Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Speech At The Sixth Plenum Of
The Eighth Central Committee

December l9, 1958

[SOURCE: Long live Mao Zedong Thought, a Red Guard Publication.]

These are merely opinions, not conclusions. The resolutions will be the conclusions of the meeting.

1. The appearance of the people’s commune. The appearance of the people’s commune was not foreseen at the Ch’eng-tu Conference in April and the Party Congress in May. Actually it had already appeared in Honan in April, but remained undiscovered through May, June, and July. It was not discovered until August. A resolution was formed at the Pei-tai-ho Conference. It was a momentous event. A form to build socialism was found, facilitating the transition from collective ownership to ownership by the people and from socialist ownership by the people to the communist ownership by the people, making [life] easier for the workers, peasants, merchants, students, and soldiers, and rendering possible many undertakings on a large scale and by many people. We once said that we must be prepared for unlucky happenings. Nothing can be more unlucky than war or a split in the party. But there are also unexpected good things. We did not expect the formation of the people’s commune in April, and the resolution was not made until August. The framework was erected throughout the country in four months. Now the organization must be consolidated.

2. The issue of safeguarding labor fervor. Cadres make mistakes mostly by practicing coercion, telling lies, and making false reports, reporting either more or less than the actual figures. It is not very serious to report less for more, but it is very serious to report more for less. Reporting 100 catties as 50 does not matter, but reporting 50 catties as 100 is serious. The main trouble is the lack of concern over the people’s livelihood and giving attention only to production. How should it be remedied? Those making mistakes constitute a minority among the cadres. In regard to those making mistakes, 90 percent or more of them should be handled by means of patient persuasion, once, twice ... without punishment, only self-criticism. Let us all discuss this matter. My individual opinion cannot be considered as a conclusion. Cadres at the country, district, and township levels seriously violating law and disobeying discipline and isolating themselves from the people constitute approximately 1-5 percent of their total, and that’s about all. Conditions vary in different areas. Some distinctions must be made. Those who have isolated themselves from the people should be punished. The people do not like them. If we do not refrain from punishing the more than 90 percent of the cadres who have committed mistakes, we will be unable to protect the cadres and we will be checking the enthusiasm of the laborers as well as the cadres. In regard to those who have seriously violated the law and disobeyed discipline, if we do not discuss their cases, make some distinctions, and mete out punishment accordingly, we will also damage the people’s enthusiasm. Some especially serious cases will be handled as criminal cases. In general, individual cases must be analyzed to determine which ones are class dissenters and which are not. However, in extreme cases, such as beating people, swearing at people, detaining people, or tying people up, they must be punished. Hupeh Province already dismissed the first se! cretary of a county committee. When the drought was very severe, he did not fight it but reported that he had. Anyway, punishment should be given to the minimum number of offenders while education should be given to the maximum. By so doing, the enthusiasm of the cadres and laborers will be safeguarded. As for those among the people who have committed mistakes, the policy should be the same.

3. The issue of “basically transforming the entire country after three years of hard struggle”. Is this slogan appropriate? Can it be done in three years? This slogan was first introduced by a Honan comrade. We adopted it at the Nan-ning Conference. It was aimed at the rural areas at that time. Subsequently, we don’t know when, it was expanded into “transforming the entire country after three years of hard struggle.” Tseng Hsi-sheng[1] wanted to convince me. He showed me maps of three river networks and maintained that the rural areas could be basically transformed. Maybe it is possible to accomplish this in the rural areas, but as for the entire country, I feel that further consideration is required. It is possible that within three years, we may be able to produce 30 to 40 million tons of steel annually. When a large nation of 650 million population produces 30-40 million tons of steel, how could it be called a basic transformation? I feel this standard has been set too low. Otherwise, we would not have to strive for further improvement. What would we call it when our production reaches 50, 60, 100, or 200 million tons annually? I feel that great improvements are yet to come! Therefore, we cannot speak of basically transforming the country in three years. By 1962 steel production may reach 50 or 60 million tons a year. By that time it may be said that we have basically transformed the entire country. We will then have reached the standards in Britain and America of today. By that time should we still refrain from speaking about basically transforming the entire country? Transforming a nation of over 600 million at such a speed seems incredible. What should we call it? It should be discussed, because the newspapers are already vigorously propagandizing it. Maybe we can strive for basic transformation in five years and thorough transformation in 10-15 years. What is the best? I hope our comrades will think about it. ! Maybe we can call it basic transformation when Great Britain is surpassed and complete transformation when the U.S. is surpassed. When we force ourselves to surpass others, we will become exhausted. It is better to take it a little easier. If we do not require these many years and surpass them in three or four years, then what should we do? If it can be realized in advance, it’s all right! The sooner we achieve our goal in advance of plans, the sooner we will get the results. I don’t believe that will be a loss! Tseng Hsi-sheng has an idea which is nothing but “opportunism.” Last winter and this spring, Anhwei began to undertake 800 million cubic meters of earth and stone work in water conservation. Subsequently it was doubled to 1.6 billion. Eight hundred million was opportunism; 1.6 billion was Marxism-Leninism. In a short time, it was increased to 3.2 billion, and 1.6 billion looked like “opportunism.” Later on it was increased to 6.4 billion. When we set the time for the transformation a little longer, we are not being anything but “opportunists.” Such opportunism is very interesting and I am willing to practice it. Marx appreciated such opportunism. He would not have criticized me.

4. Certain disputes inside and outside the party. There are all kinds of opinions concerning the people’s communes inside and outside the party. Hundreds of thousands or millions, of cadres are discussing it. Many questions have not been cleared up. Each man has his own opinion, and 10 men have 10 opinions. There is no general or intensive analysis. There are also some opinions in the international society which holds several viewpoints. One is that there is too much haste; that their great determination and high revolutionary fervor are extremely valuable, but they have not made any historical, situational, or international analysis; that enthusiasm is their good point but haste their defect; that it is premature to announce the transition to ownership by the people and the entry into communism in two or three years. The resolution this time is aimed mainly at this viewpoint. In other words, don’t be in too great a haste, for it won’t do any good. With this resolution, after this resolution, after a period of weeks, months, they will come to this realization through practice and debate. There will always be “leftists,” but there is no need to worry about them. As long as the majority of the cadres are united in their thinking, it can be handled easily. Possibly a few cadres who are good comrades and loyal to the party and the country may believe we are being too hasty. They are not tide watchers, or account settlers. They are not on the opposite side. They are concerned, concerned that we may fail. They are good people. This resolution may possibly convince them, because we are not in that much of a haste. The resolution is aimed mainly at the hasty people, it is also a reply to the tide watchers and account settlers. They do not have good intentions. They do not realize the urgent demand of the current situation or that the opportunity is ripe.

There are two transitions. How can they be achieved? This question came up in the past two months. It is good that this question has come up. We have the answer for it. It was not solved at the Ch’eng-tu Conference. But some preparations were made at the Chengchow Conference and were completed a month later. Communism is divided into two stages. More than a 100 years have passed since Marx, 40 years since Lenin’s October Revolution, 30 since our party started building a base, and nine since the national victory. Therefore, this question is not premature, and the conditions for an answer have ripened. Currently, there are many opinions inside and outside the country concerning this question. Dulles is also expressing his opinion. He says that we practice slave labor and destroy the family; that the great speed of our construction is a result of our excessive exploitation and the accumulation of a large reserve; that they are slow because there is less exploitation [of the U.S. people]. The intermediate strata, the proletariat, and the communists are also voicing their opinions. The proletariat of all nations and the comrades of foreign countries are defending us. Their basis is the Pei-tai-ho Conference and newspaper information. If we do not give an answer, there will be much confusion and an anarchic situation may develop. Everyone will be for himself. The provinces and regions will not be able to control the counties and the counties will not be able to control the communes. it will be like a reinless horse. Therefore, we must oppose haste on the one hand and answer this question on the other.

5. The study of political economy. In the next few months, please study Stalin’s Economic Problems of Socialism, Textbook on Political Economy (third edition), and Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin on the Communist Society. All provinces should spend a few months on organization. Studying economic theories in conjunction with reality has a great theoretical and practical significance for the cause of our undertakings at the present time. I made this suggestion at the Chengchow Conference and wrote a letter suggesting it for everyone’s consideration.

6. The study of dialectics. At the time of the Chengchow Conference, a comrade, I don’t remember who it was, introduced the saying “big collective; small freedom.” This is a good saying. If it had been “big freedom; small collective.” it would have pleased Dulles, Huang Yen-p’ei and Jung I-jen.

We must take hold of both production and livelihood problems. “Walking on both legs” is a theory of the unity of opposites and within the realm of dialectics. Marx’s theory on the unity of opposites made great progress in China in 1958 which, under the premise of preferential development of heavy industry, included the simultaneous promotion of industry and agriculture, of heavy and light industries, of central and local industries, of large, medium, and small enterprises, of small plants using indigenous methods and large plants using foreign methods, of native and foreign methods, and simultaneous development in other fields. Then there are also the management systems  —  centralized leadership by the Central Government, and management by levels in the local areas. From the Central Government, province, region, counties, all the way down to the production team, some authority is conferred. It serves no good purpose for them to be completely without authority. These concepts are already firmly established in our party. This is good. Both indigenous methods and modern methods are simultaneously promoted. There are plants using both Chinese and modern methods. Were not Chinese methods used at T’ang-shan and Huang-shih-kang? Are there also small plants using foreign methods? There are. There are also plants using both foreign and native methods. In general, it is very complex. Some of these [combinations] are considered wrong and may not be practiced in some nations of the socialist camp. We permit them; we consider them proper here. Is it better to permit them or not to permit them? We have to wait a few years and see. However, for a nation like ours which is extremely poor, it is all right to use some indigenous methods to build small plants. It will be too monotonous to concentrate only on big projects. Agriculture is also full of complexities. We have high, medium, and low yields at the same time. The “three-three system” of cultivation was created ! by the people and adopted at the Pei-tai-ho Conference. In this system, the land available for cultivation is divided into three parts; one for growing food, one for afforestation, and one is to be left fallow. This may be the direction of the agricultural revolution. The “eight-character code” was also introduced. They are, water for irrigation, fertilizer, soil improvement, seeds, close planting, crop protection, farm tool reform, and field management. Man needs water to drink; so do plants.

In regards to the socialist system, two kinds of ownership exist simultaneously in the socialist stage. They are opposites, and also united. They are the unity of opposites. Collective ownership contains the nucleus of the socialist ownership by the people. Its basic essence is collective ownership, but it also contains the element of the communist ownership by all the people. Yu Chin said recently that it is all right for the collective ownership in China to contain the elements of communism. A capitalist society does not allow the socialist form of production. But in nations under the leadership of the communist party, it is proper to allow the elements of communism to grow. Stalin did not solve this problem. He polarized the collective ownership, the socialist ownership by all the people, and the communist ownership by all the people. This is wrong.

Can these be called the development of dialectics?

“Big collective, small freedom” was proposed at the Chengchow Conference. Now, it is “grasping revolution and grasping livelihood problems.” These are the expansion of dialectics. The Wu-ch’ang conference resolved that we must “seek the truth from facts.” We must be hot and cold at the same time when we do our planning. We must not only proceed with determination, but also earnestly engage in scientific analysis. Of course, this resolution alone will not solve all our problems. I think it is better to delay its announcement. We should issue only an official report, then publish the resolution next March at the People’s Congress. This is in accord with our great ambition and determination. It will avoid certain impractical ideas that emerged from the 1958 great leap forward. It will be given a firmer basis and a better scientific analysis. As for steel production, I had once favored producing 30 million tons next year. I have also had some second thoughts after Wu-ch’ang. In the past I thought of 100 or 120 million tons in 1962. At that time I was only concerned with the question of demand. I was worried over the problem of who would be using this steel, but did not think of the problem of whether it is possible. Later on I considered this problem. One is capacity and the other is need. Producing 10.7 million tons this year has been exhausting; therefore, capacity becomes a question. To produce 30 million tons next year, 60 million tons the year after, and 120 million tons in 1962 is not possible or realistic. Now, we should shorten the time and plan for 18 to 20 million tons. Can this be exceeded? Let us wait until next year and see. 22 to 23 million tons may be possible. It may be exceeded when there is extra capacity. Now our goal should be small. We should not set it too high and leave a margin of safety. We should let the people surpass our plans in practice. This also is a problem of dialectics. Practice includes the effort of our leading cadr! es and the practice of the people. When the goal is set low but raised higher in practice, it is not opportunism. The growth from 11 million to 20 million tons is about a 100-percent increase. There has never been such “opportunism” in the world since ancient times. Here, it must also be linked with internationalism, with the Soviet Union and the entire socialist camp, and with the entire world working class and international unity. On this subject we must not struggle to be first. Currently, some counties are always struggling to be first; they want to enter communism first. In fact, An-shan Iron and Steel, Fu-shun, Liaoning, Shanghai, and Tientsin should be the first to enter communism. It would not look right for China to enter communism ahead of the Soviet Union. Whether this is possible is also a question. The Soviet Union has 1.5 million scientists, several million higher intellectuals, and 500,000 engineers, more numerous than the U.S. It has 55 million tons of steel, but we have only this little bit. Its reserve strength is great and cadres numerous, while we have just begun. Therefore, capacity is a question. The seven-year plan proposed by Khrushchev is a preparation to enter communism. The proposed two systems of ownership will gradually become one. This is good. But one is “impractical” and the other “impossible.” Even if it is possible for us to be the first, we should not do so. The October Revolution was Lenin’s cause. Are we not emulating Lenin? So, what’s the need of hurrying? It would be only for the purpose of seeking credit from Marx. If we rush, we may possibly commit errors in international matters. We must give attention to dialectics and mutual benefits. Dialectics has made great developments and this is one of them.

7. The 15-year program brought out at the Chengchow Conference. This time we have laid aside the 15-year program brought out at the Chengchow Conference. There is no basis to determine whether it is needed and whether it is possible. We not only lack sufficient basis, but also preliminary basis. The experiences of the Soviet Union and the U.S. do not provide a basis for us to do that much. Is it possible? Even if it is possible, customers cannot be found. Therefore, the program will not be set firmly for the time being. We can bring it out every winter and discuss it. Such long-range plans will not be made next year, the year after next, or three years hence. Probably a long-range plan can be formulated by 1962, but not earlier. The party and the people have been promoting industry for several years, and they may have some idea about the questions of capability and need. Some comrades are probably disappointed that it was laid aside and not discussed at this conference.

8. Military work in 1958. Military work developed considerably in 1958, including the all-out rectification, the officers joining the soldiers in the units, the participation in production, and militia building. Ever since the rectification conference in Peking in June, all levels have also been holding rectification conferences. By now they have probably been completed. Training cannot be disregarded. If everyone is assigned to conduct rectification, production, steel refining, commune building, or water conservation, it won’t work either. Troops are, after all, troops, and training is a constant task.

9. Change in the education system. Implementing the system of combining education and labor production is a momentous matter. Naturally, some problems have cropped up. Some students, for example, do not want to study, but find labor production more interesting. If many of them do not want to study, then it becomes a problem. When it becomes a problem, a meeting will be held. After the meeting they will study again.

10. The question of two possibilities. There are always two opposing sides in a thing. Will the dinning hall, nurseries, and communes be consolidated? It seems that they will be, but we must also be prepared for some collapses. Consolidation and collapse are two possibilities which exist simultaneously. If we are not prepared, there may be a big collapse. Consolidation and collapse are two opposites. Our resolution is for the purpose of consolidation. Without a few collapses, there will not be consolidation. For example, if a few infants die in the nurseries or a few oldsters die in the happiness halls, what would be the superiority of such institutions? If cold rice is served in the dining halls, or if there is only rice and nothing else, a group of them will also collapse. To feel that not one should collapse is not practical. Collapse due to bad handling is rational. Generally speaking, collapses are partial and temporary, not permanent. The general tendency is development and consolidation. Our party also has two possibilities: consolidation and split. In Shanghai one Central Committee split into two Central Committees; in the Long March, we split with Chang Kuo-t’ao; the Kao-Jao Incident was a partial split. Partial splits are normal. Since last year, splits occurred within the leadership group in half of the provinces in the nation. Take the human body for instance. Everyday hair and skin are coming off. It is the death of a part of the cells. From infancy on, a part of the cells will die. It benefits growth. Without such destruction, man cannot exist. It would have been impossible if men did not die since the time of Confucius. Death has benefits; fertilizer is created. You say you don’t want to become fertilizer, but actually you will. You must be mentally prepared. Partial splits occur everyday. There will always be splits and destruction. The absence of splits is detrimental to development. Destruction in entirety is also a historical inevitability. As a whole, the party and the ! state, serving as the tools of the class struggle, will also perish. But before the completion of its historical mission, we must consolidate it. We do not hope for splits, but we must be prepared. Without preparation, there will be splits. With preparation, we will avoid big splits. Large and medium splits are temporary. The Hungary Incident was a large split; the Kao-Jao and Molotov Incidents are medium ones. Changes are occurring in each and every party branch. Some are dismissed while others join; some work successfully while others make mistakes. It is impossible for changes never to occur. Lenin constantly said: “A nation always has two possibilities: success or destruction.” Our people’s Republic of China also has two possibilities: continue to succeed, or become destroyed. Lenin did not conceal the possibility of destruction. China also has two possibilities, and we must recognize them. We are not in possession of the atom bomb. Should there be a war, running away is the best of the 36 stratagems. If Peking, Shanghai, and Wu-han are occupied, we will resort to guerrilla warfare. We will regress one or two decades and return to the Yanan era. Meanwhile, we must actively make preparations, vigorously promoting iron and steel, machinery, and railways, striving for several ten million tons of steel output in three or four years, establishing an industrial foundation, and becoming more consolidated than today. Currently our prestige in the world is high, resulting from such big events as the bombardment of Quemoy, the people’s commune, and the 10.7 million tons of steel output. I feel that, though our prestige is high, our strength is not superior. We are still “poor and blank”, we have no weapons in our hands, and we have not accomplished anything. Now we have some weapons, but our nation is actually weak. Politically ours is a strong nation, but militarily and economically we are a weak nation. Therefore, the mission confronting us is to change from weakness to st! rength. Can the transformation be accomplished after three years of hard struggle? I am afraid not. Three years of hard struggle can only produce partial changes, not fundamental transformation. If we take four more years, making it a total of seven, it will be better, and the name will correspond with the substance. Now our prestige is very high but our strength very small. This point must be clearly recognized. Currently, the foreigners do a lot of bragging, and many newspapers have nothing but exaggerations. We must not let such bragging turn our head. Actually, there is only 9 million tons of good grade steel; milling it into steel material will result in only 70 percent, or a little over 6 million tons. We must not deceive ourselves. The volume of grain is great. After discounting in all areas, the amount is 860 billion catties. We say 730 billion catties, or a little more than double. We do not count the 110 billion catties. When it is there and we do not count it, it is not a loss, because it is there. We are only afraid that it is not there. Whether it’s there has not been verified. All of you present here have not verified it. Let us consider it as 860 billion catties, but one-fourth belongs to the potato family. The estimate must include the unhappy side. We might as well make it clear. We should hold a meeting in the provinces, regions, and counties and spread the unpropitious things. What’s wrong with that? We don’t like to hear others talking about them, but I shall talk about unpropitious things everywhere, such as the collapse of public dining halls and communes, party splits, isolation from the masses, U.S. occupation, destruction of the nation, guerrilla warfare. We follow a Marxist law. No matter what, all such unpropitious things are only temporary and partial. The point has been proved by the many failures in our history. The Hungary incident, the Long March, the 300,000 troops reduced to 20,000, the 300,000 party members dwindling to several tens of thousands  ! —  these were all temporary and partial. The destruction of the bourgeoisie and imperialism will be permanent. The setbacks, failures, and destruction of socialism are temporary, and it does not take long for us to recover. Even total failure is also temporary, and there will be recovery. After the big failure of 1927, we picked up the gun again. “Heaven has unexpected winds and clouds; man has misfortunes and good luck at any moment”. We must be prepared. “It is rare for a man to live three score and ten.” Death is inevitable. One cannot live 10,000 years. One must be prepared at all times. All my words are depressing. Every man dies. The individuals will always die, but mankind will always continue to live. Both possibilities must be discussed; there is no harm in it. If one must die, one dies. As for socialism, I would like to devote myself to it for few more years. After surpassing the U.S., we can go and report to Marx. Our several old comrades are not afraid to die. I am not willing to die, but strive to live on. But if I must die, then let it be so. There is still some “Ah Q” flavor, but then if there is no “Ah Q” flavor at all, it won’t be easy to live.

11. The issue of my resignation as the Chairman of the Republic. A formal resolution must be made this time, and I hope my comrades will agree, I ask that within three days, the provinces hold a telephonic conference to notify the regions, counties, and people’s communes. The official report will be published three days later, so that the lower levels will not find it a total surprise. Things are really odd in this world! One can go up but not come down. I expect that a part of the people will agree and another part disagree. People do not understand, saying that while everyone is so full of energy in doing things, I am withdrawing from the frontlines. It must be clearly explained. This is not true. I am not withdrawing. I want to surpass the U.S. before I go to see Marx!

12. International situation. There has been great developments this year. The enemy is in disarray, more and more so. We are getting better, better and better everyday. Everyday the newspapers confirm this point. The truly discouraged is imperialism. They are rotting, becoming disorderly, full of conflicts, splitting apart, experiencing a bad time. Their good days are over. Their goods days were before they turned into imperialism, when they had only capitalism. Our situation will improve day by day. Of course, we must also expect long term, tortuous, and complex struggles, and the possibility of war. There are those who want to take risks. The most reactionary is the monopolistic bourgeoisie, while the majority of the people do not want war.



[1.] Tseng Hsi-sheng (c 1905- ) a graduate of Whampoa who participated in the Long March, was elected to the Central Committee in 1956. He was also First Secretary of the CPC for Anhwei province, from 1952 to 1960, and in that capacity he showed himself a strong supporter of the Great Leap Forward.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung