Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Intra Party Correspondence

April 29, 1959

[SOURCE: Long Live Mao Zedong Thought, a Red Guard Publication.]

Comrades at the provincial, district, county, commune, production brigade and production team levels:

I wish to confer with you on several questions, all of which are on agriculture.

The first question concerns the fixing of production targets. Rice transplanting is being carried out in the south and the north is also engaged in spring cultivation. Fixing production targets must be based on realities. Just do not pay any attention to those stipulations made in the instructions from higher levels. Ignore them and simply concentrate on practical possibilities. For instance, if production per mou was actually only 300 catties last year, it will be very good indeed if production could be increased by 100 or 200 cattiest Elevating it up to 800, 1,000 or 1,200 catties and even more is mere bragging and cannot be achieved at all. So what is the use in exaggerating? Again, for example, the achievement will be very great indeed if an increase of 200 or 300 catties can be achieved this year from land producing 500 catties per mou last year. To increase further, generally speaking, is impossible.

The second question concerns close planting. It should not be too thinly spread out, nor planted too closely. Many of the young cadres and some higher level organizations, lacking in experience, doggedly called for close planting only. Some even claimed that the closer the planting, the better it will be. This is incorrect. The older people doubt this and so do the middle-aged. It will be excellent to hold a meeting of these three types of people and arrive at a suitable degree of closeness to be maintained in planting. Since production targets are to be fixed, the question of close planting should be discussed and determined by production teams and production groups. Rigid orders from above regarding the closeness to be maintained are not only useless, but also very harmful. Therefore, we should completely refrain from issuing such rigid orders to those in the lower levels. The provincial party committee may suggest the width to be applied to close planting. This should not be issued as an order, but as a reference for lower levels. Besides, the higher levels should give great care to the study of what degree of closeness would be best. After accumulating some experience, a more scientific stipulation on the degree of closeness to be applied should be drawn up on the basis of differences in climate, differences in localities, differences in the condition of soil, fertilizer, water, seeds, differences in the crops and differences in the levels of efficiency in field management. And it will be fine if, in a few years, a standard which is both practical and applicable is developed.

The third question concerns economizing on food grains. This problem must be grasped most firmly and food rationed in accordance with the number of people. We should eat more during the busy season and less during the slack season. During the busy season, we should eat solid food, during the slack season, we should eat semi-solid rations mixed with sweet potatoes, green vegetables, melons, beans and taro. This matter must be grasped tightly. Harvesting, storage and consumption (reap, store and eat) must be grasped very, very tightly every year. Furthermore, they must be grasped at the right time, for opportunity knocks only once and time lost can never be recovered. There must be reserve grains. Set aside a little each year and increase reserve grains year by year. After eight or 10 years of struggle, the problem of food production will be solved. In 10 years, there should be no boasting or exaggerating; to do so will be highly dangerous. Keep in mind that ours is a big country with a population of 650 million and eating is a matter of great importance.

The fourth question concerns broader acreage in planting. The plan calling for less planting with higher yields and richer harvests is a long-range one and it is workable. However, this plan cannot be implemented in its entirety or even the greater part of it in 10 years. It should be put into effect step by step in accordance with the conditions in the next 10 years. The greater part of this plan cannot be carried out in the next three years. In the coming three years strive for extensive planting. The guideline for the next few years is the simultaneous implementation of extensive planting with low yields and less planting with richer harvests of high quota, high yield farmland.

The fifth question concerns mechanization. The fundamental way out for agriculture lies in mechanization. Ten years will be needed to achieve this. There will be minor solutions in four years, intermediate ones in seven and major solutions in ten. This year, next year, the year after and the year after, we will be relying mainly on improved farm tools and semi-mechanized farming implements. Every province, every district and every county must establish farm tools research stations and concentrate a group of scientific-technological personnel and experienced carpenters and blacksmiths of the rural areas to gather together all kinds of more advanced farm tools from every province, district and county. They should compare them, experiment with them and improve them. New types of farm implements must be trial-produced. When they are successfully trial-produced, test them out in the fields. If they are found to be truly effective, then they can be mass produced and widely used. When we speak of mechanization, we must also include mechanized manufacturing of chemical fertilizers. It is a matter of great importance to increase chemical fertilizer production year by year.

The sixth question concerns candor. State exactly what production targets can be achieved. When you have exerted all efforts but failed to achieve something, do not force yourself to make false claims of success. State exactly how much you have harvested and refrain from making false statements, which are contrary to facts. There must be honesty in the measures taken to increase production and to implement the Eight Character Constitution on Agriculture. An honest man has the courage to speak the truth and in the end, it will be beneficial to the people’s cause and to himself. People who are fond of making false statements are firstly hurting the people and secondly, themselves. It should be said that many of these false statements were the result of pressure from above. “Exaggeration and pressure from and pledges to” higher levels create difficulties for the lower levels. Therefore we must be vigorous, but we must not make false claims.

Comrades, please study the aforementioned six problems and feel free to set forth differing opinions so as to achieve our objective of searching out the truth. We are still woefully inexperienced in running agricultural and industrial enterprises. Year by year we accumulate experience and in another ten years we will, step by step, come to understand objective necessity. We will then become free to a certain degree. What is freedom? Freedom is the recognition of necessity.

In comparison with the high-sounding talks currently making the rounds what I am saying here is very much low-keyed. The objective is to stir up activism and achieve the target of increased production. If it (production) is not actually as low as I make it out to be and it has achieved a relatively higher target, I will then become a conservative. Thank heavens, if that is so. It will be a great honor indeed.


Mao Tse-tung

April 29, 1959

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung