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The Far Spreading Brilliance of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought

— How the P.L.A. spread Mao Tse-tung’s thought and helped the people
overcome the results of the earthquakes in the Hsingtai area

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, Vol. 9, #48, Nov. 25, 1966, pp. 16-19.]

IN March this year the Hsingtai area of Hopei Province was hit by the worst earthquakes it had experienced for the past 100 years. Yet today throughout the area prosperous and thriving scenes greet the eye. Many new houses have been built. The people are in high spirits. Their draught animals are in fine condition. The people of Hsingtai gathered in a bumper harvest this year, surpassing that of many previous years. Higher output was reported for the summer harvest. The autumn harvest was good too. Every production brigade and people’s commune got a bigger output of grain. The brigades which traditionally raised more grain than they themselves could consume were better off than ever before while the villages that used to rely on receiving relief grain from the state also had surplus grain to sell to the state.

This is an earth-shaking change indeed! What power enabled this gravely struck area to bring about such a tremendous change within the short span of six months? The people declare unanimously: It is Mao Tse-tung’s thought that arms our minds! It is the invincible thought of Mao Tse-tung that gives us inexhaustible strength!

“Buildings Fall But Not the People’s Will;
the Earth Quakes But the People Stand Firm”

When the serious earthquakes hit the Hsingtai area last March, a unit of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army under the Peking command, raising high the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought, rushed immediately to the area to take part in relief work. Working hard to save the lives and property of the masses, they used Mao Tse-tung’s thought at all times to enhance the latter’s proletarian consciousness and helped imbue them with confidence and determination in overcoming the calamity. In early April Premier Chou En-lai gave them the following instructions: Vigorously propagate Mao Tse-tung’s thought and do a good job as a propaganda force and a seeding-machine of Mao Tse-tung’s thought. In April and May, a big detachment of some 10,000 armymen was organized to propagate Mao Tse-tung’s thought. Under the unified leadership of the local Party committee this force was divided up into a thousand teams to propagate Mao Tse-tung’s thought among the close to 4 million people of the 18 counties of the area.

When the commanders and fighters of these teams imbued with profound proletarian feeling spread Mao Tse-tung’s thought among the people, Chairman Mao’s works were always held in their hands; in their talks they always quoted Chairman Mao’s words; their hearts never strayed from Chairman Mao’s thought; their actions never deviated from Chairman Mao’s teachings; and everything they did was in accordance with Chairman Mao’s instructions. Wherever they went, they visited the poor, read Chairman Mao’s writings to the broad masses, explained Chairman Mao’s teachings, and inspired the People to study Chairman Mao’s writings with deep proletarian sentiments, follow his teachings and act according to his instructions.

When they went to a village, they took with them copies of Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-tung and carried placards with Chairman Mao’s quotations. Their first words would be: “Fellow villagers! Chairman Mao has sent us here!” Their first activity would be to save the people’s lives and property, and make a vigorous effort to explain Chairman Mao’s teachings:

“In times of difficulty we must not lose sight of our achievements, must see the bright future and must pluck up our courage.”

“Be resolute, fear no sacrifice and surmount every difficulty to win victory.”

On hearing Chairman Mao’s words, the people in the stricken area immediately took fresh heart and spirit. The cadres rose up! The broad masses rose up! Men, women, old and young all rose up! Under the great banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought, they surged into the struggle to overcome the results of the disaster.

In Tungmaoerhchai, the earthquake took the life of the secretary of the Party branch, and the brigade leader was also injured. For the moment, nobody was left in charge of the work. What was to be done?

That very day the P.L.A. fighters arrived. No sooner had they put down their knapsacks than they called a mass meeting to pass on Chairman Mao’s instructions. When they explained Chairman Mao’s words that without the poor peasants there would be no revolution and that the poor and lower-middle peasants are the pillars of the revolution, there was immediate animation. The fighters asked: “Where are your headquarters? Who is the commander-in-chief?” Kuo Hsi-hun, Communist Party member and old poor peasant, immediately stepped forward and answered in a ringing voice: “The headquarters are here and I am the commander-in-chief!” The other commune members looked to him and unanimously declared: “Right! Old Kuo, you take over the command!” The needs of the revolution and the masses set aflame the high sense of responsibility of this old soldier, who had fought in many parts of our country during the War of Resistance Against Japan and the Liberation War. He thought: “The people have suffered this calamity and the Party secretary has sacrificed his life; if I don’t take over, who should? I must follow Chairman Mao’s teachings and keep the flag flying!”

Kuo Hsi-hun assumed the heavy responsibility of leading the masses in the village in their battle against disaster. Wherever he went he took with him booklets of Chairman Mao’s Serve the People, In Memory of Norman Bethune and The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains. He studied them and took part in the work wherever he happened to be. Rallying closely around the Party branch, the more than 1,800 villagers all joined in a vigorous struggle to overcome the effects of the disaster. Kuo Hsi-hun, indefatigable, was out and about all day. For days on end, he never had a meal in comfort or an undisturbed sleep. He led the commune members in rigging up makeshift homes, but wouldn’t make one for himself. He was in the lead in everything.

The Suchuang brigade, a village at the epicentre, suffered rather heavy losses. Looking at his village after the earthquake, old poor peasant Liu Lo-chun pondered: “What shall we do now?” Then, the P.L.A. fighters came and explained to him: “With the Party and Chairman Mao, there is no difficulty we cannot overcome!” They read to him The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains. Unable to keep seated, he jumped to his feet and said: “Chairman Mao’s teachings are like a lighted lamp in my heart. I understand that Chairman Mao is teaching us to fight against the earthquake with the determination of the poor and lower-middle peasants!” The next day he called together a group of commune members who could handle blacksmith’s tools and they went to a farm tool repair factory to repair their farm tools themselves. This 68-year-old blacksmith worked with extraordinary energy, leaving home in the early morning every day and returning only after dusk. When his wife grumbled that he wouldn’t take a rest, he said: “We suffered a grave calamity. The Party and Chairman Mao have shown great concern for us by sending the Liberation Army men and medical teams. They have also helped us study Chairman Mao’s works. After all that how could we, poor peasants, not stand up and work hard? I would rather do two days’ work in one!”

Armed with Mao Tse-tung’s thought, tens of thousands of Kuo Hsi-huns and Liu Lo-chuns were fearless, high spirited and full of militant energy. They expressed their lofty aspirations in these words: “Quake as you like earth! I do what I should!” “Buildings fall but not the people’s will; the earth quakes but the people stand firm.” When another strong tremor hit the area later, the first thing many commune members tried to save at all costs was Chairman Mao’s works. They dusted off their clothes, held up Chairman Mao’s works and said in a firm voice: “It doesn’t matter if the pots and pans are destroyed. As long as we have Chairman Mao’s treasure books, we have nothing to fear even if the heavens fall!” The commune members, taking Chairman Mao’s works with them, heroically saved the people’s lives and property without considering their own safety. Some were injured by falling walls, but they wiped off the bloodstains and continued the battle.

“Forging Ahead in Face of Difficulties, Battling
the Elements and Transforming the Earth”

During the days when they were rebuilding their hornes, the great thought of Mao Tse-tung turned the people of the stricken area into the most resourceful and bravest of heroes fearless of hardships or difficulties.

Some commune members at first thought of depending on state relief. In order to solve this current ideological problem, the P.L.A. fighters helped organize the people to study over and over again Chairman Mao’s teachings on “self-reliance and arduous struggle.” They repeatedly explained the following quotation from Chairman Mao: “We stand for self-reliance. We hope for foreign aid but cannot be dependent on it; we depend on our own efforts, on the creative power of the whole army and the entire people.” The brilliant thought of Mao Tse-tung immediately generated a tremendous strength. Many communes and their brigades set out “the three things that we want”—reliance on Mao Tse-tung’s thought, on their own efforts and on the collective strength, and “the three things that we don’t want”—relief grain, money and materials. Exemplary acts of self-reliance and lofty aspirations coupled with hard work multiplied.

On the land of the Putou brigade, the green wheat seedlings were covered over with silt as a result of the quake. What was to be done about it? The P.L.A. fighters led the commune members in studying Chairman Mao’s article The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains. With the drive of that Foolish Old Man, men and women, old and young went to the fields. In a battle lasting several days and nights, they cleared the seedlings of silt and carried it off. No sooner had this been done than a new quake buried the seedlings again. Undaunted and undismayed, the Putou people declared without hesitation: “If the plants are covered up again, we’ll clear the silt away again; and we’ll clear it away as many times as needs be. We’ll not let a single seedling die!”

Yangchuang Village in the centre of the quake area is an outstanding example of self-reliance. It is known now for its diminutive size, the magnitude of the disaster it suffered and the strong determination of its people, who, by studying Chairman Mao’s articles Serve the People, In Memory of Norman Bethune and The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains, have put themselves back on their feet again. The 66 households in this village suffered from natural calamities for several years. The output from its low-lying saline and alkaline land was low. In the past, its people depended on yearly grants of relief grain from the state. And then it was badly hit by the earthquakes. Together with the villagers the P.L.A. fighters studied these three articles of Chairman Mao. After studying In Memory of Norman Bethune, the commune members said: “Ours is a small village, but we have more than 200 people and if we can grasp the ideology of farming for the revolution, every one of us will become a noble-minded person.” Having studied Serve the People, they declared: “In the past we stood by the kitchen range and we could see no further than our own toes. From now on we’ll stand in the small village of Yangchuang but set our eyes on the whole world!” After they studied The Foolish Old Man Who Removed the Mountains, they became determined to end the backwardness of their village. It was sowing time then and they had to fight a drought. Every one of them took to the fields and not a single person in the village remained idle. Niu Sheng-chih, an old poor-peasant woman of over 70, insisted on working in the fields and no one could dissuade her. She said: “I’ll do as Chairman Mao says. He wants us to rely on ourselves. I won’t fall behind!” There were a dozen children in the village around ten years of age. Having studied Chairman Mao’s writings, they went to fight the drought in the fields. They planted the crops and watered them ladle by ladle. They vied with each other at their work and tried to keep their efforts secret. In this way the Yangchuang villagers extended their cultivated area by 10 per cent after the quakes and brought in a much heavier wheat crop than ever before. They were able to put aside enough seed and food grain and reserves for themselves and sell 12,000 jin to the state. What a change has come over this Yangchuang which lived on relief grain in the past and is now selling surplus grain to the state! This change is typical of that in thousands of villages in the stricken area. They have performed astounding miracles and written a glorious page in their fight to develop production and rebuild their homes.

Wholehearted Devotion to the Collective

The masses armed with Mao Tse-tung’s thought not only dare to tackle any difficulty and become heroes who battle the elements and transform the earth, but, more important, their world outlook has changed in a mighty leap. They no longer think of their pots and pans or work-points. Instead, they are wholeheartedly devoted to the collective and single-mindedly taking the socialist road.

In the past, Chao Hsin-chiao, an old poor-peasant woman, had selfish ideas. She studied Chairman Mao’s works together with the P.L.A. soldiers and the more she studied, the more enthusiastic she became and the more she loved the new society and the collective. She said: “This red heart of mine, an old woman’s heart, is now set firmly on the collective!” When the brigade planned to build new houses, she went to the brigade cadres and offered to donate to the collective 400 jin of lime and 5,000 new bricks which she had kept at her house. Chen Shu-ko, a commune member of middle peasant stock, showed little concern for the collective in the past. P.L.A. soldiers warmly helped him to study Serve the People and In Memory of Norman Bethune. That opened his heart. One day he took out a new plough which he had kept for years in his house and sent it to his production team. Ten years ago, he had stubbornly refused to turn that plough over to the farm co-op when it was formed. Now he says: “In handing over the new plough, I threw away my old ideas!”

At Paichiachai Village, people put the collective interests first. There have been innumerable cases of good people doing good deeds. Once, after firing stopped at the brick kiln in the day-time, the bricks were taken out of the kiln during the night, but no one knew by whom. A poem left written an the kiln wall read:

“T’was pitch dark late at night,
When we came to take the bricks out.
Four hours hard work had us
Bathed in sweat. Yet
No one felt it was hard work
No one felt tired.
For our hearts were glad.”

It was signed “Screw.” An orphan named Kuo Yun-chi woke up in the still of the night and saw a bundle in his room containing a suit of clothes and a pair of shoes. He did not know who had sent them. There was only a note without a signature: “I noticed that your clothes are worn out. So I made a suit for you. Take it!”

This village now has six girls all with the character “mien” in their names. They are called “the six mien girls.” “Mien” in Chinese means “continuous or unbroken” and they recently put this character in their names to show that they want to hand on to all the coming generations Mao Tse-tung’s thought which the P.L.A. men had spread. Like the P.L.A. men, the six girls cherish a boundless love for Mao Tse-tung’s thought and avidly study Chairman Mao’s writings. In their spare time, they have cultivated an experimental plot laid out on a saline and alkaline waste. When some people tried to dissuade them, they said: “The Foolish Old Man could remove the mountains, why can’t we cultivate an experimental plot? We’re determined to make it succeed.” They rushed to their plot in a downpour to prevent it from flooding and getting waterlogged. When the brick kiln run by the brigade needed clay, they rushed clay over to it on a hand cart during the night. When it rained, they took mats used to cover their own mud houses and used them to carefully cover the unburnt bricks belonging to the kiln.

Single-Minded Faith in Chairman Mao

As a result of innumerable such vivid examples the broad masses of the people in the Hsingtai area have come to a deep appreciation of the incomparable might of the great thought of Mao Tse-tung. They say: “We trust neither heaven nor earth, but we have singleminded faith in Chairman Mao!”

Everywhere in Hsingtai and its vicinity today, be it in large towns or small villages, one can see that the people cherish a boundless love and veneration for and faith in our great leader. They say: “Our nearest kin in the world is not as close to us as Chairman Mao.” “We can never repay him for his kindness.” They have Chairman Mao’s pictures in their homes flanked by couplets that read:

“Follow the Communist Party with a red heart;
Never forget Chairman Mao for ten thousand generations.”

The “five-good” militiaman Wang Jen-cheng has a board inscribed with quotations from Chairman Mao in his home. He made the board himself and on it is written: “A blackboard with quotations from Chairman Mao hangs in my room, and it is as if Chairman Mao himself had come to my house. I’ll do whatever he says. My children and grandchildren and all my posterity will follow his teachings.”

Not trusting in heaven or earth but having singleminded faith in Chairman Mao, people of the stricken area have risen one and all to tear down images of the gods, smash shrines and sweep away old customs and habits. After reading Chairman Mao’s works an old woman named Liang Hsiao-lien cursed the idol which she had worshipped for many years: “I’ve worshipped you for decades, burnt incense and kowtowed to you countless times. You scoundrel! What good have you done me, what kindness have you shown me? It was Chairman Mao who sent people to help us as soon as we were hit by a disaster. Only Chairman Mao is our great deliverer!” When poor peasant commune member Wang Hung-chang heard the P.L.A. men’s talk on Chairman Mao’s teaching: “The force at the core leading our cause forward is the Chinese Communist Party. The theoretical basis guiding our thinking is Marxism-Leninism,” he tore down the picture of the God of Wealth which he had worshipped for years and put up Chairman Mao’s picture. In addition, he wrote a couplet:

“I will never forget the Communist Party,
My children and theirs shall never forget Chairman Mao.”

Above that, he wrote: “Never forget our class origin.”

Earth-shaking changes are taking place in the Hsingtai area. The people there are destroying the old ideas, culture, customs and habits in a big way. The creative study and application of Chairman Mao’s writings has become a new habit rising to take their place. The poor and lower-middle peasants say: “Of all the innumerable books in this world, I like Chairman Mao’s works best.” In day-time, they take placards inscribed with quotations from Chairman Mao to the fields with them so that they can study during breaks. In the evening, they go to their “institute of Chairman Mao’s works” where they study and hold discussions under the oil lamps. With boundless happiness they are talking about how, under the guidance of the great thought of Mao Tse-tung, they will carry on the socialist revolution and socialist construction, how they will build up new socialist villages and support the world revolution.

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