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Great Strategic Measure for Carrying Out People’s War

— On studying ”Build Stable Base Areas in the Northeast”

by a theoretical group of a unit of the People’s Liberation Army

[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, #6, February 7, 1975, pp. 14-16.]

FOLLOWING the victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan, Chairman Mao issued the directive Build Stable Base Areas in the Northeast (see Selected Works of Mao Tsetung, Vol. IV) to the armed forces and people of the Northeast on December 28, 1945. In this brilliant Marxist work Chairman Mao made an overall analysis of the fighting situation in China at that time and scientifically foresaw the arduousness of our struggle in the Northeast and the inevitability of final victory, and clearly pointed out in good time the political and military tasks of our Party and armed forces in the Northeast. This directive was a great strategic measure for implementing the line of people’s war.

Strategic Concept Guiding the Chinese Revolution

In August 1945 when Japanese imperialism had just announced its surrender, Chiang Kai-shek, with massive U.S. imperialist aid, tried to seize the fruits of victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan. He hurriedly dispatched Kuomintang troops by air and sea to north, east and northeast China against the lines of the Liberated Areas to unleash the counter-revolutionary civil war he had long planned. China was thus confronted with a big decisive battle between two destinies and two futures—whether to establish a new-democratic state of the people led by the proletariat, or establish a semi-colonial, semi-feudal state under the dictatorship of the big landlords and big capitalists. Chairman Mao foresaw how arduous the struggle in the Northeast would be and paid particular attention to the work of building and consolidating base areas there. In the autumn of 1945 the Party Central Committee mustered and sent more than 110,000 troops and 20,000 cadres to the Northeast to mobilize the people there to wipe out the remnants of the Japanese invaders and puppet troops, eradicate bandits and establish democratic political power at various levels. In his directive Build Stable Base Areas in the Northeast, Chairman Mao pointed out clearly: “Our Party’s present task in the Northeast is to build base areas, stable military and political base areas in eastern, northern and western Manchuria.” He also emphatically pointed out: “Otherwise we may not he able to stand our ground.”

Building revolutionary base areas was Chairman Mao’s great strategic concept for guiding the Chinese revolution and the only correct path to win victory in China’s revolution. Chairman Mao pointed out: “Since China’s key cities have long been occupied by the powerful imperialists and their reactionary Chinese allies, it is imperative for the revolutionary ranks to turn the backward villages into advanced, consolidated base areas, into great military, political, economic and cultural bastions of the revolution from which to fight their vicious enemies who are using the cities for attacks on the rural districts, and in this way gradually to achieve the complete victory of the revolution through protracted fighting; it is imperative for them to do so if they do not wish to compromise with imperialism and its lackeys but are determined to fight on, and if they intend to build up and temper their forces, and avoid decisive battles with a powerful enemy while their own strength is inadequate.” (The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party.)

In the Second Revolutionary Civil War (1927-37), Chairman Mao personally set up the Chingkang Mountains revolutionary base area, and during the period of the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-45) he led the Party to set up over a dozen base areas for resistance against the Japanese invaders in north, central and south China, develop and expand the people’s revolutionary forces, persist in a protracted war and win victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan. Chairman Mao’s directive for building stable base areas in the Northeast was an extremely important strategic principle for winning complete victory in the liberation war in the Northeast. At that time the enemy in that region was extremely powerful; not only were there imperialist and feudal forces and the bureaucrat-capitalist class which was working hand in glove with imperialism, but Chiang Kai-shek had dispatched 300,000 troops to occupy Chinchow, Shanhaikuan and other strategic strong points. Only by building stable base areas was it possible for us to reverse the situation in which the enemy was powerful and we were weak and, in the face of a powerful enemy, enable our Party and our army to persevere in the revolutionary war, gradually amass strength, expand our ranks in the course of fighting, and prepare for the future shift to the counter-offensive, wage strategic decisive battles, completely wipe out Chiang’s troops in the Northeast and win overall victory in the revolution.

Taking the Right opportunist stand, Lin Piao appraised the situation of the class struggle from an idealist point of view so that he failed utterly to see that the main contradiction at that time had already changed from one between the Chinese people and the Japanese aggressors to one between the Chinese people and U.S. imperialism and its running dogs the Kuomintang reactionaries, and he cherished illusions about Chiang Kai-shek, the enemy of the people. Consequently, he did not implement Chairman Mao’s directive to build stable base areas in the Northeast but actively pursued the capitulationist line of Liu Shao-chi and loudly proclaimed about ”the Northeast going along with the rest of the country to the new stage of peace and democracy.” Right up to November 1946 when Chiang Kai-shek had already unleashed all-out civil war and was frenziedly attacking the Liberated Areas, Lin Piao still did not put the centre of gravity of the work on building base areas in the cities and vast rural areas comparatively remote from the centres of Kuomintang occupation, but went and waged ”roving rebel warfare.”

Because the troops and people of the Northeast resolutely implemented Chairman Mao’s directive, the interference and sabotage by the Right opportunist line of Lin Piao were defeated and rejected and base areas in the Northeast were gradually built and consolidated. After more than two years of arduous struggle the Liberated Area had expanded to 97 per cent of the total area of the Northeast (including the provinces of Liaoning, Kirin, Heilungkiang and the former Jehol province) and 86 per cent of the population were liberated. Enemy troops were left cooped up in Shenyang, Changchun and a few other cities along the railway between Shenyang and Shanhaikuan. Of the 9,900 kilometres of railways in the Northeast, 9,000 were in our hands and this played a big role in our winning the two great campaigns of Liaohsi-Shenyang and Peiping-Tientsin (see Peking Review, No. 39, 1974, p. 30) and the War of Liberation as a whole.

Fully Mobilize the Masses

Following the historical materialist concept that the people are the motive force in the making of history, Chairman Mao pointed out that “mass work will be the centre of gravity of our Party’s work in the Northeast” and that “if we rely firmly on the masses, we shall overcome all difficulties and reach our goal step by step.” Because the revolutionary war is a war of the masses, it can be waged only by mobilizing the masses and relying on them. Chairman Mao’s line for guiding the war is based on faith in the masses and reliance on them to wage a people’s war. By relying firmly on the masses we will always win. This is a truth repeatedly confirmed in the practice of revolutionary war in China. Lin Piao, however, proceeded from his reactionary idealist conception of history and was blind to the great strength of the people. He stubbornly opposed Chairman Mao’s directive to freely mobilize the masses and viciously slandered the people of the Northeast as ”backward.”

Building armed units of the masses is basic to consolidating base areas. Chairman Mao placed particular stress on “building armed units of the masses.” Because of the extremely reactionary nature and cruelty of the Kuomintang reactionaries and their possessing powerful counter-revolutionary forces, without armed struggle neither the proletariat nor the people would have any standing at all in China and it would be impossible for the revolution to triumph. This experience was paid for in blood. “Thus the establishment of a base area is first and foremost a matter of building an armed force.” (Mao Tsetung: Problems of Strategy in Guerrilla War Against Japan.) This is a major question concerning the survival of base areas. Chairman Mao’s concept of people’s war is to arm the broad masses under the leadership of the Party. This needs a people’s army to serve as the backbone force in waging revolutionary war and as the main instrument for striking at the enemy troops, and also armed units of the masses—the people’s militia—organized on a wide scale to directly co-ordinate with the army in battle so that there is a body of armed forces made up of regular troops, regional troops and people’s militia fighting in co-ordination. To arm the masses in the base areas as quickly as possible, Chairman Mao directed that a considerable part of the regular troops be distributed among the military sub-areas to organize people’s militia and self-diefence forces so as to make our areas secure, co-ordinate with the field armies and smash the Kuomintang reactionaries’ attacks. This directive of Chairman Mao’s, however, was interfered with by Lin Piao so that both the building of the base areas and fighting at the front were adversely affected.

Mobilizing the masses to settle accounts with traitors and doing a good job in land reform were an important part of the mass work in the base areas of the Northeast. Chairman Mao clearly pointed out that “mass work consists in arousing the masses for struggles to settle accounts with traitors and in launching campaigns for rent reduction and wage increases and campaigns for production.” Later the Party Central Committee again emphatically pointed out that ”the land question in the Liberated Areas is the most basic historical task of our Party at present.” In order to fully mobilize and organize the peasants in the Liberated Areas, the old relations of production had to be changed completely and the peasants freed from the feudal system of land ownership. Hence, we must under the leadership of the Party thoroughly settle amounts with the traitors, wipe out the bandits and establish democratic political power, and at the same time land reform had to be carried out, the system of feudal exploitation eliminated and the peasants’ demand for land satisfied so that they could see that the Party and the democratic government represented their interests and shared a common destiny with them. In this way the masses would wholeheartedly support the revolution, join in and support the revolutionary war as masters and fight to the end for victory in the revolution. But Lin Piao stubbornly resisted the directive of Chairman Mao and the Party Central Committee for land reform. He repeatedly advocated peaceful land reform, with the result that for a while the hands of the masses were tied, land reform was obstructed and sabotaged and the building of the base areas adversely affected.

An important link in consolidating and developing the revolutionary base areas was to conscientiously implement the Party’s policies. and unite with all the forces that can be united with. Our people’s war carried out from the revolutionary base areas was in fact a peasant war under the leadership of the vanguard of the proletariat, the Communist Party. To win victory, a peasant war must not only have the leadership of the Communist Party but must also unite with and strive to win over as great a force as possible to take part. Hence establishing a solid worker-peasant alliance and uniting the people around the Party were crucial to winning victory in the revolution. To this end Party policies must be conscientiously implemented and all forces that could be united must be united to take part together in building base areas. But Lin Piao did all he could to distort the Party’s policies and vigorously push Liu Shao-chi’s opportunist line which was ”left” in form but Right in essence, and he encroached on the interests of the middle peasants, urban industrial and commercial circles, seriously disrupted unity in the revolutionary ranks and obstructed the consolidation and expansion of the base areas in the Northeast.

Under the guidance of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, the army and people in the Northeast rejected and triumphed over the interference and sabotage by Lin Piao’s Right opportunist line, carried out a thoroughgoing land reform and wiped out traitors and bandits. The poor peasants and farm labourers in alliance with the middle peasants demolished the feudal system of land ownership in an orderly and planned manner. This liberated the productive forces, promoted the development of production and improved the people’s livelihood. The people flocked to join the army and fight so that the Party had a strong strategic base in the Northeast. By 1948, the Liberated Areas there had 700,000 regular troops and 300,000 regional troops, while the enemy had only 550,000 troops. This enabled our troops to wage strategic decisive battles against the enemy. In the Liaohsi-Shenyang campaign, organs of people’s political power at various levels in the Northeast organized more than 10,000 stretchers, 36,700 horse carts and 96,000 people for logistic support. Close co-ordination between army and people brought victory in the Liaohsi-Shenyang campaign. This was also a victory for Chairman Mao’s strategic concept of building stable base areas in the Northeast.

Carrying Forward the Revolutionary Spirit of Hard Struggle

Chairman Mao emphatically pointed out: “All our Party members must therefore resolve to undertake the most difficult tasks, swiftly arouse the masses, build our base areas.” Hard struggle has always been the style advocated by our Party and it is the guarantee for the implementation of the correct line. Without this style of hard struggle, it is impossible to maintain a firm and correct political orientation.

To build base areas in the Northeast, particularly in the cities and vast rural areas comparatively remote from the centres of Kuomintang occupation, natural, economic, cultural and transport conditions Were quite harsh and there were numerous difficulties to be overcome. This demanded that we must go there to work and struggle to overcome these difficulties and be more eager to go where the difficulties were greater. At that time, the Northeast had just been liberated from Japanese imperialist enslavement and the remnants of Japanese invaders, puppet troops and traitors had not yet been thoroughly wiped out so that quite a number of people temporarily could not see the difference between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang. This made it imperative for us to go deep among the masses, go to the poor and show concern for their well-being and wholeheartedly serve the people. When large numbers of our cadres and troops sent by the Party first arrived in the Northeast, they had to make investigations and study, acquaint themselves with the place and the people there, integrate themselves with the people and strike roots among them. Then they had to train large numbers of activists and cadres from among the masses and spread the idea of building base areas and mobilize all forces to undertake this great task. As several hundred thousand of our troops had rapidly moved into the Northeast, they had to carry on production when not fighting or doing their regular work so as to lessen the burden of the people and provide more material resources for the war. All this could be accomplished only through hard struggle. That was why Chairman Mao repeatedly exhorted: “We must thoroughly clear away all ideas … of winning easy victories through good luck, without hard and bitter struggle, without sweat and blood.” This was an important condition for building stable base areas in the Northeast and swiftly smashing the wild attacks of the Kuomintang reactionaries.

Loving comfort and pleasure, Lin Piao feared hardship and spent all his time in the cities. He had no liking for the arduous task of building base areas in the countryside, nor was he willing to send cadres there to do the work. Because he was loath to leave the cities, our main forces for a long time were deployed along the trunk communication lines fighting a war of attrition with the enemy which resulted in uncalled-for losses to our troops. Under the guidance of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line, however, the troops and people in the Northeast eliminated the interference and sabotage by Lin Piao’s Right opportunist line and gave full play to our Party’s fine tradition of arduous struggle so that within a matter of a few years stable base areas were built in the Northeast.

The creation of armed revolutionary base areas is a great strategic concept put forth by Chairman Mao by integrating the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution. The war we waged was not a purely military action, but a people’s war waged by mobilizing the masses, organizing the masses and relying on the masses. It was precisely under the guidance of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary line that we gradually built and expanded the revolutionary base areas and laid the foundation for the Chinese revolution to grow from small to big and advance from victory to victory.

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