Reporting to the party at Wayaopao in December 1935, Mao Zedong paused from discussion of military tactics to explain why the Long March was a victory rather than a failure:
“As you know, comrades, for almost a year and a half the three main contingents of the Chinese Red Army have carried out great shifts of position. The Sixth Army Group… and other comrades began to shift to Comrade Ho Lung’s area in August last year, and in October we ourselves started to shift position. In March this year the Red Army in the Szechuan-Shensi border area began its shift. All three Red Army contingents have abandoned their old positions and moved to new regions.
These great shifts have turned the old areas into guerrilla zones. The Red Army has been considerably weakened in the process. From this aspect of the over-all situation, we can see that the enemy has won a temporary and partial victory, while we have suffered a temporary and partial defeat. Is this statement correct? I think it is. For it is a statement of fact. However, some people say that the Central Red Army has failed. Is that correct? No, for it is not a statement of fact.
In approaching a problem a Marxist should see the whole as well as the parts. A frog in a well says, “The sky is no bigger than the mouth of the well.” That is untrue, for the sky is not just the size of the mouth of the well. If it said, “A part of the sky is the size of the mouth of a well”, that would be true, for it tallies with the facts. What we say is that in one respect the Red Army has failed (that is, it has failed to maintain its original positions) – but in another respect it has won a victory (that is, in executing the plan of the Long March). In one respect the enemy won a victory (that is, in occupying our original positions) – but in another respect he has failed (that is, failed to execute his plan of “encirclement and suppression” and of “pursuit and suppression”). That is the only appropriate formulation, for we have completed the Long March.
Speaking of the Long March, one may ask, “What is its significance?” We answer that the Long March is the first of its kind in the annals of history, that it is a manifesto, a propaganda force, a seeding-machine.
Since Pan Ku divided the heavens from the earth and the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors reigned, has history ever witnessed a long march such as ours? For 12 months we were under daily reconnaissance and bombing from the skies by scores of planes, while on land we were encircled and pursued, obstructed and intercepted by a huge force of several hundred thousand men, and we encountered untold difficulties and dangers on the way; yet by using our two legs we swept across a distance of more than 20,000 li [approximately 1,500 kilometres] through the length and breadth of 11 provinces.
Let us ask, has history ever known a long march to equal ours? No, never. The Long March is a manifesto. It has proclaimed to the world that the Red Army is an army of heroes, while the imperialists and their running dogs, Jiang Jieshi and his like, are impotent. It has proclaimed their utter failure to encircle, pursue, obstruct and intercept us. The Long March is also a propaganda force. It has announced to some 200 million people in eleven provinces that the road of the Red Army is their only road to liberation. Without the Long March, how could the broad masses have learned so quickly about the existence of the great truth which the Red Army embodies? The Long March is also a seeding-machine. In the 11 provinces it has sown many seeds which will sprout, leaf, blossom and bear fruit, and will yield a harvest in the future.
In a word, the Long March has ended with victory for us and defeat for the enemy. Who brought the Long March to victory? The Communist Party. Without the Communist Party, a long march of this kind would have been inconceivable. The Chinese Communist Party, its leadership, its cadres and its members fear no difficulties or hardships. Whoever questions our ability to lead the revolutionary war will fall into the morass of opportunism.”