state, which led to significant enhancements in the ideological and political consciousness of the people. Under the guidance of new ideas and new culture, the filthy remnants of the old society were dispelled. In their place emerged a fine social atmosphere and a new, healthy, and civilized sense of morality. In addition, the scientific and cultural attainment of the people improved as education became more available and new advances were made in science, culture, press and publication, radio, film and television. Significant improvements in public health were also witnessed with the launch of patriotic health campaigns and communal sporting activities.

 Fifth, efforts were made to safeguard China’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity and to actively promote world peace and progress. With the founding of the People’s Republic of China, China would no longer suffer repeated invasions at the hands of foreign enemies, and China’s capacity for national defense would no longer be totally inadequate in contrast to the vast scale of its territory. The People’s Liberation Army continued to grow in strength following the founding of the People’s Republic of China, playing an important role in safeguarding China’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The New China committed itself to an independent foreign policy founded on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, on the basis of which it established and developed friendly relations with developing countries, supported the liberation of oppressed nations and oppressed peoples, and resolutely opposed imperialism, hegemonism, colonialism and racism. These efforts won China respect and praise among the international community, especially among developing countries and their peoples, and helped to significantly raise China’s international status.

 Sixth, the leading position of the CPC was further consolidated and Party organizations grew in both scale and strength. Following the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Party, which faced a test of its capacity to govern, devoted major efforts to the development of its ideologies, organizations and work style, repeatedly asserted its opposition to subjectivism, bureaucratism and factionalism, and forged closer links with the people. The Eighth National Party Congress put forward a series of new demands and measures with an aim to increase the CPC’s capacity as a ruling party, which played an important role in strengthening the Party and asserting its leadership. The organization of the CPC witnessed significant development, with Party members exerting their exemplary vanguard role on all fronts. Owing to these factors, the CPC was able to become the central leading force behind the progression of the socialist cause.

 2. Basing its account on historical fact, Volume II of The Party History acknowledges the mistakes and the setbacks that occurred on the Party’s path forward during this period.

 First, the achievements of the Party outweighed its mistakes. In spite of its mistakes and setbacks, on the whole, the achievements of the Party in socialist development were enormous. During this period, gross industrial and agricultural output in China grew at an annual rate of 8.2%. Moreover, according to constant prices, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) went from 67.9 billion yuan to 294.37 billion yuan in the period from 1952 to 1976. During the period from 1952 to 1976, average levels of consumption per capita among the rural population increased from 62 yuan to 125 yuan, while consumption levels among the urban population went from 148 yuan to 340 yuan. Although by today’s standards these figures do not seem high, they bear sufficient testament to the fact that China’s economic strength witnessed a remarkable increase and that the living standards of the people improved tangibly during this period. In fact, even in the years of the “Cultural Revolution,” the national economy grew in scale despite the great losses sustained; the Party remained intact and united; the foundations of socialism remained solid; socialist economic development continued; the country remained united; and China continued to exert an important influence in the international arena. Of course, in absolutely no way can these things be viewed as the “achievements” of “Leftist” mistakes, and particularly as “achievements” of the “Cultural Revolution.” Without a doubt, without the “Leftist” mistakes, the achievements of the Party and the state would have been much greater.

 Second, the mistakes and setbacks of this period were closely related to factors in the international environment and domestic conditions at that time. In these 29 years, the efforts of the CPC to identify a path to socialism in China began under extremely complex domestic and international conditions. Economic, scientific, technological and military disparities between China and the West were huge; China had long been subjected to blockade and containment by the United States and other Western countries, and faced the threat of a “peaceful evolution”; at the same time, China also came under a great deal of pressure from the Soviet Union following the deterioration and rupture of Sino-Soviet relations. Following socialist transformation, China was already a socialist country, but a “poor and blank” one at that: its economy and culture were backward, its population was huge, its territory was vast, and its development was seriously imbalanced. The CPC, which had not been in power for long, was neither fully prepared nor experienced to handle the sudden arrival of an all new socialist society and a campaign to develop socialism on a national scale. Inevitably, these external and internal factors affected the judgment of the CPC. They made it more difficult for the CPC to determine the central tasks, policies, and measures of the Party and the state, and also undermined the ability of the Party to address new situations, problems, and contradictions that emerged during the development of socialism in practice.

 In summary of the history of the CPC over these 29 years, we can see that the CPC made great achievements in its leadership of the people, but also made mistakes and suffered setbacks. The lesson that can be learned from this period of history, above all else, is that the Party did not fully understand socialism, and was unclear on how to go about developing it.

 Third, the Party has rectified its mistakes by relying mainly on its own. The actions that the Party took to rectify its mistakes during this period demonstrated that the CPC is accountable to the people and the nation, that it has the courage to uphold the truth and correct its mistakes, and that it is able to rise above setbacks and forge a correct path forward. The courage and the breadth of vision that the Party demonstrated in addressing its mistakes head-on deepened the faith that the people had in the Party and in the cause of socialism. Above all, this is the reason why the CPC was able to bring the people together in difficult times and push forward on the road ahead with their support.

 Fourth, the Party places an emphasis on using the experiences and lessons of the past to determine the path ahead. When we say that the CPC is a great, glorious and correct party, we do not mean that it never makes mistakes; on the contrary, we mean that it has the courage to acknowledge and rectify the mistakes that it has made. The Resolution of CPC Central Committee on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People's Republic of China, which was passed at the Sixth Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee in 1981, gave its own complete historical summary of the 32 years that followed the founding of the People’s Republic of China. On the basis of fact, it acknowledged the nature of “Leftist” errors, and especially the “Cultural Revolution,” rationally analyzed the cause of these mistakes, and identified the underlying experiences and lessons to be learned from this period. In itself, this fully embodied the sincere, serious, and responsible attitude of our Party in treating its mistakes. In many ways, the Party’s profound and comprehensive reflection of this 29-year period of history is the reason why the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee was able to result in such a profound and great historical turning point; the reason why China was able to successfully embark on the road toward socialism with Chinese characteristics; and the reason why China has been able to captivate the world with the incredible achievements of its reform and opening up and socialist modernization drive. It was this period of history that made the Party and the Chinese people realize the necessity of reform and the necessity of rethinking political, economic and social policies. On the basis of this realization, the Party and the people showed no hesitation in devoting themselves to the path of reform and opening up and to the great cause of socialism with Chinese characteristics. From a wider historical perspective, the mistakes and setbacks of the Party appear to be a transient phenomenon; on the other hand, the Party and the people have continued to become stronger as a result, the backbone contingents formed through the long-term struggles of the Party have become more mature, the superiorities of our socialist system have become more prominent, and the morale of the Party, the army and the people, which drives them to work for the prosperity of the motherland, has surged. These are the decisive factors which will exert a long-term influence on the development of the causes of the Party and the state.

(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No.2, 2011)


Note: Author: Director of the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee

 Related readings:

 Volume I of The History of the Communist Party of China (1921-1949)

 Volume I of The History of the Communist Party of China (1921-1949) was compiled by the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee. Approximately 740,000 characters in length, the volume was published as two books by the Publishing House of the History of the Communist Party of China in 2002. As an authoritative work on the history of the CPC, it gives an account of the history of the Party from the initial establishment of communist groups around China following the May Fourth Movement to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. It fully reflects the glorious achievements of the CPC in its brave struggles for national independence and the people’s liberation, fully reflects the efforts of the Party to combine the basic principles of Marxism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution and to make new innovations, and fully reflects an extraordinary period of history in which the contingents of the Party constantly expanded and the strength of the Party constantly increased. The volume consists of five parts: Part I The Founding of the Communist Party of China (July 1921-June 1923); Part II The Communist Party of China in the Great Revolutionary Period (June 1923-July 1927); Part III The Communist Party of China in the Agrarian Revolutionary War Period (August 1927-July 1937); Part IV The Communist Party of China in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression by the Whole Nation (July 1937-August 1945); Part V The Communist Party of China in the War of Liberation of the Whole Country (August 1945-September 1949); Conclusion The Basic Experiences and Great Significance of the Victory of China’s New Democratic Revolution.

  Volume II of The History of the Communist Party of China (1949-1978)

  Volume II of The History of the Communist Party of China (1949-1978) was compiled by the Party History Research Center of the CPC Central Committee. The volume, which is a total of 988,000 characters in length, was published as two books by the Publishing House of the History of the Communist Party of China in 2011. As an authoritative work on the history of the Communist Party of China, the volume documents the history of the CPC during the 29 years that elapsed from the founding of the People's Republic of China in October 1949 to the convening of the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee in December 1978. Primarily based on the Resolution of CPC Central Committee on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People's Republic of China and relevant important archives of the CPC Central Committee, the volume also draws from Party history research conducted in the 30 years and more that have passed since the launch of the reform and opening up drive. Adhering to the principles of freeing the mind, seeking the truth from facts, advancing with the times, and adhering to a unity of Party spirit and scientific spirit, the volume gives a full and accurate account of an extraordinary period of history in which the CPC led people of all ethnic groups in China through the socialist revolution and a campaign of socialist development on an epic scale. The volume is divided into four parts: Part I The Founding of the People's Republic of China and the Transition to Socialism (October 1949-September 1956); Part II Comprehensive Socialist Development and the Painstaking Search for a Socialist Path in China (September 1956-May 1966); Part III The Internal Disorder of the “Cultural Revolution” and the Collapse of the Counter-Revolutionary Cliques of Lin Biao and Jiang Qing (May 1966-October 1976); Part IV Moving Ahead Amidst Uncertainty and the Birth of a Historic Turning Point (October 1976-December 1978); Conclusion The Great Achievements and Fundamental Experiences of the Party in Leading Socialist Revolution and Development.

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