Deng Xiaoping

The Principles, Tasks and Orientation for Cultural Work in the 129th Division

Published: June 16, 1941
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


I shall discuss three questions.

1. Cultural work as it serves the political mission.

All forces and groups subordinate their cultural work to their political mission.

In the political, military and economic fields in present-day China, three different forces exist: the anti-Japanese democrats; the Japanese aggressors, Chinese collaborators and pro-Japanese elements; and the anti-Communist diehards among the big landlords and the big bourgeoisie. The struggle among the three forces is acutely manifested in the cultural field. Every force’s cultural work is closely linked to its political mission; there is no such thing as culture which transcends politics.

1) The political aim of the Japanese imperialists, Chinese collaborators and pro-Japanese elements is to turn China into a Japanese imperialists’ colony. In their cultural work they are pursuing a policy of enslavement, trying to extinguish our national consciousness, patriotism and integrity by enslaving us through education and other activities. They are destroying China’s cultural institutions, burning Chinese books and records, killing or imprisoning patriotic men of letters, intellectuals, students and youths, establishing cultural institutions of Chinese collaborators, grooming men of letters among them, preaching Japanese culture, instilling the Chinese people with ideas of “Sino-Japanese goodwill”, “coexistence and co-prosperity” and “a new order in East Asia”, and training the Chinese to be a slavish people. They advocate outdated culture, ethics and social systems, encourage people to restore the ancient ways, and to be superstitious, blindly obedient, and backward, and establish feudal and superstitious organizations to aid in their sinister policies of enslaving the people and poisoning their minds. They are also creating and spreading rumors, inducing defeatist sentiments, pursuing a policy of mollification and denouncing our anti-Japanese laws and orders, in an attempt to destroy our anti-Japanese base areas.

2) Politically, the anti-Communist diehards among the big landlords and big bourgeoisie are not resolute and possess a dual character in the fight against Japan. Culturally, they advocate the old comprador feudal culture. They are subservient to foreign countries, compromising with them and surrendering to them, and practise feudalism at home. They advocate old ideas, social systems and ethics, respecting Confucianism, restoring ancient ways, preserving the “quintessence” of Chinese culture and saving the nation by means of the classics. They suppress the new cultural movement, trample on new cultural undertakings, close progressive bookstores, prohibit the sale of progressive books, newspapers and periodicals, stifle anti-Japanese opinions and repress or ban people’s anti-imperialist movements. They oppose communism, purge those who hold different views, hinder progress and favor retrogression. They establish feudal and superstitious organizations, shatter the morale of anti-Japanese armed forces, and undermine anti-Japanese governments and base areas. They also sing the praises of autocracy, oppose democracy and encourage people to “abide by state laws” in an attempt to trample upon them at will.

We are firmly opposed to this old comprador feudal culture, a culture that serves to help the Japanese imperialists implement their policy of enslavement and seriously endangers the future of the Chinese nation.

3) Politically, the anti-Japanese democrats stand for uniting to fight against the Japanese aggressors to the end, thoroughly emancipating the Chinese nation and establishing a new democratic republic. Culturally, they advocate a new-democratic culture-a culture for the liberation of the Chinese nation. What is the nature of new-democratic culture? As Comrade Luo Fu puts it:

“It is national in that its first priority is resistance to Japanese aggression. It opposes imperialism and the suppression of one nation by another; it stands for national independence and liberation; it inspires national self-confidence and provides people with precise knowledge of the reality and characteristics of the nation.

“It is democratic in that it opposes feudalism, autocracy and the ideologies and social systems that are designed to suppress the freedom of the people, and it stands for democratic freedom, politics, activities and work style;

“It is scientific in that it opposes arbitrariness, superstition and ignorance, supports scientific truth, taking truth as the guide for practice, and urges people to genuinely master scientific truth, acquire a scientific ideology and learn to live and work in a scientific way:

“It is of the masses in that it opposes the culture of the small number of privileged aristocrats who oppress and exploit the majority of the people and fool and deceive them, landing them in perpetual darkness and misery; it represents the interests of the majority of the people; it advocates the possession of culture by the masses, the popularization of culture among the common people and the raising of their cultural standards.”

We are the ones who propagate and introduce the new-democratic culture. We resolutely oppose colonial culture and comprador feudal culture and are working to achieve the political goals of New Democracy.

2. The principles, tasks and orientation for cultural work in our division.

Cultural work is part of the political work in the army. What are the principles and tasks for our political work? According to the “Regulations Concerning Political Work (Draft)” promulgated by the General Political Department of the Eighth Route Army, “During the War of Resistance Against Japan the basic tasks of political work for the Eighteenth Group Army are to increase the army’s combat effectiveness, work for unity between officers and men and between armymen and civilians, unite with friendly forces and disintegrate the enemy, in order to achieve final victory in the war.” All this applies to our cultural work. Specifically, the principles and tasks for cultural work are as follows:

1) To intensify the struggle against the enemy in the cultural field and launch fierce ideological warfare against the enemy. We must constantly monitor and analyze what the enemy is doing, and promptly and unremittingly refute him in a political offensive.

2) To improve propaganda and education in national patriotism. Whether it is our army, friendly forces, people in base areas or in enemy-occupied areas, or puppet troops, we must instil national patriotism, self-confidence and self-respect in them, and be always ready to scathingly denounce the enemy’s policy of enslavement. It is even more important to arouse people’s national integrity, oppose vacillation and treason, heighten their courage to fight the enemy and foster their confidence in victory.

3) To publicize the policies and positions of the Communist Party, explain laws and decrees for resistance, practise democratic politics jointly with local Party organizations, government organs, mass organizations and local cultural institutions, and keep the people in enemy-occupied areas informed of all the benevolent policies and progressive measures in the base areas.

4) To promote science and disseminate truth, oppose ignorance, superstition and backwardness, and exert great efforts to propagate Marxism-Leninism. This is important both to the masses and to the army. It is particularly necessary for the army to acquire more general and scientific knowledge so as to enable the officers an men to master science and create a modern, regular army.

5) To become one with the people, as inseparable as flesh and blood. We must understand the people’s problems and help solve them, help local authorities conduct cultural and eduvational work, and arouse the enthusiasm of officers and men for cultural and propaganda work so that they will become disseminators and organizers for New Democracy. Propaganda and education departments should co-operate with united front departments in united front work in the cultural field.

6) To do everything possible and use the best possible means to supply friendly armies with cultural nourishment, i.e., books, newspapers and other propaganda material. We should arrange mutual visits so as to learn from each other, harmonize our relations with them and make friends with them.

7) To improve our external propaganda work, introducing to the international community, overseas Chinese and people in the great rear area our actual military life through literary and artistic works, reportage, news releases, photographs and paintings.

Since the beginning of the anti-Japanese war, our cultural workers in the army have helped raise the political and educational level of our troops, laying a basic foundation for our cultural and artistic work. However, there is still something more to be desired in this work, which is inevitable. Discovering the shortcomings is the beginning of overcoming them. These shortcomings are:

1) “They have neither conducted adequate in-depth research nor deeply involved themselves with the masses,” a sentence in the editorial of the north China edition of Xinhua Daily, published on May 3, 15 that truly portrayed our shortcomings. Our cultural workers have not done enough in-depth research, not to mention making their work acceptable to people at the grass-roots level. All this is manifested in the lack of cultural and propaganda work among the masses and the lax work, as well as dull cultural and recreational activities, of the national salvation associations at the level of company. Every cultural worker should pay attention to this. We should combine popularization of cultural work with in-depth research in this regard.

2) Our propaganda fails to promptly reflect and publicize certain urgent tasks and refute what the enemy alleges. Plays, for example, are generally about the past. As a result, our cultural and propaganda work does not accord with the current situation or serve as an effective weapon against the enemy. Some of our works may be a bit too roughly written since we want to be timely, but they serve the purpose as far as the propaganda effect is concerned.

3) Some of our works lack real content, vivid artistry and a sharp sense of politics. Some even contravene our political principles, playing an undesirable role. The forms of propaganda being used are not popular enough and, therefore, are not always familiar or loved by the masses. People in this field of work have failed to portray political content in diversified ways, and sometimes they are incompetent in depicting rapidly changing realities. Forms of propaganda should be improved in two directions. On the one hand, they should be more complex and elegant. On the other hand, they should be more simple and popular. It is also necessary to put new content into old forms, because the old forms are deep-rooted and loved by the masses and are, therefore, worth adopting. However, a critical and selective approach should be adopted in using them, depending on how well they can help portray reality.

4) We have neither given full scope to the creativity of cultural workers nor done enough to train potential cultural workers. As a result, the army has been short of cultural cadres, which has adversely affected the cultural and propaganda work among the troops.

5) External propaganda work is very weak, putting us in a grave situation in which we are fighting a war unknown to the outside world. We have failed to keep the outside world constantly informed of our military life via all available means. Although we have war correspondents, most of them have to serve as editors at the same time, with little time left to gather news. Our political organs have failed to give adequate guidance in this respect, which constitutes another reason for the weakness of our external propaganda work. From now on, war correspondents, and writers and artists teams and political organs of brigades should redouble their efforts to remedy defects in their external propaganda work, and all comrades in this division should help improve the work.

The main cause for these shortcomings is the political departments at various levels lack an adequate understanding of the importance and character of cultural work and have failed to give competent guidance. Some units have not paid enough attention to the working conditions of cultural workers or given full play to their talents. In addition, they have not tried to recruit as many intellectuals as possible. Cultural workers, on their part, have not kept in close touch with the masses and they lack experience in working both in the army and among the masses. As a result, they confine their work to a narrow perspective, beyond the reach of the masses.

How should cultural work be carried out in the army in future? Since I have not studied in the question thoroughly, I shall offer only the following suggestions:

1) We should combat all tendencies to belittle cultural work and should try to make cultural work popular. We should constantly arouse the enthusiasm of cultural worker and take full advantage of their initiative and creativity, so as to promote the cultural movement among the troops and the masses.

2) We should train a large number of young cultural workers and, at the same time, help the existing workers achieve progress. We should see to it that they become better qualified in literary and artistic work and pay more attention to the study of political affairs, provide them with all possible and necessary working conditions, encourage them to delve into reality at the grass-roots level and display their talents to the full-all for the purpose of enabling them to shoulder the responsibilities of organizing and guiding the cultural movement in the army.

3) Cultural workers should constantly cultivate themselves in the political, literary and artistic fields of endeavor and temper themselves in practical work so as to improve and enrich themselves. They should understand clearly that only by enhancing their political understanding can they increase their enthusiasm and creativity for cultural work, and only artistic works that have a profoundly political content and are vividly realistic are of high artistic value. Cultural workers should both improve their writing techniques and work among the people if they want to create works that portray real life in the army and base areas and meet actual needs. Self-improvement and spread of culture require a close link between politics and culture.

4) Cultural workers should be open-minded in learning and serious in discussing issues. They should present their works to the people for their comments. The objective world keeps developing from day to day. In order to do a better job, one has to study; in order to learn something, one has to be open-minded. A person who is not open-minded will accomplish nothing. Discussion with others is a good way to pool collective wisdom. Study and discussion can serve to remove the defects in a work, perfecting it and making it produce better results. One can make progress only if one accepts opinions from others. In general, our current cultural workers have just learned the rudiments of their work. They will accomplish much if they learn with an open mind.

3. The work of propaganda teams.

Propaganda teams are the basic units engaged in cultural work in the army. It is absolutely necessary for them to try hard to improve their ability, acquire more knowledge, and help spread cultural activities. Members of the teams should become competent cadres in cultural and educational work, and the teams should become the vanguard of the new-democratic revolution.

Propaganda teams constitute the schools for training cadres, not only for cultural work, but also for political work. When transferring cadres of propaganda teams to other posts or promoting them, leading organs should take the work of the teams concerned into consideration, refraining from leaving the teams with no cadres at all. Tram leaders, on their part, should be willing to let their cadres improve themselves at other posts. In short, everybody should take the overall interest into account.

In the future, propaganda teams should accomplish the following tasks under the leadership of propaganda and education departments of political organs.

1) Organize cultural and recreational activities in the army, help political departments check on political work among the troops, and help propaganda and education departments check on their work among the troops. In order to gear their work to the needs of the troops, they should become deeply involved with soldiers, so as to understand them and also temper themselves in practical work.

2) Conduct ceaseless propaganda and agitation under all circumstances during wartime.

3) Urge and help the troops to conduct ceaseless propaganda and agitation among the masses.

4) Keep in close touch with local cultural workers and primary school teachers, in order to establish a broad cultural united front and help advance local cultural movement.

5) Study hard to raise their own political and educational level, increase their working ability and acquire more knowledge.

(Excerpt from a speech made for the preliminary model propaganda team competition in the 129th Division of the Eighth Route Army. The speech was carried in issue No. 26 of the Anti-Japanese Front, published by the Political Department of the 129th Division on June 16, 1941.)