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Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung


December 1950--September 1951

[Important directives concerning the movement to suppress counter-revolutionaries drafted for the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party.]


Please make certain that you strike surely, accurately and relentlessly in suppressing the counter-revolutionaries.

(December 19, 1950)


One batch of bandit chieftains, local tyrants and secret agents has been executed in twenty-one counties in western Hunan, and another batch is to be executed by local authorities this year. I think measures of this kind are absolutely necessary. For only thus can we deflate the enemy's arrogance and raise the people's morale. If we are weak and irresolute, if we are tolerant and indulgent, it will bring harm to the people and alienate us from the masses.

To strike surely means to pay attention to tactics. To strike accurately means to avoid wrong executions. To strike relentlessly means resolutely to kill all such reactionary elements as deserve the death penalty (of course, those who don't will not be executed). So long as we avoid wrong executions, we don't have to worry even if the bourgeoisie raises an outcry.

(January 17, 1951)


In Shantung there is lethargy in some places and rashness in others. Generally speaking, both these deviations are to be found in all the provinces and cities in the country and attention should be paid to setting them right. In particular, rashness presents the major danger. For by education and persuasion those who are lethargic can eventually become active, and it doesn't make much difference if a counter-revolutionary is put to death a few days sooner or a few days later. But being rash and making wrong arrests and executions will produce very bad effects. Please exercise strict control over the work of suppressing counter-revolutionaries, and be sure to proceed with caution and correct any deviation of rashness in handling the job. We must suppress all counter-revolutionaries, but on no account should we make wrong arrests or executions.

(March 30, 1951)


In regard to the counter-revolutionaries ferreted out in the Communist Party, People's Liberation Army and organs of the People's Government and in educational, industrial and commercial and religious circles, democratic parties and people's organizations, the Central Committee has decided as follows. Whereas those whose crimes do not deserve the death penalty shall be sentenced to life imprisonment or various prison terms or put under public supervision and surveillance, with respect to all counter-revolutionaries deserving capital punishment execution shall be confined to those who owe blood debts, or who have committed other major crimes which evoke public indignation, such as frequent rape or the plundering of large amounts of property, or who have done extremely serious harm to the national interest, while the policy towards the rest shall be one of passing the death sentence, granting a two-year reprieve and subjecting them to forced labour during this period to see how they behave. This is a prudent policy, a policy that can avoid mistakes. It can win a favourable response from people in all walks of life. It can disintegrate the counter-revolutionary forces and contribute towards the thorough elimination of counter-revolution. Moreover, it can save a large pool of labour-power, which will be conducive to our national construction. Therefore, it is a correct policy. Of all the counter-revolutionaries deserving death who are ferreted out in the above-mentioned Party, government, military, educational, industrial and commercial and people's organizations, it is estimated that those who owe blood debts, those who have committed other crimes which evoke public indignation and those who have done extremely serious harm to the national interest make up only a small number, roughly 10 to 20 per cent, while those to be sentenced to death but to be granted a reprieve probably account for 80 to 90 per cent, that is to say, 80 to 90 per cent may be saved. These counter-revolutionaries differ from the bandit chieftains, hardened brigands and local tyrants in the rural areas, from the local tyrants, bandit chieftains, hardened brigands, leaders of criminal gangs and heads of reactionary secret societies in the cities, and also from certain secret agents who have done extremely serious harm to the national interest in that they have contracted no blood debts or committed no other major crimes that incur the deep hatred of the masses. The harm they did to the national interest, while serious enough, had not yet reached an extreme. They have committed capital offenses, but the masses were not the direct victims. If we have such people executed, it will not be easily understood by the masses, nor will the response from public figures be so favourable; at the same time it will deprive us of a large pool of labour-power and will not serve to split the enemy ranks; besides, we may make mistakes on this question. Therefore, towards such persons the Central Committee has decided on a policy of passing the death sentence with a reprieve and subjecting them to forced labour to see how they behave. If some are beyond reform and continue their wrongdoing, they can be executed later on, as the initiative is in our hands. All the local authorities are asked to adhere to the foregoing principle in dealing with the counter-revolutionaries uncovered in the Party, government, military, educational, industrial and commercial and people's organizations. As a precaution, the very small number of executions to be carried out (amounting to roughly 10 to 20 per cent of all those sentenced to death) must without exception be reported to the greater administrative areas or the greater military areas for approval. As for prominent figures whose execution might affect our united front work, approval must be obtained from the central authorities. In the case of counter-revolutionaries in the rural areas, we shall likewise put to death only those whose execution is necessary to assuage the people's anger, and none shall be executed unless the people so demand. To some we should similarly apply the policy of passing the death sentence with a reprieve. But persons whose death is demanded by the people must be executed so as to assuage their anger and help production.

(May 8, 1951)


In no circumstances should the policy of "granting a two-year reprieve" be taken to mean not executing those criminals who owe blood debts or are guilty of other major crimes when their execution is demanded by the people. This would be wrong. We must make it clear to the district and village cadres and the masses that persons who have incurred the bitter hatred of one and all for their heinous crimes and have to be executed to assuage the people's anger must be put to death for this purpose. It is only on those counter-revolutionaries who are guilty of capital offences but have not incurred deep popular hatred and whose execution is not demanded by the people that we shall pass the death sentence with a two-year reprieve and impose forced labour to see how they behave.

(June 15, 1951)


The work of suppressing counter-revolutionaries must be placed entirely under the unified leadership of the Party committees at all levels, and the responsible comrades of all public security and other organs associated with this work must, as always, unreservedly accept this leadership.

(September 10, 1951)

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung