Mao Tse Tung
Quotations from Mao Tse Tung

23. Investigation and Study


Everyone engaged in practical work must investigate conditions at the lower levels. Such investigation is especially necessary for those who know theory but do not know the actual conditions, for otherwise they will not be able to link theory with practice. Although my assertion, "No investigation no right to speak", has been ridiculed as "narrow empiricism", to this day I do not regret having made it; far from regretting it, I still insist that without investigation there cannot possibly be any right to speak. There are many people who "the moment they alight from the official carriage" make a hullabaloo, spout opinions, criticize this and condemn that; but, in fact, ten out of ten of them will meet with failure. For such views or criticisms, which are not based on thorough investigation, are nothing but ignorant twaddle. Countless times our Party suffered at the hands of these "imperial envoys", who rushed here, there and everywhere. Stalin rightly says "theory becomes purposeless if it is not connected with revolutionary practice". And he rightly adds that "practice gropes in the dark if its path is not illumined by revolutionary theory". Nobody should be labeled a "narrow empiricist" except the "practical man" who gropes in the dark and lacks perspective and foresight.

"Preface and Postscript to Rural Surveys" (March and April 1941), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 13. *

To take such an attitude is to seek truth from facts. "Facts" are all the things that exist objectively, "truth" means their internal relations, that is, the laws governing them, and "to seek," means to study. We should proceed from the actual conditions inside and outside the country, the province, county or district, and derive from them, as our guide to action, laws that are inherent in them and not imaginary, that is, we should find the internal relations of the events occurring around us. And in order to do that we must rely not on subjective imagination, not on momentary enthusiasm, not on lifeless books, but on facts that exist objectively; we must appropriate the material in detail and, guided by the general principles of Marxism-Leninism, draw correct conclusions from it.

"Reform Our Study" (May 1941), Selected Works, Vol. III, pp. 22-23.

To behave like "a blindfolded man catching sparrows", or "a blind man groping for fish", to be crude and careless, to indulge in verbiage, to rest content with a smattering of knowledge - such is the extremely bad style of work that still exists among many comrades in our Party, a style utterly opposed to the fundamental spirit of Marxism-Leninism. Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin have taught us that it is necessary to study conditions conscientiously and to proceed from objective reality and not from subjective wishes; however, many of our comrades act in direct violation of this truth.

Ibid. p. 18.

You can't solve a problem? Well, get down and investigate the present facts and its past history! When you have investigated the problem thoroughly, you will know how to solve it. Conclusions invariably come after investigation, and not before. Only a blockhead cudgels his brains on his own, or together with a group, to "find a solution" or "evolve an idea" without making any investigation. It must be stressed that this cannot possibly lead to any effective solution or any good idea.

Oppose Book Worship (May 1930), 1st pocket ed., and p. 2.

Investigation may be likened to the long months of pregnancy, and solving a problem to the day of birth. To investigate a problem is, indeed, to solve it.

Ibid. p. 3.

[With the Marxist-Leninist attitude,] a person applies the theory and method of Marxism-Leninism to the systematic and thorough investigation and study of the environment. He does not work by enthusiasm alone but, as Stalin says, combines revolutionary sweep with practicalness.

"Reform Our Study" (May 1941), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 22.

The only way to know conditions is to make social investigations, to investigate the conditions of each social class in real life. For those charged with directing work, the basic method for knowing conditions is to concentrate on a few cities and villages according to a plan and, using the fundamental viewpoint of Marxism, i.e., the method of class analysis, make a number of thorough investigations.

"Preface and Postscript to Rural Surveys" (March and April 1941), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 11. *

A fact-finding meeting need not be large; from three to five or seven or eight people are enough. Ample time must be allowed and an outline for the investigation must be prepared; furthermore, one must personally ask questions, take notes and have discussions with those at the meeting. Therefore one certainly cannot make an investigation, or do it well, without zeal, a determination to direct one's eyes downward and a thirst for knowledge, and without shedding the ugly mantle of pretentiousness and becoming a willing pupil.

Ibid. p. 12.

A commander's correct dispositions stem from his correct decisions, his correct decisions stem from his correct judgements, and his correct judgements stem from a thorough and necessary reconnaissance and from pondering on and piecing together the data of various kinds gathered through reconnaissance. He applies all possible and necessary methods of reconnaissance, and ponders on the information gathered about the enemy's situation, discarding the dross and selecting the essential, eliminating the false and retaining the true, proceeding from the one to the other and from the outside to the inside; then, he takes the conditions on his own side into account, and makes a study of both sides and their interrelations, thereby forming his judgements, making up his mind and working out his plans. Such is the complete process of knowing a situation that a military man goes through before he formulates a strategic plan, a campaign plan or a battle plan.

"Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War" (December 1936), Selected Works, Vol. I. p. 188.


Chapter 24: Correcting Mistaken Ideas