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Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Speech At The Group Leaders’ Forum
Of The Enlarged Meeting Of The
Military Affairs Committee

June 28, 1958


This has been a good conference. Some comrades’ speeches were very good. [XXX asked the Chairman especially to read the speeches of nine comrades. The Chairman read the speeches of Comrades Chang Tsung-hsün and Liu Ya-lou.[1]] Comrade Chang Tsung-hsün’s speech was very good. I agree with it. He wrote it under pressure from the fourth-grade cadres conference of the Military Training Headquarters. This proves that when you compel people, they can write good stuff. There is just one point I don’t agree with. Chang Tsung-hsün says that the reason he made mistakes was that he had not studied Mao Tse-tung’s writings properly. This is not correct. He should have said that it was primarily because his Marxist-Leninist level was not high enough. Comrade Ya-lou’s speech is also pretty good. This illustrates the point that the army comrades’ level is high and that they can write. The best thing would be to organize some of the comrades at army and divisional level to speak and write because they are the people who do the practical work, and they have contact with the lower echelons. The stuff they write can achieve unity of theory and practice. The content of conferences should be rich and varied and should introduce advanced experience in the work. In our articles and speeches we should not criticize the Soviet Union. Dogmatism is a problem in our own study; it is not just a question of whether the Soviet Union is advanced or not.

From the beginning there has existed in our army a struggle between two lines in military construction. We had a struggle at the Kut’ien Conference,[2] but we were unable to convince the comrades who held incorrect ideas. Some comrades still adhere to their incorrect line right up to today. Comrade Hsiao K’e[3] was not only guilty of dogmatism, but had a warlord mentality marked by bourgeois ideology, dogmatism and feudal ideology.

In wartime it will not do to implement orders according to Soviet army regulations. It is better for us to have our own regulations. I don’t know how much Marxism-Leninism there is in the Military Academy and the Military Training Command. Marxism-Leninism should be a guide for action, yet they use it as a dogma for recitation. If Marx and Lenin were still alive, they would certainly criticize these comrades as being dogmatic. Today the dogmatists advocate copying the Soviet Union. Whom, I would like to know, did the Soviet Union copy in the past? In the resolutions of the Eighth Congress there is a passage dealing with the problem of technological reform. From the point of view of present conditions this is inappropriate because it over-emphasizes Soviet aid. It is very necessary to win Soviet aid, but the most important thing is self-reliance. If we over-emphasize Soviet aid, the question I would like to ask is, on whom did the Soviet Union depend for aid in the past?

The Great Leap Forward in industry and agriculture has destroyed blind faith. We can catch up with Britain in – years, and in from – to – years catch up with America. Next year our steel output will reach from – to – tens of thousands of tons. It is reported that the north-east will produce – tens of thousands of tons by 1962. This is all the result of rectification. The Nanning Conference and the Chengtu Conference broke down blind faith, liberated our thinking and resulted in the Great Leap Forward in industry. Yet we have been training armies for over eight years and have not produced even one book of combat regulations. Now we must gather together some comrades who have rich experience in work and combat to produce a book of combat regulations of our own. Some people mentioned that when the Soviet comrade advisers saw that we were not copying theirs, they made adverse comments and were displeased. We might ask these Soviet comrades: Do you copy Chinese regulations? If they say they don’t, then we will say: If you don’t copy ours, we won’t copy yours.

Why is it that XX hasn’t performed well since the victory of the revolution? Apart from the fact that he has not made a sufficiently deep appraisal of his experience in the former period and learned the historical lessons, the reasons are: first, he has blindly accepted old things and old dogmas; second, he has put blind faith in foreign dogmas and in the Soviet Union; third, he has blind faith in himself. He has been very active, hard-working and conscientious, but his direction was haywire and he was not strong enough on politics. The main aim of this conference is to overthrow the slave mentality and to bury dogmatism; also to use the methods of rectification, with a great airing of views and great blooming, to break down blind faith, raise our ideological level, absorb the lessons of experience and, above all, to educate the whole Party and whole army and to unite the whole Party and whole army. Therefore during the conference we can criticize people by name. But I would suggest that when we are formulating resolutions, we only need to distinguish between right and wrong and clarify problems. We do not have to put in the names of those comrades who have made mistakes. After all, in the resolutions of the Kut’ien Conference no names were mentioned.

With X it is mainly a case of blind faith in foreigners. He has an inferiority complex. He hasn’t been able to rid himself of this blind faith. He doesn’t regard our own experience as of primary importance. Nowadays even a cooperative has to summarize its experience, otherwise it would lag behind. The five cooperatives of Hsinchou in Hupei Province did pretty well, Mach’eng was not so good. But Hsinchou paid no attention to summarizing its experience. Mach’eng sent people round to Hsinchou to study their experience so that they could summarize and extend their own work. In the end the work in Mach’eng went into the lead. When the army went into battle in the past, did it not summarize the experience of its various units, re-train them, and then go into battle again? In all our work we must pay attention to the summing up of our good experience in order to publicize it.

The Soviet Union defeated the intervention of fourteen imperialist countries. That was a long time ago. The Soviet Union has had the experience of the Second World War. We defeated Chiang Kai-shek, Japanese imperialism, American imperialism. We have rich experience, more than the Soviet Union. We should not regard our own experience as worthless. This is wrong. (Chief Lin[4] interjected: ‘Our experience is very rich. We must not throw gold away as though it were yellow dust.’) We must think of our experience as of primary importance, while studying other people’s advanced experience. We must also study the conditions of enemy countries and of friendly countries. In the past we did study conditions in enemy and friendly countries as well as our own. We translated American and Japanese things. In future wars in the East, America won’t get anywhere without depending on Japan, so we must make a thorough study of Japanese conditions. We must study the Soviet army’s experience. Weapons technology is continually developing and evolving. Therefore in studying the Soviet army’s technical experience, we must do so from the standpoint of development. In the past the Russians were very much afraid of Napoleon because he led his army to Moscow. In the end the Russians defeated him and so the Russians often boasted that they were more formidable than Napoleon. Nowadays the stuff produced by the Soviet military advisers (combat plans and ways of thinking) all deal with the offensive and are all concerned with victory. They have no defensive material and do not provide for defeat. This does not conform with real situations. Some people say that summing up the Resist America, Aid Korea War constitutes empiricism, but we know that the Korean War was a big war in which we defeated America and obtained valuable experience. This experience must be summed up. As for their calling us empiricists, well, we can say to them: Your stuff ! about the Soviet Union in the Second World War is also empiricism.

The errors committed by Comrade Hsiao K’e are serious ones. In the past we had no chance to convene such a big conference. Now that we have that chance we can dig out the roots of dogmatism.

As regards learning from the Soviet Union, for internal use we say ‘study critically’. In speaking publicly, in order to avoid misunderstanding, it would be better to put it: ‘Study the advanced experience of the Soviet Union analytically and selectively.’ It is most important that in studying the advanced experience of the Soviet Union, we should combine it with our own independent creative achievements. The universal truth of Marxism must be combined with Chinese practice. We must not eat pre-cooked food. If we do we shall be defeated. We must clarify this point with our Soviet comrades. We have learned from the Soviet Union in the past, we are still learning today, and we shall learn in the future. Nevertheless our study mast be combined with our own concrete conditions. We must say to them: We learn from you, from whom then did you learn? Why cannot we create something of our own? Moreover there have recently been changes among Soviet experts. Changes took place after the Twentieth Congress and the Zhukhov incident. (Chief Ch’en [vice-premier Ch’en I] interjected: ‘Soviet comrades who have returned home said that when they came, they brought their experiences with them; now they are returning they are taking our experiences back.’) This shows that the situation of the Great Leap Forward inspired not only us in China, but also our Soviet comrades. (Chief Lin said: ‘In political matters, such as Party leadership and in political work, our army has a fine tradition of its own. Our Party’s Marxist-Leninist level is very high, not to speak of the Chairman’s. The Chairman has said that our editorials are at a higher level than those of Pravda. When it comes to the superstructure, in military science, in problems of strategy, we have our own fully developed system. Lenin died too early. He did not have time to attend to this question. Stalin had no developed system. We do not have to learn from the Soviet Union. As regards tactics, we can ! learn half and leave half. Their tactics are questionable both ideologically and as regards their attitude to the masses. The half we learn would consist of the use of naval and air forces and the coordination of the services. As for the half we don’t learn, such as tactical thinking, we have Chairman Mao’s so we don’t need to learn theirs. We should study technology and science and also the organization of modern warfare, but we should use the methodology of the mass line to study it. We should take advantage of the fact that our generation is still alive to organize a group of cadres to put together our own system properly, and to pass it on.’) That’s the way.

Li Shih-min, Ts’ao Ts’ao[5] etc., all knew how to fight wars. China’s past has quite a lot to offer. Comrade K’ai Feng[6] said that the Sun-tzu ping-fa[7] contained no Marxism, but when we asked him whether he had read it he could not answer. Obviously it is quite wrong to make categorical statements without having read it. (Chief Lin interjected: ‘Sun-tzu ping-fa does contain both materialism and dialectics. It is a collective work. The authors included Sun-tzu, Sun Pin, Ts’ao Tstao, Tu Yü, etc.’)

The elimination of blind faith was brought up at the Chengtu Conference. It has progressed very rapidly in the last four months. Since the second session of the Eighth Congress it has further developed in every domain throughout the country. For example, Anshan, which originally planned to produce – tens of thousands of tons of steel, has now revised its target and next year will reach an output of from – to – tens of thousands of tons. They have also gone in for the combination of large, small and medium plants and of native and foreign methods. According to a letter from Comrade XXX in the north-east, in the second five-year plan the north-east can reach an output of – tens of thousands of tons. If we have steel and modernized industry, then we can easily develop a modernized defence industry. I am in favour of producing more light weapons so that we can arm a mass militia. (Chief Lin interjected: ‘The militia is very important.’) In the past others have looked down on us. The main reason for this was that we were short of food, steel and machines. Now we have produced some things for all to see.



[References are given here as provided by the Maoist Documentation Project. They are significantly different in at least one existing edition of Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. VIII. — Transcriber, MIA.]

[1.] Chang Tsung-hsün (c. 1898- ), who had participated in the Autumn Harvest Uprising organized by Mao Tse-tung in 1927, and accompanied him to the first base on the Chingkangshan, was in 1958 a Deputy Chief of Staff of the PLA. Liu Ya-lou (1910-65) was then commander of the PLA Air Force; he had long been closely associated with Lin Piao.

[2.] At the conference of Communist Party organizations in the Red Army, held at Kut’ien in Fukien Province in December 1929, Mao presented a resolution on political and organizational problems in the army which has been regarded ever since as the classic statement of his views on these matters.

[3.] Hsiao K’e (1909- ), a veteran of the Nanchang Uprising and of the Chingkangshan, was director of the PLA General Training Department in early 1958. Shortly thereafter, he was shunted into a subordinate post as Vice-Minister of State Farms and Land Reclamation, and his thirty-year military career came to an end.

[4.] The title given to Lin Piao here, ‘Chief’ (tsung), an abbreviation for ‘Commander-in-Chief’ (tsung ssu-ling), does not correspond to any precise function, since he did not replace P’eng Te-huai as Minister of Defence until September 1959. This term is frequently used loosely in Chinese writings to designate a high-ranking officer; prior to 1954, both Lin, and Ch’en I, to whom the same title is given later in this speech, had been commanders, respectively, of the Fourth and Third Field Army.

[5.] Ts’ao Ts’ao (155-220), known posthumously as Emperor Wu of the Wei dynasty, was an outstanding statesman and military leader of the period of the Three Kingdoms. For Mao’s attitude towards him, see The Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung, pp. 162, 166.

[6.] K’ai Feng (1907-55), also known as Ho K’ai-feng, was a member of the ‘Returned Student’ faction in the 1930s. It was therefore natural that Mao should charge him with lack of knowledge of Chinese culture, and of respect for things Chinese.

[7.] Sun-tzu, who flourished about 500 B.C., is undoubtedly, with Clausewitz, one of the two most celebrated military writers in world history. His Art of War has been most recently translated by General Samuel B. Griffith (Oxford University Press, 1963), who also includes a selection of the commentaries by Ts’ao Ts’ao, Tu Yü and others, which this text, like all other classical Chinese writings, has accumulated over the centuries. It is to these that Lin Piao is referring in calling it a ‘collective work’.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung