Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
May 15, 1957
[Article written by Comrade Mao Tsetung and circulated among Party cadres.]
The unity and struggle of opposites are universal phenomena in the life of society. Struggle results in the transformation of opposites into each other and in the formation of a new unity, and the life of society thus moves one step forward.
The rectification movement in the Communist Party is a struggle between two styles in a single entity. This is true of the Communist Party and also of the people as a whole.
There are different kinds of people in the Communist Party. There are Marxists, who comprise the majority. They, too, have shortcomings but not serious ones. There are a number of people whose thinking errs on the side of dogmatism. Most of them are staunch and steadfast and devoted to the Party and the country, only their approach to problems shows a "Left" one-sidedness. After overcoming this one-sidedness, they will take a big step forward. There are also a number of people whose thinking errs on the side of revisionism or Right opportunism. They pose the bigger danger because their ideas are a reflection of bourgeois ideology inside the Party, and because they yearn for bourgeois liberalism, negate everything and are tied in a hundred and one ways to bourgeois intellectuals outside the Party. Over the last few months, people have been criticizing dogmatism but have allowed revisionism to go unchallenged. Dogmatism should be criticized, or else many mistakes cannot be rectified. Now it's time to direct our attention to criticizing revisionism. When dogmatism turns into its opposite, it becomes either Marxism or revisionism. Our Party's experience shows that there have been many instances of dogmatism turning into Marxism but very few of dogmatism turning into revisionism, because the dogmatists represent a proletarian school of thought tainted with petty-bourgeois fanaticism. In some cases what is attacked as "dogmatism" is in fact mistakes in work. In other cases what is attacked as "dogmatism" is in fact Marxism itself, which certain people mistake for "dogmatism" and attack as such. Real dogmatists think that it is better to be on the "Left" than on the Right, and they have a reason -- they want revolution. But in terms of damage to the revolutionary cause, to be on the "Left" is in no way better than to be on the Right and should therefore be resolutely corrected. Some mistakes are the result of carrying out the policies of the central authorities, and people at the lower levels should not be given an undue share of the blame. There are a great many new members in our Party (even more in the Youth League) who are intellectuals, and it is true that a number of them are rather seriously afflicted with revisionist ideas. They deny the Party spirit and class nature of the press, they confound the differences in principle between proletarian journalism and bourgeois journalism, and they confuse journalism reflecting the collective economy of socialist countries with journalism reflecting the economy of capitalist countries, which is marked by anarchy and rivalry among monopoly groups. They admire bourgeois liberalism and are against the leadership of the Party. They favour democracy and reject centralism. They are opposed to what is essential to the realization of a planned economy, that is, leadership, planning and control in the cultural and educational fields (journalism included), which are indispensable and at the same time not unduly centralized. These people and right-wing intellectuals outside the Party act in concert and form a congenial lot, hitting it off like sworn brothers. Dogmatism is being criticized by various kinds of people. By Communists, that is, Marxists. By so-called Communists, that is, Rightists in the Communist Party--revisionists. And outside the Party, by the Left, the middle and the Right. Large in number, this middle section accounts for about 70 per cent of all the intellectuals outside the Party, while the Left makes up about 20 per cent, and the Right about 1, 3, 5 or up to 10 per cent, as the case may be.
In recent days the Rightists in the democratic parties and institutions of higher education have shown themselves to be most determined and most rabid. They think the middle elements are on their side and will not follow the lead of the Communist Party, but this is actually a pipe dream. Some of the middle elements are wavering, may swing either left or right and, in the face of the current spate of wild attacks by the Rightists, may want to keep mum and wait and see. To date, the Rightists have yet to reach the climax of their attack, and they are going at it in high spirits. Rightists, both inside and outside the Party, know nothing about dialectics -- things turn into their opposites when they reach the extreme. We shall let the Rightists run amuck for a time and let them reach their climax. The more they run amuck, the better for us. Some say they are afraid of being hooked like a fish, and others say they are afraid of being lured in deep, rounded up and annihilated. Now that large numbers of fish have come to the surface of themselves, there is no need to bait the hook. They are no ordinary fish, but more likely man-eating sharks with sharp teeth--it is these sharks whose fins people eat. Our struggle with the Rightists is centred on winning over the middle elements, who can be won over to our side. The Rightists' pledge of support to the people's democratic dictatorship, to the People's Government, to socialism and to the leadership of the Communist Party is all a sham, and on no account should any credence be given it. This holds true for all Rightists, whether in the democratic parties, in the fields of education, literature and art, the press, science and technology, or in industrial and commercial circles. There are two kinds of people who are most determined -- the Left and the Right. Both are trying to win over the middle elements and gain the leadership over them. The Rightists are trying to seize first a part and then the whole. To begin with, they are out to gain leadership in the press, education, literature and art, and science and technology. They know that in these fields the Communists are not as strong as they are, which is actually the case. They are "national treasures", not to be rubbed the wrong way. The movement against the "three evils", the elimination of counter-revolutionaries and the ideological remoulding in past years -- how outrageous and what impudence! They also know that many college students come from landlord, rich peasant or bourgeois families and believe these people will rise at their call. This likelihood exists for that section of the student body with Right deviationist ideas. But to assume it is true of most students is sheer fantasy. There are also indications that the Rightists in press circles are instigating the worker and peasant masses to oppose the government.
Some people are against the pinning of political labels, but only when it is they who are being labelled by the Communist Party. But they themselves feel free to slap labels on Communists and on the Left and middle elements in the democratic parties and in all walks of life. What a rash of labels tossed out by the Rightists has found its way into the press in the last few months! The middle elements are sincere in their opposition to labelling. All the inappropriate labels we pinned on the middle elements in the past should be removed and indiscriminate labelling should be avoided in the future. If injustices were really done to certain people, no matter who, in the movement against the "three evils", in the elimination of counter-revolutionaries and in the ideological remoulding, they should be publicly corrected. But labelling the Rightists is a different matter. Even so, the cap must fit, and only confirmed Rightists should be labelled as such. With few exceptions, the Rightists need not be publicly identified by name, but should be given some leeway so that it will be easier for them to compromise in appropriate circumstances. The number of Rightists set above at 1, 3, 5 and up to 10 per cent is only an estimate, and it may turn out to be larger or smaller. Moreover, conditions vary in different units, and it is therefore essential to have conclusive evidence, adopt an objective approach and avoid excesses, for excesses are a mistake.
The bourgeoisie and many of the intellectuals who formerly served the old society are invariably stubborn in asserting themselves, invariably yearn for that old world of theirs and invariably find themselves somewhat out of their element in the new. It will take quite a long time to remould them, and in the process crude methods should not be used. On the other hand, we must take into account the fact that, compared with the early days of liberation, most of them have made considerable progress, and their criticisms of our work are mostly correct and must be accepted. Only some of the criticisms are wrong, and in such cases matters should be clarified. It is in order for them to ask to be trusted and given authority commensurate with their positions; they must be trusted and given authority and responsibility. Some of the criticisms made even by the Rightists are correct and should not be categorically rejected. Their criticisms, wherever correct, should be accepted. The Rightists are characterized by their Rightist political attitude. The kind of co-operation they maintain with us is co-operation only in appearance and not in essence. There is co-operation on some matters, but not on others. There is co-operation in normal circumstances, but when there is an opening which can be used, as at the present juncture, they don't really want any co-operation. They go back on their pledge to accept the leadership of the Communist Party and try to shake it off. But without this leadership, it would be impossible to build socialism and our nation would be plunged into total disaster.
In China, the bourgeois elements and the intellectuals who served the old society number several million, and we need them to work for us; we must further improve our relations with them so that we can enable them to give better service to the cause of socialism and so that we can further remould them and help them gradually become part of the working class, thus transforming them into the opposite of what they are today. Most of them are sure to reach this goal. Remoulding involves both unity and struggle, with struggle as the means to achieve unity, which is the end. Struggle is mutual; now is the time that many people are waging struggle against us. The criticisms made by most people are valid or essentially so, including the sharp criticisms by Professor Fu Ying of Peking University, which have not been published in the press. They are making their criticisms in the hope of improving their relations with us, so these criticisms are well-intentioned. But the Rightists' criticisms are usually malicious, because they are antagonistic. Intentions, whether good or bad, are not a matter of guesswork, they can be perceived.
The current criticism and rectification movement has been launched by the Communist Party. As we expected and hoped, poisonous weeds have been growing side by side with fragrant flowers and ghosts and monsters appearing together with the unicorn and phoenix. Anyway, good things outnumber bad. Some say we are trying to catch big fish, and we say we are digging up poisonous weeds, which are only different ways of saying the same thing. In order to achieve their end, the Rightists, who are anti-Communist, are making a desperate attempt to stir up a typhoon above force 7 in China, strong enough to devastate crops and houses. The more outrageous their conduct, the more quickly will they show themselves up as doing the opposite of co-operating with the Communist Party and accepting its leadership, as they pretended in the past, and the people will thus recognize them as nothing but a handful of ghosts and monsters opposed to the Communist Party and the people. They will then end up by burying themselves. Is there anything bad about that?
There are two alternatives for the Rightists. One is to keep their tails tucked between their legs and mend their ways. The other is to go on making trouble and court ruin. Gentlemen Rightists, the choice is yours, the initiative (for a short time) is in your hands.
In our country, there are several criteria by which to judge whether the bourgeoisie and bourgeois intellectuals are politically honest or dishonest, good or bad. The main thing is to see whether they really accept socialism and really accept the leadership of the Communist Party. They agreed to both long ago, but now some want to go back on their word, and this will not do. Once they back out, there is no place for them in the People's Republic of China. Your ideals are those of the Western world (also known as the free world), you might as well go there.
Why is such a torrent of reactionary, vicious statements being allowed to appear in the press? To let the people have some idea of these poisonous weeds and noxious fumes so as to have them uprooted or dispelled.
"Why didn't you say all this earlier?" Didn't we? Didn't we say long ago that all poisonous weeds must be uprooted?
"You divide people into the Left, the middle and the Right. Isn't that contrary to how things stand?" Wherever there are masses of people -- everywhere except deserts -- they are invariably divided into the Left, the middle and the Right, and this will be so ten thousand years hence. Is that contrary to how things stand? This division will serve as a guide for the masses to size up people and will make it easier to win over the middle elements and isolate the Rightists.
"Why not win over the Rightists?" We shall try. But it won't be possible to win them over until they feel isolated. How can they be amenable when they are riding their high horse and are so bent on destroying the Communist Party? Isolation will cause a split, and we must bring about a split among the Rightists. It has all along been our practice to divide people into the Left, the middle and the Right, or in other words, progressive, middle-of-the-road and backward; this is nothing new, only some people have a short memory.
Are you going to "fix" people with a vengeance? It depends on how the Rightist gentlemen behave themselves. Poisonous weeds are to be uprooted, and this means uprooting the ideological poisonous weeds. To "fix" people is another matter. No one will be "fixed" unless he "grossly violates the law". Then what is meant by "gross violation of the law"? It means serious damage to the interests of the state and the people as a result of the evil-doer's wilful actions despite repeated warnings. As for people who commit ordinary errors, there is all the more reason to apply the principle of curing the sickness to save the patient. This is the proper distinction to be observed both inside and outside the Party. To "fix" also means to cure the sickness to save the patient.
How long will it take the Party to accomplish the task of rectification? Events are now moving very fast and the relations between the Party and the masses will rapidly improve. Apparently, the task will take a few weeks in some places, a few months in others and about a year in still others (for instance, the rural areas). But studying Marxism and raising the ideological level will take much longer.
Our unity and struggle with the bourgeoisie and the intellectuals will go on for a long time. When the rectification movement inside the Communist Party is basically over, we shall suggest that the democratic parties and people in all walks of life carry out their own rectification which will accelerate their progress and make it easier to isolate the handful of right-wingers. Now it is people outside the Party who are helping us in our rectification. Later on we shall help them in theirs. This help is mutual, in the course of which what is evil will be done away with, that is, turned into its opposite, into what is good. This is exactly what the people expect of us, and we ought to gratify their wishes.
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung