Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
June 14, 1954
[Speech at the Thirtieth Session of the Central People's Government Council.]
This Draft Constitution obviously has popular support. From the discussions by more than five hundred people in Peking and by activists from various circles in the provinces and municipalities, that is, from the extensive discussions by over eight thousand people representative of the whole country, we can tell that the preliminary text was quite good and won general approval and support. At today's session many have also spoken in approval.
Why organize these extensive discussions? There are several advantages. First, will what has been worked out by the few meet the approval of the many? The discussions indicate that there is general approval of the main provisions and the basic principles of the preliminary text. All that is sound in the preliminary text has been retained. The fact that the ideas of a few leaders have won the approval of several thousand people shows that these ideas are well grounded, suitable and feasible. This gives us confidence. Second, in the discussions over 5,900 suggestions (not including queries) have been collected. They are of three kinds. The first consists of suggestions that are incorrect. The second consists of suggestions that are not so much wrong as unsuitable and that had better not be adopted. If they are not going to be adopted, why collect them? Does it do any good to collect these suggestions? Yes, it does. It enables us to know that such views about the constitution exist among the eight thousand people and to make comparisons. The third consists of those suggestions that have been adopted. These are of course very good and necessary. But for these suggestions, the preliminary text, although basically sound, would have remained imperfect, faulty and not well thought out. The draft in its present form may still have faults and imperfections, and we shall have to ask the people throughout the country for their opinions. As far as we can tell now, this draft is relatively free from imperfections, and that is the result of adopting rational suggestions.
Why has the Draft Constitution won popular support? I think one reason is that in drafting it we adopted the method of integrating the ideas of the leading body with those of the masses. This Draft Constitution combines the ideas of a few leaders with those of more than eight thousand people and, after publication, it will be discussed by the entire nation so that the ideas of the Central Committee will be integrated with those of the whole people. This is the way to integrate the leadership with the masses and with the large numbers of activists. We adopted this method in the past, and we shall do so in future. It should be used in all important legislation. By this method we have now produced a Draft Constitution which is fairly good and relatively free from imperfections.
Why do all of you here and the vast numbers of activists support the Draft Constitution and find it satisfactory? There are two main reasons: one is that it sums up the experience of the past and the other is that it combines principle with flexibility.
First, it sums up the experience of the past, especially that in our revolution and construction over the last five years. It sums up our experience in the people's revolution led by the proletariat against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat-capitalism as well as our experience in social reform, economic construction, cultural construction and government work over the last few years. Besides, it sums up the experience in constitution-making since the last years of the Ching Dynasty, that is, from the Nineteen Constitutional Articles  in the final days of the Ching Dynasty to the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China  in 1912, the various constitutions and draft constitutions under the governments of the Northern warlords,  the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China in the Period Under Political Tutelage of the reactionary Chiang Kai-shek regime and right up to Chiang Kai-shek's bogus constitution. One of these was positive in nature and the others negative. Thus the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China in 1912 was a fairly good one for its time. Of course it had its imperfections and faults and was bourgeois in nature, but there was something revolutionary and democratic about it. It was concise and is said to have been drafted in haste, taking only a month from the time of its framing to its adoption. As for the other constitutions and draft constitutions, they were altogether reactionary. This Draft Constitution of ours is chiefly a summing-up of our experience in revolution and construction, but at the same time it is a synthesis of domestic and international experience. Our constitution is of a socialist type. It is based mainly on our own experience but has drawn upon what is good in the constitutions of the Soviet Union and the People's Democracies. Speaking of constitutions, the bourgeoisie was the forerunner. The bourgeoisie, whether in Britain, France or the United States, was revolutionary for a period, and it was during this period that the bourgeoisie began making constitutions. We should not write off bourgeois democracy with one stroke of the pen and deny bourgeois constitutions a place in history. All the same, present-day bourgeois constitutions are no good at all, they are bad, particularly the constitutions of the imperialist countries, which are designed to deceive and oppress the majority of the people. Our constitution is of a new, socialist type, different from any of the bourgeois type. It is far more progressive than the constitutions of the bourgeoisie even in its revolutionary period. We are superior to the bourgeoisie.
Second, our Draft Constitution combines principle with flexibility. There are two basic principles, the principle of democracy and the principle of socialism. Our democracy is not bourgeois democracy but people's democracy, that is, a people's democratic dictatorship led by the proletariat and based on the worker-peasant alliance. The principle of people's democracy runs through the whole constitution. The other principle is that of socialism. Socialism already exists in our country today. The constitution stipulates that socialist transformation must be accomplished and the socialist industrialization of the country realized. That's our principle. To carry out this principle of socialism, are we to put socialism into practice overnight in every sphere throughout the country? This might seem very revolutionary, but for lack of flexibility it just won't work, it will meet with opposition and end in failure. So, what cannot be done for the moment must be given time to be done gradually. For instance, state capitalism, as stipulated, is to be put into practice gradually. It takes various forms, not just that of joint state-private management. Note the words "gradually" and "various". That is to say, state capitalism in various forms is to be put into practice gradually so as to attain socialist ownership by the whole people. Socialist ownership by the whole people is the principle, but in order to realize this principle we should combine it with flexibility. And flexibility means state capitalism, which takes not one but "various" forms, and which is to be realized not overnight but "gradually". That makes for flexibility. We write into our constitution what is feasible now and exclude what is not. Let us take for instance the material guarantees for civil rights. They will certainly expand when production grows in future, but the wording in the constitution is only "gradually expand". This, too, means flexibility. Take another instance, the united front. This was written into the Common Programme. And now it is again written into the Preamble to the Draft Constitution. It is necessary to have a "broad people's democratic united front composed of all democratic classes, democratic parties and groups, and people's organizations". This will serve to reassure the various social strata, the national bourgeoisie and the democratic parties as well as the peasants and urban petty bourgeoisie. And then there is the question of the minority nationalities, which has both its generality and its particularity. The general provisions in the constitution apply to its generality and the particular provisions to its particularity. The minority nationalities have characteristics of their own politically, economically and culturally. What are the characteristics of their economy? To cite one example. Article 5 of our Draft Constitution states that four forms of ownership of the means of production exist in the People's Republic of China. In fact, there are other forms of ownership in our minority nationality areas. Does primitive communal ownership still exist in our country? I'm afraid it does among some minority nationalities. Similarly, slave ownership and feudal ownership still exist. From a contemporary standpoint the slave system, the feudal system and the capitalist system are all bad, but historically they were more progressive than the primitive communal system. These systems were progressive at first but not later on and were therefore supplanted in their turn. Article 70 of our Draft Constitution stipulates that the minority nationality areas "may, in the light of the political, economic and cultural characteristics of the nationality or nationalities in a given area, make regulations on the exercise of autonomy as well as specific regulations". All these are instances of the integration of principle and flexibility.
This Draft Constitution has won general praise and support precisely for these two reasons: it correctly and properly sums up past experience, and it correctly and properly integrates principle and flexibility. Otherwise, I don't think people would praise and support it.
It is entirely possible and it is necessary to put this Draft Constitution into force. Of course, it is still a draft today, but a few months from now, after it has been approved by the National People's Congress, it will be the formal constitution. We should be getting ready now to enforce it. Once it is approved, the whole nation, one and all, should observe it. State personnel particularly, and in the first place those present here, should take the lead in observing it. To fail to observe the constitution is to violate it.
When promulgated, our Draft Constitution will win the unanimous support of the whole people and enhance their enthusiasm. An organization must have rules, and so must a state. A constitution is a set of general rules, it is the fundamental law. To codify the principles of people's democracy and socialism in the form of a fundamental law, in the form of the constitution, so that there will be a clear course before the people of the whole country and they will feel sure they have a clear, definite and correct path to follow -- this will heighten their enthusiasm.
Will this Draft Constitution produce an impact on the world when it is promulgated? Yes, it will, both on the democratic camp and on the capitalist countries. People in the democratic camp will be glad to see that we have charted a clear, definite and correct path. They will be glad because we Chinese are glad. The oppressed and exploited people in the capitalist countries will also be glad when they come to know about it. Of course there are some who will not be pleased, neither the imperialists nor Chiang Kai-shek will. Do you think Chiang Kai-shek will be happy? I say you know without asking him that he won't. We know Chiang Kai-shek only too well, he will definitely be against it. And President Eisenhower will not be happy either, he will say it's no good. They will say that this constitution of ours has charted a clear and definite but very bad path, a wrong path, and that socialism and people's democracy are blunders. Nor will they approve of our flexibility. What they would like best would be for us to conjure up socialism overnight and make a mess of everything. That would make them really happy. Also, they won't like China having a united front, they want us to play "a one-party game". Our constitution has national characteristics but at the same time has an international character; it's a national and also an international phenomenon. Many nations are oppressed by imperialism and feudalism, as we were once, and they are a majority of the world's population. It will be helpful to the people of these countries that we have a revolutionary constitution, a people's democratic constitution, and a clear, definite and correct path.
Our general objective is to strive to build a great socialist country. Ours is a big country of 600 million people. How long will it really take to accomplish socialist industrialization and the socialist transformation and mechanization of agriculture and make China a great socialist country? We won't set a rigid time-limit now. It will probably take a period of three five-year plans, or fifteen years, to lay the foundation. Will China then become a great country? Not necessarily. I think for us to build a great socialist country, about fifty years, or ten five-year plans, will probably be enough. By then China will be in good shape and quite different from what it is now. What can we make at present? We can make tables and chairs, teacups and teapots, we can grow grain and grind it into flour, and we can make paper. But we can't make a single motor car, plane, tank or tractor. So we mustn't brag and be cocky. Of course I don't mean we can become cocky when we turn out our first car, more cocky when we make ten cars, and still more cocky when we make more and more cars. That won't do. Even after fifty years, when our country is in good shape, we should remain as modest as we are now. If by then we should become conceited and look down on others, it would be bad. We mustn't be conceited even a hundred years from now. We must never be cocky.
This constitution of ours is of a socialist type, but it is not yet a completely socialist constitution. It is a constitution for the transition period. We must now unite the people of the whole country and unite all the forces that can and should be united in the struggle to build a great socialist country. And the constitution has been drawn up specifically for this purpose.
Finally, a word by way of explanation. Some say that it is out of exceptional modesty on the part of certain individuals that some articles have been deleted from the Draft Constitution. This is not the way to put it. It is not out of modesty but because inclusion of these articles would be improper, unjustifiable and unscientific. In a people's democratic state like ours such improper articles ought not to be written into the constitution. We have not omitted, out of modesty, what ought to have been included. With science, modesty or immodesty is not the issue. Constitution-making is a matter of science. We must believe in science and nothing else, that is to say, we must not have blind faith in anything. What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong, whether it concerns the Chinese or foreigners, whether it concerns the dead or the living. To believe otherwise is blind faith. We must do away with blind faith. We should believe in what is correct and not in what is incorrect, be it ancient or modern. Not only that, we should criticize what is incorrect. This alone is the scientific approach.
1. This refers to the Nineteen Constitutional Articles promulgated by the Ching government in November 1911.
2. The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China was promulgated by Dr. Sun Yat-sen when he took office as Provisional President of the Republic of China after the 1911 Revolution.
3. These refer to the Yuan Shih-kai government's Temple of Heaven Draft Constitution of 1913 and its Provisional Constitution of 1914, the Tsao Kun government's Constitution of 1923 and Tuan Chi-jui's provisional government's Draft Constitution of 1925.
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung