Mao Tse-tung


From the
Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung
Foreign Languages Press
Peking 1967

First Edition 1965
Second Printing 1967

Vol. 1, pp. 23-59.

Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, (May 1997)


The Importance of the Peasant Problem


Get Organized


Down with the Local Tyrants and Evil Gentry! All Power to
the Peasant Associations!


"It's Terrible!" or "It's Fine!"


The Question of "Going Too Far"


The "Movement of the Riffraff"


Vanguards of the Revolution


Fourteen Great Achievements



 Organizing the Peasants into Peasant Associations
 Hitting the Landlords Politcally
 Hitting the Landlords Economically
 Overthrowing the Feudal Rule of the Local Tyrants and
 Evil Gentry -- Smashing the Tu and Tuan
 Overthrowing the Armed Forces of the Landlords and
 Establishing Those of the Peasants
 Overthrowing the Political Power of the County
 Magistrate and His Bailiffs
 Overthrowing the Clan Authority of the Ancestral Temples
 and Clan Elders, the Religious Authority of the Town and
 Village Gods, and the Masculine Authority of Husbands
 Spreading Political Propaganda
 Peasant Bans and Prohibitions
 Eliminating Banditry
 Abolishing Exhorbitant Levies
 The Movement for Education
 The Co-operative Movement
 Building Roads and Repairing Embankments




From Marx
to Mao



Notes on
the Text

    page 56


      [1] Hunan Province was then the centre of the peasant movement in China.

      [2] Chao Heng-ti, the ruler of Hunan at the time, was the agent of the Northern warlords. He was overthrown by the Northern Expeditionary Army in 1926.

      [3] The Revolution of 1911 overthrew the autocratic regime of the Ching Dynasty. On October 10 of that year, a section of the Ching Dynasty's New Army staged an uprising in Wuchang, Hupeh Province, at the urging of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois revolutionary societies. It was followed by uprisings in other provinces, and very soon the rule of the Ching Dynasty crumbled. On January 1, 1912, the Provisional Government of the Republic of China was set up in Nanking, and Sun Yat-sen was elected Provisional President. The revolution achieved victory through the alliance of the bourgeoisie with the peasants, workers and urban petty bourgeoisie. But state power fell into the hands of the Northern warlord Yuan Shih-kai, and the revolution failed, because the group which led it was conciliationist in nature, failed to give real benefits to the peasants and yielded to imperialist and feudal pressure.

      [4] These were the virtues of Confucius, as described by one of his disciples.

      [5] The old Chinese phrase, "exceeding the proper limits in righting a wrong", was often quoted for the purpose of restricting people's activities; reforms that remained within the framework of the established order were to be permitted, but activities aiming at the complete destruction of the old order were to be forbidden. Actions within this framework were regarded as "proper", but those that aimed at completely destroving the old order were described as "exceeding the proper limits". It is a convenient doctrine for reformists and opportunists in the revolutionary ranks. Comrade Mao Tse-tung refuted this kind of reformist doctrine.

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    His remark in the text that "Proper limits have to be exceeded in order to right a wrong, or else the wrong cannot be righted" meant that the mass revolutionary method, and not the revisionist-reformist method, had to be taken to end the old feudal order.

      [6] Chiang Kai-shek had not yet been fully exposed as a counter-revolutionary in the winter of 1926 and the spring of 1927 when the Northern Expeditionary Army was marching into the Yangtse valley, and the peasant masses still thought that he was for the revolution. The landlords and rich peasants disliked him and spread the rumour that the Northern Expeditionary Army had suffered defeats and that he had been wounded in the leg. Chiang Kai-shek came to be fully revealed as a counter-revolutionary on April 12, 1927, when he staged his counter-revolutionary coup d'etat in Shanghai and elsewhere, massacring the workers, suppressing the peasants and attacking the Communist Party. The landlords and rich peasants then changed their attitude and began to support him.

      [7] Kwangtung was the first revolutionary base in the period of the First Revolutionary Civil War (1924-27).

      [8] Wu Pei-fu was one of the best-known of the Northern warlords. Together with Tsao Kun, who was notorious for his rigging of the presidential election in 1923 by bribing members of parliament, he belonged to the Chihli (Hopei) clique. He supported Tsao as the leader and the two were generally referred to as "Tsao-Wu". In 1920 after defeating Tuan Chi-jui, warlord of the Anhwei clique, Wu Pei-fu gained control of the Northern warlord government in Peking as an agent of the Anglo-American imperialists; it was he who gave the orders for the massacre, on February 7, 1923, of the workers on strike along the Peking-Hankow Railway. In 1924 he was defeated in the war with Chang Tso-lin (commonly known as the "war between the Chihli and Fengtien cliques"), and he was thereupon ousted from the Peking regime. In 1926 he joined forces with Chang Tso-lin at the instigation of the Japanese and British imperialists, and thus returned to power. When the Northern Expeditionary Army drove northward from Kwangtung in 1926, he was the first foe to be overthrown.

      [9] The Three People's Principles were Sun Yat-sen's principles and proramme for the bourgeois-democratic revolution in China on the questions of nationalism, democracy and people's livelihood. In 1924, in the Manifesto of the First National Congress of the Kuomintang, Sun Yat-srn restated the Three People's Principles, interpreting nationalism as opposition to imperialism and expressing active support for the movements of the workers and peasants. The old Three People's Principles thus developed into the new, consisting of the Three Great Policies, that is, alliance with Russia, co-operation with the Communist Party, and assistance to the peasants and workers. The new Three People's Principles provided the political basis for co-operation between the Communist Party of China and the Kuomintang during the Frst Revolutionary Civil War period.

      [10] The Chinese term for "long live" is wannsui, literally "ten thousand years", and was the traditional salute to the emperor; it had become a synonym for "emperor".

      [11] Rich peasants should not have been allowed to join the peasant associations, a point which the peasant masses did not yet understand in 1927.

      [12] Here the "utterly destitute" means the farm labourers (the rural proletariat) and the rural lumpen-proletariat.

      [13] The "less destitute" means the rural semi-proletariat.

      [14] Yuan Tsu-ming was a warlord of Kweichow Province who controlled the western part of Hunan.

    page 58

      [15] A tenant generally gave his Iandlord, as a condition of tenancy, a deposit in cash or kind, often amounting to a considerable part of the value of the land. Though this was supposed to be a guarantee for payment of rent, it actually represented a form of extra exploitation.

      [16] In Hunan, the tu corresponded to the district and the tuan to the township. The old administrations of the tu and the tuan type were instruments of landlord rule.

      [17] The tax per mou was a surcharge on top of the regular land tax, ruthlessly imposed on the peasants by the landlord regime.

      [18] Under the regime of the Northern warlords, the military head of a province was called "militar governor". But he was the virtual dictator of the province, with administrative as well as military power gathered in his hands. In league with the imperialists, he maintained a separatist feudal-militarist regime in his locality.

      [19] The "standing household militia" was one of the various kinds of armed forces in the countryside. The term "household" is used because some member of almost every household had to join it. After the defeat of the revolution in 1927, the landlords in many places seized control of the militia and turned them into armed counter-revolutionary bands.

      [20] At the time, many of the county headquarters of the Kuomintang, under the leadership of the Kuomintang's Central Executive Committee in Wuhan, pursued Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Three Great Policies of alliance with Russia, co-operation with the Communist Party and assistance to the peasants and workers. They constituted the revolutionary alliance of the Communists, the left-wingers of the Kuomintang, and other revolutionaries.

      [21] Lord Pao (Pao Cheng) was prefect of Kaifeng, capital of the Northern Sung Dynasty (A.D. 960-1127). He was famous in popular legend as an upright official and a fearless, impartial judge with a knack of passing true verdicts in all the cases he tried.

      [22] This reference to archery is taken from Mencius. It describes how the expert teacher of archery draws his bow with a histrionic gesture but does not release the arrow. The point is that while Communists should guide the peasants in attaining a full measure of political consciousness, they should leave it to the peasants' own initiative to abolish superstitious and other bad practices, and should not give them orders or do it for them.

      [23] The Eight Characters were a method of fortune-telling in China based on the examination of the two cyclic characters each for the year, month, day and hour of a person's birth respectively.

      [24] Geomancy refers to the superstition that the location of one's ancestors' grave influences one's fortune. The geomancers claim to be able to tell whether a particular site and its surroundings are auspicious.

      [25] Lord Kuan (Kuan Yu, A.D. 160-219), a warrior in the epoch of the Three Kingdoms, was widely worshipped by the Chinese as the God of Loyalty and War.

      [26] Tang Sheng-chih was a general who sided with the revolution in the Northern expedition. Yeh Kai-hsin was a general on the side of the Northern warlords who fought against the revolution.

      [27] Sun Chuan-fang was a warlord whose rule extended over the five provinces of Kiangsu, Chekiang, Pukien, Kiangi and Anhwei. He was responsible for the bloody suppression of the insurrections of the Shanghai workers. His main army

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    was aushed in the winter of 1926 by the Northern Expeditionary Army in Nanchang and Kiukiang, Kiangsi Province.

      [28] In China a dish is served in a bowl or a plate for the whole table, and not individually.

      [29] "0riental Culture" was a reactionary doctrine which rejected modern scientific dvilization and favoured the preservation of the backward mode of agricultural production and the feudal culture of the Orient.

      [30] For the secret societies, see "Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society", Note 18, p. 21 of this volume.

      [31] "Mountain", "lodge", "shrine" and "river" were names used by primitive secret societies to denote some of their sects.

      [32] When Nanchang was captured by the Northern Expeditionary Army in November 1926, Chiang Kai-shek seized the opportunity to establish his general headquarters there. He gathered around himself the right-wing members of the Kuomintang and a number of Northern warlord politicians and, in collusion with the imperialists, hatched his counter-revolutionary plot against Wuhan, the then revolutionary centre. Eventually, on April 12, 1927, he staged his counter-revolutionary coup d'etat which was marked by tremendous massacres in Shanghai.

      [33] Chang Ching-chiang, a right-wing Kuomintang leader, was a member of Chiang Kai-shek's brain trust.

      [34] Liu Yueh-chih was head of the "Left Society", an important anti-Communist group in Hunan.

      [35] As told by Liu Hsiang (77-6 B.C.) in his Hsin Hsu, Lord Sheh was so fond of dragons that he adorned his whole palace with drawings and carvings of them. But when a real dragon heard of his infatuation and paid him a visit, he was frightened out of his wits. Here Comrade Mao Tse-tung uses this metaphor to show that though Chiang Kai-shek and his like talked about revolution, they were afraid of revolution and against it.