Deng Xiaoping

Agrarian Reform in Southwest China and Our Experience


Published: May 9, 1951
Translated by: Unknown
Source: Deng Xiaoping Works
Transcription for MIA: Joonas Laine


The struggle in southwest China was most acute in March and April. The return of security money and the punishment of law-breaking landlords in rural areas as well as the three great movements — embarking on the first phase of agrarian reform, suppressing counter-revolutionaries and resisting U.S. aggression and aiding Korea — reached a climax. In the second half of March, the Southwest Bureau of the Central Committee held a meeting on united front work and, in the second half of April, held the second meeting on urban work. I shall not dwell on those two meetings, since we have submitted separate summary reports on them.

Last July we began preparing for the “Huai-Hai Campaign” in southwest China, namely, the movement to eliminate bandits, oppose local despots, reduce rent rates and make landlords return tenants’ security money. The movement was in full swing by last November and successfully ended in mid-April this year in 208 counties and the suburbs of seven cities, involving a population of over 66.6 million, or 83 per cent of the total of southwest China. Except for a small part of Yunnan with a population of two million, the movement has not been or should not be conducted in the rest of the province, 20 counties in Guizhou, and areas inhabited by minority nationalities in western Sichuan and Xikang. The movement is large in scale and the struggle is exceptionally fierce. It is estimated that we can bring in 3,850 million tons of rice from the reduction of rent rates, return of security money and punishment of law-breaking landlords, of which we have already collected about 3,250 million tons (actually a little more). The most outstanding successes are in eastern Sichuan, where it is estimated that we can receive 1,250 million tons of rice and we already have 1,100 million, and in western Sichuan, where we expect the total to be 750,000 tons of rice of which 600,000 tons is already in our hands. More than 20 million people in the area, or 28 per cent of the whole population of southwest China, have joined peasant associations. There are more than 2.24 million, or three per cent of the area’s population, in the people’s armed forces. More important is the fact that large numbers of peasant activists have come forward. In the later stage of the movement in particular, we made clear our policy of mobilizing the poor peasants and farm labourers, and satisfactorily met their economic needs by returning them the security money reimbursed by landlords and by expropriating law-breaking landlords. As the movement deepened, the poor peasants and farm labourers were mobilized, which provided the basis for systematically transforming the composition of the leadership of peasant associations and organs of political power in the rural areas. Only with this accomplishment were we able to distribute land on a sound foundation. Looking at the situation as a whole, we can say the peasants have really been emancipated and a new atmosphere is prevailing in the countryside. Democrats who have been to the rural areas regard all this as a historic miracle and believe that cities lag behind the countryside.

While the “Huai-Hai Campaign” was going on, we conducted the first phase of land distribution between February and April of this year in 18 counties, 12 districts, 158 townships and the suburbs of Chongqing, Wanxian and Nanchong, involving a total population of 13.51 million. While carrying out agrarian reform in all those localities, we re-examined our work in connection with expropriating local despots, obtaining the return of security money, punishing law-breaking landlords, arousing poor peasants and farm labourers, further transforming the composition of the leadership of peasant associations and suppressing counter-revolutionaries. (Mao Zedong’s comment: Well done and congratulations! In places where this work has not gone as far, people there should follow this example.) Many more cases of landlords stubbornly resisting the reform, committing arson, poisoning food and water, murdering activists and inciting riots have occurred than in the past, so the struggle was unusually severe. This has smashed the illusion that agrarian reform can be carried out peacefully following the campaign to eliminate banditry, expropriate local despots, reduce rent rates and obtain the return of security money.

Experience has shown that agrarian reform cannot be thorough unless the poor peasants and farm labourers are fully mobilized. We have decided that in the struggle to obtain the return of security money and especially in punishing law-breaking landlords, one aim is to further weaken the feudal forces, and the other is to make sure the poor peasants and farm labourers receive appropriate economic benefit so as to mobilize them and transform the composition of the leadership of peasant associations. This decision is correct and has been followed in all localities. As a result, in many localities poor peasants and farm labourers received about 50 kg. of rice apiece and in others the amount they received per person was equal to the amount middle peasants reaped from production. In most villages poor peasants and farm labourers secured the leading posts in peasant associations, so in areas where agrarian reform has been completed, solid groundwork has been laid and the reform has been carried out thoroughly in most of them. Comrades in areas where the reform is still to be carried out should draw on this experience and adhere to the explicit policy of re-examining work in connection with reducing rent rates, obtaining the return of security money, punishing law-breaking landlords, properly meeting the needs of poor peasants and farm labourers and transforming the composition of the leadership of peasant associations and of government in rural areas.

Experience has also shown that if we had not suppressed counter-revolutionaries, the feudal forces would not have bowed to us, the poor peasants and farm labourers would not have dared to rise up, and the return of security money and agrarian reform could not have been completed so smoothly. (Mao’s comment: All this is correct and should be heeded by people in all other localities.) We have submitted reports to the Central Committee on the suppression of counter-revolutionaries, and Comrade Zhou Xing will go to Beijing to report on the latest developments in this regard. Overall, we have done a good job and achieved a great deal. But during the movement to suppress counter-revolutionaries and punish law-breaking landlords, control tended to weaken in some localities. The nearer the movement is to completion, the more vigorous it becomes and the more hotheaded comrades working at grass-roots level are — at this point, leading organs should exercise strict control. This is the lesson Party committees at the provincial or regional level and we should bear in mind. In the later stages of the two movements, anarchy and indiscipline began to gain ground when people concerned did not ask higher authorities for instructions or submitting reports afterwards and violated rules and regulations. (Mao’s comment: Comrades working in the provinces in south-central and east China are expected to pay close attention to this lesson and see to it that the system of asking for instructions from above and submitting reports afterwards is applied rigorously and that no practices of this undesirable type shall be tolerated.) We have already notified all localities to check this tendency.

With regard to other matters: (1) The movement to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea reached the rural areas in April. More than 33 million people were involved in the signature drive in support of the movement and more than 21.9 million people took part in May Day demonstrations to show their support. The campaign is still in progress. (2) Things went smoothly and with very little difficulty in the first phase of army expansion — 50,000 men were enlisted in eastern Sichuan and 40,000 in northern Sichuan. (3) Since May all cadres have been engaged in the rectification movement to review experience gained in work during the previous period, including the suppression of counter-revolutionaries, prepare for the second phase of agrarian reform and make plans for future suppression of counter-revolutionaries. As usual, we have conducted the movement by acknowledging achievements, carrying forward strong points and remedying shortcomings, while trying to overcome the tendency towards anarchy and indiscipline. (Mao’s comment: Please consider following the example of southwest China by carrying out the movement in June and July and again in winter, instead of only once in winter.) (4) We are paying close attention to the leadership over spring ploughing. Comrades in all localities report that the masses have been truly mobilized, but the thinking of the leaders often lag behind the political awareness of the masses. Many comrades consider the movement to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea an added burden that hinders their work, but in reality, when the masses are involved in the movement they add sound and colour and give a great impetus to it. Accomplishing the task of expanding the army so smoothly was more than we ever expected. (Mao’s comment: Two other things have exceeded the expectations of many comrades. One, some leaders are afraid to suppress counter-revolutionaries on a grand scale and to invite non-Party people to participate in the judicial committee trying counter-revolutionaries, though events have shown that wherever people have abandoned the practice of working behind closed doors, they have scored greater achievements. This is a case of underestimating the people’s enthusiasm, including that of non-Party people. Two, some leaders are afraid to invite large numbers of democrats, industrialists and businessmen, professors and secondary school teachers to go in groups to see the progress of agrarian reform and the execution of counter-revolutionaries. Even when they do so, they allow them to see only the good things and are afraid to let them see the bad things. This shows that closed-doorism still exists to a serious extent among our leaders. However, it turned out that those who had gone to see for themselves have returned full of praise and have also made progress ideologically. Comrades of the East China Bureau did things differently, allowing people to see both the good and the bad, which yielded very good results. This is another example of underestimating the enthusiasm of the large numbers of people outside the Party.) What worries us most is the spring ploughing, because we have had too much rain this spring and many seedlings have rotted. In addition, crops sown in late autumn last year are not growing as well as the previous year’s, and a number of places in every province have been seriously damaged by natural disasters. We are worried that these problems have not received sufficient attention in all localities and that the central task of producing a good harvest has been neglected, which would bring about serious consequences. We are trying to give better guidance in this regard. (Mao’s comment: This problem worries me, too, and I hope you will give more effective guidance and work for a good harvest.)

(Excerpt from a comprehensive report to the CPC Central Committee and Comrade Mao Zedong. In the report, which was transmitted to various localities on May 16, Comrade Mao Zedong remarked, “Comrade Xiaoping’s report is very good” and he added some comments of his own to the report.)