China: the Struggle Within: The Draft Constitution of the Chinese CP:

The Draft Constitution of the Chinese CP:

An Analysis

January 16, 1969



The publication of the draft of a proposed new constitution of the Chinese Communist Party roughly coincides with the anniversary date of the founding of the Communist International. Had the international survived to this day, it would have been fifty years old this March.

When one considers that there are thirteen countries whose governments consider themselves to be socialist in the Marxist-Leninist sense, one would expect that there would be a great outpouring of plans for the celebration. A fiftieth anniversary should afford an excellent opportunity not only for celebration but for theoretical and political appraisal.

After all, there is not even a single Communist Party of all the many that exist that does not owe its origin to the International even if these parties no longer adhere to its political principles. As matters stand, however, the fiftieth anniversary of the Leninist International is an event that will scarcely be noticed, let alone be the cause of celebration on a widespread scale commensurate with its great historic significance.

For the founding of this great revolutionary world body is exceeded in world historic significance only by the great October Socialist Revolution itself. Its formation not only struck terror into the hearts of the ruling classes everywhere, but shed a glaring light on the path of the proletarian class struggle for the world socialist revolution.

The resolutions of the first four Congresses of the International lay down the theoretical foundations for the working class and the oppressed everywhere in the epoch of imperialist wars, wars of national liberation and proletarian revolution. It was not for nothing that the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) was often referred to as the General Staff of the world revolution.


The fact that the International no longer exists is explained by its detractors as a case of the movement having long outgrown its need. The basic reason for its demise, however, lies in the fact that many of the parties have long abandoned the revolutionary principles of the International and today are almost as fearful of invoking its revolutionary character as the ruling classes themselves.

It is the irony of ironies that almost on the same date as the anniversary of the International, the Brezhnev-Kosygin leadership is seeking to convene a world conference whose real purpose is to formalize the split with revolutionary China.

All the more gratifying is it to examine the significant advance made by the Chinese CP in drafting the new constitution for the forthcoming Party Congress to which it will undoubtedly be presented for ratification. Both the constitution and the projected Party Congress are weighty evidence that the Cultural Revolution has reached the stage of political consolidation and that the revisionist tide has been driven back even if it may not yet be in full retreat.

It would be foolhardy and hazardous in the extreme to examine the draft without relation to the time and circumstances in which it is being written and moreover at a time when a good many aspects of the internal struggle in China have yet to be brought to the surface.

Also, the examination of any document such as this, purely on the basis of its written content alone -- and particularly before the discussion at the Congress -- may lend itself to much conjecture.

For example, the Constitution of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, as it was amended in 1960, had it been subject to analysis at the time, gave every promise of moving the country further toward socialism and of enhancing "the leading role of the working class" in the construction of a socialist society.

In contrast, the draft of the constitution of the Chinese Communist Party follows on the heels of the Cultural Revolution, and this makes all the difference in the world.


The opening chapter of the draft, entitled "General Program" is written wholly in the revolutionary spirit of the Communist International, and in common with the early founding documents of the International it was written in the spirit of candor and does not seek to embellish the stage of development in present day China. In thus respect it is very much unlike the Stalin Constitution of 1936 (which was a state and not a party constitution) that proclaimed the abolition of classes when in fact the grim reality was that classes were being revived and resuscitated by policies wholly alien to the spirit and teachings of Marxism. Although the Chinese Revolution is twenty years old -- almost as old as the October Revolution was when the Stalin Constitution was written -- the draft makes no exaggerated claim to the abolition of social classes in China. On the contrary, the draft stresses the existence of classes and explains in Chapter I as follows:

"In this historical phase, classes, class contradictions and class struggle will exist throughout, as will the struggle between the two roads of socialism and capitalism, the danger of capitalist restoration and the threats of subversion and aggression by imperialism and modem revisionism."

One of the primary problems facing the framers of the constitution is the characterization of the present era, i.e., how to relate the general historic epoch to the more specific and current situation. The draft states:

"The thought of Mao Tse-tung is Marxism-Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading toward total collapse while Socialism is heading toward worldwide victory."

It is unquestionably correct that on a general historical scale "imperialism is heading toward total collapse while Socialism is heading toward worldwide victory."

Objectively that has been true for a very long time. "Imperialism" has been heading to "a total collapse" ever since the First World War and has been on the verge of actual collapse at least twice in this century: once following the First World War and next following the Second World War

Hence the characterization does not adequately distinguish the present epoch from the previous one. To do this, it needs further amplification by relating it to such concrete developments as the triumph of revisionism in the Soviet Union and to some of the setbacks of the world revolution such as the counterrevolution in Indonesia and other related events.


An extraordinary aspect of the draft is the inclusion of a paragraph in Chapter I entitled the General Program, which reads as follows:

"Comrade Lin Piao has consistently held high the great red banner of the thought of Mao Tse-tung and most loyally and resolutely carried out and defended Comrade Mao Tse-tung's proletarian revolutionary line. Comrade Lin Piao is Comrade Mao Tse-tung's close comrade in-arms and successor."
Bourgeois commentators have taken great pains to pour abuse on this aspect of the draft of the constitution.

Unquestionably it is without precedent in the history of the communist movement and does not conform to previous standards of what a constitution generally contains. The framers of this clause are at least equally aware of its novelty as are its critics. It is a frank admission that while the political consolidation of the Cultural Revolution has been advanced, it is by no means fully victorious. On the contrary, the insertion of this extraordinary clause indicates that decisive ideological and political battles may still be ahead. If it will help to win them, the insertion of the clause is entirely justified.


Another clause which has been subjected to criticism is contained in Chapter 111, Article 5, dealing with the Organizational Structure of the Party which says:

"Leading organs of the party at all levels shall be produced through democratic consultation and election."
This is a modification of the clause in the previous constitution which states that:
"The leading bodies of the party at all levels must be elected."
The modification does not appear to be one of substance but rather of form it is doubtful whether it narrows the rights of the membership. More likely than not, it merely codifies the common practice under conditions of civil war and continuing internal strife to save and resuscitate a proletarian dictatorship, which is only now barely emerging victorious over an adversary by no means fully vanquished. The chapter that deals with Membership and Organizational Structure of the Party ought to be regarded as an attempt to give expression to the Leninist principles of democratic centralism under the still difficult conditions of the present stage of development in China.


Some of the clauses reflect the profound internationalism of the early communist movement. Article 3, for instance, states that a member of the Communist Party of Chino must succeed in, among other things, working not only in the interest of China, but "also for the overwhelming majority of the people of the world."

And earlier in Chapter 1, members of the Communist Party are characterized as those:

". , who have vowed to fight for Communism all their lives, must be resolute, fear no sacrifice, and surmount all difficulties to win victory..."

Setting such high standards for membership is not only correct and exemplary but profoundly revolutionary.


But it must be pointed out that the draft is written for a ruling party, a party that has attained power and directs the destiny of a country. In such a party the members are in a special position which enables them to acquire material and social privileges which differentiate them not only from the general mass of the population but from the working class, the class on whose behalf the party exercises its power.

Fifty years of experience under the first proletarian dictatorship and the experience of succeeding socialist countries have shown the intimate connection between the growth of revisionism and its relationship to the growth of material and social privileges in the governing bodies and at all levels of the party. The primary condition for membership in a ruling party ought to be the renunciation of material and social advantage and that remuneration be maintained at a level not higher than that of an average worker or a peasant. The old constitution was based on a relationship of class forces which has been superseded by the Cultural Revolution.

One of the great struggles waged by this Cultural Revolution is precisely against special privilege. This ought to find political expression in the constitution, particularly as it affects members of the party, which as the constitution says, guides the organs of the proletarian dictatorship in China.


In other words, what is needed is to codify into law the norms envisaged by the Paris Commune, which Lenin called the model for the dictatorship of the proletariat and which is in general harmony with the course of the struggles of the Cultural Revolution.

Aside from any and all errors in political theory and practice, the encouragement of material incentives in the Soviet Union is one of the principal causes of the deformation of the socialist character of the USSR.

Economics in the long run determines politics. Being determines consciousness. The admonition to party members to be self-sacrificing, to be resolute, to study Marxism-Leninism creatively, and to fight for Communism "all their lives," as stated in the draft is laudable and absolutely correct.

But after the experiences of proletarian dictatorships since the October Revolution and the experience of the Cultural Revolution in China, is it not incumbent to make the renunciation of material incentive, special privilege and above normal remuneration a legal requirement for party membership?

Finally, the general program of the party boldly and clearly states the necessity:

" . . , to overthrow the bourgeoisie completely, to replace the bourgeois dictatorship with a dictatorship of the proletariat, and to defeat capitalism with socialism."
The program also states that:
"The ultimate objective of the party is the realization of Communism..."
It is generally well understood by all Marxists that in between the proletarian revolution and the realization of communism is a long period which can only be the dictatorship of the proletariat and that the task of the dictatorship of the proletariat is not only to defeat the bourgeoisie and to create the material conditions for the development of socialist society, but, that in the course of this more or less protracted period, the aim of the proletariat is to abolish all antagonistic social classes.


To the extent that it is accomplished, the state itself begins to wither away, particularly as a special repressive force. Lenin's celebrated exposition of Marx's teaching on the "withering away of the state" has so far as this writer recollects, found no concrete expression in any of the constitutions or other state documents of the socialist countries.

In fact there is no literature at all on this very subject in Marxist-Leninists writings on the state except what Lenin wrote. This significant aspect in the development of the state, namely its transition from a state to no state, ought to be given greater attention and validated in law as a political perspective.

The monstrous growth of imperialist violence which derives from the monopolist growth of unbridled militarism has forced the socialist countries to respond and thereby strengthen their armed forces and also the respective state apparatus.

Militarism and violence on both sides of the class barricades have been made to seem by bourgeois ideologists to be the natural state of mankind. The "corrupting influence" of the state is passed off as the root cause of imperialist war as well as oppression in general. Anarchism feeds and develops on the basis of this ideology.

To pick up the thought developed by Lenin on the withering away of the state and give it concrete expression in the constitution would be a contribution to Marxism, and of great value in the worldwide struggle. particularly in the light of the revival of anarchist ideas that have newly flowered in the West as a result of the rise of revisionism and the decomposition of social democracy into imperialist liberalism.

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