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The 8th National Congress

Date: September 15-27, 1956

Place: Beijing

Number of delegates: 1,026 full delegates and 107 alternate delegates

Party membership: 10.73 million

Under the guidance of the Party's general line, the Chinese people engaged themselves in large-scale economic construction in a planned way. Socialist transformation of private ownership of the means of production was then basically completed in most parts of the country, thus paving the way for the development of productive forces and laying the initial foundation for the socialist industrialization.

In the later stage of the socialist transformation, however, a series of mistakes were made. Too urgent a demand was imposed on the transformation and careful persuasion work was forgone, and the transition was made too rapidly and too uniformly. Nevertheless, from a fundamental point of view, the transformation was a historical victory, as it wiped out exploiting classes in China and a brand new socialist system was established. The completion of the socialist transformation laid the foundation for the subsequent progress and development of China. During the First Five-Year Plan period, socialist construction in various fields grew vigorously, the people's standard of living was improving and China had come to enjoy a mush higher international standing.

In 1956 the 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 1956, 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 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 1956, 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.

In September 1956, the Eighth National Congress of the CPC was held, at which the correct line of building socialism in all spheres was adopted. This is the first CPC national congress since the Party came into power in 1949. It was held at a time when socialist transformation in China had been in the main accomplished and the Party was faced with new situations and new tasks. Mao Zedong gave the opening address. Liu Shaoqi delivered the political report. Zhou Enlai made the report on the proposals for the Second Five-Year-Plan (1958-1962) for the development of the national economy. Deng Xiaoping delivered the report on the revision of the CPC Constitution.

It was pointed out at the Congress that, as the socialist system has been basically established in China, the principal contradiction within the country was no longer the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie but the one resulted from the need of the people for rapid economic and cultural development which fell short of their requirements. The chief task confronting the entire nation was to concentrate all efforts on developing the productive forces, industrializing the country and gradually meeting the people's growing economic and cultural needs. The congress stressed the issue of the building of the Party in power, emphasized the need to uphold democratic centralism and collective leadership, opposed the personality cult, promoted democracy within the Party and cemented the Party's ties with the masses. Hence, the congress gave directions for the development of the socialist causes and the building of the Party in future.

The congress elected a new Central Committee composed of 97 members and 73 alternate members. At the First Plenary Session of the Eighth CPC Central Committee, new leading bodies were elected with Mao Zedong as chairman of the Central Committee, Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De and Chen Yun as vice-chairmen and Deng Xiaoping as general secretary. These six people were also elected to form the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee.

In February 1957, Mao put forward the theory on the correct handling of contradictions among the people. By expounding upon such important theoretical issues, Mao Zedong made great contributions to the Party in the search for a road to build socialism suited to Chinese conditions.

Mao Zedong systematically elaborated his thesis on the contradictions among the people in the socialist society. These were: contradictions within the working class, within the peasantry, and within the intelligentsia; between the working class and the peasantry; between the workers and peasants on the one hand and the intellectuals on the other; between the working class and other groups of working people on the one hand and the national bourgeoisie on the other; within the national bourgeoisie; and between the government and the people. Mao said the only way to solve these problems was "by the democratic method, the method of persuasion and education, and not by the method of coercion or repression."

In order to strengthen the leadership of the Party over the socialist construction, the CPC Central Committee decided in April 1957 to launch a rectification campaign against subjectivism, factionalism and bureaucracy.

On June 7, 1957, in the form of "People's Daily" editorial, Mao launched the “Anti-Rightist Movement”, saying that now the Rightists challenge the Communist Party, to put down the Communist Party. The CCP started its repressive machinery. Mao put the number of Rightists as one percent to ten percent of intellectuals. As a result, of Chin's five million intellectuals, at least five hundred and fifty thousand are classified as "rightists." In fact, some of them did not say anything "anti-party", some of them were against the men of power. Those members of the democratic parties that Mao hated were caught in one draft, including the transport minister Zhang Bojun, forest industry minister Luo Longji. This even put Zhang Bojun and Luo Longji together as a “Zhang and Luo anti party alliance”, though in fact Zhang and Luo are bitter rivals.

Many "rightists" were shot, more comitted suicide. Most of the "rightists" experienced struggle sessions, even without kicking, insults were intolerable, and nearly all were deported to remote places.

At the Second Session of the Eighth National Congress of the CPC held in May 1958 in Beijing, a general line of “going all out, aiming high and achieving greater, faster, better and more economical results in building socialism” was adopted. The line represented the common wish of the people to change China’s backward economic and cultural situations. However, it overlooked objective economic laws.

The evidence all indicates that around 1956-57 the Chinese leadership held that the needs of socialism and the development of China's productive forces called for the active involvement of private business and there was no need to render socialism utterly pure. Subsequently, of course, these ideas were reversed and campaigns were mounted to thoroughly eliminate private and individual business.

In 1957, China shifted suddenly and dramatically to the "left," leading to many of the policies and proposals of the previous 18 months being cast aside, distorted and even criticized. Although 1956 could have been a new starting point for the emancipation of the mind, there were all manner of setbacks and difficulties until the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Party Central Committee in 1978.

In 1958, the Second Plenum of the Eighth National Congress of the Party adopted the general line for socialist construction. The line and its fundamental aspects were correct in that it reflected the masses' pressing demand for a change in the economic and cultural backwardness of our country. Its shortcoming was that it overlooked the objective economic laws. Both before and after the plenum, all comrades in the Party and people of all nationalities displayed high enthusiasm and initiative for socialism and achieved certain results in production and construction. However, "Left" errors, characterized by excessive targets, the issuing of arbitrary directions, boastfulness and the stirring up of a "communist wind, " spread unchecked throughout the country.

Mao Zedong concentrated on dealing with the CPC leadership, those who he believed had dragged his military industrialization. The first were Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai. Mao's strategy is to attack Zhou Enlai, “Beat the dog before the lion”. In early 1958, Mao several times at the central meeting denounced Zhou Enlai as "almost at the edge of rightist, only 50 meters". Zhou had to do self-criticism again and again. After Zhou was discredited, he asked Mao, "whether it is appropriate to continue as premier?" Mao told him to continue as premier.

Comrade Mao Zedong and many leading comrades, both at the center and in the localities, had become smug about their successes, were impatient for quick results and overestimated the role of man's subjective will and efforts. After the general line was formulated, the great leap forward and the movement for rural people's communes were initiated without careful investigation and study and without prior experimentation.

From the end of 1958 to the early stage of the Lushan Meeting of the Political Bureau of the Party's Central Committee in July 1959, Comrade Mao Zedong and the Central Committee led the whole Party in energetically rectifying the errors which had already been recognized. However, in the later part of the meeting, he erred in initiating criticism of Comrade Peng Dehuai and then in launching a Party-wide struggle against "Right opportunism."

The resolution passed by the Eighth Plenary Session of the Eighth Central Committee of the Party concerning the so-called anti-Party group of Peng Dehuai, Huang Kecheng, Zhang Wentian and Zhou Xiaozhou was entirely wrong. Politically, this struggle gravely undermined inner-Party democracy from the central level down to the grassroots; economically, it cut short the process of the rectification of "Left" errors, thus prolonging their influence. It was mainly due to the errors of the great leap forward and of the struggle against "Right opportunism" together with a succession of natural calamities and the perfidious scrapping of contracts by the Soviet Government that the economy encountered serious difficulties between 1959 and 1961, which caused serious losses to the country and people.

In the winter of 1960, the Central Committee of the Party and Comrade Mao Zedong set about rectifying the "Left" errors in rural work and decided on the principle of "readjustment, consolidation, filling out and raising standards" for the economy as a whole. A number of correct policies and resolute measures were worked out and put into effect with Comrades Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yun and Deng Xiaoping in charge. All this constituted a crucial turning point in that historical phase. In January 1962, the enlarged Central Work Conference attended by 7,000 people made a preliminary summing-up of the positive and negative experience of the great leap forward and unfolded criticism and self-criticism. A majority of the comrades who had been unjustifiably criticized during the campaign against "Right opportunism" were rehabilitated before or after the conference. In addition. most of the "Rightists" had their label removed. Thanks to these economic and political measures, the national economy recovered and developed fairly smoothly between 1962 and 1966.

Nevertheless, "Left" errors in the principles guiding economic work were not only not eradicated, but actually grew in the spheres of politics, ideology and culture. At the 10th Plenary Session of the Party's Eighth Central Committee in September 1962, Comrade Mao Zedong widened and absolutized the class struggle, which exists only within certain limits in socialist society, and carried forward the viewpoint he had advanced after the anti-Rightist struggle in 1957 that the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie remained the principal contradiction in the society. He went a step further and asserted that, throughout the historical period of socialism, the bourgeoisie would continue to exist and would attempt a come back and become the source of revisionism inside the Party.

The socialist education movement unfolded between 1963 and 1965 in some rural areas and at the grass-roots level in a small number of cities did help to some extent to improve the cadres' style of work and economic management. But, in the course of the movement, problems differing in nature were all treated as forms of class struggle or its reflections inside the Party. As a result, quite a number of the cadres at the grass-roots level were unjustly dealt with in the latter half of 1964, and early in 1965 the erroneous thesis was advanced that the main target of the movement should be "those Party persons in power taking the capitalist road."

In the ideological sphere, a number of literary and art works and schools of thought and a number of representative personages in artistic, literary and academic circles were subjected to unwarranted, inordinate political criticism. And there was an increasingly serious "Left" deviation on the question of intellectuals and on the question of education, science and culture. These errors eventually culminated in the "cultural revolution, " but they had not yet become dominant.

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Page last modified: 28-12-2017 18:37:13 ZULU