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The 11th National Congress

Date: August 12-18, 1977

Place: Beijing

Number of delegates: 1,510

Party membership: 35 million

With the victorious overthrow of the Jiang Qing counterrevolutionary clique in October 1976, China entered a new period of socialist modernization construction. In the first two years of the new period, the Party still was not able to free itself from all the disturbances of the "Left" mistakes. The Party's work progressed hesitantly.

Hua Guofeng made a political report, Ye Jianying made a report on the revision of the Party Constitution and Deng Xiaoping delivered a closing speech. The congress summed up the struggle against the "gang of four", declared the 10-year-long "cultural revolution" ended and reiterated that the fundamental task for the Party in the new period was to make China a powerful and modern socialist state within the century. It played a positive role in criticizing the "gang of four" and mobilizing the whole Party and the nation to build China into a powerful and modern country.

But as restricted by the historical conditions at that time and the influence of Hua Guofeng's wrong principle of "two whatevers" ("we will resolutely defend whatever policy decisions Chairman Mao made and unswervingly follow whatever instructions Chairman Mao gave"), the congress failed to put right, but continued to affirm instead, the erroneous theories, policies and slogans of the "cultural revolution". Consequently, the congress did not accomplish the task of setting wrong things right theoretically and in terms of the Party's guidelines.

The congress elected 201 members and 132 alternate members to form the new Central Committee. The First Plenary Session of the 11th CPC Central Committee elected Hua Guofeng chairman, and Ye Jianying, Deng Xiaoping, Li Xiannian and Wang Dongxing vice chairmen, of the Central Committee. These five people were also elected to form the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau.

Hu Yaobang, a senior party official who had himself been persecuted during the Cultural Revolution, realized that China had suffered enormous setbacks during that tumultuous period. “How can a nation comprised of people shackled and oppressed mentally as well as organizationally compete with developed countries of the world?” he asked. Hu went on to become Deng Xiaoping’s right hand in the campaign to reform China and open it to the world. Hu was eventually ousted from the leadership over his passionate commitment to that process. His death in 1989 sparked an outpouring of grief that led to the student protests at Tiananmen, and his name was rarely mentioned again publicly until 2005 – the 90th anniversary of his birth.

The Eleventh CPC National Congress was convened in August 1977, and Hu was elected a member of the CPC Central Committee. Soon after the meeting, Hu organized a panel to write an article in which he tried to rehabilitate those persecuted during the Cultural Revolution.

On 06 May 1978, Hu organized a conference to discuss the draft of the article that would become “Practice is the Sole Criterion for Testing Truth” and, on May 11, it was published in Guangming Daily. The article was not only concerned with demolishing the “Two Whatevers”; it also dealt with Mao’s thought during his later life, theories of the Cultural Revolution and other pressing topics. The evaluation is tough as well as fair, and it tries to present history as it was.

In December 1978, the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Party Central Committee was held. The Party then fundamentally ridded itself of the prolonged hard bondage of "Left" errors and reaffirmed the ideological, political and organizational line of Marxism. The session decided to shift the emphasis in the Party's work to socialist modernization construction. It also formulated the general principle of reform and opening to the outside world. The measures completed a great turning point of far-reaching significance in the history of the Party since the founding of the People's Republic.

The nationwide discussion on practice being the only criterion for truth, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Party Central Committee in December 1978 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.

After the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh CPC Central Committee which was held at the end of 1978, the CPC represented by Deng Xiaoping, summing up both positive and negative experience accumulated since the founding of the Republic and following the principle of emancipating the mind and seeking truth from facts, shifted the focus of work to economic construction and introduced the policies of reform and opening to the outside world, bringing China into a new period of socialist construction.

During the process, lines, principles and policies of building socialism with Chinese characteristics gradually took shape and basic issues in respect of building, consolidating and developing socialism in China were clarified. As a result, the Deng Xiaoping Theory, a product of the integration of Marxism-Leninism with contemporary Chinese practices and characteristics, was established. It carries on and further develops the Mao Zedong Thought under new historical conditions. As a crystallization of collective wisdom of the CPC, it "will correctly guide the Chinese people to successfully achieve socialist modernization".

The "Cultural Revolution" left the serious consequences of political, ideological, organizational and economic confusion. The second generation of the collective leadership with Deng Xiaoping at the core shaped after the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in December 1978. (Mao Zedong was at the core of the CPC first generation of collective leadership, and Deng was an important member among that leadership.) The second generation of collective leadership undertook the arduous tasks, realized the historic turn and enabled China to enter a new historical period of building socialism.

Before and after the convocation of the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee, the Party led and supported the large-scale debate about whether practice is the sole criterion for testing truth. The nationwide debate smashed the traditional personality cult on Chairman Mao Zedong and shattered the argument of the "two whatevers" , the notion pursued by then Party Chairman Hua Guofeng after the death of Chairman Mao. The erroneous notion included that whatever policy decisions Mao had made must be firmly upheld and whatever instructions he had given must be followed unswervingly. The statement first appeared in an editorial entitled "Study the Documents Carefully and Grasp the Key Link", which was published simultaneously in the People's Daily, the Liberation Army Daily and later in the monthly journal Hongqi, or the Red Flag. The debate upheld again the ideological principles of emancipating the mind and seeking truth from facts and brought order out of chaos.

The Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee decisively discarded the slogan "Take class struggle as the key link" , the "Left" political line which had become unsuitable in a socialist society, and made the strategic decision to concentrate instead on socialist modernization. The Party made efforts to set things right and started the all-round reform, which took economic development as the central task. In addition, it decided to open up to the outside world. Meanwhile, to counter the erroneous ideological trends during the process of setting wrong things right, the Party took a clear-cut stand for sticking to the socialist road, the People's democratic dictatorship, the leadership by the Communist Party, and Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought. The basic line of "one central task and two basic points" , the shortened form of making economic development as the central task while adhering to the Four Cardinal Principles and persevering in reform and the open policy, were shaped, which decided the basis of the Party's basic principles at a new stage.

The implementation of the correct ideological and political lines must be ensured by a correct organizational line. The historic turn required the strengthening of organizational building. The Party urged to make all ranks of cadres more revolutionary, younger, better educated and more competent professionally. It abolished the de facto system of life tenure in leading Party and government posts and enabled new cadres to succeed the old ones in the central leading organs of the Party.

The CPC examined a large number of cases in the history of the Party in which the charges made against people had been false or exaggerated, or which had been dealt with incorrectly, and redressed the injustices that had been done. The Sixth Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee held from June 27 to 29, 1981, examined and approved the "Resolution on Certain Questions in the History of Our Party since the Founding of the People's Republic of China" . In this resolution the central committee made a scientific summation of the major events in the history of the Party over the 32 years since the founding of the People's Republic of China. They categorically negated the value of the "Cultural Revolution" and of the theory of "continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat". But they also affirmed the importance of Mao Zedong's historical role and systematically expounded Mao Zedong Thought.

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Page last modified: 28-12-2017 18:37:14 ZULU