The Common Program of the People's Republic of China 1949-1954

Article 1 of the Common Program

In the wake of China's revolutionary upheaval in 1949, the landscape of social classes underwent a profound transformation, as outlined in the Common Program. This blueprint delineated the constituents of the people's democratic dictatorship, comprising industrial laborers, farmers, the small bourgeoisie, and the national bourgeoisie, collectively constituting 'the people.' Central to this framework were the farmers and laborers, who formed the backbone, representing approximately 90% of the populace. The success of socialist aspirations hinged on fostering robust cooperation between these two groups during the transitional phase. The composition of this group is unclear. Following 1949, the petty bourgeoisie emerged as a widely acknowledged class category nationwide, identifiable by both officials and ordinary citizens in nearly every context. The petty bourgeois were commonly perceived to harbor political and moral deficiencies detrimental to the broader goals of nation-building and socialist endeavors. Individuals ranging from white-collar workers, government officials, and students to shopkeepers, small-scale factory owners, and small farmers, as well as soldiers, laborers, and housewives, either self-identified or were identified by others, often on a daily basis, as belonging to the petty bourgeoisie. See also Article 7. The petty bourgeoisie is the group between the exploited class and the exploiting class. They are described as possessing extreme individualism and self-interest.
Stalin advises Mao Zedong to: "… not pushing away national bourgeoisie but drawing them to cooperation as a force capable of helping in the struggle against the imperialists. Therefore [we] advise to encourage the trading activities of the national bourgeoisie both inside of China and on the outside, let's say trade with Hong Kong and with other foreign capitalists." The small bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie are a part of ‘the people’ but at the same time exploiters of ‘the people’. Rong Yiren is one of the many national bourgeoisie persons who benefits of these moderate and lenient politics. He welcomes the new regime and he does not flee to Hong Kong or Taiwan like other merchants and factory owners. The civil war has almost ruined his businesses. He is able to rescue his factories because the new rulers bring economic and political stability in Shanghai and the rest of the country. See also Article 35

In June 1950, during the 3rd plenum of the party congress, Mao Zedong calls:
"We should rally the petty bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie under the leadership of the working class and on the basis of the worker-peasant alliance. The national bourgeoisie will eventually cease to exist, but at this stage we should rally them around us and not push them away. We should struggle against them on the one hand and unite with them on the other." Already in 1940, Mao Zedong warns in his essay “on new democracy” that the transition to a socialist state will be a long process.
"But today is not yet the time to introduce socialism. The present task of the revolution in China is to fight imperialism and feudalism, and socialism is out of the question until this task is completed. The Chinese revolution cannot avoid taking the two steps, first of New Democracy and then of socialism. Moreover, the first step will need quite a long time and cannot be accomplished overnight." Whenever the national bourgeoisie misbehaves, they can be expelled and they will no longer belong to the people's democratic dictatorship.
"For the leadership, however, members of the petty bourgeoisie were identical at the core, that is, each one was a threat to the transition to socialism." This thread was dealt with during the Sanfan and Wufan campaigns in 1951 and 1952. See Article 18

There is also a group who do not belong to ‘the people’ and are not a part of the people's democratic dictatorship. They have no civil rights and are looked upon as the exploiters of the mass. Landowners, GMD members, and bureaucratic capitalist form this group. Bureaucratic capitalists are GMD leaders who act as owners of state companies. They have mostly confiscated these possessions after the Japanese lost the war. In the 1930’s and 40’s, the Japanese had confiscated these firms. The bureaucratic capitalists own about two-thirds of all Chinese corporations and about 750.000 employees work in these enterprises. The main capitalists are 4 families:
Fig. 1.1: The four great families
Source: Peng (2007). Page 135
The Soong, The Kung family , the brothers Chen and the family of Jiang Jieshi . In his "On people's democratic dictatorship", Mao Zedong states that the CCP wants to eliminate these enemies of ‘the people’ and also:
"The state apparatus, including the army, the police and the courts, is the instrument by which one class oppresses another. It is an instrument for the oppression of antagonistic classes, it is violence and not "benevolence"."
He further remarks:
"..there is no other way, China cannot be compared with western states. “There are bourgeois republics in foreign lands, but China cannot have a bourgeois republic because she is a country suffering under imperialist oppression. The only way is through a people's republic led by the working class. All other ways have been tried and failed."
The enemies of ‘the people’ are expressly excluded from 'the people' but they are citizens. They have the duties of citizenship but no rights of 'the people'. Mao Zedong defines the leeway the enemies of ‘the people’ have "As for the members of the reactionary classes and individual reactionaries, so long as they do not rebel, sabotage or create trouble after their political power has been overthrown, land and work will be given to them as well in order to allow them to live and remould themselves through labour into new people. If they are not willing to work, the people's state will compel them to work. Propaganda and educational work will be done among them too and will be done, moreover, with as much care and thoroughness as among the captured army officers in the past." In summary the people's democratic dictatorship is a democracy for ‘the people’ and a dictatorship for the enemies of ‘the people’.
The intermediate position of the national bourgeoisie is of a temporary nature and in June 1952 Mao Zedong decides to end this position. "With the overthrow of the landlord class and the bureaucrat-capitalist class, the contradiction between the working class and the national bourgeoisie has become the principal contradiction in China; therefore the national bourgeoisie should no longer be defined as an intermediate class."
This statement is in contradiction with the time path Mao Zedong defined in 1940 (see above) A special group should be mentioned, they are so called petty thieves, gamblers, whores, pimps, opium addicts, and vagrants. They were subjected to ‘non-criminal’ reform measures during some period. In Shanghai more than five thousand beggars and pickpockets were taken to custody centres in nursery schools and training units in December 1949. Many were selected for re-education, but over three thousand were sent to prisons or labour camps.

Amidst ongoing socio-economic reforms, dissent simmered, manifesting in labor disputes and protests. The regime's response oscillated between concessions and crackdowns, reflecting the delicate balance between maintaining order and addressing grievances. Although the CCP sees himself as the vanguard of the working class, that does not mean the working class blindly follows the party. In the period of May 1949 until May 1950, over 9000 labour disputes occur in Shanghai, mainly concerning wages and unemployment. The new regime quickly dismantles all independent labour organizations and already in November 1949 temporary measures are taken to control conflicts. On January 26, 1951, the government announced a labour assurance. It provides the payment of medical expenses, disability pensions, funeral costs, and financial support for the families of workers killed in the workplace, retirement pensions, and maternity leave.
Protest still occurred "...during the period 1952 to 1957. During that time, …61 labor protest incidents which took place in more than a dozen cities (Shanghai, Taiyuan, Chongqing, Lanzhou, Anshan, Fuzhou, Shenyang, Luoyang, Tianjin, Hefei, Wuxi, Wuhan, and Huainan) and a few railway construction sites." See Article 32.

Chapter 1 of Common Program