Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung

Talk On The Four Clean-ups Movement

January 3, 1965

[SOURCE: Long Live Mao Tse-tung Thought, a Red Guard Publication.]

I won’t visit your honourable place if there is no business, and when there is, we will hold a meeting. Some comrades ask me, “how do you fight a war of annihilation?” In a county of 280,000 people, 18,000 were assembled together, and after two months, the battle still had not been fought. It took 40 days to study the documents, and why should they be studied so long? I think this amounts to some sort of scholasticism. I don’t advocate this kind of study. It’s no use merely to read documents. (Liu X X: Several ten thousand people in Honan were concentrated in a few places, and they devoted some 40 days to it, which was to oppose the rightist trend. They have clarified some problems.) (Liu Tzu-hou: We also concentrated on anti-rightism and relieving ourselves of our burdens.) Was there any result? One could study the documents in a day, and discuss them on the ensuing day. It might take a week to discuss, and then go down to the countryside. The main thing is to study in the rural areas and learn from the poor and lower-middle peasants. One of my security guards, 21 years old, has written me saying “After studying the documents for some 40 days, I basically did not understand them, and only began to understand something after I came down to the countryside.” This means one should only study documents for one week, and then go down to the countryside in order to learn from the poor and lower-middle peasants! He said that he was afraid of a number of things: being afraid people might die, and the wrong roots would be planted. He was afraid of this and that, and how could it be possible if one was so timid? Although there are 18,000 cadres in a county of 280,000 people, they will still say it is not enough. Why should there be so many? I think it is definitely too many. Since the work teams have so many people, and you must rely on the work teams, then why don’t you rely on the 280,000 people of that county? When you rely on the good people there, even thoug! h there may be a bad one in 28, you will still have 27 good people. Even though there may be two bad persons, you will still have 26 good ones. Why don’t you rely on these people? Even with some 10,000-20,000 people, you still could not finish it after one or two months. You say you will take root and make contacts, but what roots and what contacts? It was all so dreary which means that you did not rely correctly. If you had relied on the right people, it would be sufficient to have a dozen or more people for each county. In short, we did not make revolution like this before. Some 10,000-20,000 people were mobilized to undertake the movement in a small county like a torrential rain, and after several months the work still was not launched. When a trade union was launched at the An-yuan colliery before, we did not know a single person among An-Yuan’s workers. As soon as we arrived there, we made speeches. We asked who would like to enrol in night school, and found out who the foreman was. He had several wives. Did we organize a club? (X X X: We didn’t.) After three months, a strike was launched there.[1]

I think that after entering a village and meeting the masses, we must first of all announce several things:

First, we should announce to commune members that we have not come for the purpose of rectifying them. Maybe we could also announce to some of the honest landlords and rich peasants that we would not rectify them. With the exception of some landlords and rich peasants that have escaped [class] determination and some of the counter-revolutionary elements and speculators with serious problems, all petty thieves and pickpockets could be exempt. We should announce openly that what we would rectify is the inside of the party, not the commune members. We should announce that our purpose is not to rectify you. If you have done something wrong, you should discuss it among yourselves. If there are serious cases among some members, we could discuss them individually, but this number is extremely small.

Second, we should also announce the purpose of our visit to the cadres. Cadres of teams, brigades and communes generally fall into these categories: large, medium, small, and nothing. There are some who eat more and own more, others who eat more but own very little, and still others who have nothing whatsoever. Where it involves a few tens of dollars, 100 dollars or 200 dollars, you can admit to it yourself. If you can return it, good, but if not, it can be cancelled with the approval of the masses, since that is all you have done! After you have confessed, there will be no trouble, but there will be trouble if you don’t.

Where the reimbursement has been made satisfactorily in the cases of corruption and theft and speculation and hoarding, no labels will be given. Where the performance is good, one can continue to serve as cadre with the approval of the masses.

After entering the village, a rally should be held within a month or so. The rally should be held with the county as the unit; each team being represented by its leader and two poor and lower-middle peasants; and each brigade being represented by the branch party secretary and brigade leader; and each commune being represented by the party secretary and commune leader. Several rallies should be held, each lasting one day. First, we should tell them the purpose of the visit. It should not be long. A half-hour speech should be sufficient, for if one should talk for an hour, they would be bored listening to it. Let them convey the message to lower echelons. In a county with a population of 280,000, there are about 3,000-odd teams. With three persons from each team, there would be some 10,000 people. It would be impossible to assemble everyone at one rally and so it should be divided into two or three rallies, each lasting one day. Then a rally of 10,000 people could be held and the people would feel pacified. What you have been doing seems so insipid. So many work teams have been set up, and after several months of endeavor, the movement still has not developed. They lack experience, and the majority consists of people who don’t know how to work. Some 20,000 people went to T’unghsien, and after one year, the work there was not completed. Some of them did not work well, and others were bureaucratic. I think if we make revolution this way, the revolution will take 100 years. Some professors were in the work teams, and they weren’t as good as their assistants, while some of the assistants weren’t as good as the students. The more books one reads, the more stupid one becomes, knowing almost nothing. That is all.

You won’t annihilate the enemy if you fight the battle of annihilation this way. It behoves you to rely on the masses and to mobilize them. You are lackadaisical in taking root and making contacts, and this atmosphere is too thick. This method is different from the method we used before. In order to annihilate the enemy in a matter of months, I think you must change the method. If you don’t rely on the masses, the movement cannot be launched in a few months. Please think up some methods!

Your (referring to Liu Tzu-hou and Chang Ch’eng-hsien) local committee’s secretary, Li Yueh-nung, is the team leader, and he has not launched the movement after several months. Try to think up some remedy! Why couldn’t he get the work done? (Liu: he has been too slow in stressing taking root and making contacts, and while I was in Jen-hsien, big rallies and small meetings were held simultaneously.) Cadre meetings and meetings of poor and lower-middle peasants may be held in the brigade or in the county. Last year, an all-province poor and lower-middle peasants representative conference was held in Hunan with salutary results. Hunan’s grain production this year has increased some two billion catties, and so it has yielded results. If you are so afraid that you will plant the wrong roots, then where can you hide yourself? A rally must be held as soon as we enter the village, and it should be attended by all poor and lower-middle peasants, including landlords and rich peasants that have escaped [class] determination. We must promulgate a few articles, but not read the Double Ten Articles one by one.

Genuine leaders and good people stand out only in a struggle, but you can’t see them by visiting and interviewing the poor and impoverished people. First they aren’t relatives, and secondly, they aren’t friends. Thus, I don’t believe in visiting and interviewing them. I was in Changsha when a strike was being organized by the Hankow-Canton railway. Although we didn’t recognize a single person there, we looked for the two foremen. One of them was Chu Shao-lien who had two wives. He also wanted to make revolution because, as foreman, he was oppressed and his wage was too meagre. This man was heroically sacrificed later. Where did we get a method to take root and make contacts like this? When you go out to develop and engage in mass movement, or to lead a mass struggle, the masses will do what they want to do in the struggle, and they will then create their own leaders in the struggle. (Liu Tzu-hou spoke about his own methods of holding struggle meetings when he was stationed at Jen-hsien.) In these struggle meetings one should also discuss last year’s distribution and wage points, and pay attention to production. What they have in the south, they don’t have in the north. Relieve famine where there is famine; where there is no famine, settle wage points, and engage in distribution for the current year as well as winter production. The four clean-ups can be deferred to a later stage. Four clean-ups means cleaning up cadres and cleaning up a few people. Where there is something unclean, clean it up; where it is clean, no cleaning up will be necessary. There must be some clean people! When there are no lice on a person, how can you find lice? (Liu X X: One high tide follows another, and we must not procrastinate). One cannot be thorough by procrastinating. There was a time when it took 40 days to study documents, to engage in scholasticism. My personal security guard wrote to tell me that after studying documents for 40 days, he still did not understand them. After ! he had gone to the countryside to stay at a selected primary unity, he began to understand. I have always opposed reading documents in this manner. It is a superstition that it takes 40 days to study documents. You should hold rallies, engage in struggle  —  three levels of area and county struggle rallies.

Hsieh Fu-chih’s method deserves adoption. Recruit 20 percent of the people for training. In a factory of 6,000 people, there must be 5,000 that are reliable. Why won’t you rely on these 5,000 people instead of relying on your work team’s 500 people? I think it is sufficient to have you alone. How could a minister fail to launch a movement with some 5,000 people to depend on? Don’t be engrossed in documents and don’t take so long to train. Go and get the struggle under way. When we fought wars before, we fought from the outset. We won some and lost some, and never read any books. Some people say that I brought Romance of Three Kingdoms in the fight but who would fight a battle in accordance with the book. Commander Lin was a professional in fighting before, and X X was also a professional before. X X X is also a professional. Whether one is a professional or an amateur, you can only learn it by fighting. If you don’t fight and merely learn, how can it be possible? (Asking Hsieh Fu-chih): Were you also studying the Double Ten Articles when you launched a training class of some 1,000 people or more? How did you study and for how long? (Answer: We studied some, and very soon we went to take up the struggle.) Why cannot training classes be held with the brigade or with the commune as the centre? The so-called training class is tantamount to a struggle meeting whose purpose is to understand conditions and understand diverse personalities in order to engage in investigation and study. After most of the people have been struggled against, then someone can be designated to make a summing up. In short, what I mean is we must rely on the worker-peasant masses. Chang Ch’eng-hsien and Li Yueh-nung, who have served as cadres in Hsin-ch’eng County, Hopeh, and still do not understand how to launch a mass movement. With so many people [you] still failed to develop it. Li X X was the secretary of the local committee of Pao-ting. He first suggested the four cleanups, but w! hen he went to the countryside, he engaged in something else. Yet when the masses insisted that four clean-ups be undertaken, he listened to them. . . . This is the Li X X, secretary of Pao-ting local committee, who in 1962 launched the four clean-ups campaign. That was because at that time we were confronted with oppressions. Whether we were fighting, or engaging in a peasant movement, or launching a labor movement, there were capitalists in the factories and landlords and gentry in the countryside. The Kuomintang oppressed us both politically and militarily, and we had no alternative but to rely on the masses. We had then very few cadres who were party members. There was not a single party member in a factory of 1,000 or 10,000 people. If there were one, we could make revolution or stage a strike. There was not a single party member in the Canton-Hankow Railway, yet it launched a mammoth strike. Now that you have founded a party, entered cities, and become bureaucrats, you are no longer adept at launching mass movements.

Why is it that those who attended military academies would not consult books when they were fighting? During five months at the Whampoa Military Academy, cadets became regular officers for four months. The cadets underwent some training, did some drill, and then graduated. Comrade Lin Piao said that when he came out to be a company commander, he did not know how to fight. A squad leader was experienced, and so he listened to him. After fighting a few battles, one becomes adept. I won’t believe that one will be able to fight after studying. Can an intellectual fight after a few years of reading? Not being able to fight is reasonable, and one will know how after a few years of fighting. Haven’t our work teams also offered some ideas? (Liu X X: The poor and lower-middle peasants have plenty of ideas, and though we also offered some, primarily they are their ideas.) It is necessary to listen to them, to the masses, and to the poor and lower-middle peasants. What we must do is mobilize the masses to revolt against the corrupt and speculative elements. It is important to get the arch wrongdoers, the lesser ones should be left alone. (Liu: One is to mobilize the masses; the other is that after the masses have been mobilized to a certain degree, the work team should control the temperature, and be adept at observing the situation, deciding when to attack and when to retreat.) It is like in a strike: when to strike and when to resume work. The same is true in battle. You must decide whether to attack or to retreat. Won’t you retreat if the situation becomes impossible? Sometimes, both sides have to retreat. When we were attacking Kao-hsing-yu, Chiang and Ts’ai retreated towards Kanchou while we retreated into the mountainous ravines, each on his own.

(Asking Ch’en Po-ta) How big a rally was held at Tientsin? (Ch’en’s answer deleted.) Impossible. Terrible! Such a waste of time. Better not to have held it! (Ch’en’s rejoinder omitted) So many work teams for 1,000 odd households, and the work could not be developed because there were too many people. It is impossible to engage in a human sea tactic. Where there are some 1,000 households, you can develop the movement by relying on 700 or 800 of them, and one Ch’en Po-ta would be enough. If you feel that there aren’t enough men, you can bring another fellow. What you do is nothing more than to announce: My name is Ch’en Po-ta and I won’t visit your honorable place if there is no business. If there is, a meeting should be held. Most of the people are innocent, and only a few are guilty. Let’s rely on the majority!

(The Premier interjected: Ch’en I just said that Chang Hsi studied for two months before she went into the city). The more she studied the more stupid she became. Strongly anti-rightist, in the end she leaned towards the right. In what county was Chang Hsi? (X X X: In Chu-jung County). I have always opposed the study of documents. It takes only a few hours to read a document. You should bring it down with you to study. When going down to the countryside, the first thing is that you must not study documents; secondly, don’t bring too many people; thirdly, don’t take root and make contacts isolatedly. Meetings should not be too long, longer when there are things to say, and shorter when there is not much to talk about. It is necessary to give the masses a free hand. It is no good if you trust only work teams, but not the masses. One of my own boys spent 40 days studying documents and still was ignorant about their contents, but he began to understand them as soon as he went to the country-side. There was another one at T’ung-hsien who said that the professors did not understand, though assistants were better, and the students understood even more. I told my boys: You have studied for 10 or more years, and have become all the more ignorant knowing almost nothing. Tell everybody that for 20-odd years I grew up by eating honeydew, being ignorant about everything. Ask your uncles and aunts for guidance. It seems that students proved to be better than assistants, and assistants better than professors. The professors have read too many books. Otherwise how could they become professors? When these people go down, they obstruct the four clean-ups. Their purpose is not to engage in the four clean-ups movement

One is Hsieh Fu-chih’s experience, in which struggle was launched through training classes. The other is the experience of Honan in which “triple alliance” struggle meetings were held. They undertook struggle for one month to 40 days. They did not read documents; rather they engaged in struggle, mobilized the masses, and understood the conditions. In short, they waged struggle. (X X X: In the brigade where I was stationed, we worked for two months, and succeeded in surfacing some 20,000 dollars [of illicit money] and 100,000 catties of grain.) There is still some oil to squeeze; we can borrow some money from them since they have plenty of money. The masses can still be hopeful, whether it is looking after the five-guarantee households or undertaking production. The meeting should not be too small. Some teams have only a dozen or more households, with a dozen or more members. It would be difficult to talk with them straightforwardly. In a brigade there are usually a dozen or more teams, and when a rally is held, a few hundred people will attend it at the most!

I could never see that so many people would be needed, and with that many people, I believe it cannot be handled well.

In short, we must rely on the masses, not the work teams. The work team either does not understand the situation or is ignorant. Some of them have become bureaucrats and obstruct the movement. Some of the persons on the work teams are not dependable. Now, a front such as this has been formed: one is T’ung-hsien, and the other is Hsin ch’eng county. If someone says there aren’t enough men, we will cut it down by one-half, and if someone still is not satisfied, we can cut the other half. One-half of T’ung-hsien’s 20,000 people have been sent to other areas. Is it still impossible if a county has 5,000 people? (K’ang-sheng interjected: Taking root and making contacts was discovered by Old Teng . . .) True, these were invented by Old Teng! Mystifying! Don’t announce the purpose of our visit. It is necessary to announce what we wish to do: production, distribution and wage points, and devote ourselves to these matters. We may talk a little about the four clean-ups. Whether to clean-up or not must be discussed by the masses. If there is something to be cleared up, we will clean it up, but if not let it go. What belongs to the masses won’t be liquidated. There must be several hundred people to hold a rally, which should be based on the brigade as the unit. The team, with its dozen or more households, is too small. When they say that a rally is to be held in the county, news will travels fast. County committee secretaries who have serious problems should go to some other county to serve on work teams. I think the present method of doing it is too erratic. There were some 1,000 households in the area assigned to you  —  Ch’en Po-ta, and at the beginning, a few persons launched the movement successfully. The number was increased to some 500 later. Why should you have so many people? (Teng X X interjects: Let us set a longer time and oppose rashness.) Wouldn’t it be better if it were accomplished in five or six years, three or four years! , or two or three years? Methodology is very important It is too much to concentrate 10,000 or more people in one county. It was developed by the peasants themselves, with only a few cadres. There were then seven or eight departments: agriculture department, finance department, militia department . . . They were all brave elements at the beginning. It was these elements who besieged the county government. Their demands were too excessive; in reality they could not be that excessive. A few of the power holders wormed their way in, which constituted a serious problem, but the majority could be won over and utilized. If it is excessive, the masses may not approve of it. We can be more liberal, and it may be faster, but not too excessive. (Liu interjects: Reliable workers must constitute a majority in factories.)

The work team is not all that clean. Won’t it be necessary to dismiss all questionable persons? Not necessarily. There might be in the work team some corrupt people and speculators. They must confess.

People like us have neither knowledge of nor experience with corruption and speculation, but they have, and so they are indispensable. When concentrating forces to fight a battle of annihilation, how can we fight if the problem of direction is not resolved? So many people, and yet we cannot develop the movement. It would be better to adopt Ch’en Po-ta’s method. It is not possible to rely on the human sea tactic which is bound to cause problems.

Wang X raised the question of switching cadres from one county to another and from one commune to another. When there is a newcomer whose background is unknown, the masses will dare to speak out. With a new commune leader and new party secretary, they will dare to talk about their predecessors. The movement can be developed very quickly. Why should it take so long?

For now the work team should not be so pure. Taking root and making contacts is dreary without any mass movement. With some 10-20,000 people concentrated in one county, they still complain it is not enough. (Liu X X, Teng X X . . .)

It behoves the poor and lower-middle peasant associations to clarify the problems and talk with T’ao [and] X.



[1.] Anyun  —  a reference to Anyun coal mines in Kiangsi province. After the Party’s First Congress in 1921, Comrade Mao Tse-tung had returned to Hunan to lead the Party’s work there. After the First National Labour Congress in May 1922, the Trade Union Secretariat moved from Shanghai to Peking, and set up branches in the major cities of the country. Comrade Mao Tse-tung was elected Chairman of the Hunan branch. He worked hard for the working-class movement, leading the strikes of Changsha, the Anyuan Colliery and the Shuikoushan Lead Mine

The year 1922 and the early part of 1923 witnessed a vigorous development of the working class movement in Hunan and the country as a whole. Heroic strikes for wage increase and political rights spread over the whole province. The one that had the greatest influence over the working-class movement in Hunan and the rest of the country was the great Anyuan strike.

The Anyuan Colliery was an enterprise owned by bureaucrat capitalists under the control of Japanese imperialism. The successive directors were all corrupt bureaucrats, real power concerning the mining projects being in the hands of foreign supervisors. The entire enterprise was run on the feudal gangmaster system. The workers groaned under the treble oppression of imperialism, bureaucrat-capitalism and feudalism. Therefore the Anyuan Colliery contained immense revolutionary possibilities.

After 1921, the Party at first ran spare-time schools for the workers at the mine to carry on Marxist education; then it organized a trade union, which was formally founded on May 1, 1922. Meanwhile, a branch of the Socialist Youth League was formed among the workers, the best members of which were later absorbed into the Party.

The big strike of the Anyuan coal-miners, which had repercussions throughout the country, broke out on September 10, 1922.

The authorities of the mine and the railway had delayed payment to the workers for several months and attempted to dissolve their union. Further, the workers were encouraged by the victory of the strike in the Hanyang Iron Works. They demanded the safe-guarding of their political rights, improvement in their working conditions and an increase in wages.

Pickets were organized after the outbreak of the strike to keep order in the mining district. When the warlords of Kiangsi Province sent troops to suppress the strike, the workers under the guidance of the Party went to agitate among the soldiers, and soldiers refused to open fire on them. The authorities tried through sham “negotiations” to arrest leaders of the strike, but thousands of strikers surrounded the meeting place and foiled the warlords plan.

Owing to the solidarity of the workers and their vigorous struggle, the authorities were forced to accept the workers’ demands on the fifth day of the strike and thus the strike was victoriously concluded.

After the victory of the strike the trade union was organized along new lines. The basic unit of organization was a ten-man group. Each group had a representative, every ten groups an intermediate representative, and each pit or workshop a chief representative. Every pit and workshop had its board of representatives or intermediate representatives; and above them all was the supreme conference of the chief representatives. Thus the workers were better and more strictly organized. Their political rights were extended and their living conditions markedly improved. The workers also expanded their schools and opened consumers’ co-operatives. The Anyuan trade union was at that time one of the strongest in the country. It alone stood firm when nearly all the unions in the other big enterprises were destroyed during the low ebb of the working-class movement which followed the massacre of the Peking-Hankow Railway workers on February 7, 1923. In the course of the Northern Expedition in 1926 the Anyuan workers gave strong support to the Expeditionary Army. They also took part in the armed struggle during the Autumn Harvest Uprising in 1927. From 1928 onwards, Anyuan was the liaison centre of the Chingkang Mountains revolutionary base.

Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung