[This article is reprinted from Beijing Review, #2, Jan. 14, 1980, pp. 23-26.]
On December 25, 1979, the leading Chinese newspapers carried an article “Introducing Several of Comrade Mao Zedong’s Manuscripts on the Question of Theoretical Study” written by the research department of materials on Party history under the Central Archives. Following is the full text of the article.—Ed.
SOME time ago we studied a number of Comrade Mao Zedong’s manuscripts dealing with Mao Zedong Thought and learnt quite a lot. We believe that these papers are invaluable and of great significance to the current study of Mao Zedong Thought and the question of the criterion of truth. These are our study notes which we have written to commemorate Comrade Mao Zedong’s 86th birthday.
The experience of the Chinese revolution includes some pamphlets written by Chinese Communists based on the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin as well as Party Central Committee documents setting the line and policies.
Since its birth in 1921, our Party has taken the integration of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution as the guideline for all its work; Comrade Mao Zedong is the most outstanding representative of such an integration. Mao Zedong Thought is the application and development of Marxism-Leninism in the great struggles of the Chinese people’s revolution; it is the product of the integration of the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution.
Comrade Mao Zedong summed up the experience and lessons of the victories and setbacks of the Chinese people’s revolution and, in the struggle against opportunism represented by Chen Duxiu, Wang Ming and others, brought forward unequivocally, as a style of study, the question of linking theory with reality. As early as October 1939, in his article Introducing “The Communist,” he put forward for the first time the formula of integrating Marxist-Leninist theory with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution. As pointed out in the article, in the history of our Party whenever the universal truth of Marxism-Leninism was well integrated with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution, the revolution developed and won victories; otherwise, it met with setbacks and failures.
Comrade Mao Zedong was very careful and prudent about his theoretical viewpoints. For a long time he did not agree to proposals for propagating Mao Zedong Thought.
In 1943, through study during the rectification campaign in Yanan, the whole Party’s Marxist-Leninist level was elevated considerably, more comrades inside the Party came to see that the idea of integrating Marxist-Leninist theory with the concrete practice of the Chinese revolution represented by Comrade Mao Zedong was the only correct thinking that would guide the Chinese revolution to victory. That year our Party was 22 years old and Comrade Mao Zedong 50. Some comrades inside the Party talked about celebrating his birthday and bringing up the question of propagating Mao Zedong Thought.
Comrade Kai Feng, then Head of the Propaganda Department under the Party Central Committee, reported the suggestion to Comrade Mao Zedong. He agreed neither to a birthday celebration nor the mention of Mao Zedong Thought. On the latter question, he had this to say in his April 22 letter in reply to Comrade Kai Feng: I myself feel that my thinking (Marxist-Leninist) is not yet mature, that it is still in the stage of learning, not the stage for propagating. If there is anything to be propagated, only some segments of it (such as some of the documents for the rectification campaign) are appropriate; to propagate it as a system is not suitable because my system has not yet reached maturity.
Chairman Mao making inquiries of commune cadres.
In June 1945, at the 7th National Congress of our Party, the following passage was incorporated into the Party Constitution: “The Communist Party of China takes Mao Zedong Thought—the thought of the unity of Marxist-Leninist theory with the practice of the Chinese revolution—as the guideline for all its work, and opposes any dogmatist or empiricist deviations.” Afterwards Comrade Mao Zedong continued to oppose unrealistic references to Mao Zedong Thought, which, as he kept saying, was born of the collective struggles of the Party and the people.
These ideas of Comrade Mao Zedong were expounded by Comrade Ye Jianying in his speech at the meeting in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China: “Of course, Mao Zedong Thought is not the product of Comrade Mao Zedong’s personal wisdom alone, it is also the product of the wisdom of his comrades-in-arms, the Party and the revolutionary people, and, as he once pointed-out, it emerged from the ‘collective struggles of the Party and the people.’”
From Comrade Mao Zedong’s manuscripts kept in our archives, we found that in August 1948, amidst the cheers for victory on the eve of countrywide liberation, Comrade Wu Yuzhang, out of respect for Mao Zedong Thought, had a mind to change Mao Zedong Thought into Mao Zedongism in a speech he was to deliver at the opening of the North China University. In a telegram to Comrade Mao Zedong he asked for instructions on this point and the reply was: This expression is most inappropriate. There is no such thing as Mao Zedongism. The issue is not one of “mainly studying Mao Zedongism,” but of its being necessary to call on students to study the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin and the experience of the Chinese revolution. The “experience of the Chinese revolution” mentioned here includes some pamphlets written by Chinese Communists (including Mao Zedong) based on the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, as well as documents defining the Party Central Committee’s line and policies.
Comrade Mao Zedong was very much disgusted by the actions of Lin Biao and the gang of four who, out of ulterior motives, tried to “deify” him. He detested and opposed adding such unscientific expressions as “the highest,” “the most creative way” and “the acme” to describe Mao Zedong Thought. On July 25, 1966, Comrade Mao Zedong wrote the following remarks on a document: Please note and from now on refrain from using such language as “the highest, the most creative way ...,” “the acme” and “the supreme directive.” On January 8, 1968, Comrade Mao Zedong, when examining the text of a news dispatch, crossed out in thick lines the following two passages: “Chairman Mao’s words are of the highest level, of the greatest power, his every sentence is a truth and one single sentence is equal to ten thousand.” “Every sentence spoken or written by Chairman Mao is a truth and one single sentence is equal to ten thousand.”
Among our cadres, quite a few think they themselves are the ones in the right. One reason for this is they don’t understand the Marxist theory of knowledge. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to propagate it with great patience.
In his long years of revolutionary practice, Comrade Mao Zedong attached great importance to propagating the Marxist theory of knowledge. When he was giving lectures at Yanan’s Anti-Japanese Military and Political College in 1937, one of the subjects he dwelt on was On Practice. During the rectification campaign in Yanan, there was a collection of documents for study which included many important writings by Comrade Mao Zedong. They are: Preface and Postscript to “Rural Surveys,” Reform our Study, Rectify the Party’s Style of Work, Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing, Talks at the Yanan Forum on Literature and Art and Some Questions Concerning Methods of Leadership. These works are “some of the documents for the rectification campaign” mentioned in Comrade Mao Zedong’s letter of April 22, 1943 to Comrade Kai Feng and referred to in this article.
In these works Comrade Mao Zedong concentrated on expounding questions related to the theory of knowledge. Applying the principles of dialectical materialism, he profoundly expounded our Party’s ideological line of proceeding from reality in everything, of seeking truth from facts and linking theory with reality. This is also the ideological line of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, the quintessence of Mao Zedong Thought.
Linking theory with practice is one of the three main styles of work of our Party initiated and promoted by Comrade Mao Zedong. When we study Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought, we must understand it and apply it in a comprehensive and accurate way, we must learn its stand, viewpoint and methods and use them in solving the theoretical and tactical problems in our revolution and construction, and not recite from memory passages from the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Comrade Mao Zedong.
In December 1960, when reading and examining the original script of “the C.P.C. Central Committee’s Note on the ‘Resolution on Strengthening the Army’s Political and Ideological Work’ of the Enlarged Meeting of the Military Commission,” Comrade Mao Zedong added a very important passage to it: Cadres in the armed forces with some educational background must study the classic works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin. The method of study must be one of studying according to the needs of our work, that is, to consult Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin in order to solve Chinese and international problems, not one of studying for the sake of studying, or reading like a bookworm, but understanding the essence of Marxism-Leninism. The method of reading Comrade Mao Zedong’s works should also be the same.
Where Do Correct Ideas Come From? is an article which sparkles with the brilliant ideas of Marxism-Leninism. It is well known to the whole Party. This short essay of less than 2,000 characters profoundly brings out the Marxist-Leninist theory of knowledge. It was originally a note made by Chairman Mao in May 1963 on the Draft Decision of the Central Committee of the C.P.C. on Certain Problems in Our Present Rural Work. In the fourth script of this document we now find that Comrade Mao Zedong had added a special line: There is no other way of testing truth.
Chairman Mao in north Shaanxi.
Woodcut by Chen Yuanwu
On September 25, 1964, Comrade Mao Zedong wrote a very important note on a document drafted by a responsible comrade on the Central Committee: Among our cadres, quite a few think they themselves are the ones in the right. One reason for this is they don’t understand the Marxist theory of knowledge. Therefore, it is very necessary to propagate it with great patience. To put it simply, it means from the masses and to the masses. Make up your mind to go down and stay at a particular place for a long time, and you can hear the voice of the masses, gradually understand the objective truth through practice, make it a subjective truth, and then put it back into practice to see if it works. If not, it is necessary once again to consult the masses in practice. In this way the problem of doing things according to set rules, that is, the problem of dogmatism, can be solved and there will be no more blind faith. If things are not done this way, the higher one’s official rank, the less truth he has. This is the case with ranking officials and also the case with minor officials.
Soon after that, on October 18, 1964, Comrade Mao Zedong added another passage to that note: By knowing the objective truth, we mean that man in practice reflects the phenomena and essence of the objective outside world, which after going through gradual and radical changes, becomes a subjective truth that has yet to be tested. If we want to know whether the subjective truth obtained in the process really reflects the objective truth (that is, a law) or not, we need to go back to practice to see whether it works or not.
This note by Comrade Mao Zedong once again emphasized the need to propagate the Marxist theory of knowledge with great patience. It once again explained in an easy-to-understand way the principle of coming from the masses, going to the masses and of knowing truth through practice and testing truth through practice. It brought up the need to do away with the “set rules,” “dogmas” and “blind faith” found among some of our comrades. In a penetrating observation, it pointed out that the higher one’s official rank, the less truth he has when he deviates from the Marxist theory of knowledge.
In the ten years when Lin Biao and the gang of four wrought havoc, our Party’s traditions fostered by Comrade Mao Zedong and formed in a long period of struggle, the traditions of seeking truth from facts and of the mass line, were wantonly trampled upon. The result was rampant idealism and metaphysics, unprecedented damage to our Party, and a heavy catastrophe suffered by the people and the country. This is a painful lesson we must never forget.
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