Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
June 30, 1953
[Talk by Comrade Mao Tsetung when he received the Presidium of the Second National Congress of the New Democratic Youth League of China.]
The Youth League's assertion of independence from the Party is already a thing of the past. Today, the trouble with the Youth League is its lack of independent activities, not its assertion of independence.
The Youth League must co-ordinate its activities with the Party's central tasks, but in so doing it must have its own independent activities and take the characteristics of youth into consideration. In 1952, in a talk with comrades of the Central Committee of the Youth League, I raised two questions for it to think over: first, how the Party should lead the League's work, and second, how the League should do its work. Both involve consideration for the characteristics of youth. In various places the Party committees have expressed satisfaction with the Youth League because the latter has co-ordinated its work with the Party's central tasks. Now it is time to express dissatisfaction, that is, dissatisfaction with the Youth League's failure to arrange for independent activities that suit the characteristics of youth. The leading organs of the Party and the League should learn how to lead the League in its work and, in order to organize and educate the mass of young people, they should be good at co-ordinating its activities with the Party's central tasks and taking the characteristics of youth into consideration.
Under the Party's leadership, the Youth League has been active in every field of revolutionary work and has a great deal to its credit. Our revolutionary cause, whether in the factories, on the farms, in the army units or in the schools, cannot succeed without the young people. China's youth are well disciplined and they have fulfilled all the tasks assigned them by the Party. Now that the war is coming to an end in Korea and the agrarian reform is completed, the emphasis in our work at home is being switched over to socialist transformation and socialist construction. This makes study imperative. The Youth League must know how to lead the young people in making a common effort with older people to do a good job in agriculture in the countryside, in industry in the cities, in studying at school, in performing their duties in offices as well as in training in army units to turn our national defence forces into a modernized army.
Young people between fourteen and twenty-five need to study and work, but as youth is the age of physical growth, much is imperilled if their health is neglected. The young need to study much more, for they have to learn many things older people already know. However, they must not be overloaded with either study or work. And the fourteen to eighteen-year-olds in particular should not be made to work with the same intensity as grown-ups. Young people, being what they are, need more time for play, recreation and sports. Otherwise they won't be happy. And in time they will fall in love and get married. In all this they are different from older people.
I would like to say a few words to our young people: first, I wish them good health; second, I wish them success in their study, and third, I wish them success in their work.
I would suggest that all students be given an additional hour of sleep. They are supposed to have eight hours of sleep, but actually they take only six or seven and generally feel they don't have enough. Young people at school are prone to nervous tension and so often find it hard to go to sleep and then hard to wake up. Be sure to make nine hours of sleep a rule. An order to this effect should be issued and enforced, there should be no argument about it. Let young people have enough sleep, and the teachers too.
The revolution has brought us many fine things but also one thing which is not so good. Everybody is much too active and enthusiastic, often getting tired out. Now we must make sure that everybody, including workers, peasants, soldiers, students and cadres, can keep fit. Of course, it does not necessarily mean that if you are good in health you will be good in study, for study must be done in the proper way.
At present the classes in junior middle schools take too much of the students' time, and it would be preferable if they were cut down to suitable proportions. Meetings for activists are too frequent and should also be reduced. Study on the one hand and recreation, rest and sleep on the other should both receive adequate attention. Young workers, peasants and soldiers learn while they work, and so adequate attention should also be paid to their work and study as well as to their recreation, rest and sleep.
We should grasp the matter firmly at both ends, with study and work at one end and sleep, rest and recreation at the other. In the past, we firmly grasped one end, leaving the other end either not grasped at all or only half-heartedly so. Now it is necessary to arrange some recreation, for which there must be time and facilities, and this end should be firmly grasped too. The Party Central Committee has decided to cut down the number of meetings and study hours, and you must see to it that this decision is carried out. Challenge anyone who refuses to do so.
In short, young people should be enabled to keep fit, study well and work well. Some leading comrades are interested only in getting work out of young people and pay little attention to their health. You can quote the above to their faces. You are on firm ground, namely, you are protecting the younger generation so that it can grow sturdily. We of the older generation were deprived of our due, for adults simply didn't bother themselves about their children. Adults had a table to eat their meals at while children had to do without one. Children had no say in the family, and if they cried they were sure to get slapped. In the new China of today we must change our approach and think more in the interest of our children and youth.
Young cadres must be elected to the League Central Committee. At the time of the Three Kingdoms, Tsao Tsao led his huge army to the Yangtse River to attack the Kingdom of Wu in eastern China. Chou Yu, who was then a "Youth League member" in age, was appointed commanding general of the Wu army. Cheng Pu and other battle-seasoned generals protested but were later persuaded into accepting his command, and in the end the battle was won. Now we want the present-day "Chou Yus" to sit on the League Central Committee, and yet people won't hear of it! For the League Central Committee only older people are candidates -- very few young. Will that do? Of course, we can't judge by age alone, ability also counts. Originally there were only nine people under thirty on the list of candidates for the League Central Committee, but after discussion by the Party Central Committee their number has been increased to more than sixty, and even so that makes up only a little over one-fourth. Those over thirty still form almost three-fourths of the total, and yet some comrades complain that this number is not big enough. I think it's quite enough. Some comrades say they are not so sure whether all these sixty-odd young people are competent in every way. We should have full confidence in our young people, most of them will prove equal to their jobs. A few may prove incompetent, but there is no need to worry, they can be replaced by later elections. In this way the basic orientation will not be wrong. The young are not our inferiors. Old people have more experience, which of course is a strong point, but on the other hand their physical powers are declining, their eyesight and hearing are not so sharp as before and their limbs not so agile as those of the young. This is a law of nature. It is necessary to convince those comrades who disagree.
The Youth League organizations should give consideration to the characteristics of youth and have their own sphere of work, but at the same time they should submit to the leadership of the Party committees at the corresponding levels. This is nothing new but something of long standing and has always been a tenet of Marxism. This is to proceed from reality. After all, youth is youth, or else why bother to have a Youth League? Young people are different from adults and so are young women from young men. Disregard these characteristics and you will alienate yourselves from the masses. Now you have nine million League members, and if you neglect the characteristics of youth, probably only one million will support you and eight million will not.
In its work the Youth League must make allowance for the majority of its members and at the same time pay attention to the advanced ones. This may not satisfy some of the advanced elements, for they want the League organization to make stricter demands on the entire membership. This is not really proper, you must try to convince them. The draft constitution of the League lays down far too many obligations and too few rights; there should be some leeway so that the majority can keep in step. You should focus your attention on the many and not just on the few.
It is stipulated in your draft constitution that a member will be considered to have automatically withdrawn from the League if he fails to take part in its regular cell meetings for four months; this is much too severe. Even the Party Constitution allows six months, can't you do the same? Don't put into the League constitution what is impossible to carry out or what is possible for only one million members, not for the other eight million. There must be flexibility in applying principles. There is a gap between what ought to be and what actually is. It takes years for some laws to be fully carried out. For instance, many of the articles in the Marriage Law are programmatic and their thorough implementation will take at least a period of three five-year plans. The article "don't gossip behind people's back", while correct in principle, need not be put into the League constitution. To combat liberalism is a long-term task, and it exists even in the Party to no small extent. You may prohibit backbiting, but actually it won't work. Don't impose too narrow limits. The essential thing is to make a clear distinction between ourselves and the enemy.
Prestige is built up gradually. There was a time when some people in the army made up ditties to abuse others. We imposed no ban nor made any investigation, yet our army was not wrecked. We had a firm grip on a few major things only, such as the Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention, and our armed forces were steadily led onto the correct path. The true admiration the masses feel for their leaders derives from what they come to know of them in the course of revolutionary practice. Trust comes out of real understanding. Now the League Central Committee already enjoys a fairly high prestige. Although some people do not yet admire it, they will in the course of time. When a young man first takes office and is not rated high, there is no need to worry, for it is only to be expected that there will be some criticism and abuse. "Whispers" exist for lack of "an open outlet for views". If there is full democracy and you allow others to touch you on the raw in face-to-face encounters, then even if you want people to go on whispering, they will say they have no time for that now and want to call it a day. Nevertheless, problems will always crop up, and don't imagine that they can be solved once and for all; there are problems today and there will be problems tomorrow.
The Party's general task for the transition period is basically to accomplish socialist industrialization and the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts and capitalist industry and commerce in the course of three five-year plans. Three five-year plans cover a period of fifteen years. Make a small step each year and a big stride every five years, and with three big strides the work is almost done. "Basically accomplished" does not mean "completely accomplished". To say it is basically accomplished is a prudent way of speaking; it is always better to be prudent in everything we do.
At this stage China's agricultural economy is by and large individual in nature, and it needs step-by-step socialist transformation. The principle of voluntary participation must be adhered to in promoting the mutual-aid and co-operative movement in agriculture. Failure to promote it will lead to the capitalist road, and that will be a Right deviation. To push it too hard won't do either, for that will be a "Left" deviation. The movement must proceed step by step after due preparation. We are always against fighting a battle without being prepared and being sure of victory, or fighting a battle when prepared but not sure of victory. In the days when we fought Chiang Kai-shek, some people erred on the side of subjectivism at the outset, but later when this subjectivism was overcome through rectification, we emerged the victors. We are now engaged in the battle for socialism, fighting to accomplish socialist industrialization and the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts and capitalist industry and commerce. This is the general task set for the whole nation. As to how the Youth League is to carry out this general task, you should lay down appropriate guidelines in the light of the characteristics of youth.
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung