Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
April 2, 1948
Our policy must be made known not only to the leaders and to the cadres but also to the broad masses. Questions concerning policy should as a rule be given publicity in the Party papers or periodicals. We are now carrying out the reform of the land system. The policies on land reform should be published in the papers and broadcast on the radio so that the broad masses all know them. Once the masses know the truth and have a common aim, they will work together with one heart. This is like fighting a battle; to win a battle the fighters as well as the officers must be of one heart. After the troops in northern Shensi went through training and consolidation and poured out their grievances against the old social order, the fighters heightened their political consciousness and became clear on why they were fighting and how they should fight; every one of them rolled up his sleeves for battle, their morale was very high and as soon as they went into action they won a victory. When the masses are of one heart, everything becomes easy. A basic principle of Marxism-Leninism is to enable the masses to know their own interests and unite to fight for their own interests. The role and power of the newspapers consists in their ability to bring the Party programme, the Party line, the Party's general and specific policies, its tasks and methods of work before the masses in the quickest and most extensive way.
There are people in our leading organs in some places who think that it is enough for the leaders alone to know the Party's policies and that there is no need to let the masses know them. This is one of the basic reasons why some of our work cannot be done well. For over twenty years our Party has carried on mass work every day, and for the past dozen years it has talked about the mass line every day. We have always maintained that the revolution must rely on the masses of the people, on everybody's taking a hand, and have opposed relying merely on a few persons issuing orders. The mass line, however, is still not being thoroughly carried out in the work of some comrades; they still rely solely on a handful of people working coolly and quietly by themselves. One reason is that, whatever they do, they are always reluctant to explain it to the people they lead and that they do not understand why or how to give play to the initiative and creative energy of those they lead. Subjectively, they too want everyone to take a hand in the work, but they do not let other people know what is to be done or how to do it. That being the case, how can everyone be expected to get moving and how can anything be done well? To solve this problem the basic thing is, of course, to carry out ideological education on the mass line, but at the same time we must teach these comrades many concrete methods of work. One such method is to make full use of the newspapers. To run a newspaper well, to make it interesting and absorbing, to give correct publicity in the newspapers to the Party's general and specific policies and to strengthen the Party's ties with the masses through the newspapers -- this is an important question of principle in our Party's work which is not to be taken lightly.
You comrades are newspapermen. Your job is to educate the masses, to enable the masses to know their own interests, their own tasks and the Party's general and specific policies. Running a newspaper is like all other work, it must be done conscientiously if it is to be done well, if it is to be lively. With our newspapers, too, we must rely on everybody, on the masses of the people, on the whole Party to run them, not merely on a few persons working behind closed doors. Our papers talk about the mass line every day, yet frequently the mass line is not carried out in the work of the newspaper office itself. For instance, misprints often crop up in the papers simply because their elimination has not been tackled as a serious job. If we apply the method of the mass line, then when misprints appear, we should assemble the entire staff of the paper to discuss nothing but this matter, tell them clearly what the mistakes are, explain why they occur and how they can be got rid of and ask everyone to give the matter serious attention. After this has been done three times, or five times, such mistakes can certainly be overcome. This is true of small matters, and of big matters, too.
To be good at translating the Party's policy into action of the masses, to be good at getting not only the leading cadres but also the broad masses to understand and master every movement and every struggle we launch -- this is an art of Marxist-Leninist leadership. It is also the dividing line that determines whether or not we make mistakes in our work. If we tried to go on the offensive when the masses are not yet awakened, that would be adventurism. If we insisted on leading the masses to do anything against their will, we would certainly fail. If we did not advance when the masses demand advance, that would be Right opportunism. Chen Tu-hsiu's opportunist error consisted precisely in lagging behind the awakening of the masses, being unable to lead the masses forward and even opposing their forward march. There are many comrades who still don't understand these questions. Our papers should propagate these ideas well so that everyone can understand them.
To teach the masses, newspaper workers should first of all learn from the masses. You comrades are all intellectuals. Intellectuals are often ignorant and often have little or no experience in practical matters. You can't quite understand the pamphlet "How to Analyse the Classes in the Rural Areas"  issued in 1933; on this point, the peasants are more than a match for you, for they understand it fully as soon as they are told about it. Over 180 peasants in two districts of Kuohsien County met for five days and settled many problems concerning the distribution of land. If your editorial department were to discuss those problems, I am afraid you would discuss them for two weeks without settling them. The reason is quite simple; you do not understand those problems. To change from lack of understanding to understanding, one must do things and see things; that is learning. Comrades working on the newspapers should go out by turns to take part in mass work, in land reform work for a time; that is very necessary. When not going out to participate in mass work, you should hear a great deal and read a great deal about the mass movements and devote time and effort to the study of such material. Our slogan in training troops is, "Officers teach soldiers, soldiers teach officers and soldiers teach each other". The fighters have a lot of practical combat experience. The officers should learn from the fighters, and when they have made other people's experience their own, they will become more capable. Comrades working on the newspapers, too, should constantly study the material coming from below, gradually enrich their practical knowledge and become experienced. Only thus will you be able to do your work well, will you be able to shoulder your task of educating the masses.
The Shansi-Suiyuan Daily made very great progress following the conference of secretaries of prefectural Party committees last June. Then the paper was rich in content, sharp, pungent and vigorous; it reflected the great mass struggles, it spoke for the masses. I liked reading it very much. But since January this year, when we began to correct "Left" deviations, your paper seems to have lost some of its spirit; it is not clear-cut enough, not pungent enough, has become less informative and does not have much appeal for the reader. Now you are examining your work and summing up your experience; this is very good. When you have summed up your experience in combating Right and "Left" deviations and become more clear-headed, your work will improve.
The struggle against Right deviations waged by the Shansi-Suiyuan Daily from last June on was completely correct. In that struggle you did a very conscientious job and fully reflected the actual situation in the mass movement. You made comments, in the form of editorial notes, on the viewpoints and materials which you regarded as wrong. There were shortcomings too in some of your later comments, but the conscientious spirit was good. Your shortcomings lay chiefly in drawing the bow-string much too tight. If a bow-string is too taut, it will snap. The ancients said, "The principle of Kings Wen and Wu was to alternate tension with relaxation." Now "relax" a bit and the comrades will become more clear-headed. You achieved successes in your work, but there were also shortcomings, mainly "Left" deviations. Now you are making an over-all summing-up and, after correcting the "Left" deviations, you will achieve greater successes.
When we are correcting deviations, some people look on the work of the past as utterly fruitless and all wrong. That is not right. These people fail to see that the Party has led a huge number of peasants to obtain land, overthrown feudalism, consolidated the Party organizations and improved the cadres' style of work, and that now it has also corrected the "Left" deviations and educated the cadres and masses. Are all these not great achievements? We should be analytical with regard to our work and the undertakings of the masses, and should not negate everything. In the past "Left" deviations arose because people had no experience. Without experience it is hard to avoid mistakes. From inexperience to experience, one must go through a process. Through the struggles against the Right and "Left" deviations in the short period since June last year, people have come to understand what struggle against Right deviations means and what struggle against "Left" deviations means. Without this process, people would not understand.
After you have examined your work and summed up your experience, I am sure that your paper will be run even better. You must retain the former merits of your paper -- it should be sharp, pungent and clear-cut, and it should be run conscientiously. We must firmly uphold the truth, and truth requires a clear-cut stand. We Communists have always disdained to conceal our views. Newspapers run by our Party and all the propaganda work of our Party should be vivid, clear-cut and sharp and should never mutter and mumble. That is the militant style proper to us, the revolutionary proletariat. Since we want to teach the people to know the truth and arouse them to fight for their own emancipation, we need this militant style. A blunt knife draws no blood.
1. See "How to Analyse the Classes in the Rural Areas", Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. I.
2. From the Book of Rites, "Miscellaneous Records", Part II. "Kings Wen and Wu could not keep a bow in permanent tension without relaxation. Nor would they leave it in a permanent state of relaxation without tension. The principle of Kings Wen and Wu was to alternate tension with relaxation." Wen and Wu were the first two kings of the Chou Dynasty (12th- 3rd century B.C.).
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung