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Mr. S. N. G. Davies 
Political Science 
Department,*-!. K. U. 


Problems of Democratic 



Beijing' s Unofficial 


What are they saying? 



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Mr. S.N.G. Davies 

Theorists of democracy often make a distinction between 
Western' or 'liberal' democracy and 'Eastern' or 'People's' democracy . 
The point that is made by offering this distinction is one which 
establishes a basic difference of approach to the ideal of democratic 
rule as between the pluralistic 'Western' conception and the 
'People's' conception. In the former government is concerned with 
broking between a plurality of voices; in the latter, government is 
concerned with establishing and acting in accordance with the one true 
'people's' voice. In this latter conception the most widespread defini- 
tion of how this process of establishment of the 'people's' voice is to be 
' achieved can be found in the definition of democratic centralism. For 
in the rules of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the rules 
of the Chinese Communist Party it is explicitly stated that democratic 
centralism is the 'guiding principle' 2 , or the 'organizational principle' . 
In this short essay I am not going to concern myself with an exhaustive 
account of the Soviet or Chinese definitions of democratic centralism. 


Nor am I going to plod laboriously though either an analysis of those 
definitions, or any attempt to assess Soviet or Chinese practice in the 
light of their stated rules. Instead I am going to try to isolate what seem 
to me to be the central theoretical problems which underlie such 
notions of democratic practice as democratic central ism. 

To begin with then I shall offer a brief description of democratic 
centralism, then I shall suggest some reasons for why such an under- 
standing of democratic practice might have come to be plausible, f shall 
then show that there are some grave problems implicit in such ideas, 
but I shall also argue that these grave problems are equally present in 
any theory of democracy. 

It is sometimes thought that democratic centralism is self- 
contradictory. It would certainly be easy enough to devise a description 
of democratic centralism which would be self-contradictory. I intend, 
however, to try to give a description of democratic centralism which is 
as self-consistent as I can for unless this is done we will have learned 
little. Erecting conceptual straw men is a popular but in the end point- 
less sport only too often indulged in by political theorists. First of ajl, 
although in its usual presentation democratic centralism is a theory of 
single party government, it need not necessarily be so and I shall not 
elucidate it in those terms. It is, more generally, a theory of government 
which attempts to solve a variety of problems which are present in any 
modern, complex, mass society or any complex, mass organization at 
all. I shall identify three such problems as crucial. The first is the 
problem of a responsible and accountable decision making process. 
That is, in any democratic decision making process those who must 
bear the consequences of a decision must also have a hand in the 
making of that decision. As we shall see, the problem is, "What sort of a 
hand?' The second problem is that presented by decision making as a 
complex process requiring extensive knowledge, judgement and 
expertise. That is, in any decision making at all, the important thing is 
to ensure that those who have the required knowledge and expertise are 
able to bring it to bear. As we shall see, the problems here are, 'How are 
we to know what is the required knowledge?', and 'How are we to 
know who is in possession of such knowledge?' The third problem is 
that presented by implementing decisions. That is, when decisions are 
made, their effectiveness will very much depend upon their being made 
at the right moment, their being put into effect at the right moment. 


and their being followed through. As we shall see, the problems here are 
the most numerous involving such questions as, 'When is the right 
moment?', 'What is involved in following a decision through?', 'How 
and by whom is something put into effect?', Who is involved in 
following something through?'. 

I have presented matters this way in order to try to show the 

logic of a theory of democratic centralism. For. what I think is clear 

from what I have written so far is that in a decision making process of 

any complexity there are two principles at work. One, clearly evident in 

the first and perhaps the third problem area, is the principle of 

democracy. The other, very dear in the second problem area and 

present in the third, is the principle of centralism. Let me clarify this. 

In our normal understanding of making a decision we have specifiable 

problems, and a range of possible solutions both of which must be 

understood in a context. In this context and given the problems, we 

decide on a solution, or on occasions a list of possible solutions in an 

order of preference. But we each of us identify our own problems, if we 

can, and we accept responsibility for the consequences of our decisions. 

We are also our own arbiters as to what information we need in order to 

make whatever decisions we make. Finally, we generally stick by our 

decisions whilst reserving to ourselves the possibility of changing our 

minds. Individually speaking deciding is also choosing. In this account 

of decision making therefore I have tried to give the basis of the 

principle of democracy, since once the decision passes beyond the 

scope of the merely individual decision with relation to the merely 

individual problem, the notion of our personal responsibility for our 

own decisions is carried forward into what we mean by any more 

general undertanding of a decision. A general, public decision is still in 

some sense a choice. If we look at what we normally mean by a 

decision in a slightly different way, however, we can also bring out the 

basis of the principle of centralism. For when we consider the idea of a 

decision it is quite clear that in deciding we need information and 

judgement and, whatever our problem, some certainty that whatever 

we do conclude is a solution we can in fact implement. And this 

certainty is given by our own centrality to the decision making process. 

If I understand a problem to be 'x', and the possible solutions to be 'y' 

and 'z', with my preference for V, and if the problem is my problem, 

then I can be reasonably certain that. . . 

a) I understand it as such; 

b) I already have, or have access to any information required; 

c) I can solve the problem and act accordingly. 

I am central to my own decision making and this makes it possible for 
me to make decisions. How would 1 make decisions if the under- 
standing of the problem, the identification of the problem, had always 
to be done by another? How would I make decisions if both the under- 
standing/identification and all that might be relevant to solving it and 
the actions necessary to solving it are all in others hands? In short, 
making decisions seems both to involve one's own responsibility for 
them, the basis of the principle of democracy, and it seems to involve 
an element of all this being concentrated, the basis of the principle of 
centralism. The theory of democratic centralism seems to be a theory in 
which at the level of large scale social decision making, both these 
principles are active. 

What I have so far attempted to construct is a picture of th basis 
of democratic centralism, a picture of the problem that a theory of 
democratic centralism sets out to solve. In short, democratic centralism 
is an attempt to provide a theory of the decision making process of a 
large scale and complex society which acknowledges the logical 
grammar of the notion of a decision. Decisions must be made and they 
must be made by identifiable agents' (or institutions) which can carry 
, out whatever actions are consequent upon the decisions. The less 
decisions can be made, because of obstacles of various sorts, some of 
which I shall mention shortly; and the less they are made by identifi- 
able agents (or institutions); and the less these decisions and the 
decision makers can actually implement the decisions, the less we have 
any going-on in a society which could reasonably be called a decision 
making process. Democratic decisions, however, must involve those 
whom the consequences of the decision affect. The agents (or 
institutions) cannot be wholly remote from the members of the society 
as a whole. That is, there must be a connexion between the generality 
of soc.ety and those agents (or institutions) which make decisions- a 
connexion which at its most direct makes the actual membership of 
society the decision makers. 

This last idea, that of a one to one relationship between the 
membership of a society and the membership of the decision making 
agency ■ (or institution) is normally expressed in the vocabulary of 
political theory as a theory of participatory democracy. But in a 




large-scale and highly complex society such participatory theories 
seem ill suited to help us arrive at decisions. In the terms I have been 
using so far, what participatory democracy achieves is an understanding 
of decision making in a society which sacrifices all the centralist 
elements in the concept of a decision for the democratic element. Here 
what matters is that every member of society should be responsible in 
some way for the decision made insofar as it affects his or her life. Yet 
such an emphasis means that what is required for a highly complex 
dicision to be made in a highly complex society, i.e. some centraliza- 
tion, is not present and decisions are hard to make and take a long time 
in the making. So a one to one relationship between the actual member- 
ship of a society and its decision makers either means that one must 
opt for a simple and small society, or it means that such a political 
theory is not appropriate for a large and complex society. 

But largeness and complexity are not the only problems. One 
point that I made above about decision making was that it involved 
knowledge, expertise and judgement. And here we must face two 
problems in one. For on the one hand one may believe, as many do, 
that the required knowledge, expertise and judgement are very 
unevenly distributed in society. On the other hand, one may feel that 
what counts as knowledge, expertise and judgement in any society is 
in one way or another knowledge, expertise and judgement which 
speaks only to the interests of one or other particular group of people. 
In either event participatory models seem inadequate since they assume 
either that everyone is equally in possession of the required knowledge, 
expertise and judgement, or that even if everyone is in possession of 
some knowledge, expertise and judgement, it is knowledge, expertise 
and judgement favourable only to one particular group's interests. 
Here centralism of some sort seems necessary either because the 
decision making should lie in those hands of the few who have the 
relevant knowledge, expertise and judgement, or because it should lie 
in the hands of those who are able to emancipate themselves from 
biassed knowledge, etc. 

Democratic centralism then is a theory which is designed to meet 
the requirements of both the principle of democracy and the principle 
of centralism with respect to the major decision making of a given 
society. On the one hand, the theory offers an account of how it is that 
the decisions are in one way or another participated in by those who 

have to bear the consequences of the decisions. On the other hand, the 
theory gives an accoung of how a) the few who have the relevant 
expertise, etc., are able to bring that expertise to bear at the 
appropriate moment, and b) how any partiality of interest which such 
expertise might serve is avoided. In theoretical terms democratic 
centralism holds that in a transitional society (between capitalism and 
communism) the mass of the people are their own best judge of their 
interests. However, because of the problems raised by remnants of 
bourgeois ideology, or in my terms, of the problems raised by partial 
interests, mistakes can be made and people can misunderstand their 
interests. Further, because of the structure of the preceding bourgeois 
society the relevant knowledge, expertise and judgement is not yet 
properly distributed amongst the broad masses. Finally and in any case, 
in a highly complex industrial society certain technical decisions, etc., 
require an expertise and knowledge that is highly specialized and 
unlikely ever to become equally distributed. All decisions therefore 
must be made by suitably qualified people in response to the interests 
of the broad masses as they are expressed, but only after these 
expressions have been properly understood and interpreted. Once these 
interests have been properly articulated the highly centralized apparatus 
for implementing decisions (the same apparatus as understood \be 
decisions) can go ahead. 

It seems clear enough that in many ways this is a very anthro- 
pomorphic model. For just as one might view the sensory inputs from 
one's nervous system as being organized in one's brain, 4 and one's brain 
as sending out the instructions for action (acts), so the central decision 
making part of a society organized along democratic centralist lines is 
viewed as functioning like the brain. Likewise, if one's brain has 
misinterpreted the nervous signals, so, as the action progresses, sensory 
input will indicate this misinterpretation, and similarly, if the central 
decision making apparatus in a society has misinterpreted the interests 
of the broad masses, so their reactions will come back up through the 
apparatus indicating misinterpretation. But I want to ask, is such an 
anthropomorphic model relevant as a model of the decision making 
model of society? 5 And here I want to return to the series of questions 
which I posed earlier. These are: 

1 ) What sort of a hand in the decision making process is to be had 
by those who bear the consequences of any decisions? 

2) How are we to know what is the required knowledge for any 



problem to be identified and any decision to be made? 

3) How are we to know who is in possession of such knowledge? 

4) When is the right moment for making and implementing any 

5) How and by whom is any decision put into effect? 

6) Who is involved in following decisions through? 

7) what is involved in following any decision through? 

I want to look at each of these questions in turn, though it will become 
evident. that my explorations of each of them are connected with 
each other. Trying to answer one question is also trying to answer them 

' The first question revolves around the idea of those feeling the 
consequences of any decision effecting their own lives having some sort 
of a hand in the making of that decision. The problem is, what sort of a 
hand? I have alaready noted that implicit in the idea of a decision is the 
responsibility for its making and its consequences that is borne by the 
decision maker. Hence at the very least any political decision seems to 
require that whoever makes decisions is responsible for them and hence 
is to be accountable. Here, therefore, there must be an identifiable 
institution or identifiable agents who are responsible and can be held 
accountable for decisions which are made. The hand had in the process 
by those feeling the consequences of a decision must be, therefore, one 
of holding decision makers to account where those decision makers are 
not the people feeling the consequences themselves. This would be a 
minimum democratic requirement. Hence in democratic centralism we 
should expect to find readily identifiable institutions and agents, and a 
genuine possibility of them being called to account. I think it fair to say 
that at least in theory, if not in the practice of democratic centralists, 
these requirements are met. I shall return to the problems of practice 
later. In theory there are identifiable party bodies responsible for 
decisions the membership of which is known, thus giving identifiable 
agents. The structure of the party, theoretically, is such that these 
agents can be held to account. 

But the decision makers are those who hold that decisions are 
based upon knowledge and expertise. Hence any holding to account 
must be a holding to account which is grounded upon a full grasp of the 
relevant knowledge, etc., involved. But here the question arises, what is 
the relevant knowledge? This is the most deeply puzzling area in all of 

democratic thought. For here we are not .only faced with the 
consequences of an increasing specialization of labour, and hence of the 
accompanying specialization of language.- But we are also faced with a 
modern awareness that knowledge is not innocent. By this I mean that 
we are now aware of the problems implicit in the notions of 'false- 
consciousness', 'class ideology' and their cognates. At one and the same 
time we seem to be recognizing the necessity and the authority of the 
fully trained specialist and the possibility that the specialist may well be 
a specialist whose knowledge is tilted towards one group of interests 
rather than either any other group, or, in the most usual case, to the 
interests of all. And here lies the crux. For as between democratic 
centralists and other sorts of democrats there is a divide over what 
constitutes 'the interests of all'. Are these an astonishing diversity 
pulling in many different directions? Or are they realty fundamentally- 
one without the realization of which no other, more trivial individual 
interests can be met at all? In democratic centralism it is held that there 
is indeed one such fundamental interest, and more important, it is held 
that this fundamental interest is known. Hence there is a need for deci- 
sion makers who a) have access to all relevant specialist knowledge 
necessary for the making of complex decisions for a complex modern 
society, and who b) are also supposedly protected from biassed* or 
partial uses and structuring of this specialist knowledge by being 
members of a society organized on democratic lines. That is, the 
specialists make decisions, but they make them in response to urges 
from the society as a whole identifying from the multiplicity of urgings 
the one voice of the people or society as a whole. 

Accordingly the answer to the third question is that knowledge of 
who is in possession of 'relevant' knowledge is: specialists of two kinds. 
Above all specialists at identifying the true, united will of the people as 
a whole (what in less glorified language is sometimes called 'the public 
interest'). And these primary specialists are backed up by those who 
have other, more particular specialist knowledge with respect to 
economic, scientific, and other similarly qualifiable areas of expertise. 

Fourth, once this has been duly attended to then society is in 
possession of an organizational structure, appropriately staffed with 
specialists, for identifying the right moment for making and then 
implementing decisions. Fifth, sixth, seventh they are also therefore the 
people most closely involved in following a decision through. For once 



the decision has been made the feedback begins, informing the decision 
making centre of the correctness of its diagnosis and the appropriate- 
ness of its remedies. And what is important here is that indeed and 
again, only the specialist can identify correctly those occurrences which 
medical' men call 'sequelae'. 

Now of course the standard objection to all of this is that 
political decisions are not like this. There is no such unified societal 
interest, nor can there be any specialist knowledge which could give 
access to such a general interest even supposing it to exist. Each person 
is their own best judge and each person's interests are, even if similar to 
any other's, ultimately that__person's interests and no one else's. 
Certainly society should be served by experts in specialist areas of 
knowledge, but these people should be no more than instrumental to 
the achievement of golas which have been identified in other, non- 
technical ways. But the objection to these ideas would point out that 
people are not ail that often that good at identifying their own interests, 
.least of all if one supposes a distinction between short term and long 
term interests. It would also show that it is quite sensible and feasible 
to identify whole groups of people as sharing broadly identical interests 
and often these broadly identical interests come down to denying the 
interests of some other group. And, furthermore, it might be claimed 
that we can know all this only because specialist knowledge can show it 
to us. A science of society enables us to have precise enough knowledge 
to avoid the sort of pitfalls into which we would fall, or into which we 
have fallen, unguided by relevant experts. 

I have put the matter that way because I want to show the extent 
to which the understanding of human society upon which democratic 
centralism is based is an extremely common one. It is an understanding 
which most people share. For it says no more than that the right 
decisions will only be made and acted upon if the requisite knowledge 
is brought to bear, and they will only be made at the right moment and 
implemented with due expedition if the process of decision making is 
centralized and unhindered by the befuddlement of the ignorant. 
Further, only the experts can really interpret the results of any decision 
properly. As Aristotle points out, the person wearing the shoe is the 
only person to judge whether or not it fits, yet only the cobbler knows 
what to do about it, for he is most likely to know whether comfort is 
merely a matter of 'wearing the shoe in', or only to be achieved by 


remodelling the shoe. It is an understanding of the business of govern- 
ment that is ultimately elitist, or at least meritocratic. For what it says 
in short is, 'Let the people decide, but let us also ensure that they do 
not make the wrong decision'. And that view is very widespread in 
other traditions than democratic centralism. 

Let me briefly offer two examples. One from one who is taken to 
be a great libertarian; the other from a doctrine at present thought to 
be drastically authoritarian. John Stuart Mill in his Considerations on 
Representative Government argues that only if people participate in 
the political process will they have any self-respect and wiii society 
progress. 6 Yet equally, in On Liberty, he gives clear grounds for 
mistrusting the collective wisdom of the majority. 7 Accordingly, when 
Mill gets down to talking of the mechanics of a representative system he 
erects two safeguards to ensure, like democratic centralists, that the 
educatively necessary participatory political process does not end up in 
mistakes. First he rigs the franchise. Mil! is a believer in an unequal 
franchise in which the better educated get more votes than those with 
only an elementary education. For Mill argues that without such safe- 
guards the majority will tend to tyrannize the minority and will do so 
in the direction of a conformist mediocrity which puts a halt to, any 
true progressiveness in society. Hence Mill wishes to ensure that only 
those with knowledge and expertise are elected to the major decision 
making offices of a society, and he does this by giving to people whom 
he deems to have themselves knowledge and expertise a powerful 
influence in voting. In order to ensure this Mill then argues against a 
secret ballot on the grounds that if people's votes are up against public 
scrutiny, people will be a great deal more careful about how they vote 
for it will always be possible that they will be called upon to justify 
their choice. Mere conformity, or a bought vote will hence be less 
powerful factors in people's voting behaviour. Both of these ideas 
revolve around ensuring that people who are affected by decisions have 
a hand in their making and leave in the hands of experts the actual 
decision making. Mill also wishes to see a bureaucracy staffed with 
those with the relevant knowledge and expertise. Hence the outcome is 
a form of government which takes away with one hand what it has 
given with the other with respect to the participatory power of the 
majority of people. 

The other example which I want to look at briefly is that of the 


social theories of Islam. These are often held to be extremely authorita- 
rian by those who find Islamic regimes displeasing, and yet are often 
held by Moslems to be extremely democratic. How can this be? Again I 
think that my analysis of democratic centralism provides some illumina- 
tion. For in Islamic doctrine there are two elements that parallel what I 
have offered as the two principles of democracy and centralism. These 
are the principles of ijmah, qiyas, and ijtihad which, roughly speaking, 
mean 'the consensus of the community', 'argument by strict analogical 
reasoning' from the Qur'an & the Sunnah, and 'individual thought'. The 
directing force behind the Moslem faith is the word of God as revealed 
to Mohammed and is to be found in the Qur'an and in the prophetic 
Sunnah. But neither the Qur'an nor the Sunnah speak unambiguously 
to the problems that the faithful meet every day. Hence there is a need 
for interpretation. It is here that ijmah and ijtihad come in. For the 
consensus of the community (the Islamic ummah is the conception of 
the community here) is what in the end counts. And, although in cases 
of great doubt and uncertainty ijtihad, or individual thought may be 
resorted to, such thought is carefully governed not only by the 
principle of ijmah but also by the centrality of qiyas which means 
'argument by strict analogical reasoning'. And therefore any tendency 
which one might think ijtihad would encourage towards a democratic 
individualism which might question the faith, or at least shake any 
uniformity of doctrine and belief, is controlled first of all by the force 
of communal consensus which in its turn is directed by the centrality 
of the Qur'an and the Sunnah which are to be interpreted only by strict 
rules (qiyas) known and used best by the mullahs, or the priesthood. 
The community is trusted, but not too far. The purity of the faith is in 
the end guaranteed by those deemed its most wise and faithful servants. 

Mill mistrusted the democratic majority because he thought their 
mediocre prejudices would stand in the way of enlightened progress. 
The correct decisions for a progressive society had to be in the hands of 
the enlightened few. But simultaneously Mill saw the educative value of 
political participation as well as the moral necessity for it. Consequen- 
tly he attempted a theory of democracy that would somehow reconcile 
the two. In a similar way Islam indicates a feeling that unguided, the 
faithful may stray from the paths of righteousness. Yet simultaneously 
it recognizes that the faithful constitute the practice of the faith and 
the community that is necessary for that practice. Islam therefore 
founds its faith on four principles which permit change, but only 
change fitting with the faith as given and directed by its guardians, the 

priesthood. Change is only change towards a more Godly society. One 
might call Mill's view progressive and that of Islam conservative, yet 
both view human society in broadly similar terms. Democratic cen- 
tralism, it seems to me, is merely one more way in which this profound 
ambivalence towards the socio-political side of human life appears in 
theory. It is an ambivalence which lies at the heart of any attempt to 
take concepts of decision making and extend them from the realm of 
individual decision, whence they come, to the realms of public decision 
making. For the individual is the authoritative centre of his or her own 
decision making, that is what marks him or her out as an individual. But 
how is this notion to be tranferred to a collectivity of individuals and 
the decisions that have to be made for that collectivity? What is the 
authority here and where is it centred? 

I have argued to this point because I wanted finally to bring out 
what seems to me the central element in any theory of democratic 
centralism. This is that it is an attempt to establish an authoritative 
centre to the making of decisions which affect the whole of society. 
And this is also what any political theory must do, and according as to 
the weight that is attached to the 'authority' or to the 'centre' depends 
the 'democratic' or the 'centralist' element. I do not think that there is 
a happy compromise position that is not, in the end, something of an 
illusion. And this is the more so, the more complex and massive socio- 
political units get. For if one wants the right decisions made at the right 
moment, and if one wants the results of these decisions to be properly 
monitored and quickly acted upon, then one will want expertise and 
information operating centrally. Similarly, if one wishes these decisions 
and actions to be responsible and accountable, then also one wants an 
identifiable set of institutions and agents that can be held to account, 
and the more central these are, the more readily they are identifiable 
and yet able to act and act with the required expertise. Yet at the same 
time one wishes to retain one's own authority for decisions which have 
a major effect on one's life. The question that democratic centralism 
points towards is one of major importance in modern politics. For we 
must decide, and decide soon whether big is efficient even if it is not 
beautiful, or whether small is both beautiful and efficient. In short, 
whether we are content to pass the decisions effecting our lives to 
others because they are in various ways 'expert', or whether we should 
keep the decisions to ourselves and happily bear with the consequences 
of our lack of expertise. 








See the discussion in C.B. Macpherson, The real world of demo- 
cracy, Oxford University Press, 1968; B. Holden, The nature of 
democracy, Nelson, 1974, esp. Ch. 1; J. Plamenatz, Democracy 
and illusion, Longman, 1973, and many others. 
Rules of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, adopted by 
the 22nd Party Congress, 1961 and amended by the 23rd Party 
Congress 1966, and 24th Party Congress 1971, article 19 and 

Constitution of the Communist Party of China, adopted by the 
11th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. 1977, 
General Programme, and article 8, and Ch. II passim. 

This is, of course, a grossly simplified model of even a lay view of 

human action, but for all that I suspect that it summarizes fairly 

the view most people have of the mechanics of the mind. 

I shall leave on one side the question of whether such a model is 

at all relevant for decision making in a society for although I 

personally see this as a central problem in political theory, it is 

not my purpose to discuss it here. 

Considerations on Representative Government, in Utilitarianism, 

On Liberty and Representative Government, ed. and intro. A.D. 

Lindsay, Everyman, 1968, Chs. 1-3. 

J.S. Mill, op.cit., Introductory and passim. 



John P. Burns 

The unofficial publications 1 which have appeared in limited num- 
bers mainly in Beijing since October 1978, are usually portrayed as 
raising similar issues from generally similar perspectives, focused on 
demands for more democracy, greater protection of human rights, and 
strengthening of the legal system. Yet it is obvious that the authorities 
in Beijing, who have suppressed some journals and not others, recognize 
significant differences among the positions taken by these publications. 
What, then, are the positions of the unofficial journals on such topics as 
'democracy', 'human rights', and' the rule of law? How to these 
positions differ from the official view? Finally, on what other issues do 
the journals differ? 

In addition to an, ing the definitions of 'democracy', 'human 
rights,' and 'the rule of law' often y the journals, we can best illust- 


rate the range of opinion expressed in them by focusing on three issue 
areas: 1) 'the four basic principles' (Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong 
Thought; the role of the Communist Party; the dictatorship of the pro- 
letariat; and socialism): 2 2) the past 30 years of Chinese history, 
especially the nature. of the Cultural Revolution; and 3) the legitimacy 
of the present post- 1976 regime. The most radical journals, such as 
EXPLORATION, have consistently challenged official orthodoxy in all 
three areas, while the more moderate journals, such as PEKING 
SPRING and APRIL 5 FORUM, have affirmed the official inter- 
pretation in these areas. The issues are, of course, linked. An attack on 
the 'four basic principles' can be seen as a rejection of the present 
regime's legitimacy. But not all journals questioning this legitimacy 
have attacked the 'four principles'. Which journals have taken stands on 
these issues, and whether the journals can be ranged along from most 
critical to most supportive of the government a continuum/are the 
objects of this study. 

Because the unofficial journals are circulated in limited numbers 
among a small group centered mainly in Beijing, of what significance 
are their views, much less the differences among them? First, in so far 
as unorthodox positions on key issues are being advocated, even by a 
small group, it Indicates that the channels for the means of political 
socialization in China are varied, and that political socialization into 
one ideological pattern is incomplete. Second, because foreign news 
services broadcast the content of Beijing's unofficial publications to 
other parts of China, the influence on provincial intellectuals of the 
debates carried out within this forum may be wider than is sometimes 
realized. Finally, by examining specifically the differences among the 
journals we can come to a more precise understanding of what 
challenges to official orthodoxy the authorities in Beijing are prepared 
to accept. 

Although few complete collections of unofficial journals are 
available outside China, sufficient numbers have been obtained to 
permit at least a preliminary survey for comparative purposes. Data for 
this paper comes from the ten unofficial journals published in Beijing 
wholely or partially available in English translation: 3 PEKING SPRING, 
TIMES, and MASS REFERENCE NEWS. These journals in translation 


are the most complete collection in either Chinese or English available 
to me. 

Issues of these journals published from October 1978 to April 
1979 are included in this study. By April 1979 the arrests of some 
editors of the journals 4 and the publication of notices in Beijing and 
other large cities curtailing the use of wall posters and demonstrations, 5 
had a chilling affect on the activities of the unofficial publishers. We 
can, then, more easily see the differences among the journals by 
concentrating on the earlier period. , 


One of the most striking similarities of the unofficial journals 
was their claim to be speaking for the people. A joint statement issued 
in January 1979 and signed by most of the publications, claimed that 
the journals were "run by the people of Beijing." 6 The Human Rights 
League in February 1979 affirmed that it "would act according to the 
will of the people." 7 And APRIL 5 FORUM asserted in April that it 
was "the people's mouthpiece." 8 In the name of the poeple, then, the 
journals demanded democracy, human rights, and a return to legality. 9 
"People want democracy and freedom. This is the desire and hope of 
the people. Anyone who attempts to obstruct and suppress the 
democracy movement will come to no good." 10 If the language of the 
journals was the same — democracy, human rights, and legal system — 
what did they mean by these concepts? 

At least three different notions of democracy appar in the un- 
official journals: 1) democracy as rule in the interests of the people; 
2) democracy as a guarantee of equal rights for all; and 3) democracy as 
rule through certain procedures (election and recall} to ensure that 
people can participate and/or supervise governmental decision-making. 
The first two notions stress the results of governmental activity as 
indicators of whether the system is democratic. The last notion 
emphasizes the procedures used as the most important measure. These 
conceptions of democracy can all be found in the unofficial journals, 
and indeed even in the same journal. 

The attack on Deng Xiaoping made by one journal is evidence of 
the view that democracy means rule in the interests of the people. 


"Deng is no longer worthy of the people's trust and support," the 
journal argued, "because his actions have shown that he does not want 
to pursue democracy. He no longer safeguards the people's 
interests." 11 This view attaches little importance to how officials 
achieve power, focusing instead on their actions in power. If they 
act in the interests of the people, then the system is democratic. 

The second notion of democracy, which defines it in terms of 
human rights, also focuses on the results of governmental activity. 
Systems are democratic, in this view, if they guarantee "the equal rights 
of all." 

Democracy recognizes the equal rights of all human beings. . . it 
provides all with an equal opportunity to realize human rights 
because it is founded on the recognition of everyone's equal right 
to live. 12 

A system, then, which ensures these equal rights is democratic in this 

More frequently, democracy in the unofficial journals is tied to 
certain procedures, and relies heavily on election outcomes and voting 
rights. This notion is based on the view that 

democracy means letting people be masters of their own affiars. 
It means that people have the right to exercise control over all 
things in human society as they desire, including control over 
economic, political, cultural and social affairs. 13 

This view of democracy emphasizes how decisions are made — 
democracies put the people in a position to decide, 14 giving them "the 
final say in crucial matters, and matters of concern to them." 15 
Democracy means the people having a decisive influence on the destiny 
of society: 16 it means the people influencing, controlling, and super- 
vising government decisions. 1 7 Such a system entails the "transfer of 
power to the laboring masses." 1 8 

Elections are an important procedure for realizing this kind of 
democracy. 19 



True democracy means the right of the people to choose their 
own representatives, to work according to their will and in their 
interests. The people must also have the power to replace their 
representatives any time so that these representatives cannot go 
on deceiving others in the name of the poeple. 20 

This notion of democracy depends, then, on elections "conducted from 
the bottom up and which are modeled on the Paris Commune." 21 

Although these conceptions of the meaning of democracy differ, 
the unofficial journals share the view that democracy is a means to 
further ends, and is not an end in itself. Democracy is usually seen in 
the journals as a means of achieving the 'four modernizations'. 
"Democracy is a means not an end. The purpose of democracy is to 
concentrate various forces to serve the 'four modernizations'. Democr- 
acy is a prerequisite for their realization." 22 

Some journals, however, go much further than this, pointing out 
that modernization itself is a means to yet further goals. One journal 
suggests that modernization is a means to "happiness, which Chinese 
citizens can truely enjoy, to freedom, prosperity, wealth and power." 23 
Why must human history take the road toward prosperity and moderni- 

The reason is that human beings need a prosperous society to 
produce realistic fruits to provide them with maximum 
opportunity to pursue their first goal of happiness, namely 
freedom. Democracy means the maximum attainable freedom so 
far known by human beings. It is quite obvious that democracy 
has become the goal in contemporary human struggles. 24 

"The people's desire for democracy and the nation's desire for wealth 
and power are irresistable" proclaimed one journal. 25 These are not 
demands for social justice or for equality, on which the party rose to 
power, but demands for some measure of freedom from party control 
to pursue the goals first advocated by Yen Fu and later by the May 
Fourth Movement. Indeed the journals quite self-consciously draw the 
parallel between the movements of the early 20th century and the 
needs of China today as they see them. 26 The instrumental nature of 


the conception of democracy is clear. Democracy is seen as a way of 
modernizing the country, and, at least by some journals, as a means of 
achieving freedom for the people, and wealth and power for the nation. 

The unofficial journals also agree that the notion of democracy 
should not be linked to either centralism or dictatorship. This view runs 
directly. counter to the official view that democracy must be seen in 
terms of dictatorship, and which sees democratic centralism as a unified 
concept. 27 In general, the journals deny that democracy must be linked 
to centralism or to dictatorship. Such a link is logically impossible, for 
dictatorship negates democracy, and centralism prevents its effective 
operation. . 

While official discussions of democracy also define democracy in 
terms of "the people's right to determine and direct the nation's affairs, 
and making the people the masters of their own house," 28 democracy 
and dictatorship of the proletariat are seen as inseparable concepts. 
Only by means of dictatorship, in the official view, can the democratic 
rights of the proletariat be guaranteed. And although democracy is 
indispensable, it is only part of a total concept, democratic centralism. 
Without centralism, the unity and stability needed to govern effectively 
cannot be attained. These views are ignored by the unofficial journals. 

A uniform list of prerequisites for realizing democracy is not 
offered by the journals. Democracy can be achieved, some journals say, 
by "awakening and emancipating the people's minds;" 29 by first 
achieving a redistribution of power (or democratization) of economic 
management, -30 by "reforming the political system"; and by 
"strengthening the legal system" either concurrently with the growth of 
democracy, or after democracy has begun to take hold. The close 
relationship between achieving democracy, on the one hand, and 
protection of human rights and strengthening the legal system, on the 
other, is emphasized in all the journals. It is to these concepts that we 
now turn. 

Although there is no general agreement on a definition of dem- 
ocracy, there does seem to be some measure of agreement on the 
importance and content of human rights. First, the appeal for human 
rights is made in universalistic language in the journals: 

Man has the right to live more meaningfully. The reason man 


must have these rights is that life will not be worth fighting for 
without such rights. Once a man loses his human rights, he loses 
his rights as a human being, and what is left to him is but a sub- 
servient position always subject to enslavement by others. 31 

The official view, while accepting the existence of human rights, denys 
their universality. In capitalist societies, for example, human rights 
"cannot involve all men. They are only the rights of the bourgeoi- 
sie." 32 There is, then, disagreement on the status of human rights. 

The most systematic discussion of the content of human rights in 
the unofficial journals occurs in APRIL 5 FORUM. Human rights here 
are analyzed in terms of "citizen's rights" and "people's democratic 
rights". Citizen's rights include: rights of living, multiplying, education, 
giving free reign to creativity, and developing individuality enjoyed by 
individuals living in society, such as labor, rest, education, freedom of 
marriage, freedom of movement, freedom to select one's occupation, 
personal freedom, freedom from violation of life and property, etc. 
"People's democratic rights" include: protection of the determining 
influence of the people's will on the state and society and, as the 
legitimate rights of the citizens, include the rights of information, 
speech, and supervision. 33 

Other unofficial journals conceive of human rights as voting rights, 
freedom of speech and the freedom to demonstrate, freedom of public- 
ation, belief and association, 34 activities necessary for a functioning 
democracy if the more procedural notion is adopted. A more detailed 
and idiosyncratic list comes from the Human Rights League, which 
includes the now familiar freedom of speech, voting rights, the right to 
information, and rights to publication, all mentioned above. 35 Other 
publications are satisfied with the 'citizen's rights' listed in the 1978 
Constitution, again including freedom of speech, press, and assembly. 36 

The official view argues that conceiving human rights as political 
rights, or as 'democratic rights' in APRIL 5 FORUM's analysis,is too 
narrow. The concept must be broadened to include "social, economic, 
and cultural rights" as well. These rights are collectivist in nature, and 
unlike bourgeois human rights do not take the protection of private 
property as a fundamental principle. (Note that the APR I L 5 FORUM 
list of human rights includes protection of individuals and individuality, 


as well as protection of property.) The proletariat, the official view 
continues, cannot restrict itself to the bourgeois demands for liberty 
and equality, but must put forth its own 'higher demand', for the 
realization of socialism and communism. 

The official view does, however, recognize 'citizen's rights', which 
are a kind of human rights, and these have been incorporated in the 
1978 Constitution. If, however, 

the slogan of human rights is put forth in abstract terms and in 
deviation from our fundamental slogan (realize socialism and 
communism), especially under the circumstances when extremely 
complicated content has been infused into the slogan, it will only 
dim our objective and cause confusion in our minds. 3 7 

Human rights, the official view concludes, "is not a major slogan of our 
party." 38 

Both the official and unofficial positions on human rights concur 
that the rights are relative, restricted in the words of BEIJING REVIEW 
by "certain material conditions and cultural level." 39 As one unofficial 
journal has pointed out: 

Freedom does not mean unprincipled freedom. Exercise of the 
right of freedom is limited by non-interference in other people's 
freedom and non-denial of other people's freedom. 40 

Although recognizing the limits of human rights, both positions see 
reasons for the limits in different terms. The official view is essentially 
materialist, while the unofficial position suggests that human rights are 
limited by man's need to live in society. Nonetheless the relative and 
limited notion of human rights is a common theme. 

If, according to the unofficial journals, human rights are a 
necessary part of a functioning democracy, so too is a 'strong' legal 
system. While most journals recognize this, they rarely go beyond the 
simple statement: Democratic rights "should be clarified by a series of 
legal provisions and insured by a strict judicial system and proceedings 
for rights to be legally exercised." A 'strong' legal system, thus, seems 
to be an essential characteristic of democracy in the unofficial view. 

The rule of law does not mean democracy, however, for law can 
be used by both democracy and autocracy alike. Whether or not the 
legal system ensures democracy 

depends on the nature and substance of the political system 
concerned ... We want the rule of law, but we want the kind of 
rule of law which is conducive to the realization of the equal 

rights of man 


If democracy must be based on a 'strong' system of laws, it must 
also precede the establishment of the rule of law. 

We do not merely mean that democracy is complete after a set of 
laws have been written. Democracy must be realized before laws 
are established. Then a legal system is set up to recognize it and 
protect it. Before the people and the masses have obtained a true 
democracy, a complete set of laws that recognizes democracy and 
a strong system that protects the democratic system will be 
meaningless. To avoid empty talk, the first thing to do is to allow 
democratic theory to become reality. 

In addition to promulgating new laws, some hint of what 
'strengthening' the legal system entails is provided in an APRIL 5 
FORUM analysis of a Central Committee decision to remove the labels 
of 'four bad elements' 43 . The journal deplored the extreme vagueness 
and ambiguity of the wording of the decision, arguing that as a result 
local officials have almost complete discretion to do as they please. 
Objective standards were lacking, which makes the policy meaningless. 
Scientific, unambiguous language is required. 44 The tendency toward 
vagueness and ambiguity finds its source in Mao's own writing, the 
journal concludes. Precise, unambiguous wording of the laws is one 
aspect of 'strengthening' the legal system. 

While the concepts of democracy, human rights, and the rule of 
law are used by all the unofficial journals, often with different 
meanings as we have seen, I have found no major grounds 
for differentiating among the journals based on these definitions. Where 
the concepts have differed there has not been a consistent difference 
among the journals - indeed different meanings for the various 
concepts can occasionally be found in the same issue of the same 
journal! There are, however, clear editorial differences if we consider 
the unofficial journals' positions on the 'four principles'; the Cultural 
Revolution; and the legitimacy of the present post-1976 regime. 




The journal concludes: 

The 'four principles', featured in the 1978 Constitution, include 
upholding Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought; the leadership of 
the Communist Party; the dictatorship of the proletariat; and the 
socialist road. One unofficial journal, EXPLORATION, has openly 
attacked the accepted official position on each principle. 45 The other 
journals have either affirmed or ignored the principles. We will see, 
then, that there are grounds for differentiating among the journals 
based on a consideration of these principles. We turn now to a review of 
the evidence, looking at each of the four principles in turn. 

EXPLORATION'S attack on China's dominant ideological system, 
Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, takes the form of an 
objection to a "single ideology having been pushed through by force." 
The journal bases its attack on 'single ideologies' on its analysis of the 
relationship between society and the individual: 

Human beings have two natures - individuality and sociality. 
People's sociality depends on individuality just as human societies 
necessarily depend on the existence of individuals. Therefore, we 
conclude that people's individuality enjoys priority over their 
sociality, although both are important constituents of human 
nature. . . . Human society like the universe is pluralistic and not 
monistic. 46 

The journal then endorses a pluralistic approach to the question of 
ideology: "Let every Chinese think freely." The implication that 
Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought must be abandoned as the 
only single legitimate doctrine in China is explicitly stated in the same 
issue of the journal. 47 Suppressing all other viewpoints has left China 
with the "emotional and cultural reality we face now," the journal 
points out, "including deadliness, numbness, stupidity, stagnation, 
ignorance, and simplemindedness." 48 

Today we challenge Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought 
because we are fed up with your (the authorities) unreasonable- 
ness. If the existence and triumph of Marxism-Leninism must rely 
on bloody suppression of all opposing views, we as clear-headed 
youths of the 20th Century are not prepared to tolerate it. 49 

If the road we choose raises the people's standard of living, 
though incompatible with Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong 
Thought, we must not hesitate to jettison the later. Dogmas such 
as the 'inviolability of Marxist- Leninist principles' expounded by 
Mao Zedong, and the pledge "to hold high and defend the great 
banner of Chairman Mao' provided in the existing Constitution 
represent utter ignorance of the purpose of human existence. 50 

The notion of a single legitimate ideological mould into which all 
people must be fitted, is, then, rejected as unsuitable for any society. 

The other journals have either taken an intermediate position, 
indicating that Marxism-Leninism as the only legitimate ideology is 
acceptable (although perhaps needing modification), or have endorsed 
Marxist-Leninist principles without qualification. THAW and 
ENLIGHTENMENT are examples of journals which while accepting a 
general Marxist- Leninist framework, have called for revision of some of 
its basic tenants. The Thaw Society has called for revision of" the 
"impractical portions of Marxism," and in particular deletion of 
concepts of "class struggle, violent revolution and all types of 
dictatorship." 5 1 It also would remove the "outdated portions" of Mao 
Zedong Thought. In the same spirit, ENLIGHTENMENT has called for 
a restoration of the "scientific features" of Marxism-Leninism-Mao 
Zedong Thought. 52 

Unqualified endorsement of the ideology, to complete the other 
end of the spectrum, characterized the editorial policy statements of 

Criticism of the second basic principle, the role of the Communist 
Party, follows a similar pattern, EXPLORATION'S critique of the 
Party's position stems from its rejection of a single ideology imposed by 
force on the Chinese people: 

Those who use force to put down opposition views to defend the 
existing program and policy of the Chinese Communist Politburo 
are actually working against the wishes of the Chinese people for 
modernization. 54 



Not only will the policy of modernization fail, but all progress is 
jeopardized if the party is permitted to maintain its position: 

The Chinese people have learned from years of autocratic dicta- 
torship that if we permit the Communist Politburo to exercise 
exclusive control, permit a few to prescribe a lifestyle for several 
hundred million people, and permit the use of force to suppress 
theories and opinions different than Marxism-Leninism and Mao 
Zedong Thought, the end result will be to turn China back to the 
'anti-rightist' days of 1957, and back to the days of the Cultural 
Revolution of 1966. Please remember that Mao Zedong once 
predicted that this kind of revolution will occur once every seven 
or eight years. 55 

EXPLORATION'S denunciation of one-party rule is explicit. The 
critique is all the more powerful because it is not aimed at the party 
organization itself, but rather at the highest leadership organ of the 
party — the politburo. 

ENLIGHTENMENT occupies the other end of the continuum. In 
November, 1978, it fully endorsed "the strategic plans of the Party 
Central Committee headed by Chairman Hua," and saw itself as an ally 
of the party press, PEOPLE'S DAILY. 56 And in January 1979 it 
reaffirmed this position: "We mean what we say about accepting the 
party's leadership and guidance in the political, economic, cultural, and 
various spheres." 5 7 

Intermediate positions are taken by APRIL 5 FORUM, PEKING 
SPRING, and THAW. While affirming their support for "the 
fundamental principles of the party," each journal suggested either that 
the party's leadership position be altered, its internal composition 
changed, or that at basic levels the party "whither away" as class 
struggle has deminished. APRIL 5 FORUM questioned the role of the 
party in society, pointing out, first, that "party leadership" has not 
always been correct (e.g., the "reactionary" lead of Lin Piao and the 
Gang of Four are recalled) nor has it always been necessary (e.g., the 
"revolutionary and spontaneous Tienanmen incident" is cited). Of the 
later, APRIL 5 FORUM asks, "Here even without party leadership, as 
we can clearly see, has not a soul-stirring melodrama already been 
enacted?" 58 


THAW argues that the party, for too long the personal possession 
of Mao, must be converted into a party "belonging to all party 
members and people throughout the country," that its decision-making 
system must be made more "democratic collectivism" and that it be 
clearly separated from the state. 59 

While fully accepting the party's guiding role, PEKING SPRING 
argues that just as class struggle is withering, so too should the role of 
the party at basic levels. "People have felt more and more strongly that 
the power of the administrative leadership of basic level party organiza- 
tions has now become an obstacle to the development of production." 
The journal hastens to add, however, that it does not advocate "total 
abolition of party leadership at this stage," and points out that the 
process must be gradual. Middle and upper-level party leadership is 
necessary "at this stage", and should not be "done away with". 60 
These moderate statements which basically accept party leadership, 
contrast sharply with the views expressed in EXPLORATION as we saw 

The third principle, support for the dictatorship of the proletariat, 
is also challenged by EXPLORATION. Interestingly, the other journals 
have little to say on this usbject, and I could find no explicit statements 
supporting or challenging the concept in them. Support for the notion 
of dictatorship of the proletariat may perhaps be inferred for those 
journals, like APRIL 5 FORUM and PEKING SPRING that have 
explicitly endorsed Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and party 

EXPLORATION'S attack on proletarian dictatorship, and indeed 
on any dictatorship, is based on its conception of democracy as entail- 
ling a guarantee of equal rights for all. Dictatorship "negates the fact 
that different members of society have the right to satisfy their 
different desires." Thus, the dictatorship of the proletariat (or any 
dictatorship) denys man's right to live as equals. It denys each man's 

right to carry out political activities to satisfy his personal desires 
in life and to fight for survival — and this is the out and out 
negation of the most fundamental principle of democracy. 

It ignores, then, society's basic pluralism. "This explains why all social 
systems based on Marxist socialism are without exception undemocratic 


and even anti-democratic autocracies," the journal concludes. 61 Given 
democracy, and the respect for the equal rights of every other member 
of society which democracy entails, dictatorship is impossible. 

Not only is any' kind of dictatorship a negation of democracy, but 
the Marxist notion of "dictatorship by the majority" is simply an 
"Utopian dream". Dictatorship, is always dictatorship. "A concentra- 
tion of powers is bound to fall into the hands of a few." Thus, the 
democratic movement, EXPLORATION argues, "is being carried out 
on the premise of negating the Mao Zedong-type dictatorship, and is 
aimed at reforming the social system." 62 

Finally, support for socialism is a feature of the 'four basic 
principles'. EXPLORATION has attacked the notion that establishment 
of a Marxist socialist state can ever lead to democracy. But the journal 
does not disapprove of socialism per se (indeed socialism is seen as 
letting the people be their own masters). Rather the journal argues that 
socialism has not been achieved in China. Here EXPLORATION draws 
a clear line between socialism in general, and Marxist socialism. The 
later negates democracy because it relies on dictatorship, while the 
former is defined in terms of democracy — "people being their own 
masters." But, the journal asks of the Chinese people: 

Apart from one statement in PEKING SPRING in which it is 
announced that thejournal "adheres to the socialist path," the other 
oumals do not explicitly address this issue. We can mfer from their 
uoport for Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought and for party 
leadership, however, that they do not share the EXPLORATION 

There is then, adequate ground for distinguishing among the 
journals based'on their position on the four basic principles. A radical 
critique of the ideology, party, and state is offered by only one of the 
journals and appears to be based on a definition of democracy in terms 
of huma'n rights - in particular, that democracy means guaranteeing the 
eoual rights of all in society. At the other end of the spectrum can be 
found PEKING SPRING and APRIL 5 FORUM. Journals like 
ENLIGHTENMENT and THAW occupy an intermediate position, 
characterized by general support for the principles, but calling for im- 
portant revisions of their content. 

With the meager wages you get every month, whose master and 
what kind of master can you be? Sad to relate, you are 'mastered' 
by somebody else even in the matter of matrimony. Socialism 
guarantees the producers' rights to the surplus production from 
their labour over what is needed as a service to the society. But 
this service is limitless (in China). So, are you getting only that 
little miserable wage 'necessary for maintaining the labor force 
for production? Socialism guarantees many rights, such as the 
right of a citizen to receive education to use his ability to the best 
advantage and so forth. But none of these rights can be seen in 
our daily life. 63 

The implication then, is that the 'socialist' state in China is not only a 
fraud, claiming to. be what it is not, but that it is also exploiting its 
workers by paying them only enough to maintain the labor force in 
production. EXPLORATION does not, however, reject socialism, but- 
only socialism as it is practiced in China. 



Their stand on the 'four principles' leads the unofficial journals to 
differing appraisals of the past 30 years of Chinese history, and in 
particular to differing conclusions about the nature of the Cultural 
Revolution. The more moderate journals confine their criticism of the 
past 30 years exclusively to the Cultural Revolution years (1966-1976), 
denouncing the "evil and pernicious" influences of Lin Piao and the 
Gang of Four, It was during this period that the "dictatorship hosts 
were turned into objects of dictatorship" and peoples' democratic and 
human rights were abused. 64 This position differs little from the 
official view. The moderate journals see the cause of the Cultural 
Revolution misfortune in terms of a 'weak' legal system. 6 s The people 
had no real legal protection from the dictators, Lin Piao and the Gang 
of Four. Hence. the moderate emphasis on the rule of law. 



EXPLORATION, on the other hand, sees the entire 30 years as 
one of "tyranny and dictatorship," 66 and does not, in general, single 
out the Cultural Revolution years for special treatment. The journal's 
comments on the Cultural Revoluiton are, however, very interesting, 
because it sees this movement in a different light. The Cultural Revolu- 
tion, EXPLORATION argues, began as a popular democratic mass 

The Cultural Revolution demonstrates that the Chinese people 
want democracy - it was the first occasion for them to 
demonstrate their strength, and all reactionary forces trembled 
before them. 6 7 

The campaign was, however, corrupted by the leadership, who sought 
to turn it to their own ends. 

Because the people had then no clear orientation and the 
democratic forces did not play the main role in the struggle, the 
majority of them were bought over by the autocratic tyrant, led 
astray, divided, slandered, and finally violently suppressed. Thus, 
these forces came to an end. 68 

The more moderate journals confine their attack to the Cultural 
Revolution years, endorsing the progress made before that time. The 
most radical position, adopted by EXPLORATION, condemnes the 
previous 30 years, but looks for inspiration to the spontaneous 
democratic elements of the early Cultural Revolution, reflecting in its 
analysis the disallusionment of the more radical Red Guards. 

legitimacy of the current leadership. Who elected them? asks EXPLOR- 
"Although the people may favor some of the deputies, the Fifth 
National People's Congress does not enjoy due authority because it is 
not the direct embodiment of the people's will." 69 And, ENLIGHTEN- 
MENT ponts out: "the supreme leaders of the state still do not have the 
courage to be elected by the people." 70 EXPLORATION, always the 
most outspoken, suggests that "the masses are dissatisfied because state 
leaders have won the people's trust by fraud. . . " 71 And in a direct 
challenge to the Peking Municipal Committee, the journal points out: 
"In fact, no one has entrusted you with the task of ruling. You do not 
represent the people." 7 

We would like to ask a question of senior government officials 
who have incited the arrest of people: Do you hold power legally 
or illegally (legitimately or illegitimately)? We would also like to 
ask a question of Chairman Hua and Vice Chairman Deng, Do 
you hold your posts of premier and vice premier legally or 
illegally? 73 

The attack on Deng is taken even further: 

He is no longer worthy of the people's trust and support, because 
his actions have shown that he does not want to pursue 
democracy. He no longer safeguards the peoples' interests. He is 
currently following a dictatorial road after deceitfully winning 
the people's trust. 74 


Different positions were also taken by the journals on the legitim- 
acy of the present post-1976 regime in China. More radical opinion on 
this issue, defining democracy in terms of elections, questions the 


This attack on the regime's legitimacy may also help to explain 
why intellectuals in China have failed to rally to the journals' support. 
Although intellectuals could be expected to champion demands for 
increased democracy, reduction of thearbitrariness of the legal system, 
and the protection of human rights — especially liberalization of 
academic and literary discussion and publishing rights — they cannot 
have been happy with the attack on Deng's legitimacy. He, after all, was 
leading the liberalization, and restoring 'unity and order'. 


Second, the most radical journal, EXPLORATION, in its 
rejection of the 'four principles', lashed out at Marxist intellectuals and 
theoreticians — "Let us look at the real history of China, and not the 
history written by the hired scholars of the socialist government," the 
journal demanded. 75 The 'hired scholars' were precisely those intellec- 
tuals in China who if the defense of democracy had been more 
moderate, might have supported the journals. As it was, they were 
indicted along with the state and party bureaucracy, and never gave 
their support. 



While adopting a common language — democracy, human rights, 
and the rule of law — the unofficial journals have used the terms 'dem- 
ocracy' and 'human rights' in a variety of ways, which, however, often 
ran directly counter to official usage. But there are grounds for 
differentiating among the journals. Their position on the 'four 
principles' the Cultural Revolution; and the legitimacy of the present 
regime, suggest that the journals can be ranged along a continuum from 
the more radical and openly critical journal, EXPLORATION, to the 
journals generally supportive of the regime, such as PEKING SPRING 
and APRIL 5 FOURM. Other journals, such as ENLIGHTENMENT and 
THAW, occupy an intermediate position. 

The fact that such unorthodox views can be expressed in China, 
while not surprizing, indicates that political socialization into a 
common ideological tradition is far from complete. Views directly 
contradicting official thinking have been expressed ocassionally by all 
of the journals surveyed here, and consistently by one journal, 
EXPLORATION. This journal's radically different use of terms such as 
'democracy', and 'human rights', in addition to its denunciation of the 
'four principles', unorthodox interpretation of the Cultural Revolution, 
and its open challenge of the legitimacy of the present regime, have led 
to its suppression by the authorities. Which of these characteristics 
finally prompted official Beijing to act remains, however, unknown. 



*The journals call themselves 'unofficial' or 'mass' publications, while 
the government has sought to label them 'underground' or 'other' 
publications. These labels have been protested by the journals. 

2 See BEIJINGREVIEW No. 49, December 7, 1979, p. 3 for a statement 
of the 'four principles. They appear in Chapter I, Articles 1 and 2 
of the 1978 Constitution of the People's Republic of China. 

3 The translations appear in 'Translations on People's Republic of 
(abbreviated JPRS hereafter) Nos. 509 (April 12, 1979); 520 
(May 10, 1979); 532 (June 20, 1979); 533 (June 1979); 534 (26 
June 1979); and 536 (June 29, 1979) (Washington, D.C.: 
National Technical Information Service) and "China Report" 
■ abbreviated FBIS) Nos. 5 (July 27, 1979) and 8 (August 9, 1979) 
(Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Commerce). 

4 See AFP dispatch, Beijing, May 30, 1979 in SOUTH CHINA MORN- 
ING POST, May 31, 1979; and AFP dispatch, Beijing, May 2, 
1979, in SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST, May 2, 1979. 

5 See Reuter's dispatch, Peking, March 31, 1979 in SOUTH CHINA 
MORNING POST, April 1, 1979. 

Exploration (tansuo), Jan 29, 1979 in jprs 520, p. 26, 

JPPS 520, p. 64. 

APRIL 5 FORUM (SIWU LUNTAN) Apr 1, 1979, in FBIS 8, p. 21. 

532, p. 36, for a similar statement. 


1 1 

1 2 

ENLIGHTENMENT (QIMENG) Mar 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 51. 
EXPLORATION Mar 25, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 28. 

Ibid., Jan 29, 1979 in JPRS 536, p. 32. 


13 lbid Mar 11, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 31; ENLIGHTENMENT Jan 1, 
1979 in JPRS 520, p. 58; APRIL 5 FORUM Apr 1, 1979 in FBIS 
8, p. 5. 

14 EXPLORATION Mar 11, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 33. 

1 s PEKING SPRING Jan 27, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 15. 
16 APRIL 5 FORUM Apr. 1, 1979 in FBIS 8, p. 21. 

1 Exploration Mar 11, 1979 in jprs 520, p. 33; and april 5 

FORUM Apr 1, 1979 in FBIS 8, p. 21. 

18 EXPLORATION Dec 1978 in JPRS 534, p. 11. and EXPLORATION 

Mar 11, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 33. 

19 APRIL 5 FORUM Dec 30, 1978 in JPRS 536, p. 17. 

20 EXPLORATION Dec 1978, in JPRS 534, p. 11. 

21 PEKING SPRING Jan 9, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 1. 

"APRIL 5 FORUM Apr 1, 1979 in FBIS 8, p. 5; EXPLORATION Dec 
1978, in JPRS 534, p. 22; and ENLIGHTENMENT Jan 1, 1979, 
in JPRS 509, p. 45. 

"EXPLORATION Dec 1978 in JPRS 534, Pp. 11; and DEMOCRACY 

24 EXPLORATION Dec 1978, in JPRS 534, p. 13. 

25 PEKlNG SPRING Jan 9, 1979 in JPRS 532, p. 1. 

26 See ENLIGHTENMENT Nov 24, 1978 in JPRS 509, p. 28. 

27 0ne possible exception comes from ENLIGHTENMENT which 
points out: "Without democracy it is also impossible to achieve 
highly centralized and unified command in modernization. 
Without a competent and authoritative command and 
co-ordination system wich is adopted through democratic 
processes ... and constantly renovated, modern machines are just 
a heap of scrap iron." Jan 29, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 45. 


28 "Learn from Chairman Mao to Struggle for Carrying Forward Demo- 
cratic Concepts and Fully Implement Socialist Democracy", 
25, 1978 in JPRS 073179, p. 40. 

29 APRIL 5 FORUM Apr 1, 1979, in FBIS 8, p. 5. 

30 PEKING SPRING Jan 9, 1979 in JPRS 532, p. 1. 

3 Exploration Jan 29, 1979 in jprs 536, p. 32. 

32 PEKING REVIEW No. 45, November 9, 1979. 
33 APRIL5FORUM Mar 11, 1,979 in FBIS 5, pp. 12-13. 

34 ENLIGHTENMENT Jan 1, 1979 in JPRS 509, p. 65. 

LEAGUE Lists the following: 

— freedom of thought and speech; 

— right to criticize and assess party and state leaders; 

— right to 'sufficient autonomy' for minority nationalities; 

— right to elect state leaders and the leaders at all levels in 
various areas, and to elect a 'citizens court' to be a standing 
committee of the National Peoples Congress; 

— right to examine the national budget, final financial statements 
and the gross national product; 

— right to attend proceedings of the NPC, its standing committee 
and preparatory meetings. 

— reduction and gradual abolition of state ownership of the 
means of production; 

— establishing friendly relations with Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, 
US and Japan; 

— the right to develop freely; , 

— freedom to go in and out of foreign embassies, freedom to talk 
to foreign correspondents and freedom to publish abroad; 
freedom to receive 'nei-bu' publications, to subscribe to 
foreign magazines and newspapers, and to listen to foreign 
television and ration stations, to publish and print. 

— freedom to choose ones own vocation, freedom to express 
support for a leader or a movement; 

— state guaranteed food rations; 

— right of reassignment for educated youth in the countryside; 

— abolition of the use of deceptive means to recruit technical 


— abolition of the system of secret police; 

— abolition of slums and overcrowded housing conditions; 

— encouragement of internationalism, with open borders, trade, 
exchange of labor, freedom to work and study abroad, to 
travel or live abroad. 

36 EXPLORATION Dec 1978 in JPRS 534, pp. 6-7, EXPLORATION 
also mentions "freedom of travel, and the freedom to live a 
civilized life which man should enjoy ..." Jan 29, 1979, in JPRS 
536, p. 39. The 1978 Constitution of the People's Republic of 
China recognizes the following rights: right to vote, freedom of 
speech, correspondence, press, assembly, association, procession, 
demonstration, and the freedom to strike, freedom of religion, of 
person, right to work, to rest, to material assistance in old age or 
in case of injury of illness, right to education, freedom to engage 
in scientific research, literary and artistic creation, and the right 
to lodge complaints. In BEIJING REVIEW No. 11, March 17, 

37 BEIJING REVIEW No. 45, November 9, 1979, p. 19. 38 Ibid. 

39 Ibid., P- 20 and EXPLORATION Jan 29, 1979 in JPRS 536, p. 44; 
APRIL 5 FORUM Apr. 1, 1979, in FBIS 8, p. 5. 

40 ENLIGHTENMENT Jan 1, 1979 in JPRS 509, p. 65. 

41 EXPLORATION Jan 29, 1979, in JPRS 536, p. 32. 

42 ENLIGHTENMENT Jan 1, 1979 in JPRS 509, p. 58. 

43 The 'four bad elements' included landlords, richpeasants, counter- 
revolutionaries, and rightists. 

44 APRIL 5 FORUM Mar 11, 1979, in FBIS 5, p. 24. 

45 BEIJING REVIEW Dec 7, 1979 p. 3 

46 EXPLORATION Dec 1978, in JPRS 534, p. 17. 

47 lbid., Jan 1979, in JPRS 536, p. 41. 48 lbid., p. 89. 49 |bid., p.44.j 
50 EXPLORATION Jan 29, 1979, in JPRS 536, p. 42. 

5 *THAW (JIE DONG) Mar 8, 1979 in FBIS 5, p. 6. 


5 Enlightenment Oct 11, 1978 in jprs 509, p. 16. 

53 APRIL 5 FORUM Dec 30, 1978 in JPRS 536, p. 10; and PEKING 
SPRING Jan 9, 1979 in JPRS 532, p. 1. 

54 EXPLORATION Jan 29, 1979 in JPRS 536, p. 42. 

"EXPLORATION Jan 29, 1979 in JPRS 536, p. 41. 

S7 lbid. 

S8 APRIL 5 FORUM Apr. 1, 1979 in FBIS 8, p. 30. 
S9 THAW Mar 8, 1979 in FBIS 5, p. 6. 
60 PEKING SPRING Jan 1979, in JPRS 520, p. 15. 

6 Exploration Mar 11, i979inJPRS520, p. 31. 

62 Ibid., Mar 25, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 28. 

63 Ibid., Dec 1978, in JPRS 534, p. 10. » 


JPRS 534, p. 1. 

534 p. 18. 

66 EXPLORATION Mar 25, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 38. 

67 Ibid., Dec 1978, in JPRS 534, p. 13. 68 lbid. 

69 HUMAN RIGHTS LEAGUE Mar 22, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 61. 

70 ENLIGHTENMENT Mar 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 51. 

7 Exploration Mar 11, 1979 in jprs 520, p. 42. 

72 Ibid., Jan 29, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 23. 

73 Ibid., Mar 25, 1979 in JPRS 520, p. 28. 74 , bid 
75 EXPLORATION Dec 1978, in JPRS 534, p. 13. 



1. PEKING SPRING ftjft&| 







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