Friday, February 20, 2015

Part 2 (The Cage of Ideology)--On a Constitutional Theory for China--From the General Program of the Chinese Communist Party to Political Theory

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2015)

This Blog Essay site devotes every February to a series of integrated but short essays on a single theme. For 2015 this site introduces a new theme: On a Constitutional Theory for China--From the General Program of the Chinese Communist Party to Political Theory.

This Post includes Part 2, The Cage of Ideology--The History of the General Program and the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party

With thanks to San Gao (Penn State Law SJD expected) who researched and prepared much that follows.

Table of Contents

The Cage of Ideology--The History of the General Program and the Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party
Evolution of General Program within CPC Party Constitution

We have come to understand the centrality of ideology to the ordering of the Chinese Constitutional system. And we have come to understand, as well, that the centrality of ideology is functionally similar to the animating ideology of other well ordered and comprehensive political systems from out of which a self-referencing constitutional order may be established and disciplined in accordance with its normative logic. We have located the cage of ideology within the institutional structures of the Chinese Communist Party.  CCP and ideology, sovereign political community and theory, are thus bound together to produce an ordering framework that binds all that constitutes the Chinese Republic in its current state of organization.

This cage of ideology structures and defines.  It creates that border within which those premises which together constitute the basis of systemic coherence and self-reference can be identified, developed, policed and applied. From its premises the language of inter systemic communication can be developed, one in which words become terms of art and are diffused with deeper meaning that are built within the context of communication within the system. The cage of ideology is semiotically coherent, bit only within its borders and among its practitioners and acolytes.  It requires the acquisition of a specific language--in the American context this is well evidenced by the very peculiar language of U.S. constitutional discourse before the federal courts, a language that sometimes defies comprehension even among the great body of those in whose service the language is deployed. The cage of ideology provides a means of conceptual incarnation of an ordering system of substantive values  and societal objectives.

Systemic reification is vital for the establishment of systemic autonomy from  the collective personal desires, objectives and behaviors of the individuals who constitute the community operating within the system. A system, especially an ideological system, that does not exist beyond the control of any individual or group functions as commodity--a tool for leveraging personal power devoid of normative value beyond that useful for the personal welfare maximization of the individual or the group that owns it. Aristotle understood this dynamic well when he distinguished among the three ideological "cages" he described (monarchy, aristocracy, democracy) as autonomous ideological systems.  He also noted that where such autonomy is lost, each system loses its legitimacy and thus perverted, becomes an illegitimate inversion of itself--monarchy becomes despotism, aristocracy becomes oligarchy and democracy becomes mob rule.  In the 20th century, democratic republicanism becomes fascism and Marxist Leninist parties become totalitarian cult of personality dictatorships.

But the cage of ideology is essential as well for managing communication with other ideological systems.  Here the insights of systems theory and autopoiesis are useful.  An autonomous ideological system strives for internal coherence.  It develops subsystems and subsidiary cages of regulation all derived from the premises that both constitute the system as distinct from others and that provide the normative framework for deriving subsidiary rules.  That insight, of course, is the essential characteristic of the constitutions of all autonomous communities--from states, to religions, to enterprises. National laws are grounded in constitutional frameworks; religious rules are derived from the collected divine word and guidance; enterprise operating rules are framed through its organizing documents and so on. But that insight also produces another, internal coherence requires a substantial barrier between systems.  Coherence is relational--it requires both distinguishing characteristics and a border that can be discerned and protected.  Borders are not impermeable, but the nature of communication between systems is quite distinct from communication within systems.  The current debate in the United States about judicial reliance on "foreign" sources provides a good example.  The complications of "border control" are nicely illustrated by Ganesh Sitaraman in the American context. (Ganesh Sitaraman, The Use and Abuse of Foreign Law in Constitutional InterpretationHarvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 32:653-693).  Systems communicate, in the language of systems theory, they engage in structural coupling, they intermesh, they form communicative networks, and the like.  The way systems communicate, interact, and transpose these communications and knowledge transfers within their systems, however, can vary considerably. But no system exists focused solely inward. Robust systems are less fearful of extra-systemic communication than systems whose internal integrity is weaker.  Strong systems internalize communication, transposing it into their own normative language; weak systems might be overwhelmed by communication that colonizes, and invasive communication that bursts systems.

In China, that cage has a formal structure that emerged only after a long process of development from the earliest organization of the Chinese Communist Party through its emergence in its current form only after the rejection of the cult of personality form of party-state organization that reached its greatest level of development during the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution.  The cage of ideology in China is the general program of the CCP--the formal elaboration of the theory of the organizational framework of the Chinese political-social-economic system.  It represents the basic premises, the theory, under which the system of Chinese politics-society-economy is organized, from out of which rules may be created to implement and through which society develops. It provides premise, language, order and process, the essential qualities of autonomous systemicity.  That cage has been placed within the document that itself constitutes the community of the holders of delegated political authority in this system--the CCP.

This cage embodies the formal structures of system theory, and its most legitimate source.  It defines the character and borders of a system that is meant to be separate from and superior to the ambitions, desires and personal tastes of those who operate within it. The cage is strongest when individuals act on the basis of these organizing premises; it is at its weakest when individuals act to threaten the autonomy of the system and to use it to further their own or their factions' ends. A weak system cannot communicate either internally (to scientifically develop and implement its structures and objectives), nor can it communicate externally (since such communication with other systems is received as a threatening gesture with the potential to displace the structures of a system that has lost its autonomous integrity).  It is for that reason, for example, that structurally weak systems--cult of personality Marxist Leninist structures, fascist dictatorships or oligarchies, mob democracies--tend to try to strengthen the barriers between its "system"  and foreign systems--each act of communication might exposure the weakness of the system itself. On the other hand, robust autonomous systems are in constant interaction, communication, and transposition.  Communication and transposition strengthens rather than threatens a robust Marxist-Leninist system, a democracy or an aristocracy. Detaching systems from the individuals who purport to manage them tends to be among the condition most threatening to the integrity, and thus to the strength, of systems.  Where such attachment has reached an advanced stage, then it is likely that the system, now decadent, will either fall and be replaced by another (a variation of this insight is well evidenced in Marxist determinism and the old COMINTERN; but also in the progressive ideology of the West that itself adheres to a determinism leading to the establishment of global democratic orders) or the system will be purged and reconstituted (in the language of Chinese ideology, scientifically developed driven by the foundational premise of seeking truth from facts).

Shan Gao provides a short discussion of the evolution of the general program within the formal structures of the CCP constitution in the short essay that follow.  Links to the historical CCP constitutions then follow at the end of the essay:

This short essay illustrates the evolution of general program within the Communist Party of China’s Constitution. The focus is the organization and content of the general program in order to show how it evolved within the context of China and communist party as a more refined and more elaborated statement on the CPC’s institutional agenda, culture, guiding ideology and mission. This essay is organized in a chronological order, which separates the development of constitution into five stages: The primary stage (1921-1928). A pre-general program era, party constitution is simple and concise without a general program because young communist party of China has very limited operation in certain regions. The revolutionary stage (1945-1956). The adoption of general program in 1945 7th congress signified the maturity and sophistication of party’s revolution and the emergence of developing scientific theory to guide their institutional governance. The conflict stage (1966-1977). General program, as core part of constitution subordinated by the catastrophic culture revolution and de-structuralized in a new format to reflect the central power of China. The re- structuralization age (1982-1988) based on the 1956 constitution, the new General Program set the foundation for later update; The New Millennium/ socialist modernization stage 1992-2002. A more organized and coherent General program was presented; socialist system stage 2007-present. The proposal of socialist theory system with Chinese characteristics brought General Program into a new level.

The primary stage 1921-1928

From 1921 to 1928, the party constitution was at a primary stage. Through the 1st party congress in 1921, the young communist party of China only installed a very basic framework that requires years of constant amendments to enrich it primitive form of party structure, and yet to develop a theoretic framework for its institutional agenda. The first constitutive document of the Communist Party of China was adopted by 1st party congress in 1921. It was so simple with 15 articles to define the name, agenda and goal of the party that it was not even called constitution. The official name was “Program of Communist Party of China.” There were only physical copy of Russian and English version available to evidence its existence and one article of the program was missing from the document. By reviewing the Chinese translation of these two copies, the English and Russian language version was not consistent with each other.

Between 1922- 1928, the party started to use “constitution” as a foundational program to build its internal institutional framework. It usually cover these five areas: Membership: Qualifications and procedures of obtaining or transferring party membership, Organization: the authority and duties of central and local party committee; Voting: the voting rules for internal governance. Accountability: Punishments for violating internal governing rules that derived from constitutive document or authority of governing agent. Finance: Financial contributions by party members and maintenance responsibility by governing agent. The young communist party was weak at this stage, the constitution was simple and unsophisticated. It had no general program, no guiding theory. The party itself did not structured as a financially, institutionally and ideologically separate entity from Comintern. There were many irregularity within the legislation. The 1927 constitution was passed by politburo instead of congress. The 6th congress was held in Russia and make CPC became a branch of Comintern without independence.

The party constitution did not adopt a general provision section, a section expresses the guiding principle of party’s organizational agenda, until the 7th party congress in 1945. There are a few possible explanations. First, the general provision epitomized the party’s political and institutional agenda, which is the manifestation of party’s revolution experience that requiring a matured theoretic framework to organize. Two elements are critical to the development of such framework: one is the time, and the other is a strong organization that survived from the external and internal challenges. Through two decades of fights, the party leaders, such as Mao and other cadres had obtained sufficient amount of valuable experience as the raw materials to develop a more refined and more objective understanding of Chinese people, China and revolution in China. With the supports of the party, Mao had wrote a series essays during these period of time that summarized the truth about party revolution. Core ideas of these essays, later find its expression in the constitution. Thus, it was just the right moment at 1945 when the party could put their more matured thinking into the general program. Another explanation for the late adoption of a general program section reflected a theory that the development of CPC is tied up with the core relationship between CPC and CPSU. The CPSU and Comintern had an established reputation of providing investment to the communist revolution in foreign land through financial assistant and institutional guidance. CPSU had a great and direct impact on CPC, which fashioned and shaped the path for the establishment party’s internal governance framework. Historically, the general program of communist revolution and the constitution was a separate document[1]. It was until 1939 the 18th congress of CPSU that the party constitution embrace the general program within the text[2].

The revolutionary stage 1945-1956

The 1945 constitution was a well written constitutive document, it not only set up the basic structural framework that could logically organize information regarding the internal governance of the party, but also adopt a section of general program that coherently restate party’s agenda and revolutionary goal. As Liu shaoqi commented in his report on the significant of this section:

The general program is the basic program that constituted the constitution, it sets the premise and general principal of the context. All party member must recognize it and act it in accordance with it…It summarizes the 24 years of revolution experience, which include the best of all, Mao Zedong theory. Through the simple words, it illustrates theories and agenda of communist party, the features, motivations and nature of Chinese revolution, and the necessary qualification for the revolution program.

The 1956 constitution General Program is a more refined amendment of 1945 General Program, it has a more organized writing that apply different paragraph to organize these sections in a coherent order: 1, the definition of CPC and its nature; the guiding ideology, 2 the restatement of historical achievements, 3 nature of current revolution and task. 4 The working ethics of the party.

Deng Xiaoping also explained when major changes occurred in Chinese society and party, it was necessary to have an updated constitution to address. According to Deng’s reports, three critical issues aroused due to the socialist transition. One is the mass line, another is democratic centralism. The third is collective leadership and personal cult. About the mass line, Deng specifically criticized there was a gowning tendency of bureaucratism within the party that deviated from the mass line, which party official ignoring reality and people’s needs by enforcing some personal agenda. In other words, to install the principle of mass line in order to reverse the damage of misconception and miscommunication between the masses and administrative bureaucratss. About the democratic centralism, Deng warned the issues of conflicts of leadership between local and lower administrative agent and central administrative agent. Deng concluded the issue originated from the improper and over centralism where the policy lost flexibility that local or lower agent have trouble to apply for local reality.

In order to properly address the issues of conflict of authority between the central and local, the risk of personal cult and bureaucratism due to the rising of cadres power during the process party leading all social organs for socialist transition, the general program installed the principle of “mass line” and “democratic centralism” in the text, although these concepts had not been clearly point out. For example, in the section emphasize the work ethnics of the party member, it provided that: “Serve the people wholeheartedly Close connection with the revolutionary people with understanding that the coherence between party and people’s interest, and consistency accountability to both party and people.” As for democratic centralism, it provided that: “Party is organized by the democratic centralism system. The strength of party’s execution comes from the unification of the will and act. Cooperation and coordination is required. Violator should not remained in the party.”

The conflict stage 1969-1977

1969 9th congress adopt a new party constitution. Due to the culture revolution, this is a complete overhaul of previous constitution, which was infested by left ideology. It further abandoned the previous well organized structure as sections such as the past task was purely centralized on class struggle. The guiding principle is Mao Zedong through, the restatement of historical achievement was merely a statement that lionize the greatness of Mao’s leadership. The general program abandoned the Mass Line and Democratic Centralism. The only important thing is proletariat dictatorship under class struggle with unquestionable allegiance toward Mao. Also, during the conflict stages, there were no substantial changes that truly altered the left nature of the text during those 3 General Program updates. The left tendency instilled into every sentence of the general program. The following comparison provided the best illustration:

On the definition of CPC:

1956: Communist party of china, is the advanced organized troops of Chinese working class in its highest form. His goal is to realize socialism and communism in China.

1969: CPC is a party of proletariat… Party is a vanguard formed by advanced elements of proletariat, leads proletariats to fight against class enemies.

1973: CPC is a party of proletariat, the vanguard of proletariat.

1977: CPC is a party of proletariat, it is the highest form of proletariat organization, which constituted by advanced element of proletariat. It lead proletariat and revolutionary masses to fight against class enemies.

On the guiding ideology of the party:
1956: CPC take Marxist-Leninist as its guidelines, party applies Marxism-Leninism into Chinese revolution practice and against any tendency of doctrinism or empiricism.

1969: CPC takes Marxist, Leninist, and Mao Zedong Thought as the theoretical base of guiding ideology. Mao Zedong Thought is the Marxist-Leninist at the times when imperialist marched to complete ruin and socialist marched to worldwide victory.

1973: CPC takes Marxist, Leninist, and Mao Zedong Thought as the theoretical base of guiding ideology.

1977: The guiding ideology and theoretic base of CPC is Marxist, Leninist, and Mao Zedong Thought. Party strongly against revisionism, dogmatism and empiricism. Party strongly support dialectical materialism and historical materialism, against idealism and metaphysics.

The list about the left conservatism of the general program during the conflict stage can goes forever. The bottom line is the General Program no longer wrote as the tools to summarize the party experience and lessons, to provide guiding principle for the operation of the party work. The central function of guidance and education was lost during this conflict stage.

The re- structuralization age 1982-1988

The 1988 constitution amendment did not touch the general program so the restructure or rehabilitation stage is centralized on the general program of 1982 constitution amendment. The 1982 Constitution was adopted after the well-known 3rd plenary session of 11th Congress. It was adopted during the time when Communist Party restored its social order and party order with a new orientation on the socialist economy construction. New theories and new principles had been proposed to reverse the damages of culture revolution. As the 12th CPC congress report entitled “A Whole New Chapter of Constructing Socialist Modernization” pointed out:

‘China has been through great historical transition: Through strenuous efforts we has liberated from the chains of dogmatism and personal cult to reestablish the guiding principle of Marxism: “seeking truth from facts.” We can redevelop Mao Zedong thought under new historical terms with a proper understanding of it. Through reestablishing social orders and laws, we ended the chaos and earned a great unification from everyone. Through the restoration of power and order to the party and state agents, we refocus on the economy construction to restructure social relations between workers, peasants and intellectuals.’

The 1982 General Program also reorganize its structure, which set the format for the future update. The current structure is:

1. The Definition of the Party

2. The Guiding ideology

3. The socialist theory and its application in China

4. The current revolution nature and task

5. The requirements for party working ethics

The 1982 General Program redefined CPC as the vanguard of the working class and loyal representation of the interests of all Chinese nationality. It is the core leadership of Chinese socialist business. The ultimate goal is to realize communism. Based on the 1956 General Program, the 1982 amendment refined the section of restatement on historical achievement. This section had been rewrote as ‘socialist theory and its application in China.’ this new entry normally has three part. The first part stated Marxism-Leninism as the scientific socialist theory that proved to be correct and will guide the world to replace capitalism with socialism. The second part redefined Mao Zedong thought as a collective wisdom of party that is an historical application of Marxism-Leninism into Chinese revolution practice. The third part is Chinese people led by the party won the new democracy revolution, established PRC and socialist system. In order to further reverse the left tendency issues. The 1982 General Program provided a comprehensive analysis on the nature of Chinese society, as it provided that Class struggle is no longer the main issue:

There is an impassible gap of economy and culture development that requiring our attention of socialist construction with Chinese characteristics. The main contradiction of Chinese society is people’s increasing material and cultural needs and under developed social production. Due to domestic and international forces, class struggle will remained for a long time with possibility of intensify, but not a main issue anymore.

The 1982 General program reestablished new party line: The basic line of the Communist Party of China in the primary stage of socialism is to lead the people of all ethnic groups in a concerted, self-reliant and pioneering effort to turn China into a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced modern socialist country by making economic development the central task while upholding the Four Cardinal Principles and the reform and opening up policy. On the issue of working ethics, the 1982 General Program proposed three requirements: the first: upholding the party’s core ideology and against left or right tendencies. Second: serve the people wholeheartedly. Third, party’s leadership is politics, ideology and organization.

New Millennium stage 1992-2002

The new millennium stage is also a stage of socialist modernization. Since 1982 Constitution amendment, the party had applied the new Open Up policy and Market economy with the Four Cardinal Principle, which provided valuable practice experience to develop socialist modernization. The 14th, 15th and 16th congress General Program had demonstrated party’s confidence of further developing a more refined, and elaborated party guidelines with a more matured, pragmatic, more scientific view. First, the 14th congress redefined China is currently under primary stage of socialism. Thus the agenda of the party should be economy construction. Class struggle will remained for a long time with possibility of intensify, but not a main issue anymore. In other words, class struggle is refrained and counterbalanced by the economy construction under the theory of socialism primary stage.

Second, the basic line of the party under socialist primary stage is to lead the people of all ethnic groups in a concerted, self-reliant and pioneering effort to turn China into a prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced modern socialist country by making economic development the central task while upholding the Four Cardinal Principles and the reform and opening up policy. The 14, 15 and 16th congresses has similar discussions on how to carry out this basic line, which subcategorized into five areas:

1. Economy orientation: All works must serve for the core task of economy construction;

2. Ideology orientation: Upheld four cardinal principle and against Bourgeois liberalization;

3. Open Up policy: Open up is the inevitable path to liberalize and develop productivity, political reform must coordinate with the new economy system;

4. Socialist culture and ethics are equally important to the material prosperity. Education and propaganda is necessary to promote socialist culture and ethics;

5. Socialist democracy and legal governance.

The 1992 General Program provided four requirements on the party’s working ethics to restrain internal governance, which set the foundation of later refinement. These five requirements are:

1. Party’s basic line: There were two aspect; one is to unified thinking and act for party’s basic line, which is subject to future development, the other is to combat left and right erroneous tendencies, primarily left tendencies.

2. Personality of the Party: Emancipating the mind, seeking truth from facts, keeping up with the times, and being realistic and pragmatic.

3. Serving the people wholeheartedly. This means first, Party has no special interests of its own apart from the interests of the working class and the broadest masses of the people. Second, not allow any member to become divorced from the masses or place himself or herself above the people. Third, Party will persistently oppose corruption and step up efforts to improve its style of work and uphold integrity.

4. Upholding democratic centralism.

5. Leadership by the Party means mainly political, ideological and organizational leadership. The Party must meet the requirements of reform, opening up and socialist modernization, persist in scientific, democratic and law-based governance, and strengthen and improve its leadership.

The later constitution amendments, including 15th, 16th, 17, and 18th congress all adopt the basic structure of this five requirements with minor changes. There were three critical theories had been installed since the 14th congress, which requiring our special attention:

First, institutional personality. The party reshape its institutional personality through the General program by claiming party should “Emancipating the mind, seeking truth from facts, keeping up with the times, and being realistic and pragmatic.” This means party understand the dangerous of seeing things through an ossified lens and decide to take a more constructive approach in constructing the system around it. Second, the theory of socialism at primary stage. According the context of General Program, the current revolution task is centralized by economy construction because there is an inevitable gap of underdeveloped productivity. Such gap is the main contradictions that party should pay great attention. Class struggle, a theory tarnished by culture revolution, had reconstructed under socialist primary stage. This means, class struggle has potential of reviving but less intense than the issue of economy development.

Third, the revival of mass line and democratic centralism. Each of the party line is actually a separate policy structure with coherent internal connection for their different applications. Mass Line consider the external relation between the party and people, which covers three aspects. 1) It is the theory address the issue of conflict of interest. It clearly warned party that “The Party has no special interests of its own apart from the interests of the working class and the broadest masses of the people.” No one should place personal interests above the masses of the people. 2), it is the guidelines on party’s working manner. Party’s works are premised on the people’s interest and people’s support. The formulation of the party policy has to be channeled through and by the people. The execution of party’s policy follow the same fashion so people could voluntarily carry out party’s mind. 3) The Mass Line entailed the function of anti-corruption because any corrupt behavior is an alienation from the mass. Masses are the victims of the corruption.

Democratic centralism is the theory dealing the internal conflicts between freedom and discipline, rights and duties. It serves as the internal governance principle. According to the General Program, Democratic centralism is a combination of centralism on the basis of democracy and democracy under centralized guidance. It is the fundamental organizational principle of the Party and is also the mass line applied in the Party's political activities. It has three aspects: 1) party member as an individual should be personally respected, so his or her rights could benefit the work of the party. 2) Party discipline should be respected, so individual’s rights would not violate the work of party.

The stage of Socialist system with Chinese characteristics 2007-

General Program had been vigorously developed in accordance with the advancement of China’s socialist development. The new millennium stage General Program had set a good foundation for the later development. The 17th Congress created a new entry in the General Program that stated: “success of Party’s work is the development and formulation of socialist theoretic system with Chinese characteristics.” This signified the emergence of Chinese socialist theoretic system to overarch the development of Chinese socialist business. It is a great leap in comparison with eight decades ago when party was a branch subordinate toward Cominter. The emergence of such system cannot occur without the institutional personality of pragmatism, without the restructure of socialist primary stage theory to accurately assess China’s reality and counter balance the left and right tendency, without the mass line and democratic centralism to avoid the conflict of interests between party member and masses.

There were many new updates from the 17th and 18th congress to response new changes of China. For example, the 17th Congress asserted

“Party lead people to develop socialist market economy, which encourage, support and shape the non-pubic economy sectors. Second, it rewrite the part of socialist democracy… party lead people to develop socialist democracy by upholding party’s leadership, people as the master of the state and rule the state in accordance with law… to construct socialist rule of law state… party lead people to develop advanced socialist culture.”

The 18th Congress embraced the Hu jingtao’s Scientific Development Outlook as party’s guiding ideology, it further asserted “The Communist Party of China leads the people in promoting socialist ecological progress.”

As Liu Shaoqi asserted in his report in 1956, the General Program is a summary of past experience. The evolution of Party General Program is a concise overview of the past structural development of this section. It is important is a sense as the memo of stating the institutional agenda, personality, mission and culture. It provides some general and foundational guidelines on the internal governance. It reframe the behavior of the institution for a healthy development, but not limit their aspiration for great future. This has been proved by the new development of the party since 1982 and it has been practiced by the party currently.

[1] CPC is founded under Comintern’s direct assistantship and guidance.

The Communist Party of China, Constitution (Program 1920-2012)
All links included for the text of constitution.
The primary stage (1921-1928)
1st congress 1921
Chinese translation based on Russian version:
Chinese translation based on English version:
2nd congress 1922
3rd congress 1923
4th congress 1925
5th congress 1927
6th congress 1928

The revolutionary stage (1945-1956)
7th congress 1945
8th congress 1956

The conflict stage (1969-1977)
9th congress 1969
10th 1973
11th 1977

The restructure stage (1982-1988)
12th congress 1982
13th congress 1987

The new millennium/ socialist modernization stage (1992-2002)
14th congress 1992
15 congress 1997
16 congress 2002  

The socialist system stage (2007-present)
17th congress 2007
18th congress 2012

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