Long Live the People’s Communes!

Source: Peking Review, No. 36, 8 September 1959.

Transcribed for www.wengewang.org

  Following is a translation of the editorial that appeared in “Renmin Ribao” on August 29, 1959. Subheads are ours. — Ed.

Today is the first anniversary of the adoption of the historic “Resolution on the Establishment of People’s Communes in the Rural Areas” by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party at its enlarged session held at Peitaiho. A year ago, the people’s communes had only just begun to grow in a few areas in China. Now they have been established in all rural areas throughout the country (with the exception of a few national minority areas): they have taken firm root and are advancing along a road of sound development. The people’s commune, this “morning sun rising above the broad horizon of east Asia,” is radiating its great energy and light ever more strongly.


The Peitaiho resolution made three outstanding contributions to history. First, it analysed the historical background against which the people’s communes came into existence; it foresaw the inevitable trend of their development and laid down the correct policy that the Chinese Communist Party must warmly support and actively lead the people’s commune movement. “The people’s communes,” the resolution pointed out, “are the logical outcome of the march of events. Large, comprehensive people’s communes have made their appearance, and in several places they are already widespread. They have developed very rapidly in some areas. It is highly probable that there will soon be an upsurge in setting up people’s communes throughout the country and their development is irresistible.” History has proved that this estimate, and the positive policy adopted in accordance with this estimate, are absolutely correct.

Secondly, the resolution scientifically defined the economic character of the people’s communes and their future development. Although it held that the people’s communes were the best form of organization for transforming collective ownership into ownership by the whole people in the countryside and for the transition from socialism to communism, it also clearly pointed out that the people’s communes in the present stage “are still socialist in character, where the principle of ‘from each according to his ability and to each according to his work’ prevails.” It pointed out that ownership in the people’s communes “is still collective ownership” and that “the transition from collective ownership to ownership by the whole people is a process” the completion of which would take a number of years; even after the people’s communes switch over to ownership by the whole people, they will still be socialist in character for a fairly long time. To avoid misunderstanding, the resolution described in detail the conditions needed to bring about the transition from socialism to communism—conditions which do not yet exist in China.

Thirdly, the Peitaiho resolution laid down a series of appropriate measures to be taken in setting up people’s communes. In particular it stressed that participation by the peasants must be voluntary and said “compulsion is to be avoided” and “no compulsory or rash steps should be taken.” It also said that “in all counties, experiments should first be made in some selected areas and the experience gained should be popularized gradually"; “in the early period of merging agricultural cooperatives into people’s communes the method of ‘changing the upper structure while keeping the lower structure unchanged’ may be adopted. . . . The original organization of production and the system of administration may, for the time being, remain unchanged and continue as before"; “it is not necessary to deal with questions of reserved private land plots, scattered fruit trees, share funds, and so on in a great hurry; nor is it necessary to adopt clear-cut stipulations on these questions.” “After the establishment of the people’s communes it is not necessary to hurry the change from the original system of distribution, in order to avoid any unfavourable effect on production.” These remarks clearly expose how utterly groundless is the ridiculous talk of the imperialists and a few other people opposed to the people’s commune movement, who deliberately try to create an impression that the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party fanatically wanted to “march to communism in one step” by means of the people’s commune movement, and had to “retreat step by step” in the face of difficulties.

The warm welcome given to the people’s commune movement by the hundreds of millions of peasants who were making big advances in production and the positive support and correct guidance given to it by the Peitaiho resolution led to its rapid and great upsurge throughout the country following the publication of the resolution. In less than two months, the mass of the peasants, then organized in more than 700,000 agricultural cooperatives, set up more than 26,000 people’s communes. The switch to the people’s communes was carried out in the rural areas throughout the country. This was an epoch-making event in our country’s history.


Less than a year has passed since all this took place. But this new-born social organization—the peoples’ commune—has already proved with irrefutable facts its immense vitality and incomparable superiority, and its great role in developing our rural economy and culture and in raising the living standards of our peasants.

An unprecedented bumper autumn harvest and the mass movement to produce iron and steel followed immediately on completion of the establishment of people’s communes in the countryside. Through allocations of manpower during the harvesting were not so well arranged in many places, so that the crops there were gathered in a rather hurried manner, yet very much bigger crops of grain and cotton were harvested than in the previous year. An on top of this, several million tons of pig iron were turned out by small blast furnaces using modern methods of production and several more million tons of both iron and steel were produced by blast furnaces and puddling furnaces using indigenous methods. At the same time, a gigantic task was fulfilled in transporting over short distances both agricultural produce and the materials involved in iron and steel production. But for the people’s communes, it would have been impossible to accomplish such heavy tasks at one and the same time.


During the summer harvest this year, the first since the people’s communes were set up, though the weather was bad, we got an even bigger harvest than that of the summer of 1958, the year of the big leap forward. Preliminary figures from Shensi, Hopei, Honan, and Kiangsu Provinces show that over 500 jin of wheat have been harvested per mu on more than 650,000 mu. In 1957, the year before the establishment of the people’s communes, not a single province throughout the country ever achieved a yield of more than 200 jin of wheat per mu. But this year six provinces and municipalities have already gone beyond this level. This is how things stand in agricultural production. It is the same in industry, forestry, animal husbandry, side-occupations, and fishery. Large numbers of plants have been set up throughout the countryside to make farm tools, produce chemical fertilizer by indigenous methods, or process agricultural products. A rough count in February of this year showed that the people’s communes had set up more than 86,000 plants to manufacture and repair farm tools. The collective breeding of livestock was greatly developed during the time of the cooperatives but this cannot compare with what has been done by the people’s communes. A recent survey in 21 provinces and autonomous regions shows that more than 80 million pigs are being collectively raised by the people’s communes, an average of more than 3,000 to each commune. The number of pigs raised privately has also grown rapidly.

Similarly great achievements stand to the credit of the people’s communes in the building of water conservancy projects. Apart from large numbers of small reservoirs with a storage capacity of less than 10 million cubic metres each, since last winter the people’s communes have built 60 big reservoirs each with a storage capacity of more than 100 million cubic metres and over 1,200 medium-sized reservoirs with a storage capacity of between 10 million and 100 million cubic metres each. This year China has been attacked by the biggest drought and floods that have occurred for dozens of years past; more than 510 million mu of farmland have been affected. But thanks to the many water conservancy projects built by the people’s communes, the full mobilization of men and women by the people’s communes to fight natural calamities and the cooperation on a broad scale, more than 270 million mu of the land affected by drought have been irrigated and relieved from this serious menace. The community dining-rooms, the nurseries, and the “homes of respect for the aged” which have been set up widely in the countryside have played an important role in freeing women for productive work and improving the living standards of the peasants.

In a mass revolutionary movement on such a big scale and advancing so rapidly as the people’s commune movement it is, of course, inevitable that while there were great achievements, a few shortcomings should occur. In fact, what is surprising is not that a few shortcomings have occurred, but that the shortcomings have been so few compared with the achievements and have been overcome so quickly. The resolution on the people’s communes was made public on September 10 last year. Early in November, the conference called by Comrade Mao Tse-tung in Chengclow already discovered that in certain respects and to a certain degree the movement was deviating from the correct lines laid down in the Peitaiho resolution, and remedial measures were taken. After that, the sixth plenary session of the Eighth Central Committee of the Communist Party, held in late November and early December, and the second Chengchow conference (the enlarged meeting of the Party’s Political Bureau) held in late February and early March this year, gave detailed instructions for the check-up in the people’s communes. These were put into effect within two to three months and the problems that had cropped up in the earlier stages were completely solved. The result is that the overwhelming majority of the cadres and the masses who were for the people’s communes right from the start have become more confident than ever, while those few in the rural areas who had previously been sceptical have also been fully won over and their minds put at ease. The masses of the Chinese peasantry rejoice over the people’s communes from the bottom of their hearts and sing: “The people’s communes are very good indeed! Long live the prosperity of the country and its peaceful people!”


The people’s commune movement is a continuation and development of the great socialist revolution in China’s countryside. The socialist revolution, like the democratic revolution, must obviously be carried forward to its conclusion. Under the conditions prevailing in our country, the people’s commune is a powerful instrument for quickening the growth of our collective economy in the rural areas and eradicating the possibility of any return of capitalism. Since it combines industry, agriculture, trade, education, and military affairs and integrates government and commune administration into one, and while its ownership is still collective in character, it nevertheless has certain elements of ownership by the whole people (this is mainly seen in the integration of government and commune administration and the development of commune-run economic activity), and since this system which is socialist in character contains some first shoots of communism, the people’s commune under the actual conditions in China is the best form of social oganization not only for the transition from collective ownership to ownership by the whole people, but also for the transition from socialism to communism in the future. That is why the appearance of the people’s communes in China instantly met with the virulent hatred and spite of all the hostile antisocialist forces. From the very beginning the imperialists have used the most savage language and the foulest slanders in their attacks on the people’s communes. In our own country, the remnants of the reactionary class who have been overthrown and the bourgeois rightists, seeing that their “good old days” are gone for ever, have also crudely slandered the people’s communes in their bitter hatred. Nevertheless, the more they howl, the more the people’s communes are proved right. No matter how they calumniate them, they cannot in the least prevent the people’s communes from forging ahead.

At this time, when the anniversary of the resolution on the people’s communes is being celebrated, when the shortcomings that cropped up in the earlier stages of the people’s communes have been overcome and the people’s communes are going ahead on a healthy basis, what is worth noting is that apart from the reactionaries at home and abroad there are certain people who are still dissatisfied with and opposed to the people’s commune movement. They are those within the ranks of the Chinese people, including certain right-opportunists inside the Communist Party, who are influenced by bourgeois ideology to a rather serious degree. They fail to see that the people’s commune movement is the product of a great social movement of the hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants, the product of the big growth of agriculture, the great extension of water conservancy work, and the great upsurge of socialist understanding among the peasants which expressed itself in their demand for cooperation on a still broader scale. They cannot see that with the implementation of the principle of “to each according to his work” and with the basic ownership clearly defined as being vested in the production brigades of the people’s commune, the organizational form of the people’s commune is, in fact, a powerful instrument for the further advancement of socialist collective ownership. They babble that “the people’s commune lacks objective material basis. It is not a natural product of objective reality but the fruit of the wishful thinking of a few who have cooked it up out of thin air.” They say: “The people’s communes were set up too soon and too fast and are in a mess.” In a word, they fail to see the advantages of the people’s communes and the revolutionary zeal of the hundreds of millions of peasants. They are only interested in the shortcomings of the communes though these were transient and local and have long since been overcome. They have thus placed themselves in opposition to the people, to the great socialist revolution and socialist construction.

Have the people’s communes no objective material basis? Are they an unnatural trend in the march of events? Let history answer. The people’s commune movement began to grow in certain parts of China in the summer of 1953. The reason why it did so at that particular time is that the rectification movement, the anti-rightist struggle, and the education in socialism in 1957 led to an unprecedented upsurge of socialist consciousness and labour enthusiasm among the masses of cadres and people in the rural areas and to a determination to quickly change the economic backwardness of the rural areas and their state of “poverty and blankness.” Therefore, since the winter of 1957 (for convenience sake, we will not here go back to the still earlier beginnings of the people’s commune as a form of social organization) gigantic undertakings of production and construction developed very quickly, at the centre of which was the large-scale building of water conservancy projects. The preceding organizational form of the advanced agricultural producers’ cooperatives, smaller in scale and confined to agriculture, could no longer meet the need to develop production quickly and on a big scale. In many places cooperatives began to merge into bigger ones.


At the meeting which was called in March of 1958 in Chengtu and attended by some leading members of the Central Committee and the local committees of the Chinese Communist Party, Comrade Mao Tse-tung took this into consideration and proposed appropriate amalgamation of smaller cooperatives in a planned way. This proposal was later formally approved by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. After that, in May, the second session of the Eighth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party put forward the general line for building socialism. This general line gave boundless inspiration to the masses of cadres and people in the rural areas. Their morale and determination soared to unprecedented heights, and agricultural production and construction, industry, transport, and communications in the service of agriculture, and rural commerce, cultural and educational work, and militia activity all advanced rapidly. The peasants demanded a more rational and efficient organization of labour, and the integration of the basic organizations of state power with the economic organizations so as to achieve a stronger unified leadership. This was the very natural way in which a new, large-scale form of social organization was born in the rural areas, combining industry, agriculture, trade, education, and military affairs and integrating government and commune administration. This new form of social organization was entirely a creation of the masses. In its earlier stages, it was given a number of different names. In June the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and Comrade Mao Tse-tung selected the name “people’s commune” as one that best expressed the essence of this form of organization and would be most welcome to the masses. It was unanimously adopted at the Peitaiho meeting of the Communist Party in August.

In fact, long before the Peitaiho meeting, some of the pioneering people’s communes such as the Chayashan People’s Commune in Suiping County and the Chiliying People’s Commune in Hsinsiang Country, Honan Province, were visited by hundreds of thousands of rural cadres from all parts of the country and an irresistible trend had already grown up to learn from these communes. It was in circumstances of a great development of rural economic activity and a great heightening of the peasants’ political understanding that the upsurge to set up rural people’s communes emerged. Therefore, only those who shut their eyes to facts can assert that this mass movement which conforms to the “course of nature and the ways of the people” was the result of the wishful thinking of a few people who “have cooked it up out of thin air” or that “the communes were set up too soon and too fast and are in a mess.” The emergence of the people’s commune and particularly its growth in the past year have demonstrated that it is an inevitable product of historical development. Though it has only a history of less than a year on a nationwide scale, it has ensured a general increase in per mu yield in agriculture, and made high yields on large tracts of farmland a widespread phenomenon. Not a single commune has collapsed under the rigid test of severe natural calamities. On the contrary, it has been during the battle against natural calamities that the peasants have understood more deeply the superiority of the communes compared to the agricultural cooperatives and have bound their destinies still more firmly to the communes. Marx wrote: “New, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.” Why don’t those who have doubts about the people’s commune movement make a serious study of the facts of history and this fundamental Marxist view of historical development?


At the present time in China there are two kinds of arguments which in essence deny the people’s communes. One asserts that to establish people’s communes, you must put communism into practice, otherwise you cannot establish them. The other believes that the people’s communes are almost the same as the advanced agricultural producers’ cooperatives and it was therefore quite unnecessary to set them up. Those who argue thus can be said to be ignorant of the realities of the people’s communes. True, the name “commune” may be associated with communism, but on the other hand it may not; that is, there can be communes which are not, or are not yet, communist in character. We all know that in modern history there have been all kinds of “communes” of different characters. There have been not only “communes” which were not communist in character in the period of proletarian revolution; but “communes” of a bourgeois-democratic character in periods of bourgeois revolution and bourgeois-democratic revolution. The people’s communes in China today are socialist in character. This has been clear and beyond doubt since the resolution of the Peitaiho meeting of the Communist Party a year ago. Is there anything wrong with organizing people’s communes to promote the socialist collective economy more effectively?

As far as their socialist character is concerned the people’s communes are the same as the advanced agricultural producers’ cooperative. But there are differences between the two in many respects: the advanced agricultural producers’ cooperative is a relatively small collective, the people’s commune is a much larger collective; the cooperative manages agriculture only, the commune manages diversified economic activities; the cooperative is an economic organization, the commune is a unified organization embracing political, economic, military, and cultural activities; the cooperative is only the organizer of collective production, while the commune is also the organizer of collective life. More important, in the people’s communes as they stand now, even though the basic form of ownership is vested in the production brigade, which in general corresponds to the advanced agricultural producers’ cooperative, part of the ownership is vested at the commune level; this did not exist before. Direct ownership by the people’s communes, such as is exemplified in enterprises and undertakings run by the commune and the reserve and welfare funds controlled by the commune, does not so far amount to very much, but this represents a great and bright future for China’s rural areas. As the commune is able every year to draw suitable sums for its accumulation fund from the income of the production brigades and also increases it with the profits of commune-run enterprises, in addition to any state investments it may get, there will be not a slow but a very rapid growth in the part that is owned by the commune. Ownership at the commune level already contains some elements of ownership by the whole people. With the development of production and the gradual enlargement of ownership at the commune level, the elements of ownership by the whole people will also grow steadily. Though the transition from collective ownership to ownership by the whole people is a process that will take a number of years, the people’s commune is undoubtedly the best form of social organization to carry out this transition.

At the same time, though the people’s commune is still socialist in character, it already contains some rudiments of communism which the advanced agricultural producers’ cooperative did not and could not possibly have. There are good reasons for affirming that the people’s commune is not only a most powerful instrument for accelerating socialist construction, but also the best form of social organization for the future transition from socialism to communism. Since the new form of social organization, the people’s commune, is able to develop fully the original advantages of the advanced agricultural producers’ cooperative and overcome certain limitations of the cooperative, and since it contains the germ of even loftier ideals, is there any reason why it should not be set up to replace the advanced agricultural producers’ cooperative? Why shouldn’t we go one better when we can?


True, the history of the people’s communes from its birth to the present is still a short one; its advantages are only just beginning to show themselves and it is only in the initial stages of developing its broad prospects, but can it be made light of merely because it is just in the budding stage? What tree has not grown from a young shoot? “Jeering at the feebleness of the young shoots of the new order, cheap scepticism of the intellectuals and the like— these are, essentially methods of class struggle of the bourgeoisie against the proletariat, a defence of capitalism against socialism. We must carefully study the new shoots, we must devote the greatest attention to them, do everything to promote their growth, and ‘nurse’ these feeble shoots. . . . The point is to foster each and every shoot of the new; and life will select the most virile.” (From Lenin’s “A Great Beginning") Here, then, is Lenin’s attitude to such young shoots. This is the attitude of all Marxist-Leninists to new things. The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and Comrade Mao Tse-tung regard the people’s commune movement from this Marxist-Leninist viewpoint.

Exactly one year has passed since the Peitaiho meeting of the Communist Party. It is not yet a year since the people’s commune movement spread through China’s rural areas. But the people’s commune, this newly born social organization, has already passed through serious trials and gathered rich experience. Despite the abuse and damage done them by hostile forces within the country and abroad, despite condemnation and opposition by the right opportunists within the Party, and the great onslaughts of natural calamities, the people’s communes have not collapsed. We are, therefore, entitled to say that the people’s communes will never collapse. The courageous and industrious Chinese people look to the future, confident of victory. We have every reason to proclaim: Long Live the People’s Communes!

Peking Review Index   |  Chinese Communism  |  Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung