ON CORRECTING MISTAKEN IDEAS IN THE PARTY
MAO TSE-TUNG (Mao Zedong)
- There are various non-proletarian ideas in the Communist Party
organization in the Fourth Red Army which greatly hinder the application of the Party's
correct line. Unless these ideas are thoroughly corrected, the Fourth Army cannot possibly
shoulder the tasks assigned to it in China's great revolutionary struggle. The source of
such incorrect ideas in this Party organization lies, of course, in the fact that its
basic units are composed largely of peasants and other elements of petty-bourgeois origin;
yet the failure of the Party's leading bodies to wage a concerted and determined struggle
against these incorrect ideas and to educate the members in the Party's correct line is
also an important cause of their existence and growth. In accordance with the spirit of
the September letter of the Central Committee, this congress hereby points out the
manifestations of various non-proletarian ideas in the Party organization in the Fourth
Army, their sources, and the methods of correcting them, and calls upon all comrades to
eliminate them thoroughly.
ON THE PURELY MILITARY VIEWPOINT
The purely military viewpoint is very highly developed among a
number of comrades in the Red Army. It manifests itself as follows:
- These comrades regard military affairs and politics as opposed to each other and refuse
to recognize that military affairs are only one means of accomplishing political tasks.
Some even say, "If you are good militarily, naturally you are good politically; if
you are not good militarily, you cannot be any good politically" -- this is to go a
step further and give military affairs a leading position over politics.
- They think that the task of the Red Army like that of the White army, is merely to
fight. They do not understand that the Chinese Red Army is an armed body for carrying out
the political tasks of the revolution. Especially at present, the Red Army should
certainly not confine itself to fighting; besides fighting to destroy the enemy's military
strength, it should shoulder such important tasks as doing propaganda among the masses,
organizing the masses, arming them, helping them to establish revolutionary political
power and setting up Party organizations. The Red Army fights not merely for the sake of
fighting but in order to conduct propaganda among the masses, organize them, arm them, and
help them to establish revolutionary political power. Without these objectives, fighting
loses its meaning and the Red Army loses the reason for its existence.
- Hence, organizationally, these comrades subordinate the departments of the Red Army
doing political work to those doing military work, and put forward the slogan, "Let
Army Headquarters handle outside matters." If allowed to develop, this idea would
involve the danger of estrangement from the masses, control of the government by the army
and departure from proletarian leadership -- it would be to take the path of warlordism
like the Kuomintang army.
- At the same time, in propaganda work they overlook the importance of propaganda teams.
On the question of mass organization, they neglect the organizing of soldiers' committees
in the army and the organizing of the local workers and peasants. As a result, both
propaganda and organizational work are abandoned.
- They become conceited when a battle is won and dispirited when a battle is lost.
- Selfish departmentalism -- they think only of the Fourth Army and do not realize that it
is an important task of the Red Army to arm the local masses. This is cliquism in a
- Unable to see beyond their limited environment in the Fourth Army, a few comrades
believe that no other revolutionary forces exist. Hence their extreme addiction to the
idea of conserving strength and avoiding action. This is a remnant of opportunism.
- Some comrades, disregarding the subjective and objective conditions, suffer from the
malady of revolutionary impetuosity; they will not take pains to do minute and detailed
work among the masses, but, riddled with illusions, want only to do big things. This is a
remnant of putschism. 
The sources of the purely military viewpoint are:
- A low political level. From this flows the failure to recognize the role of political
leadership in the army and to recognize that the Red Army and the White army are
- The mentality of mercenaries. Many prisoners captured in past battles have joined the
Red Army, and such elements bring with them a markedly mercenary outlook, thereby
providing a basis in the lower ranks for the purely military viewpoint.
- From the two preceding causes there arises a third, overconfidence in military strength
and absence of confidence in the strength of the masses of the people.
- The Party's failure actively to attend to and discuss military work is also a reason for
the emergence of the purely military viewpoint among a number of comrades.
The methods of correction are as follows:
- Raise the political level in the Party by means of education, destroy the theoretical
roots of the purely military viewpoint, and be dear on the fundamental difference between
the Red Army and the White army. At the same time, eliminate the remnants of opportunism
and putschism and break down the selfish departmentalism of the Fourth Army.
- Intensify the political training of officers and men and especially the education of
ex-prisoners. At the same time, as far as possible let the local governments select
workers and peasants experienced in struggle to join the Red Army, thus organizationally
weakening or even eradicating the purely military viewpoint.
- Arouse the local Party organizations to criticize the Party organizations in the Red
Army and the organs of mass political power to criticize the Red Army itself, in order to
influence the Party organizations and the officers and men of the Red Army.
- The Party must actively attend to and discuss military work. All the work must be
discussed and decided upon by the Party before being carried out by the rank and file.
- Draw up Red Army rules and regulations which dearly define its tasks, the relationship
between its military and its political apparatus, the relationship between the Red Army
and the masses of the people, and the powers and functions of the soldiers' committees and
their relationship with the military and political organizations.
Since the Fourth Army of the Red Army accepted the directives of
the Central Committee, there has been a great decrease in the manifestations of
ultra-democracy. For example, Party decisions are now carried out fairly well; and no
longer does anyone bring up such erroneous demands as that the Red Army should apply
"democratic centralism from the bottom to the top" or should "let the lower
levels discuss all problems first, and then let the higher levels decide". Actually,
however, this decrease is only temporary and superficial and does not mean that
ultra-democratic ideas have already been eliminated. In other words, ultra-democracy is
still deep-rooted in the minds of many comrades. Witness the various expressions of
reluctance to carry out Party decisions.
The methods of correction are as follows:
- In the sphere of theory, destroy the roots of ultra-democracy. First, it should be
pointed out that the danger of ultra-democracy lies in the fact that it damages or even
completely wrecks the Party organization and weakens or even completely undermines the
Party's fighting capacity, rendering the Party incapable of fulfilling its fighting tasks
and thereby causing the defeat of the revolution. Next, it should be pointed out that the
source of ultra-democracy consists in the petty bourgeoisie's individualistic aversion to
discipline. When this characteristic is brought into the Party, it develops into
ultra-democratic ideas politically and organizationally. These ideas are utterly
incompatible with the fighting tasks of the proletariat.
- In the sphere of organization, ensure democracy under centralized guidance. It should be
done on the following lines:
- (1) The leading bodies of the Party must give a correct line of guidance
and kind solutions when problems arise, in order to establish themselves as centres of
(2) The higher bodies must be familiar with the life of the
masses and with the situation in the lower bodies so as to have an objective basis for
(3) No Party organization at any level should make casual decisions in
solving problems. Once a decision is reached, it must be firmly carried out.
(4) All decisions of any importance made by the Party's higher bodies
must be promptly transmitted to the lower bodies and the Party rank and file. The method
is to call meetings of activists or general membership meetings of the Party branches or
even of the columns  (when circumstances permit) and to assign people
to make reports at such meetings.
(5) The lower bodies of the Party and the Party rank and file must
discuss the higher bodies' directives in detail in order to understand their meaning
thoroughly and decide on the methods of carrying them out.
ON THE DISREGARD OF ORGANIZATIONAL DISCIPLINE
Disregard of organizational discipline in the Party organization
in the Fourth Army manifests itself as follows:
A. Failure of the minority to submit to the majority. For example, when a
minority finds its motion voted down, it does not sincerely carry out the Party decisions.
The methods of correction are as follows:
- At meetings, all participants should be encouraged to voice their opinions as fully as
possible. The rights and wrongs in any controversy should be clarified without compromise
or glossing over. In order to reach a clear-cut conclusion, what cannot be settled at one
meeting should be discussed at another, provided there is no interference with the work.
- One requirement of Party discipline is that the minority should submit to the majority.
If the view of the minority has been rejected, it must support the decision passed by the
majority. If necessary, it can bring up the maker for reconsideration at the next meeting,
but apart from that it must not act against the decision in any way.
B. Criticism made without regard to organizational discipline:
- Inner-Party criticism is a weapon for strengthening the Party organization and
increasing its fighting capacity. In the Party organization of the Red Army, however,
criticism is not always of this character, and sometimes turns into personal attack. As a
result, it damages the Party organization as well as individuals. This is a manifestation
of petty-bourgeois individualism. The method of correction is to help Party members
understand that the purpose of criticism is to increase the Party's fighting capacity in
order to achieve victory in the class struggle and that it should not be used as a means
of personal attack.
- Many Party members make their criticisms not inside, but outside, the Party. The reason
is that the general membership has not yet grasped the importance of the Party
organization (its meetings and so forth), and sees no difference between criticism inside
and outside the organization. The method of correction is to educate Party members so that
they understand the importance of Party organization and make their criticisms of Party
committees or comrades at Party meetings.
ON ABSOLUTE EQUALITARIANISM
Absolute equalitarianism became quite serious in the Red Army at
one time. Here are some examples. On the matter of allowances to wounded soldiers, there
were objections to differentiating between light and serious cases, and the demand was
raised for equal allowances for all. When officers rode on horseback, it was regarded not
as something necessary for performing their duties but as a sign of inequality. Absolutely
equal distribution of supplies was demanded, and there was objection to somewhat larger
allotments in special cases. In the hauling of rice, the demand was made that all should
carry the same load on their backs, irrespective of age or physical condition. Equality
was demanded in the allotment of billets, and the Headquarters would be abused for
occupying larger rooms. Equality was demanded in the assignment of fatigue duties, and
there was unwillingness to do a little more than the next man. It even went so far that
when there were two wounded men but only one stretcher, neither could be carried away
because each refused to yield priority to the other. Absolute equalitarianism, as shown in
these examples, is still very serious among officers and soldiers of the Red Army.
Absolute equalitarianism, like ultra-democracy in political matters, is the product of
a handicraft and small peasant economy -- the only difference being that the one manifests
itself in material affairs, while the other manifests itself in political affairs.
The method of correction: We should point out that, before the abolition of capitalism,
absolute equalitarianism is a mere illusion of peasants and small proprietors, and that
even under socialism there can be no absolute equality, for material things will then be
distributed on the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each
according to his work" as well as on that of meeting the needs of the work. The
distribution of material things in the Red Army must be more or less equal, as in the case
of equal pay for officers and men, because this is required by the present circumstances
of the struggle. But absolute equalitarianism beyond reason must be opposed because it is
not required by the struggle; on the contrary, it hinders the struggle.
Subjectivism exists to a serious degree among some Party
members, causing great harm to the analysis of the political situation and the guidance of
the work. The reason is that subjective analysis of a political situation and subjective
guidance of work inevitably result either in opportunism or in putschism. As for
subjective criticism, loose and groundless talk or suspiciousness, such practices inside
the Party often breed unprincipled disputes and undermine the Party organization.
Another point that should be mentioned in connection with inner-Party criticism is that
some comrades ignore the major issues and confine their attention to minor points when
they make their criticism. They do not understand that the main task of criticism is to
point out political and organizational mistakes. As to personal shortcomings, unless they
are related to political and organizational mistakes, there is no need to be overcritical
and to embarrass the comrades concerned. Moreover, once such criticism develops, there is
the great danger that the Party members will concentrate entirely on minor faults, and
everyone will become timid and overcautious and forget the Party's political tasks.
The main method of correction is to educate Party members so that a political and
scientific spirit pervades their thinking and their Party life. To this end we must:
- (1) teach Party members to apply the Marxist-Leninist method in analysing a
political situation and appraising the class forces, instead of making a subjective
analysis and appraisal;
(2) direct the attention of Party members to social and
economic investigation and study, so as to determine the tactics of struggle and methods
of work, and help comrades to understand that without investigation of actual conditions
they will fall into the pit of fantasy and putschism; and
(3) in inner-Party criticism, guard against subjectivism, arbitrariness and the
vulgarization of criticism; statements should be based on facts and criticism should
centre on politics.
The tendency towards individualism in the Red Army Party
organization manifests itself as follows:
- Retaliation. Some comrades, after being criticized inside the Party by a soldier
comrade, look for opportunities to retaliate outside the Party, and one way is to beat or
abuse the comrade in question. They also seek to retaliate within the Party. "You
have criticized me at this meeting, so I'll find some way to pay you back at the
next." Such retaliation arises from purely personal considerations, to the neglect of
the interests of the class and of the Party as a whole. Its target is not the enemy class,
but individuals in our own ranks. It is a corrosive which weakens the organization and its
- "Small group" mentality. Some comrades consider only the interests of their
own small group and ignore the general interest. Although on the surface this does not
seem to be the pursuit of personal interests, in reality it exemplifies the narrowest
individualism and has a strong corrosive and centrifugal effect. "Small group"
mentality used to be rife in the Red Army, and although there has been some improvement as
a result of criticism, there are still survivals and further effort is needed to overcome
- The "employee" mentality. Some comrades do not understand that the Party and
the Red Army, of which they are members, are both instruments for carrying out the tasks
of the revolution. They do not realize that they themselves are makers of the revolution,
but think that their responsibility is merely to their individual superiors and not to the
revolution. This passive mentality of an "employee" of the revolution is also a
manifestation of individualism. It explains why there are not very many activists who work
unconditionally for the revolution. Unless it is eliminated, the number of activists will
not grow and the heavy burden of the revolution will remain on the shoulders of a small
number of people, much to the detriment of the struggle.
- Pleasure-seeking. In the Red Army there are also quite a few people whose individualism
finds expression in pleasure-seeking. They always hope that their unit will march into big
cities. They want to go there not to work but to enjoy themselves. The last thing they
want is to work in the Red areas where life is hard.
- Passivity. Some comrades become passive and stop working whenever anything goes against
their wishes. This is mainly due to. lack of education, though sometimes it is also due to
the leadership's improper conduct of affairs, assignment of work or enforcement of
- The desire to leave the army. The number of people who ask for transfers from the Red
Army to local work is on the increase The reason for this does not lie entirely with the
individuals but also with: (1) the material hardships of life in the Red Army, (2)
exhaustion after long struggle, and (3) the leadership's improper conduct of affairs,
assignment of work or enforcement of discipline.
The method of correction is primarily to strengthen education so as to rectify
individualism ideologically. Next, it is to conduct affairs, make assignments and enforce
discipline in a proper way. In addition, ways must be found to improve the material life
of the Red Army, and every available opportunity must be utilized for rest and
rehabilitation in order to improve material conditions. In our educational work we must
explain that in its social origin individualism is a reflection within the Party of
petty-bourgeois and bourgeois ideas.
ON THE IDEOLOGY OF ROVING REBEL BANDS
The political ideology of roving rebel bands has emerged in the
Red Army because the proportion of vagabond elements is large and because there are great
masses of vagabonds in China, especially in the southern provinces. This ideology
manifests itself as follows:
- (1) Some people want to increase our political influence only by means of roving
guerrilla actions, but are unwilling to increase it by undertaking the arduous task of
building up base areas and establishing the people's political power.
(2) In expanding
the Red Army, some people follow the line of "hiring men and buying horses" and
"recruiting deserters and accepting mutineers",  rather
than the line of expanding the local Red Guards and the local troops and thus developing
the main forces of the Red Army.
(3) Some people lack the patience to carry on arduous struggles together with the
masses, and only want to go to the big cities to eat and drink to their hearts' content.
All these manifestations of the ideology of roving rebels seriously hamper the Red Army in
performing its proper tasks; consequently its eradication is an important objective in the
ideological struggle within the Red Army Party organization. It must be understood that
the ways of roving rebels of the Huang Chao  or Li Chuang  type are not permissible under present-day conditions.
The methods of correction are as follows:
- Intensify education, criticize incorrect ideas, and eradicate the ideology of roving
- Intensify education among the basic sections of the Red Army and among recently
recruited captives to counter the vagabond outlook.
- Draw active workers and peasants experienced in struggle into the ranks of the Red Army
so as to change its composition.
- Create new units of the Red Army from among the masses of militant workers and peasants.
ON THE REMNANTS OF PUTSCHISM
The Party organization in the Red Army has already waged
struggles against putschism, but not yet to a sufficient extent. Therefore, remnants of
this ideology still exist in the Red Army. Their manifestations are: (1) blind action
regardless of subjective and objective conditions; (2) inadequate and irresolute
application of the Party's policies for the cities; (3) slack military discipline,
especially in moments of defeat; (4) acts of house-burning by some units; and (5) the
practices of shooting deserters and of inflicting corporal punishment, both of which smack
of putschism. In its social origins, putschism is a combination of lumpen-proletarian
and petty-bourgeois ideology.
The methods of correction are as follows:
- Eradicate putschism ideologically.
- Correct putschist behaviour through rules, regulations and policies.
 For a brief period after the defeat of the revolution in
1927, a "Left" putschist tendency arose in the Communist Party. Regarding the
Chinese revolution as a "permanent revolution" and the revolutionary situation
in China as a "permanent upsurge", the putschist comrades refused to organize an
orderly retreat and, adopting the methods of commandism and relying only on a small number
of Party members and a small section of the masses, erroneously attempted to stage a
series of local uprisings throughout the country, which had no prospect of success. Such
putschist activities were widespread at the end of 1927 but gradually subsided in the
beginning of 1928, though sentiments in favour of putschism still survived among some
 In the guerrilla system of organization a column
corresponded to a division in the regular army, with a complement much more flexible and
usually much smaller than that of a regular division.
 These two Chinese idioms refer to the methods which some
rebels in Chinese history adopted to expand their forces. In the application of these
methods, attention was paid to numbers rather than to quality, and people of all sorts
were indiscriminately recruited to swell the ranks.
 Huang Chao was the leader of the peasant revolts towards
the end of the Tang Dynasty. In A.D. 875, starting from his home district Tsaochow (now
Hotse County in Shantung), Huang led armed peasants in victorious battles against the
imperial forces and styled himself the "Heaven-Storming General". In the course
of a decade he swept over most of the provinces in the Yellow, Yangtse, Huai and Pearl
river valleys, reaching as far as Kwangsi. He finally broke through the Tungkuan pass,
captured the imperial capital of Changan (now Sian in Shensi), and was crowned Emperor of
Chi. Internal dissensions and attacks by the non-Han tribal allies of the Tang forces
compelled Huang to abandon Changan and retreat to his native district, where he committed
suicide. The ten years' war fought by him is one of the most famous peasant wars in
Chinese history. Dynastic historians record that "all people suffering from heavy
taxes and levies rallied to him". But as he merely carried on roving warfare without
ever establishing relatively consolidated base areas, his forces were called "roving
 Li Chuang, short for Li Tzu-cheng the King Chuang (the
Dare-All King), native of Michih, northern Shensi, was the leader of a peasant revolt
which led to the overthrow of the Ming Dynasty. The revolt first started in northern
Shensi in 1628. Li joined the forces led by Kao Ying-hsiang and campaigned through Honan
and Anhwei and back to Shensi. After Kao's death in 1636, Li succeeded him, becoming King
Chuang, and campaigned in and out of the provinces of Shensi, Szechuan, Honan and Hupeh
Finally he captured the imperial capital of Peking in 1644, whereupon the last Ming
emperor committed suicide. The chief slogan he spread among the masses was "Support
King Chuang, and pay no grain taxes". Another slogan of his to enforce discipline
among his men ran: "Any murder means the killing of my father, any rape means the
violation of my mother." Thus he won the support of the masses and his movement
became the main current of the peasant revolts raging all over the country. As he, too,
roamed about without ever establishing relatively consolidated base areas, he was
eventually defeated by Wu San-kuei, a Ming general who colluded with the Ching troops in a
joint aback on Li.