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Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Speech At The Ninth Plenum Of The
Eighth CPC Central Committee

January 18, 1961

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

Let me talk about investigation and study, as I did at the work conference. In the period of the Democratic Revolution we made many mistakes of line; those on the right did no investigation or study and neither did those on the left. The questions of what the circumstances in China were then, and of what line and what tactics to use, were not resolved. After the Great Revolution and the Second Revolutionary Civil War met defeat, we went through the Tsun-yi conference and the rectification movement of the Seventh Central Committee, and by 1949 we gained a revolutionary victory.

During the War of Liberation, the circumstances in the fight against Chiang Kai-shek were fairly clear; we were fairly familiarly with the various aspects of revolution and circumstances were relatively straightforward.

After the victory, dealing with the lives of several hundred million people, the situation was more complicated. With the mistakes of the past, it had been easy to educate the whole party. For several years everybody was doing investigation and study, but not much. We had no deep understanding of conditions. The restoration of the landlords was an example. It was not something we tried to pin on them  —  it was how things really were. They were flying the Communist Party flag, but what they were doing was in fact restoration. Only after disturbances broke out did we realize that all three levels of cooperative units had, on the whole, connections with the counterrevolution. Rigid bureaucrats were the allies of the Democratic Revolution; in addition there were some confused people who did not understand the three-level ownership system and did not understand that if the Communist wind cannot blow, the counter-revolution will use it to attain its evil ends.

In Honan we had the “four highs”  —  high targets, high production estimates, high rate of government purchase and high level of food use; but we are not using them any more  —  instead we are lowering standards and taking the pressure off them. Things are going the other way, and this is more in accord with reality.

We have been talking for five years about “agriculture, light and heavy industry,” “simultaneous development of industry and agriculture,” “walking on two legs,” and last year these were not realized, but it appears that this year they may possibly be realized. We can only say “possibly,” because they haven’t yet been realized, but this fact is reflected in the plans.

Investigation and study were also lacking in regard to landlord restoration. We paid more attention to the urban counter-revolutionary elements. After the events in Hungary, we allowed scattered free expression of opinion and tens of thousands of little Hungaries appeared; little Hungaries appeared at Peking University, People’s University and Tsinghua University and over four hundred thousand rightists had to be purged. The rural areas were also purged, not thoroughly; but we never anticipated the problem of landlord restoration  —  or we did abstractly, for we always used to talk about contradictions between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and in the Eighth Central Committee resolution the contradiction between advanced production methods and backward production methods was cited.

The Lushan Conference anti-rightist program threw the movement for correction of “leftists” into disorder. At the time anti-rightism was an absolute necessity. The Communist wind began to blow again and we did some “large-scale undertakings.” Indeed, large-scale water conservancy and large-scale industry had great and undeniable achievements.

Of the problems of the Communist wind, rigid bureaucrats, confused people, and landlord restoration within the revolutionary ranks, some were not made clear, and some were discussed but without much result.

At the Lushan Conference, the problem of the movement for correction of “leftists” had not been made clear, but P’eng Te-huai forced us to accept the challenge and scatter the anti-Leftists.”

Last year the central leadership comrades devoted their main energy to international questions.

At Shanghai in January, Canton in February, Hangchow in March, Shanghai in May, Pei-tai-ho in September, and at Moscow Conference, the Central Committee paid attention to [international] matters and adversely influenced the local comrades.

Why was Khrushchev so anxious to convene the Bucharest Conference and in July the Soviet Plenum began to attack us? Because if he hadn’t done so he would have been in trouble: at home his position was none too solid, and they had incorrectly evaluated the situation. They feared the three articles like the plague, while we were not afraid of the “three dont’s.” We reprinted several hundred thousand revisionist books  —  weren’t afraid of all that, and they had to be studied. But they said we were stirring up factions, that China was stirring up factions, and that the three articles were our program for stirring things up against the Soviet Union.

Not only we, but many foreigners as well, said that the three articles were good.

Why was he so anxious to convene the Bucharest Conference? Because he wanted to secure his position, and they thought that this way they could force us down.

We have to summon up all our energies to deal with the situation at home. For the working class to unite with the majority of the peasants, it must start by relying upon poor and lower-middle peasants, and upon middle peasants with a good attitude.

The Moscow Conference abated the anti-Chinese trend, which originated with rightist opportunists in the fraternal parties in the U.S., India and Yugoslavia.

I agree with the opinion of Comrade Liu Hsiao that the problems have not been solved because they have a social basis.

In our party there are also those who represent the landlord class and the bourgeoisie.

We should not harm the interests of the well-to-do middle peasants. They cannot exploit the peasants. This would be anti-Marxist. Just as soon as we reimburse and indemnify them, the masses will be satisfied, and their mood will change.

This year we are not going to do “two accounts” or put more weights into the balance; in everything we will start out from reality. We will simply weigh and store foodstuffs; we will not use the “four highs”; we’ll lower them a bit and resolutely carry out a single account, equal-value exchange, distribution according to labor, work-more-get-more; and we will resolutely purge the “five habits.”

In the urban rectification we will run pilot programs. Cities have special urban characteristics, different from those of the rural areas.

This year it appears that the plans won’t be much higher than last year. Some people are suggesting there be no changes in steel production this year and that its output should stay at 18,500,000 tons, or possibly 19,000,000 tons, but not much above last year. This is a reasonable suggestion. Since the targets of the Second Five-Year Plan have long since been attained, quantity need not jump, but quality will. With steel not going up, the imperialists and revisionists may say that our Great Leap Forward has failed, They can run us down as much as they like, but in reality we are working on quality, technology, standards, management, rate of production... lowering production costs, the right material for each purpose, overcoming insufficiencies, adjustments, and consolidation, rounding out, upgrading, in reality it’s case of raising fat pigs in the hall.

England’s steel output is greater than ours for the time being, but we will certainly be able to catch or even surpass England in seven more years. Can we catch West Germany (34 million tons)? We must wait and see. We lack experience in economic construction (I have discussed this with Edgar Snow), and our understanding of the laws will have to be repeated a few times, but we hope we will not take 28 years to be successful as the Democratic Revolution did. In reality, 28 years isn’t very long. There are many fraternal parties that were founded at about the same time as ours, and they still have not succeeded. We can cut that number by eight years and still get our experience, but it cannot be cut by much more as we used to hope. We cannot transform what we do not know about. Finally, we have to urge people forward; we don’t want to have to oppose rightism again at the March meeting  —  everybody ought to be genuinely revolutionary. We should hold resolutely to the general line, and aim high. Some people have said we should only stress “better and more economical results” now and not “greater and faster results.” In food we need “greater and faster results,” and also in industry with respect to material grades, standards and quality we need “greater and faster results.”

On the question of unity, the unity of the Central Committee is the heart of the whole party’s unity. At the Lushan Conference a small number of comrades opposed unity, but we hope to unite with them no matter how many errors they have made. If they say “you have made errors too,” I say that’s fine: everybody makes mistakes, in this we’re alike; but there are differences in size and gravity, differences in nature, number and quality. If you’ve made a mistake, don’t be afraid to hold your head up, and if some comrades’ work positions are lowered that’s all right.

P’eng Te-huai’s letter reporting on his year of study is welcome regardless of whether or not he has progressed.[1]

Beyond this, when there are comrades working in the Central Committee and the local areas who have also made errors, we welcome their correcting themselves in the course of their work. The situation was grave in Shantung, Honan and Kansu. They didn’t understand the circumstances at all, and so their resolution was not great, and their methods not very correct. Now that they understand the circumstances it’s easier to manage. Hsin-yang, Honan, which we were all worried about, has now become a good area, a revolutionary area that has turned over a new leaf and seized political power, Kansu has also taken a turn for the better. Of the other places, about 20 percent have broken down. This is not only because of the food problem; according to Commander-in-Chief Lin’s report, 400 out of 10,000 army units  —  4 percent  —  have broken down, and this was not due to the food problem but to the fact that the leadership had fallen into the hands of the enemy. This was also the case in the cities, factories and schools.

According to our policy, we should get rid of the enemy. Rigid bureaucrats should be reformed into creative bureaucrats. If after a long time they can’t become creative, then we should get rid of them.

More than 90 percent of the population are good people, but there are confused people among them. We have been confused ourselves  —  otherwise why did we have the Long March? Because we didn’t understand circumstances and our policies were not suitable.

Now in handling the new questions of social revolution and social construction, we should institute training squads and train county, commune and brigade cadres, so that they will understand policy.

We can’t say that most cadres are unreliable or are KMT people  —  we should unite everybody we can  —  but also we can’t kill a lot of counter-revolutionary elements. We should be wary of killing people and should not repeat our past mistakes. The Soviet Union killed too many people. At Yenan we declared that no cadre was to be killed. Even P’an Han-nien[2] couldn’t be killed, because one killing leads to another, and more and more people would be getting killed. If we wanted to practice the Buddhist injunction against killing  —  there are a few people who should be killed because otherwise the people’s indignation could not be relieved. When the Central Committee makes a mistake, it does not involve the question of killing. We will not make Stalin’s mistake, but we will also not make Khrushchev’s more civilized mistake of dismissing the Central Committee.

We must unite with the Soviet Union, with fraternal parties, with the 87 national parties, no matter what charges they make against us. We shouldn’t fear criticism, for there has been criticism ever since there has been a Communist Party, and without it we wouldn’t be the Communist Party. No matter what their attitude, we should adopt a policy of unity. In time of necessity, for instance at a conference, in case of a departure from the right principles, any person, no matter who, should be criticized. They have upbraided us on five counts: being a paper tiger, “the east wind prevails over the west wind,” the longer Nehru is anti-China the better, and the sinification of Marxism-Leninism.

Marxism-Leninism is basically one with different twigs and leaves, like a single tree that has many different twigs and leaves. Circumstances vary in different countries. In the past we suffered from having only paying attention to universal truths without paying attention to investigation and study. I hope this year will be a year of investigation and study, one in which investigation and study will flourish. When I talked about these things nobody opposed them, but not many people supported them either, or if they did, they didn’t make good on their support. In investigation and study, it’s fine to do specialized investigation and study. If you’re in favor of them, you can make them work. But if you’re not in favor of them, there’s nothing to be done.

If we really arouse the masses, they can determine who are the good and bad elements. Some are landlord elements or bad elements who have seized leadership, some are cadres who have fallen away and been won over... The masses can determine, but we on the other hand have not been very well able to determine. We must have resolution, we must send out large numbers of cadres to profoundly link up and profoundly star the masses into action: otherwise we will not be able to solve the problem.

When we go into the work of inspection, we must see with our own eyes, not someone else’s, and hear with our own ears, we must feel with our hands, discuss with our mouths, hold fact-finding meetings ... These last few years we haven’t been investigating, we’ve been doing things on the basis of estimates; I urge the comrades to promote a resurgence of investigation. In everything we must start out from actuality, and not express an opinion or make a resolution if we are not sure of the situation. It’s not that hard to do investigation, and it doesn’t take that many people or that much time; in the rural areas, you can investigate one commune unit or in the city one or two factories, stores or schools, no more than a dozen or so in all. You don’t have to do it all yourself: if you do one or two yourself you can organize a squad for the rest and lead it yourself... This is very important: party committee secretaries and members should all do investigation and study, or they may not have a clear understanding of conditions. You should understand good, average and bad typical cases.

In our work three things are required: understanding of circumstances, great determination and correct orientation. Clear understanding of circumstances comes first and is the basis of all work, because if circumstances are not understood there is no basis for discussion.

Even correct policy is no help if the circumstances are not understood. The policy of the Chengchow Conference was correct, but they said we would not settle accounts, and would not reimburse and indemnify anyone. But this was reversed later. The Shangai conference adopted eighteen articles, criticized the Ma-cheng report, and said that we would make reimbursement and indemnification. In 1959 I put out thirty or forty thousand words of material, but it is clear that a mere “battle on paper” is useless, because circumstances were covered up. There were differences in understanding; but now the understanding of the comrades on the provincial and local committees is more profound.

In 1961 we wanted to have a year of “seeking the truth from reality’. We have a tradition of “seeking the truth from reality” but probably as the pressure of official work increased we no longer paid attention to getting to the bottom of things. If you do not understand typical cases, then you will not be able to do your work easily. From now on everybody must do investigation and study and not just run other people down.

In the anti-imperialist, anti-feudal period of the Democratic Revolution, we emphasized investigation work, and the habit of investigation and study in the party as a whole was rather good. In the 10 years or so since Liberation, our work has rather fallen off in this respect. Why? We need to analyze this. Because in the period of the Democratic Revolution, we made several mistakes in line... both the right and the left failed to do investigation and study. For a long time the questions of what the circumstances were in China at the time and what strategy, tactics and policies to adopt were not solved. During the war of liberation, in the fight with Chiang Kai-shek, we paid a lot of attention to investigation, and circumstances were relatively clear. We were fairly familiar with the various aspects of waging revolution, and the problems were relatively straightforward. After Liberation the situation became more complicated. In the past when we had made some mistakes, it was fairly easy to educate the whole party. After liberation for several years we did some investigation and study, but not enough, and we didn’t have a very good understanding of circumstances, as for example in the case of landlord restoration. It was only after disturbances broke out that we realized that the landlords were being restored. Generally, all three levels, the counties, the communes and the brigades, were somewhat counter-revolutionary. Rigid bureaucratic elements who took no account of party policy or of whether the masses lived or died belonged to the third category of bad elements. In the second category are the degenerate elements; in the first category, the landlord elements. The first and second are contradictions between ourselves and the enemy.... contradictions with rigid bureaucrats are contradictions among the people, but they must be strictly dealt with, by removing them from leadership positions and educating and reforming them. All who wish to correct themselves may do so through their work. There is ! another category of those who don’t know how to go about things, who are muddled and confused; this is the fourth category. In the fifth are those with an average knowledge on policy matters who are not clear on some questions. In the sixth category are those who are not clear in their minds, know what to do, and do it fairly well. Throughout the country, over 90 percent of the cadres are good or fairly good. Of communes and brigades, 80 percent are good or fairly good, Rigid bureaucrats subjectively are not necessarily aiding the counter-revolution, but in actuality they are aiding it, and a part of them are its direct allies. All three collective elements have connections with the counter-revolution. When rigid bureaucrats pay no attention to whether people live or die, then no matter how they are subjectively, they are in fact the allies of the counterrevolution. If there are people who do not understand the three-level ownership system, then the Communist wind cannot blow. The counter-revolution will make use of them to achieve its evil deeds.

We were lacking in investigation and study concerning the restoration of the landlord class, but we were better informed about the urban counterrevolution. After the events in Hungary in 1956, by means of free expression of opinion we got to the bottom of things and purged several hundred thousand rightists; we also did a purge of the collectives in the countryside, but we did not anticipate the landlord restoration. Theoretically speaking, we anticipated it, because we had discussed the contradiction between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Is it the landlords’ and bourgeoisie’s world or the proletariat’s world? But we didn’t carry out investigation or study, and so we did not understand the circumstances and our determination was not great. In 1959 the Communist wind was blowing, but because we did not understand the circumstances, our determination was not great. In the interval came the Lushan Conference. There emerged the right opportunist anti-party clique. We could not but be forced into fighting the right opportunists and could not but oppose them. But afterwards the Communist wind began to blow unprecedentedly hard, and we did some great undertakings: large-scale water conservancy, large-scale industry, large-scale agriculture, large-scale socialized economy, large-scale local railroads. We won a great achievement, this is undeniable. But how did we manage to carry on such large-scale undertakings? After the Lushan Conference, circumstances were not very dear, and a gust of wind blew from the right, in response to international revisionism and internal right wing. Last year the comrades on the Central Committee concentrated their force on international questions, and the circumstances were understood, the determination great, and the methods correct. We need to collect our forces to deal with internal problems too, to oppose counter-revolutionary elements and rigid bureaucratic elements, and to organize poor and lower-middle peasant committees to replace them, to u! nite the (poor and lower-middle) peasants. In our party there are elements representing the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie; we must cleanse the party of them.

As to the question of unity within the party: the unity of the Central Committee is the heart of the unity of the whole party. At the Lushan conference there was a small number of people who were opposed to unity. But we must stress unity. Making progress is well and good, but are we really making progress? They say “you have made mistakes too.”. This is right. Everybody makes mistakes; but they differ in size and nature. If you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to hold up your head: the Central Committee and the locals have all made mistakes.

This year we will stress work on quality and on product variety. The figure of X X X tons is not small, but the problem is that the quality is not high enough, so we will not lay stress on increasing quantity but on variety, quality, standards.

There has been some achievements in industry. But we must continue to strive for new achievements. We must contract industry, heavy industry, particularly on the basic construction front, and we must extend the agriculture and light industry fronts. This year we will not inaugurate new basic construction; some parts of old construction we will continue to do, while other parts we will leave where they are. Judging from the present, socialist construction cannot be too fast; we have to stress wavelike advances. Comrade Chen Po-ta has raised the question whether socialism has a periodic law. Just like an army on the march, it must have long and short rests; in between battles it must rest and regroup, must combine hard work and relaxation.

I have talked about “light industry, heavy industry, agriculture,” “simultaneous development of industry and agriculture,” and “walking on two legs” for five years, but they have not been realized. Now they may possibly be realized. I only say “possibly,” because the 1961 plan reflects the relationships among agriculture, and light and heavy industry, so there is a possibility.

At this conference, circumstances have gotten steadily clearer and determination has gotten steadily greater, but they are still uneven. Some comrades have said that “when the Communist wind blows we will have to go bankrupt and pay back our debts.” This way of speaking sounds bad at first, but in reality we will have to go bankrupt and pay back our debts. Once the county and commune levels have gone bankrupt and paid off their debts they will then have to “build their house with their bare hands.” In the past they built their house with others’ work. We Marxist-Leninists cannot exploit the workers, we can only exploit the exploiters. This is the basic principle of Marxism. Building the house with others’ work is getting it through exploitation, and is contrary to Marxism-Leninism. The landlords and the bourgeoisie are the ones who exploit the people; their method is to gradually cause the working people to go bankrupt. We practice equalization and use this method to set up a cooperative-ownership and public-ownership economy. If the state-run economy does not purchase goods at an equal price but at a lower price, they may be exploiting the peasants and may be causing the proletariat to desert its ally  —  the peasantry. It’s easy to talk, but it’s not very easy to put into practice. Has the First Secretary really the determination to break up the property and pay back the debts? If this is not practiced by even a single province, then the leadership is lacking in determination.

After the Chengchow Conference (March 1959) the sentiment for thorough reimbursement and indemnification had largely evaporated, but in some quarters it still exists. At the beginning of this fall, the Central Committee was not clear about various conditions; did not understand them, and still did not rectify them thoroughly. It was good that this kind of meeting was held last spring. Many meetings were held last year, but statements on the problems were not very concentrated, and conditions not very well understood, determination not very great, and methods not very correct.



[1.] For Peng’s letter see pp 237-238 of this volume.

[2.] Pan Han-nien, once served as a vice-mayor of Shanghai. Previously he had secretly capitulated to the Kuomintang and had become a member of the notorious CC Clique.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung