Firmly Adhering to the Political Soul of a Communist

From: English Edition of Qiushi Journal Updated: 2013-05-28 18:04
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In his report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Hu Jintao emphasized that, “Belief in Marxism, socialism, and communism is what constitutes a communist’s political soul; this is the source of the inner strength that allows a communist to stand up to any test.” This highly relevant statement has highlighted the essence of our Party building efforts for the period ahead. 


The Communist Party of China is a political party of the working class established in accordance with the basic principles of Marxism. The advanced nature and vitality of a working class political party derive from the correctness of its guiding thought. Engels said, “Our party had the great advantage of having a new scientific outlook as its theoretical base.” The new scientific outlook that Engels spoke of was the communist world outlook which was first established in Manifesto of the Communist Party, and which eventually found its most complete theoretical form in Marxism. Unlike the ideological theories that preceded it, Marxism is a plain truth. The principles of its new world outlook constitute a scientific system that reflects universal truth. This system finds its basis in the physical conditions required for survival, and was derived from the objective world, and in particular, the historical and contemporary experiences of revolutionary movements. Drawing on the viewpoint of historical materialism, Marxism has expounded the laws of social development, revealed the decisive role of material production in the course of history, and pointed out the relationship between productive forces and relations of production, the relationship between the economic base and the superstructure, and the important role of class struggle in the development of class-based societies. Proceeding from the materialist conception of history, Marx and Engels reached the conclusion that the demise of the bourgeoisie was equally as inevitable as the victory of the proletariat. The thoroughness of its theory makes Marxism truly represent the interests of the proletariat and the working people, becoming their guide to action in destroying the old system and creating a new society. Therefore, Marxism is a scientific theory that cannot be matched by any other ideological system in history. At the same time, Marxist theories not only originate from practice, but also allow for constant enrichment and development through the course of revolutionary practice, thereby constituting an open and continuously developing system. Lenin once said that Marxism has two distinguishing features that set it apart from all other socialist theories: complete scientific sobriety in the analysis of the objective state of affairs and the objective course of evolution; and the most emphatic recognition of the importance of the revolutionary energy, revolutionary creative genius, and revolutionary initiative of the masses. These two features imbue this new world outlook with boundless creative vitality.

The oldest and youngest delegates to the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC. Born in 1990, famous swimmer Jiao Liuyang (left), was the youngest delegate to the Eighteenth National Congress of the CPC. Pictured beside her is Jiao Ruoyu, the oldest delegate to the congress, who was born in 1915. Despite having an age difference of 74 years, as well as a 72-year difference in their Party standing, the two share a strong commitment to their duties as Party members and a firm belief in communism. / Photo by Xinhua reporter Liu Jiansheng

One of the major experiences of the CPC throughout more than 90 years of Party building efforts has been to commit to placing the development of ideological theories first and to raise the understanding of Marxism throughout the whole Party. Since the day it was established, the CPC has always adhered to Marxism as its guiding thought, and adhered to the ideological principle of combining the basic principles of Marxism with the realities of China. This has constituted the fundamental guarantee for the success of the CPC. However, it needs to be noted that today, a time when China has made major achievements in reform, opening up, and modernization, the loss of ideals among certain members of the Party is becoming a very serious problem. The reasons for this are numerous. Domestically speaking, as economic reforms have progressed and ways of thinking have become increasingly diverse, the incursion of certain erroneous trends of thought and the weakening of ideological and political work have caused some people’s outlook on life and personal values to become twisted. As a result, the worship of money has become prevalent in our society. Under such circumstances, it has become fashionable to reject noble pursuits, mock ideals, treat life as a game, and seek personal gain.   

The pessimism of such historically short-sighted people comes from their tendency to interpret the occurrence of crisis in revolutionary movements as a crisis of Marxist theories and communist ideals. In fact, Lenin once made a strict distinction between these two types of crisis. Lenin held that drastic changes in social living conditions were manifested within revolutionary movements as profound disintegration, disorder, and various forms of wavering. In other words, Lenin regarded such phenomenon as an extremely serious internal crisis within the Marxist movement. In the later stages of the Second International, changes in the tactics employed by the bourgeoisie resulted in the emergence of Bernstein’s revisionism. However, Lenin regarded this as a crisis of the Marxist revolutionary movement, and not of Marxism. Therefore, to interpret a crisis of the Marxist revolutionary movement as a crisis of Marxism itself would, as Lenin refuted at that time, merely be “Repeating the nonsense of the bourgeois hacks who are doing all they can to exacerbate every disagreement among the socialists and turn it into a split in the socialist parties.” In fact, the emergence of crisis in the Marxist movement is often due to deviation from Marxist theories or the overly rigid interpretation of them. Therefore, in order to overcome this kind of crisis, the answer is not to abandon Marxism, but to assert our adherence to it, and to further develop it under new historical conditions. Still fresh in our memories is how, after the drastic changes that took place in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe twenty years ago, anti-communist forces in the West claimed tirelessly that communism had died. However, the financial crisis of 2008, which originated in the United States and spread throughout the entire world, has urged many people to rediscover the value of Marxist theories, fuelling the resurgence of Marxism in the West. This trend has fully revealed the great vitality of Marxism. 

Theoretical resolve is the foundation of political resolve. Only with a correct grasp of the world outlook and methodology of Marxism will we be in a position to observe the situation scientifically and seize the historical initiative; and only this way will we be better disposed to understand and push forward the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics. 


For a Chinese Communist, firmly adhering to one’s ideals and beliefs boils down to one point: loyally implementing the program of the Party and engaging in a lifelong struggle for the communist cause. Deng Xiaoping said, “It is for the realization of communism that we have struggled for so many years. We believe in communism, and our ideal is to bring it into being. In our darkest days we were sustained by the ideal of communism.” He also pointed out, “We uphold socialism and communism…the purpose of our policies in every field is to advance the socialist cause and eventually to realize communism.” This tells us that in implementing the Party’s program, we must properly balance the dialectical relationship between our supreme program and our program for the present stage.

Starting with the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee, the Party began to draw lessons from the period of history that began with the founding of the People’s Republic whilst identifying new experiences during the course of the reform and opening up drive. As the Party’s understanding of China’s national conditions became increasingly profound, it came to the scientific conclusion that China is still in the primary stage of socialism, and will remain so for a long period of time to come. This was a theoretical refinement, a product of the Party having gained a re-understanding of socialism and of China’s national conditions. Following more than 30 years of efforts to implement reform, opening up, and socialist modernization, China has succeeded in formulating a socialist path and socialist theories with Chinese characteristics. Conforming to China’s national conditions during the primary stage of socialism, they have become the banner under which the CPC is advancing forward. In his report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Hu Jintao reiterated that socialism with Chinese characteristics not only upholds the basic principles of scientific socialism, but also boasts distinctive Chinese features that reflect contemporary conditions; and that the theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics, including the Scientific Outlook on Development, was created by integrating Marxism with the realities of contemporary China and with the underlying features of our times. This scientific definition embodies the ideological principle of combining the universal principles of Marxism with the realities of China, which the CPC has constantly adhered to. It also implies a dialectical unity between the Party’s supreme program and its program for the present stage, thus pointing out the correct path for our development during the primary stage of socialism. The Party’s past experience tells us that communists must not only commit themselves to achieving the tasks at hand, but also need to keep the ultimate goal of communism in their hearts. This same experience tells us that while we are accomplishing historic tasks at present, we must also create conditions for a higher state of development in the future, so that we may approach and ultimately realize our highest goal on a step-by- step basis. Therefore, organically combining the ultimate goal with the tasks at hand, and thereby balancing the dialectical relationship between the supreme program and the program for the present stage, is something that the Party and each of its members must thoroughly understand and put into practice in all their endeavors. 

Balancing the dialectical relationship between the Party’s supreme program and its program for the present stage is not just a matter of theory, but also a matter of practice. In particular, this must be embodied through the thorough implementation of the Party’s basic policies. Taking China’s basic economic system for the primary stage of socialism as an example, we may illustrate how important it is to balance the dialectical relationship between the Party’s supreme program and its program for the present stage with regard to basic polices. The report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China reiterated that China must remain committed to, and keep on improving, a basic economic system in which public ownership is the dominant form of ownership and multiple forms of ownership are able to develop side by side. This basic economic system not only adheres to the basic principles of scientific socialism, but also reflects the fact that China is still in the primary stage of socialism, which is the country’s basic national condition. By allowing multiple forms of ownership to exist and develop side by side, the basis of which is the developmental level of productive forces in the primary stage of socialism, our basic economic system has rectified the mistake of overstepping that we made in the past. But at the same time, by preserving public ownership as the mainstay, it has effectively prevented deviation during the course of reform and opening up, thereby ensuring that development moves in the socialist direction. In the early days of the reform and opening up drive, Deng Xiaoping repeatedly stressed the need to adhere to the predominance of public ownership and common prosperity, the two being fundamental principles of socialism. In fact, adherence to these two principles amounts to the same proposition: Reform, opening up, and modernization must stick to the path of socialism. In Deng Xiaoping’s view, socialism was the only system capable of ensuring that China would become wealthy and strong, and that its people would enjoy common prosperity. He realized that as the foundation of the socialist economy, public ownership was of fundamental importance for the consolidation and development of socialism. This is because the question of ownership pertains to the criteria for judging the nature of a society. An elementary knowledge of Marxism tells us that the foundation of a society lies in relations of production. Therefore, the nature of a society is determined by the relations of production that are dominant in that society. On the basis of this criterion, human societies throughout history can be divided into slave societies, feudal societies, and capitalist societies. Likewise, the nature of socialist societies is also determined and demonstrated by such a criterion. When Deng Xiaoping conducted his tour of the south, there were those who cast doubt over whether Shenzhen was socialist or not. In response to these doubts, Deng Xiaoping stated clearly that Shenzhen was socialist, because the dominant form of ownership in the city was public ownership. Deng Xiaoping’s adherence to this criterion was based on the realization that the position of the people in production, and the share of the products of labor that they are entitled to, differ depending on who owns the means of production. To put this in a wider context, the means of ownership employed determines what position the people occupy in society as a whole, giving rise to different interest groups and class forces accordingly. The establishment of public ownership as the dominant form of ownership under socialism dictates that the bulk of the means of production in a society are no longer tools of oppression and exploitation, but are owned by the members of society as a whole. This provides a guarantee for social equality and for the unity of fundamental interests among members of society, and also constitutes a solid economic foundation for the further consolidation and development of socialism. If a qualitative change was to take place to this form of ownership, or in other words, if public ownership was replaced by private ownership, the nature of society would inevitably experience a shift in the opposite direction. 

We can therefore see that the primary stage of socialism is a transitional phase of development that demonstrates a relative degree of stability. After more than 30 years of reform, we still need to be vigilant against erroneous tendencies such as being overly eager to gain quick results and skipping past the necessary stages. At the same time, we must also prevent the primary stage of socialism from becoming a fixed, perpetual stage, which would be to forget the ultimate goal of the CPC. If that were to happen, the reverse development that Deng Xiaoping warned of repeatedly during the early stages of the reform and opening up drive could potentially take place. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Soviet Communist Party in the early 1990s, revolutionary veteran Peng Zhen stated that the primary stage of socialism was not an independent social form, but a lower stage of communism and a changing society, when he reflected over the history of the People’s Republic of China. Therefore, it is essential that we regard communism as both the soul and the overall guideline of our efforts to develop socialism. Once we have grasped this, everything else will fall into its proper place. Our ultimate purpose is to realize communism; this has been written into our Party’s constitution. As long as we remain committed to this point, we will be better disposed to engage in socialist construction. If we give up, the result will be a change of direction. Moreover, with a good grasp of this point, we will be able to prevent wavering between “Left” and Right, or at least limit the extent to which such wavering takes place. If we give up, who knows where we will end up wavering? Is this not what happened to the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries?


If the CPC is to stay in power for the long term, it must remain modest and prudent, guard against arrogance and impetuosity, and continue its tradition of diligence and hard work. Under new historical conditions, the CPC will be able to maintain the heartfelt support of the broad masses of the people, and with it the capacity to overcome any challenge or risk, provided that it carries forward its fine traditions and styles of work, and adheres to its nature and purpose as a political party. Undoubtedly, this is also what is meant by staying true to the political soul of a communist.

In his report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Hu Jintao pointed out, “All members of the Party must bear in mind that only by being rooted among the people and serving the people will the Party be able to stand firm and never falter; and that only by being aware of potential dangers and continuing to forge ahead courageously will it be able to remain at the forefront of the times.” If our country is to enjoy lasting peace and stability, the Party must be aware of the potential dangers that lie ahead and act with prudence at all times. For a political party of the working class, the question of whether or not we are able to act prudently at all times constitutes an important, historical issue. When the first signs of victory in the revolution came into sight, Mao Zedong warned of the need to learn from the past, saying, “A small victory was enough to make us complacent; a large victory only made us even more complacent, and the result was one loss after another.” He stated earnestly, “It is really worth looking into how we can avoid such shortcomings.” When Mao Zedong took stock of past experiences, including the experiences of the Party, he always drew a link between failure and arrogance. This is because the emergence of pride during the revolutionary stage inevitably gives prominence to the role of the individual, which in turn causes deviation from both the masses and reality. In such cases, the end result is always failure. If arrogance should set in after power has been claimed, it will give rise to pleasure seeking, corruption, and the pursuit of excessive, luxurious, and idle lifestyles. In 1945, in a cave dwelling in Yan’an, the democrat Huang Yanpei asked Mao Zedong whether the Chinese Communists would be able to break away from the cycle of “rapid rise followed by sudden demise” that had played out throughout history. In answer to his question, Mao Zedong confidently stated, “We have found a new path that will allow us to break away from this cycle. This new path is called democracy. Only a government that is supervised by the people will not dare to slacken. Only when every person assumes responsibility will a government be able to outlive those that founded it.”

This shows us that to break away from this historical cycle, the CPC still needs to rely on its relations with the people. As long as the Communist Party of China adheres to and develops the democratic path that Mao Zedong pointed out, it will continue to enjoy the support of the people. The key is that the Party must always retain its nature and purpose as the vanguard of the working class, and work whole-heartedly for the interests of the people, ensuring that it never allows itself to become divorced from the masses. Communists exercise governance for the people, and not to further their official careers or accumulate wealth by unfair means. Adhering to the “two imperatives” (remaining modest, prudent, and free from arrogance and rashness; and preserving a style of plain living and hard work), they must refrain from seeking private gains, be open to various opinions, and subject themselves to the supervision of the public. For a communist, failing to do this amounts to losing one’s political soul and roots. This is something that we must always be vigilant against.

(Originally appeared in Red Flag Manuscript, No.23, 2012)

Author: Professor at the Research Center for the Theories of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Peking University

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