Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung


March 1957

[Section 1 is part of a speech at a conference of Party cadres in Tsinan on March 18, 1957, and Section 2 is part of a speech at a conference of Party cadres in Nanking on March 19 of the same year.]


Our Party is going to unfold a rectification movement. This is a way of resolving contradictions within the Party through criticism and self-criticism and also of resolving contradictions between the Party and the people. This time the movement will be aimed at three bad styles, bureaucracy, sectarianism and subjectivism. Through rectification we must strive to carry forward our Party's tradition of plain living and hard struggle. Since our victory in the revolution, the revolutionary will of some of our comrades has been waning, their revolutionary enthusiasm has been ebbing, their spirit of whole-hearted service to the people has been flagging, and so has the death-defying spirit they displayed in the days of fighting against our enemies; at the same time, they are clamouring for position and for the limelight, becoming particular about what they eat and wear, competing for salary and scrambling for fame and gain -- all these tendencies are growing. I have heard that during the grading of cadres last year, some people burst into tears and made terrible scenes. People have two eyes, haven't they? Drops of water welling up in them are called tears. When the grading doesn't meet their wishes, tears begin to stream down their cheeks. They never shed a single tear during the war against Chiang Kai-shek, the movement to resist U.S. aggression and aid Korea, the agrarian reform and the suppression of counter-revolutionaries, nor have they shed a tear during the building of socialism, but as soon as their personal interests were affected, rivers of tears began to flow. I have even heard of someone refusing to eat for three days. I would say, it doesn't matter much if one doesn't eat for three days, but it would be a little dangerous if that went on for a week. In short, the tendency has emerged of contending for fame and position, of comparing salaries, food, clothing and comforts. To go on hunger strike and shed tears on account of one's personal interests may be considered a kind of contradiction among the people. There is an opera scene called Lin Chung Flees at Night, [1] in which one line goes, "A man does not easily shed tears until his heart is broken." Now some of our comrades are men (and probably women too) about whom it can be said that they do not easily shed tears until it comes to grading. Such behaviour must be rectified too, mustn't it? It is right not to shed tears easily, but when is one's heart broken? When the destiny of the working class and the masses of the working people is at stake. Then one may shed a few tears. Whatever rank you are given, you should take it even if you are graded incorrectly, and you should not let your tears out but keep them in. There is much that is unfair in this world, and maybe you have been improperly graded, but even so there is no reason to make a fuss about it, for it is inconsequential and you should rest content as long as you have enough to eat. After all, we are a revolutionary Party, so we make it a principle not to allow anybody to starve to death. As long as one isn't starving to death, one should do revolutionary work and exert oneself. Even ten thousand years from now people should work hard. A Communist is supposed to work hard and to serve the people with his whole heart, not with half or two-thirds. Those whose revolutionary will has been waning should have their spirits revived through rectification.


We should maintain the same vigour, the same revolutionary enthusiasm and the same death-defying spirit we displayed in the years of the revolutionary wars and carry our revolutionary work through to the end. What is meant by death-defying? In the novel Water Margin there is a character called Death-Defying Third Brother Shih Hsiu, whose spirit is exactly what we have in mind. It was with this spirit that we made revolution in the past. A man has but one life to live, and he may live to sixty, seventy, eighty or ninety, it all depends. At least you should do some work as long as you can. And you should do it with revolutionary enthusiasm and a death-defying spirit. Some comrades are lacking in this enthusiasm and spirit and have stopped making progress. This is not a wholesome phenomenon, and education should be conducted among them.

The whole Party should strengthen political and ideological work. Quite a number of comrades present at today's conference are from the army. How are things in the army? Isn't there some difference between political work in peace-time and in wartime? In wartime close ties must be forged with the masses, the officers must be integrated with the men and the army with the people. In such times the people excuse us if we have some shortcomings. Now it is peace-time, we have no battles to fight and all we have to do is to train; if we do not persist in maintaining close ties with the masses, they will naturally find it hard to excuse our shortcomings. Although the system of military ranks [2] and other systems have been instituted, those with higher rank should still be at one with their subordinates and the cadres with the soldiers, and subordinates should still be allowed to criticize their superiors and soldiers to criticize cadres. For instance, a Party conference can be convened to provide an opportunity to make criticisms. During the: movement against the "three evils", Comrade Chen Yi put it aptly when he said, "It was all right for us to issue orders for so many years, wouldn't it be all right now to let our subordinates criticize us for a while, say for a week?" What he meant was that it ought to be all right. I agree with him, let our subordinates have one week to criticize us. Before the criticisms begin, make some preparations, then give some sort of report and say something about your own shortcomings, which probably won't amount to more than one, two, three, or four points. Then let the comrades speak, adding some points and making criticisms. The masses are fair-minded, they won't write off our record. Company and platoon commanders should also offer their men an opportunity to make criticisms, and it would be best to do so once a year by holding criticism meetings for several days in a row. In the past we practiced democracy of this kind in the army, and with good results. Don't let the close relations between the higher and lower levels, between officers and men, between the army and the people and between the armed forces and the local authorities be impaired as a result of the adoption of the system of military ranks and other systems. It goes without saying that the higher levels should maintain close relations with the lower levels and that these should be comradely. Cadres should forge close ties with soldiers and be integrated with them. The armed forces should likewise maintain close relations with the people and with the local Party and government organizations.

Our comrades should take note: Don't live on the power of your office, your high position or seniority. Speaking of seniority, we have been making revolution for many years, and while this record of ours does count, still we must not live on it. True, you are a veteran who has worked for several decades. For all that, when you do something foolish and talk nonsense, the people won't excuse you. No matter how many your good deeds in the past and no matter how high your post, if today you are not doing a good job, not solving problems correctly and thus harming the people's interests, they won't forgive you. Therefore our comrades should rely not on seniority but on being correct in solving problems. What counts here is correctness, not seniority. Since you cannot rely on your seniority, you might as well forget about it, as if you had never been an official at all, that is, you must stop putting on the airs of an overlord, of a bureaucrat, you must put aside your airs and go among the people and among your subordinates. This is a point our cadres, and particularly our old cadres, must keep in mind. Generally speaking, new cadres are not so burdened are less encumbered. Old cadres should treat new cadres on an equal footing. In many ways old cadres are not as good as new cadres and should learn from them.


1. Lin Chung Flees at Night is a scene in the Kunchu opera The Story of a Sword composed in the Ming Dynasty. The Kunchu opera originated in Kunshan, Kiangsu.

2. The system of military ranks was initiated in September 1955 and abolished in May 1965.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung