Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Talks With Responsible Comrades
At Various Places During
Provincial Tour

From the middle of August to 12 September 1971

[SOURCE: Mao Chu-hsi wen-hsun.]



Chairman Mao said: I hope that you will practice Marxism and not revisionism; that you will unite and not split; that you will be sincere and open and not resort to plotting and conspiracy.

The correctness or otherwise of the ideological and political line decides everything. When the Party’s line is correct, then everything will come its way. If it has no followers, then it can have followers; if it has no guns, then it can have guns; if it has no political power, then it can have political power. If its line is not correct, even what it has it may lose. The line is a net rope. When it is pulled, the whole net opens out.

This Party of ours already has fifty years’ history, during which time we have had ten big struggles on the question of our line. During these ten struggles there were people who wanted to split our Party, but none of them were able to do so. This is a question worth studying: such a big country, such a large population, yet no split. We can only say that this means that the Party wants what the people want, and the Party members do not want a split. In view of its past history, the future of the Party is full of hope.

First came Ch’en Tu-hsiu, who went in for right opportunism. After the ‘August 7th’ Conference of 1927 he organized the ‘Leninist left-opposition faction’ together with Liu Jen-ching, P’eng Shu-chih and others, and eighty-one of them issued a statement. They aimed to split our Party but they did not succeed. They then fled to the Trotskyites.

Next Ch’ü Ch’iu-pai committed mistakes of line. His people came across a pamphlet of mine in Hunan which contained my remark, ‘Political power comes from the barrel of a gun.’ This infuriated them. How could political power possibly come from the barrel of a gun? So they stripped me of my position as alternate member of the Politburo. Later Ch’ü Ch’iu-pai was captured by the Kuomintang, wrote his ‘Superfluous Words’, betrayed us, and went over to the other side.[1]

After the Sixth Congress of the Party in 1928 Li Li-san started to put on airs. From June to September 1930 he followed his Li-san Line for over three months. He advocated attacks on big cities, and first winning victory in one or several provinces. I did not agree with all this. At the Third Plenum of the Sixth Central Committee Li Li-san fell.

From 1930 to 1931 Lo Chang-lung’s rightist faction set up a separate Central Committee and engaged in splitting activity.[2] But they did not succeed either.

The Wang Ming Line had the longest life-span. He had formed a faction in Moscow, and organized the ‘28½ Bolsheviks’. Relying on the might of the Third International they seized power in the Party and held it for a full four years. Wang Ming called the Fourth Plenum of the Sixth Central Committee in Shanghai, and published his pamphlet, Fight for the Greater Bolshevization of the Chinese Communist Party, in which he criticized Li Li-san for not being ‘left’ enough. He was not satisfied until he had made a clean sweep of the bases, as in the end he practically did. During the four years from 1931 to 1934 I had no voice at all at the Centre. The Tsunyi Conference of January 1935 corrected mistakes of Wang Ming’s line and he fell.

During the Long March, after the meeting of the First and Fourth Front Armies, Chang Kuo-t’ao carried out a split and set up a separate Centre, but he did not succeed. Before the Long March the Red Army had 300,000 men. On its arrival in North Shensi only 25,000 remained. In the Central Soviet Area there had been 80,000. Of these only 8,000 arrived in North Shensi. Chang Kuo-t’ao did not want to go to North Shensi and carried out a split. But what way out was there at that time, other than to go to North Shensi? This was a question of political line. Our political line at that time was correct. If we had not gone to North Shensi, how could we have later gone to the North China Region, the East China Region, and the Central China Region, the North-East Region? How could we have built so many bases in the Anti-Japanese War? When we arrived in North Shensi, Chang Kuo-t’ao fled.

After nationwide victory Kao Kang and Jao Shu-shih created an anti-party alliance, with the intention of seizing power, but they did not succeed either.

At the 1959 Lushan Conference P’eng Te-huai colluded with a foreign country to seize power. Huang K’e-ch’eng, Chang Wen-t’ien, Chou Hsiao-chou popped up and opposed the Party. They formed a military club, though they did not discuss military affairs, but said such things as: ‘The people’s communes were set up too soon,’ ‘Our gains do not compensate for our losses,’ etc. P’eng Te-huai also wrote a letter which was an open declaration of war. His intention was to seize power, but he did not succeed.

Liu Shao-ch’i and his lot also wanted to split the Party, but they did not achieve their ambitions either.

Then came the struggle at the 1970 Lushan Conference.[3]

At the 1970 Lushan Conference they made a surprise attack and carried out underground activity. Why did they not dare to act openly? Clearly they had something to hide. So they first dissembled and then made a surprise attack. They concealed things from three of the five members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. They also concealed things from the great majority of comrades on the Politburo apart from their own few big generals. These big generals included Huang Yung-sheng, Wu Fa-hsien, Yeh Ch’ün, Li Tso-p’eng, and Ch’iu Hui-tso, as well as Li Hsüeh-feng and Cheng Wei-shan.[4] Before they launched their surprise attack they did not let out a whisper. They caused trouble not merely for a day and a half, but from 23 August right through the 24th and up to midday on the 25th, altogether two days and a half. This kind of behaviour shows that they had some aim in mind! P’eng Te-huai formed a military club and issued a declaration of war. They were not even up to P’eng Te-huai’s level. This only shows how low their style of work was.

In my view, behind their surprise attack and their underground activity lay purpose, organization and a programme. Their programme was to appoint a state chairman, and to extol ‘genius’: in other words, to oppose the line of the Ninth Congress and to defeat the three-point agenda of the Second Plenum of the Ninth Central Committee. A certain person was anxious to become state chairman, to split the Party and to seize power. The question of genius is a theoretical question. Their theory was idealist apriorism. Someone has said that to oppose genius is to oppose me. But I am no genius. I read Confucian books for six years and capitalist books for seven. I did not read Marxist-Leninist books until 1918, so how can I be a genius? Didn’t I put circles round those adverbs several times over?[5] The Party Constitution was settled at the Ninth Congress. Why not take a look at it? I wrote ‘Some Opinions’,[6] which specially criticizes the genius theory, only after looking up some people to talk with them, and after some investigations and research. It is not that I do not want to talk about genius. To be a genius is to be a bit more intelligent. But genius does not depend on one person or a few people. It depends on a party, the party which is the vanguard of the proletariat. Genius is dependent on the mass line, on collective wisdom.

Comrade Lin Piao did not discuss that speech of his[7] with me, nor did he show it to me. When they had something to say they did not disclose it in advance. Probably this is because they thought they had a grip on things and were likely to succeed. But as soon as they were told that their ideas were not acceptable, they became jittery. At first they were as bold as brass, giving the impression they could raze Lushan to the ground or stop the earth revolving. But after a few days they hurriedly withdrew the draft.[8] If it was right, why withdraw it? This shows that they were devoid of ideas and in a panic.

The struggle with P’eng Te-huai at the 1959 Lushan Conference was a struggle between two headquarters. The struggle with Liu Shao-ch’i was also a struggle between two headquarters. The struggle at this Lushan Conference is yet another struggle between two headquarters.

The struggle at Lushan this time was different from the nine previous struggles. On the previous nine occasions we drew some conclusions, while this time we have shielded Vice-Chairman Lin and have not drawn conclusions concerning an individual. He must, of course, assume some responsibility. What are we to do about these people? We should still operate a policy of educating them, that is, ‘learning from past mistakes to prevent future ones and curing the disease to save the patient’. We still want to protect Lin. No matter who it is who has made mistakes, it is not a good thing to forget unity and the line. After I return to Peking I must seek them out again to have a talk. If they do not come to see me I will go to see them. Some of them may be saved, others it may not be possible to save. This depends on their actions. They have two possible futures: they may reform or they may not. It is difficult for someone who has taken the lead in committing major errors of principle, errors of line or direction, to reform. Looking back, did Ch’en Tu-hsiu reform? Did Ch’u Ch’iu-pai, Li Li-san, Lo Chang-lung, Wang Ming, Chang Kuo-t’ao, Kao Kang, Jao Shu-shih, P’eng Te-huai or Liu Shao-ch’i reform? They did not reform.

I spoke to Comrade Lin Piao and some of the things he said were not very accurate. For example he said that a genius only appears in the world once in a few centuries and in China once in a few millennia. This just doesn’t fit the facts. Marx and Engels were contemporaries, and not one century had elapsed before we had Lenin and Stalin, so how could you say that a genius only appears once in a few centuries? In China there were Ch’en Sheng and Wu Kuang, Hung Hsiu-ch’üan and Sun Yat-sen,[9] so how could you say that a genius only appears once in a few millennia? And then there is all this business about pinnacles and ‘one sentence being worth ten thousand’.[10] Don’t you think this is going too far? One sentence is, after all, just one sentence, how can it be worth ten thousand sentences? We should not appoint a state chairman. I don’t want to be state chairman. I have said this six times already. If each time I said it I used one sentence, that is now the equivalent of sixty thousand sentences.

But they never listen, so each of my sentences is not even worth half a sentence. In fact its value is nil. It’s only Ch’en Po-ta’s sentences that are worth ten thousand apiece to them. He talked about ‘establishing in a big way’, by which he gave the appearance of meaning to establish my prestige.[11] But when you get to the bottom of it, he really meant himself. They also said that the People’s Liberation Army was built and led by me, and commanded personally by Lin.[12] It seems that the person who founded it cannot command it! And I did not build it all by myself either.

When it comes to questions of line, questions of principle, I take a firm hold and do not relax my grip. On major questions of principle I do not make concessions. After the Lushan Conference I employed three methods: the first was throwing stones, the second was mixing sand into soil and the third was undermining the wall. I criticized the material produced by Ch’en Po-ta which fooled a great many people. I approved the report of the Thirty-eighth Army and the report of the Tsinan Military Region which opposed arrogance and complacency.[13] Then there was the Military Affairs Committee which held such a long discussion meeting without a word of criticism of Ch’en. I inserted a few critical notes about that in a certain document.[14] My method was to pick up these stones, write a few remarks on them, and let everyone discuss them. This is what I call throwing stones. When soil is too compressed it cannot breathe. If you mix in a little sand, then it can breathe. The staff of the Military Affairs Committee was too uniform in its composition, and needed to have some new names added. This is mixing sand in the soil. The reorganization of the Peking Military Region was undermining the wall.[15]

What is your opinion of the Lushan Conference? For instance, is the Sixth Brief Report of the North China Group really revolutionary, semi-revolutionary or counter-revolutionary? I myself regard it as a counter-revolutionary report. You were all present at the meeting of the ninety-nine, when the Premier made the summing-up speech and the self-examinations of the five big generals were issued, as well as those of big generals Li Hsüeh-feng and Cheng Wei-shan, so that everyone thought that the problem had been solved.[16] But in fact the Lushan affair had not finished, the problem had not been solved. They wanted to suppress it. They did not even let cadres of the rank of head of the General Command and the General Staff departments know about it. This would not do!

What I have been saying are my own personal opinions, which I am giving you informally. I shall not draw formal conclusions now, this must be done by the Central Committee.


You should be prudent. First of all the army must be prudent and secondly the regions must be prudent. You must not be arrogant, if you are arrogant you will commit errors. The army must be unified; it must be rectified. I just don’t believe that our army could rebel. I just don’t believe that you, Huang Yung-sheng, could order the Liberation Army to rebel! Under [each] army are divisions and regiments and the judicial, political and support units. If you try to mobilize the army to do bad things, do you think they will obey you?

You should pay attention to military affairs. You should not only be civil officials but also military officials. Grasping army work means studying the line and rectifying incorrect styles of work. You should not go in for mountain-top-ism or sectarianism, but pay attention to unity. I approve of the army’s traditional style of quick and decisive action. But this style cannot be applied to questions of ideology, for which it is necessary to make the facts known and reason with people.

I added my approval to the document of the Canton Military Region on the ‘three supports and two militaries’.[17] In order to get people to give it their attention I appended the words, ‘To be studied seriously’, to the Central Committee’s endorsement. Now that the regional Party Committees have been established, they should exercise unified leadership. It would be putting the cart before the horse if the matters already decided by regional Party committees were later turned over to the army Party committees for discussion.

In the past the military training given to our armed forces included unit-by-unit coaching. From individual coaching to battalion coaching took five to six months. Now that they only go in for civil and not military matters, our army has become a cultural army.

When ‘one good’ leads ‘three goods’ perhaps that ‘one good’ of yours will lead correctly and perhaps it will lead incorrectly.[18] And then there are the congresses of representatives of activists. It is worth studying what their actual effect is. Some are successful, but many are not. This is primarily a question of line. If the line is mistaken then the activists’ congress cannot be successful.

‘In industry learn from Tach’ing, in agriculture learn from Tachai; let the people of the whole country learn from the PLA.’ This is incomplete. We should add, ‘Let the PLA learn from the people of the whole country.’


You should study the article written by Lenin on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Eugene Pottier. Learn to sing ‘The Internationale’ and ‘The Three Great Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention’. Let them not only be sung but also explained and acted upon. ‘The Internationale’ and Lenin’s article express throughout a Marxist standpoint and outlook. What they say is that slaves should arise and struggle for truth. There never has been any supreme saviour, nor can we rely on gods or emperors. We rely entirely on ourselves for our salvation. Who has created the world of men? We the labouring masses. During the Lushan Conference I wrote a 700-word article which raised the question of who created history, the heroes or the slaves.[19] ‘The Internationale’ says we must unite until the day comes when Communism will certainly be realized. If you study Marxism you will see that it teaches unity and not splitting. We have been singing ‘The Internationale’ for fifty years but people have tried to split our Party ten times. I think it possible that they will do it another ten times, or twenty times, or thirty times. You don’t believe it? Maybe you don’t but I do. When we reach Communism will there be no struggles? I don’t believe that either. When we reach Communism there will still be struggles, but they will be between the new and the old, the correct and the incorrect, that is all. After tens of millennia have passed by, the incorrect will still be no good and will fail.

The Three Great Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention must be ‘remembered clearly, each and every one’ and ‘the people of the whole country welcome and support them’. Yet there are a few of the rules and points for attention which are not clearly remembered, especially the first of the Three Rules and the first and fifth of the Eight Points. These are not remembered clearly. How fine it would be if they could all be clearly remembered and put into effect. The first of the Three Rules is that in all actions orders must be obeyed, for only if we march in step can we win victory. If we are not in step we cannot win victory. Then there are the first and fifth of the Eight points which say that towards the people, and towards fellow soldiers and subordinates, we should always be polite. We must not put on airs; warlord ways must be rooted out. These are the points of emphasis. If there were no points of emphasis there would be no policy. I hope that we will use the Three Great Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention to educate the army, educate the cadres, educate the masses, educate the Party members and the people.


The Lushan Conference called for the study of books by Marx and Lenin.[20] I hope you will read more books from now on. It just won’t do if high-ranking cadres don’t even know what is materialism and what is idealism. What do we do if we find the books of Marx and Lenin difficult? We can ask a teacher to help us. You are all secretaries, but you ought to be students too. I myself become a student every day. I read two volumes of Reference Material[21] daily, and that’s why I know a little about international affairs.

I never approved of one’s wife becoming the office manager in one’s own work unit. Over at Lin Piao’s, it is Yeh Ch’ün who manages his office. When the four of them want to ask Lin Piao about anything they have to go through her. In doing any work one should do it oneself and read and endorse papers oneself. One should not rely on one’s secretary. One shouldn’t let one’s secretary wield so much power. My secretary is only responsible for receiving and dispatching papers. I select the documents myself, read them myself, and when something has to be done I do my own writing so that no mistakes are made.


The Cultural Revolution dragged out Liu Shao-ch’i, P’eng, Lo, Lu, and Yang. This was a big achievement. There were also some losses. Some good cadres have still not been able to re-emerge. The great majority of our cadres are good. The bad ones are a very small minority. Those who have been cleared out only comprise one per cent, while those who have been suspended are less than three per cent. The bad ones must be given appropriate criticism. The good ones must be praised, though not to the skies. It does a person under thirty no good at all if you call him a ‘super-genius’. At the recent Lushan Conference some comrades were deceived and hoodwinked. The problem does not lie in you but in Peking. It does not matter if you have made mistakes. Our Party has a rule that those who made mistakes should first make a self-examination, and then they should be permitted to correct their mistakes.

We must take care to educate people in our ideological and political line. Our principle must still be ‘learning from past mistakes to avoid future mistakes’, and ‘curing the disease to save the patient’. Unite to win still greater victories.



[1.] Ch’ü Ch’iu-pai, see note 2 on p. 97 of this volume.

[2.] Lo Chang-lung (1901-49) was a founding member of the Chinese Communist Party and an important labour leader in the 1920s. In late 1930 he supported Ho Meng-hsiung’s bid for control of the Party. As a result he was expelled at the Fourth Plenum in January 1931, and thereafter joined Ho in setting up a rival Central Committee. Hence Mao’s charge of ‘splittism’. He later became a Trotskyite.

[3.] The Second Plenum of the Ninth Central Committee, held at Lushan from 23 August to 6 September 1970.

[4.] The five names on Mao’s list of the ‘big generals’ making up Lin Piao’s clique were all members of the Politburo. With the exception of Lin’s wife, Yeh Ch’ün, they were all senior military men. Huang Yung-sheng (1906- ) had been Chief of Staff since March 1968. Wu Fa-hsien (1914- ) had been Commander of the Air Force since August 1965, and Deputy Chief of Staff since May 1968, Li Tso-p’eng had been First Political Commissar of the Navy since June 1967. Ch’iu Hui-tso was Director of the PLA General Logistics Department, and had been Deputy Chief of Staff since February 1969. Of the other two, Li Hsüeh-feng (see note 2 on p. 186 of this volume) was an alternate member of the Ninth Politburo, and Political Commissar of the Peking Military Region. Cheng Wei-shan (1914- ) had been Deputy Commander of the Peking Military Region from November 1959 to March 1968, and Commander since that time. He was also Vice-Chairman of the Peking Revolutionary Committee.

[5.] ‘With genius’, ‘creatively’, and ‘comprehensively’. These adverbs, used by Lin Piao in his foreword to the December 1966 edition of Quotations from Chairman Mao to characterize Mao Tse-tung’s contribution to the development of Marxism-Leninism, sum up the view of the subject which he had been propagating since 1960 and especially since 1966. Mao Tse-tung, who was endeavouring in 1970 to downgrade his own cult, here attributes all the responsibility for previous excesses to Lin Piao.

[6.] A 700-word statement said to have been released by Comrade Mao during the Lushan Plenum. Nothing is known of its contents except for Mao’s own summary here.

[7.] Lin Piao’s speech of 23 August 1970 to the Lushan Plenum.

[8.] Yeh Ch’ün is said to have withdrawn the minutes of her intervention before a meeting of the Central-South Group during the plenum.

[9.] Ch’en Sheng and Wu Kuang were contemporaries who jointly led an insurrection against the Ch’in in the third century B.C. Hung Hsiu-ch’üan (1814-64), the leader of the Taipings, was born only half a century before Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925). Mao attributes ‘genius’ to these men because they were all, in some sense, revolutionary precursors, who therefore drew on the wisdom of the masses.

[10.] Lin Piao made this statement that what Chairman Mao says in one sentence surpasses what others say in 10,000 sentences, in his speech of 18 May 1966.

[11.] This referee to efforts by Ch’en Po-ta and Lin Piao to reinsert, in the draft Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the provision for a State Chairman which Mao had decided to strike out in March 1970. They claimed that their aim in this was further to glorify Chairman Mao, but in Mao’s view their real intention was to ensure that Lin Piao should succeed Mao as the head both of the Party and of the state. Lin Piao and Ch’en Po-ta appear to have concluded a tactical alliance at the time of the Lushan Plenum, but clearly represented different factions and different viewpoints.

[12.] The question raised here as to who exercised real and immediate authority over the army is obviously closely related to that of Party control over the ‘gun’, which had become a burning issue within the leadership  —  and between Mao and Lin  —  in 1969-70.

[13.] ‘Arrogance and complacency’ was, by this time, the accepted expression for referring to the errors in Lin Piao’s work style.

[14.] This apparently refers to Mao’s ‘Open Letter to the Whole Party’ of 15 September 1970, calling for a campaign to criticize Ch’en Po-ta.

[15.] Throwing stones’ refers to Mao’s action in compelling the ‘big generals’ supporting Lin to denounce Ch’en Po-ta. ‘Mixing sand in soil’ meant weakening Lin’s control of the Military Affairs Committee by adding new members. The wall or cornerstone of Lin’s power represented by the Peking Military Region was undermined by the dismissal of his supporters Cheng Wei-shan and Li Hsüeh-feng in December 1970.

[16.] At a report meeting called by the Central Committee in April 1971, and attended by ninety-nine responsible cadres from the Centre, the regions and PLA units, for the purpose of discussing the progress of the campaign to criticize Ch’en Po-ta and carry out rectification, self-criticisms by the ‘big generals’ of the Lin Piao clique (as enumerated by Mao) were distributed.

[17.] This refers to the ‘Summary of the Canton Military Region’s Forum on Political and Ideological Work relating to the Three Supports and Two Militaries’, distributed by the Central Committee on 20 August 1971. The ‘three supports’ (‘support the broad masses of the left, support industry and agriculture’) and ‘two militaries’ (‘military control and military training’) was the slogan summing up the policy of active intervention by the PLA in all aspects of politics and society which had developed in the course of the Cultural Revolution. Mao Tse-tung, who had launched the process in January 1967 with his directive to Lin Piao to intervene in the Cultural Revolution in support of the left, had clearly regarded this as a temporary expedient, but by 1970-71 there were signs that Lin Piao and his supporters took it as setting the long-term pattern of the Chinese political system, and were using the above slogan as a standard for opposing the restoration of Party control. Presumably the Canton document adopted a more balanced position.

[18.] This apparently refers to Lin Piao’s replacement of Mao’s ‘five requirements for successors’ by ‘three criteria’ of his own, which he formulated as follows in his speech of 1 August 1966: ‘ (1) Do they hold high the red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought? Those who fail to do so shall be dismissed from office; (2) Do they engage in political and ideological work? Those who disrupt it and the Great Cultural Revolution are to be dismissed; (3) Are they enthusiastic about the revolution? Those who are entirely devoid of such enthusiasm are to be dismissed . . . We must select, promote and employ cadres in accordance with Chairman Mao’s five requirements and these three criteria, especially the first one’ ‘One good’ leading ‘three goods’ is Mao’s summary of Lin’s viewpoint according to which a correct understanding of Mao Tse-tung’s thought in itself guaranteed that a person would be a good cadre. This criticism of Lin fits into the context of Mao’s ongoing effort, since the Ninth Congress, to stress that political zeal must be complemented by a correct work style and, building on this, to denounce the ‘arrogance and complacency’ of Lin and his supporters in the army.

[19.] This refers to Mao’s ‘Some Opinions’ mentioned earlier. The link between Lin’s glorification of the role of ‘genius’ and the evocation here of the ‘Internationale’, with its message, ‘II n’y a pas de sauveur supreme,’ is obvious.

[20.] Whereas Lin Piao had earlier put the view that “In the classical works of Marxism-Leninism, ninety-nine per cent of our studies must be from Chairman Mao’s works,” a movement had been under way since the Lushan Plenum of September 1970 to encourage the study of the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin.

[21.] A daily bulletin (Ts’an-k’ao hsiao-hsi) circulated to a fairly wide audience of cadres, containing translations from foreign news services.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung