Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
[Article written during the conference of the secretaries of provincial and municipal Party committees held in Tsingtao in July 1957 and printed and distributed at the conference. It was circulated among the leading cadres of the Party in August of the same year. ]
During the period of socialist revolution in our country the contradiction between the people and the bourgeois Rightists, who oppose the Communist Party, the people and socialism, is one between ourselves and the enemy, that is, an antagonistic, irreconcilable, life-and-death contradiction.
The bourgeois Rightists who have launched wild attacks against the working class and the Communist Party are reactionaries or counter-revolutionaries. They are not so labelled but are instead called Rightists because, first, this will make it easier to win over the middle and, second, it will help split the Rightists and enable some of them to change and come over.
Those bourgeois Rightists who remain unchanged to the bitter end are die-herds, but they too will be given work and not deprived of their civil rights, unless they act as secret agents or carry on sabotage. This line of action is being taken because, judging from many events in the past, extreme policies produce bad results. We should take a long view, and decades from now when we look back on the present events we shall see how this treatment of the bourgeois Rightists profoundly influenced and greatly benefited the revolutionary cause of the proletariat.
Our aim is to create a political situation in which we have both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, both unity of will and personal ease of mind and liveliness, and thus to promote our socialist revolution and socialist construction, make it easier to overcome difficulties, build a modern industry and modern agriculture more rapidly and make our Party and state more secure and better able to weather storm and stress. The general subject here is the correct handling of contradictions among the people and those between ourselves and the enemy. The method is to seek truth from facts and follow the mass line. The derivative methods are those of holding meetings attended by both Party and non-Party people to discuss major policies, conducting the rectification movement publicly, and criticizing many of the Party's and the government's shortcomings and mistakes in the press. The rectification and the socialist education movement should proceed by batches and stages in the democratic parties, in the various circles comprising education, the press, science and technology, literature and art, public health, industry and commerce, and among the working class, the different strata of the peasantry, handicraftsmen and other urban and rural working people. With regard to the bourgeoisie and bourgeois intellectuals, the problem is to get them to accept socialist transformation, and the same holds for the petty bourgeoisie (including the peasants and the urban and rural self-employed working people), and especially the well-to-do middle peasants; but where the basic ranks of the working class and the Communist Party are concerned, the problem is to rectify their style of work. These are problems concerning two social categories that are different in character. This being the case, why is rectification used as a slogan for both? Because most people are receptive to this slogan. We can say to people: Since the Communist Party and the working class are undergoing rectification, do you think you can do without it? Thus the initiative will be completely in our hands. The method of rectification is to make criticism and self-criticism, present the facts and reason things out. The aim of rectification is to guide the struggle in such a way as to set right the political orientation, raise the ideological level, overcome shortcomings in work, unite with the broad masses, and isolate and split the bourgeois Rightists and all other anti-socialist elements. The bourgeois Rightists referred to here include those who have sneaked into the Party and the Youth League and whose political complexion is exactly the same as that of the Rightists outside; they have betrayed the revolutionary cause of the proletariat and launched wild attacks against the Party, and therefore must be fully exposed and expelled in order to preserve the purity of the ranks of the Party and the Youth League.
Firm faith in the majority of the masses, and first and foremost in the majority of the basic masses, the workers and peasants -- this is our fundamental point of departure. Even in the case of industrialists and businessmen and intellectuals, most people, who may have been deceived for a time and wavered during the period of the Rightists' frenzied attack, regained their bearings and came over to our side a few weeks later when the counter-attack against the Rightists started. Therefore, the majority in these circles are trustworthy in the long run, they can accept socialist transformation. At one time or another, quite a few comrades made the mistake of underestimating the strength of the proletariat and overestimating that of the bourgeois Rightists. There are still many cadres in prefectures, counties, districts, townships and factories who do so, and we should patiently persuade them not to underestimate our own strength and overestimate that of the enemy. In the countryside the landlords and rich peasants are being remoulded; some are still making trouble and we must heighten our vigilance. A great number of the well-to-do middle peasants are willing to stay in the co-operatives; a small number clamour to withdraw, eager to take the capitalist road. We should deal with each case on its merits. In the countryside it is imperative to pay attention to the class line and enable the former poor peasants and farm labourers to occupy the dominant position in the leading bodies, while at the same time pains must be taken to unite with the middle peasants. I'm all for a directive to be issued at once by the Central Committee to initiate a large-scale socialist education movement among the entire rural population to criticize Right opportunist ideas within the Party, the departmentalism of certain cadres and the capitalist and individualist ideas of the well-to-do middle peasants, and to strike at the counter-revolutionary activities of landlords and rich peasants. The criticism should be directed mainly against the vacillating well-to-do middle peasants whose capitalist ideas should be struggled against by arguing things out. From now on such struggle should be resolutely carried out once a year in co-ordination with the rectification movement among the district and township cadres and with the check-up of Class III co-operatives, so that all co-operatives may gradually be consolidated. In the countryside, let the peasants too have the "free airing of views" first, that is, make criticisms and comments. Then accept what is good and criticize what is bad. All this should proceed step by step in the rural rectification movement, which is to be conducted by the local cadres with the assistance of work teams sent from above. In the rural areas as in the cities the struggle is still one between the two roads -- between socialism and capitalism. Complete victory in this struggle will take a very long time. It is a task for the entire transition period. In the countryside diligence and thrift should be encouraged in running the household as well as in running the co-operative, and love of the country and the co-operative as well as love of the family. We must rely in particular on the efforts of the women's organizations to tackle the problem of running the household thriftily. Over the next few years, the annual sum of 35,000 million catties of grain in tax and of 50,000 million catties in state purchases must be obtained without fail. However, some adjustments may be made, depending on whether the harvest is good or poor. As production rises year by year and the number of grain-deficient households correspondingly falls, there should be annual reductions in rural grain sales. In cities wherever grain sales are excessive, there should also be appropriate reductions. Only thus can the state increase its grain reserves each year and meet possible emergencies. Failure to collect these 85,000 million catties of grain will affect market prices, check the smooth fulfilment of the national economic plan as a whole and leave us helpless in the face of emergencies, and that would be very dangerous. Before the autumn harvest sets in this year, it is imperative to wage a struggle in the countryside against individualism and departmentalism, both of which ignore the interests of the state and the collective.
Counter-revolutionaries must be eliminated wherever found. Kill few, but on no account repeal the death penalty or grant any general pardon. Arrest and punish again those persons who commit fresh crimes after having served prison terms. Punish the gangsters, hooligans, thieves, murderers, rapists, embezzlers, and other felons in our society who undermine public order and grossly violate the law; also punish those whom the public identifies as bad elements. At present, certain functionaries in the judicial and public security departments are neglecting their duties and allowing persons who should be arrested and punished to remain at large; this is wrong. Just as over-punishment is wrong, so is under-punishment, and these days the danger lies in the latter. Prohibit gambling. Strictly enforce the ban on reactionary secret societies. Rightist student leaders should be thoroughly criticized; in most cases they should be kept where they are, to be reformed under supervision and to serve as "teachers". The above points hold good for the transition period, and it is the responsibility of the provincial, municipal and autonomous region Party committees to have them carried out. Subject to the policies and laws of the central authorities, local departments in charge of justice and public security and of cultural and educational affairs must act without fail under the direction of the provincial, municipal and autonomous region Party committees and people's councils.
Our general subject is the correct handling of contradictions among the people. Keep on talking about it until it becomes familiar, then what once seemed bewildering will no longer be so. Clarify in your own mind the question of contradictions among the people, openly and clearly explain it, correctly handle a number of these contradictions, and then, having achieved results and gained experience, you won't be afraid of it any more.
Let me repeat. Correctly handling the contradictions among the people means following the mass line, which is consistently stressed by our Party. Party members should be good at consulting the masses in their work and in no circumstances should they alienate themselves from the masses. The relation between the Party and the masses is like that between fish and water. Without good relations between the Party and the masses, the socialist system cannot be established or, once established, be consolidated.
The armed forces have carried out rectification on many occasions; the Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention are enforced; democracy is practiced in military, political and economic affairs; in times of war mutual-aid groups are organized in the squads; officers are integrated with men and the army with the people; and hitting or swearing at people is forbidden, and so is the execution of deserters. As a result, morale is high and our army is invincible. If this can be done among soldiers bearing arms, why can't democracy be practiced in factories, villages, offices and schools and their problems (contradictions) solved by persuasion and not by coercion?
Why be afraid of our own people when we are not afraid of the imperialists? He is no true communist who fears the common people and believes the masses are not open to reason and must be coerced rather than convinced.
Except for renegades and persons who have grossly violated the law, we should protect all Party and Youth League members during the rectification movement, and make great and sincere efforts to help them correct their mistakes and shortcomings, improve their method of work, enhance their competence and raise their political and ideological level. A Party member must be full of vigour and strong in revolutionary will, be endowed with the drive to defy all difficulties and to persevere in overcoming them, and be determined to rid himself of individualism, departmentalism, absolute egalitarianism and liberalism ; otherwise, he is not a Party member in the real sense of the term. Those Party members who prove wanting in vigour and revolutionary will or who persist in their mistakes should be duly dealt with by the Party committee if they refuse to mend their ways after repeated warnings and, in serious cases, they should be disciplined.
Within six to twelve months the first secretaries (and the other secretaries too) of provincial, municipal and autonomous region Park committees should each make a personal study of a particular co-operative, factory, store and school to obtain some knowledge and earn the "right to speak" and so give better guidance to their work in general. The secretaries of prefectural, county and district Party committees should do likewise.
Don't underestimate the significance of our current criticism of the bourgeois Rightists. This is a great socialist revolution on the political and ideological fronts. By itself, the socialist revolution of 1956 on the economic front (that is, in the ownership of the means of production) is not enough, nor is it secure. This has been borne out by the Hungarian incident. There must be a thoroughgoing socialist revolution on the political and ideological fronts too. In the democratic parties and in intellectual and in industrial and commercial circles, it is of course out of the question for the Communist Party to exercise leadership over some people (the Rightists), for they are our enemies, and the Party's leadership over most people (the middle section) has not been consolidated in certain cultural and educational units the Party's leadership has not been established at all. Firm leadership over the middle section must be established, and the sooner the better. The bourgeoisie and bourgeois intellectuals do not gladly submit to the Communist Party, and the Rightists among them are determined to match their strength with ours. Once beaten in a trial of strength, they will realize that the game is up and their position is hopeless. Not until then will the majority (the middle section plus a number of the Rightists) begin to behave themselves, gradually abandon their bourgeois stand, come over to the side of the proletariat and make up their minds to throw in their lot with it. A small number will refuse to change to the very end; we'll just have to let them take their reactionary views with them to the grave. We must however heighten our vigilance. It must be realized that at the first opportunity they will again stir up trouble. Counting from now, this struggle will probably last ten or as many as fifteen years. The time can be shortened if things are well managed. Of course, this is not to say that class struggle will cease in ten to fifteen years: As long as imperialism and the bourgeoisie exist in this world of ours, the activities of the domestic counter-revolutionaries and bourgeois Rightists will always partake of the nature of class struggle, and, what is more, they will invariably mesh with those of the foreign reactionaries. After a necessary period of time, the form of the present struggle should change from that of a strong gale and a torrential downpour to a gentle breeze and a mild rain so that ideologically the struggle can become deeper and more thorough-going. We have won the first decisive battle in the last few months, mainly in the last two months. But in order to win complete victory, several more months of deep digging are needed, and we must not wind up the struggle in a hurry. Make no mistake, if this struggle is not won socialism is impossible.
This great debate among the people throughout the country has solved or is in the process of solving questions of cardinal importance, such as whether our work in the revolution and in construction is correct (that is, whether achievements in the revolution and in construction are primary), whether the socialist road should be taken, whether the leadership of the Communist Party, the dictatorship of the proletariat and democratic centralism are needed, and whether our foreign policy is correct. It is natural that such a great debate should have taken place. It took place in the Soviet Union in the twenties (the debate with Trotsky and others on whether socialism could be built in one country  ), and it is taking place this year in our country, in the fifties. If we fail to win complete victory in the debate, it will be impossible to continue our march forward. Once we triumph in the debate, our socialist transformation and socialist construction will receive a big impetus. This debate is a great event of world significance.
We must understand that, counting from now, ten to fifteen years will be required to build a modern industrial and modern agricultural base in China. Only when the productive forces of our society have been fairly adequately developed over a period of ten to fifteen years will it be possible to regard our socialist economic and political system as having obtained a fairly adequate material base (now far from adequate), and will it be possible to regard our state (the superstructure) as fully consolidated and our socialist society as fundamentally built. It is not built yet, and ten to fifteen years more are needed. To build socialism, the working class must have its own army of technical cadres and of professors, teachers, scientists, journalists, writers, artists and Marxist theorists. It must be a vast army; a small number of people will not suffice. This is a task that should be basically accomplished in the next ten to fifteen years. The tasks after that will be to make further efforts to develop the productive forces and expand the army of working-class intellectuals, create the pre-conditions for the gradual transition from socialism to communism and get prepared to catch up with and surpass the United States economically in eight to ten five-year plans. All members of the Communist Party and the Youth League and the nation as a whole should be aware of this task, and everybody should study hard. Wherever possible they should strive to acquire technical skill and vocational knowledge and study Marxist theory, so that a new army of working-class intellectuals will be formed (including all the intellectuals from the old society who take a firm working-class stand after having been genuinely remoulded). This is a great task history sets us. The revolutionary cause of the working class will not be fully consolidated until this vast new army of working-class intellectuals comes into being.
It is a major achievement that experience has been gained at the central and the provincial and municipal levels in the three tasks of rectification, criticism of the Rightists and winning over the middle section of the masses. With this experience things will be easier. The task for the next few months is to teach those at the prefectural and the county levels how to gain this experience. Between now and the coming winter and spring, the task is gradually to teach those at the district and the township levels to do likewise. In the cities it is to teach those at the district level and in factories and mines at the basic level as well as the neighbourhood committees. As a result, many people will be enlightened, the mass line will cease to be a mere phrase to them, and it will be easier for contradictions among the people to be resolved.
The first secretaries and all the other members of provincial, municipal and autonomous region Party committees must take full command of this great struggle. They must assume full control over the work of political transformation and ideological remoulding in the democratic parties (political circles) and in the circles of education, the press (including all newspapers and periodicals), science and technology, literature and art, public health, and industry and commerce. Each province, municipality and autonomous region should have its own Marxist theorists, scientists and technical personnel, writers, artists and literary critics, and first-rate editors and reporters on its own newspapers and periodicals. The first secretaries (and the other secretaries too) should pay particular attention to newspapers and periodicals and not be lazy about it; each should read at least five papers and five periodicals for comparison, so that they can improve their own publications.
Our criticism of the Rightists has given a great shock to everybody in the democratic parties and in intellectual and in industrial and commercial circles. It should be noted that the majority of them (the middle) are inclined to accept the socialist road and the leadership of the proletariat. This inclination varies in degree with different categories of people. It should be further noted that although they now merely show an inclination towards a genuine acceptance of the fundamentals, namely, the socialist road and the leadership of the proletariat, this very inclination signifies the first step on their long journey from the stand of the bourgeoisie to that of the working class. After a year of rectification (from May this year to May next year), they will be able to take a big step forward. In the past they were mentally unprepared to take part in socialist revolution. For them this revolution happened all of a sudden. This was also the case with a number of Communist Party members. The criticism of the Rightists and the rectification movement will give these people and the broad masses a profound education in socialism.
The big-character poster can be put to use everywhere except in the salesrooms of stores, rural areas (districts and townships), primary schools, and the battalions and companies of the armed forces. In the conditions obtaining in our country, it is a form of struggle favourable to the proletariat and unfavourable to the bourgeoisie. Fear of the big-character poster is groundless. Big-character posters, forums and debates are three excellent forms for revealing and overcoming contradictions and helping people make progress in institutions of higher education, in departments and organizations at the central, the provincial and municipal, the prefectural and the county levels and in large urban enterprises.
At no time should production and other work be neglected during the rectification movement. The authorities in various places should not start rectification in all the units under them at the same time, but should stagger it and carry it out by groups.
Don't be afraid of the violent storm, toughen yourselves and bear it. In each unit, the crest of the torrent will pass in two or three weeks, and the unit can then switch to the new stage of counter-attack on the Rightists. Faced with the Rightists' wild attacks during these two or three weeks, the leading cadres of various units should toughen themselves and hear them out without rebutting, concentrate on analysing and studying the situation, muster strength for the counter-attack, and unite with the forces of the Left, win over the middle, and isolate the Rightists -- all this makes an excellent set of Marxist tactics
The stage of freely airing views (carrying out reform at the same time), the stage of counter-attack on the Rightists (carrying out reform at the same time), the stage of putting the emphasis on reform (with a further free airing of views) and the stage in which everyone studies relevant documents and makes criticism and self-criticism to raise his own political consciousness--these are the four indispensable stages of the rectification movement at the central, the provincial and municipal, the prefectural and the county levels. In addition, rectification is to be conducted at the grass roots in the cities and the countryside. After such a movement, it is certain that the whole Party and the whole people will take on a fresh complexion.
The first secretaries of the provincial, municipal and autonomous region Party committees and of the prefectural Party committees are requested to devote some time in August to studying the check-up of co-operatives, production, grain, and other questions in rural areas in preparation for the plenary session of the Central Committee to be held in September. Please study the forty articles of the Programme for Agricultural Development one by one and see whether changes are needed.
1. History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks), Short Course Chapter 9, Section 5.
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung