Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Speech At Conference Of Provincial And Municipal Committee Secretaries

February 2, 1959

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

In regard to matters in a high tide, some people may have doubts. This is not odd. Doubts will occur year after year. There are two kinds of people: One kind consists of those who have good intentions and who are concerned; another kind consists of hostile elements, such as Lo Lung-chi[1] and the landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries and bad elements. A distinction must be made. When others doubt or make detrimental remarks, we must not consider it as something bad, but instead, pay attention and analyze. There will always be defects. It is not strange for some people to have doubts. In fact, it is beneficial.

There has been an air of cutting back for two months. Now it is 1 February. We must go all out. The general line cannot be changed. It is still to go all out, aim high and achieve greater, faster, better and more economical results. We must exert out utmost efforts. . . . go all out, strive for the upper reaches, not the middle reaches, nor the lower reaches. There was some cutting back in November and December. The people needed a rest. It is nothing unusual to relax a little, but we must exert efforts again.

After one year’s effort, a great leap forward situation has unfolded. Is this something temporary? Will there be a leap forward every year for the next several years? With a nation like ours, large population, vast area, and resources, and the Soviet Union’s experience, it is possible. The U.S. can also be considered as a great leap forward, first in the world for over 100 years. It is capitalist. Now it is no longer progressing. Be it a great, medium, or small leap forward, we probably will leap forward. If not a great leap forward, we will make a small leap forward. Most likely it will be a great leap forward every year. Is a great leap forward situation unfolding? I hope you will all think it over whether we will have great, medium, or small leaps forward in the future. I am inclined toward leaping forward.

The so-called work method is dialectics. There must be planned and proportionate development, and subjective activity. When discussing the defects of last year, some people dwell on the defects. With dozens of defects in their mind, they fail to see any achievement at all. It is the question of nine fingers and one finger. Is it metaphysics or dialectics? Metaphysics has several characteristics. First, looking at problems in an isolated and one-sided manner: instead of regarding the world as a single entity and with the parts mutually linked, it regards it as disconnected, like sand. Second, looking at problems superficially. instead of looking at problems from their essence, it regards them in their external form only, ignoring the contents. Third, looking at problems statically: it does not regard problems from their development, failing to see the contents through the forms, or the essence through the superficial. The “Internal Reference” of the New China News Agency must be read, but it isn’t good to read it too much either. The report on the Peking University problem in 1957, for example, indicated that the rightists were making a reckless attack and creating a terrible situation. Ch’en Po-ta went there to see for himself, and found that it wasn’t that bad at all. Or, take the speech of Lin Hsi-ling: the first day it was marvellous, the second day the number of people refuting him increased, and by the third day, he was rebutted. What is written in the “Internal Reference” is history. It must be read, but it must not be over-read. If one believes everything in books, it is better not to read books at all. When King Wu chastised Chou, blood flew so profusely that it floated pestles. Mencius refused to believe it. Now when we say books we mean newspapers and periodicals, and “Internal Reference” is one of them. We cannot believe everything in them. When we listen, we must listen to both sides. Regardless of the number ! of defects we have, when it comes right down to it, it is a question of nine fingers and one finger. Several hundred millions of laboring people and several millions or tens of millions of cadres cannot be doing only bad things. This I believe. It would be unimaginable for all the leading cadres present here to be engaged in bad things everyday after dinner. As it was mentioned in Wu-ch’ang, those doing bad things in the counties, communes, and production brigades constitute at most one to five percent. In regard to the high and medium-level cadres, whether they are present here or not, they all want to do good; there cannot be too many wanting to do bad things. As for those with good intentions but doing something bad, a distinction must be made. The tragedy of Stalin was that he wanted to do good deeds but ended up doing bad deeds. Subjective matters can only produce an effect in objective practice.

We must praise this method taking one big stride forward and propagandizing it: We must have key points, yet also walk on both legs. The raw material industry, for example, is a key point at present. It should be increased somewhat, while the processing industry should be reduced slightly. It is correct to increase investments XX billions, XX million U.S. dollars, for X tons of rolled steel in order to promote light and chemical industries. This method must be propagandized, discussed, and developed. As economic work is very complicated, with the factors mutually serving as cause and effect, improper handling will produce a chain reaction. We must delve into it, investigate and study, and uncover, expose, and solve the problems. Without delving, we will only hit the skin, not the blood vessel. We might as well be fearless, delve in, and expose. Short of fully exposing the contradictions, it will be impossible to solve them. Problems are contradictions. Many a time when a thing is said to be without problem, actually there are problems. We must discover, understand, and solve problems. The “Three Attacks on Chu-chia Chuan” in Water Margin began with a visit to the village by Shih Hsiu.[2] Once this problem was solved, another one was solved. After winning the battle and breaking up the three villages, Chu-chia Chuang was isolated. The third problem was ignorance of the internal conditions of Chu-chia Chuang. Men were sent in to surrender to the enemy in order to attack from the outside with cooperation from the inside. This is a good tick. Why not resort to it? In the past we always surveyed the conditions for a battle, and victories were won when the conditions became ripe. Now, in promoting construction and fighting nature, we must also investigate and study. We had no experience in construction. The first secretaries of the provinces and myself did not begin to tackle it until the latter half of last year. In the past we ma! inly tackled agriculture, but not industry. Is agriculture actually placed on a solid foundation? XX catties of grain, XX piculs of cotton, hemp, oil, large cattle, small domestic fowl  —  are their quota on a solid foundation? Or are they exaggerations? Can they be fulfilled? One must not resort to false reporting in order to get through. The proper method is to surpass the norm. XX catties of grain is to be produced, but only XX catties to be reported, because otherwise it will be difficult next year. The year before last we started early, last year was just right; this year we began a little late. Was there deep plowing? According to the newspapers, fertilization was handled fairly well. How is the fertilizer situation in Honan? How are we doing in regard to water conservation, fertilizer, and soil improvement? In water conservation we strive for 30 billion cubic meters of earthwork. I am concerned over fertilizers this year. Dropsy in humans is due to lack of meat and vegetables. When the crops get no fertilizer, they also suffer from dropsy. Therefore, we must vigorously promote native chemical fertilizer, bacterial fertilizer, compost, green fertilizer, smoked fertilizer, human waste, and animal waste. Centering on these main items, we must work concretely. The wheat crop requires additional fertilizing, watering, and cultivating. Cultivation will temporarily sever the capillaries and reduce water evaporation. In regard to the XXX billion catties of grain undertaken for this year, the order of soil improvement, fertilizer, irrigation, seeds, close planting, crop protection, field management, and farm tool reform should be followed. Soil is at the center. When there is soil, there is grain. When water is available, soil improvement should be placed first. Next is fertilizer, and irrigation comes third. But no revision should be made for the time being. I hear that the labor required for fertilization is about half of the farm labor. Tool reform is very important. Every people’s ! commune should set up a farm tool plant. It should be organized according to local conditions, and not fizzle out after a flourishing start. A special farm tool research institute and a school should be set up to collect, study, design, and trial manufacture farm tools. (Chekiang has weather and soil research organs, but nothing for farm tool research.) Is manual labor required to dig so many cubic meters of earth and apply so much fertilizer? We must have machinery. “Collecting and cutting” should read “cutting and collecting.” How can manual labor take care of cutting, transporting, threshing, and collecting, without any machinery?!

There are two other problems I wish to discuss. Some criticize us for not having leapt forward. The tone of 30 percent of the well-to-do middle peasants is similar to the landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements and rightists. The democratic people may hold opinions in their mind, but they don’t express them aloud. I talked about this problem at the Wu-ch’ang Conference. Five percent among us violate the law and disobey discipline. As for those loyal to the party and the state, they cannot be included in the one to five percent. The labor enthusiasm of the cadres and laboring people must be protected. Distinction must also be made even among those within the five percent. According to circumstances, education should be conducted to correct their mistakes. It is not good to exaggerate the problems. This experience must be reviewed every year. Like the Buddhist monks chanting scripture, it is repeated everyday. This is the question of the relationship between the individual and the general, between the large and small parts, and between the partial and the whole. Our party has decades of experience. If a small mistake by a basically good individual is exaggerated it can make him look all bad. Lenin said: These words were originally correct, but their essence was changed when uttered slightly in excess. Currently, there are some people with good intentions, but their method is wrong and they cannot distinguish the relationship between the part and the whole. Thus, dozens of defects are listed against them, and there is not one thing right with them. We must take heed of this point. In the process of commune reorganization, the people must be permitted to point out the defects. Self-criticism comes first, and correction is required. Thereafter, clarify the fact that the defects are the relationship between one and nine fingers. When analyzing and handling problems, the question of one or two or three fingers must be clarified. Of course, I am talking about the majority. ! A small number of individuals are very bad, a big mess, but the majority must correct their mistakes. Enthusiasm must be protected, for otherwise people will be afraid to take responsibilities. As for those individuals who have truly committed errors of line, it is not one finger, but nine fingers, rotting, and they are the exceptions. Conclusions must be just right, for otherwise mistakes will be made. Those feeling a strong hostility toward the people should be punished, but of course not necessarily each and everyone should be executed. Some people in the rural areas beat up people by the hundreds, and it will not be good not to punish them, because it will affect the people. However, regarding the over 95 percent of cadres, they must be protected. Our party has decades of experience in this problem. Take Lo Chang-lung[3] for instance. Currently this man is a professor in Wu-han. I know him well. He was vigorously opposed to the central committee, finding nothing right with it, feeling that only he was correct, and establishing his own central committee. As a result, he picked up a rock only to drop it on his own foot. Then there was the Li Li-san line. He also insisted that everyone else was wrong except him and negated everything. It was the same with the Wang Ming line. They all considered themselves 100 percent Bolshevik and others inveterate right opportunists and narrow empiricists. There was also the Chang Kuo-t’ao line. He also set up his own central committee, wrote plays and songs to overthrow Mao, Chou, Chang and Po, and considered himself a follower of Leninism and the International line. As a result, he destroyed himself, fled to Hong Kong, and sent his son to the Sun Yat-sen University, showing that he was not a Leninist. The second Wang Ming line was the same. He presented six big outlines, with a tremendous flourish, basically negated everything of the central committee, and misled many people. It was not the problem of one ! individual; he represented many unstable elements in the petit bourgeoisie. Wang Ming appealed to the foreign countries and brought three criminal charges against Mao: resisting the international line; forcing 80 percent of the people to examine themselves in the rectification movement; promoting sectarianism. During the Wu-Ch’ang Conference, Wang Ming sent a letter. He sounded somewhat better than before and announced his resignation. Kao-Jao’s anti-party clique went to the extreme. They were too excessive. They opposed X and Chou, with X as the key point. They declared that there were two centers, two blocs. They had their own outline, misled some people, negated everything, attacked one part while forgetting the rest, exaggerated one point into the whole, and destroyed themselves as a result. There are many secondary matters which I have not mentioned, and they are not included here. Historically there were the Ch’en Tu-hsiu line, the Lo Chang-lung line, the Wang Ming line twice, the Chang Kuo-t’ao line, the Kao-Jao anti-party clique. . . These big incidents were different from the 1955 and 1956 resistance against rash advances in degree and nature. . . Whether in China or foreign countries, one cannot negate everything. All those negating everything will end up negating themselves, destroying themselves. But as for Chiang Kai-shek, we can negate everything. However, which one is better to serve as the president in Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek, Hu Shih, or Ch’en Ch’eng? Chiang kai-shek is still better. But in places of international activity, when he is there, we won’t go. As for serving as president, he still is better. Finally, the U.S. may possibly not want Taiwan and consider it a cancer on its body. We will then take advantage of the situation. As long as this gourd is hung on our waist, there will be a way. There will be changes in 10 years, 20 years. Give it some rice to eat, give it some troops, and let it handle special duties, and Sun Yat-sen-ism. In rega! rd to anything in history which should not be negated, appropriate assessments must be made. One should not negate everything. The result of negating all is self-destruction. I have discussed this part of history when we were criticizing defects. It is to instruct our comrades with history.

At the Nan-ning Conference, the relationship between one and nine fingers was brought out. When a problem is illustrated, it becomes easier to understand. It is to explain to the cadres the question of whether to give consideration to the general situation or not to do so. It is the problem of the relationship between the big situation and the small, between the part and the whole.

In regard to the problem of planned and proportionate development of the national economy, I am not very clear, and study is required. Just how does the subjective conform to objective rules? Lenin mentioned the union of Russia’s revolutionary fervor and America’s practical spirit. In the union of theory and practice, theory is the spirit, and spirit reflects substance, something, which approaches the practical. The universal truth of Marxism-Leninism and the concrete practice of China’s revolution are combined. The universal and the concrete are the union of opposites. Objective law is reflected differently in the various nations as a result of different historical conditions. We must study, understand, master, and become familiar with objective rules. Stalin discussed this issue a lot, but he did not follow through. He did not abide by the ratio. Russia’s industry was big and its agriculture small. He stressed the big and scorned the small. We are now doing it differently. From 1956 we began to create the dual development and leap forward of industry (including communication and transportation) and agriculture, and we began to find the way for planned and proportionate development. After cooperativization in 1955, the people’s enthusiasm rose, and we began to find economic development hopeful and opposed conservatism. Failing to exert oneself to do something which can be done by exertion is called conservatism. But one must not attempt something which cannot be done. If one persists, it is called subjectivism. When the subjective reflects the objective, it becomes subjective activity, not subjectivism. There are two kinds of subjective activity: one kind is divorced from practice and it is subjectivism; the other conforms with objective law, and it is subjectivism compatible with practice. Anything violating objective law will suffer a setback. There is some lack of coordination, for example, in supplementary foods and daily use articles. If not taken hold of, it will b! e dangerous.

The Japanese say that we stress hands rather than population. We have so many people who can work. The 1953 great leap forward might be basically suitable. As for concrete figures, whether a little more or a little less, that is something else. But it proves: that a great leap forward is possible. There can be a great leap forward every year, whether it means 10 million tons of steel more or 10 million tons less. The Soviet Union had a steel output increase of 4 million tons, which was unprecedented in history. The year before the increase was only 3 million tons. In the 20 years from 1921 to 1940, the increase was only 14 million tons; the increase in the 13 years after the war was 37 million tons; thereafter there was an increase of 5 million tons per year. We are different from them. We undertake the large, medium, and small, doing several things at the same time. We have the mass line, “two participations, one reform and three combinations,” and the alliance of the party with the masses. Meanwhile, our geographical and climatic conditions are good, and we have a population of 680 million. Therefore, it was possible for us to launch a great leap forward in 1958. May be we can compare it to hog raising. The bone structure is formed in the first four months. 1958 was the K’e-lang hog: It had [a good] bone structure, but not much flesh. It was still not fat, and had to be fed. Currently, our great leap forward is to build the bone structure.

We began with the “10 Major Relations” proposed in 1955, continued with the 1958 New Year editorial entitled “Go All Out; Strive for the Upper Reaches,” two excellent phrases which developed into the general line at the Ch’eng-tu Conference. It is correct when we look at it now. Is extra effort necessary? Should it be exerted? Should we strive for the upper reaches? Or the middle reaches, or the lower reaches? Do we want greater and faster? Do we want better and more economical (quality)? The first two sentences concern man’s mental attitude, or subjective activity; the latter sentence concerns material.

Naturally we have defects and mistakes. Tackling one side and overlooking another, causing waste in labor, the tense situation of supplementary foods, the still unsolved light industrial raw material problem (diversified operations), the lack of adjustment in transportation, undertaking too many projects in capital construction  —  all these are our defects and errors. Like a child playing with fire, without experience, knowing pain only after getting burned. In economic construction, like a child without experience, we declared war on the earth, unfamiliar with the strategy or tactics. We must frankly admit such defects and errors. Some people tried to comfort me by asking whether the Ch’eng-tu Conference did not propose the combination of labor and leisure and the advance of production in waves? But no concrete timetable was proposed, which was not good. Then, tackling production without tackling living would definitely result in tens of thousands of dropsy cases. Only when one person received one ounce of vegetable in Peking was attention aroused. The objective reality, planning, and ratios are only recognized in the midst of practice and struggle. We developed a K’e-lang hog in 1958, but we are still without a fat hog. We have found the way (great leap forward) in the process of practice. Possibly the four big targets of the Wu-ch’ang Conference are close to reality, but they are only on paper, not a reality. Grain is not yet in our hands, and there is only one month of iron and steel and coal (production not very good). With more effort it may become a reality. After the conference this time, by exerting more effort, the problems in all aspects may become better resolved. With experience, it will be better than 1958. All items of work and the people’s livelihood will improve somewhat. Hindsight turns into foresight. There is waste in manpower, lack of attention to the inadequacy of supplementary foods in big cities, insufficient attention to some segments of! light industry, and insufficient attention to diversified operations and transportation. One kind is lack of attention and the other insufficient attention, resulting in inadequate supply and partial maladjustment. The failure to come to a conclusion on these problems now becomes one problem, and I hope the standing committee of the provincial committees will study it. . .

. Generally speaking, whether our plans, targets and editorials are suitable or not, we are always seeking experience through practice. Even if not completed, it is only because of insufficient experience and too much bragging. I approve of writing poetry in the newspapers. There should be optimism even if not completed, because lessons can be learned. . . .If we have no experience, let us try one more year, next year. After struggling hard for three years, our experience will increase. If anything is not suitable, we will correct it. Let the world curse us. Our general line cannot be changed. It won’t do to build socialism by “reducing our efforts, striving for the lower reaches, and less-slow-inferior-waste.” We must always go all out, strive for the upper reaches, and achieve greater, faster, better and more economical results. What is greater and what is faster? These must be determined in practice. Now we propose to build a great socialist nation with modern industry, modern agriculture, and modern science and culture in 15 years. If impossible, then take a little more time! Just what is planned and proportionate development? We have just begun to come in contact with this problem. I hope our comrades will study it.



[1.] Lo Lung-chi (1896-1965), a political scientist educated at the London School of Economics and Columbia University, was a leading member of the China Democratic League. He was Minister of Timber from 1956-8. One of the Chief Righitist who attacked the Party during 1957-58.

[2.] Water Margin, a traditional Chinese novel.

[3.] Lo Chang-lung. See note 16, p. 111 of this volume.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung