Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung


September 25,1956

[Part of a talk with representatives of some Latin-American Communist Parties.]

U.S. imperialism is your adversary as well as ours and the adversary of the people of the world. It is harder for U.S. imperialism to interfere in our affairs than in yours. For one thing, the United States is far away from us. But U.S. imperialism has reached out very far, to our Taiwan, to Japan, south Korea, south Viet Nam, the Philippines, and so on. The United States has stationed its troops in Britain, France, Italy, Iceland and West Germany and has set up military bases in North Africa and in the Middle and Near East. It has reached out to every corner of the earth. It is a global imperialism. It is a teacher by negative example to the people of all countries. The people of the world should unite and help each other to chop off the tentacles of U.S. imperialism wherever they reach. Each time we chop off one of its tentacles, we will be a little more comfortable.

In the past China was also a country oppressed by imperialism and feudalism, so our conditions and yours are quite similar. A large rural population and the existence of feudal forces are liabilities for a country, but they are assets for a revolution led by the proletariat because they provide us with a broad ally in the peasants. In Russia before the October Revolution, feudalism was strong, and it was with the support of the peasant masses that the Bolshevik Party won victory in the revolution. This was even more so in China. Ours is an agricultural country, with over 500 million people living in the countryside. In the past we relied mainly on the peasants in fighting. Now also it is because the peasants are organized and agriculture has become co-operative that our urban bourgeoisie has quickly submitted to socialist transformation. Hence the vital importance of the Party's work among the peasants.

I think that in countries where feudalism is strong the political party of the proletariat should go to the countryside and seek out the peasants. When intellectuals go to the countryside to seek out the peasants, they cannot win their trust unless they have the right attitude. City intellectuals know little about rural affairs and peasant psychology, and they never can solve the peasants' problems in quite the right way. According to our experience, it is only after a long period of time and after we have really become one with the peasants and convinced them we are fighting in their interest that we can win victory. Don't imagine that the peasants will trust us right away. Don't expect them to trust us the moment we have given them some help.

The peasants are the chief ally of the proletariat. In the beginning our Party too did not realize the importance of work among the peasants and put urban work first and rural work second. It seems to me that the Parties in some Asian countries, such as India and Indonesia, have not done so well in rural work.

At first, our Party wasn't successful in its work among the peasants. The intellectuals had a certain air about them, an intellectual air. Therefore, they were unwilling to go to the countryside, which they looked down on. The peasants, for their part, looked askance at the intellectuals. Besides, our Party had not yet found the way to understand the countryside. Later when we went there again, we found the way, analysed the various classes in the rural areas and came to understand the peasants' revolutionary demands.

During the first period, we didn't have clear ideas about the countryside. Under the Right opportunist line of Chen Tu-hsiu, the peasants, our chief ally, were abandoned. Many of our comrades looked on the countryside as a plane rather than a solid, that is to say, they did not know how to look at the countryside from the class viewpoint. It was only after they had some grasp of Marxism that they began to adopt the class viewpoint in looking at the countryside. The countryside turned out to be not a plane, but stratified into the rich, the poor and the very poor, into farm labourers, poor peasants, middle peasants, rich peasants and landlords. During this period I made a study of the countryside and opened peasant movement institutes which ran for several terms. Though I knew some Marxism, my understanding of the countryside was not deep.

During the second period, we had to thank our good teacher, Chiang Kai-shek. He drove us to the countryside. This was a long period, a period of ten years of civil war, in which we fought against him, and thus we were obliged to make a study of the countryside. In the first few years, our understanding of the countryside was still not so deep, but later it became better and deeper. During this period the three "Left" opportunist lines which were represented successively by Chu Chiu-pai, Li Li-san and Wang Ming caused great losses to our Party, and Wang Ming's "Left" opportunist line in particular brought about the collapse of most of our Party's rural base areas.

Then came the third period, the period of the War of Resistance Against Japan. When the Japanese imperialists invaded China, we stopped fighting the Kuomintang and fought Japanese imperialism instead. At that time our comrades could go openly to cities in Kuomintang areas. Wang Ming, who had previously made the mistake of pushing a "Left" opportunist line, now made the mistake of pushing a Right opportunist line. He had first carried out the ultra-Left policy of the Communist International, and this time he carried out an ultra-Right policy. He too was one of our good teachers by negative example and he educated our Party. We had another good teacher by negative example in Li Li-san. Their chief mistake at the time was dogmatism, transplanting foreign experience mechanically. Our Party liquidated their erroneous lines and really found the way to integrate the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete conditions of China. As a result, in the fourth period when Chiang Kai-shek launched an offensive against us, it was possible for us to overthrow him and found the People's Republic of China.

The experience of the Chinese revolution, that is, building rural base areas, encircling the cities from the countryside and finally seizing the cities, may not be wholly applicable to many of your countries, though it can serve for your reference. I beg to advise you not to transplant Chinese experience mechanically. The experience of any foreign country can serve only for reference and must not be regarded as dogma. The universal truth of Marxism-Leninism and the concrete conditions of your own countries--the two must be integrated.

If you are to win over the peasants and rely on them, you must conduct investigations in the rural areas. The method is to investigate one or more villages and spend a few weeks there to get a clear idea of the class forces, the economic situation, living conditions and so on, in the countryside. The principal leaders, such as the general secretary of the Party, should themselves undertake this work and get to know one or two villages; they should try to find the time, for it is well worth the effort. Though there are plenty of sparrows , it is not necessary to dissect every one of them; to dissect one or two is enough. When the general secretary of the Party has investigated one or two villages and knows what's what, he will be able to help his comrades to become acquainted with the villages and attach importance to dissecting one or two "sparrows"; true, they know something about the countryside, but their knowledge doesn't go very deep, and therefore the directives they issued do not quite fit the rural conditions. Likewise, the comrades in charge of the leading bodies of the Party at the central, provincial and county levels should themselves investigate one or two villages, or dissect one or two "sparrows ". This is called "anatomy".

There are two ways of making investigations, one is to look at flowers on horseback and the other is to get off your horse and look at them. If you look at flowers on horseback, you'll only get a superficial impression, as there are so many. In coming from Latin America to Asia you have been looking at flowers on horseback. There are so many flowers in your own countries that it's just not enough to give them a glance or two and then leave, and so the second way has to be adopted, that is, to get off your horse and look at the flowers, observe them closely and analyse one "flower", or dissect one "sparrow".

In countries under imperialist oppression there are two kinds of bourgeoisie--the national bourgeoisie and the comprador-bourgeoisie. Do these two kinds of bourgeoisie exist in your countries? Probably yes .

The comprador-bourgeoisie is always a running dog of imperialism and a target of the revolution. Different groups of the comprador-bourgeoisie belong to the monopoly capitalist groups of different imperialist countries such as the United States, Britain and France. In the struggle against the various comprador groups it is necessary to exploit the contradictions between imperialist countries, first coping with one of them and striking at the chief immediate enemy. For instance, in the past the Chinese comprador-bourgeoisie consisted of pro-British, pro-U.S. and pro-Japanese groups . During the War of Resistance Against Japan we exploited the contradiction between Britain and the United States on the one hand and Japan on the other, first striking down the Japanese aggressors and the comprador group depending on the m. Then we turned round to deal blows at the U.S. and British aggressor forces and bring down the pro-U.S. and pro-British comprador groups. The landlord class also consists of different factions. The most reactionary landlords are few in number, and those who are patriotic and favour fighting imperialism should not be lumped together with them when we strike. Moreover, a distinction must be made between the big and small landlords. Don't strike at too many enemies at a time, strike at a few, and even with the big landlords deal your blows only at the most reactionary handful. To strike at everyone may seem very revolutionary, but actually it causes great harm.

The national bourgeoisie is an opponent of ours. There is a popular saying in China, "Opponents always meet." One experience of the Chinese revolution is that caution is needed in dealing with the national bourgeoisie. While it is opposed to the working class, it is also opposed to imperialism. In view of the fact that our main task is to fight imperialism and feudalism and that the liberation of the people would be out of the question unless these two enemies are overthrown, we must by all means win the national bourgeoisie over to the fight against imperialism. The national bourgeoisie is not interested in fighting feudalism because it has close ties with the landlord class. What is more, it oppresses and exploits the workers. We must therefore struggle against it. But in order to win it over to join us in the fight against imperialism, we must know when to stop in the struggle, that is, the struggle must be waged on just grounds, to our advantage and with restraint. In other words, we must have just grounds for waging the struggle, be sure of victory, and use restraint when a proper measure of victory is gained. Hence the necessity of making investigations into the conditions of both sides, those of the workers and those of the capitalists. If we know only the workers and not the capitalists, we won't be able to hold talks with the latter. In this respect, it is also necessary to investigate typical cases, or to dissect one or two "sparrows"; both methods, looking at flowers on horseback and getting off your horse to look at them, should likewise be used.

Throughout the historical period of the struggle against imperialism and feudalism, we must win over and unite with the national bourgeoisie so that it will side with the people against imperialism. Even after the task of opposing imperialism and feudalism is in the main accomplished, we must still keep our alliance with the national bourgeoisie for a certain period. This will be advantageous in dealing with imperialist aggression, in expanding production and stabilizing the market and also in winning over and remoulding bourgeois intellectuals.

You have not yet won state power but are preparing to seize it. Towards the national bourgeoisie a policy of "both unity and struggle" should be adopted. Unite with them in the common fight against imperialism and support all their anti-imperialist words and deeds, while waging an appropriate struggle against their reactionary, anti-working class and anti-Communist words and deeds. It is wrong to be one-sided; struggle without unity is a "Left" deviationist mistake and unity without struggle is a Right deviationist mistake. Both mistakes occurred in our Party and we learned bitter lessons from them. Later, we summed up the two kinds of experience and have since adopted a policy of "both unity and struggle", that is, to struggle whenever necessary and unite whenever possible. The aim of struggle is to unite with the national bourgeoisie and win victory in the struggle against imperialism.

In countries under the oppression of imperialism and feudalism the political party of the proletariat should raise the national banner and must have a programme of national unity by which to unite with all the forces that can be united, excluding the running dogs of imperialism. Let the whole nation see how patriotic the Communist Party is, how peace-loving and how desirous of national unity. This will help isolate imperialism and its running dogs, and the big landlord class and the big bourgeoisie too.

Communists should not be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes have a dual character. On the one hand mistakes harm the Party and the people; on the other they serve as good teachers, giving both the Party and the people a good education, and this benefits the revolution. Failure is the mother of success. If there is nothing good about failure, how can it be the mother of success? When too many mistakes are made, there is bound to be a turn-about. That is Marxism. "Things turn into their opposites when they reach the extreme"; when mistakes pile up, light is not far off.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung