Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
August 2, 1959
[SOURCE: This document, published in a Red Guard Publication, bears the title of “Talk at the 8th Plenary Session of CPC 8th Central Committee,” on the above date. It is a very short piece. It might be that Mao gave a short talk on the occasion; or, it might be an excerpt from his talk.]
1. The Question of Revising the Targets
The 6th Plenary Session of the Central Committee held at Wuhan decided on the targets for this year. At the 7th Plenary Session held in Shanghai there were proposals to revise the targets. The Majority did not agree. It seems that any revision cannot be thorough. At present, we still have five months to go. When the revision has been made, we can put through the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. The high targets are a Buddhist idol, which we set up for our own worship. Now, we have to break them, break the impractical targets for steel, coal, gram, cotton, etc.
2. The Question Concerning the Lines
Some comrades begin to have doubt: Have we been correct or not? Before they came up the Lushan Mountain, they did not understand clearly. After they came up, some people asked for democracy, asked for freedom, and said that they did not dare to speak, and there was pressure. At that time, I was confused, and could not understand what democracy they were talking about. In the first half of the month, a kind of Meetings of Immortals were held. The situation was not tense. They said that there was no freedom. They tried to attack the general line and break it down. They said that they wanted to have freedom, the freedom of breaking down the general line, and the freedom of speech to criticize the general line. The tense situation of their demand was mainly on criticizing last year, also criticizing the work of this year. They said that in last year all the work had been done badly. Since the first Chengchow Meeting in November last year, we have rectified the wind of communism, and rectified such “Leftists” tendencies as “equalitarianism, harmony and deduction of money ” They could not see the work in these months, and were dissatisfied. They demanded to hold a new discussion; otherwise, they thought that it was the suppression of democracy. They thought that it was not enough to hold the enlarged conference of the Political Bureau, which they thought not democratic. Now, democracy in meetings seems a major theme; we might make preparations for holding the National Party Congress in spring next year. If the situation requires, it may be held in September or October this year. Did we not demand great democracy and the blooming and contending and mass debate in 1957? The Lushan Meeting has been going on for one month already. Comrades who have just arrived do not know what it is all about. At first, group meetings will be held for nine days, then the general meeting ! is to be held, and finally resolutions are to be made.
The procedure of the meeting to be adopted should be one which all will have approved, by proceeding from the wish of unity. The unity of the Plenary Session of the CPC Central Committee is connected with the destiny of China’s socialism. As far as we are concerned, we should be united. At present, there is a tendency toward a split. Last year, at the 8th National Party Congress, I said that the only two dangers were, the world war and the split of our Party. At that time there was no clear sign of a split. Now there is such sign. The method of unity proceeds from the wish for unity, through criticism and self-criticism and attains the goal of unity on a new basis. For comrades who have committed mistakes, the policy of “learning from past mistakes to avoid future ones” and “curing the illness to save the patient” should be adopted. The comrades who have committed mistakes should be given a chance, and should be allowed to correct their mistakes and make further revolution. Don’t imitate the old gentleman Mr. Chao in The True Story of Ah Q, who forbade Ah Q to make revolution. We should watch and help comrades who have committed mistakes. It is not good to watch only without giving them help, and refuse to do the work. We are opposed to mistakes. Poison is not eatable. We cannot appreciate the bad smell of mistakes. Criticism and struggle should make them come nearer to us and make shortcomings and mistakes leave us as far as possible. We should make analyses on comrades who have committed mistakes. There cannot be more than two possibilities. One is that correction is not possible. I said that we should watch, I mean to watch whether or not it is possible to correct. I said that we should help, I mean to help them to make correction. Some comrades followed others to the other side for the time being. Through criticism and persuasion, plus the change of the objective conditions, many comrades again turned back to us and left these people. The Li Li-san line! and the Wang Ming line were rectified at the Tsunyi Meeting. Afterwards, through a period of 10 years till the 7th National Party Congress, there has been four years of rectification. It was necessary to go through this period of 10 years. To rectify mistakes, one has to go through several stages. You cannot force anybody to rectify his mistakes at one stroke. Marx said: “The double character of commodity is recognized through its exchange several hundred and thousand times.” Lo-fu did not admit his mistake of line at the beginning. At the time of the 7th National Party Congress, through struggles Lo-fu admitted his mistake of line. Through these struggles, Wang Ming had not changed himself, nor had Lo-fu. He relapsed into his old illness, and is still having malaria. Whenever there was a chance, it would come back. Most of our comrades have corrected themselves. As far as the mistake of line is concerned,: historical events have proved that it can be corrected. We must have this faith. Those who cannot correct themselves have been very few. Therefore, it can be seen that the policy of “curing the illness to save the patient” is effective. We must have the kind heart to help them. We have sympathy for the person, but not for his mistake. His mistake is a poison, which must be deeply detested and thoroughly rejected. However, we should not use methods of Wu Sung, Lu chih-sheng and Li Kuei. They were very determined and might have joined the Communist Party. Their shortcoming was that they did not understand strategy, and did not know how to do political work. We should adopt methods of putting forward the facts and explaining the truth, such as the big debate, the big character poster, the “medium-size-character poster” and the brief Bulletin of Lushan Meeting.
After I came up the Lushan Mountain, I made three remarks: “Our achievement is great. There are quite a lot of problems. The future is bright.” Later, quite a lot of problems did come up. They are problems of the Rightist opportunism launching a frantic attack against the Party. There is no more wind of communism blowing. There are no more equalitarianism, harmony and drawing out money. There is also no more pompous exaggeration. At present, the problem is not to oppose the “Left”, but to oppose the Right. It is a problem of the Rightist opportunism frantically attacking the Party, attacking the 600 million people, and attacking the vigorous socialist movement. At present, there are people who propose that the more down-to-earth the better. After we have opposed the “Left” inclination for several months, it is natural that a Rightist tendency would come up. There were truly shortcomings and mistakes; but these have been corrected. They are still making demands for correction. Clinging to these things, they attack the general line, and try to lead the general line astray.
[1.] The 6th plenary session was held from November 28 to December 10, 1958, during which it was announced that Mao Tse-tung would be a candidate of the Chairmanship of the State no more.
[2.] 7th plenary session was held in April 1959.
[3.] Meetings of Immortals is a peculiar term used by Chinese to mean meetings without rigid agenda or control, i.e., informal meetings.
[4.] i.e., during the ‘Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend’ campaign period.
[5.] Lo-fu is an alias of Chang Wen-tien, who had been General Secretary of CPC Central Committee after Tsunyi Meeting in January 1935, and was a Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs from April 1954 to September 1959.
[6.] Please see the succeeding article “Letter to Chang Wen-Tien”.
[7.] Three warriors in the novel Heroes of the Marshes, all famous for their hot temper.
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung