“Conversations With an Old Comrade on the Eve…” (Part 2)

The following is part 2 of our translation of a blog post called “Conversations with an Old Comrade on the Eve of the 60th Anniversary of the PRC“. Part one is here. The China Media Project has already done a piece on this, which everyone should read, but we thought it would be valuable to translate the entire piece. CMP has more background, but the post was supposedly written by senior Party official Wan Li (万里), and many netizens apparently believe this is true.

Translation (Part 2)

[If you missed part one, read it here]

I was once a high level leading cadre in the Party, and now enjoy high-level political treatment. Precisely because [I’m] at a high level, I must consider this problem from the lofty angle of our responsibility vis-a-vis history, otherwise, high-level cadres would be the same thing as high-level officials, which would be absolutely no good. Our responsibility to history is a question of political ethics; for a [political] party to take responsibility, we must carefully consider this issue.

I say this because I have thought on many issues for quite a while. I recall near the end of the 1970s, Comrade Qiao Mu once mentioned “political ethics” in a speech delivered internally within the Party, that was the first time I had heard the term. Once, during the break of a meeting, I sought him out and asked him to explain it to me. He said he had experienced too many trials and hardships within the Party, and that the question of political ethics was difficult to explain concisely. Unfortunately, afterwards he never mentioned the topic again. Yes, it was thirty years after the founding until the Party finally had such a great talent mention something like [political ethics]. [But] afterwards, it wasn’t mentioned again. Now it’s been another thirty years, and still no one has mentioned it. My work is concrete, and I don’t have a high level of theoretical understanding, but the same question has been repeating itself in my brain for thirty years: can we CCP members really not bear to discuss political ethics? What I want to say is, they [the Nationalist Party] shut us out for 22 years, have we used the [next] sixty years to follow in their path or to fix things? Isn’t this kind of reasoning political ethics? [If] we don’t allow public discussion, can we really stop the common people from thinking about this question? All of these questions have been bumping around in my head since that Shenzhen discussion and I can’t keep up with them. To tell the truth, I still don’t fully understand, and I fear I won’t be able to explain by clearly pointing to all of the causes. This is something that everyone much thoroughly research together.

Whoever hasn’t done what they were supposed to do, whoever has done something wrong, [they] should step forward and bear the responsibility. This is basic ethics. There are more than a few people within our Party who like to brag about how everything they do today is correct, but at the same time completely fail to explain about things that were done incorrectly in the past. Such a great country as ours, such a powerful Party as ours, if we keep marching forward in such an ambiguous and indistinct manner, what will things look like in the future! People are misused, people [who came] recommended don’t take responsibility, inspectors evaluating the system also don’t take responsibility, consultants on [political] mechanisms don’t take responsibility, judicial inspection committees merely inspect and don’t worry about [possible] neglecting of supervisory duties during the process, locking people up and executing them and calling it finished without taking into account the accomplishments of the people involved. If things are like this, won’t this country become a country where no one takes responsibility? Won’t the Party become a party where no one takes responsibility? If things continue like this, when will ‘political ethics’ be mentioned again?

When one thinks carefully about it, the Party’s great mistakes are all cases of “running into the South Wall before finally turning around” [撞到了南墙上才回头]. This wall is natural law, the objective laws of developing a country; when you violate these laws you will surely end up with your head broken and bleeding. Why is this the case? In sixty years, our nation has not matured to the level of societal power that it ought to have, so there is no competition to remind and control our Party. Differing opinions, because they have no way of responding to the “correctness” of our Party, simply don’t listen at all. If [the CCP] has full powers of governance, then we also should bear the responsibility alone, but nope! Within just sixty years, the we’ve run into obstacles for national development, opportunities for the development of the people have been lost, and constitutional rights haven’t been realized. This kind of situation is unethical. That old comrade who asked me to pass along his message [to higher-ups] said: we are gradually getting older, [what I] fear is the final judgement that will be made when I’m already in the coffin! I’m already in the later days of my later days, this sort of blaming myself is something I can never shake off.

As soon as people have ethical responsibility, they don’t live like young people anymore! A nation and a Party are probably also like this. An old person like me, always wanting to know what young people think of me, must hold up his ears and listen. This young professor said to me: our country still hasn’t got an intact and meaningful electorate, we still haven’t built any way of tolerating other people bringing other ideas about new political actions and systems into play, aren’t these the things you are personally most uncomfortable about? The reason I am friends with this professor despite our difference in age is that he gave me an essay via my children, saying he didn’t want it published, and just wanted people inside the Party to see it so it could give rise to discussion. The essay asked why do all of the rights granted in the Party constitution always fail to materialize in reality, and why is there never any revision despite this? I brought him in to discuss this many times, speaking from the basis of facts. From the foundation of the Party, we have always said we represented the farmers, after ’49 we said again we represent the millions of Chinese people, and sixty years after founding the country, we still speak this way. At the same time everyone can see that sixty years later, we haven’t rigorously entrusted [the people] with this representational power in the political realm, and we don’t have a real electoral system.

Part 3 coming soon!

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