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Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Talk At Symposium Of Hsin, Lo, Hsu And Hsin Local Committees

February 21, 1959

[SOURCE: Long Live Mao Zedong Thought, a Red Guard Publication.]

Just what is the nature of the people’s commune? Is it commune ownership or brigade ownership? There are poor and rich brigades, poor and rich villages. When you were in the agricultural producer cooperatives, what method of distribution did you use? Were there discrepancies then? Were the contributions all the same then? It is mainly differences in resources, conditions, administration and history which result in differences of output and the divergence of rich and poor brigades, rich and poor villages. The agricultural producer cooperatives used to use the method of labor and production contracts, with incentives for the best producers. Was there equalization, then, in the agricultural producer cooperatives? The Soviet Union’s 55 million tons of steel and our over ten million tons of steel cannot be equalized because that would be appropriating others’ labor without reimbursement. This is permissible towards landlords and capitalists, and in the past we did appropriate property without compensation from the landlords and capitalists, because they had not labored for it  —  it was the people’s, the peasants’. So the proposals at the time to return the land to its proper owners, to return Anshan Steel to its proper owners, were not expropriation. We act differently towards the national bourgeoisie, because they are friends, and with them we adopt a policy of purchase. The property of the national bourgeoisie was clearly produced by the working class and is not the capitalists’; but because they are friends we still adopt a purchase policy, making use of them in uniting the intellectuals and letting them redeem the property that they got by exploitation of the workers. Now it would be unreasonable to use equalization on the poor and rich brigades and the poor and rich villages; it would be banditry, piracy. It would amount to writing out receipts and IOU’s for everything down to tables, chairs and benches, with a promise to pay for them in ten ye! ars.

In the past the advanced cooperatives lived better or worse according to how much they had. Work points embody the difference in the results of the labor of different people, and labor and production contracts embody the differences between brigades and between villages, but we did not remember this experience. This problem arose because we did not remember our experience with food allocation in 1956, in the first year of the advanced cooperative movement. Old women blocked the way and wouldn’t let the food be taken, and this problem is reappearing now in the first year of the communes. At this point it is well worth considering just what methods to use. This year we will proclaim some policies, to be carried out by both rich and poor, aimed at helping the poor and raising China to the level of the Soviet Union. In the future after the dictatorship of the proletariat is established in the nations of the West, we won’t be able to chop off some of what the Western nations have to supplement the Asian and African nations, the Asian and African nations will have to raise themselves. Investments in the Asian and African nations of course ought not be confiscated, but we won’t be able to go to Europe and set up machinery. This is to say that at the Soviet Union’s present level of development it cannot give things to us gratis, because to Soviet Union has workers and with workers you have to pay wages, with machinery you have to take care of depreciation; so how would it be possible to chop off some of what the Soviet Union has and give it to us? It will be necessary to have an equal-value exchange. (During the discussions on the report it was stated that some people were afraid of the commercial departments buying up their pigs. So they turned the pigs loose on the land and let them run off and some people hid them in the cotton.) I approve of this method. (In the discussion on the report it was stated that in some places not all the peanuts could be collected, but when they used a p! ercentage allotment system, in some places the peanuts were all collected in a single night.) The method of percentage allotment should be adopted. I approve of doing everything possible, eating them up or letting them run off. This practice is not particularism; this is the fruit of their labor. If we are anti-particularistic and collect by force we make matters worse. Now this really is expropriation without compensation and if you call it particularism you are applying the term incorrectly. This is a question of ownership. At present a part of the ownership is by the commune. but the main ownership is by the brigades. If the commune expands its accumulation a little every year, then after seven or eight years commune ownership will take shape.

On 8 January a party committee meeting was held in Hopeh and they wanted to get unity of thought, absolute unity and they adopted a resolution; but by the last third of the month they felt that there were things wrong with it and the provincial committee members hastily changed their minds. In the last third of the month they had a telephone conference, but after the conference there were some area committees and some county committees that did not understand and some communes did not understand. At present in ownership the production brigades are really eight or nine fingers and communes are one or two fingers, or three at most. Accumulation cannot exceed 18 percent and taxes cannot exceed 7 percent, so together they cannot exceed 25 percent, or one-fourth; production expenses are 20 percent and the distribution to the masses 55 percent. There is some concealment at lower levels, so that in reality they don’t distribute more than 30 percent. Everybody wants to accumulate more and carry on some industry and this is well-intentioned. Stalin followed this kind of policy in the 30 years from the founding of the state until 1953, Stalin never solved this problem. He carried out a collectivization and a mechanization. In the Czarist era there was no collectivization and no mechanization. They collectivized, but didn’t mechanize. Then they mechanized, but in the year he died the output was the same as in the Czarist era and if XXXX had not changed the policy, the situation would have become increasingly grave. If we do not change our policy now, we will make Stalin’s mistake.

Now when we talk about production brigades, the brigades are the communes! At present the commune is really a federalistic government. The commune’s power cannot be very great; the commune should have control over public grain and over accumulation, but distribution of products should rest with the brigades. (In the discussion for the report it was stated that the commune did too much; for one thing it had too many investments and for another it did too much requisitioning of the labor force.) This policy should be changed. We used to just talk about the relationship between individual, collective and state, but now this is just half of the chess-board; and the several hundred million peasants are a greater half of the chess-board; it won’t do to simply carry on state accumulation and commune accumulation. We used to say, “If the people don’t have enough then how can the ruler have enough?” At present the “people” are the communes and the “ruler” is the state. Stalin’s actions of 30 years were a matter of walking on one leg. If we are contributing 70 percent to the state, the masses only get 30 percent, just as with the landlords. Of course we are essentially different from the landlords: if we accumulate a little more it is for construction and the construction in turn is for the benefit of the people. This point needs to be analyzed and to be made clear, that the desire for rapid industrialization is well-intentioned, but though I say it is well-intentioned it is not a good idea. The way that we differ from the landlords is that we are not aiming at getting rich. At the moment we have not made this clear; at the Sixth Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee we didn’t make it clear. We merely talked about distribution according to work and about production responsibility, but we did not tell how to distribute according to work and we didn’t clarify the collective ownership system. Now the distribution program needs to be changed. ! Commune ownership has to be arrived at by a process, because what we have now is basically brigade ownership. There are only these two. The peasants don’t have to worry about their land, because the provincial and local party committees and the Central Committee can’t take it away, what they are disputing about is products and the labor force. When we say that land is under collective ownership, within that we ought to draft a document stating that in fact it is under brigade ownership. If land, tools and means of production plus human labor and the commune only come to 25 percent, don’t you think that’s too little? Our present opposition to particularism has brought about a tense situation that is growing tenser. Really, 15 percent kept back ought to be made legal. The state’s and commune’s accumulation of 25 percent and production costs of 20 percent and the mass distribution of 55 percent, form a fixed proportion, but as production develops year by year the absolute numbers will increase. The practice of taking away their cabbage and pigs and not giving them a cent must be changed.

In addition, let’s discuss how to run industry. At present, industry is taking up too much capital and labor and conflicts are arising. All conflicts involving human strength and material and financial means ought to be adjusted. You couldn’t handle all that many schools at once either. Everything has to be done gradually for instance would it be possible to get rid of the four pests all at once? Forestation has to be done gradually, illiteracy has to be eliminated gradually, schools have to be set up group by group and at different times. If the finance and trade organization recovers all the loans, then it ought to give them all back now; more recently there is the compromise suggestion that they give back half. This is carrying a stone only to drop it on one’s own foot; if you’ve recovered all the original loans they don’t have any money to pay wages and so they still need loans to pay wages. We will have to start by making announcements to calm people down. There will have to be regulations covering transfers. We will also have to look into the matter of distribution. We should be aware that the collective ownership of the people’s communes would take shape gradually. We have passed through four periods: in the mutual aid teams there was only a little collective ownership: in the early stage cooperatives collective ownership had increased  —  it could be called semi-collective ownership; as for the advanced cooperatives, you could say there was 70 percent collective ownership. At this time equalization won’t do; if the accumulation is great the people will oppose it and it won’t be “one chessboard” at all. The true “one chessboard” consists of first, the peasants, second, the communes and third, the state. In this way the peasants will be won over to us and will in turn develop a concern for the state. When this happens, will we be likely to have trouble collecting things? I am speaking from the point of view of! the peasants and supporting “particularism.” Because at the moment we have brigade ownership, it will be several years before we can put commune ownership into practice. We must pay attention to the fact that everything must be arrived at through a process. We must recognize that we have partial commune ownership, but basically we have brigade ownership and the communes are a foster-father put in mid-course. When there are differences between food-production brigades, then there should be differences in wages as well. Hopeh is fixed on top and flexible below, so we can adopt this method and call it “fixed [work] grades, flexible evaluation [of work points], remuneration according to labor.”

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung