Mao Zedong: ‘The well-being of the masses’ (1934)

Writing in January 1934, a few months before the Long March, Mao Zedong urges CCP leaders not to becoming fixed on revolution without being concerned about the ‘well being of the masses’:

“My first point concerns the well-being of the masses. Our central task at present is to mobilise the broad masses to take part in the revolutionary war, overthrow imperialism and the Guomindang by means of such war, spread the revolution throughout the country and drive imperialism out of China. Anyone who does not attach enough importance to this central task is not a good revolutionary cadre.

If our comrades really comprehend this task and understand that the revolution must at all costs be spread throughout the country, then they should in no way neglect or underestimate the question of the immediate interests, the well-being, of the broad masses. For the revolutionary war is a war of the masses; it can be waged only by mobilising the masses and relying on them.

If we only mobilise the people to carry on the war and do nothing else, can we succeed in defeating the enemy? Of course not. If we want to win, we must do a great deal more. We must lead the peasants’ struggle for land and distribute the land to them, heighten their labour enthusiasm and increase agricultural production, safeguard the interests of the workers, establish co-operatives, develop trade with outside areas and solve the problems facing the masses – food, shelter and clothing, fuel, rice, cooking oil and salt, sickness and hygiene, and marriage. In short, all the practical problems in the masses’ everyday life should claim our attention.

If we attend to these problems, solve them and satisfy the needs of the masses, we shall really become organisers of the well-being of the masses, and they will truly rally round us and give us their warm support. Comrades, we will then be able to arouse them to take part in the revolutionary war.

Here is the kind of thing we have found among some of our cadres. They talk only about expanding the Red Army, enlarging the transport corps, collecting the land tax and selling bonds… For instance, there was a time when the Tingchow Municipal Government concerned itself only with the expansion of the Red Army and with mobilisation for the transport corps – and paid not the slightest attention to the well-being of the masses. The problems facing the people of Tingchow city were that they had no firewood, no salt was on sale because the capitalists were hoarding it, some people had no houses to live in and rice was both scarce and dear. These were practical problems for the masses of the people of Tingchow and they eagerly looked to us for help in solving them.

But the Tingchow Municipal Government did not discuss any of these matters. That is why when the new workers’ and peasants’ representative council was elected in the city, a hundred or more representatives were unwilling to attend after the first few council meetings had discussed only the expansion of the Red Army and mobilisation for the transport corps, entirely ignoring the well-being of the masses, so that the council was unable to go on meeting. The result was that very little was achieved in regard to the expansion of the Red Army and mobilisation for the transport corps. That was one kind of situation.

I earnestly suggest to this congress that we pay close attention to the well-being of the masses, from the problems of land and labour to those of fuel, rice, cooking oil and salt. The women want to learn ploughing and harrowing. Whom can we get to teach them? The children want to go to school. Have we set up primary schools? The wooden bridge over there is too narrow and people may fall off. Should we not repair it? Many people suffer from boils and other ailments. What are we going to do about it?

All such problems concerning the well-being of the masses should be placed on our agenda. We should discuss them, adopt and carry out decisions and check up on the results. We should convince the masses that we represent their interests – that our lives are intimately bound up with theirs.”