Sunday, October 04, 2015

Part 29 (Party Building--Collectivity in Decision Making: Democratic Centralism) --On a Constitutional Theory for China--From the General Program of the Chinese Communist Party to Political Theory

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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 29, CCP Party Building--Democratic Centralism. It considers Paragraph 27 of the General Program.

Table of Contents

Part 29, Paragraph 27 of the General Program--CCP Party Building: Collectivity in Decision Making--Democratic Centralism With Chinese Characteristics.

We have been reviewing the initial paragraphs of the CCP Constitution's General Program. The first two paragraphs of the General Program set out the outer framework of two critical aspects of Chinese constitutional theory. The five theories identified in paragraph 2 are the elaborated in paragraphs 3-7. Each, in turn, represents the “crystallization of the collective wisdom of the Communist Party of China” at each successive stage on the road toward communism. And the path itself makes clear that the process of successive crystallization is far from complete. Paragraph 3 elaborated on the place of classical Marxism-Leninism as the first stage of the path of socialism and serves as the foundation for Chinese political and constitutional theory. If the foundations of Chinese political and constitutional theory is built on European and received wisdom--the classical philosophy of Marxism-Leninism—the foundations of classical Chinese political and constitutional theory is built on Mai Zedong Thought.

Paragraph 4 considered Mao Zedong Thought as a necessary bridge between European theory and its transposition within the Chinese context, one that brings Marxism-Leninism forward from out of Europe into Asia, and places that forward evolution within the historical constraints of its time.It expressed the Leninist foundations of Chinese constitutional theory within notions of collective development and its role in establishing the socialist path toward which Mao Zedong Thought points, but which it does not in itself constitute. Paragraph 5 introduces the next stage in the development of Chinese constitutional and political Theory--Deng Xiaoping Theory. If Mao Zedong Thought provided a bridge from revolutionary to governing vanguard party, Deng Xiaoping theory provides the principles through which socialist modernization can be realized. Paragraph 6 introduces the succeeding layer of development of Chinese constitutional and political theory--the Important thought of Three Represents (Sange Daibiao). Paragraph 7 introduces the last of the current layers of theoretical development of Chinese political and constitutional theory--the scientific outlook on development. Paragraph 8 serves to sum up the initial paragraphs and as a bridge to the elaboration of the basic CCP line and working style in the paragraphs that follow. It is directed specifically to cadres and provides an easy conceptual framework within which they can understand their role in socialist modernization. Paragraph 9 the General Program moves from theory to action infused by theory. It considers the first of the three fundamental tasks of the CCP derived from its theory, that is the first operational element of the CCP line.

With Paragraph 10 we come to the first full expression of the CCP's basic line in the context of the current stage of development of China. The subsequent paragraphs amplify the basic line. Paragraph 11, the General Program begins the elaboration of the CCP's basic line, starting with economic development as the central task. Paragraph 12, we come to the second amplification of the CCP basic line--the four cardinal principles. Paragraph 13 we consider reform and opening up as an aspect of the CCP's basic line. These four paragraphs are meant to provide a declaration of the CCP's basic line--the product of the more general statements of principle and historical context of Paragraphs 1-9. provide guidance--and a more detailed elaboration of its more important elements.

The CCP's basic line goes to the substantive objectives of the party in fulfilling its role as the party in power. What what is the CCP's working style? How is it expected to act? Working style can be divided along two distinct but related lines. The first goes to the working style of CCP cadres, from the most junior to cadres to those serving in the most senior roles. Working style in this sense has been the subject of both the foundational paragraphs (¶¶ 1-8) and those establishing the CCP's line (¶¶ 9-13). In its second sense, working style goes to the working style of the CCP in its institutional manifestation; that is, it goes to the working style of a vanguard Leninist party within the context and subject to the constraints of its objectives (socialist modernization) and normative principles, its guidebook (¶ 2).

The foundation of the CCP's grounding working style is leadership. Paragraphs 14-19 elaborate the character and practice of the nature and practice of leadership by the CCP as an institutional actor. Paragraphs 14-19 construct the CCP's leadership obligations key specific general areas of activity; ¶ 14 (socialist market economy); ¶ 15 (socialist democracy); ¶ 16 (socialist culture); ¶ 17(harmonious socialist society); ¶ 18(socialist ecological progress); and ¶ 19 (People's Liberation Army). We considered each in turn.

With Paragraph 20 the General Program moves into new, though related, territory--socialist ethnic relations. These, in turn, are part of a larger project that frames party building, the organization framework and working style of the CCP itself taken up in ¶¶ 23-28 on party building. But Paragraphs 20 through 22 deal with the issue of the external relations of the CCP, and its obligations with respect to those relations in its vanguard role. These three paragraphs describe the primary objective of relations with outsiders--cooperation and unity of purpose. These are elaborated in the inter-ethnic relations within China of ¶ 20, and the three unities described in paragraphs 21 and 22--¶ 21 focuses on political and territorial unification--the United Front and national unification, and ¶ 22 focuses on foreign relations and communist internationalism. These point to political, territorial and international unities.

With Paragraph 23 the General Program turn inward to the methods and objectives, to the techniques and principles, of party building. These are the provisions that elaborate the conditions for CCP self-constitution, institutionalization, operation and perpetuation. Together they apply the principles of socialist modernization, especially in its principles of developing productive forces to the productive capacities of the CCP itself. These paragraphs suggest something deeper as well; they suggest that the the CCP itself must be at the center of the movement to and embody the practices necessary for socialist modernization as an economic, political, cultural, and societal project. If the CCP cannot lead by example then it fails in its core responsibility as a vanguard party under Paragraph 1 of the General Program.

Paragraph 23 speaks to the obligation of the CCP to build itself. The object of that obligation is socialist modernization. The essential requirements of CCP building are divided into four parts: (1) fidelity to the principles through which socialist modernization is realized (¶ 24); (2) fidelity to a working style that reflects the movement forward toward socialist modernization (¶ 25); (3) fidelity to the core obligation to serve the masses (¶ 26); and (4) fidelity toward a collectivization of decision making (¶ 27).

With Paragraph 27, the focus on building the CCP turns from the ideological framework, working style and the dialectic of serving the people to the disciplining of decision making within a vanguard party.  It treats the question of democracy in a Leninist organization that itself requires balancing the development of productive forces through engagement and debate, and the need for the CCP to act with a single mind and in unison in moving forward the project of socialist modernization.
[27] Fourth, upholding democratic centralism. 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. The Party must fully expand intra-Party democracy, respect the principal position of its members, safeguard their democratic rights, and give play to the initiative and creativity of Party organizations at all levels as well as its members. Correct centralism must be practiced so as to ensure the solidarity, unity and concerted action in the whole Party and prompt and effective implementation of its decisions. The sense of organization and discipline must be strengthened, and all members are equal before Party discipline. Oversight of leading Party organs and of Party members holding leading positions, particularly principal leading cadres, must be strengthened and the system of intra-Party oversight constantly improved. In its internal political activities, the Party conducts criticism and self-criticism in the correct way, waging ideological struggles over matters of principle, upholding truth and rectifying mistakes. Diligent efforts must be made to create a political situation in which there are both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and personal ease of mind and liveliness. 
[27] 第四,坚持民主集中制。民主集中制是民主基础上的集中和集中指导下的民主相结合。它既是党的根本组织原则,也是群众路线在党的生活 中的运用。必须充分发扬党内民主,保障党员民主权利,发挥各级党组织和广大党员的积极性创造性。必须实行正确的集中,保证全党的团结统一和行动一致,保证 党的决定得到迅速有效的贯彻执行。加强组织性纪律性,在党的纪律面前人人平等。加强对党的领导机关和党员领导干部的监督,不断完善党内监督制度。党在自己 的政治生活中正确地开展批评和自我批评,在原则问题上进行思想斗争,坚持真理,修正错误。努力造成又有集中又有民主,又有纪律又有自由,又有统一意志又有 个人心情舒畅的生动活泼的政治局面。

Paragraph 27 tales on again the problem of collectivization that is at the heart of the Leninist enterprise. It is most significant for the way in which it evidences the determination to liberate Leninism from its historical context and to add to it the Chinese characteristics necessary for application within the current (and eventually future) stage of development. It suggests, in this way, the dynamic element of the evolution of theory suggested between ¶¶ 4 to 5 (between the historically contextualized foundation of Mao Zedong Thought and the contemporary foundation of Deng Xiaoping Theory. It focuses not on the substance of that development of the productive force of theory, but on its Leninist element--the development of collectivization of decision making as a productive force.

First, democratic centralism is intimately connected to the problem of party building.  To build itself the CCP must solve the contradiction of collective action.  It must harmonize the necessity for innovation with the requirement for unified action both of which are required for the construction of the quality of leadership best suited to the task of moving China forward along the path of socialist modernization toward the establishment of a communist society.  To that end, the rigidity and ossification of mere unity of thought produces little more than that cage of primitive societies imprisoned in its past and bounded by traditions, practices and habits that ensure that what was done yesterday is done tomorrow.  That is the sort of political construction that is essentially feudal. And that was the ultimate failing of the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution--by stressing an unchanging unity of thought it fell into the error of feudal thinking that required the correction of the emancipation of the mind.  And the emancipation of the mind on two levels--at the level of the cadre and at the institutional level of the party itself. At the same time, an unstructured em,brace of emancipation of the mind that is undisciplined might produce a thousand flowers without connection or purpose. That purposelessness--to exist to exist producing momentary combinations that reflect the passing of the wind, is possible in societies the object of which is to enhance the momentary sense of purpose, defined as the sum of the individual preferences of individuals constrained only by societal norms.  This is the condition of Western capitalist societies, a state of seeking temporally limited welfare maximization without purpose other than the attainment of  maximization that itself can only reflect the desires of  the present and must inevitably change as the present  recedes into the past. But Leninism is grounded in the fulfillment of the Marxist insight that the state and society ought to be bent to a singular purpose--the establishment of a communist society ("Diligent efforts must be made to create a political situation in which there are both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and personal ease of mind and liveliness").  To that end collectivization is not consequential, as it is in the West, but central to the problem of government and its normative structures.  The necessity of collective action, then, confines the emancipation of the mind, the individual, and the party-state, directing its towards the ultimate goal of society (¶ 1).   The contradiction, then, between individual thought and action, and the need for the individual to act collectively in the service of society--the vanguard role of Leninism--requires a mediation of the individual and the collective that is understood through the techniques of democratic centralism. 

Second, democratic centralism is not unique to Chinese communism, nor is it incompatible with market and competitive activities.  Indeed, one of the most dynamic spaces for the concept of democratic centralism is the Western corporation rather than the communist party and its theorists.  To understand the concept of modern democratic centralism, one must start with Lenin, but one must understand that Lenin, like Mao Zedong, spoke to his time.  In the current stage of development of both Marxist and Capitalist society, democratic centralism is understood as the mechanism by which the productive force of individual cadres (or employees) is developed to fully build the party, or the enterprise, so that it can serve its purpose (to maximize profits or to lead society toward socialist modernization).  In either case, both institutions cultivate a vigorous internal conversation about policy and direction--the ingestion and analysis of facts from the masses or consumers or investors or other stakeholders--and then produces truth (policy, direction, advances in implementation strategies) that serve as the basis for unified action to which all cadres (or employees) must serve and implement in uniform way.  Neither CCP nor corporation can tolerate dissent or opposition, neither can tolerate factionalism, that weakens the unity represented by decisions taken after consideration by the party (or the enterprise). Such opposition is considered in either case as disloyal and suppressed.  Just as a corporate board of directors speaks for a unified enterprise, so the leadership of the CCP speaks for a unified vanguard as each seeks to fulfill its historic role either in public or private spheres. To build the CCP, then, requires innovation in formation and discipline in implementation.  The absence of the discipline weakens the vanguard's ability to meet its fundamental obligation to lead the state, people and nation to the ultimate goal to which it is directed.  Democratic centralism, in this sense, is a marker for the times, and an extraordinarily important technique for organizations charged with objectives-based responsibilities.   It is the way that organizations mediate between its autonomous role as a single organism and the reality that this autonomous is itself the product of the collective activity of its critical stakeholders.  It is a disciplinary technique in which the efforts of the many are managed and directed toward the unified purpose of the organism of which they are a part.  But it is also the technique through which the organism communicates back through its component parts (cadres, employees) in the operationalization of its collective  decisions. 

Third, Democratic centralism is the way in which the mass line is activated within the CCP ("It is the fundamental organizational principle of the Party and is also the mass line applied in the Party's political activities").  The critical connection here is between the notion of organizing principle and outward activities.  Consider what this suggests.  Democratic centralism is an organizing principle in the sense that it expresses the methods through which the individual cadres are organized for collective action and decision making, and thus the means through which the CCP can be understood to exist and act autonomously of its cadres.  It is the application, the operationalization, of the mass line the sense that it expresses the aggregate policy and determinations of the CCP, autonomous of that of its cadres, and thus the means through which the CCP engages with individuals and institution outside of the CCP.  This dual role of democratic centralism thus looks to an internal dialectic necessary to fulfill the CCP's responsibility as a vanguard element of society and an external communication with the masses to ensure that it meets its obligation to serve the people in the cause to which it is dedicated. It is in this dual role that the value of democratic centralism is best understood.  

a. On the one hand, democratic centralism provides the method by which the CCP expresses its own conscious will apart form those of its cadres.  It is a method of avoiding the factionalism and simple mindedness of substituting the factional will of shifting majorities for the blended expression of consensus. The CCP does not build itself through the application of majority will. Democratic centralism rejects majoritarianism as the error of temporal factionalism and a contained form of chaotic decision making with no long term objective.  Democratic centralism might be better understood as the expression of the fundamental notion of the mass line now turned inward--from the masses to the masses is now transformed into from the cadres to the cadres. That dialectical process produces a dynamic engagement between cadres and CCP leadership in which cadres produce the facts necessary to derive truth, which is understood as the policies developed and decisions made  through the process of interpreting facts through the normative structures of the social, economic and political order (¶ 2). This, then, becomes the expression of the common position of the CCP, its autonomous thought, which is then becomes the CCP's line to which cadres adhere.  That adherence in turn generates new facts, new gaps, new opinion which must in turn be engaged with and from out of which the CCP continues to develop its basic line, policy and implementation strategies. It is democratic in the sense of the engagement of all cadres in the determination of the CCP line.  It is centralism in the sense that what is decided then is binding and in binding generates the conditions for its own continued modification.     

b.  On the other hand, democratic centralism is the technique that makes it possible for the CCP to speak with one voice to those to whom it has responsibilities in the state and nation.  It is the means through which the autonomous voice of the CCP apart form its individual members is heard.  It serves both as the sourcing of authoritative communication  and as the means through which information (facts) are received from beyond the CCP for internalization in the process of moving the nation forward to meet the overall objective of socialist modernization.  One can understand this in structural terms.  The CCP as organism constitutes its voice through the mechanics of democratic centralism--so that it speaks with one voice.  It is also the means through which it receives communication from those outside the CCP for the purpose of fulfilling the responsibilities of the mass line.  It is the means, in other words, through which structural coupling is possible between CCP as organism (apart from its members) and the societal and productive forces which it both serves and manages in the service of the vanguard cause (the establishment of a communist society). Democratic centralism, then, is autonomy building both internally and externally for the self constitution and autonomous self referencing operation of the CCP within and beyond the society it serves.  That, of course, is the modern essence of the vanguard role in an objectives driven political order like China.

Fourth, democracy acquires a meaning that must be understood within the ideological context on which the Chinese political order is founded ("The Party must fully expand intra-Party democracy, respect the principal position of its members, safeguard their democratic rights, and give play to the initiative and creativity of Party organizations at all levels as well as its members.").  That, of course, produces an understanding democracy quite distinct from that in Western capitalist societies.  First, democracy must be understood as a technique for the most effective means of producing inclusive collective action. It is a means of engagement that is meant to serve the people through the dual dialectics of democratic centralism and the mass line to move society forward along the path of socialist modernization.  That both cabins and directs the technique.  Democracy is not  the end product, the fundamental objective toward which society is directed; instead democracy is the means through which the fundamental objectives of society are attained. Second, it follows that democratic techniques must be directed, in the first instance, toward the internal operation of the CCP itself.  Democracy is the means through which collective action is made possible. Because it serves collective, elections and voting are not central components of democratic practice.  Instead engagement is centered in the process of democratic decision making within the CCP. Majoritarianism is implicitly rejected as merely an institutionalized form of factionalism, inimical to the fundamental working style of a vanguard that is based on collective consensus. This presents what might be an unbridgeable difference with Western political notions, but not with Western notions of corporate democracy.  Third, this notion of consensus is operationalized around the notion of emancipation of the mind,a s much as it is around the principle of seeking truth form facts.  Consensus in the absence of debate is a fiction--that was the basic error in the distortion of democratic centralism in European Marxist States, principally the Soviet Union. And it presents the danger of remoteness that is itself a betrayal of the mass line. Paragraph 27, then, represents the scientific development of the Leninist principle of democratic centralism from beyond its European historical context to serve better within the contemporary context of Chinese conditions. To build the CCP, the party must listen to itself.

Fifth, but once the CCP speaks, there must be a unity of action in applying the CCP's policies outside of the CCP. To achieve this balance--openness inside and unity outside--the CCP must protect cadres in their engagement role within the CCP, and suppress a cadre's engagement outside the CCP ("Correct centralism must be practiced so as to ensure the solidarity, unity and concerted action in the whole Party and prompt and effective implementation of its decisions"). The object of solidarity is twofold.  First, it is the only effective way of incarnating the autonomous position of the CCP beyond its cadres.  The CCP must exist, like all political organization, above and beyond the aggregation of its members.  To that end, it must seek a method for distilling the engagement of its members into its own.  It must transform the collective wisdom of its parts into positions and actions that serve itself rather than the aggregation of its members.  To build itself, the CCP must liberate itself from its cadres. It must act for itself and not for any cadre, faction of cadres or the aggregation of cadres.  The CCP, if it is to represent the state, people and nation, if it is to serve its ultimate representational responsibilities int he serve of its fundamental mission, it must fuse  the wisdom of its cadres into its own.   

Sixth, the role of democratic centralism in mediating democratic action is driven by a more fundamental principle of collectivity, the principle against cults of personality ("The sense of organization and discipline must be strengthened, and all members are equal before Party discipline. Oversight of leading Party organs and of Party members holding leading positions, particularly principal leading cadres, must be strengthened and the system of intra-Party oversight constantly improved"). Organizational discipline requires that "tigers" and "flies" be treated the same within the context of their responsibilities.  It suggests as well that the voices of some ought not to displace those of others merely by reference to their position within the hierarchy of CCP organization. This is a lesson that runs deeply in Chinese history and the ill effects of cultivating cults of personality on the core responsibility of Leninist parties has been much in evidence in the collapse of Party-State Marxist Leninist regimes in other parts of the world. The CCP does not merely discipline its "flies", it must pay attention to its "tigers"both in the exercise of democratic centralism's responsibility to engage and in the CCP's responsibility to ensure that the system of democratic centralism is correctly applied and not abused. 

Seventh, rigidity and ossification, the reduction of Marxism-Leninism to a ritual demonstrated in parades and public spectacles but internally empty of content, can only be avoided if the CCP itself avoids rigidity and self worship.  To build the CCP, the CCP must build and rebuild itself.   That obligation is difficult indeed.  Human nature tends toward habit and repetition.  Custom and tradition are logical expressions of habits that are valuable because they need not be reconsidered, even when the habit itself may produce difficulties.  To avoid rigidity and the worship of repetition requires  positive action and an institutional framework that can absorb dynamic change without collapsing on itself. The Soviet Union was incapable of building these structures and foundered on its bureaucratism and fear of change.  When change became inevitable given the movement of the Soviet Union to a new historical stage, the institutions were unable to respond and collapsed. What is required to avoid this are institutional structures that can account for and manage challenge to established ideas and ways of doing things. To that end, democratic centralism includes the dynamic principle of challenge ("In its internal political activities, the Party conducts criticism and self-criticism in the correct way, waging ideological struggles over matters of principle, upholding truth and rectifying mistakes"). Not all challenges are successful, not all criticism is correct.  But the development of institutional structures to engage with critique internally provides a powerful weapon against ossification and better prepares the Leninist organization for outside challenge.  It serves one other critical purpose--criticism-self-criticism is an essential element of the implementation of the mass line.  In the absence of this exercise, the ability of the CCP to engage with the masses can become reduced to empty symbolism.  Democratic centralism then becomes an expression of the mass line principle as an effective tool of scientifically developing the CCP and of ensuring that it in fact fulfills its responsibilities as representative of the state, people and nation.  But it is easy enough to appear to embrace the forms of criticism-self-criticism without internalizing its important objectives.  Care must be taken, and ¶ 27 strongly demands, that the essence of democratic centralism, that its spirit, not be reduced to empty symbol or to theater played out for the consumption by a propaganda ministry.  Effective fulfillment of the CCP's responsibilities under ¶¶ 24-26 is impossible where democratic centralism ceases to work effectively within the CCP itself.

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