Another feature of the present revised Constitution is that particular stress has been laid on the Party’s mass line in the General Program and in the detailed provisions of the Party Constitution, because the mass line is the fundamental political and organizational line of our Party. This means that all our Party organizations and Party work must be closely linked with the masses.
Comrade Mao Zedong has repeatedly pointed out to us that the mass line should be applied in all our work. In his report to this Congress, he again urged us in most sincere terms to carry out our work in accordance with the mass line. He said that one hallmark distinguishing our Party from all other political parties was that we have very close ties with the broadest masses of the people. He asked us “to serve the people whole-heartedly and never for a moment divorce ourselves from the masses, to proceed in all cases from the interests of the people and not from the interests of individual groups”.
He wanted our comrades to understand that “the supreme test of the words and deeds of a Communist is whether they conform with the highest interests and enjoy the support of the overwhelming majority of the people”. He further told us that we would be invincible “as long as we rely on the people, believe firmly in the inexhaustible creative power of the masses and hence trust and identify ourselves with them”. He pointed out that “commandism is wrong in any type of work, because in overstepping the level of political consciousness of the masses and violating the principle of voluntary mass action it reflects the disease of impetuosity”. And he added, “Tailism in any type of work is also wrong, because it is falling below the level of political consciousness of the masses and violating the principle of leading the masses forward it reflects the disease of dilatoriness.” All these teachings of Comrade Mao Zedong are extremely important, and every Party member should carefully study and grasp them and earnestly carry them out.
This mass line of ours is possible only in a proletarian party. It is a class line—the mass line of the proletariat. Our view of the masses and our relationship with them are diametrically opposed to those of the exploiting classes.
We fully understand the decisive role which the vanguard of the masses can play throughout the people’s struggle for emancipation. The complete emancipation of the people is possible only when they have a vanguard of their own, such as our Party. Otherwise they would be without revolutionary leadership, and the people’s revolution would consequently meet with failure. Only under the firm and correct leadership of our Party and only by carrying on the struggle along the political orientation given by our Party can the Chinese people achieve their complete emancipation.
This is one aspect of the question.
The other aspect is that the vanguard of the masses must establish proper and close relations with the masses. It must stand for the people’s interests in all fields, above all in the political field and it must adopt a correct attitude towards the people and lead them by correct methods before it can forge close links with them. Otherwise, it is fully possible for the vanguard to become divorced form the people. In that case, it will no longer be the vanguard of the people, and it will not only fail to perform the task of emancipating the people, but will also face the danger of outright destruction by the enemy. This means that the vanguard of the masses must follow a thorough-going and clear-cut mass line in all its work.
Under what conditions will the vanguard become divorced form the masses?
First of all, the vanguard will divorce itself from the masses when it fails to perform its obligations as the vanguard of the people, when it fails to represent at all times and in all circumstances the maximum interests of the broadest possible sections of the people, when it fails to define correct tasks, policies and methods of work at the right time and when it fails to stick to the truth and correct its mistakes in good time. In other words, tailism and negligence will lead to our estrangement from the masses.
In our Party, there has not been any open advocacy or spontaneity nor has any tailist “theory” been put forward advocating following at the heels of the spontaneous mass movements or dispensing with the leadership of the proletarian party. But Chen Duxiuism in the latter period of the 1924-27 Revolution and capitulationism in the early period of the War of Resistance Against Japan were both a kind of tailism since their protagonists lagged far behind the mass revolutionary movement of the time. They were incapable of setting forth correct tasks, policies of methods of work to represent the people or inspire them to go forward. Thus they alienated themselves from the people and brought damage or defeat to the revolution. In addition, some comrades have committed errors of a tailist nature in various fields of our work.
For instance, in their practical work some regarded the Party an appendage to the army, to the leading Party groups in the government, or to the trade unions, instead of the highest form of class organization. Others were lackadaisical, complacent or so bogged down that they just let things drift along and had no desire at all to make improvements. They failed to set forth, based on the prevailing local conditions, correct tasks, policies and methods of work with which to lead the people forward thereby violating the principle of leading the masses step by step. They yielded to the backward ideas of the masses and reduced themselves to the level of ordinary workers, peasant or even backward elements, thus abandoning their vanguard role. At times they gave way to the erroneous ideas of the masses, followed at the tail of spontaneous mass movements and, as a result, failed to give the masses correct and far-sighted leadership. This kind of tendency necessarily isolates us from the broad masses; they do not need such people to lead them.
Secondly, the vanguard divorces itself from the masses when it fails to adopt a correct attitude and correct methods to lead them, when it fails to help them recognize in their own experience the correctness of the Party’s slogans and act accordingly, when the slogans it adopts are too radical and the policies ultra-Left, or when the forms of struggle and organization it advocated are impossible to carry out at the time or unacceptable to the masses. In other words, commandism, adventurism and closed-doorism will lead to isolation from the masses.
Some Comrades made the mistake of engaging in commandism, adventurism and closed-doorism. Some of them, for instance, were not responsible to the masses in their work. They did not believe that the masses must emancipate themselves through their own efforts. Instead, they stood above and ordered the masses about in order to fight in their stead and to bestow emancipation upon them. Such comrades were impetuous so that while they appeared active, in fact they did not know how to transform the Party’s slogans and tasks into those of the people. Nor did they know how to enlighten the masses or patiently await their awakening, nor did they know how to take steps to help the masses become revolutionary of their own accord. Rather, they tried to compel the masses to accept the Party’s slogans and tasks simply by issuing arbitrary orders and forcing the masses into action. Thus they violated the principal of volition on the part of the masses. And, especially when the masses harbored misgivings about their radical slogans and ultra-Left policies and felt dissatisfied, they pushed all the harder for their implementation by issuing orders, by coercion or even by threat of punishment. An extreme example of this is the way some of them attempted to frighten the people and cadres into getting the work done by finding mistakes, shortcomings and bad examples wherever they went and by criticizing, condemning and punishing those involved. They did not try to find the strong points or to hold up the good examples, in order to study, develop and systematize them. They did not try to inspire the Party members and the people to go forward and help to overcome the mistakes and shortcomings by commending heroes and model workers or disseminating useful experience. Lashing out in all directions, they tried to get things done by simply issuing orders. Instead of learning from the masses and benefitting from the peoples’ new ideas and suggestions, they tried to force everyone to do things their way. This tendency led to serious isolation from the masses and aroused resentment not only against the individual comrades but against the Party as well.
In addition to the two tendencies mentioned above, bureaucratism and warlordism have been found among some of our comrades. These tendencies also lead to serious isolation from the masses.
The tendency to bureaucratism is manifested in the fact that some comrades lack the spirit to serve the people and to be responsible to the people and the Party. Some typical examples are the way they loaf about all day long, never using their brains; issue orders without investigation and study, or learning from the masses; reject criticism from the masses, ignore their rights or even demand that the people serve them; seek their own benefit at the expense of the interests of the people, not scrupling to waste public money and manpower; and become corrupt and degenerate and lord it over the people.
The tendency to warlordism is manifested in the fact that some comrades, failing to understand that our army—as the armed force of the people—is a most important instrument of the people for defeating their enemies and winning their liberation, look on the army as a special force standing beyond or above the people, or even as the means of building up their personal influence or position. Consequently, they resort to bureaucratism and commandism in the people’s army.
They are most conspicuously manifested in the relations between officers and men and between superiors and subordinates. The troops and subordinates are commanded merely through the issuing of orders and the threat of punishment, not through relying on their initiative and consciousness. Secondly, these tendencies are manifested in the relations between the army and the people. In relations with the people some comrades do not try to enforce strict discipline among their subordinates and, instead of cherishing the people, coerce, beat and swear at them. As a result the troops become alienated from the people. Thirdly, these tendencies are manifested in the purely military approach to the relationship between the revolutionary army and the revolutionary government; that is, it places the army above the government and puts the government under army control as the warlords used to do.
Obviously, this tendency is incompatible with the character of a people’s army.
These erroneous tendencies in our Party, which alienate us from the masses, arise from the low educational level of the working people and the influence of the exploiting classes of the old society. The petty-bourgeois elements and the other elements in our Party who have long been disengaged from production have generally been susceptible to such influences and tend to divorce themselves from the masses. These tendencies are deep-rooted in society, and we have felt necessary to mention them in the General Program of our Party Constitution. The more the revolution develops and the more onerous our work becomes, the more likely it is that such tendencies among us will grow. We must, therefore, wage a constant struggle against them in order to maintain and cement our ties with the broad masses of the people. As comrade Mao Zedong puts it, we must constantly “sweep the floor and wash our faces” so as to prevent political dust and germs from clouding the minds of our comrades and decaying the body of our Party.
The masses must have their own staunch vanguard which, for its part, must maintain close ties with the widest possible section of the masses. Only thus will the emancipation of the people be possible. Our Party, the vanguard of the Chinese people, must constantly try to eradicate tendencies such as those described above which estrange it from the masses, so that we can follow a line of close unity with them. This is the mass line of our Party—the mass line set forth by Comrade Mao Zedong. It is a line designed to enable our Party to establish a correct relationship with the people and to adopt a correct attitude and correct methods for leading them. This line will enable our Party’s leading organs and individuals to establish a correct relationship with their followers.
According to Comrade Mao Zedong, our Party’s policies and methods of work must be “from the masses and to the masses”. That is to say, the organizational as well as the political line of our Party should stem genuinely from the masses and be genuinely relayed back to them. Our Party’s correct political line cannot be separated from its correct organizational line. Although partial, temporary disharmony may occur between these two, it is impossible to imagine a correct political line existing alongside an incorrect organizational line or vice versa The one cannot be isolated from the other. By a correct organizational line we mean the Party’s mass line, which calls for closely linking the Party’s leading cadres with the rank and file inside and outside the Party, for the principle of “from the masses and to the masses” and for supplementing the general call with specific guidance through leadership.
For the implementation of the mass line of our Party and of Comrade Mao Zedong, the General Program and provisions of the Party Constitution has laid emphasis on certain viewpoints concerning the masses. Those viewpoints, which every Party member should bear in mind, are as follows:
The first is the viewpoint of doing everything in the interests of the people and of serving them whole-heartedly. From the outset, our Party was founded to serve the people. All the sacrifices, efforts and struggles of our Party members have been made for no other purpose than the welfare and emancipation of the people. Here lies our greatest glory as Communists, the thing we are most proud of. Therefore any viewpoint that stands for personal interests or the interests of small groups at the expense of those of the people is wrong. So long as they are devoted to their duty and have some achievements to their credit, all our Party members and all those who have joined our ranks are serving the people and putting themselves at their disposal no matter whether they are aware of it or not, or whether they occupy important, leading positions or are ordinary fighters, cooks or grooms. They are all directly or indirectly serving the people at their different posts. Therefore, they are all equal and honorable. We must enhance the political consciousness of all our Party members and personnel so that they may serve the people and hold themselves responsible to the people.
The second is the viewpoint of holding oneself fully responsible to the people. In serving the people, we must we must hold ourselves responsible to them so that they will benefit by our effort and win emancipation. We must try our best to avoid mistakes or reduce them to a minimum in order not to harm the people or cause them losses. To benefit the people, the tasks, policies and methods of work we adopt must all be correct. If they are not correct, they will adversely affect the peoples’ interests. Should this happen, we must make earnest self-criticism and ensure prompt rectification. This means that we must know how to serve the people and that we must serve them well and not otherwise. Under no circumstances should we adopt a reckless attitude towards the people; we must adopt a serious and responsible attitude.
It is also necessary to understand that being responsible to the people is identical with being responsible to the leading bodies of the Party. This means that although our Party members will be responsible to a leading organ or an individual leader in carrying out its of his instructions, they will err if they separate responsibility to the Party leadership from that to the people. Only by holding oneself responsible to the people can one be considered to have done one’s best and utmost. It must be understood that the interests of the Party are identical with those of the people. That which benefits the people benefits the Party, and every Party member must work for all such things with might and main. Likewise, whatever harms the people harms the Party and must be opposed or avoided by every Party member. The interests of the people are the interests of the Party. Apart from the interests of the people, the Party has no special interests of its own. The ultimate interests of the greatest number of people is the highest criterion of truth, and consequently, the highest criterion of all the activities of our Party members. A Party member who is responsible to the people is responsible to the Party. It must be understood that responsibility to the Party and responsibility to the people are identical. They should be integrated and must not be separated or set against each other.
When shortcomings or mistakes are found in the directives of leading organs or individual leaders with regard to tasks, policies or methods of work, suggestions for their correction should be made with a sense of responsibility to the people. We must not be indifferent about what is right and what is wrong; to be so means acting irresponsibly both to the people and to the Party.
The basic interests of the Chinese people demand that Party discipline be observed and Party unity maintained. Party discipline and unity must not be undermined on the pretext of being responsible to the people. Nevertheless, any shortcoming or mistake made by a leading body or individual must be corrected. It is the duty as well as the right of every Party member to help in this respect, for any such shortcomings or mistakes are harmful to the people and so also to the Party. Sincere criticism of one’s own mistakes and those of the leadership and observance of Party discipline constitute the spirit of responsibility to the people.
The third is the viewpoint of believing in the self-emancipation of the people. Comrade Mao Zedong has pointed out more than once that the people are truly great, that their creative power is inexhaustible, that we are invincible only when we rely on them, that the people alone are the true makers of history and that genuine history is the history of the people. Marx pointed out long ago that the toilers will emancipate themselves, and The Internationale states that their salvation depends not upon emperors, gods, or heroes but upon themselves. This means that only through their own struggles and efforts can the people win their emancipation, maintain it and consolidate it. It cannot be bestowed or granted, nor can it be fought for or secured by anybody on their behalf. Hence, any attitude of gratuitously bestowing emancipation on the masses or carrying out their fight for them is wrong.
The people make their own history. Their emancipation must be based on their own consciousness and willingness. They select their vanguard, and under its leadership they get themselves organized and fight for their own emancipation. Only thus can they make conscious efforts to secure, retain and consolidate the fruits of their struggles. The enemies of the people can be overthrown only by the people themselves. It cannot be done in any other way. Without their own genuine consciousness and mobilization, the efforts of their vanguard alone will not suffice for the people to win emancipation, to make progress or to accomplish anything. Even tasks which concern the immediate interests of the people such as the reduction of rent and interest, mutual aid teams, and cooperatives will result in pseudo-reduction or formal, empty things, unless, instead of being bestowed on them or organized for them by other people, these tasks are taken up voluntarily and consciously by the masses themselves.
The cause of the Communists is the cause of the people. No matter how correct our program and policies may be, they cannot be put into effect without the direct support and sustained struggle of the people.
With us, therefore, unless everything is dependent on and determined by the people’s political consciousness and willingness to act, we can accomplish nothing and all our efforts will be to no avail. With our reliance upon their political consciousness and willingness to act, with their genuine awakening and mobilization and with the Party’s correct leadership, we will assuredly win final victory in all aspects of the great cause of our Party. Hence, when the masses are not fully awakened, the duty of Communists, the vanguard of the people, in carrying out any kind of work is to develop their consciousness by every effective and suitable means. This is the first step in our work and it must be done well however difficult and time-consuming it may be.
Only when the first step has been taken can we start on the second step. In other words, when the masses have reached the necessary level of consciousness, it is our duty to guide them in their actions—to guide them to organize and to fight. When this has been accomplished, we may, in the course of their actions try to enhance their consciousness a step further. This is how we lead the masses step by step to fight for their basic slogans as put forward by our Party. We Communists and the advanced elements and outstanding figures among the masses can do no more than this for the people’s cause and nothing more than this can be expected. Whoever attempts to go beyond this point is liable to commit all kinds of errors, including individualist heroism, commandism monopolization of affairs and the favor-bestowing viewpoint.
In the struggle for the emancipation of the people, a Communist should act and, indeed, can only act as a leader or guide to them. He should not and cannot possibly act as a “hero” taking for himself the role of conquering the world. In their revolutionary struggle the people are in dire need of far-sighted and staunch leaders and guides and such persons are in fact a prerequisite for the people’s success. But the people do not need “heroes” to conquer the world for them, because such “heroes”, isolated as they are from the masses, can achieve nothing for the cause of emancipating the people.
The fourth is the viewpoint of learning from the people. In order to serve the people well, to kindle their consciousness and to guide their actions, we Communists must first of all possess certain qualifications such as foresight and the ability to anticipate various problems. This means we must be harbingers, for only such people are capable of helping to enlighten others. In addition to our whole-hearted devotion to the cause of the people’s emancipation, our inexhaustible enthusiasm and our sprit of sacrifice, we must acquire adequate knowledge, experience and vigilance before we can successfully raise the people’s consciousness, guide their actions and serve them well. Study is indispensable if we are to acquire knowledge, experience and foresight.
We can enrich our knowledge by studying Marxist-Leninist theories, our own history and the lessons of the people’s struggles in foreign lands. We can also expand our knowledge by learning from our enemies. Most importantly, however, we must learn from the masses, because their knowledge and experience are the most abundant and practical and their creative power is the greatest. This is why Comrade Mao Zedong has time and time again asked us to learn from the masses before we attempt to educate them.
Only when our comrades have learned from the masses with an open mind and have crystallized the knowledge and experience of the people into a system of knowledge of a higher order, will they be able to take specific steps to develop the consciousness of the people and give guidance to their activities. If, instead of learning from the masses, we think ourselves clever and try to develop the consciousness of the masses and guide them by devising a set of schemes out of our own imagination or mechanically introducing a set of schemes based on historical or foreign experiences, the attempt will certainly prove futile. In order to keep on learning from the masses, we must not stand apart from them for a single moment. If we isolate ourselves from them, our knowledge will be extremely limited and we will certainly not be clever, well-informed, capable or competent enough to give them leadership.
“Simple people sometimes prove to be much nearer to the truth than some high institutions.
“Our experience alone. the experience of the leaders, is far from enough for the leadership of our cause. In order to lead properly the experience of the leaders must be supplemented by the experience of the Party membership, the experience of the working class, the experience of the toilers, the experience of the so-called ‘little people.’
“It is possible to do that only when the leaders are most closely connected with the masses, when they are connected with the Party membership, with the working class, with the peasantry, with the working intelligentsia.
“Connection with the masses, strengthening this connection, readiness to head the voice of the masses—herein lies the strength and invincibility of the Bolshevik leadership.”
Such is Stalin’s advice to the Communists of the Soviet Union. It is a universal truth.
The task of the leaders and the leading bodies is to exercise correct leadership, size up the situation correctly, grasp its essence, set forth the tasks, make decisions, mobilize and organize the masses to implement these decisions and supervise the work of implementation. To do this well it is essential to learn from the masses and to follow the line of “from the masses to the masses”; otherwise no leadership can be satisfactorily exercised.
This is what the viewpoint of learning from the masses means.
The viewpoints of doing everything in the interests of the people, of holding oneself fully responsible to them, of believing in their self-emancipation and of learning from them to constitute our mass viewpoints, which are the viewpoints of the vanguard of the people. Only with such viewpoints, the firm and unequivocal mass viewpoints, can our comrades follow a clear-cut mass line in their work and exercise correct leadership.
Some comrades consider mass work to be, to the exclusion of other kinds, only the work of such mass organizations as trade unions or peasant associations. This is wrong. All Party activities and all activities under the Party leadership are mass activities and, therefore, should be carried out without exception, through the masses, from a mass viewpoint and on the basis of the mass line. The mass line and mass viewpoints cannot be dispensed with in any work.
Because our Party itself is a part of the people and, moreover, is dedicated to serving the people, our work in the Party is also a kind of mass work and should follow the mass line.
Because the army is also a part of the people and is likewise dedicated to serving the people, our work in the army is also a kind of mass work and should follow the mass line.
Of course, different kinds of work call for different procedure and these should not be confused with one another. For instance, forms of work in trade unions and peasant associations should be distinguished from those within the Party and the army. Nevertheless, all of these are kinds of mass work.
Naturally, the masses of the people are not all alike and our work is therefore varied and intricate. In his respective field, each comrade must directly serve a specific section of the people, such as the workers of a factory, the peasants in a village, the staff members of an office, the soldiers of an army unit, or just a few individuals. All the various kinds of work add up to the common objective of serving the Chinese people as a whole.
Our comrades, therefore, must correctly grasp the relationship between the part and the whole, realizing that being directly engaged in limited activities and serving a section of the people, they are indirectly promoting and fostering the revolutionary work as a whole and serving the entire people. They must take both the part and the whole into consideration. It is wrong to keep an eye only on the part to the neglect of the whole or vice versa. The part must be integrated with the whole.
When the partial, temporary interests of the people conflict with their total, long-range interests, the former must be subordinated to the latter. This means that less significant issues must be subordinated to greater issues, and minor principles to major ones. Though this is a very complicated question, our comrades will be able to follow a thoroughgoing mass line, provided they know how to use their brains to correctly distinguish and coordinate the limited with the basic interests of the people under all circumstances. Otherwise they may wittingly or unwittingly stand for the temporary interests of a section of the people in opposition to the long-range interests of the majority, thereby isolating themselves from the masses.
The people are generally composed of relatively active elements, intermediate elements and backward elements. In the initial stage of an undertaking the active elements are usually in the minority, while the intermediate and backward elements make up the majority. Our mass line demands consideration for the majority, that is, the intermediate and backward elements; otherwise the advanced section will become isolated and nothing can then be accomplished. The slogans for action and the forms of struggle and organization that we propose to the masses must be acceptable to the intermediate and backward elements. To foster the people’s own consciousness and initiative means chiefly fostering the consciousness and initiative of these elements. A mass movement is possible only when these people are awakened and inspired into action.
We must pay particular attention to educating, uniting and organizing the active elements so that they may become the nucleus of leadership among the masses. However, it is definitely not our intention to organize the active elements merely for their own sake, and under no circumstances must they become isolated from the intermediate and backward masses. Our aim is to draw over the intermediate and backward elements and encourage them to go into action with the help of the active elements. In other words, it is to rally the masses on a broadest possible scale. When the intermediate and backward masses are not yet awakened, we should know how to enlighten them and to patiently wait for their awakening. If, unwilling and leading just a small number of active elements, we recklessly rush forward, we shall isolate ourselves and end in failure.
Looking at the nation as a whole we see that the peasantry constitutes 80 percent of China’s population, and so consideration of the majority of the people chiefly means considering the peasantry. Our mass viewpoint is closely connected with our rural viewpoint. Under the present conditions, the Chinese working class would certainly not be able to fulfill its own tasks if it ignored China’s peasantry or if it did not focus on the emancipation of the countryside.
In view of the low cultural level of the Chinese peasants and other sections of the Chinese people (with the exception of the intelligentsia), it is all the more necessary for us to combine our general call with specific guidance in our work to set things in motion by making a breakthrough at one point. The general call alone will defiantly not succeed in guiding the masses who have a low cultural level. This is due to the fact that the masses, especially the peasantry, accept things only on the strength of their own personal experience instead of on the strength of our general propaganda and slogans. Therefore, in our work we should try to break through at a single point in order to set up a model, which the masses can see for themselves. Only through examples can we help the masses, particularly the intermediate and backward elements, to understand things, become confident and courageous and respond to the call of the Party in the form of a vigorous mass movement.
Our combat heroes, our labor heroes and model workers have played an outstanding role in various places and have become the best propagandists and organizers among the masses because, through such personalities, examples and experience, the masses have come to understand things and thus enhance their consciousness and self-confidence. Similarly, revolutionary reconstruction in Chinas revolutionary base areas has played an educational and enlightening role for the whole people and has helped heighten their confidence and self-confidence. The same approach is at work whenever the leadership breaks through at one point in order to provide concrete experience for the reinforcement of the general call. It is difficult for the masses to understand a call without familiar, concrete experience to substantiate it.
Hence, we must give consideration to the whole and to the majority and reject closed-doorism and sectarianism. We must maintain close ties with the masses and reject bureaucratism and warlordism.
We want to lead the masses forward but without commandism. We want to keep close ties with them, but without tailism. We should raise the consciousness of the masses and lead them forward from where there are now. In our work we must adhere to the highest principles while at the same time maintaining the closest possible ties with the masses. Such is our mass line. And while it is, of course, no easy job to carry it out, only by doing so can we become Marxists, worthy of the name Communist.
 Stalin, Selected Works, Vol. V, p. 322.