April 27, 1945
[This was an editorial written by Comrade Mao Tse-tung for the Liberation Daily, Yenan.]
In the existing circumstances in which our army is facing extreme material difficulties and is engaged in dispersed operations, it is absolutely inadmissible for the leading bodies to assume full responsibility for provisioning the army, for to do so would both hamper the initiative of the large numbers of officers and men at the lower levels and fail to satisfy their needs. We should say, "Comrades, let us all go into action and overcome our difficulties!" If only the leadership at the higher levels sets the tasks well and gives the lower levels a free hand to overcome difficulties by their own efforts, the problem will be solved and, indeed, solved in a more satisfactory way. But if, instead, the higher levels always shoulder loads heavier than they can really carry, dare not give the lower levels a free hand and do not arouse enthusiasm for self-reliance among the broad masses, then in spite of all the efforts of the higher levels the result will be that both the higher and the lower levels will find themselves in a predicament, and the problem will never be solved in the existing circumstances. The experience of the last few years has amply borne this out. The principle of "unified leadership and decentralized management" has proved to be the correct one for organizing all economic activities in our Liberated Areas in the present circumstances. The armed forces of the Liberated Areas already total more than 900,000 men. To defeat the Japanese aggressors, we must increase them to several times this number. But we have so far received no outside aid. Even if we get it in the future, we shall still have to provide our own means of livelihood; on that score there must be no illusions whatsoever. In the near future we shall have to take the necessary number of military formations from the areas where they are now engaged in dispersed operations, and concentrate them for attack on particular enemy objectives. Such big formations for concentrated action will be unable to engage in production to support themselves, and, what is more, will need large supplies from the rear; only the local troops and regional formations remaining behind (and they will still be considerable) will be able both to fight and to engage in production as before. Such being the case, is there any doubt that, as long as fighting and training are not impeded, all troops without exception should use the present opportunity to learn how to be partially self-supporting through production?
In our circumstances, production by the army for its own support, though backward or retrogressive in form, is progressive in substance and of great historic significance. Formally speaking, we are violating the principle of division of labour. However, in our circumstances-- the poverty and disunity of the country (resulting from the crimes of the chief ruling clique of the Kuomintang), and the protracted and dispersed people's guerrilla war--what we are doing is progressive. Look how pale and emaciated the Kuomintang soldiers are, and how robust and strong our soldiers of the Liberated Areas are! Look what difficulties we ourselves had before we started production for self-support, and how much better off we have been since! Let us ask two army units here, say two companies, to choose between the two methods, i.e., between the higher levels supplying them with all their means of livelihood and the higher levels supplying little or nothing but letting them produce for themselves all that they need, or the greater part, or half, or even less than half of what they need. Which method will yield better results? Which will they prefer? After a year's serious experiment in production for self-support, they will surely answer that the second method yields better results and be willing to adopt it, and they will surely answer that the first method yields poorer results and be unwilling to adopt it. The reason is that the second method can improve the living conditions of everyone in the army, whereas the first method can never satisfy their needs in the present difficult material circumstances, however hard the higher levels may try. Because we have adopted what seems to be a "backward" and "retrogressive" method, our troops are able to overcome shortages in the means of livelihood and improve their living conditions, so that every soldier is robust and strong; as a result, we are able to ease the tax burden on the people who are also in difficulties, thus winning their support, and we are able to keep up the protracted war and expand our armed forces, thus extending the Liberated Areas, reducing the enemy-occupied areas and attaining our objective of final victory over the aggressor and the liberation of the whole of China. Is this not of great historic significance?
Production by the army for its own support has not only improved the army's living conditions and lightened the burden on the people, thereby making it possible further to expand the army. In addition, it has had many immediate effects. They are as follows:
(1) Improved relations between officers and men. Officers and men work together in production and become like brothers.
(2) Better attitude to labour. What we now have is neither the old mercenary system nor universal military service, but a third system, the system of mobilizing volunteers. It is better than the mercenary system since it does not produce so many loafers, but it is not so good as universal military service. Nevertheless, our present conditions only allow us to adopt the system of mobilizing volunteers, and not that of universal military service. The mobilized soldiers have to lead an army life for a long time, which may impair their attitude to labour and so turn some of them into loafers or taint them with certain bad habits characteristic of the warlord armies. But since the army began to produce for its own support, the attitude to labour has improved and loafer ways have been overcome.
(3) Strengthened discipline. Far from weakening discipline in battle and in army life, labour discipline in production actually strengthens it.
(4) Improved relations between the army and the people. Once an armed force begins to "keep house" for itself, encroachments upon the property of the people seldom or never occur. As the army and the people exchange labour and help each other in production, the friendship between them is strengthened.
(5) Less grumbling in the army about the government and improved relations between the two.
(6) An impetus to the great production campaign of the people. Once the army engages in production, the need for government and other organizations to do likewise becomes more obvious, and they do so more energetically; also, the need for a universal campaign of the whole people to increase production naturally becomes more obvious, and this too is carried on more energetically.
The widespread movements for rectification and for production which began in 1942 and 1943 respectively have played and are still playing a decisive role, the one in our ideological and the other in our material life. Unless we grasp these two links at the right time, we shall be unable to grasp the whole chain of the revolution, and our struggle will not advance.
As we know, of the members who joined the Party before 1937, only a few tens of thousands are left, and most of our present membership of 1,200,000 come from the peasantry and other sections of the petty bourgeoisie. The revolutionary fervour of these comrades is admirable and they wish to have Marxist training, but they have brought with them into the Party ideas which are out of keeping or not altogether in keeping with Marxism. The same is true of some people who joined the Party before 1937. It constitutes an extremely serious contradiction, an enormous difficulty. In those circumstances, could we have advanced smoothly if we had not started a widespread movement of Marxist education, that is, the rectification movement? Obviously not. But as we have solved or are in the process of solving this contradiction among large numbers of cadres--the contradiction, within the Party, between the proletarian ideology and non-proletarian ideologies (including those of the petty bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie and even of the landlord class, but mainly of the petty bourgeoisie), i.e., the contradiction between the Marxist ideology and non-Marxist ideologies--our Party can go forward with great, firm strides in unprecedented (though not complete) ideological, political and organizational unity. From now on our Party can and should grow even larger and, guided by the principles of Marxist ideology, we shall be able to steer its further development still more effectively.
The other link is the movement for production. The War of Resistance has been going on for eight years. When it began we had food and clothing. But things got steadily worse until we were in great difficulty, running short of grain, short of cooking oil and salt, short of bedding and clothing, short of funds. This great difficulty, this great contradiction, came in the wake of the big Japanese offensives and the Kuomintang government's three large-scale attacks on the people (the "anti-Communist onslaughts") in 1940-43. Could our anti-Japanese struggle have progressed if we had not overcome this difficulty, solved this contradiction, grasped this link? Obviously not. But we have learned and are still learning to develop production, and so we are again full of vigour and vitality. Fearing no enemy, we shall prevail over them all in a few years.
Thus there can be no doubt of the historic importance of the two great movements for rectification and production.
Let us go forward and spread those two great movements everywhere as a foundation for the fulfilment of other tasks in our struggle. If we can do so, the complete liberation of the Chinese people will be assured.
Now is the season for spring ploughing, and it is hoped that the leading comrades, all the working personnel and the masses of the people in every Liberated Area will grasp the link of production in good time and strive for even greater achievements than those of last year. Greater efforts must be made this year, particularly in areas which have not yet learned to develop production.