Henry Liu on China

Donal donaloc at peterquinn.com
Fri Apr 5 08:41:33 MST 2002

Henry, I really enjoyed reading your appraisal of China and the CPC. It is
something about which I know little - many people I know have read the Red
Book and can quote parts - but the continued onslaught against the CPC has
had an effect on virtually everyone. It's interesting to read someone defend
it so eloquently. Much of what you wrote was of interest; clearly, movements
face similar problems and often solve them in similar ways leading to
similar secondary problems (albeit in very different environments). In
particular, I was very interested in your quote:

> From the masses - back to the masses!  This means: take the scattered and
unorganized ideas of the masses and, through study, turn them into focused
and systemic programs, then go back to the masses and propagate and explain
these ideals until the masses embrace them as their own. Thus mass movements
are initiated at the highest level, announced to Party cadres at central and
regional work conferences, subject to cadre criticism and  modified, after
which starts the first phase of mass movement. Mass organizations  are held
to provoke the "people's will", through readers' letters to newspapers and
rallies at which these letters are read and debated.  The results are then
officially discussed by the staff of leading organs of the state and the
Party, after which the systematized "people's will" is clarified into acts
of law or resolutions, and then the mass movement spreads to the whole

This sort of decision-making where the leadership assume responsibility to
initiate policy (based on ground-level experience) and then they try to
involve the base in it's modification and create a sense of 'ownership' is
something which I know well. It is very easy to criticise it as a lack of
democracy within a movement. Having said that, it springs almost naturally
from militarism and a lack of political development at the base. In a
country the size of China, I guess that this also physically limits
involvement in decision-making. Whilst these sorts of issues are familiar to
anyone involved in a large, popular-based party with a very fixed
ideological position/strategy at leadership level; I am always concerned
that this is a position which needs to be modified by a move towards more
standard democratic centralism. In the end, I feel that we need to fully
democratise decision-making, so that the base is in charge and that cliques
cannot develop which can (even for the very best reasons) come to dominate
through underhand methods. A further worry is that this method is highly
dependent upon the leadership being extremely close to the base in
composition and experience. Whilst we can usually rest assured of this fact
during a period of struggle after the acquisition of even limited power this
can become an issue of concern. I would value any response on the issue
given your experience.

Also, whilst not offering a hostage to fortune (or ultra-leftist critics who
don't even know what sort of difficulties you face); what would describe as
the failings/weaknesses (both historic and current) of the movement in China
and how have the leadership attempted to deal with these? You have touched
upon the top-down nature of decision-making - what efforts were made to
increase popular involvement? How was the linkage between the education
process and greater involvement in decision-making handled? If you want, you
could send these off-line to me. Otherwise, a good reference?


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