First Published: As a special supplement to The Worker, for Hawaii, Vol. 2, No. 1, October-November 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.
Speech by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, given at a memorial meeting for Mao Tsetung, Chicago, September 19,1976. (Edited text.)
The death of Mao Tsetung is a great loss. A great loss to the working class and oppressed peoples of the world. As has been said today, we are merging our grief with literally hundreds of millions of people throughout the world, who know that one of their greatest champions has fallen, but who also know that the cause for which he fought and the lessons which he brought to that struggle will be picked up and carried forward by millions and still millions more. For Mao Tsetung was someone who was brought forward by the tremendous upsurge of the struggle in China and throughout the world, wherever people are oppressed and exploited and fight back, as those who are oppressed and exploited always do fight back.
He not only was a great champion, but he pointed the direction for the working class and oppressed people not only of China but for the whole world, including for us in the United States. I think the greatest thing about Mao Tsetung, and the thing that makes him so dear and his loss so great, to the oppressed and exploited and to those who are fighting for a new world without exploitation and oppression, is the fact that he gave his heart entirely over to the people.
Whatever he had learned, whatever strengths he had personally developed, he gave them over to the people as a weapon in their cause, and didn’t use them as so many others still do, for his own personal gain or to advance his own interest at the expense of the masses. And more than that at every key point, at every period when in fact things seemed the darkest, when the struggle seemed to be most set back, when there seemed to be no way out, for China and even throughout the world, it was Mao Tsetung who came forward and shined the light and showed the way out of the darkness and guided people in turning a temporary defeat into a great victory. From the very beginning this was true and it remained true until Mao Tsetung’s last breath.
Mao Tsetung was a member of the Chinese Communist Party from its founding., for 55 years, from 1921 until his death just a few short days ago. China is a country vastly different than our country. It’s a country where 80% or 90% of its people still today live in the countryside.
Until the revolution succeeded in overthrowing the foreigners who rode on the backs of the Chinese people, the foreign imperialists of various countries–including the bankers and businessmen who ride on our backs here–and their government and their gunboats, and overthrew the landlord class, and the other tyrants in China who were allied with these foreigners, it was a country where millions of people died needlessly every year and the reactionary rulers, as they do everywhere, thought nothing of it and said it was the act of god or fate and that was the way things were meant to be and would always be so. Where parents were forced to sell their own children in order to try and save some of their other children. Where small children saw their parents die from starvation or disease that could have been prevented if it weren’t for the social system which counted the people as nothing. Where masses of people had to go begging on the streets. This was what China was like when Mao Tsetung was born and as he grew up and became a revolutionary and joined the Communist Party in 1921 as a founding member.
For six years the Chinese Communist Party led the working class, in the big cities of China such as Shanghai and Canton and others, in organizing unions and fighting against their exploiters, against the factory owners, and the bankers and others who rode on their backs. And there were those, even within the Communist Party of China at that time, who said because the working class was small in numbers in China and because China was ruled by foreigners, the factory owning class and the big landlords could and had to be relied on to lead the struggle, because they too wanted to see the foreigners gone from China. And to a certain degree it was true that they did want to see at least some of the foreign domination gone, but they wanted to see this so that they themselves could-become fully dominant, and ride full saddle on the backs of the masses of the Chinese people.
This line of relying upon, and giving full reins of, leadership to the bigshots, to the bankers, to the businessmen, and what have you. led to a situation in China where in 1927 these same forces, who claimed to be in alliance with the communists and the workers and the masses of peasantry in China making up over 90% of the population, instead of continuing to aim their guns (to the degree that they had at all) against the foreign domination and against the corrupt rule of the warlords in China, they aimed their guns at the masses of working people of China and shot them down in the streets, murdering tens of thousands of communists and thousands and thousands more workers. And it looked as though the Chinese working class was doomed forever, and the masses of peasants were doomed forever to this endless reign of oppression, terror, degradation and slavery.
At this point in 1927, despite the setbacks in the cities, the peasants were rising up in the countryside. And there were those again within the Chinese Communist Party who said “This is terrible!” “Look what these dirty-handed, rough hewn, ignorant vulgar peasants are doing.” “They are rising up and crashing the landlords down into the dust. This is not proper and civilized.” And Mao Tsetung said that’s right, it’s not proper and civilized and no revolution is proper and civilized. But it’s not terrible, as you say, who tremble before the great upsurge of the masses of people. It is not terrible, it is fine. And the task of revolutionaries and communists is to unite with those who have taken up their dirty work-soiled hands and have laid them on their oppressors and who are determined not to stop until they have continued that task through.
It was Mao Tsetung who united with that struggle of the peasants, who took workers from the pity with him, who went up into the mountains to live on a bowl of porridge each day, with almost no weapons, and began the great battle from the countryside that would eventually encircle, with the strength of hundreds of millions of Chinese people, the rotten, oppressive and corrupt rule that had its stronghold in the cities and would wash it away like a great tidal wave.
But this was not an easy or quick victory, because there are no easy or quick victories in life. Nothing proceeds in a straight line and neither did the struggle of the Chinese people’. Because Chiang Kai-shek, leader of those landlords, big banking and capitalist interests who wanted to cooperate with the foreigners in keeping the Chinese people down, did not rest either. He pursued Mao Tsetung and the peasants Mao led, not once, not twice, but eventually five times, with so-called “encirclement and suppression” campaigns to try to wipe out the areas they had freed from landlord rule, to take away the land that had been distributed among the peasants, to deny the people the rights they had won with their own hands under the leadership of Mao Tsetung, and to reinstitute the dark rule and the dark reign of terror of the landlords and the oppressive government headed by Chiang.
In the early 1930s Chiang Kai-shek, aided by the wrong policies of Communist Party leaders who opposed Mao Tsetung, was successful in closing in and choking off the liberated areas the Chinese peasantry under Mao’s leadership had created. Could anything be done? Was there a way forward to victory? Was there a path out of this darkness? And many said no, but Mao said yes . .. And he led those peasants and workers who had gone with him, embarking on what has now become one of history’s truly great monuments, called the Long March.
For over a year, fighting at least one and sometimes more than one battle every day, these revolutionary soldiers, drawn from and nurtured in the soil of the masses of Chinese people, wound their way over 6,000 miles. Over 90% of them were lost on the way. But, led by Mao Tsetung, they arrived in an area called Yenan. They had to go and live in caves, and under Mao Tsetung’s leadership, they took up the immediate battle that had to be taken up, that is the driving out of the Japanese who had invaded China. Against his own will they forced Chiang Kai-shek, as much as he still tried to wipe them out, to compromise and come to a United Fjront with them to drive out the Japanese.
After that was done at the end of World War 2, again the question arose: do the Chinese people have the strength to carry forward? Can they not only consolidate this victory of driving out Japan, but can they build on it? Can they liberate themselves entirely, or must they submit once again to the rule of oppressors? Now that the Japanese who had many times killed literally thousands and thousands of Chinese at one stroke, shooting them down like so many dogs, using bulldozers to swoop them up and push them into pits, now that those oppressors have been driven out, do the Chinese people have to bow down to a new set of oppressors, bow down again before Chiang Kai-shek, who once again, as he had before, turned full force on the masses of people and directed his guns against them.
Once again there were those who said, “There is no choice but to give in, we have no strength, the people are tired of war.” And it was true that the Chinese were tired of war, as people are always tired of war. And they longed for peace as people always long for peace. But the Chinese people knew something even greater than that–so long as there are oppressors and exploiters ruling society or existing in the world, there will never be lasting peace for the masses, the great majority of the people.
So in this darkness when many were saying that there was no way out, once again, it was Mao Tsetung who said: We can continue the battle, we have our arms in hand. Yes we are poor and yes Chiang Kai-shek is being armed with billions of dollars of weapons from the United States. But the United States, he said–and he was not talking about those of us gathered here and the millions we represent, the working people, he was talking about our decadent, rotten rulers–he said they appear strong outwardly, but inwardly they are weak. They appear to be a tiger, but in fact they are a paper tiger. Even their atomic bomb, which had just been discovered and used to slaughter thousands of Japanese people to show the strength of our own rulers, and to try to intimidate the people of the world, even the atomic bomb, Mao said, cannot stop the struggle of the masses of people in China or throughout the world.
Just think about that...Now that you can look back and see how Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Communist Party led the people to victory, in three short years in fact (1946 to 1949) in driving out Chiang Kai-shek, perhaps it appears obvious that they could win such a victory. But then it was not at all obvious, with the United States government emerging strong from the war, arming Chiang Kai-shek to the teeth, and waving the atomic bomb to intimidate the people all over the world who wanted to cast off into the dust their chains. It was Mao Tsetung who said: Yes we can do it. He said it for one fundamental and great reason. Because weapons, he said, do not decide a war in the end, the people do. Those who fight in the interests of the masses of people, and mobilize the masses of people, will emerge victorious sooner or later. Not quickly or easily, but sooner or later. And those who stand with the working class and stand for removing the chains which capitalism places on society are bound to be able to unite the great majority and to emerge victorious. And this is in fact what happened in 1949.
It is for this reason, for this kind of leadership, that the Chinese people cherish Mao Tsetung and why millions of people in China and throughout the world mourn and weep the loss that his death represents.
What do our leaders and their counterparts and cohorts throughout the world tell us? If you remember back a few years ago they openly slandered and vilified Mao Tsetung. They said he was a butcher, a despot, a tyrant riding on the backs of the Chinese people, enslaving them even worse than they had been enslaved before, because their prior enslavement could hardly be denied. They said that he didn’t allow the people any rights, he forced the people to starve, there were millions of words written, with the most outrageous slanders against the new China that was being built and against Mao who was leading in doing that.
I remember for example, and this goes to show you the difference in the nature between their class and ours, between the exploiters and the exploited, between the slave masters and the slaves, and I’m sure that all of you remember, that in the early period after the victory of the Chinese revolution, in the ’50s and early ’60s, they would show pictures of millions of Chinese people in blue work clothes, going to work, and they slandered them and called them “blue ants.”
First of all, what they didn’t understand at all was that when you go to work and do real work, unlike they do, you don’t wear your “Sunday best.” But more than that, what they didn’t understand, or what they understood and tried to hide from us, was that before the Chinese people had succeeded in their revolution they barely had clothes at all. Even in the cold of snow and winter, people had clothes that, if you could call them clothes, were more patches than they were cloth. The first thing that the Chinese government, representing the working class and headed by its Party and Mao Tsetung, was concerned with was not how can we have printed patterns and flowers on the clothes but how can we first clothe the masses of people.
Every resource now belonged to the masses of people, instead of to a handful of vampires and vultures ripping it off, so there was the question, should they, before the people were even clothed, take the extra labor and the extra resources to run the cloth through another process and dye it many different colors? Or should they first concern themselves with putting clothes and warmth and health on the backs of the Chinese people, old people and children alike, and then (which is in fact what they did) once that basic task was accomplished, then they began the process of varying the clothes and giving people the brightness that reflects the brightness of the future that the Chinese people under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and Mao Tsetung had taken into their own hands.
They took things step by step and they paid no heed to the slander that our rulers put out. Because they knew what was hidden from us, that they had become masters of their own fate, that far from being enslaved, they had cast off slavery. That far from being driven into the dirt, they had risen up from the dirt which they had been previously ground down into.
They used to tell us, and still try to say–though they say it in a more muted way most of the time-that Mao Tsetung and the Chinese Communist Party forced the masses of people to do Mao’s will. But look at Mao’s funeral and the tremendous outpouring of grief of the Chinese people all over that country. Can anyone force people to show such grief?! And would hundreds of millions have such an outpouring of grief over the loss of a tyrant who had forced them to do his will?!
So now, with the tremendous victories not only of the Chinese people, but also in Indochina and throughout the world, with the rise of the struggle and the growing anger and stirring of people in this and other countries as well, our rulers find it much more difficult to slander Mao Tsetung in that old, open, kind of way.
Now, Gerald Ford, as a chief executive of that class of vampires that feeds on us and people all over the world, has to get up and say Mao Tsetung was a truly remarkable and very great man. We should reflect on this because it is a great victory, not only for the Chinese people, but for us, for working and oppressed people throughout the world. That Gerald Ford, this exploiter, this murderer, this dog, had to bow and pay. respects to our leader, the leader of our class, shows the strength of our class and the tremendous accomplishments it has achieved once it has cast off the rule of the capitalists and become the ruling class itself.
I was fortunate enough to be part of a group that visited China in 1971. We visited people, including older people and I remember one older man in particular, who was about 68 years old and who described how his family when he was growing up and his first Wife and all of their children had died of starvation in the old society. He was showing us around his house and beaming with pride, not only for his house but also for the way he, as a retired worker, was still contributing to building a new China, and to moving it forward to where there would never again be exploitation and oppression and that kind of starvation and degrading conditions.
He said, “You know, in the old days the rich people used to tell us, the reason that we’re rich and you are poor is because we were born under a good sign and you were born under a bad sign, and it’s just fate and there’s nothing you can do about it.’” He said, “We used to believe them and we believed them so much that if we had to go near rich people’s houses or places of business, we would cross the street so our bad luck would not pass on to them.”
But, he added, “Under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung, the Communist Party came and they told us it was not because the rich were born under a good sign and you were born under a bad one, that the rich are rich and you are poor. It is because they have the power of the state. They control the government and society and we do not. That is why they are rich and we are poor.”
And then he broke into a broad smile and said, “As you can see, the world has been turned upside down and the situation is exactly the reverse and now we are no longer poor because we have state power. And now we have no longer any need to believe in superstition or look to a life beyond this one, because we are achieving step by step the things that before we only dreamed of and only thought possible in another world. Because we have risen up and taken matters into our own hands and we run the government. And no longer will any oppressors or exploiters ever ride our backs. No longer will any representative of theirs be able to tell us that he is our friend while murdering us and killing our children and causing them to die of starvation and disease.”
It is for this kind of leadership that the masses of Chinese people hold Mao Tsetung so precious in their hearts. And more/every time an attempt has been made to turn back the revolution and to restore the old order and all the suffering and misery it means for millions, it has been Mao Tsetung who has stepped forward in leading the Chinese people to rise up and beat that back.
You see, our rulers have been forced to sometimes say, well, maybe for China what Mao Tsetung represents and what he’s done there (and of course they say he did it as though he waved a magic wand and did it all by himself)–maybe that’s not so bad for China, and maybe people are eating better, even if it’s at the cost of great human liberty. These “champions of human liberty,” our rulers, who run to South Africa and other parts, of the world to try to enforce the most vicious kind of slavery and exploitation even while they’re enforcing it over us here, are worried all of a sudden about the so-called “cost of human liberty and dignity” to the Chinese masses who they treated as so much meat to be carved up, even as they treat us the same way in the factories and communities where we work and live.
But fewer and fewer people are fooled by this any longer. So many of our rulers have to say that Mao Tsetung was a benign “dictator,” all of a sudden. Instead of a vicious tyrant and murderer, they say he was a good man–for China, though they are quick to add that what he did and what he stands for has nothing to do with other places and certainly not with here. And they portray it as though Mao Tsetung has imposed his vision on 800 million Chinese people.
They used to say he imposed his will in a vicious way by murder and terror. Now they say, “just by the strength of his will he’s imposed his vision on 800 million people. But can it last now that he’s gone?” they ask. And they cluck their tongues and smack their lips and say, “No, of course not, this cannot last because you can’t go against human nature.”
But the whole history of the Chinese revolution proves that the revolution can last and go forward. Before they won their emancipation in 1949 under the leadership of the Communist Party and Mao Tsetung, the Chinese people in their masses were uneducated, weighed down by superstitions spread by their oppressors, and preyed on by all kinds of vultures. They were forced to steal from each other’s meager crops and to go begging in the streets. Now, with state power in their hands, they are transforming all of China and building it with a great determination, working collectively to develop agriculture and industry, with a spirit of self-reliance and self-sacrifice, not only to strengthen China under working class rule but to contribute to the cause of emancipating the people of the whole world. This is the same Chinese people, but the social system and the fact of which class rules are completely different. And so is the outlook of the people, who are the most politically educated, class conscious in the world. So much for the capitalists’ lies that “you’ can’t change things, you can’t change human nature.”
Both of these capitalist versions of Mao Tsetung, whether they present him as a tyrant, or a dictator who was somehow good for the people as long as he lasted–both of these are slanders and distortions of what Mao Tsetung represented.
Mao Tsetung, unlike what they say, was not a great man because he was the “ruler” of the largest country in the world and “ruled” over 800 million people.
Mao Tsetung was never a ruler and never-wanted to be. And that’s why he’s loved by 800 million people in China and hundreds of millions more throughout the world. Because we have plenty enough rulers over us already. People don’t need any more and certainly don’t love any more people who come along and want to be just another ruler over us. Mao Tsetung was a leader, who led the people and who cast his lot with them and shared thick and thin with them and continued to share that until his last dying breath.
In fact, no one man can “rule” any society. Classes rule, not individuals. Individuals do play a role as leaders of one class or another. Leaders of reactionary classes carry out policies that enforce the exploitation and oppression of the masses of people and so come to’ be hated by these masses. Leaders of the working class carry out policies that enable the masses to advance towards the elimination of all exploitation and oppression. Leaders of the reactionary classes act in the interests, of a minority of parasites to preserve the division of society into a mass of slaves and a handful of slaveowners. Leaders of the working class, like Mao Tsetung, act in the interests of the great majority, of the working people. But leaders of a working class government do not rule–they guide the working class in ruling and remaking society to end class differences and emancipate mankind.
This was what Karl Marx had laid bare. He had predicted and shown–not like a fortune teller but in a scientific manner by laying bare the actual laws that govern things–that the working class was bound to rise up in its millions, and due to the strength “and consciousness that could be developed because of its socialized labor, was bound to overthrow these capitalists, eliminate capitalism and all its evils that we’re all too familiar with, and advance to classless society.
After Marx died, within a few decades–when capitalism had developed to its final stage, imperialism, dominated by monopolies and banks, and stretching its tentacles of exploitation throughout the world-V.I. Lenin led the working class in Russia in establishing the first state under the rule of the workers where they began in fact to carry out this great historic mission. It was this revolution in Russia, it was the actual struggle of the Russian masses in carrying this out and overthrowing their capitalists and landlords and the Czar and all those who rode on their backs, and it was the theory, the science, that Lenin had further developed after inheriting it from Marx, it was this that Mao Tsetung discovered and that enabled him to be a great leader.
Let’s listen to the words of Mao Tsetung himself, because there were those in China, even within the Communist Party itself at top levels, who wanted to become new oppressors, new emperors, new landlords, new rulers over the people. Their method for doing this, because Mao Tsetung was so popular, was to praise Mao Tsetung and to make him like a god and to say he is a genius.
And of course, recognizing that Mao would someday die, they would inherit his mantle of “genius” because they were those who followed him most closely and therefore they too must be geniuses and therefore they were destined to rule on the backs of the “ignorant masses.” Now they didn’t say it quite that way, but that’s what their program came down to. And they paraded it around and they said Mao Tsetung is a genius. This was always on their lips.
And what did Mao Tsetung say about this himself? He said, “I am no genius. I read Confucian books for six years and capitalist books for seven. I did not read Marxist-Leninist books until 1918, so how can I be a genius?..To be a genius is to be a bit more intelligent. But genius does not depend on one person or a few people. It depends on a party, the party which is the vanguard of the proletariat [the working class]. Genius is dependent on the mass line, on collective wisdom.
This is what Mao Tsetung understood and taught the masses of people in China. And, a little bit later in this same talk that he gave to some people, he pointed out that Lenin believed that the slaves should arise. Lenin, in an article that Mao Tsetung refers to, was speaking of the message of the song, the Internationale that we’re going to sing at the end of this program. And Mao said. The Internationale and Lenin’s article express the Marxist standpoint and outlook. What they say is that slaves should arise and struggle for truth. There never have been any supreme saviors and neither can we rely on gods or emperors. We rely entirely on ourselves for our salvation. Who has created the world of men? We, the laboring masses.
And this was always the stand of Mao Tsetung, not something that he was born with, because as he himself said, in his early days he read the reactionary teachings of Confucius. And he read the reactionary writings of the capitalists, those who ruled the countries in the West like our own. And though he rebelled against the preaching in these works that the people should be slavish and bow down to their exploiting rulers, he still, at that time, did not understand how to thoroughly oppose these reactionary teachings, he did not yet have a world view and scientific understanding of how to overthrow and eliminate exploitation and oppression.
But the struggle of the Russian proletariat, of the Russian working class and its party, the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, brought a new understanding to Mao Tsetung, and as he later said, “Once I had accepted it as the correct interpretation of history, I did not afterwards waver.”
It was Mao Tsetung, on this basis, on the basis of taking this science and applying it in the examples I’ve cited and many others, to the actual situation in China, who led the Chinese working class and masses of peasants in taking power into their own hands. But it was after they had taken power into their own hands that Mao Tsetung’s greatest contribution was made. Because within the Communist Party itself, as I’ve said, there were those, even some who had fought heroically in the past, who became comfortable, who saw now a chance for themselves to become new rulers. They saw that the differences between those who worked mainly with their hands and those who worked mainly with their brains had not been eliminated; they saw that the countryside was more backward than the cities; they saw that there were still differences in wages” and different classifications among the workers; they saw all this and saw in it the chance for themselves to use these differences to turn society back and become new rulers.
These people began to institute step by step all the evils that the Chinese people had-cast off and had hoped and thought were gone forever. They began to introduce work rules in the factories, like we’re all too familiar with, along with piece rates. They began to say that the workers were not fit to run society and could not transform it and eliminate oppression and exploitation, that the working class could not step by step overcome these differences, that the workers could not learn to be both users of their brain and users of their hands, that they were only good to be users of their hands and that there were others who were meant to be users of their brains and they were meant to rule while the workers were meant to be ruled over.
These people were labelled capitalist roaders, because they were trying to drag society back to capitalism. And they arose right within the Chinese Communist Party itself. So many people were confused because they knew that it was the Chinese Communist Party that had led them out of slavery, that had led them out of all the dark and difficult conditions and the seemingly endless horror of the old society.
And of course these new exploiters, those who wanted to become new rulers, did not openly stand up and say, “We want to restore capitalism and bring back the landlord rule and all the evils that you are all too familiar with,” because they would have been struck into the dust in a second by the people. What they said was, “We are following Marxism and Leninism. We are following the Thought of Mao Tsetung. We are out to build socialism and eliminate classes and eventually achieve„classless society, communism. But the way to do it is to produce more. The way to do it is to see to it that the workers come up with even greater output. And the only way the workers can do that is if they’re bribed to do it with a few higher wages, if we introduce more wage differentials and if we drive the workers on the job through piecework, work rules and other methods.” So people were confused.
And in the universities the same kind of policies were being applied, where the children of old exploiting class families and of government and Party leaders were getting preferential treatment. The universities became again, or remained really, not much different than they had been before. Examinations were used. And these examinations reflected not how to change the actual world but thinking divorced from the process of changing the real world, abstract books and learning that didn’t relate to the real world. These were the standards that ran the universities, and tests were devised on the basis of these standards, and people who came from among the ranks of the workers and peasants and more than that, people who wanted to turn the world upside down completely and eliminate these differences and change the real world so there never again could be exploiters and oppressors–these people were weeded out and said to be unfit to go to the universities. And the university students began to rebel.
This is a situation many of us are not that unfamiliar with–many workers in China at first said, “What’s wrong with these students? Here they’ve got a chance to go to college and get some learning, which we never had in the old society. Here we have food on the table and clothes on our backs, all due to the Communist Party and its leadership. And they’re rising up against the officials in the university who are led by the Communist Party. How can this be? Why don’t those students go back to studying and cut out all this nonsense?”
But Mao Tsetung stepped forward and received–by received I mean joined together in a rally with-one million of these young students and young people who were called Red Guards. He stood together with them in the great square where just yesterday a million people stood to mourn his passing and he read a message which said, “It is right to rebel against reactionaries.” And these students were being told by these same reactionaries, these new exploiters who had arisen within the Communist Party, that they were just messing every thing up and-they should just go back to their studies and go along with the way things were.
So Mao’s support was like a tremendous inspiration to them. And not only to them but to the workers and the peasants. Tremendous struggle broke out. People argued and debated the question of what policies should be applied, how should China be run and in whose interests, how can the working class rule and remake China in its own interests? And they rose up in their hundreds of millions in a battle that, at its peak, lasted three years. They struck down that group of leaders who had temporarily established a strong headquarters in the workers’ own Party, the Communist Party, and they prevented the old society from being brought back.
But after this still more attempts to restore capitalism were made by the same dark forces, and each time it was Mao Tsetung who stepped forward and said to the masses of people, “It is right to rebel against reactionaries.” It is the masses of people, he said, that must determine the fate of China and throughout the world. It is not one or two or a handful of people attempting to establish and reinstitute themselves as new exploiters to whom the world belongs, but it is to the great majority, the laboring people who have created the world of man in the first place.
You see, our rulers make fun of Mao Tsetung’s writings and they treat Mao Tsetung Thought as though it’s some kind of religion, and they laugh and say, “Mao Tsetung Thought is supposed to possess magical powers, good for everything from curing disease to raising crops.” But, you see, the Chinese people never treated Mao Tsetung Thought, the science of revolution, which Mao Tsetung inherited from Marx and Lenin and further developed–they never treated it as anything other than a scientific understanding of how society and nature run and their own role in reshaping and transforming society and consciously transforming nature. They never treated it as a religion in the first place. That was the invention and the slander of those, like our rulers, who want to keep a handful of people in power.
And yes, in fact, Mao Tsetung Thought does unleash the initiative of the masses to help raise crops and cure disease. Because it has magical powers? No. Because it reveals to people the actual scientific basis upon which things develop, upon which changes can be made and enables the masses of people themselves to take matters in their own hands, to grasp this science, and to use it to change the world. And it is the masses of people, as Mao Tsetung consistently fought for all his life, who are the real makers of history.
It is the masses of people in China, and in a real sense throughout the world, who brought forward the great leaders of our class, including Mao Tsetung. Now it is true that these people, such as Mao Tsetung, have a great influence, in turn, upon the struggle of the masses of people, pointing the way forward. I once read how Mao Tsetung himself once said in speaking to a group of people: Which do you think comes first, philosophy and thinking, or the struggle against oppression and exploitation? Someone said: Well, philosophy must come first, because you have to have a whole view of the world in order to know how to fight and change the world. Mao Tsetung replied: Yes, it’s true you have to have a view of the world in order to know how to fight, but that view can only be grasped and developed when it arises from and is returned to the actual struggle of the millions to throw down their oppressors and exploiters. And he said to them in a joking way: Listen, we here in China, at least the great majority of us, practice Marxism. When Marx was a very young man, do you think he read any Marxism? Of course the answer is no, because Marx was not born a Marxist. Marx took part in the class struggle in his day, the fight against exploitation and oppression, and discovered the scientific basis and analyzed the concrete conditions of capitalist society and in that way founded the science of revolution. It’s not a religion, it’s a science. This is why millions of people, not only in China but throughout the world, take it up and study it and seek to apply it.
So I just want to close by touching on one other thing that our rulers are trying to say and trying to speculate on. Because that’s what they always do– try to speculate and turn everything to their own advantage. And they raise the question–who will succeed Mao Tsetung? Now that Mao Tsetung is dead, who will carry forward the revolution? And of course they’re quick to say that it will not be carried forward, that the “practical-minded” men, their types, the types who think that the only practical way to run a society is to exploit and oppress the people and squeeze the life-blood out of them–that these people are bound to come to the fore.
But they are wrong. Because what is bound to hap pen is the millions and hundreds of millions of people who are exploited and oppressed are bound to rise up again and again until oppression and exploitation have ’been ended.
Because this was the light that Mao Tsetung shined for us, for people throughout the world, after the revolution in Russia which Lenin had led had been betrayed following close after the death of Stalin, when Khruschev rose and said: What we need here is goulash communism–a little meat, a little potatoes, that’s all the workers want, not state power–not the ability to transform society. The new ruling class in the Soviet Union has turned that society back and has restored capitalism where today all the evils that we’re all too familiar with–unemployment, poverty, degradation, decadence, pilfering, profiteering, domination of other countries, aggression, war, the murdering of millions of bodies for the profits of a few–all these things have been brought back.
And there were many who thought after this happened: Well, maybe the capitalists are right. Maybe you can’t change human nature. Maybe the revolution can succeed for a little while but not forever because sooner or later you’re bound to get a new class of rulers. There’s always going to be bosses. Some people are always going to ride on the backs of the others and maybe that’s the way it has to be.
It was in the midst of this darkness that that event which I referred to before took place where the masses of people in China rose up in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which began in the mid-1960s and was initiated and led by Mao Tsetung and given tremendous impetus when he said, “It is right to rebel against reactionaries.” It was this event that swept away that fog and showed that, no, a revolution does not have to be betrayed.
Yes, there can be temporary setbacks. Until these differences–between mental and manual work, between the more backward countryside and the more developed cities, between the workers in the cities and the working people in the countryside, until these differences and wage differentials–until those things are eliminated; until the political consciousness, knowledge and skill of people in society are raised to a whole new level, and knowledge and skills cannot be monopolized by individuals or small groups of people; until we get society to the point where goods can be produced quickly in great abundance and only a small amount of time has to be spent in producing the basic things that people heed to live and providing for further development, and a great part of the time can be spent in education and culture and raising the political consciousness and the grasp of the masses of people of the science that can show them how to change the world; until all that has been accomplished, yes, the possibility of a new class of exploiters arising and turning things back does exist. But it is not inevitable.
What is inevitable is that people will continue to fight back against their oppression and exploitation, that this system of capitalism is not here to stay, or eternal, that it only developed at a certain stage, really only a few hundred years ago, and that the very development of capitalism–the introduction of the steam engine, large-scale factories and other things–have drawn together as capitalism’s gravedigger a mighty army from those who were scattered and separated, working in isolation from each other on farms or in small workshops, has drawn together those of us who make up the working class in tens and hundreds of millions, drawn us together by the thousands, even tens of thousands, in a single factory.
This has shown us that in common we produce and laid bare the basis for us to see that if in common we produce and in common we make society run then there is absolutely no reason why we cannot run society and that eventually we will and we will run it not in the interests of a new group of exploiters but we will run it and reshape it and transform it to eliminate the basis for exploitation once and for all. And this is what Mao Tsetung helped the masses of people not only in China but throughout the world to see more clearly.
So when they raise the question, who will be Mao Tsetung’s successors, the working class is ready with its answer: We will be Mao Tsetung’s successors, in our millions and hundreds of millions, and we will continue the cause for which he fought and in which he led us and to which he devoted his entire life, until that great goal of eliminating exploitation and oppression and achieving communism has finally been achieved. This is the greatest tribute that we can pay to Mao Tsetung, and it’s a cause which the working class today and our children and our children’s children and theirs beyond them will carry forward.