Mao Tse Tung
Quotations from Mao Tse Tung

15. Democracy in the Three Main Fields


A proper measure of democracy should be put into effect in the army, chiefly by abolishing the feudal practice of bullying and beating and by having officers and men share weal and woe. Once this is done, unity will be achieved between officers and men, the combat effectiveness of the army will be greatly increased, and there will be no doubt of our ability to sustain the long, cruel war.

"On Protracted War" (May 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 186.

Apart from the role played by the Party, the reason why the Red Army has been able to carry on in spite of such poor material conditions and such frequent engagements is its practice of democracy. The officers do not beat the men; officers and men receive equal treatment; soldiers are free to hold meetings and to speak out; trivial formalities have been done away with; and the accounts are open for all to inspect.... In China the army needs democracy as much as the people do. Democracy in our army is an important weapon for undermining the feudal mercenary army.

"The Struggle in the Chingkang Mountains" (November 25, 1928), Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 83.

The policy for political work in our army units is fully to arouse the rank and file, the commanders and all working personnel in order to achieve three major objectives through a democratic movement under centralized leadership, namely, a high degree of political unity, better living conditions, and better military technique and tactics. The Three Check-ups and Three Improvements now being enthusiastically carried out in our army units are intended to attain the first two of these objectives through the methods of political and economic democracy. With regard to economic democracy, the representatives elected by the soldiers must be ensured the right to assist (but not to bypass) the company leadership in managing the company's supplies and mess. With regard to military democracy, in periods of training there must be mutual instruction as between officers and soldiers and among the soldiers themselves; and in periods of fighting the companies at the front must hold big and small meetings of various kinds. Under the direction of the company leadership, the rank and file should be roused to discuss how to attack and capture enemy positions and how to fulfil other combat tasks. When the fighting lasts several days, several such meetings should be held. This kind of military democracy was practiced with great success in the battle of Panlung in northern Shensi and in the battle of Shihchiachuang in the Shansi-Chahar-Hopei area. It has been proved that the practice can only do well and can do no harm whatsoever.

"The Democratic Movement in the Army" (January 30, 1948), Selected Military Writings, 2nd ed., p. 353.

In the present great struggle, the Chinese Communist Party demands that all its leading bodies and all its members and cadres should give the fullest expression to their initiative, which alone can ensure victory. This initiative must be demonstrated concretely in the ability of the leading bodies, the cadres and the Party rank and file to work creatively, in their readiness to assume responsibility, in the exuberant vigor they show in their work, in their courage and ability to raise questions, voice opinions and criticize defects, and in the comradely supervision that is maintained over the leading bodies and the leading cadres. Otherwise, "initiative" will be an empty thing. But the exercise of such initiative depends on the spread of democracy in Party life. It cannot be brought into play if there is not enough democracy in Party life. Only in an atmosphere of democracy can large numbers of able people be brought forward.

"The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War" (October 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 204.

Anyone should be allowed to speak out, whoever he may be, so long as he is not a hostile element and does not make malicious attacks, and it does not matter if he says something wrong. Leaders at all levels have the duty to listen to others. Two principles must be observed: (1) Say all you know and say it without reserve; (2) don't blame the speaker but take his words as a warning. Unless the principle of "Don't blame the speaker" is observed genuinely and not falsely, the result will not be "Say all you know and say it without reserve".

"The Tasks for 1945" (December 15, 1944).

Education in democracy must be carried on within the Party so that members can understand the meaning of democratic life, the meaning of the relationship between democracy and centralism, and the way in which democratic centralism should be put into practice. Only in this way can we really extend democracy within the Party and at the same time avoid ultra-democracy and the laissez-faire that destroys discipline.

"The Role of the Chinese Communist Party in the National War" (October 1938), Selected Works, Vol. II, p. 205. *

Both in the army and in the local organizations, inner-Party democracy is meant to strengthen discipline and increase combat effectiveness, not to weaken them.


In the sphere of theory, destroy the roots of ultra-democracy. First, it should be pointed out that the danger of ultrademocracy lies in the fact that it damages or even completely wrecks the Party organization and weakens or even completely undermines the Party's fighting capacity, rendering the Party incapable of fulfilling its fighting tasks and thereby causing the defeat of the revolution. Next, it should be pointed out that the source of ultra-democracy consists in the petty bourgeoisie's individualistic aversion to discipline. When this characteristic is brought into the Party, i t develops into ultra-democratic ideas politically and organizationally. These ideas are utterly incompatible with the fighting tasks of the proletariat.

"On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party" (December 1929), Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 108.


Chapter 16: Education and the Training of Troops