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Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Sixteen Articles Concerning
Work Methods

May 1959

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

Everybody supports the party’s general line. The principal political objective last year was to define the general line, but we did not achieve as much as we had anticipated. This concerns our work method. Our central problem today is the work method.

Sixteen articles concerning the work method have been laid down.


1. Be Resourceful and Decisive

Some of our comrades are not very resourceful and unable to make decisions. Resourcefulness involves willingness to listen to assorted opinions from subordinates, secretaries, plant managers, workers and peasants and in particular divergent opinions. Collect and analyze all opinions and then make a judgment.


2. Make Allowances

A common saying has it that one should make allowances for future operation. Maneuverability in work is important. In our operations against Kuomintang forces we assembled troops several times their number in order to crush them and we would not fight any battle without preparations. Socialist construction and planning also need allowances for operation. Both long-term and short-term planning should have such allowances. Our work should exceed our plan. We should make allowances for the masses to exceed a plan. If the target is set too high, it will be difficult to reach, to say nothing about exceeding it. Heads of production teams like to say, “We don’t mind a target of 10,000, but we fear a 10,000 to 1 chance of failure.” In the past this saying often adversely affected the workers’ zeal for work. If we purposely let the masses exceed a production target, they will be encouraged and will work harder. At the same time we should maintain a focus on production for no focus means no policy. It is the same with literature and art work. The performance of a play should allow for reflection and discussion by the audience. If after seeing the first half of the play, you know what is going to happen in the second half, the performance will be a failure. A speaker should likewise leave something unsaid.


3. Proceed in Wave-like Motion

In 1957 we opposed adventurism. As a result, progress took a saddle-like form. In that year we had to lower production targets. Work should proceed in a wave-like motion. This year we have also lowered the production target slightly. The increase has been 40 percent. This year we are determined to produce 16.5 million tons of steel and we are confident that we shall be able to fulfil the quota of coal. Among the agricultural targets, we have to exert greater efforts in the production of grain and cotton. Next year the production figures may be lowered further. In 1961 we will have another great leap forward. Socialist construction should proceed in a wave-like motion. “As heaven waxes, so man’s life is prolonged; as spring comes upon the world, so blessing visits the home.” We cannot have a high tide everyday. I am not against progress in a wave-like motion but I am against adventurism.


4. Strive for the Greatest Effect

Plan for the greatest effect. Change plans with the change of circumstances. If circumstances have changed, a man’s thought had better change accordingly. If not, he will be put in a passive position. Let the brain not be fossilized. Formulate plans according to the amount of materials and the number of people, not according to subjectivity.


5. Be Adept at Observing the Situation

Don’t let your brain be fossilized. Be able to assess the political situation, to detect the trend of people’s thought and to find out the economic conditions. At the Pei-tai-ho Conference the goal was set high. On my visit to Hopeh and Shantung I discovered that it was not practical. The Sixth CPC Plenum reduced the steel production target to 20 million tons. The Shanghai Conference reduced it further. Thus step by step we put production into full effect.


6. Decide at the Moment

Only by observing the situation can you decide at the crucial moment. Some comrades cannot understand the situation fully. Others can make decisions while they are working, but not properly. Wavering and indecision are bad. A decision must be made with resolution. Don’t miss an opportunity, for time, once gone, never returns. The commune problem is very obvious. At what level they should be managed was not made clear last year. After a lapse of time, on 27 January, the problem was thoroughly discussed. I later read the report of Chao Tzu-yang; then in Tientsin I visited Liu Tze-hao; in Shangtung Tan Chi-lung and the Lu Hung Pin commune. I discovered the following problem; a slip of paper, a scale, a cap for the dissenter, a bunch of keys, a proclamation and a staircase. Only then did I discover the system of ownership by the team. The last conference settled this problem. Some comrades are very much afraid of their superiors as well as their subordinates. Henceforth let the superiors and subordinates launch a coordinated attack against the middle level.


7. Let There be Some Airing

Work meetings should not be held without an airing. Before any discussion there should be a period of preparation. Some meetings have no subject at all. I have pointed this out no less than a hundred times. No airing is bad. Don’t insulate a problem. Don’t let people fail to know exactly what the problem is. Before solving a problem there should be full understanding and discussion.


8. Break the Blockade

There should be a point of view in a report. Suggest several alternate measures to solve a problem. Explain your basic situation, different views, the crux of the problem and the actual working conditions. Let there be no blockade.


9. One Man May Win Over the Majority Because He Holds Truth in His Hand

Lenin said that one should have the courage to oppose the trend, have one’s independent views and dare to speak out. Some of our comrades fear ill consequences. We should therefore promote the communist character of daring to think and talk, xxx was not afraid of being sliced to pieces, dragged the emperor down from his horse.


10. Look at Problems from the Historical Point of View

Any change of plan should be subjected to a historical process. Last year we had a great leap forward. If it is 20 percent, it is a great leap forward. If it is 30 percent, it is a sustained great leap forward.


11. Write in the Mandarin style, Not Half Literary and Half Colloquial, or Half Classical and Half Modern. Insist Upon the Mandarin Style and Take a Clear-cut stand

The reports of the New China News Agency on the rebellion in Tibet have a clear sequence of events. When we write, we should keep in mind the interest of the party and the nation. Some articles have no persuasive power which shows that the writers have no clear understanding of their own fields of work and neither know nor understand mass psychology. Han Yu, the famous writer of the T’ang dynasty is known for his prose. He was a native of Hsiu-wu Honan. He advocated the adoption of his teachers ideas, but not his wording. He was against following routine and tradition. He insisted that one should have one’s own characteristics and style and disregard praise for and criticism of it. P’an Tsung-tz’u’s writings of parallel constructions are difficult to read. It seems that he purposely made them difficult to understand.


12. Be Responsible

With power in your hand you can give orders. Bear responsibilities bravely and follow leadership.


13. Liberate Your Thinking

Don’t be afraid of demons, nor be shy and timid. Be brave and strong. Some of our comrades are weak in character. Their thinking has not been liberated. They fear rectification. Cadres should have the courage to uphold truth and not follow personages of the feudal period. What are you afraid of? None other than these six things: dismissal from office, demotion, expulsion from the party, divorce by your wife, imprisonment and decapitation.


14. Concerning Criticism

We are all good comrades. Criticism among comrades is for the purpose of doing work well and seeking efficient work methods. It is unimaginable for one to have no regrets. Criticism and self-criticism are the party’s weapons to educate the people. We owe no grievances against each other in our former lives, nor shall we in our after lives. Pains are an incentive to progress.


15. Collective Leadership

The party central committee’s meeting is the nucleus. Its decisions should be carried out everywhere.


16. Relationship between Different Departments

Relationships with the industrial departments should be strengthened. Relationship with the three state commissions (State Planning Commission, State Economic Commission and State Capital Construction Commission) and the two ministries (Ministry of Metallurgical Industry and First Ministry of Machine Building) should be close.

(Note: This is not an official document; it is intended for reference only).

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung