Saturday, September 16, 2023

Tencent's Weixin Censors 1980's People's Daily Article on Cult of Personality

On September 3, 2023, an article titled "People's Daily: Exaggerating the Personal Role of Leaders to an Extreme Level will Lead to Superstitious Belief in the Individual" (人民日报:把领袖个人的作用夸大到极端的程度,就会出现对个人的迷信) was posted on the "The Reading Drawer" (抽屉读书) public Weixin account. It was censored within 24 hours and replaced with a notice saying: "This content cannot be viewed due to violations. Complaints were made by users and audited by the platform. This involves the use of words, pictures, videos, etc. that exaggerated, seduced and violated objective facts to maliciously incite, confuse and mislead users. Check the corresponding rules."

I checked, and the Weixin article is a word-for-word copy paste of the referenced People's Daily article, which was published on Page 2 of the July 4, 1980 edition, according to the copy I found here: https://cn.govopendata.com/renminribao/1980/7/4/2/#542014 - with one exception, which I don't this is material:
  • Weixin Article: 马克思主义者承认个人权威,重视个人权威的,但是,我们首先要强调的还是集体的权威。
  • govopendata: 马克思主义者承认个人权威,重视个人权威的,但是,我们首先要强调的还是集体的权威。

The only other difference is the addition of the photo at the top of the Weixin article. Based on some online research, this is a photo of Nikita Khrushchev during his trip to the United States in 1959. 

Below are selected translations from the article (emphasis added by me).

Deification of, and superstitious belief in, the individual begins with exaggerating the role of the individual. Lin Biao and the "Gang of Four" engaged in modern superstition, not only taking advantage of people's simple feelings, but also taking advantage of these loopholes in people's understanding.

A Profound Lesson in Personal Deification

The communist movement and our own experience show that when the role of individual leaders is exaggerated to an extreme level, superstitious belief in individuals will emerge.

For many years, we have been accustomed to using superstition to explain the history of our struggles. Now, as Marx said, we should "use history to explain superstition." (The Complete Works of Marx and Engels, Vol. 1, p. 425) That is to say, we should take a look at history, how did a man become a "god"? How did people come to deify and superstitiously believe in individuals? In this way, the necessary lessons can be drawn. This is a rather complex and difficult task. Here are just a few examples, briefly.

. . . .

Our Party is organized according to the principle of democratic centralism. According to this principle, the Party line must be discussed and formulated by the Party's national congress or central authority. Although the Party's line is sometimes put forward by a certain person, once it is decided, it becomes the Party's line and cannot be attributed to an individual, it is called the line of so-and-so. Of course, when summing up historical experience, calling the opposing lines the lines of a certain person, and comparing and analyzing them will help distinguish right from wrong and educate the entire Party. But this is a special situation. From the perspective of organizational principles, within the Party, all Party members must implement the Party's line, rather than the entire Party following the line of a certain individual.

However, for a period of time, people have often attributed the Party's line to individuals, and also promoted all the opinions and propositions of individual leaders as lines, or believed that they have the same authority as the Party's line, and the whole Party must unconditionally implement it. In this way, in the life of the Party, in fact, some abnormal practices gradually took shape: obeying the Party's leadership means listening to a certain person, implementing the Party's line means doing what a certain person says, and thinking that as long as you act "in accordance with every sentence," you will be invincible. This actually regards the individual as a sacred authority over the entire Party.

. . . .

We must be highly conscious and take various measures to prevent the situation where the top leaders look down at the masses from above, while the masses can only squint and look up at the leader from below, so as to prevent the leader from becoming a figure that ordinary people cannot approach. The guidelines for political life within the Party passed by the Fifth Plenum of the Party Central Committee have made a series of specific regulations to prevent leaders from becoming special in their political life and from praising leaders without principle. This is undoubtedly necessary. However, in order to achieve what Lenin said, to make the leaders and the class, and the leaders and the masses form a whole, we still need to make efforts in many aspects and have a series of effective methods. For example, restore the system that our Party advocates that senior leading cadres must spend a certain amount of time at the grassroots level in a year; establish a system for leaders to communicate directly with the people; put senior leaders in fixed electoral districts to maintain regular contact with voters and accept voter supervision; cancel all kinds of unreasonable regulations that completely separate senior leaders from ordinary cadres and the masses in daily life (such as housing, transportation, shopping, entertainment, etc.); and we must use newspapers and radio to exert the supervisory power of public opinion, etc. In short, we should continue to adhere to the methods that have worked well in the past, and at the same time, we should continue to adopt some new methods based on new situations. 

. . . .

To gather the experience and opinions of the broad masses and the entire Party and form correct leadership ideas and opinions, it is necessary to adopt democratic centralism and collective research and discussion. The view that "the first secretary has absolute truth, the second secretary has relative truth, and the others have no truth" is not in line with the facts.

. . . .

Second, we must treat the right of one vote correctly. In the leadership team, the top leader has more responsibilities but no greater power. He has only one vote in deciding major issues, while other members have the same vote. Why do some leadership groups form a "one-man-talk" situation? The first is that the top leader lacks a democratic style and engages in personal arbitrariness. At the same time, it is also an important reason why each leading member cannot exercise his right to vote seriously and responsibly. If every leading member can responsibly exercise his right to one vote, especially when some people put forward wrong propositions, everyone can stick to the principles and not support or veto them, then can "one word" be achieved? Can personal arbitrariness prevail unimpeded? Can those wrong and confusing decisions be made easily? Therefore, every leading member must exercise his right to vote with the utmost solemnity when deciding major issues.

. . . .

Marxists must recognize and value individual authority, but the first thing we must emphasize is collective authority. Only when personal authority is combined with collective authority can it play its role better.

神化个人、迷信个人,是从夸大个人的作用开始的。林彪、“四人帮”大搞现代迷信,除了利用人们的朴素感情外,也钻了人们在认识上的这些空子。

神化个人的深刻教训

共产主义运动和我们自己的经验说明,把领袖个人的作用夸大到极端的程度,就会出现对个人的迷信。

多年来,习惯于用迷信来说明我们的斗争历史,现在,应该象马克思说的那样,“用历史来说明迷信”。(《马克思恩格斯全集》第1卷第425页)这就是说,应当从历史上看一看,人是怎样成为“神”的?人们是怎样神化个人、迷信个人的?这样,才能得出必要的经验教训。这是一项相当复杂而艰巨的任务。这里仅举几个例子,简略地说一下。
. . . .
我们的党是按照民主集中制的原则组织起来的。根据这个原则,党的路线必须由党的全国代表大会或中央权力机构讨论制定。党的路线尽管有时是由某个人提出来的,但一经作出决定,就成了党的路线,而不能归之于个人,称为某某人的路线了。当然,在总结历史经验时,把对立的路线分别称之为某某人的路线,加以对比分析,这样做,有利于分清是非,教育全党。但这是一种特殊的情况,从组织原则说,在党内,所有党员必须执行党的路线,而不是全党执行某一个人的路线。

但是,一个时期以来,人们却常常把党的路线归之于个人,而且,又把领袖个人的一切意见主张都上升为路线,或认为具有党的路线那样的权威性,全党必须无条件地执行。这样,在党的生活中,实际上就逐渐形成了某些不正常的准则:服从党的领导就是听某一个人的话,执行党的路线就是照某一个人说的去干,而且认为,只要“句句照办”,就能无往而不胜。这实际上是把个人看成为凌驾于全党之上的神圣权威了。
. . . .
我们要以高度的自觉,采取各种措施,防止出现领导上层从上面向下看群众,而人民群众只能眯着眼睛从下面向上望领袖的状况,防止领袖成为普通群众无法接近的人物。党的五中全会通过的党内政治生活准则,对防止领导人政治上生活上的特殊化,防止对领导人无原则的歌功颂德,已经作了一系列具体的规定。这无疑是很必要的。但是,要做到列宁讲的,使领袖与阶级、领袖与群众结成一个整体,则还要作多方面的努力,还要有一系列有效的办法。比如,恢复我们党提倡的高级领导干部一年要有一定时间下基层的制度;建立领导者与人民群众直接对话的制度;把高级领导人放到固定选区保持与选民的经常联系并接受选民监督;取消在日常生活中(如住房、坐车、购物、娱乐等)把高级领导人与一般干部和群众完全分开的种种不合理规定;各种代表大会作为权力机构,要切实加强对领导工作人员的监督,并要利用报纸、广播,发挥舆论的监督力量,等等。总之,凡是过去行之有效的办法应当继续坚持,同时,要根据新的情况,不断采取一些新的办法。
. . . .
要把广大群众和全党的经验、意见集中起来,形成正确的领导思想和领导意见,就必须通过民主集中制,通过集体研究讨论。那种“第一书记有绝对真理,第二书记有相对真理,其他人没有真理”的看法,是不符合事实的。
. . . .
第二,要正确对待一票的权利。在领导班子中,第一把手负有更多的责任,但并没有更大的权力,在决定重大问题时,他只有一票的权利,而其他成员也有同样一票的权利。为什么有的领导班子形成“一言堂”的局面呢?首先是第一把手缺乏民主作风,搞个人专断。同时,各个领导成员不能严肃负责地行使自己一票的权利,也是一个重要原因。如果每一个领导成员都能负责地行使自己一票的权利,特别是在某些人提出错误的主张时,大家都能坚持原则,不予支持,或给以否决,“一言堂”能搞得起来吗?个人专断能畅行无阻吗?那些错误的、颠倒是非的决定,能够轻而易举地作出来吗?因此,每一个领导成员,在决定重大问题时,一定要以极其郑重的态度行使自己一票的权利。
. . . .

马克思主义者要承认个人权威,重视个人权威的,但是,我们首先要强调的还是集体的权威。个人权威只有与集体权威相结合,才能更好地发挥其作用。




Translation: Huang Xuqin and Wang Jianbing Inciting Subversion Indictment

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