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Advance Victoriously Along Chairman Mao’s Line in Army Building

— Notes on studying “On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party”
and criticizing Lin Piao’s bourgeois line in army building

by Liang Hsiao and Cheng Li

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #5, Jan. 31, 1975, pp. 8-12.]

THE resolution On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party (see Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, Vol. 1) drawn up by Chairman Mao in December 1929 for the Ninth Party Congress of the Fourth Army of the Red Army (which was held at Kutien Village in Shanghang County, Fukien Province, and is thus known as the Kutien Meeting) systematically summed up the rich store of experience gained by our Party in the course of combating various mistaken ideas after the founding of our army, and laid down a Marxist-Leninist line for building the Party and army. Over the past several decades, this brilliant resolution of the Kutien Meeting has illuminated the course along which our Party and army have advanced from victory to victory.

While verbally endorsing the spirit of the Kutien Meeting, Lin Piao actually had long been a betrayer of the line of this meeting. Opposing the proletarian principles for building the army, he left no stone unturned in trumpeting the fallacy that the gun commands the Party and vainly tried to recast our army in the image of the bourgeoisie. His was a bourgeois line in army building pure and simple.

A given military line is closely associated with a specific political line. The bourgeois line in army building Lin Piao pushed was in the service of his ultra-Rightist revisionist political line which aimed at restoring capitalism.

The Party Commands the Gun

Adherence to the Party’s absolute leadership over the army is an immutable fundamental principle for building a new-type people’s army. The most fundamental reason why our army can become a powerful men weapon in the hands of the proletariat and other revolutionary people for seizing and consolidating political power lies in its having the staunch leadership of the revolutionary political party of the proletariat and the guidance of the Party’s Marxist-Leninist line. There always has been a fierce struggle within our Party between the two lines centring around the question of upholding or opposing the Party’s leadership over the army.

Chairman Mao has always attached great importance to strengthening this leadership. As far back as our army’s early years in the 1920s, he pointed out that for the Red Army “the question of proletarian ideological leadership is very important.” (The Struggle in the Chingkang Mountains.) When the army was reorganized at Sanwan*, Chairman Mao put forward the principle that “the Party branch is organized on a company basis.” (The Struggle in the Chingkang Mountains.) Thus, organizationally, the foundation was laid for building a new-type people’s army. Later, Chairman Mao personally laid down the Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention, the first of which stressed: “Obey orders in all your actions.” (On the Reissue of the Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention—Instruction of the General Headquarters of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.) This made obedience to Party leadership a conscious discipline in the people’s army. In the Kutien Meeting resolution, Chairman Mao stated still more explicitly that “the Chinese Red Army is an armed body for carrying out the political tasks of the revolution.” In other words, our army must be a tool subordinating itself to proletarian ideological leadership and serving the Party’s programme, line and policies.

To usurp the military power of the proletariat, the bourgeois careerist Lin Piao made no bones about publicizing the fallacy that the gun commands the Party, babbling that the army “is the core of cores and the key link of key links.” While cooking up the nonsense that the founder of the People’s Liberation Army cannot command it, in a vain attempt to negate Chairman Mao’s position as the supreme commander, Lin Piao tampered with the history of our Party and army and posed as a “man of genius in military affairs,” an “ever-victorious general” and so on, arrogantly wanting “everything under his command and everything at his disposal.” According to his reactionary logic, the Party had to be put under the command of the gun which in turn had to be put at his disposal, and consequently he should be the man with supreme power in the Party, government and army.

Lin Piao’s opposition to the Party and attempt to usurp supreme power in the army were of long standing. In his secret notebooks, he had summed up in 1949 his anti-Party experience in which he advocated not reading the directives of the Party Central Committee and neither submitting reports to it nor asking for its instructions and made a big fuss about daring to “disobey orders.” All this shows that Lin Piao always made opposing the Party’s leadership and countering the unified orders of Chairman Mao and the Party Central Committee his basic tenet and criterion for action. At every crucial moment in the revolution he unfailingly did this. In the early period of the Agrarian Revolution (1927-37), he was pessimistic and despondent over the prospects of the Chinese revolution. After the conclusion of the Tsunyi Meeting in January 1935, he took the lead in attacking Chairman Mao and trying to seize power from him. When the Liaohsi-Shenyang and Peiping-Tientsin campaigns were being fought in the latter half of 1948 and the beginning of 1949, he set himself against Chairman Mao’s strategic decisions. (See “Victory of Chairman Mao’s Concept of Strategy—Notes on studying ‘The Concept of Operations for the Liaohsi-Shenyang Campaign’” and “A Splendid Strategic Plan—Notes on studying ‘The Concept of Operations for the Peiping-Tientsin Campaign’” in Peking Review, No. 46, 1972 and No. 39, 1974.) In the early 1950s, he was the mastermind of the Kao Kang-Jao Shu-shih anti-Party alliance. All this indicated that Lin Piao was a bourgeois careerist, conspirator and double-dealer who had engaged in machinations within the Party for several decades.

Chairman Mao has taught us: “Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.” (Problems of War and Strategy.) This is determined by the nature of our Party and army. Our Party is the vanguard of the proletariat and the highest form of its organization. Of the Party, the government, the army, the mass organizations and the cultural and educational institutions, whether in the east, west, south, north or centre of our country, it is the Party that exercises overall leadership. From the day our army was founded by Chairman Mao and the Communist Party, they have led and commanded it. Our people’s army would not have existed without the Party. And our army has grown in strength under the guidance of the Party’s correct line, in the absence of which its victories would have been out of the question.

Which class gains control of the army and which class line the army implements directly determine its nature and appearance. Therefore, whether or not the Party’s absolute leadership over the army should be upheld is, in essence, a question of whether or not the proletarian nature of our army should be maintained. The reason why old-type armies always serve as the pillar of systems of exploitation is that they are in the hands of the exploiting classes and at their service. History shows that the labouring people had organized their own army and fought valiantly and tenaciously, but because of the absence of the leadership of the proletariat, which is a progressive class, they ended up in failure as a result of suppression by the exploiting classes or they let the latter usurp the leadership and turn the army into a tool for realizing the narrow interests of the exploiting classes. If the army of the proletariat should depart from the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist political party, there would be the danger of its degeneration.

In criticizing the mistaken idea of subordinating political work to military work, the resolution adopted at the Kutien Meeting penetratingly pointed out: “If allowed to develop, this idea would involve the danger of estrangement from the masses, control of the government by the army and departure from proletarian leadership—it would be to take the path of warlordism like the Kuomintang army.” After the Khrushchov and Brezhnev renegade cliques came to power, the Soviet army degenerated into their tool for exercising a fascist dictatorship at home and pushing policies of aggression and expansion abroad. This is a profound lesson. In its programme for staging a counter-revolutionary armed coup d’etat, the Lin Piao anti-Party clique frantically clamoured that “the armed forces throughout the nation should obey” “the centralized and unified command” of its bourgeois headquarters and that all revolutionary forces under the leadership of our Party should be “severely suppressed.” This exposed to the hilt that the criminal aim of Lin Piao and his followers in opposing the Party’s leadership over the army was to try to turn our army from being the mighty pillar of the dictatorship of the proletariat into their tool for restoring capitalism.

Historical experience tells us that the struggle over control of the army has all along been a serious class struggle and two-line struggle. This is a matter of principle of paramount importance concerning the success or failure of the revolution and the destiny of the people. According to the Marxist theory of the state, the army is the chief component of state power. Whoever wants to seize and retain state power must have a strong army. (Mao Tsetung: Problems of War and Strategy.) In his preface to The Civil War in France, Engels pointed out that in France the workers emerged with arms from every revolution; therefore, “the disarming of the workers was the first commandment for the bourgeois.” Lenin said: “The essence of the matter—also, by the way, on the quection of the state (has the oppressed class arms?)—is here remarkably well grasped.” (The State and Revolution.) Catering to the political needs of the landlord and capitalist classes, the bourgeois representatives who had wormed their way into the Party invariably did all they could to oppose our Party exercising leadership over the army. Our struggle against Lin Piao over the question of who should command the army was a sharp manifestation of class struggle and two-line struggle in the socialist period.

Founded, led and commanded by Chairman Mao himself, our people’s army is loyal to the Party, the people and Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line. Over the past several decades, our armed forces led by the Party have fought in the north and south and have been tempered and tested in the great storms; they have a high degree of revolutionary consciousness and political vigilance. Lin Piao’s attempt to seize control of the army and deploy the armed forces for anti-Party purposes turned out to be nothing but wishful thinking, which could only result in his complete isolation and utter defeat.

Education in Ideological and Political Line

The most fundamental thing in upholding the Party’s absolute leadership over the army lies in firmly implementing the Party’s Marxist-Leninist line. Whether we should carry out education in ideological and political line in the army is an important question of principle of whether we should practise Marxism and build the army in the image of the proletariat. This is another important aspect of the struggle waged by our Party against Lin Piao’s bourgeois line in army building.

The correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything. Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line is the lifeline of our army. It is under the guidance of that line that our army has grown in strength through the struggles against the Right and “Left” opportunist lines. The creation of the first detachment of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army was precisely the result of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line defeating Chen Tu-hsiu’s Right opportunist line. The Red Army had grown considerably in the course of the struggle for holding fast to the armed independent regime of the workers and Peasants. Later, the Red Army lost more than 90 per cent of its men as a result of the damage caused by Wang Ming’s line. Thanks to the establishment of Chairman Mao’s leading position in the whole Party and the switching of the Party’s line into the orbit of Marxism-Leninism at the Tsunyi Meeting, our army eventually grew from small to big and from weak to strong and emerged victorious after having suffered setbacks. It has made tremendous contributions to the struggle of seizing political power and consolidating the dictatorship of the proletariat by armed force. Practice has proved that only when the line is correct can army building have a correct orientation and only thus can our army successfully shoulder its historical tasks in China’s great revolutionary struggle. Chairman Mao stressed in the Kutien Meeting resolution that it is necessary “to educate the [Party] members in the Party’s correct line.” This is of fundamental significance to strengthening the building of the army. Since political and military lines are always closely linked with the ideological line, the Kutien Meeting resolution pointed out from the outset: “There are various non-proletarian ideas in the Communist Party organization in the Fourth Red Army which greatly hinder the application of the Party’s correct line.” To ensure implementation of the Party’s correct line in the army, it is imperative to unfold a struggle of proletarian ideas against non-proletarian ideas.

To tamper with the line of the Kutien Meeting resolution and transform our army in the image of the bourgeoisie, Lin Piao for many years had resorted to various tricks of mixing the spurious with the genuine. He worked overtime to cover up the struggle between the Marxist-Leninist and revisionist lines and between the proletarian and bourgeois ideologies and delete the class content of the struggle between the two lines in army building. On the question of the relationship between political and military work, he created confusion in people’s minds by various means in a vain attempt to fish in troubled waters. For a certain period, he bellowed that “doing military work well means politics in the full sense of the word.” He thus openly spread the purely military viewpoint. When this fallacy was criticized by Chairman Mao and resisted by commanders and fighters, he went from one extreme to the other and ranted that “politics may push aside military affairs,” “push aside other things” and “push aside everything.” His aim was to continue peddling the bourgeois line in army building by employing pseudo-revolutionary phraseology.

What Lin Piao said about “doing military work well means politics in the full sense of the word” was sheer nonsense. Chairman Mao clearly pointed out long ago: “Military affairs are only one means of accomplishing political tasks.” (On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party.) Without first solving the question of which class and which line to serve, then there is the lack of a basic prerequisite for doing military work well. During the historical period of socialism, the People’s Liberation Arnay, if it is to give full play to its role as the pillar of the proletarian dictatorship, must be armed with the Party’s basic line and, together with the people of the whole country, take part in the struggle of criticizing the bourgeoisie, revisionism and the ideology of the exploiting classes. It must be capable of wielding both the pen and the gun and must persist in continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat. If doing military work well means everything, as Lin Piao claimed, then isn’t it tantamount to saying that all such things as the Party’s basic line and the criticism of the bourgeoisie and revisionism can be cast to the winds? In saying this, Lin Piao and his followers aimed at putting people off guard against the danger of capitalist restoration, thereby giving themselves a free hand to push their revisionist line and realize their scheme of opposing the Party and usurping supreme power in the army.

Lin Piao’s allegation that “politics may push aside military affairs” was no less absurd. Can it be that putting proletarian politics in command does not serve as a powerful motive force for doing a good job of revolutionary military work? To put it bluntly, the fallacy fabricated by Lin Piao that politics and militaxy affairs are absolutely opposed to each other was simply aimed at using bourgeois politics to first of all push aside proletarian politics and at the same time push aside proletarian military affairs. Doing everything possible to oppose carrying out in the army education in Marxist-Leninist theory and the Party’s correct line, Lin Piao preposterously summarized political work as “grasping living ideas” and advocated “setting off a revolution in the depth of one’s soul.” What he was hawking was the Confucian school’s junk of self-cultivation divorced from actual struggles. He tried to inveigle people into turning a blind eye to the line, making no distinction between a correct line and a wrong one, and lure them to focus their attention on minor shortcomings in an attempt to turn them into timid and cautious “gentlemen,” blind theoretically and philistine politically. While revering as priceless treasures the hypocritical Confucian preachings to “give up force and put stress on virtue” and “stop military pursuits and promote culture,” Lin Piao chattered away that “it is not that serious” if military training “is a bit short of the mark” and that it was not necessary to make special efforts to learn military skills, in a vain attempt to do away with proletarian military work and disintegrate our army’s combat effectiveness.

It must be pointed out that Chairman Mao’s thinking in army building has long struck deep roots in our army and firmly occupied the leading position. Lin Piao could never succeed in his criminal scheme of tampering with the orientation in building our army.

It Is Men, Not Weapons, That Decide the Outcome of War

How to look at the rank-and-file soldiers and the masses of the People and how to look at the relationship between men and weapons have always been an issue of great importance in the struggle between the proletarian and bourgeois lines in army building. An important point of departure in Chairman Mao’s proletarian thinking in army building is the firm conviction that “the army and the people are the foundation of victory.” (On Protracted War.) On the other hand, despising the people and soldiers and fanatically advertising the theory that “weapons decide everything” constituted a salient feature of Lin Plao’s bourgeois line in army building.

Ours is a people’s army whose members have come together and fight not for the private interests of a few individuals or a narrow clique, but for the emancipation of the proletariat and other labouring people. “The sole purpose of this army is to stand firmly with the Chinese people and to serve them wholeheartedly.” (On Coalition Government.) Proceeding from this purpose, “besides fighting to destroy the enemy’s military strength, it [our army] should shoulder such important tasks as doing propaganda among the masses, organizing the masses, arming them, helping them to establish revolutionary political power and setting up Party organizations.” (On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party.) It is a fighting force as well as a work force and a production force. Its commanders and fighters strictly observe the Three Main Rules of Discipline and the Eight Points for Attention, carry out the movement to support the government and cherish the people and learn from the people of the whole country so that the army and the people always become one. Proceeding from this purpose, our army makes it a point to “ensure democracy under centralized guidance” (On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party) within its ranks, freely arouse the soldier masses, give full scope to their enthusiasm, initiative and creativity, and consciously observe discipline, thereby making itself a militant collective with a high degree of unity. Such an army is invincible.

Lin Piao who formed a clique in pursuit of his selfish interests always stood opposed to the masses of the people. In his eyes, history is made by a few geniuses and the masses are nothing more than a bunch of beings and are concerned only about “getting rich” and about their supply of daily necessities, such as “oil, salt, sauce, vinegar and firewood.” Proceeding from such a reactionary idealist conception of history, Lin Piao negated the decisive role played by the masses of the people in a war and denied that the foundation of an army lies in the rank-and-file soldiers, thus fundamentally opposing the principles for building a people’s army. While superficially crying out to give first place to the human factor, in his secret notebooks he went so far as to directly attack Chairman Mao’s brilliant thesis that “the outcome of a war is decided by the people, not by one or two new types of weapon.” (Talk With the American Correspondent Anna Louise Strong). Lin Piao said: “Now that I’ve got hold of the people, energetic efforts must be made to develop weapons.” When the imperialists and modern revisionists raised a hue and cry about the horrors of a nuclear war and engaged in nuclear blackmail, Lin Piao prostrated himself before nuclear weapons and held that, with the development of modern military techniques, the Marxist-Leninist military theory had become useless. As he saw it, a modern war is fought by pushing buttons and it is new-type weapons, atom bombs and missiles, not infantry, that count. Therefore, he attacked the idea of making everybody a soldier and undermined the fine tradition of army-people unity.

All this stuff of Lin Piao’s was nothing new. Bernstein had regarded the universal arming of the people under new technical conditions as “merely an illusory barrier.”** Kautsky also had asserted that the colossal superiority in the armaments of reactionary ruling classes would render any resistance on the part of ordinary citizens “hopeless from the very outset.”*** Khrushchov was all the more shameless when he drivelled that for those now having modern weapons at their disposal, the militia was not an army but just human flesh.**** It is crystal clear that what Lin Piao took over was nothing but the mantle of the old and new revisionists. All these fallacies, however, have long been refuted by Marxists down to the last point. Marxism holds that though weapons are an important factor in war, the factor which plays the decisive role in determining the outcome of a war is men, not things, and is the people, not weapons. Engels pointed out in History of Rifles: “Men, and not muskets, must win battles.” Lenin also pointed out: “In the final analysis, victory in any way depends on the spirit animating the masses that spill their own blood on the field of battle.” (Speech at an Enlarged Conference of Workers and Red Army Men in Rogozhsko-Simonovsky District of Moscow.)

Under new historical conditions, Chairman Mao has profoundly expounded and developed this Marxist-Leninist thesis when he pointed out that “without the struggles waged by the people, atom bombs by themselves would be no use.” (The Situation and Our Policy After the Victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan.) Regarding the atom bomb as infinitely powerful represents the bourgeois world outlook and methodology. We firmly believe that the masses of the people are the makers of history. While attention must be paid to continuously improving weapons and equipment and mastering advanced military techniques, the most important thing in building our army remains using Markism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought and the Party’s correct line to arm our commanders and fighters and adhering to the principle of unity between army and government, between army and people and between officers and men and unity in the whole army, so as to ensure the advance of our army in the direction charted by the resolution of the Kutien Meeting.

Whether or not to respect the soldiers and the people is a fundamental question of attitude reflecting the basic purpose of army building. Because old-type reactionary armies are divorced from the people and are used to slaughter them, they regard soldiers who must obey orders and be able to handle weapons merely as something negative and passive, just as slave-owners looked upon slaves as tools that could speak and were at their beck and call. By taking the same attitude, Lin Piao bared his own nature as an enemy of the people and exposed his criminal scheme of trying to change the nature of our army.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is a great people’s army. Its invincible strength stems from reliance on the people and revolutionary soldiers. Lin Piao’s plot to tamper with the orientation in our army building and sabotage the fine tradition of unity between army and people and between officers and men was bound to come to naught.

Guided by the brilliant resolution of the Kutien Meeting, the great Chinese People’s Liberation Army will always advance from victory to victory along Chairman Mao’s line in army building!

  *   In September 1927, Chairman Mao led the peasants workers and part of the Northern Expeditionary Army in eastern Hunan and western Kiangsi in staging the Autumn Harvest Uprising and founded a workers’ and peasants’ revolutionary army which later marched to the Chingkang Mountains. On the way, this army was reorganized at Sanwan in Yunghsin County, Kiangsi Province, with Party organizations set up at all levels of the army and Party representatives appointed at various levels above the company, thereby establishing the Party’s absolute leadership over the army.

  **   “The Prerequisites for Socialism. and the Tasks of the Social-Democratic Party.”

  ***   “A Catechism of Social-Democracy.”

  ****   Speech at the Meeting of Representatives of Fraternal Parties in Bucharest, June 24, 1960.

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