Letter of the Fourteen

A Letter to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party

Distinguished members of the central committee:

In his speech at the meeting celebrating the Eightieth Anniversary of the Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, Comrade Jiang Zemin openly called for admission of owners of private enterprises to membership of the Party.

The proposition that capitalists, who personify Capital, should be allowed to join the Party, has immediately caused enormous confusion in the minds of party members; it also came as a surprise to people both in China and abroad who were concerned about the fate of the Chinese Communist Party. Commentators in the foreign bourgeois media noted that the admission of private business owners to membership of the Chinese Communist Party would change the nature of the communist party, “and transform it into a ruling party of the entire people.”

On such an important issue of principle that bears on the overall development and, in a fundamental way, the very fate of the Party and the State, Comrade Jiang Zemin hastily proclaimed to the whole party, the entire nation and the whole world a position which had not been considered and adopted by the Congress of the Party. This is a blatant attempt to manipulate opinions of Party members and set the stage for foisting this erroneous position on the Party Congress by invoking the need to uphold Party unity. This constitutes political misconduct unprecedented in the history of our Party.

Now that these things have already come to this stage, we, a group of old Communist Party members, are duty-bound to state clearly our position and submit our views to the Central Committee in exercise of our rights under the Basic Statute of the Party. We hereby solemnly declare that we firmly and without reservation oppose the proposition that private business owners be allowed to join the Party. We believe that Comrade Jiang Zemin’s position in this regard is entirely wrong, and this is because of the following reasons:

In the first place, it runs counter to the Marxist theory of the proletarian party.

The admission of capitalists to membership of a Communist party is unheard of in Marxist theory or practice that has emerged since the Communist Manifesto was first published. Comrade Deng Xiaoping shared this stand as well when he stressed that “a Party member must be a person who works but not exploit others’ work,” and “We must call upon every Communist Party member to clearly draw a line between labor and exploitation.” (Deng, Vol. 1, p. 243.) Comrade Jiang tries to obfuscate the exploitative class nature of private business owners by lumping them together with various segments of the working class, under the label of “deepening” of the understanding of the theory of labor value.

This in no way constitutes a “creative renewal” of Marxism, but rather, an outright negation of its basic principles.

Secondly, his stand on this matter contravenes our Party’s programs and Basic Statute.

The nature of the Chinese Communist Party has been defined by the stipulation that “the CCP is the vanguard of the Chinese working class.” This is a tenet enshrined in our Party’s Program and Basic Statute adopted at each session, from first to the fifteenth, of the CCP Congress. This is by no means the same as the proposition, as put forth by Comrade Jiang Zemin, that “the CCP has at the same time become the vanguard of the Chinese people and nation.” Anyone who is at all familiar with our Party’s history and has an elementary understanding of Marxism knows that a distinction must be drawn between an individual’s class origin and this person’s class status. If one comes from a family background of exploiting class and has undergone protracted transformation and rebelled against the class to which one once had belonged, then of course he or she may join the Party. However, if a capitalist does not repudiate the bourgeois class and continues to engage in exploitation, how could he or she become a worthy element of the proletarian class? How could a capitalist, as a member of the exploiting class, be expected to devote his or her whole life time to struggle for the realization of communism? Comrade Jiang Zemin’s views do not make any sense in this respect.

Thirdly, Comrade Jiang acted in violation of Party discipline. Once the Party’s program and Basic Statute is adopted, every member must firmly implement them. As General Secretary of the Party, Comrade Jiang Zemin acted in open defiance of the Party’s current program and constitution, as well as the decision adopted by the Central Committee on August 28, 1989, that there be no admission of private-business owners to Party Membership. By way of a surprise attack, he went before the entire nation to proclaim ideas that run counter to the program and Basic Statute and other relevant decisions of the Party in an attempt to place his own individual will above the entire organization of the Party. This constitutes a most egregious breach of Party discipline.

And fourthly, he has acted against the will of both the Party and the people.

The Party and the entire nation will not allow our party to change its essential nature of being the vanguard of the proletarian class. They do not wish to see a splitting of the Party caused by a certain attempt to change her red color. They will not allow our Party to follow in the footsteps of the Communist Parties of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries whose trajectory in the name of “a party of the entire people” led to the great historical reversal. For these reasons, we wish to propose the following:

1. The Central Committee should adhere to the principles of Marxism and act in conformity with the correct stipulation against admission of capitalists contained in the Party Program and Basic Statute as well as the Central Committee decision of August 28, 1989. The “Circular regarding Strengthening the Party-building work” clearly states: “There exists between the private business owners and their workers in practice a relationship of the exploiting versus the exploited. We must not accept private business owners to our Party.” Comrade Jiang Zemin, in his speech on August 21, 1989, expressed clear support for this decision of the Central Committee. He asked, “If we allow those who refuse to give up exploitation but rely on it for a living to join our Party, then what kind of political party do we expect our Party to be?” (Jiang, “A Documentary Selection on the Party’s Construction in the New Era.” People’s Publisher, 1991. p. 442.)

However, Comrade Jiang Zemin has abandoned the correct point of view he once held, and made an about turn with his “July First Speech” this year. If, indeed, there is any significant change in the objective circumstances as compared with those in 1989, it is none other than the fact that the number of private business owners has gone up and their capital has expanded. However, the fact that “there exists between the private business owners and their workers, in practice a relationship of the exploiting versus the exploited” has remained and there are no grounds whatsoever to modify the correct decision of the Central Committee made in 1989. We propose that this correct decision be reiterated in the Party’s Basic Statute to be adopted at the 16th National Congress of the Party in order to guarantee that our Party’s essential nature as a proletarian political party will remain unshaken by any attempt of individual leaders of the Party to impose their personal will on the Party. Any substantive revisions of the Party’s Basic Statute put forward at the 15th National Congress of the Party should be pursued by consulting the entire Party membership and ensuring full discussions well in advance of the 16th Congress, so that on major issues of principle the question of right and wrong can be resolved on the basis of the Marxist theory on Party building.

2. Comrade Jiang Zemin needs to carry out serious self-criticism within the Party regarding his misconduct in order to remove ideological confusions that have been caused by his misconduct and to undo its negative consequences.

3. The Party’s Central Committee has not withdrawn the 1989 document; no branch of the Party’s organization shall act against the decisions contained therein. It is not admissible for any member of the new media to propagate the erroneous proposition that private business owners are eligible for Party membership. Disciplinary measures should be pursued in cases where a branch of the Party’s organization and its leaders took upon themselves to admit private business owners to Party membership, and notices in regard to such cases should be circulated among the entire Party membership to serve as an object lesson. Private business owners who have already joined the Party, or Party members who became private business owners, should be dealt with in accordance with the Central Committee’s 1989 document; they must strive to be models of abiding by the state’s relevant laws and regulations. Moreover, they must act in accordance with the Party’s ideology and principles, carry out in earnest their duties as a Party member, and be remunerated at an income level commensurate with that of managerial personnel; they must use after-tax profits for the purpose of enhancing production, treat workers equally, and respect their legal rights. If they fail to behave in this manner they are not qualified for Party membership and shall be advised to leave the Party.

They can apply to join other democratic parties, if they so wish.

4. Good United Front work is essential. We should unite well with, educate and provide guidance to, successful private business owners who have made contributions to national construction, affording them appropriate honors and political status. They may be selected as members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee or deputies of the Chinese People’s Congress which all fall within the purview of United Front work. If we downgrade our Party to the level of the United Front organizations, we will undermine not only the Party but also the United Front.

We solemnly request the Party Central Committee to accord serious attention to views we express herein and provide a serious and responsible response to the entire Party membership.

By— (with signatures in alphabetical order)

Ma Bin, Former Advisor, State Council Center for Development Research Youth League membership since 1932; Party membership since 1935

Wang Dinglie, Former Deputy Commander. Air Force. People’s Liberation Army, Youth League membership since 1935; Party membership since 1936

Deng Liqun, Former Secretary of Central Committee Secretariat of the CCP Party membership since 1936

Shi Shan, Former Vice Minister of Agriculture

Qi Yiding, Veteran Cadre, Ministry of Electronic Industry

Liu Zhenhua, Former Political Committee Member and Lieutenant General, Beijing Military Area

Li Yuanru, Former Vice Minister of Electronic Industry

Li Feiping, Former Vice Minister of Metallurgical Industry

Li Zhaoji, Former Vice Minister of Electronic Industry

Li Dezhong, Former Secretary of the Jilin Province Party Committee

Zhang Chen, Veteran Cadre, Municipal Party Committee of Beijing;

Gao Jun, Former Vice Minister Of Electronic Industry

Qian Min, Former Minister of Electronic Industry

Huang Zhigang, Former Secretary Tianjin Municipal Party Committee

Han Xiya, Former Candidate Secretary, All-China Federation of Trade Unions

Wei Wei, Writer, Party membership since 1938