Peng Zhen (Chinese: 彭真) (October 12, 1902 – April 26, 1997) was a leading member of the Chinese Communist Party who served as the leader of the party organization in Beijing following the victory of the Communists in the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and later served as the inaugural head of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission and chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, from 1980 to 1988.
Talk at the Festival of Peking Opera on Contemporary Themes (1 July 1964) (excerpts) Edit
- There are many types of plays on contemporary themes. Hollywood is also producing “plays on contemporary themes”; the rubbish the modern revisionists are staging also goes under the name of “plays with contemporary themes”. But what we are staging are plays on contemporary revolutionary themes serving the workers, peasants and soldiers and the socialist revolution and socialist construction.
- Many Peking operas of the past portrayed emperors and kings, generals, ministers, scholars, beauties, lords and dowagers, young gentlemen and ladies; they prettified the exploited classes and denigrated the working people. Very few plays were staged on contemporary revolutionary themes. Over a long period in the past Peking opera in the main served feudalism and capitalism. Many attempts were made to reform Peking opera, and a number of plays were successfully revised, but at the current Festival of Peking Opera on Contemporary Themes we are witnessing for the first time reforms that are so comprehensive and systematic, so rich in content and well received by the broad masses of the people. This is indeed a revolution in Peking opera.
- So far as artistic form is concerned, Peking opera has a relatively long history and has attained a relatively high artistic level; it is a type of opera with relatively strict conventions. For these reasons it is rather difficult to reform. But once successfully reformed, it will have a bright future.
- Literature and art should serve politics and the development of the productive forces. Now that we are living in a socialist society, whom should our Peking opera serve? What kind of plays should we stage? Should we serve socialism by staging plays that advance the socialist revolution and socialist construction or should we stage plays that benefit feudalism or capitalism? This is a fundamental question. It is quite clear that if one does not want to see feudalism or capitalism restored, if it does not hanker after these systems, then in a socialist society one cannot be always staging plays about such representatives of the exploiting classes as emperors, kings, generals, ministers, scholars and beauties.
- What is an emperor? He is a representative of the landlord class, the chieftain of the landlords. What is an empress? She is the chief of the landlords’ wives. To be sure, some working people were portrayed in Peking operas in the past, but most of them were shown in a distorted and unfavourable light. How can we in our socialist society tolerate such a state of affairs with Peking opera — so important a stage art, a stage art with a relatively high artistic level and an important artistic heritage — continuing to portray emperors, kings, generals and ministers, and continuing to stage operas which are detrimental to the socialist revolution and socialist construction? That can’t be!
- Our country today is the People’s Republic of China led by the proletariat and based on the worker-peasant alliance. In such a country, a socialist country, where do our workers in literature and art, our fighters on the front or the art of Peking opera, stand? Should they stand with more than 90 per cent of the population, with the workers, peasants and soldiers, that is, on the side of socialism, or on the side of our enemies, the landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, undesirable elements and bourgeois Rightists? I can’t say that absolutely none of you would wish to stand with the landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, undesirable elements and bourgeois Rightists, but I am confident that the overwhelming majority of you are not willing to stand on their side.
- We are historical materialists. We are not indiscriminatingly opposed to staging historical plays. When we oppose putting on plays about people of the past, we are opposing those plays about people of the past which laud feudalism or capitalism, which prettify the exploiting classes. As for those historical plays which fortify the will of the people and destroy the arrogance of the exploiting classes, and which benefit the cause of the people, help social development and the revolution, and further socialism — historical plays which tell of the fine traditions of the Chinese people — of course these can be staged. But the emphasis must be on staging contemporary revolutionary plays about the living masses of the people fighting their struggles, about the living proletariat in the midst of its struggles.
- You work on plays on contemporary revolutionary themes, but if your ideology is not revolutionized you cannot be at one with the workers, peasants and soldiers, you cannot establish flesh-and -blood relations with them. If your head is full of the ideology of the feudal landlord class or bourgeoisie, how can you identify yourselves with the proletariat and the working masses? Under such circumstances how can you establish flesh-and-blood ties with them? So, if you want to perform a play on a contemporary revolutionary theme you need, in the first place, to have a revolutionized ideology. You should be determined to remould yourself and raise your political level. Once you are determined to be revolutionary, things will go well. Change a little bit today and a little bit tomorrow, and you’ll build up a revolutionary ideology bit by bit.
- If we don’t grasp the tasks of class struggle well and of socialist education too, then, it is also possible for revisionism to appear. Speaking frankly, there are quite a few problems in literary and artistic circles, surely no less than in other fields of work. Therefore, it is necessary to launch a rectification campaign and a movement for socialist education and wage the struggle between the two roads of socialism and capitalism on the front of literature and art. We must study Comrade Mao Tse-tung’s works carefully, learn Marxism-Leninism, and maintain a firm proletarian stand.
Speech at the Aliarcham Academy of Social Sciences in Indonesia (1965) (excerpts) Edit
Source: Foreign Languages Press, 1965
- Since World War II, the revolutionary struggle of the people of the world has entered a new stage. The rapid growth of the people’s revolutionary forces and the rapid decline of the counter-revolutionary forces are general trends in the postwar world situation.
- After World War I, the capitalist system enjoyed a short period of relative stability. Since World War II there has been no such relative stability. The forces of imperialism have been greatly weakened. U.S. imperialism, the main prop of the imperialist system, is also in a state of general decline. The general crisis of capitalism has greatly deepened.
- The international balance of class forces is very favourable to the socialist countries and the revolutionary people of the world and very unfavourable to imperialism and all the reactionaries. The international balance between the forces of revolution and of counter-revolution has changed, but not one of the basic contradictions of the contemporary world-the contradiction between the socialist camp and the imperialist camp, the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the capitalist countries, the contradiction between the oppressed nations and imperialism, and the contradictions among the imperialist countries and among the monopoly capitalist groups-has disappeared. These basic contradictions are all objective realities and they are becoming increasingly acute.
- Since World War II, U.S. imperialism has stepped into the shoes of German, Italian and Japanese fascism and become the chief enemy of the people of the world. Throughout the postwar period, repeated and intense struggles have been going on between the people of the world on the one side and U.S. imperialism and its lackeys on the other. The vast areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America are the main battlefields of these struggles.
- The people of Asia, Africa and Latin America will always be thankful for the influence and impact of the advanced proletariat of the West, for the inspiration and assistance of the Great October Socialist Revolution and for the enlightenment and guidance of the founders of Marxism-Leninism.
- The historical development of different countries is uneven, and so is the development of their revolutionary movements. While the proletariat in Western Europe and North America is experiencing a new awakening, for various reasons the situation there is not yet ripe for revolution; on the other hand, the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America are holding high the torch of revolution and marching forward.
- The development and resolution of the contradiction between the oppressed nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America and the imperialists headed by the United States have a vital bearing not only on the future of the people of these areas but also on the future of the people of the whole world. This is not a regional question but a question of an overall character in the contemporary world. Its development and resolution are of key importance in promoting the development and resolution of the other basic contradictions.
- The contradictions between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie on an international scale, between the socialist countries and the imperialist countries and between the Marxist-Leninists and the modern revisionists all find acute expression in these areas. And so do the contradictions among the imperialist countries.
- U.S. imperialism is the most ferocious enemy confronting the people of the world. Since the war, it has made use of its economic strength, which was inflated during the war, to build up an unprecedented and colossal war machine, brandishing its nuclear weapons and carrying out frantic aggression everywhere in its attempt to dominate the whole world.
- The path U.S. imperialism is taking now is the same path Hitler took in his day. Its aggressive ambition far surpasses Hitler’s, but it is weaker than Hitler, the disparity between strength and ambition being greater. Today it finds itself in an ever worsening strategic position.
- U.S. imperialism has over-reached itself. It has deployed its armed forces in every continent and ocean of the world; it has committed aggression and tried to suppress the people’s revolution everywhere. With its shortage of troops, its far-flung battle fronts, its remote rear and the dispersion of its forces, it is keeping up its strength in one place at the expense of others, and is unable to attend to everything at once Its position is becoming very passive and strategically it is already receiving blows on all sides.
- The people of the world can definitely defeat this ferocious enemy provided that they clearly recognize U.S. imperialism as their chief enemy, unite with all the forces that can be united, and form the broadest possible united front against U.S. imperialism and its lackeys.
- The people’s revolutionary struggle is surging forward and winning constant victories, while imperialism is being battered everywhere and nearing its doom. The Marxist-Leninists and all revolutionaries are fighting together with the masses of the people with full confidence, dealing hard blows at imperialism and propelling it to its grave. All pessimism is utterly groundless. Whoever spreads pessimistic and defeatist views will be punished by history.
- In endeavouring to bolster up the tottering edifice of imperialism, in addition to the direct use of violence, the monopoly capitalists of the imperialist countries invariably rely upon the labour aristocracy as a social prop and life-saver to sap the revolutionary will of the proletariat, to fool and divide the revolutionary people and to resist the proletarian revolutionary storm.
- In the past, all kinds of opportunists and revisionists invariably used dual tactics to deceive the revolutionary people, and they invariably put on some false appearance to conceal the essence of their betrayal of the revolution.
- Without an elementary class analysis, the slogan “unity against the enemy” is meaningless. We must make clear whom they want “unity” with and which enemy they want to deal with.
- From the point of view of our wishes, the best thing would be for them to abandon revisionism, or at least refrain from siding with U.S. imperialism, the common enemy of the people of the world. Indeed we were actuated by this wish when we repeatedly advised and criticized them, hoping that they might turn from their erroneous ways. Unfortunately, they have turned a deaf ear to all this. What can one do if they are happy in their own degeneration? They have insisted on staying outside, the united front of the people of the world against U.S. imperialism and conducting an ardent flirtation with it so that they are like a pair of lovebirds that even clubbing cannot separate. In these circumstances, of course it is impossible for them to really join the Marxist-Leninists and the people of the world in any “united action".
- It is for revolution that we unite. Unity with revolutionaries is out of the question if one opposes revolution. Making revolution and opposing imperialism is the demand of the broad masses of the people who comprise more than 90 per cent of the world’s population and is the irresistible trend of history. Whoever goes against this aspiration of the people and this trend will inevitably be discarded by history.
- The great Soviet people is a people endowed with the glorious tradition of the October Revolution. The great Communist Party of the Soviet Union is a Party with a long history of revolutionary struggle.
- At the present stage, the historical task of the parties of the proletariat in all countries is to unite the revolutionary people of the whole world, unite all the forces that can be united, combat the imperialists and reactionaries, win world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism, and strive for the gradual achievement of complete victory in the proletarian world revolution and for a new world without imperialism, without capitalism and without the exploitation of man by man.
- The revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and people of each country goes through different stages and has its own characteristics, but none can be independent of the general laws governing the development of world history. It is of great importance for a proletarian party leading the revolutionary struggle and formulating the revolutionary line and policies of its own country to adhere to the principle of integrating the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete revolutionary practice of its own country. Only when the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism is skillfully integrated with the concrete revolutionary practice of one’s own country, can one make Marxism-Leninism take root, blossom and yield fruit in the country, and lead the revolution to victory.
- Marxist-Leninist parties should adhere to the revolutionary line, support and assist each other, and perform their proletarian internationalist duty in the present international class struggle and in the great struggle of all the oppressed people and nations for liberation.
- Communist parties of the socialist countries should uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat, consolidate and expand the positions of socialism, and carry the socialist revolution through to the end in the political, economic, ideological and cultural fields. Never for a moment must we forget the existence of classes and class struggle, or forget the struggle between the socialist and the capitalist roads. Only thus can we prevent the restoration of capitalism and create the conditions for the transition to communism.
- In our times, Marxist-Leninists have all the greater confidence to declare to the whole world: The extinction of imperialism is inevitable, so is the victory of socialism and communism! The future of the international communist movement is bright, so is the future of the proletarian world revolution.
- While entrusting contemporary Marxist-Leninists and all other revolutionaries with arduous missions, history has at the same time created a wide stage of action for them. On this stage of history all real revolutionary heroes can perform many a revolutionary drama, full of sound and colour, power and grandeur, provided that they truly grasp the invincible weapon of Marxism-Leninism, truly rely on the broad masses of the people, and are courageous and skilful in waging struggles Innumerable revolutionary forerunners have opened up the road, set the example and accumulated experience for us.
- Let us hold aloft the revolutionary banner of Marxism-Leninism and boldly advance in the fight against imperialism, reaction and modern revisionism, for world peace, national liberation, people’s democracy and socialism, for the gradual achievement of complete victory in the proletarian world revolution and for the building of a new world without imperialism, without capitalism and without the exploitation of man by man!