Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung


October and November 1953

[Two talks to the responsible members of the Rural Work Department of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party before and during the Third conference on Mutual Aid and Co-operation in Agriculture, which was convened by the Central Committee and held from October 26 to November 5, 1953.]


Make a success of the agricultural producers' co-operatives and a big expansion of the mutual-aid teams will follow.

In the new liberated areas every county, whether large, medium-sized or small, should set up one or two successful co-operatives this winter and next spring after full preparations; there should be at least one, on the average one to two and at most three, depending on how well the work has been done. Quotas should be allotted. To make the quota too big would mean rash advance and to make it too small would be a Right deviation. To make the quota optional would be to let things drift. Can there be more than three? So long as the co-operatives meet the requirements, conform to the regulations and resolutions, are set up on a voluntary basis, have strong leading cadres (their two chief qualifications being fair-mindedness and competence) and are well run, then the more the better, as Han Hsin said about the number of troops he could command.[1] The prefectural and county Party committees should be urged to make vigorous efforts and do a good job. The rural work departments of the Central Committee bureaus and of the provincial and municipal Party committees should keep a firm grasp on this matter and make it the pivot of their work.

There should be control figures and an allotment of quotas. Allotment without compulsion -- this is not commandism. After the October conference, there are four or five months to go, that is, November and December this year, January and February next year, and in the north the month of March as well. We give clear notice now that early next year another meeting will be called to check up on the work. There will definitely be a check-up then to see how it is getting on.

Certain minority nationality areas where the agrarian reform has not been completed can be exempted from setting up co-operatives. The small number of poorly managed counties, for instance, counties where backward townships account for 30 to 40 per cent of the total, where Party secretaries are incompetent and where the work cannot start without leading to trouble, can be exempted for the time being and given no quota. Nevertheless, the provincial and prefectural Party committees should assume responsibility for helping them to straighten things out and to create the conditions for starting the work next winter after the autumn harvest.

The general pattern is to proceed from the mutual-aid team to the co-operative, but it is also permissible to try and set up the co-operative directly. If you take the direct path and succeed, that will speed up the work. So why can't it be tried? It can.

The rural work departments at all levels should look upon mutual aid and co-operation as a matter of vital importance. Peasants working on their own cannot raise production to any great extent, therefore we must promote mutual aid and co-operation. If socialism does not occupy the rural positions, capitalism inevitably will. Is it possible to take any road other than the capitalist or the socialist road? The capitalist road can also lead to increased production, but the time required would be longer and the course painful. We will not practice capitalism, that's settled. Yet capitalism is bound to spread unchecked unless we go in for socialism.

The general line, the general programme, industrialization and socialist transformation should be discussed at the forthcoming October conference.

Both "sustain private property" and the "four big freedoms"[2] benefit the rich peasants and the well-to-do middle peasants. Why then are there relevant stipulations in the law? The law stipulates protection of private property, but the word "sustain" is not in it. Some peasants are selling their land now, which is not good; though the law does not prohibit it, we should make efforts to prevent them from doing so. Setting up co-operatives is the solution. Mutual-aid teams by themselves are not enough to stop peasants selling their land, only co-operatives, and big ones at that, can do so. Moreover, big co-operatives can eliminate the need of some peasants to rent out land, for a big co-operative of one or two hundred households can solve the problem by taking in households of widows, orphans and others not provided for. The question of whether small co-operatives can likewise take in a few has to be studied. The mutual-aid teams should also help widows, orphans and others not provided for. If you can't set up a big co-operative, try a medium-sized one; if you can't set up a medium-sized co-operative, try a small one. But go for a medium-sized or big co-operative wherever possible, and don't be upset at the sight of a big one. A co-operative of one or two hundred households can be counted big, but a co-operative of even three or four hundred households is also possible. Setting up several sub-co-operatives under a big co-operative is an innovation, and it is by no means necessary to dissolve it. Running a co-operative well does not mean bringing everything to perfection. Absorb all kinds of experience, and don't impose the same pattern everywhere.

More co-operatives should be established in the old liberated areas. But some new liberated areas may set up co-operatives at a faster tempo than some old ones. For instance, the central Shensi plain may develop faster than northern Shensi, the Chengtu plain faster than Fuping and other such places. We must dispel the idea that the new liberated areas are destined to go slow. In fact the Northeast is not an old liberated area, its southern part not differing much from the new liberated areas south of the Great Wall. Kiangsu and the Hangchow-Chiahsing-Huchow region will probably overtake the mountainous old liberated areas in Shantung and North China, and so they should. Generally speaking, the new liberated areas may be allowed more time for their work, but in those places where the cadres are strong, the population is dense and the terrain level, co-operatives are likely to grow fairly quickly once a few models are set up.

There are now six thousand co-operatives in North China. If the figure is to be doubled, quotas can be allotted straight away. If the figure is to be tripled, those concerned should be consulted. We should allot quotas reasonably and have control figures, otherwise we shall be working without clear aims. The Northeast should increase its co-operatives by 100, 150 or 200 per cent, and so should North China The control figures should not be too high, so that the localities may surpass them. Overfulfilment will greatly enhance people's enthusiasm.

In developing co-operatives, we should strive for quantity, quality and economy. By economy we mean no failures; failures are a waste of the peasants' energy, with the bad end-result of losses both politically and in the production of grain. Our final objective is to produce more grain, cotton, sugar-cane, vegetables, and so on. There will be no way out unless grain production is increased, otherwise neither the state nor the people will benefit.

Nor will there be a way out unless more vegetables are produced in the suburbs, otherwise neither the state nor the people will benefit. Since the outlying districts of the cities have rich soil and flat farmlands which moreover are publicly owned, big co-operatives may be set up there first. Of course, the work needs to be quite painstaking, and there is even less room for sloppiness, because growing vegetables is different from growing grain. We must set up pilot co-operatives and guard against rash advance.

To meet the urban demand for vegetables, we cannot rely on peasants working on their own to bring their produce to the market. Ways must be worked out at the production end as well as by the supply and marketing co-operatives. As regards vegetables for the large cities, there is a big contradiction between supply and demand at present.

There are also big contradictions between supply and demand in the cases of grain and cotton, and others will soon emerge in the cases of meat, fats and edible oils. Demand is growing fast and cannot be met.

To resolve the contradiction between supply and demand, it is necessary to resolve the contradiction between ownership and the productive forces. Should ownership be individual or collective? Capitalist ownership or socialist ownership? Abundant supplies and the relations of production under individual ownership are utterly incompatible with each other. There must be a transition from individual ownership to collective ownership, to socialism. There are elementary co-operatives where land is pooled as shares, and there are advanced co-operatives in which land is owned in common, that is, by the co-operative.

In a sense the purpose of the general line is the solution of the problem of ownership. State ownership is to be expanded by building new state enterprises and renovating and enlarging old ones. The two kinds of private ownership, that of the working people and that of the bourgeoisie, are to be changed respectively into collective ownership and state ownership (integration into socialism through joint state-private management). Only thus can the productive forces be expanded and China's industrialization accomplished. Only when the productive forces have developed can the contradiction between supply and demand be resolved.


Whatever we do must accord with reality, otherwise it is wrong. In order to do what accords with reality we must consider what is imperative and what is possible, and what is possible depends on political and economic conditions and the cadre situation. At present, it is at once imperative and possible to develop agricultural producers' co-operatives, for which there is a great potential. Failure to tap this potential means to mark time and make no advance. Our legs are for walking, and it is wrong to stand still all the time. It is not right to force the dissolution of co-operatives which meet the requirements, this is wrong no matter what the circumstances. The campaign to "check impetuosity and rash advance" was a gust of wind, wasn't it? As it blew from above, it brought down a number of agricultural producers' co-operatives that should have survived. An investigation should be made about such co-operatives, the findings made known and the mistake admitted, otherwise the township cadres and activists in those places will have pent-up grievances.

We must work for socialism. "Sustain private property" is a bourgeois concept. "To be together all day long and never talk about fundamentals but take pleasure only in giving small favours -- indeed it's a hopeless case!" "Never talk about fundamentals" means never talking about socialism, never working for socialism. Agricultural credits, relief grain, taxation according to fixed rates, tax reduction and exemption according to law, small-scale water conservancy projects, wells and canals, deep ploughing and close planting, proper application of fertilizer, popularization of new-type walking ploughs, water-wheels, sprayers, insecticides, etc. -- all these things are fine. But to do all this on the basis of the small peasant economy instead of by relying on socialism is to give the peasants small favours. Once these fine things are linked to the general line and to socialism, the case will be different, and they will no longer be small favours. We must work for socialism and link these fine things with it. As for "sustain private property" and the "four big freedoms", there is all the more reason to call them small favours, and besides, they are favours to the rich and well-to-do middle peasants. To lay one's hopes for greatly increased grain production and for a solution of the food problem and of the all-important problem of the nation's economy and the people's livelihood not on socialism but on making much of the small peasant economy and on giving small favours on the basis of the individual economy -- "indeed it's a hopeless case"!

As an old saying goes, "Once the headrope of a fishing net is pulled up, all its meshes open." It is only by taking hold of the key link the everything else will fall into its proper place. The key link means the main theme. The contradiction between socialism and capitalism an the gradual resolution of this contradiction -- that is the main theme, the key link. Grasp this key link, and all kinds of political and economic work to help the peasants will fall under it.

There are contradictions both inside and outside the agricultural producers' co-operatives. The present co-operatives are semi-socialist whereas peasants working on their own outside the co-operatives are entirely under the system of private ownership. Hence there is a contradiction between the two. The mutual-aid teams are different from the agricultural producers' co-operatives in that the former engage only in collective labour and do not affect ownership. The present-day co-operatives are built on the basis of private ownership, with privately owned land, draught animals and large farm implements pooled as shares. Hence there is also a contradiction inside the co-operative between the socialist factors and private ownership, a contradiction which must gradually be resolved. In the future, when our present-day semi-public, semi-private ownership advances to collective ownership this contradiction will be resolved. We are taking steady steps, moving first from mutual-aid teams which contain rudiments of socialism to semi-socialist and later to fully socialist co-operatives (which we still call agricultural producers' co-operatives, not collective farms). Generally speaking, the mutual-aid teams remain the foundation of the agriculture producers' co-operatives.

At one time, no mention was made of mutual aid and co-operation in several of our documents, and to all of them I added words to the effect that mutual aid and co-operation were to be developed or the necessary and feasible political and economic work was to be done. Some people wanted to make much of the small peasant economy, an this was why they concentrated on opposing excessive meddling with the peasants. True, there was some excessive meddling at that time. The "five excesses" from higher up were rammed through various channels down to the lower levels, causing a lot of trouble. The "five excesses" should never be tolerated, whether in the villages, factories or army units. The Central Committee has issued several documents to combat excessive meddling, and this has done some good. What is meant by excessive meddling? Drawing up subjective plans at variance with reality and regardless of what is imperative and possible, or carrying out plans, even realistic ones, by means of commandism. Subjectivism and commandism are always bad and will be so even ten thousand years hence. They are bad for the scattered small peasant economy and no less so for the co-operatives. But to do what is both imperative and possible and moreover do it by means other than commandism -- this cannot be called excessive meddling. The above ought to be the yardstick when reviewing our work. Whatever is subjectivist and unrealistic is wrong. Whatever is done through commandism is likewise wrong. To mark time and make no advance is a deviation to the Right; to go beyond what is practicable is a deviation to the "Left". Both are manifestations of subjectivism. Rash advance is wrong, failure to set up co-operatives when they can be set up is also wrong, and forcible dissolution of co-operatives even worse.

"Life is hard in the villages, all is not well and the measures adopted do not suit the small peasant economy." Such complaints exist inside as well as outside the Party. True, life is a bit hard in the villages, but we ought to make a proper analysis. In fact, life is not all that hard, the grain-deficient households account for only 10 per cent or so, and half of them are those of widows, orphans and other people without a provider, who are in great difficulty for lack of labour-power, but the mutual-aid teams and the co-operatives can give them some help. After all, things are much better for them than in Kuomintang days, and land has been distributed to them. Life is indeed hard for people in areas stricken by natural calamities, but they have received relief grain. The life of the peasants in general is good and is getting better; that is why 80 to 90 per cent of them feel happy and support the government. About 7 per cent of the rural population, the landlords and rich peasants, are dissatisfied with the government. "Life is hard in the villages, and things are terrible there" -- certainly this has not been my view. Some people speak of the scattered nature as well as the hardships of the villages, that is, the scattered nature of the small peasant economy; but in doing so, they fail to mention forming co-operatives. To carry out the socialist transformation of the individual economy, to promote mutual aid and co-operation and to set up co-operatives -- this is not merely the direction to take but the immediate task before us.

But for the Conference on Financial and Economic Work held in July and August, the question of the general line would have remained unsettled for many comrades. The aim of that conference was mainly to settle this question. We criticized Po I-po precisely for his mistake in departing from the general line. In short, the general line means the gradual accomplishment of the socialist industrialization of our country and of the socialist transformation of agriculture, handicrafts and capitalist industry and commerce. The planned purchase and supply of grain recently put into effect has given a big impetus to socialism. The present Conference on Mutual Aid and Co-operation, coming shortly after as it does, will give it another big impetus. In view of the fact that the campaign for mutual aid and co-operation has been held back for the better part of this year, the present conference should be more active in this respect. But our policies must be made clear. It is very important to make our policies known.

"Active leadership and steady development" -- this is well put. The campaign has been held back for the better part of this year and has marked time without making any advance. This is not quite right. However, there is a positive side to it. It is like fighting battles. After each battle there should be time for rest and consolidation before starting the next. The trouble is that in some places too many of our positions have been given up, while in others it has not been a matter of giving up too many positions but failure to develop where development was possible and failure to allow any development or give it approval so that it became illegal. In this world it often happens that many new-born things which are correct are considered illegal. We ourselves were "illegal" in the past while the Kuomintang was "legal". But these illegal co-operatives have held on to this day and are doing quite well. Can you still withhold recognition? You have to admit that they are legal, after all they have won out.

The conference has discussed active leadership and steady development, but you should anticipate some troubles. You may talk about being active and steady, and yet in practice you may fail to give active leadership or achieve steady development. Being active and steady entails setting control figures, assigning tasks and then checking whether they are fulfilled. Failure to fulfil what can be fulfilled is impermissible, it shows a lack of enthusiasm for socialism. According to the findings of our check-up, 5 to 10 per cent of the co-operatives have shown a drop in output and are not doing so well. This is due to lack of active leadership. Of course, it is inevitable that a few co-operatives should show a fall in production because of poor management. However, if 20 per cent of the co-operatives, or even more, were to show a fall in production, that would be quite a problem.

The general line means a gradual change in the relations of production. According to Stalin, the system of ownership is the basis of the relations of production.[3] Comrades must have a clear understanding of this point. At present, both private ownership and socialist public ownership are legal, but private ownership will gradually become illegal. To "sustain private ownership" of three mou of land and practice the "four big freedoms" is to facilitate the growth of a small number of rich peasants and follow the capitalist road.

County and district cadres must gradually switch their work to mutual aid and co-operation in agricultural production, to the promotion of socialism. If they are not working for socialism, what are they working for? For the individual economy? Secretaries of county and district Party committees must look upon working for socialism as a matter of major importance. Party secretaries must take charge, and I am the secretary of the Central Committee. Secretaries of the Central Committee bureaus, secretaries of the provincial, prefectural, county and district Party committees and secretaries at all levels must take charge and attend to the job in person. At present, the Central Committee is devoting 70 to 80 per cent of its efforts to the socialist transformation of agriculture. Similarly, to transform capitalist industry and commerce is also to work for socialism. Comrades of the rural work departments at all levels and all those present at this conference must become experts in the socialist transformation of agriculture and well versed in theory, line, policy and method.

To provide the cities with vegetables depends chiefly on planned supply. There are dense populations in the large and rising cities, and how can they possibly manage without vegetables? This problem must be solved. If it is not possible to ensure the production and supply of vegetables by setting up mutual-aid teams in the suburban areas, you can bypass that stage and set up semi-socialist or even fully socialist co-operatives. This question needs going into.

A plan for the development of the producers' co-operatives has been put forward. Over 32,000 co-operatives are to be set up this winter and next spring and right up to the time of the autumn harvest. By 1957, the number will have reached 700,000. But a sudden increase at one time or another should be expected, and the number of co-operatives may rise to a million, or perhaps more. In short, set up co-operatives in large numbers and manage them well, give active leadership and achieve steady development.

This conference has been fruitful. If we had not held it and waited till next January, it would have been too late, and this winter would have slipped by. We shall hold another conference on March 26 next year and check up on how our plan has been carried out. It is a good idea for this conference to fix the date of the next meeting and to decide that it will review the implementation of the resolution adopted here. Next autumn we shall hold still another conference to discuss and decide on the tasks for the following winter.


1. Han Hsin was a leading general under Liu Pang, first emperor of the Han Dynasty. According to the Historical Records, Liu Pang once asked Han Hsin how many troops he could command. "The more the better," he answered.

2. See p. 224 below.

3. J. V. Stalin, "Dialectical and Historical Materialism".

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung