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Mao2
Previous: Mao Tse-tung

Works: “Turn the Army into a Working Force”, 1949; “Methods of Work Committees”, 1949; “On the Ten Major Relationships”, 1956; “On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People”, 1957; "Critique of 'The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR', by Stalin", 1958; “On Education - Conversation with the Nepalese Delegation of Educationists”, 1964; “Twenty Manifestations of Bureaucracy”, 1970.

An army is a prototype of a revolutionary party, and a revolutionary party in its essence is an army of revolutionary people. These two concepts – “a revolutionary army” and “a revolutionary party” – transform into each other. Just as Pablo was speaking of a “war-revolution”, so we can speak of an “army-party”. The types of relationships which come to be established in such an army-party are the types of relationships which will be established in the society in general.

In an article Turn the Army into a Working Force,1949, Mao writes that army cadres must be taught how to manage cities, industry, trade, schools, etc. The concept of “the highest party school” was for Mao identical with the army. He thinks that those who learned to fight the Kuomintang can learn to manage the society.

The problem of management is again taken up in the article Methods of Work Committees, 1949. First, to lead a party committee consisting of 10-20 people is the same as to lead an army unit consisting of the same number of people. Second, problems should be discussed openly, thus doing away with gossip and intrigue. One should expect to hear the news of the day at a social meeting, not from friends or colleagues. Third, there should be a constant exchange of information which is conducive to development of a common language and common concepts. Fourth, a leader should listen carefully to the opinions of people below him in rank. Even if these views are incorrect, they should be fully heard, analyzed, and mistakes explained. However, often these views are correct, and the leader becomes more prestigious as he adopts these views. Fifth, administration of a country is similar to playing a piano. There are 10 fingers, but they all must play one tune. Hence, the task of the leader is to coordinate these “10 fingers”. Sixth, when preparing a meeting, one should let others know in advance. All must know the agenda of the meeting. Rough drafts of resolutions should be prepared. Seventh, Mao forbids public celebrations of the birthdays of the leaders, forbids naming streets, factories and cities after them. He advices the party cadre to live simply, work hard and avoid flattery.

Keeping an eye on the mistakes made in the USSR, Mao attempts to direct the building of the new society in the article On the Ten Major Relationships, 1956.

1. Discussing the relationship between industry and agriculture, Mao writes that USSR has made a mistake in developing the heavy industry at the expense of the light industry and agriculture. Mao also believes that the heavy industry should be developed first, but not at the expense of ignoring the light industry, or excessive transfer of value from the peasants. However, it seems that in the course of the “Great Leap Forward”, in late 1950’s, this is exactly what happened. That was a period of worsening relations with the USSR, collectivization of the peasants, and attempt at industrialization through transfer of value from the peasants to the state. As a result, 30 million people died of starvation, and production actually declined.

2. Discussing the coastal areas and inland, Mao notes that 70 percent of industry is situated in coastal areas, and 30 percent in the inland areas. Mao thinks that inland areas should be developed first, but the coastal areas also should be developed. Development of inland areas is dictated by considerations of the future war against imperialism. Mao notes that the best way to prepare for war is to develop the economy. A developed economy gives a chance to create complex weapons, including atomic ones. Without nuclear weapons a state can not conduct an independent policy in the modern world – a lesson that will have to be learned in those former republics of the Soviet Union that voluntarily gave up nuclear weapons in the world so full of rivalries and getting ready for war.

3. Regarding the problem of centralization and local initiative, Mao thinks that these two form “a unity of opposites”. For example, to create a large international project, such as the International Space Station, a high level of centralization and planning is necessary. At the same time, modern production demands space for grassroots initiative. For example, when Timothy Berners-Lee proposed a creation of a World Wide Web to his supervisor, that official wrote on the proposal “Vague but exciting”.

4. Regarding the problem of backward areas and advanced ones, Mao proposes developing such policies which will allow the backward areas to achieve the general level of material and intellectual culture. For example, Mao proposes a subsidy of grain for the areas which fall short on it. This can be a useful strategy for the future global revolution, when it becomes necessary to develop the backward societies (of Africa, Asia, etc.)

5. Regarding the national question, Mao speaks against Han chauvinism, so ingrained amongst the Chinese. Behind every national problem lurks a class problem. So, before pronouncing on a national policy, one should investigate the class roots behind it.

6. Regarding the problem of democracy, Mao thinks that as long as in a society there are different social classes, there will be different parties, and it is better if they are legal. They should be offered a chance to criticize.

In the article On the Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People, 1957, Mao talks about two kinds of contradictions: 1) between socialists and their enemies, 2) among socialists. Often we hear that a language and actions that can be used only against the enemies of socialists are used against fellow socialists. Mao warns that in a polemic with other socialists we should carefully chose our expressions.

There are two methods of resolving contradictions among the people: 1) the method of compulsion, 2) the method of conviction and education. The more a society is distant from capitalism, the less the method of compulsion should be used, the more room there is for conviction and education. In a transitional society, a combination of compulsion and conviction methods should be used.

At the end of the article, Mao makes an interesting prediction: “The First World War was followed by the birth of the Soviet Union with a population of 200 million. The Second World War was followed by the emergence of the socialist camp with a combined population of 900 million. If the imperialists insist on launching a third world war, it is certain that several hundred million more will turn to socialism, and then there will not be much room left on earth for the imperialists; it is also likely that the whole structure of imperialism will completely collapse”. I believe that the prediction is correct in principle, and the only question is that of the time frame: Mao thought WWIII would happen during his lifetime, but due to a combination of factors – peaceful resolution of the Caribbean crisis of 1962, China adopting a friendly stance towards the U.S., following its hostile relations with the Soviet Union in the 1960’s, etc. – this did not happen.

Mao and Khruschev

Khruschev and Mao in Beijing airport, 1959

In "'Critique of "The Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR' by Stalin", 1958, Mao says that commodity production does not mean capitalist production. For example, commodity production existed in a slave-owning society (for example: production of ceramic pots with the purpose of exchanging them for money, after which the money was exchanged for wine), but this has not developed into a capitalist mode of production. Similarly today in the former USSR: a family can produce for example potatoes for sale, but this is done for the purpose of a bare, minimum survival, not for accumulating profit and becoming a “capitalist family”.

Mao notes that the production in the USSR is divided up into two parts: production of the means of production, and production of the means of consumption. The means of production are not commodities, while the means of individual consumption are commodities. A regulator in the first department is the law of planned development, or the strategic policy of the state, while a regulator in the second department is the law of value. Hence, in a transitional society the policy occupies the primary position, while the economics is in the secondary position. In a transitional society, politics is more important than the economy. Marx’s idea that the economy is the basis while the politics forms the superstructure turns out to be true only for a capitalist society, and those preceding it. Hence, it is by no means preposterous to suppose that in the future society, the department of knowledge, understood in the widest sense, becomes the most important sphere of production. 

The problem of obtaining knowledge is taken up in the article On Education - Conversation with the Nepalese Delegation of Educationists, 1964. In the article, Mao criticizes the Chinese educational system, saying that in China it is usual to teach through memorizing, cramming the facts down the students’ throats, not through the development of thinking and creativity. The first kind of teaching method should be followed at the early stages of education, such as that in the kindergarten. The second kind of teaching method should be followed in the higher institutions of learning.

An important problem of education is connection between theory and practice. For example, an engineering department of one of the leading universities of China was paired with a factory, where students can obtain practical experience. However, in bureaucratic societies such “practical courses” turn into formalities. For example, I know from experience of living in the former USSR that students of technical colleges instead of practical education would be given the task of sweeping the territory of a factory, or some such meaningless task.

Mao continues on the connection of theory and practice: “But [we] cannot set up factories for arts faculties such as a literature factory, a history factory, an economics factory, or a novel factory; these faculties, should regard the whole of society as their factory”. The whole Universe and the whole of the human society, the whole of knowledge, constitute the field of “practice” for students of humanities.

The last important article of Mao I consider to be Twenty Manifestations of Bureaucracy, 1970 (Mao was 77 at the time, and he was leading a struggle against the bureaucracy called “The Cultural Revolution”). Mao notices following facts, 20 years after the victory of revolution in China. The facts are juxtaposed one atop of another, and we get a 3D picture of a bureaucratic morass:

1. These people (i.e. the bureaucrats) put themselves above the people. They don’t know anything, and order that which should not be done.

2. They are self-satisfied and their talks about politics are empty. They are fierce towards the people and arbitrary in their acts.

3. Although they are busy from morning till evening, they do not investigate the real problems which stand before the people. They have no plan of work, and they don’t prepare possible solutions.

4. They blow horns in their cars to make road for themselves. They scare the people so much that the people are even afraid to look at them. Their manner of speech is rude, and they put down the people.

5. They know very little and are afraid to ask. They lie to those above them, and fool those below them.

6. They do not do their work, but push it on to others. They are irresponsible and procrastinate about everything.

7. They are slippery like eels: they flatter those above them, and are inactive towards those below them.

8. They neglect their work, while they get their salary. Basically they are engaged in “pettifogging”.

9. They don’t have their own opinion. They are busy with constant debauchery. They are inconstant and have only elementary education.

10. They want others to read documents for them, while they go to sleep. They criticize without understanding the gist of the question. They constantly say “yes” to those above them, and put up a show of understanding to those below them. When they don’t understand, they hide this behind gesticulation.

11. The government staff is growing larger, and the work becomes more chaotic. People run around in circles and quarrel with each other. They don’t want to do that which is outside the formal duty of their job.

12. There are lots of documents, lots of red tape. There are many lectures undelivered to the public and unnecessary schedules. There are many meetings at which nothing is resolved.

13. The bureaucrats are masters of the intrigue. One person becomes a government official, and his whole family is in “heaven”. One person attains a top post, and his subordinates follow in his footsteps. There is a lot of drunkenness, graft and nepotism.

14. As a government official climbs higher up the ladder, his character grows worse. He starts to put on “airs”. His house and surrounding become more luxuriant. At the same time, the people have to pay higher prices at the stores.

15. Bureaucracy is characterized by embezzlement of funds and unnecessary spending. The more they spend, the more they want.

16. They struggle for power and money. They are very sensitive when the business concerns their companions, but they don’t give a damn when the business concerns the people. They attempt to make their way into the ruling apparatus of the party.

17. When they work together, the pull in different directions. Each attempts to “pull the blanket towards him” and there is no hint at a democracy and/or centralization.

18. They use personal connections and form cliques to protect their personal interest.

19. They go on expensive vacations to the mountains or to the seaside, call a doctor when they are not sick, and at the same time adopt a superficial attitude towards their duties.

20. They help the reactionary camp: make agreements with the wrong people, look the other way when there is a bad situation, trespass the laws.


Thus, the situation in China by 1970’s was similar to that in the USSR by 1960’s. 

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