Mao Zedong on the peasant revolution in Hunan (1927)

An extract from Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan, written in 1927 by young Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong:

“Many of the hows and whys of the peasant movement are the exact opposite of what the gentry in Hankow and Changsha are saying. I have seen and heard of many strange things of which I had hitherto been unaware. I believe the same is true of many other places, too. All talk directed against the peasant movement must be speedily set right. All the wrong measures taken by the revolutionary authorities concerning the peasant movement must be speedily changed. Only thus can the future of the revolution be benefited. For the present upsurge of the peasant movement is a colossal event.

In a very short time, in China’s central, southern and northern provinces, several hundred million peasants will rise like a mighty storm, like a hurricane, a force so swift and violent that no power, however great, will be able to hold it back. They will smash all the trammels that bind them and rush forward along the road to liberation. They will sweep all the imperialists, warlords, corrupt officials, local tyrants and evil gentry into their graves. Every revolutionary party and every revolutionary comrade will be put to the test, to be accepted or rejected as they decide.

The main targets of attack by the peasants are the local tyrants, the evil gentry and the lawless landlords. But in passing they also hit out against patriarchal ideas and institutions, against the corrupt officials in the cities and against bad practices and customs in the rural areas. In force and momentum the attack is tempestuous; those who bow before it survive and those who resist perish. As a result, the privileges which the feudal landlords enjoyed for thousands of years are being shattered to pieces. Every bit of the dignity and prestige built up by the landlords is being swept into the dust.

With the collapse of the power of the landlords, the peasant associations have now become the sole organs of authority and the popular slogan “all power to the peasant associations” has become a reality. Even trifles such as a quarrel between husband and wife are brought to the peasant association. Nothing can be settled unless someone from the peasant association is present.

There is another section of people who say, “Yes, peasant associations are necessary, but they are going rather too far.” This is the opinion of the middle-of-the-roaders. But what is the actual situation? True, the peasants are in a sense “unruly” in the countryside. Supreme in authority, the peasant association allows the landlord no say and sweeps away his prestige. People swarm into the houses of local tyrants and evil gentry who are against the peasant association, slaughter their pigs and consume their grain. The local tyrants, evil gentry and lawless landlords have themselves driven the peasants to this…

A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. A rural revolution is a revolution by which the peasantry overthrows the power of the feudal landlord class. Without using the greatest force, the peasants cannot possibly overthrow the deep-rooted authority of the landlords which has lasted for thousands of years.”