Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
"Communists in all countries have only one thing in common", Mao Tse-tung said in reply to my question whether there was really no possibility of a change of "that awful word Communist" in the name of the party. "What they have in common is their method of political thinking along the lines of Marxism.
"Communists everywhere have to distinguish between this system of thought and an entirely different matter: the Communist system of social organization which is the final political aim of their system of thought.
"Especially we in China must strictly distinguish between the Communist method of observing, studying, and solving social problems on the one hand, and the practical policies of our New Democracy on the other, which during the present stage of China's social development must constitute our immediate aim. Without the Communist method of thinking we would be unable to direct the present, democratic stage of our social revolution. And without the political system of the New Democracy we would not apply our Communist philosophy correctly to the realities of China.
"Our present New Democracy will have to be continued under any conditions and for a long period to come. For the concrete conditions existing in China dictate to us the continuation of that policy.
"What China needs now is democracy and not socialism. To be more precise, China's needs at present are three: (1) to drive the Japanese out; (2) to realize democracy on a nationwide scale by giving the people all the forms of modern liberty and a system of national and local governments elected by them in genuinely free general elections, which we have already done in the areas under our control; and (3) to solve the agrarian question, so that capitalism of a progressive character can develop in China and improve the standard of living of the people through the introduction of modern methods of production.
"These, for the present, are the tasks of the Chinese revolution. To speak of the realization of socialism before these tasks are accomplished would merely be empty talk. This is what I told our party members in 1940 in my book The New Democracy. I said already then that this first democratic phase of our revolution would by no means be short. We are not Utopians and we cannot isolate ourselves from the actual conditions right before our eyes."
He added with a smile, "It is quite possible that China may reach the stages of socialism and communism considerably later than your countries in the West which are so much more highly developed economically."
Mao Tse-tung gave me his views on the question of the future Communist attitude toward the landlords when I asked him what he considered the principal economic and social contents of the New Democracy.
"The central economic feature of the New Democracy", he said, "is the agrarian revolution. This holds good even during the present period when the fight against Japan is our main task. For our peasantry is the chief object of exploitation -- not only of Chinese reactionaries but also of the Japanese imperialists in the occupied territories. Only the introduction of the New Democracy in our war regions has enabled us from the beginning to resist the Japanese as successfully as we do, because of its reforms in the interest of the peasant masses who constitute the very basis of our war effort.
"The present unreformed agrarian system in the rest of China, with its scattered, individual peasant economy -- in which the farmers are not free but bound to the land, in which they have little contact even with one another and live a stagnant cultural life - has been the foundation of our ancient feudalism and despotism. The New Democracy of the future cannot rest on such a foundation. For the progress of Chinese society will mainly depend upon the development of industry.
"Industry must therefore be the main economic foundation of the New Democracy. Only an industrial society can be a fully democratic society. But to develop industry, the land problem must first be solved. Without a revolution against the feudal landlord system it is impossible to develop capitalism, as the course of events in Western counties many years ago has shown quite clearly.
"Our agrarian revolution until 1937, during the period of the Civil War, was fundamentally of the same social character as the great agrarian revolutions which took place in the past in all progressive countries of the West and cleared away the feudal obstacles to the growth of the capitalistic system."
I asked whether the radical Civil War policy of confiscating land from the landlords and distributing it to the peasants would not be resumed after the present war with Japan, since Mao Tse-tung had still emphasized the need for a continued agrarian revolution.
He explained, "During the Civil War period we had no reason to prevent the farmers from confiscating land, because the landlord class not only suppressed them but actually led the fight against them. Our party only followed the opinion of the farmers on the subject, formulated their demands into slogans, and then put them into practice as policy. Land confiscation as such was not a bad policy under Chinese conditions. The basic demand of the rural masses has always been concentrated on their desire for land ownership. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the late leader of the Kuomintang, recognized it and advocated the ownership of the land by the tillers. This was one of the main points in his programme for the improvement of the livelihood of the people.
"During a period of national war against a foreign aggressor things are of course different. A national war makes it possible to persuade the masses not to confiscate the land of the landlords, because the masses realize that, while the landlords are also willing to resist the enemy, a policy of land confiscation might drive them into the Japanese-held cities and make them return to their villages together with Japanese troops in order to recover their land.
"In this way, the peasants understood soon after the beginning of the war with Japan that our new policy of reducing land rents instead of continuing confiscation of land had the twofold advantage of improving the peasants' livelihood and of inducing the landlords to stay on in the villages and join in the fight against Japan. The general reduction of land rents in favor of the tenants and the guarantee we gave the landlords for the actual payment of the reduced rents resulted in improved relations between tenants and landlords so that the Japanese found practically nobody to cooperate with in our areas."
I wanted to know how this change in the land policy of the Communist party had been decided at the time.
"This is a characteristic example of the democratic ways in which our party devises policies," Mao Tse-tung said. "This fundamental change from land confiscation to a general reduction of land rents and the guarantee for their payment to the landlords was first suggested by comrades in lower party organizations. Our Central Committee took up their suggestion, which was clearly based on the wishes of the masses. We studied and formulated these demands and put them into effect as general policy.
"If the whole of China becomes a genuine democracy on the basis of cooperation between all political parties, it will be possible to practice our rent-reduction policy on a nationwide scale. This would be a great reform indeed, although it would still be inferior to Dr. Sun Yat-sen's idea of ownership of the land by those who till it, which will have to be the final solution of the land problem. But it is conceivable that even the gradual transfer to the tillers of all the land now under feudal exploitation may be brought about peacefully all over China. If a genuinely democratic system of government is introduced everywhere.
"The way of bringing about such a gradual transfer of all land to the tillers would be to encourage the investment of the landlords' capital in industrial enterprises and to devise other measures of economic and fiscal policy that would be beneficial to the landlords, the tenants, and the development of Chinese economy as a whole.
"But such a solution depends upon genuine internal peace and genuine democracy in China. The possible need in the future for outright confiscation and distribution of land to the tenants can therefore not be ruled out entirely. For in the postwar period there may again be civil war if the Kuomintang insists on attacking us.
"Yet", Mao Tse-tung said with emphasis, "no matter whether we shall have internal peace or civil war, we prefer not to resume land confiscation but to continue our present policy of reduction of rents and guarantee of rent payment to the landlords; because that would reduce the obstacles to progress and reform in general.
"I want to remind you," Mao Tse-tung said "that in 1930 the Kuomintang government in Nanking issued an agrarian law restricting land rents to 37.5 per cent of the tenant's main crops while no rent was to be paid from secondary crops. But the Kuomintang has proved unable and unwilling to carry it out in practice. The law was never enforced. Therefore only the Communist party has proved really able to realize agrarian reform, even in the shape of a mere reduction of rents. "
I asked about the postwar attitude the Communist party intended to take toward commercial and industrial capital in China.
"We are firmly convinced that private capital, Chinese as well as foreign, must be given liberal opportunities for broad development in postwar China; for China needs industrial growth," Mao Tse-tung replied.
"In China's postwar commercial relations with the outside world we want to replace Japan's principle of colonizing China by the principle of free and equal trade with all nations. In the internal sphere we want to replace the policies of the Kuomintang government, which depress the living standards of the people and thereby restrict industrial development in the country by the policies we are already practicing in Liberated China that is, of fostering the productive forces of the people, raising their purchasing power, and thus achieving the main prerequisites for the most rapid and most solid growth of modern industries.
There will have to be three forms of industrialization according to the ideas of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. which we consider justified by the conditions prevailing in China. Key industries in a position to control national economy, like railroads and mines, can best be developed and run by the state. Other industries will have to be developed by private capital and for the exploitation of our great potentialities in handicraft and rural small-scale manufacture we shall have to depend upon strong, democratically run cooperatives."
What political role did the Communist party plan to play in postwar China, I asked
"The membership of our party is necessarily a small portion of the Chinese people," he said. "Only if that small portion reflects the opinions of the majority of the people's, and only if it works for their interests can the relationship between the people and the party be healthy.
"Today the Communist party reflects the opinions not only of the peasants and workers but also of many anti-Japanese landlords, merchants, intellectuals, etc., that is of all anti-Japanese people in our regions. The Communist party is willing and will always be ready to cooperate closely with all people in China who are prepared to cooperate with it.
"This willingness is expressed in our 'Three-thirds' system of democratic representation which restricts the seats of Communist party members in all elected bodies to a maximum of one-third of the whole and gives two-thirds of the seats to members of other parties and non-party elements."
"Yes," Mao Tse-tung replied to my question about relations with the Kuomintang, "we are also willing to cooperate with the Kuomintang not only while the war lasts but afterward. That is to say, if the Kuomintang lets us do so.
"And we are willing to practice in the future, as we do today, the four promises we made to the Kuomintang in 1937."
I asked him about the contents of those promises to which I had often heard vague reference in Chungking, and about the conditions that had been attached to them.
"We promised (1) not to continue the kind of agrarian revolution we had practiced in the past; (2) not to overthrow the Kuomintang government by force; (3) to reorganize our Soviet government in the Border Region as a democratic, local government and (4) to reorganize our Red Army as part of a National Revolutionary Army.
"These promises, we stated at that time, we would carry out if the Kuomintang on its part (1) stopped Civil War; (2) fought against Japan; (3) adopted a system of democratic government, and granted the people freedom of speech, publication, assembly, and association; and (4) took measures to improve the livelihood of the people."
"Is there any opposition within the Communist party to your present policies?" I went on, "or to your interpretation of the long-term requirements of China?" I was referring to the frequent rumors in Chungking about dissension within the Communist ranks.
"No," he said, "there is no opposition in our party now. In earlier periods there were two deviations. One was of a Trotskyite nature, identified with Chen Tu-hsiu, who died in 1942, years after his opposition had ceased to have any influence. The other was that of Chang Kuo-tao, who had for some time set himself against out party's correct policy and left it, practically alone. He is now working in the Special Service of the Kuomintang. Both deviations never influenced the solidarity of our party and have left no trace."
I interrupted, "Do you mean to say that none of your policies are ever questioned or opposed?"
"Naturally, from time to time there may be certain differences of opinion within our ranks. But they are always solved in democratic way, by discussion and analysis of the problems in question. If a minority is still not convinced of the correctness of a majority decision, it submits to it after thorough debates in party meetings. The decisive factor in our work is that we always find out which of our policies the masses of the people accept and which they criticize or reject. Only, policies which prove popular with the masses become and remain the policies of our party.
"At the time of the introduction of a new measure there may be people inside and outside the party who do not quite understand it. But in the course of the execution of any measure a united opinion of an over-whelming majority inside and outside the party is invariably formed, because our party organizations are all the time watching out for popular reaction, and because we modify our measures continuously according to the actual needs and opinions of the people. All party organizations from the top to down are held to observe our vital principle of not separating ourselves from the masses of the people but of being in closest harmony with their needs and wishes.
"The correctness of any of our policies has always to be tested and is always being tested by the masses themselves. We ourselves constantly examine our own decisions and policies. We correct our mistakes whenever we find them. We draw conclusions from all positive and negative experiences and apply those conclusions as widely as possible. In these ways relations between the Communist party and the masses of the people are constantly being improved."
Mao Tse-tung had arrived at his favorite topic, his constant demand on all party members to observe what he calls the "mass viewpoint" in all their decisions and actions. He spoke with enthusiasm.
"This is the most fundamental point. If the leading elements of a political party are really working for the interests of the broad masses of the people, and if they are sincere in this endeavor, they have unlimited opportunities of listening to the opinions of the people.
"We listen to the people. Through the media of popular meetings in villages, towns, districts, regions, and everywhere in our territories; through individual conversations between party members and men and women of all strata of the population; through special conferences, newspapers, and the telegrams and letters we receive from the people - through all this we can, and do, always find out the real, undisguised opinion of the masses.
"Apart from that, our method is to find typical samples both of satisfactory and unsatisfactory work in every field of activity. We study those samples thoroughly, learn from them, and sum up our experiences on the subject in order to draw concrete conclusions for the necessary improvements. The period of such observation of reality and of studying samples of good and bad work may in one case be a few weeks, in another several months, and sometimes even a few years. But in this way we always keep in close touch with actual developments, discover what the people want and need, and learn from those among the people inside and outside the party who do the best work.
"Some of our cadres may sometimes fail to understand our policies thoroughly and make mistakes in their execution, so that such comrades have to be criticized and taught. For this purpose, too, the thorough study and analysis of a specimen of good work is of great importance."
Mao Tse-tung showed me a copy of the Liberation Daily. "Take the example in tonight's newspaper. Here is a long article covering a whole page which describes in detail the ways in which one of the companies of the Eighth Route Army got rid of its shortcomings and became one of the best units. The cadres and fighters of every company in our armies will read and study and discuss this article. This is the simple way in which the positive experiences of one company will be taught as policy to five thousand companies. On other days you may find similar articles about a cooperative, a school, a hospital, or a local administrative unit.
To come back to the vital matter of close understanding and cooperation between party comrades and non-party people. There has been a very great and steady improvement; but mistakes are still being made by some of our comrades.
"Some incidents and misunderstandings still occur. Here and there we still have some Communists who tend to monopolize affairs.
"We are therefore all the time calling everybody's attention to the importance of giving non party people actual power under our democratic 'Three-thirds' system. In the course of the practical execution of our policies we show all our comrades concretely how genuine cooperation between us and non-party people helps not only the masses but ourselves. In consequence, mutual trust between party and non-party people is growing in the process of all the practical work they have to do together."
I asked Mao Tse-tung whether he considered that the Communist party had made any mayor mistakes in its policies.
"On all basic points our policies have proved correct from the very beginning. This is true first of all of our fundamental policies under the New Democracy -- of letting the masses of the people organize themselves for a revolution aiming at national independence, democracy, and the improvement of the people's livelihood on the basis of private property.
"It is only with regard to the application of these basic policies to concrete conditions that certain deviations are liable to appear from time to time, deviations partly to the left and partly to the right. They are, however, not deviations of the party as a whole or of groups in the party, but of certain people in our ranks. From all those mistakes the party as a whole has learned.
"Yes, in certain periods there have been a few individuals in our party who believed that Communism is feasible in China at this time. But the party as such has never held that view. Even the existence within our party of a group advocating the immediate practice of a Communist social system is impossible on account of the concrete conditions in China which make Communism unfeasible for a very long time to come.
"The Kuomintang allegation that there are groups with diverging views within our party is completely unfounded. The Kuomintang, which is itself so badly split by cliques, cannot conceive of a really united political party, and that is probably why such rumors are believed by some in Chungking."
"Did you ever find yourself in a minority so that your own ideas on a subject were not carried out"?
"Yes. I have been in the minority myself. The only thing for me to do at such times was to wait. But there have been very few examples of that in recent years."
I had bean asked by Chinese friends in Chungking to find out whether the Communists were "Chinese first" or "Communist first" and put the question to Mao Tse-tung.
He smiled. "Without a Chinese nation there could be no Chinese Communist party. You might just as well ask, What is first, children or parents? This is not a question of theory but of practice, like the other question people put to you in the Kuomintang regions, whether we are working for our party or for the people. Go and ask our people, anywhere you want. They know well enough that the Chinese Communist party serves them. They have had their experience with us during the most difficult times."
"As to our method of thinking, I told you already that we, like Communists in any other country, are convinced of the correctness of Marxism. This is probably what people refer to when they ask whether we are 'Communist first' or 'Chinese first'. But our belief in Marxism as a correct method of thinking does not mean that we negate the Chinese cultural heritage or the value of non-Marxist foreign thought.
"It is certainly true that much is good in what Chinese history has handed down to us. And this heritage we must make our own There are, however, certain people in China who worship the obsolete ideas of ancient times which are not suitable for our nation today- but on the contrary harmful. Those things must be discarded.
"In foreign cultures, too, there is much that is good and progressive which we must accept; and, on the other hand, much that is rotten, like Fascism, which must be destroyed.
"To accept ideas from the Chinese past or from abroad does not mean to take them over unconditionally. They must be coordinated with actual conditions in China and practiced in accordance with them. Our attitude is that of critical acceptance of our own historical heritage and of foreign thought. We are against blind acceptance as well as blind rejection of any ideas. We Chinese must think with our own brains and must decide for ourselves what can grow on our own soil."
"I want to summarize what China needs today," Mao Tsetung took the initiative. "China needs internal peace and democracy. Without internal peace China will not be able to win the war against Japan or win the peace. Our failure to achieve internal peace after the war with Japan might actually disturb peaceful international relations. For if there were to be another civil war in China, it would last for a long period and would influence foreign countries as well.
"Among people abroad there are still many who have not fully understood that during the last twenty-three years of China's political development the key problem has always been the relationship between the Kuomintang and Communist parties. And the same will be true in the future.
"In the first stage of that important twenty-three-year period of our history, from 1924 to 1927, there would have been no national revolution in China without cooperation between the Kuomintang and Communist parties.
"In the latter part of the second stage, from 1931 to 1936, Chins's inability to resist Japan resulted from the fact that the National Government of the Kuomintang used all its strength, the proceeds of its foreign loans, the services of its foreign military advisors, and other foreign assistance for the campaigns it waged against the Chinese Communists.
"In the third stage, from 1937 to the present our war against Japan might not have been possible or at least China would not have been able to hold out as long as she did if it had not been for what Kuomintang-Communist cooperation there was.
"Conversely, China's war effort against Japan today would be infinitely stronger than it is if the Kuomintang had continued to cooperate with the Communist party at least to the extent that characterized the first short phase of the war."
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung