From New Times, Moscow
April 15, 1953, #16, pp. 3-8

Development of People’s Democracy m China


The elections to the All-China People's Assembly, the supreme organ of state power, and the local People's Assemblies to be held this year represent a new and important stage in the further democratization of government in China and testify to the victories of people's democracy in that country.

J. V. Stalin said in 1926 in his work, "The Prospects of the Revolution in China," that

"... the future revolutionary government in China will in general resemble the kind of government we talked about in 1905, that is, it will be something in the nature of a democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry, with the difference, however, that it will be primarily an anti-imperialist government.

"It will be a government transitional to the non-capitalist, or, more exactly, the socialist development of China."

Stalin's characterization of the future revolutionary government in China was of inestimable value to the Chinese Communist Party in its struggle for the establishment of a people's democratic system. In the course of the revolutionary struggle, the Communist Party and its leader, Mao Tse-tung, constructively applying the Marxist-Leninist theory of the forms of political organization of society, issued slogans for the organization of government power conforming with the given situation internally and internationally.

Thus in 1926-27, when the peasants revolted in some of the districts of Hunan, overthrew the landlords and established the rule of the peasant leagues, Mao Tse-tung, summing up this movement, wrote:

"With the overthrow of the power of the landlords, the peasant leagues have become the sole organs of government power; they are carrying out in practice the slogan: 'All Power to the Peasant Leagues!' "

During the second revolutionary civil war (1927-36), when the agrarian revolution had grown and spread, the political power of the people in the newly-formed revolutionary bases took the form of assemblies of deputies. In the central revolutionary base (of which Juitsin was the capital), a Central Workers' and Peasants' Democratic Government of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Democratic Republic, with Mao Tse-tung as its Chairman, was in power from 1931 to 1934. This was a government of "the bloc of the workers, peasants and urban petty bourgeoisie" (Mao Tse-tung). The republic was definitely anti-imperialist and anti-feudal in character.

The Japanese invasion which began in the early 'thirties caused a regrouping of political forces in China. It was a blow not only at the working people and the petty bourgeoisie; it also substantially affected the interests of the national bourgeoisie. In view of this, the Communist Party took the initiative in establishing a broad anti-Japanese national front, embracing the workers, peasants, urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie, and rousing them to fight Japanese imperialism and betrayers of the people. National liberation became the chief and immediate task. The fight for it had a broad social basis, comprising all the patriotic forces of the country. The call for a workers' and peasants' republic was replaced by the call for a people's republic. The republic "must become a state based on an alliance of the workers, the peasants, the petty bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie—therein lies its difference from the ordinary bourgeois republic," Mao Tse-tung said in 1937. This in fact, was the nature of the government in the liberated regions of China during the Japanese aggression. The character of the political system of Free China was conclusively formulated by Mao Tse-tung in his treatise, "On People's Democratic Dictatorship":

"Summarizing our experiences and condensing them into one point," he said, "we have a people's democratic dictatorship led by the working class (through the Communist Party) and based upon the alliance of the workers and peasants."

With the consolidation of the people's state,

"China, under the leadership of the working class and the Communist Party, can develop steadily from an agricultural into an industrial country and from a New Democratic into a Socialist and, eventually, a Communist society...."

People's democracy is the political basis of the Chinese People's Republic. The dictatorship of people's democracy in China means the government power of the People's Democratic United Front of the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie, the national (non-comprador) bourgeoisie and other democratic elements, based upon an alliance of the workers and peasants and led by the working class through the Communist Party. The dictatorship of people's democracy is anti-imperialist and anti-feudal in character.

The organs through which government authority is exercised by the people are the People's Assemblies and the People's Government Councils (or People's Governments) of villages, rural districts, counties, provinces and bigger administrative areas, and, in the centre, the future All-China People's Assembly and the Central People's Government Council.

It has been laid down that the People's Assemblies of all levels are chosen by the people through general elections. The Assemblies elect People's Government Councils (or People's Governments), all the way up from the village to the centre, which function in between the sessions of the local People's Assemblies and the All-China Assembly.

In the latter part of September 1949 the People's Political Consultative Conference met for the first time in Peking, convened on the initiative of the Communist Party and in agreement with other Chinese political parties and democratic organizations.

The People's Political Consultative Conference is an organization of the People's Democratic United Front, and consists of representatives of the Communist Party and democratic parties and groups, and also of people's organizations which recognize its Statutes and Common Program.

Pending the convening of the All-China People's Assembly, the People's Political Consultative Conference assumed the latter's functions as the highest organ of state power. The session approved the Common Program and Statutes of the People's Political Consultative Conference, passed a law setting up a Central People's Government, elected a National Committee of the People's Political Consultative Conference and a Central People's Government Council, endorsed the flag, emblem and anthem of the republic, and resolved that the capital of China should be Peking.

The basic documents approved by the session outlined the political, economic and social principles for building the Chinese People's Republic.

The present Central People's Government Council (Central People's Government) of the Chinese People's Republic was elected at the first session of the People's Political Consultative Conference. It consists of a Chairman (Mao Tse-tung), six Vice-Chairmen, and 56 members. The highest executive authority is the Government Administration Council, which is accountable to the Central People's Government Council.

That general elections to the local and All- China People's Assemblies are being held only now for the first time is quite understandable. In the early years of the Chinese People's Republic the necessary economic and political requisites for the broad democratization of the government system did not yet exist. The country was still at war and the major reforms had not yet been carried out. Plundered by the Japanese invader and devastated by the Chiang Kai-shek clique, China's economy was in a state of dislocation. Industrial and agricultural output was considerably below prewar.

Liberation from the Kuomintang bands proceeded gradually. The earlier liberated regions, such as Northeast and North China, were naturally able to undertake democratic reforms sooner than the others, such as Northwest or Southwest China. Consequently, elections to the People's Assemblies and the elections by them of People's Government Councils could not be held until the whole of China had risen firmly to its feet.

To ensure revolutionary order and crush counterrevolution, the government authorities in the liberated regions were not elected, but appointed by the Central People's Government or the army political bodies at the various fronts. The republic was divided into six big administrative areas: Northeast, North, Northwest, East, Central-South and Southwest, and the Central People's Government set up Military-Administrative Committees in each of these areas.

Military control was a temporary measure enforced by the circumstances. It was not a substitute for the democratization of the republic, but only a transitional stage envisaging more flexible forms of enlisting the masses in the administration of the state.

One such transitional and flexible form was the institution of conferences representing all sections of the population. Article 14 of the Common Program of the People's Political Consultative Conference says:

"Pending the convening of local People's Assemblies... local conferences of representatives of all sections of the population shall gradually take upon themselves the functions of the People's Assemblies."

The delegates to the conferences of all sections of the population are partly elected by the population, and partly appointed, or invited by the local People's Governments in agreement with the local Consultative Councils. The broad social and political composition of the conferences ensures free expression of the will of the masses. Their delegates include representatives of the working class, the peasantry, the urban petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie, the Communist Party, democratic parties, people's organizations, military units, religious denominations, and patriotic elements belonging to the different nationalities of China.

The conferences are convened by the Military-Administrative Committees of big areas and towns, or by the People's Governments. They exercise the powers of the People's Assemblies – receive reports from the People's Governments, and elect the chairman, vice-chairmen and members of the local People's Government Councils.

The first conference of representatives of all sections of the population was held in Northeast China in August 1949. It elected the People's Government (People's Government Council) of Northeast China. The experience gained at this conference facilitated the carrying out of similar measures in other parts of the country.

Take, for instance, the third conference of representatives of all the sections of the population of Peking, held in February 1951. The electoral wards were marked out by the City Consultative Council. Big industrial plants and higher educational establishments with several thousand voters were each to elect three delegates. Smaller plants and institutions were allowed one or two delegates, while plants or institutions which had few voters were united for the election of a common delegate. The city districts elected two delegates or more, depending on the size of their population. The electoral commissions were set up in mills and factories, institutions and educational establishments one month before the conference was due to meet.

In state-owned plants and in higher educational establishments, where the voters constituted a compact mass and were already accustomed to the procedure of voting, the elections were direct. Youth and women's organizations, associations of intellectuals, merchants' associations and city districts, where the electorate did not constitute a compact unit, elected their delegates indirectly. The delegates from the Peking districts, for instance, were elected at district conferences. The voting in the higher educational establishments was by secret ballot; in other electoral wards it was as a rule open, by a show of hands.

In all, 61 per cent of the delegates to the third Peking all-sections conference were elected by indirect ballot and 22 per cent by direct ballot; 3 per cent were appointed by the city government, and 14 per cent were invited.

The conference discussed reports on the development of local industry and trade, on measures to increase agricultural output, extension of the elementary, secondary and vocational school system, public health, the provision of free hospital and out-patient treatment, protection of national monuments, road repair, the results of the 1950 financial year, etc. It passed a number of decisions and elected the People's Government of Peking.

For the more efficient work of the conference, the delegates were divided into 19 groups, representing the different sections of the population – workers, peasants, intellectuals, tradesmen, manufacturers, housewives, etc. Each group preliminarily examined the draft resolutions and the nominations to the City People's Government Council (People's Government). By this procedure were elected the Mayor of Peking (Peng Chen, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party), and the vice-chairman and 29 members of the City People's Government (11 civil servants, 3 workers. 2 professors, 2 schoolteachers, 2 merchants, an author, a physician, an ex-serviceman, a clerk, a banker, a representative of a women's federation, etc.).

The transfer of government from the military to civil authorities began. An Administrative Committee of North China was set up towards the close of December 1951, and in November 1952 the Central People's Government Council decided to replace the Military-Administrative Committees by civil administrations in all the big administrative areas.

Millions of Chinese have already received a preliminary schooling in government administration. Chou En-lai, Premier of the Government Administration Council, has stated that in a little over three years more than 13,637,000 persons have taken part in the work of local conferences of representatives of all sections of the population. In the majority of the regions, over four fifths of the delegates to these conferences were elected by direct or indirect ballot. Women share in the work of the conferences on an equal footing with men, and women made up 15 per cent of the delegates to the county all-sections conferences.

These conferences, and the changes in the structure of the organs of government, were important steps towards higher forms of democratic government.

China has changed beyond recognition since the establishment of people's rule. The victory of the revolution has abolished imperialist and feudal oppression forever, and with the exception of Taiwan, the whole country has been liberated from the Kuomintang bands.

Immense changes have also taken place in the economic life of the country.

"Our task during the past three years and more has been to concentrate all our efforts on creating the necessary conditions for our people to be able to strive for national industrialization and to ensure that our country proceeds steadily towards socialism," Chou En- lai declared at the fourth session of the National Committee on February 4, 1953.

The Soviet-Chinese treaty and agreements, and China's close friendship with the Soviet Union and the People's Democracies, created conditions for swift economic recovery and have enabled China to enter a period of broad economic development.

China's economic recovery was in the main completed by the close of 1952. Industrial and agricultural output had reached prewar levels, and in the case of many items had exceeded them. Here are the preliminary 1952 output figures, in percentages of prewar peaks, for some major heavy industry items: pig iron – 105, steel – 170, coal – 95, power – 114, cement – 153. Similarly with the major light industry products: 65 per cent more cotton goods, and 112 per cent more paper were produced than at any time before the war. China is now producing rails, machine tools, mining equipment and other items which it never produced before.

The state-owned sector now accounts for about 80 per cent of the output of the heavy industries, and for about 50 per cent of the output of the light industries. Agrarian reform, carried out in an area with a rural population of nearly 450 million, has definitely crushed semi-feudal landownership. Land has been assigned to the formerly landless and the small peasants; conditions have been created for promoting the productive forces of agriculture and ensuring the necessary supplies of raw materials for industry. Nine per cent more food, and 55.7 per cent more cotton were grown in 1952 than at any time before the war. The socialized sector in agriculture is expanding. At the close of last year there were over six million mutual aid teams and more than 4,000 agricultural producing cooperatives, embracing upwards of 40 per cent of the rural population. Over two thousand state farms have been started.

Trade between town and country has expanded, and the political and economic alliance between the workers and peasants has grown stronger still. Foreign trade, which under Kuomintang rule was controlled by the imperialists and served for the colonial enslavement of the country, has now become a powerful means of promoting the recovery and further development of China's economy. Approximately 90 per cent of the import and export trade is handled by the state. Commercial relations are being successfully developed with the Soviet Union and the People's Democracies: their share in China's total foreign trade rose from 26 per cent in 1950 to 72 per cent in 1952.

Economic progress is accompanied by a steady rise in the material and cultural standards of the working people. Social insurance of workers has been instituted for the first time in the country's history. Price reductions made for increased real wages, and the abolition of extortionate rents has meant a gain of millions of tons of cereal for the peasants. The number of elementary, secondary and higher schools is increasing; so is the number of trained specialists.

The democratic dictatorship of the people, and its foundation, the alliance of the workers and peasants, have grown firmer. The leading and directing role of the Communist Party has been enhanced. The Chinese working people have become more politically conscious, a big contributing factor being the study of Marxist-Leninist theory and the works of Stalin.

All these factors have enabled the Chinese People's Republic to pass to a new stage in its economic development – the launching of its first five-year national construction plan.

China, of course, still has big difficulties to cope with, springing chiefly from the inadequate experience of government personnel, as Mao Tse-tung stated on February 7, 1953. He pointed out that among a considerable number of the lower government bodies and government personnel there was a tendency to abuse their administrative powers and to violate law and discipline.

"If we put an end to these shortcomings," Mao Tse-tung said, "the planned upbuilding of our country will undoubtedly be crowned with success, our people's democratic system will undoubtedly develop still more, the intrigues of the imperialists will undoubtedly be foiled, and we shall undoubtedly achieve complete victory!"

The armed struggle of the Chinese people against aggression, Chou En-lai said on February 4, 1953,

"has not, as the imperialists imagined, caused any halt or interruption in the social transformation and economic rehabilitation of China. On the contrary, it has greatly stimulated the Chinese people's deep spirit of patriotism and internationalism, infinitely strengthened their moral and political unity, conspicuously elevated the international status of our country, powerfully expanded the world movement against war and in defence of peace, and reinforced the strength and influence of the world camp of peace and democracy headed by the Soviet Union."

The Chinese People's Republic stands firmly in the camp of peace, democracy and socialism and preserves and fosters close ties with the great Soviet Union and with all the nations of this camp. The friendship and cooperation of the peoples of the Soviet Union and China, and the assistance the Soviet people is rendering the Chinese people, are a firm pledge of the continued progress of the Chinese People's Republic, and the bulwark of peace and security in the Far East and throughout the world.

All this has created the necessary conditions for a new and important stage in the democratization of government. The Chinese People's Republic is now in a position to convene the local and All-China People's Assemblies.

"Speaking nationally," Mao Tse-tung said on January 14, 1953, at a meeting of the Central People's Government Council, "hostilities have ceased on the mainland, the agrarian reform has in the main been completed, and all sections of the population are united. In view of this, conditions are now ripe for the convening, in accordance with the provisions of the Common Program of the People's Political Consultative Conference, the All-China People's Assembly and the People's Assemblies of all levels."

The Central People's Government Council unanimously decided to hold elections to the local and All-China People's Assemblies in 1953. The All-China Assembly will adopt a Constitution of the Chinese People's Republic, endorse the five-year national construction plan, and elect a new Central People's Government. A Commission has been set up under the chairmanship of Mao Tse-tung to draft the Constitution.

A law governing the elections to the local and All-China People's Assemblies was published on March 2. Its main provisions are: All citizens of the Chinese People's Republic of the age of 18 and over, without distinction of race, nationality, occupation, social status, religious creed, education, property status or domicile, have the right to elect and to be elected. This right is shared equally by men and women.

The law denies the right of vote and election to landlords who have not yet changed their class category (according to a decision of the Government Administration Council, former landlords who have taken to useful labour and are loyal to the people's democratic regime, may, by decision of rural People's Assemblies, subject to confirmation by the county governments, be classed as working people), as well as to counterrevolutionary elements and other persons deprived of political rights, and to the insane.

Candidates to the local and All-China People's Assemblies may be nominated by the Communist Party, by democratic parties and groups, by public organizations and by individuals.

"The convening of the People's Assemblies," Mao Tse-tung said, "will promote the further development of people's democracy. ... The government which the All-China People's Assembly will set up will be a government representing a united front of all the nationalities, of all the democratic classes, of all the democratic parties and people's organizations of the country."

In the early part of April the Central Electoral Commission issued instructions appointing the dates of election of the local People's Assemblies. They will be the first step towards, and the basis of, the election of the All-China Assembly. The local elections will be held all over the country – in rural districts, small towns, municipal areas and municipalities not embracing parts of adjacent districts – between May and October 1953.

China is now preparing for the elections. This new step in the democratization of government opens up wide vistas for the development of the Chinese People's Republic.

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