Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung


August 30, 1956

[Speech at the first session of the preparatory meeting for the Eighth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party.]

Today we begin the preparatory meeting for the Eighth National Congress. The meeting will last about a fortnight and its main business is: (1) drafting documents for the congress; (2) conducting a preliminary election of the Central Committee; and (3) preparing speeches for the congress.

Now let me deal with a few points.

First, about the objectives and purposes of the congress. What problems is this congress to solve and what are its objectives? In a word, it is to sum up the experience gained since the Seventh Congress, unite the whole Party and unite with all the forces at home and abroad that can be united in the struggle to build a great socialist China.

About the summing-up of experience. Although we have a rich store of experience, we should not merely juxtapose a host of facts but should sum up by grasping the essentials, proceeding from reality and adopting a Marxist standpoint. A summing-up in this way will stimulate our whole Party and enable us to do our work better.

Our Party is a great, glorious and correct Party, a fact which is acknowledged by the whole world. In the past, some foreign comrades had doubts about what we were actually doing. Many didn't understand our policy towards the national bourgeoisie, nor were they very clear about our rectification movement. Today I would say more have come to understand them and most can be said to have such an understanding. Of course, there are still some who don't. Within the country and even inside the Party, there are some who don't understand and who maintain that the line we have followed since the Seventh Congress is not necessarily so correct. But the facts are there for all to see, we have carried out two revolutions -- the bourgeois-democratic revolution to seize state power and the proletarian socialist revolution to carry out socialist transformation and build a socialist country. In the eleven years since the Seventh Congress we have scored great successes, and this is acknowledged by the whole nation and the whole world. Even the bourgeoisie abroad has to acknowledge it. The two revolutions prove that the line of the Central Committee since the Seventh Congress has been correct.

The October Revolution overthrew the bourgeoisie, an event without precedent in world history. In all countries the bourgeoisie was sweeping in its denunciation of this revolution and had never a good word for it. The bourgeoisie in Russia was a counter-revolutionary class, it rejected state capitalism at that time, organized slow-downs and sabotage and resorted to the gun. The Russian proletariat had no choice but to finish it off. This infuriated the bourgeoisie in other countries, and they became abusive. Here in China we have been relatively moderate with our national bourgeoisie, who feel a little more comfortable and believe there are some good points in our policy. BY prohibiting American journalists from coming to China, Eisenhower and Dulles have now in fact admitted that it does have good points. If things were in an awful mess here, they would have let their journalists come, knowing that the result could only be vicious articles. What they dread most is that the articles might include not only invective but a good word here and there, and that would be awkward for them.

China used to be stigmatized as a "decrepit empire", "the sick man of East Asia", a country with a backward economy and a backward culture, with no hygiene, poor at ball games and swimming, where the women had bound feet, the men wore pigtails and eunuchs could still be found, and where the moon was inferior and did not shine as brightly as in foreign lands. In short, there was much that was bad in China. But after six years' work of transformation we have changed the face of China. No one can deny our achievements.

Our Party is the core leading our revolutionary cause forward. In summing up experience the congress must first and foremost aim at achieving greater unity throughout the Party. Up to June Party membership stood at 10,730,000. A great deal of work must be done to educate, enlighten and unite these more than ten million Party members, so that they can play their role as the core among the people better. By itself the Party is not enough, it is only the core and needs a mass following. In all fields, including industry, agriculture, commerce, culture and education, 90 per cent of the work is done by non-Party people and not by Party members. Therefore, we must strive hard to unite with the masses, unite and work with all those that can be united. In our past efforts to achieve unity inside the Party and with people outside the Party there were many defects. During and after the congress we must conduct propaganda and carry on education so that our work in this respect will be considerably improved.

Internationally, we must unite with all the forces in the world that can be united, first of all with the Soviet Union, the fraternal Parties, the fraternal countries and their people, and also with all the peace-loving countries and people, and we must enlist the support of all useful forces. Delegates of Communist Parties from over fifty countries will attend our congress, and this is very good. In the past we had not seized state power or won victory in the two revolutions and had no success to speak of in construction. It is quite different now. We are held in fairly high esteem by our foreign comrades.

What is our objective in uniting with all the forces that can be united, inside and outside the Party and at home and abroad? It is to build a great socialist country. A country like ours may and ought to be described as "great". Our Party is a great Party, our people a great people, our revolution a great revolution, and our construction is great, too. Only one country on this globe has a population of 600 million, and that is China. In the past there were reasons for others to look down upon us. For we had little to contribute, steel output registered only several hundred thousand tons a year, and even that was in the hands of the Japanese. Under the despotic rule of Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang, which lasted twenty-two years, steel output was only some tens of thousands of tons a year. We still don't have much steel, but a promising start has been made. Output this year will be over four million tons, it will hit the five million mark next year, will exceed ten million tons after the Second Five-Year Plan and is likely to top twenty million after the Third. We must work hard to reach this target. There are about a hundred countries in the world, but only a few produce over twenty million tons of steel a year. Therefore, once built up, China will be a great socialist country and will radically transform the situation in which for over a century it was backward, despised and wretched. Moreover, it will be able to catch up with the most powerful capitalist country in the world, the United States. The United States has a population of only 170 million, and as we have a population several times larger, are similarly rich in resources and are favoured with more or less the same kind of climate, it is possible for us to catch up with the United States. Oughtn't we catch up? Definitely yes. What are your 600 million people doing? Dozing? Which is right, dozing or working? If working is the answer, why can't you with your 600 million people produce 200 or 300 million tons of steel when they with their population of 170 million can produce 100 million tons? If you fail to catch up, you cannot justify yourselves and you will not be so glorious or great. The United States has a history of only one hundred and eighty years, and sixty years ago it too produced four million tons of steel, so we are sixty years behind. Given fifty or sixty years, we certainly ought to overtake the United States. This is an obligation. You have such a big population, such a vast territory and such rich resources, and what is more, you are said to be building socialism, which is supposed to be superior; if after working at it for fifty or sixty years you are still unable to overtake the United States, what a sorry figure you will cut! You should be read off the face of the earth. Therefore, to overtake the United States is not only possible, but absolutely necessary and obligatory. If we don't, the Chinese nation will be letting the nations of the world down and we will not be making much of a contribution to mankind.

Second, about carrying forward the Party's traditions. The congress should carry forward our Party's fine traditions with respect to ideology and style of work. It should effectively combat subjectivism and sectarianism and oppose bureaucracy as well. I won't go into bureaucracy today and will deal only with subjectivism and sectarianism. After being overcome, subjectivism and sectarianism crop up again and have to be overcome again.

By making mistakes, we mean making subjectivist mistakes, following a wrong way of thinking. The many articles we've come across criticizing Stalin's mistakes say little or nothing on this score. Why did Stalin make mistakes? Because on a number of issues his subjective thinking failed to correspond with objective reality. Such cases still happen frequently in our work today. Subjectivism means proceeding not from objective reality and from what is actually possible, but from subjective wishes. What is to be set forth and dealt with in our congress documents should as far as possible conform to approximate Chinese realities. At the same time, in the light of our experience, we should criticize views running counter to the realities, criticize and combat subjectivism. This was the task we set ourselves years ago. At present, we are combating subjectivism as found in the socialist revolution and socialist construction. In the course of the democratic revolution we were plagued by subjectivism for a long time and we paid dearly for it, losing practically all our base areas and over go per cent of our revolutionary forces, and it was only then that we began to come to our senses. The problem was not straightened out until the rectification movement in Yenan, which laid stress on investigation and study and a realistic approach. The universal truth of Marxism must be integrated with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution, or else we will get nowhere. In other words, theory must be integrated with practice. Integration of theory with practice is one of the fundamental principles of Marxism. According to dialectical materialism, thought must reflect objective reality and must be tested and verified in objective practice before it can be taken as truth, otherwise it cannot. Though we have done well in the last few years, subjectivism is evident everywhere. There will be subjectivism in the future, just as there is today. Subjectivism will always be there, ten thousand years and even a hundred million years from now, and it will be so as long as humanity does not perish. Where there is subjectivism, there are mistakes.

Then there is another phenomenon called sectarianism. A locality has its own over-all interest, a nation has another and the earth yet another. Right now I won't go into matters outside our planet, for the travel routes beyond the earth have not yet been opened. If human beings should be discovered on Mars or Venus, we would then discuss the matter of uniting with them and forming a united front. For the time being, we will confine ourselves to the question of unity in the Party, in the country and in the world. Our principle is to unite with all those who are capable of doing some good for world peace and the cause of human progress, whether they are foreign Communists or foreign non-Party people. First of all, we should unite with the scores of Communist Parties and with the Soviet Union. As some mistakes have occurred in the Soviet Union and there is so much talk and gossip about them, it might seem that these mistakes were terrible. It is wrong to take this view. No nation can be free from mistakes, and since the Soviet Union was the first socialist country in the world and went through so much for so long, it was impossible for it not to make mistakes. Then how should we weigh the Soviet Union's mistakes, for instance those of Stalin? They are of a partial and transitory nature. Although it has come to our ears that certain things have been going on for twenty years, still they are transitory and partial and can be set right. In the Soviet Union the main trend, the principal aspect, the major part, has been correct. Russia gave birth to Leninism and through the October Revolution became the first socialist country. It built socialism, defeated fascism and became a powerful industrial country. There are a lot of things we can learn from the Soviet Union. Naturally, we should learn from its advanced and not its backward experience. The slogan we have advocated all along is to draw on the advanced Soviet experience. Who told you to pick up its backward experience? Some people are so undiscriminating that they say a Russian fart is fragrant. That too is subjectivism. The Russians themselves say it stinks. Therefore, we should be analytical. As we have indicated elsewhere, the assessment of Stalin should be 70 per cent for achievements and 30 per cent for mistakes. In the case of the Soviet Union what is good and useful makes up the essential and larger part and what is wrong only a small part. We too have things that are not good, and far from letting other countries pick them up, we should dump them. In a way, bad things are also some kind of experience and can serve a useful purpose. We have had people like Chen Tu-hsiu, Li Li-san, Wang Ming, Chang Kuo-tao, Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih, who have served as our teachers. In addition, we have other teachers. Within the country the best among them has been Chiang Kai-shek. Those whom we couldn't convince were convinced right away when Chiang Kai-shek came along to give them a lesson. How did Chiang Kai-shek teach his lessons? He taught with machine-guns, cannon and planes. Imperialism is another teacher that has given our 600 million people an education. For over a century we were oppressed by several imperialist powers, and this has been an education. Therefore, bad things can serve an educational purpose and open our eyes.

As for the fight against sectarianism, one thing in particular should be pointed out, that is, you should unite with those who have waged struggles against you. They came to blows with you, knocked you down, made you suffer and lose face and conferred the "official honour" of opportunist on you, although you were not that bad. If the blow was justified, then it served you right. If you were an opportunist, why shouldn't the blow have been aimed at you? What I am talking about here is the unjustified blows and struggles. Once those who dealt such blows change their attitude and admit that they did wrong in attacking you and that it was not right to proclaim you "king" of the realm of opportunism, then let the matter end there. If a few don't admit they were wrong, can't you wait? You can, I suppose. By unity we mean uniting with those who have differences with you, who look down on you or show little respect for you, who have had a bone to pick with you or waged struggles against you and at whose hands you have suffered. As for those who see eye to eye with you, you are already united with them, so the question of unity doesn't arise. The trouble here is with those who have yet to be united. We mean those who have opinions differing from yours or who have serious shortcomings. For instance, within our Party at present there are many who have joined the Party only organizationally and not ideologically. They may not have come to blows or crossed swords with you, but as they have not joined the Party ideologically, what they do is inevitably not so satisfactory or is marred by faults, and they may even do some bad things. With regard to such people, we must unite with them and educate and help them. I said before that in dealing with all those who have shortcomings or have made mistakes, we must not only observe whether they are going to mend their ways but should help them correct their mistakes. In other words, we must first observe, and second give help. Merely to observe means to stand by and see how they behave. If they do well, that's fine, and if they don't, let them suffer. This is a passive attitude, not a positive one. Marxists should adopt a positive attitude, that is, help as well as observe.

Third, about the election of the Central Committee. Comrade Teng Hsiao-ping mentioned just now that the Eighth Central Committee will have 150 to 170 members. This is slightly more than twice the size of the Seventh Central Committee with its seventy-seven members and is probably quite appropriate. It will probably be better not to expand the Central Committee further for several years, say, five years. Many capable people doing very useful work today were trained during the War of Resistance Against Japan, and they are known as cadres of the " '38 type". They are the mainstay of our work today, and we cannot do without them. But they are numerous, and if arrangements were to be made for them, the number of Central Committee members would have to rise to several hundred. So this time we will not make any such arrangements. We leave to the comrades here to consider whether the figure of 150 to 170 proposed by the Central Committee is appropriate, and if not, what size would be proper.

It should be affirmed that members of the present Central Committee have done good work and lived up to the trust placed in them by the Seventh Congress. In the past eleven years they have correctly led the Chinese democratic revolution and the socialist revolution and socialist construction without committing grave errors and have waged struggles against opportunism of all descriptions and against what is erroneous, thus overcoming all factors unfavourable to the revolution and construction. They have done well, including some of those comrades who made mistakes before. Here I am speaking of the Central Committee as a whole. As for certain comrades, this assessment does not hold true. Especially for Wang Ming. At the Seventh Congress, in order to get by, he submitted a written statement acknowledging that the line of the Central Committee was correct, accepting its political report to the Seventh Congress and indicating his willingness to abide by its decisions. But when I had a talk with him some time later, he made a right about face, forgetting what he had written. Then he thought it over and said the next day that he had written something in which he did own up to his mistakes. I told him that, even so, if he wanted to deny his mistakes now, he could withdraw that statement. But he didn't. Later at the Second Plenary Session we expressed the hope that he would speak on his mistakes, but instead he digressed, lavishing praises upon us. We told him he could cut that out and speak on the mistakes he, Wang Ming, had made, but he wouldn't hear of it. He promised to write a self-criticism after the session. But later he said that he had been taken ill and was unable to do mental work, and that as soon as he started writing his illness returned. Maybe he was cooking all this up, it's hard to say. He has been feeling unwell and will not be able to attend the congress. Shall we elect him? And Comrade Li Li-san too? More comrades are ready to forgive Li Li-san, whereas there are fewer ready to forgive Wang Ming. As Comrade Teng Hsiao-ping stated, if we elect them the significance will be similar to their election at the Seventh Congress. At that congress, many delegates were unwilling to elect them (not only Wang Ming, but quite a few other comrades as well). We said at the time that we would make a mistake if we adopted such a policy. Why would we have made a mistake if we had not elected those who had erred? Because it would have meant that we were following their example. Their procedure was to reject anyone once labelled by them as an opportunist, regardless of whether or not he had actually made mistakes. If we had followed this procedure, we would have been following their line, the Wang Ming line or the Li Li-san line. We would do nothing of the kind, under no circumstances would we follow the Wang Ming or the Li Li-san line. The inner-Party relations they cultivated were such that they rejected without exception all those who had made mistakes and those who had waged struggles against them or denounced them as opportunists. They styled themselves 100 per cent Bolsheviks, only to be shown later to be 100 per cent opportunists. On the other hand, it is those of us once labelled by them as "opportunists" who have some grasp of Marxism.

The heart of the matter here is that they are not just a few isolated individuals but represent a substantial part of the petty bourgeoisie. China is a country with a huge petty bourgeoisie. A considerable part of the petty bourgeoisie vacillates. It is plain to all that the well-to-do middle peasants, for instance, invariably vacillate and do not stand firm in any revolution, going wild when elated and burying their heads in dejection when pessimistic. Most of the time their eyes are glued on that precious bit of property they possess, which is no more than one or two draught animals, a cart and a dozen mou of land. Swayed by considerations of loss and gain, they are most anxious not to lose these possessions. They are different from the poor peasants. The poor peasants account for 50 per cent of the rural population in northern China and 70 per cent in the south. In terms of class composition, our Party consists chiefly of workers and poor peasants, namely, the proletariat and the semi-proletariat. The semi-proletariat is also petty bourgeois, but they are much more steadfast than the middle peasants. Our Party has also admitted a number of intellectuals into its ranks, and of our more than ten million members, intellectuals of the higher, middle and lower levels total approximately one million. It would not be proper to say that they represent imperialism or that they represent the landlord class, the bureaucrat-capitalist class or the national bourgeoisie; it would be more appropriate to classify them as petty bourgeois. Which part of the petty bourgeoisie do they chiefly represent? That part of the urban and rural petty bourgeoisie with more means of production, the well-to-do middle peasants for instance. The intellectuals among our Party members "fear dragons ahead and tigers behind", they constantly waver and are afflicted with a fair amount of subjectivism and no small measure of sectarianism. What does our election of these two persons representing the Wang Ming and Li Li-san lines signify? It signifies that we treat those who have made ideological mistakes differently from those who are counter-revolutionaries and splittists (people like Chen Tu-hsiu, Chang Kuo-tao, Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih). Wang Ming and Li Li-san went about their subjectivism and sectarianism in an open way and with a great fanfare, trying to overwhelm people with their political programmes. Wang Ming had his own political programme and so did Li Li-san. Of course, Chen Tu-hsiu had one of his own too, but he went the Trotskyite way, worked for a split and carried on activities against the Party from the outside. Chang Kuo-tao was engaged in conspiracy and splittism and eventually went over to the Kuomintang. Therefore the question of Wang Ming and Li Li-san is not just a question of two individuals, what is important here is that there are underlying social causes. One of their manifestations in our Party is that quite a number of members tend to vacillate at critical junctures. These vacillating elements are opportunistic. That is to say, such people do one thing if they can get something out of it and switch to another if that benefits them. They have no definite principles, no definite rules of conduct and no definite orientation, going this way today and that tomorrow. Wang Ming, for instance, is just like that. First he was "Left" in the extreme and later he became Right in the extreme.

At the Seventh Congress, we convinced many comrades and had Wang Ming and Li Li-san elected. In the eleven years since, have we suffered any loss in consequence? No, none at all. We did not fail in our revolution, nor was our victory delayed by a few months just because we had elected Wang Ming and Li Li-san.

Does their election mean encouragement for people who have made mistakes? "Now that people who have made mistakes are on the Central Committee, let us all make mistakes, then we too will have a chance of being elected!" Will this happen? No, it won't. Look, not one of our seventy or so Central Committee members has gone out of his way to make a few mistakes in order to get reelected. As for those who are not Central Committee members, whether they joined the revolution before, during or after the year 1938, will they follow the example of Wang Ming and Li Li-san and come up with another two lines -- to make a total of four -- just to get themselves elected to the Central Committee? No, they won't, nobody will do that. On the contrary, drawing lessons from their mistakes, our comrades will become more prudent.

There is another point. In the past one heard such talk as "better join the revolution late than early, or better still, don't join the revolution at all". Now, will the election of Wang Ming and Li Li-san create the impression in the Party that it is better to be wrong than right, better to make big mistakes than small ones? If Wang Ming and Li Li-san who have made mistakes on the Party line are now to be elected to the Central Committee, comrades who have proved themselves correct or have made only small mistakes will have to yield two seats to them. Isn't this arrangement the most unfair thing in the world? Judged in that light, it is indeed unfair. You see, those who have proved themselves correct or have made only small mistakes have to make room for those who have made big ones. It is obviously unfair, there is no fairness whatsoever in it. If a comparison is made this way, it must be conceded that it is better to be wrong than right, better to make big mistakes than small ones. But judged from another angle, the case is different. Their mistakes on the Party line are known all over the country and throughout the world, and the fact that they are well known is precisely the reason for electing them. What can you do about it? They are well known, but you who have made no mistakes or have made only small ones don't have as big a reputation as theirs. In a country like ours with its very large petty bourgeoisie they are standards. If we elect them, many people will say, "The Communist Party continues to be patient with them and is willing to give up two seats to them in the hope that they will mend their ways." Whether they will or not is another matter, which is inconsequential, involving as it does only the two of them. The point is that in our society the petty bourgeoisie is vast in number, that in our Party there are many vacillating elements of petty-bourgeois origin and that among the intellectuals there are many such vacillating elements; they all want to see what will happen to these test cases. When they see these two standards still there, they will feel comfortable, they will sleep well and be pleased. If you haul down the two standards, they may panic. Therefore, it is not a question of whether Wang Ming and Li Li-san will mend their ways, that does not matter very much. What matters is that the millions of Party members of petty-bourgeois origin who are prone to vacillate, and the intellectuals in particular, are watching the kind of attitude we take towards Wang Ming and Li Li-san. This is like our treatment of the rich peasants in the agrarian reform; when we left the rich peasants untouched, the middle peasants were at ease. If we adopt the same attitude towards these two men at the Eighth Congress as we did at the Seventh, our Party will have something to gain, to derive benefit from, that is, the task of remoulding the masses of the petty bourgeoisie throughout the country will be easier. This will also have an influence in the world. Few countries, or one can say none, adopt the attitude we do towards persons who have made mistakes.

The preparatory meeting for the congress will last only about a fortnight, counting from today, but if arrangements are made properly, it is entirely possible to do a good job of the preparations. We are certain that the congress will be a success and that with their political level the delegates will assure its success. But all of us must be conscientious and do our very best.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung