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The Party Constitution of 1956

Mar 20, 2017 © Ulrich Theobald

Two years after the adoption of the first Constitution, the CPC created a new Party Constitution (Zhongguo gongchandang zhangcheng 中国共产党章程). It was presented by General Secretary Deng Xiaoping to the 8th Party Congress (Zhongguo gongchandang di ba ci quanguo daibiao dahui 中国共产党第八次全国代表大会, Di ba jie Zhong quanhui 第八届中全会) on Sept 26, 1956, and then replaced the constitution from 1945 and would eventually last until 1969. The central organizations of the Party were the National Congress (Zhongguo gongchandang quanguo daibiao dahui 中国共产党全国代表大会), the Central Committee (Zhongguo gongchandang zhongyang weiyuanhui 中国共产党中央委员会, Zhonggong zhongyang 中共中央), the Political Bureau (Zhongguo gongchandang zhongyang zhengzhiju 中国共产党中央政治局, Zongyang zhengzhiju 中央政治局) and its Standing Committee (Chang weiyuanhui 常委会委员), a Secretariat, and various specialized departments.

The National Party Congress

The National Congress was elected for a five-year term and met theoretically in annual sessions. It heard reports from various central bodies and was supposed to determine the political line and revise the party constitution. Its main responsibility was the election of the Central Committee.

The Central Committee

The Central Committee was the organ directing the Party and, in effect, the government, on all administrative levels. It was elected for a five-year period and was obliged to hold two sessions a year. It had 97 full members and 96 alternate members. The Chairman (Zhongyang weiyuanhui zhuxi 中央委员会主席) was automatically head of the party. Vice-chairmen (Zhongyang weiyuanhui fu zhuxi 中央委员会副主席) were Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, and Chen Yun–this order expressed their ranking in the Party hierarchy. Members of the Central Committee held important posts not only in the Party structure, but also in the government. The Central Committee elected the members of the Political Bureau and of the Secretariat.

The Political Bureau

The Political Bureau regulated the life of the Party by its initiatives and decisions. It had 17 full members and 6 alternatives ones. The Secretariat (Zhonggong zhongyang shujishu 中共中央书记处) had 7 members (headed by Deng Xiaopiong) and 3 alternative ones.

Specialized Departments

There was a number of specialized departments (bumen 部门) similar to the ministries of the government: XXX Organization Department (Zhongyang zuzhibu 中央组织部) United Front Department (Zhongyang tongzhanbu 中央统战部, 统一战线工作部) Propaganda Department (Zhongyang xuanchuanbu 中央宣传部) Social Affairs Department (中央社会部), Industry Department, Agriculture Department, Finance and Trade Department, International Department (对外联络部‎), Minorities Department, Investigation Department (中共中央调查部) Miscellaneous Department etc.

Local Recruitment and Control

The local and regional Party institutions reproduced the central organs more or less. Yet the basic unit of work were primary organizations (jiceng zuzhi 基层组织) formed within enterprises or schools, or in a residential context, like streets or villages. These were called "units" (danwei 单位). The teams heading these units were responsible for propaganda, work organization and recruitment.

Youth Leage and the Pioneers

Recruitment also happened in the frame of the Communist Youth Leage (Zhongguo gongchanzhuyi qingnian tuan 中国共产主义青年团, established in 1922 as Socialist Youth League, Zhongguo shehuizhuyi qingniantuan 中国社会主义青年团, and 1949-1956 called Chinese New Democracy Youth League, Zhongguo xin minzhuzhuyi qingniantuan 中国新民主主义青年团). Its structure resembled that of the Party, each unit being subordinated to the corresponding Party unit. The youngest persons are recruited by the Young Pioneers of China (Zhongguo shaonian xianfengdui 中国少年先锋队, founded in 1949 as Youth and Children of China, Zhongguo shaonian ertongdui 中国少年儿童队).

The Control Commissions

The activities of all Party members were controlled by control commissions (jiancha weiyuanhui 监察委员会). The highest was the Central Control Commission (Zhongyang jiancha weiyuanhui 中央监察委员会), and at all administrative levels, local control commissions (difang jiancha weiyuanhui 地方监察委员会) were operating. The Central Control Commission was the successor organization of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (Zhongyang jilü jiancha weiyuanhui 中央纪律检查委员会). The latter was replaced because it had proved ineffective, for instance, in fighting against intra-party secession like in the case of Gao Gang.

Democratic Centralism

The Constitution enshrined (Art. 19) also the use of democratic centralism (minzhu jizhong zhi 民主集中制). It means that suggestions (yijian 意见), based on experience (jingyan 经验) reached the Party from lower levels, in a very democratic way. Opinions, critique and proposals was then concentrated, transformed, and again sent down to the masses (qunzhong 群众) to "solve their problems" (jiejue tamen de wenti 解决他们的问题). Deputies on all administrative levels were elected democratically. The local congresses had to deliver reports (baogao gongzuo 报告工作) to the higher-level congress in question. Leadership was central (jiti lingdao 集体领导), and problems were solved centrally, and the orders of the Party had to be carried out unconditionally (bixu wu tiaojian de zhixing 必须无条件地执行). This kind of work was characterized by permanent mobilization and permanent tension within whole society. Indoctrination to the standards of socialist morale was not unknown to traditional society, as the hierarchic and moral doctrines of Confucianism had belonged to primary education for millennia (see books on elementary learning, or the KMT’s New Life Movement).