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Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Speech At The Enlarged Session Of The Military Affairs Committee And The External Affairs Conference

September 11, 1959

Comrades! This has been a very good meeting. I think that people who bear malice in their hearts will move towards their own opposites. Those who bear malice in their hearts towards the world class, the world parties, the Party’s cause, the class cause and the people’s cause will move towards their own opposites. That is to say, their aims cannot be achieved. For instance, when someone wants to reach a certain goal and this goal finally cannot be reached, he suffers a moral defeat and becomes isolated from the masses. There are, for example, a number of comrades who in my view are not Marxists, and who hitherto have never been Marxists. What are they? They are fellow-travellers of Marxism. If we want to argue this point further there is plenty of material. For example, a lot of material has been published recently  —  material from the period of the anti-Japanese war, from the period of the Long March, for example about activities tending to sow discord. The material from the period of the war against Japan contained such things as ‘Liberty, Equality and Fraternity’; ‘the anti-Japanese front cannot be divided into left, centre and right’; ‘it is incorrect to make a division into left, centre and right’; ‘what you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others’. Where class relationships prevail, where there is the proletariat and bourgeoisie, the oppressors and the oppressed, to put forward such principles as this, to say things like ‘when the prince commits a crime the people are implicated’ such a viewpoint cannot be called Marxist: it absolutely cannot be said to be a Marxist viewpoint. It is an anti-Marxist viewpoint which deceives the people, a bourgeois viewpoint. Later on the anti-Party views of Kao, Jao, P’eng, Huang[1]  —  such as their theory of an ‘army party’ disrupted the proper relationships within the Party, ! holding that there was a domain here and a domain there. Their views and their behaviour were not those of Marxists. This time much material has come to light about their splitting activities many years before the Lushan Conference as well as about their Lushan Programme. In addition there is much material about the period of the Li Li-san Line. Most of this has been written down. What everybody has been bringing to light is what I have talked about just now. So if we want to argue the point of view which I have just talked about  —  that they have never been Marxists but only fellow-travellers and that they are merely bourgeois elements and opportunist elements who have infiltrated into our Party  —  if we are to prove this point and argue it to a conclusion there is plenty of material. I have no intention of doing so now because this would mean writing articles and could give a lot of comrades work to do. So I merely raise it. It is perfectly understandable that bourgeois revolutionaries should enter the Communist Party and that their bourgeois world outlook and standpoint should not have changed. They cannot avoid making mistakes. At crucial times it is impossible for such fellow-travellers not to make mistakes.

The Lushan Conference, this meeting, and the various levels of Party organization throughout the country have all discussed the resolutions of the Eighth Session of the Eighth Plenum and we have made use of this affair to educate the broad masses and enable them to raise their level and become more conscious. This has proved completely that the great majority of people, the great majority of the cadres of the whole Party, say ninety-five per cent, do not agree with them. It also proves that our Party is mature as demonstrated by the comrades’ reaction to their attitude.

Bourgeois elements have infiltrated our Communist Party. Amidst our Party membership there are many bourgeois and petit-bourgeois elements. These should be analysed and divided into two groups. The great majority are good people. They can enter Communism because they are willing to accept Marxism. The minority are probably one, two, three, four or five per cent  —  this sort of figure  —  perhaps one per cent, perhaps two per cent, perhaps three per cent, perhaps four per cent, perhaps five per cent. During the past few weeks at provincial level conferences, quite a few high cadres have been exposed as right-opportunist elements and trouble-makers, whose one fear is that the world should be free of trouble. Whenever there is trouble they are happy. Their principle is: ‘If the world is at peace, the four quarters are tranquil and work goes well: they are uncomfortable. As soon as the wind blows and the grass waves, they are happy.’ For example if there is not enough pork, not enough vegetables, not enough soap, not enough women’s hair-grips, they seize the opportunity to say, ‘You have done things badly! They say it is your affair and not theirs. When organizations hold meetings and reach decisions they don’t utter a murmur. For instance at the Peitaiho Conference not a murmur, at the Chengchow Conference not a murmur, at the Wuch’ang Conference not a murmur. At the Shanghai Conference they did mumble something but we could not hear them. Then when things happened (when they thought things had happened) then, as you can see, it was all vegetables, pork, grain in a number of areas, soap and even umbrellas. For example there was a shortage of umbrellas in Chekiang and they called it a ‘maladjustment of proportions’, ‘petit-bourgeois fanaticism’, etc. It will be very difficult for this small minority of people to enter communism, to become real Marxists. When I say it will be difficult, I don’t mean that it w! ould be impossible. As Liu Po-ch’eng said: ‘It is necessary to be completely reborn.’ Those who were warlords were after all warlords, but what about those who were not warlords, such as Comrade XXX? How could he be counted as a warlord? He was a literary lord, an academic lord. If you are not completely reborn you cannot enter the door of communism.

Five times there have been mistakes of line: the [Li] Li-san Line, the first and second Wang Ming Lines,[2] the Kao-Jao Line and now this P’eng-Huang-Chang-Chou Line. Some people have made mistakes five times, some have not made mistakes five times. For example comrade XXX was not yet with us at the time of the Li-san Line. As for P’eng and Huang they were attacked at the time of the Li-san Line. This is no coincidence. Regarding the serious nature of the five erroneous lines, on the last two occasions  —  that is during the Kao-Jao and P’eng-Huang Lines plots were hatched to split the Party. This contravenes Party discipline. A Marxist party must have discipline. They do not know that Lenin said that the party of the proletariat must have discipline, iron discipline. As for these comrades, what kind of discipline do they have? Iron discipline, steel discipline or metal, wood, water, fire and earth discipline, or wooden discipline, or is it bean-curd discipline? Water discipline means no discipline at all. In that case how can we talk of iron discipline? To carry out splitting activities is to break discipline, the purpose and result necessarily being to destroy the proletarian dictatorship and to establish another kind of dictatorship.

The banner of unity is exceedingly important. The Marxist slogan for unity is ‘Proletarians of the world unite!’ But not them! For them it would seem the fewer the better! They want to have their own clique and to do their own thing, acting against the wishes of the broad masses. At the Lushan Conference I said that they do not mention the slogan of unity because if this slogan were raised they would be unable to carry out their activities. This slogan is not in their interests so they do not dare to mention it. The unity in question even includes people who have made mistakes, who will be helped to correct their mistakes in order to unite with them once again, let alone those who have not made mistakes. But these people wish to destroy them. Their policy is a destructive policy, not a policy of unity. The banner which they wave is the banner of destruction  —  the destruction of those who hold opinions differing from their own. They consider that such people are bad. Yet these so-called bad people are really the great majority, more than ninety-five per cent.

If you want unity you must have discipline, in order that our whole nation may build a strong country within the space of a few five-year plans. The present task is for the people of the whole country, together with the whole Party, to build a strong country within the space of a few five-year plans. For this iron discipline is needed, it cannot be done without it, so we must unite. I ask you, how can we achieve this aim otherwise? Is it possible to build a great socialist country within the space of a few five-year plans? In the past we had to make revolution, now we must carry out construction. Is this possible or not? Without discipline nothing is possible. Unity requires discipline. As for the many documents about P’eng Te-huai in the T’aihang Mountains,[3] will comrades please compare Sun Yat-sen’s Manifesto of the first National Congress of the Kuomintang with the views expressed by P’eng Te-huai in the T’aihang Mountains at the time of the anti-Japanese war. One was a Kuomintang member, the other a Communist Party member. As regards time, one was written in 1924, the other in 1938, ’39 and ’40. The communist had retrogressed in comparison with the Kuomintang member. The name of the Kuomintang member was Sun Yat-sen and he wanted to progress. Sun Yatsen was influenced by the Communist Party. Why did he write that piece? Recently I found the text and had a look at it. Sun Yat-sen’s Manifesto of the First National Congress of the Kuomintang contained the idea of class-analysis. How could he have the iron discipline of the communists? How could he be in agreement with proletarian discipline? Without speaking the language of the communists, without a common standpoint and common views, discipline cannot be established. I say that P’eng Te-huai is not the equal of Sun Yat-sen. As for Chang Wen-t’ien,[4] he is not Sun Yat-sen’! s equal either. Sun Yat-sen was revolutionary at that time; these comrades were retrogressing. They wanted to destroy the organization which had already been built up. The slogans which they raised were beneficial to the enemy and detrimental to the class and to the people. There were more views of this kind, for example ...

It is absolutely impermissible to go behind the back of our fatherland to collude with a foreign country. Comrades have held meetings to criticize this affair because they are all in organizations of the Communist Party; they are all Marxists. We cannot allow one group to sabotage another. We cannot allow Chinese Communist Party members to sabotage the party organizations of foreign countries and to provoke one group of people to oppose another group. At the same time we cannot allow people to entertain foreign provocation behind the back of the Centre.

Now I am going to admonish some comrades who have made mistakes. Prepare yourselves to listen to some off-hand remarks. In the past I have admonished others, for example Comrade Lo Ping-hui, who had committed mistakes during that period.[5] He got very angry, and afterwards I exhorted him further, saying ‘Don’t get angry. You have committed mistakes, so let people talk  —  let them talk until they have no more to say. The reason they won’t have any more to say is that you will have corrected your errors. If you adopt a friendly attitude towards people, and if you display a spirit of self-criticism towards your own errors, why would others go on talking? They won’t talk any more.’ You comrades who have committed errors at present, I urge you to prepare to listen to some offhand remarks. As soon as your errors are mentioned, you shouldn’t be frightened out of your wits, as though people were going to talk about you for years on end. I can’t go on all that long. It depends on how you go about correcting your errors. If you correct them quickly, people will stop talking about you within a few months. If you correct them more slowly, then they’ll stop talking about you after a few years. The main thing is to correct your errors, whether it be fast or slowly. You must be sincere with people, and not dissemble. You must be honest, and speak honestly. I appeal to you comrades who have committed mistakes, you must place yourselves on the side of the overwhelming majority, you must cooperate with the overwhelming majority; you must not cooperate only with the minority who share your tastes. If only you can carry out these two points. First, you must be able to listen to remarks, you must prepare to listen, you must stiffen your scalps. When you spoke, I listened; I agreed that what you said was correct! I did indeed commit that error! This fellow Ah Q had some defects, which were manifested in! the fact that his head wasn’t all that pretty, it was covered with ringworm. Because he couldn’t bear to speak of it, others insisted on talking about it, and as soon as they did he would fly into a rage. For example, even when his ringworm scars got bright red he wouldn’t speak of it, and if others mentioned brightness, he flew into a rage. The author describes a naive peasant who has not yet awakened to consciousness. Ah Q is a good man, he definitely didn’t organize a faction, but he was a man who was not conscious, he couldn’t bear to talk about shortcomings. He didn’t take the initiative, and because he didn’t take the initiative, others wanted to talk about it; as soon as they spoke of it, he flew into a rage, and as soon as he flew into a rage he got into a fight, and when he got into a fight he never won, and then he would say it was [like] a father being beaten by his son. People would say to him: ‘Ah Q! If you don’t want me to beat you, talk about a father beating his son, and then I won’t beat you.’ ‘All right,’ [he would say]. ‘It’s a father beating his son.’ But as soon as the person who was beating him had gone away, he would say it was a son beating his father, and he would once again feel satisfied with himself.

Comrades who have committed mistakes must prepare to listen to some remarks, they must prepare to listen quite a lot. They must be honest and sincere with people, and not lie to people. Another point is that they must stand with the majority. All they have to do is to observe these few points, and I think they can definitely reform. Otherwise, they will not be able to reform. If they aren’t prepared to listen to remarks, if they aren’t sincere with people, if they tell lies, and if in addition they do not stand with the majority, then it will be very difficult. ‘Who save sages and worthies can avoid making mistakes?’ In reality, this proverb is not appropriate either, for even the sages made mistakes. ‘The faults of the superior man are like the eclipses of the sun and moon. He has his faults, and all men see them; he changes again, and all men look up to him.’[6] We are not Confucius, but we see that even Confucius made mistakes, so we must conclude that all men without exception make some mistakes, more or fewer, bigger or smaller. It doesn’t matter if we make mistakes, we must not let mistakes become a burden to us, we mustn’t see them as something extraordinary, we should just go ahead and correct them. ‘The faults of the superior man are like the eclipses of the sun and moon.’ It’s like when the celestial dog eats the sun and the moon[7]  —  he makes a mistake, and everyone sees it. When he corrects his mistake, ‘all men look up’ to him.

We must learn some things, we must study Marxism-Leninism. I am very much in favour of XXX’s proposals regarding our tasks in the domain of study. All of us without exception must study. What shall we do if there isn’t enough time? If there isn’t enough time, we must squeeze in the time. The problem lies in cultivating the habit of study; once we have done this, we will be able to go on studying. I say these things first of all for the benefit of those comrades who have committed errors, but my words are also directed to all of us comrades, including myself. There are many things I haven’t studied. I am a person with many shortcomings, I am by no means perfect. Very often, there are times when I don’t like myself. I have not mastered all the various domains of Marxist learning. And, for example, I don’t know foreign languages well either. I have only just begun recently to study economic work. But, comrades, I study with determination, and I will go on studying until I die; when I die, that will be the end of it! In sum, as long as I am alive I shall study every day. Let us all create an environment of study. I think I can learn a bit too; otherwise, when the time comes for me to see Marx, I shall be in an embarrassing fix. If he asks me a few questions and I am unable to answer, what will I do? He is certainly very interested in all aspects of the Chinese revolution. I’m not very good either in natural science or engineering.

There are so many things to study now, how shall we go about it? Just keep on in the same way, learning a bit, persevering and penetrating a bit deeper. I say that, if you are resolved to do it, you can certainly learn, whether you are young or old. I will give you an example. I really learned to swim well only in 1954; previously I had not mastered it. In 1954, there was an indoor swimming-pool at Tsinghua University. I went there every evening with my bag, changed my clothes, and for three months without interruption I studied the nature of the water. Water doesn’t drown people! Water is afraid of people, people aren’t afraid of water, of course, there are exceptions, but it should be possible to swim in all kinds of water. This is a major premise. For example, the Yangtse at Wuhan is water, so it’s possible to swim in the Yangtse at Wuhan. So I refuted those comrades who opposed my swimming in the Yangtse. I said, ‘You haven’t studied formal logic.’ If it’s water, you can swim in it, except in certain conditions: for example, if the water is only an inch deep you can’t swim in it; if it’s frozen solid you can’t swim in it; you can’t swim in places where there are sharks, nor where there are whirlpools, as in the three gorges of the Yangtse. Apart from certain circumstances, it should be possible to swim wherever there is water, this is the major premise, the major premise derived from practice. Thus, for example, the Yangtse at Wuhan is water; hence, the conclusion follows that it is possible to swim in the Yangtse at Wuhan. The Milo and Pearl rivers are water, you can swim in them. You can swim in [the sea off] Peitaiho; it’s water, isn’t it? Wherever there’s water, you should be able to swim. This is the major premise; apart from the fact that you can’t swim in one inch of water, and you can’t swim in water that’s at a temperature of over 100 degrees, or in water that’s so cold it’s f! rozen, or where there are sharks or whirlpools  —  apart from these circumstances, all water can be swum in; this is a fact. Do you believe it? If you are resolute, if you only have the will, I am convinced that all things can be successfully accomplished. I exhort you comrades to study.

Recently, we have seen the great ceremonial hall at the T’ien An Men. It’s really quite a thing. Would you all like to go and have a look? (All those present loudly shout: ‘Yes!’) Get Comrade Wan Li to tell you about it. This chap’s name is Wan, isn’t it? He should be able to run ten thousand li in a day.[8] It has been only ten months; so many people said they didn’t believe it [could be done], the Soviet experts we called in said they didn’t believe it. By June of this year, the Soviet experts said it might be possible, and when September came, they expressed great admiration, saying that China really had a Great Leap Forward. 12,000 people, brought from all over the country, [representing] the force, the technical capacity, the human capacity, of all the provinces in the country, taking no Sundays off at all, working three shifts a day, and not working on any piecework wage system; many of them began working eight hours a day, and ended up working twelve hours, without a stop. Did they want to be paid for the extra four hours? They didn’t. There were also people who would not stop work as long as [a particular] project was not completed, who did not sleep for two days and nights; they remained at their place of work not for eight hours, or twelve hours, but for forty-eight hours. Did they need material incentives? Did they want a few extra yüan? Say one yüan for each hour? They didn’t want it, these people did not want it. The material incentive remained just the material incentive, it was nothing but those 50 yüan of [monthly] wages, just that little bit but they were striving for a common cause. 12,000 staff and workers completed this big piece of work in the space of ten months; this is not merely ‘to each according to his work’, but it also involved Lenin’s great contribution called the ‘Communist Saturday #8217;, it included work which was not compensated for.

Comrades, go and have a look ... There is also the Miyün reservoir ... I think the combination of politics in command and material incentives, of political work and the necessary remuneration according to work, is a good thing. We are all resolute, and firm of will. That which people thought could not be successfully completed has in fact been completed; I’m talking about this big auditorium, which a great many people thought could not be completed. Very many people are hurling insults at our Great Leap Forward and people’s communes, but they will nevertheless succeed, and indeed have already succeeded, or are going to continue achieving results. For example, we will progress rapidly in iron and steel, in industry, and also in agriculture. Studying is like this too; if only we are resolute, I think we can study well. We need not fear that there will be too much to do, and that the time will be too short, we can fit it in! Let us develop this habit. We must conquer this world, our objective is this world; as for how we should go about our work on the sun, we won’t talk about that for the present. As for the moon, Mercury or Venus, and any of the other eight planets apart from the earth, we may investigate them in the future, and visit them if we can get up there. As for our work, our struggles, I think they’re still going to be on earth. If we’re going to build up a strong country, we must definitely be resolute like this, as we have had to be to build this big auditorium, so many dams, factories, etc. I think this is definitely the way.

Let the whole Party and the whole people unite! Proletarians of the world, unite! We can certainly attain our goal!



[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.] Huang K’o-ch’eng (1902- ), PLA Chief of Staff from October 1958 to September 1959, was regarded as P’eng Te-huai’s principal accomplice and dismissed from office at the same time. The link between the ‘P’eng-Huang’ (or ‘P’eng-Huang-Chang [Wen-t’ien]  —  Chou [Hsiao-chou]’) group and that of Kao and Jao was further elaborated on at the time of the Cultural Revolution. See Talk at the Central Work Conference.

[2.] i.e.; the left line of the Russian Returned Students, mentioned above (Speech at the Lushan Conference, note 14), and Wang Ming’s line of the Yenan period, which was denounced as right opportunist or capitulationist, not stressing sufficiently the independence of the Chinese Communist Party vis-à-vis the Kuomintang.

[3.] For Mao’s criticism of P’eng’s line in the 1940s, see his ‘Letter Criticizing P’eng Te-huai’s Talk on Democratic Education’, 6 June 1943, in Chinese Law and Government, Vol. I, No. 4, Winter 1968-9, pp. 7-9.

[4.] Chang Wen-t’ien (c. 1898- ), pseudonym Lo Fu, a member of the ‘Returned Student Faction’, succeeded Ch’in Pang-hsien (Po Ku) as Secretary-General at the Tsunyi Conference of January 1935. He was Chinese Ambassador to Moscow from 1951 to 1955, and thereafter a vice-minister of Foreign Affairs until his fall in September 1959.

[5.] Lo Ping-hui (1897-1946) was an important military leader from the time he joined the Chinese Communist Party in 1929 until his death. It is not known how he exposed himself to Mao’s criticism, but it may have been in connection with his participation in the New Fourth Army Incident of January 1941, in which he commanded a detachment.

[6.] Analects, Book XIX, Ch. 21.

[7.] According to Chinese mythology, eclipses occur when the celestial dog eats the sun or the moon.

[8.] Wan Li was Minister of Urban Construction from May 1956 to February 1958, and thus responsible for projects such as this. Subsequently he became a secretary of the Peking Party Committee and Vice-Mayor of Peking. His name (presumably a pseudonym) means literally ‘ten thousand li’; hence Mao’s pun.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung