4. Material Incentive Destroys Socialist Consciousness

In order to win over the working people for the new course of economic policy, the new revisionists must destroy the socialist consciousness of the workers by baiting them with bonuses.

In socialism the principle of distribution ‘from each according to their abilities, to each according to the work they do’ still prevails. This principle of distribution is not a communist principle, however, because equal pay for equal work is still fraught with bourgeois right.

If the capitalists tell us that in capitalism everyone is paid according to the work they do, they want to urge us to work harder. Direct pressure by slave drivers or the fear for our jobs are supposed to drive us to provide maximum output. The higher the labor productivity, the higher the profit.

In socialism, too, the matter is to increase labor productivity, but this is done for the purpose of increasing the whole people’s wealth. Even though the payment principle according to the work done contributes to the growth of labor productivity, it is still a bourgeois principle.

“Hence, equal right here is still in principle – bourgeois right…; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labour. But one man is superior to another physically, or mentally, and supplies more labour in the same time, or can labour for a longer time; and labour, to serve as a measure, must be defined by its duration or intensity, otherwise it ceases to be a standard of measurement. This equal right is an unequal right for unequal labour. It recognises no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognises unequal individual endowment and thus productive capacity as natural privileges. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right.” (K. Marx, “Critique of the Gotha Programme,” in: Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 3, p. 18)

Those who only work more to receive more still have in mind their personal benefit and not the benefit of society as a whole. This consciousness is incompatible with the development from socialism to communism. Those who only think of their personal benefit will also rise to the bait of material incentives when a new capitalist class takes hold of the party and state apparatus.

Vital for the further building of socialism is to educate the working people in a way that their socialist consciousness reaches such a level that the urge to work no longer comes from any kind of payment, but solely from the conviction to work for the whole class. In 1919, for instance, communist and sympathizing railroad workers decided of their own accord to work six additional hours every Saturday without remuneration. Through their enthusiasm and unanimity, the labor productivity was doubled or tripled. Lenin wrote about these subbotniks (voluntary shifts):

“In this connection, the communist subbotniks organised by the workers on their own initiative are really of enormous significance. Evidently, this is only a beginning, but it is a beginning of exceptionally great importance. It is the beginning of a revolution that is more difficult, more tangible, more radical and more decisive than the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, for it is a victory over our own conservatism, indiscipline, petty-bourgeois egoism, a victory over the habits left as a heritage to the worker and peasant by accursed capitalism. Only when this victory is consolidated will the new social discipline, socialist discipline, be created; then and only then will a reversion to capitalism become impossible, will communism become really invincible.” (“A Great Beginning”, Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 29, pp. 411f.)

In the People’s Republic of China, too, there are similar examples of the working masses’ concentrating their forces to clear formerly insurmountable obstacles out of the way, without additional pay. The Red Flag Canal was built in such a way over a long distance through rocky mountain country. It was constructed by the people under the leadership of the county party committee in the years 1960 to 1969, in spite of the resistance of the government.

During and after the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese working people held a broad discussion in the factories about restricting material incentives in the form of bonuses and payment by results. Realizing that paying bonuses for higher output or for a higher political consciousness as well as maintaining the eight-grade wage scale are remainders of capitalism that hinder the development of socialist consciousness, they set about to reduce the bonus system and restrict the wage scale.

The new leadership, however, takes a different course. Soon after seizing power, under the pretext of increasing production and promoting the four modernizations, the new leadership tried to justify the material incentives and extend the existing eight-grade wage scale:

“For instance, the wage scale may not be confined to eight grades….” (Peking Review, No. 33, 1978, p. 16)

In the beginning it is indeed emphasized that political and ideological education must be given priority. But this is only to cover their revisionist views, since later on they only talk about the material incentives. So the editorial of the Renmin Ribao of 9 April 1978 states:

“But in the historical period of socialism where social products are not in enormous abundance and the people’s political consciousness is not yet greatly enhanced, moral encouragement alone is not enough and the material interests of the masses must be taken into consideration. The difference in skill and work should be reflected in the pay of the workers, with those making outstanding achievements given extra material rewards.” (Peking Review, No. 16, 1978, pp. 6f.)

This is how they do it. The deficient socialist consciousness of the working people is the excuse to justify the material incentive. How deficient the socialist consciousness of the Chinese working people really is remains to be seen. The advocates of material incentives in China are really bold, as they try to hold Mao Zedong accountable for their own bourgeois methods. In the liberation struggle of the Chinese people and also later on, Mao Zedong always honored outstanding and brave performances as well as heroes of labor. Honoring such role models should encourage the masses to also mobilize all their strength for the building of socialism. This honoring, primarily a political measure, is now taken as an example for the introduction of material incentives.

So for the new leaders it is not a matter of struggling for a socialist consciousness and of overcoming step by step the principle ‘to each according to the work they do’, but of maintaining and extending this principle, of cementing and expanding bourgeois right. This is in striking contrast to Mao Zedong Thought and the period of the Cultural Revolution. In the Report to the Ninth National Congress in 1969, the CC of the CPC observed:

“The enthusiasm of the broad masses of the working people both in revolution and production has soared to unprecedented heights. Many factories, mines and other enterprises have time and again topped their production records, creating all-time highs in production. The technical revolution is making constant progress. The market is flourishing and prices are stable. By the end of 1968 we had redeemed all the national bonds. Our country is now a socialist country with neither internal nor external debts.” (“Report to the Ninth National Congress of the Communist Party of China”, Important Documents on the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, p. 59)

Under the pretext of fighting against the harmful impact of the “gang of four,” these achievements are today being quashed and capitalist methods reintroduced. So the 9 April editorial concludes by stating:

“The gang was straining for absolute equalitarianism, and this led to the extremely unreasonable state of affairs where no distinction was made between those who did more work and those who did less, between those who did a good job and those who did a poor one, and between those who worked and those who did not. The correct, accepted social standards were debased and people’s minds confused, their enthusiasm for production was dampened and production seriously disrupted. This is why we must thoroughly criticize the ‘gang of four’ for their crimes of undermining the implementation of the principle of ‘to each according to his work’ and rehabilitate the practice of material reward, piecework and monetary allowances for certain jobs.” (Peking Review, No. 16, 1978, p. 7)

They shoot at the “gang of four” but have Mao Zedong and the Proletarian Cultural Revolution in mind. Since they do not yet dare attack Mao Zedong openly, they have to try covert methods.

When we look at the plans of the new Chinese leadership in the party, state and economy and the measures meanwhile introduced to implement these plans, we can discern the following:

• Economic administration is being decentralized, thus reducing state control of production.

• With the struggle against ‘administrative methods’ the political leadership and control by the working class is being reduced.

• The principle “politics must be in command in everything” is being replaced by “act according to economic laws.”

• By reintroducing and expanding material incentives as the driving force of production, socialist consciousness is being undermined.

Mao Zedong taught:

“Class struggle, the struggle for production and scientific experiment are the three great evolutionary movements for building a mighty socialist country. These movements are a sure guarantee that Communists will be free from bureaucracy and immune against revisionism and dogmatism, and will for ever remain invincible. They are a reliable guarantee that the proletariat will be able to unite with the broad working masses and realize a democratic dictatorship.” (Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung, p. 40)

Mao Zedong emphasized time and again that class struggle is the key link on which everything depends. Class struggle must be waged on all levels in socialism – in economy, politics, and culture – in order to strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat and drive back the still existing bourgeois influences. Bourgeois right must be restricted and socialist consciousness must be developed. That is only possible if politics is in command in everything.

Deng Xiaoping and Hua Guofeng turn this fundamental statement of Mao Zedong into its opposite. As they want to destroy the dictatorship of the proletariat, they distort the relation of production and class struggle. When they still speak of class struggle, they only speak of the struggle against the small handful of incorrigible elements of the old society and especially the followers of the so-called “gang of four.”

Openly they deny the leading role of politics and put the four modernizations in the first place, to which even class struggle must be subordinated. Under the title “Strengthening Ideological and Political Work,” an editorial of the Renmin Ribao states:

“Comrade Mao Zedong said: ‘A basic principle of Marxism-Leninism is to enable the masses to know their own interests and unite to fight for their own interests.’ According to this principle, ideological and political work in the new period means educating, mobilizing and organizing the masses to work for the four modernizations wholeheartedly and with one mind.”(Beijing Review, No. 19, 1979, p. 13 – emphasis added)

This goes so far that they have to twist Marxism-Leninism in order to disguise their revisionist road. How Deng Xiaoping and his lot interpret the principle “politics must be in command in everything” is so unmasking that we do not want to leave it out here:

“The four modernizations will certainly not be realized through empty talk. We must not indulge in empty talk. We should resolutely give substance to politics by way of production, vocational and technical achievements. People on various fronts must see that every kind of work we are doing now is in the service of the four modernizations; and hence is of extreme significance politically. Thus it can be said that politics in the petroleum industry is to get our more oil. For coal miners politics is extracting more coal, for peasants it is producing more cereals, for servicemen it is defending the frontiers, and for students it is studying hard.” (Beijing Review, No. 17, 1979, p. 11)