On January 18, 1966, the People’s Daily ran a report from the People’s Liberation Army Conference on Political Work. The report was translated and reprinted three days later in the English language organ of the Chinese Communist Party, The Peking Review.
P.L.A. Conference on Political Work
The P.L.A. puts Mao Tse-tung’s thought in command of everything.
It stands ready at any time to smash U.S. imperialist aggression.
[This unsigned article is reprinted from Peking Review, #4, Jan. 21, 1966, pp. 5-6.]
THE General Political Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army concluded its conference on political work in the army on January 18 in Peking.
During its twenty days of meetings the conference made a serious study of the important instructions given by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Chairman Mao Tse-tung on building up the army and on its political work; there were discussions on implementation of the five-point principle1 advanced by Comrade Lin Piao to keep on putting politics first; the experience gained in political work in the past two years was summed up and arrangements for political work in 1966 were decided upon.
The conference called on all commanders and fighters of the P.L.A. to rally closely around the Central Committee of the Party and Chairman Mao Tse-tung, to hold still higher the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought, to continue to put politics first and resolutely apply the five-point principle in this connection, and to heighten combat-readiness and be prepared at all times to smash U.S. imperialist aggression.
All those attending the conference were received by the Party and state leaders Chou En-lai, Chu Teh, Teng Hsiao-ping and Peng Chen. Comrades Chou En-lai, Teng Hsiao-ping and Peng Chen gave important reports at the conference on the present domestic and international situation and present tasks.
Hsiao Hua, Director of the P.L.A. General Political Department, presided over the conference and delivered a report on the implementation of the five-point principle of putting politics first. Yang Cheng-wu, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the P.L.A., spoke at the conference.
The conference agreed that there was a new mass upsurge in the creative study and application of Mao Tse-tung’s works throughout the army since Comrade Lin Piao’s instructions on putting politics first were implemented. It was noted that the broad masses of cadres and fighters showed a deeper class feeling towards Mao Tse-tung’s thinking and greater political consciousness in remoulding their ideology and directing their activities in accordance with the guidance given by Chairman Mao Tse-tung. Great numbers of fine people like Lei Feng and Wang Chieh had come forward, and they had good deeds to their credit. There were new developments in the campaign to produce outstanding companies. There were remarkable achievements in fighting, training and the fulfilment of various other tasks.
The consensus at the conference was that the principle of putting politics first formulated by Comrade Lin Piao conforms with what Chairman Mao Tse-tung has always taught us; it was put forward in accordance with the historical experience of the Chinese people’s armed forces and the present situation, in accordance with the laws of development and the economic basis of socialist society, and with the fact that classes and class struggle still exist in socialist society. This principle is the foundation on which to strengthen the revolutionization and modernization of the army, to make good preparations for the smashing of the U.S. imperialist war of aggression and to combat and prevent the rise of modern revisionism, and ensure that the army never degenerates. Comrade Lin Piao’s five-point principle which calls for putting politics first not only serves as the general principle and task for all army work in 1966 but is the guiding policy in army building for all the years to come.
“Putting politics first” means putting Mao Tse-tung’s thinking first, said the conference. It means regarding Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s works as the highest instructions on all aspects of the work of the whole army, and putting Mao Tse-tung’s thinking in command of everything. Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s instructions are the criterion for all work. All his instructions must be resolutely supported and carried out, even if their accomplishment involves “climbing a mountain of swords and crossing an ocean of flames.” Whatever runs counter to his instructions must be rejected and firmly opposed.
The conference called for the creative study and application of Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s works and, in particular, for the utmost effort in applying them. Whether Mao Tse-tung’s thinking has been really mastered must be judged above all by its application after study. In assessing anyone, hear what he says and see what he does, with emphasis, on the latter. It is incumbent not only on the soldiers and cadres at grass-root levels, but even more on the senior cadres, to read Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s works, follow his teachings, act in accordance with his instructions and be a good soldier of Chairman Mao Tse-tung. One must make the study of Chairman Mao’s works and the remoulding of one’s ideology a life-time endeavour if one is to devote one’s life to the revolution.
The conference decided that in order to put politics first and resolutely carry out the five-point principle, the whole army must hold still higher,the great red banner of Mao Tse-tung’s thought, and stimulate a new upsurge in the creative study and application of Mao Tse-tung’s works on an even wider scale and in still greater depth.
Consistent adherence to the mass line and the continued practice of democracy in political, military and economic affairs were stressed at the conference. The instructions of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, the principles and policies of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the directives issued by the Party’s Military Commission and Comrade Lin Piao must be made known directly to the broad masses of cadres and fighters and translated into the conscious action of the masses.
It was important to encourage all cadres and fighters to do political and ideological work, including the political, military and other cadres, declared the conference. Ideological work must penetrate the heart and mind of every fighter. Army units should do their administrative and educational work by means of political work and by the method of persuasion and education.
The conference stressed that the decisive factor in putting politics first was Party leadership. The Principle that military affairs should be run by the whole Party must be adhered to. The system of dual leadership by the military command and the local Party committee under the unified leadership of the Party’s Central Committee must be resolutely enforced. The army must come under the absolute leadership of the Party and the supervision of the masses in order to ensure that the line, principles and policies of the Party are resolutely implemented in the army.
The conference pointed out that Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s ideas on Party building must be follewed in order to strengthen the work of building the Party organization in the army, and strengthen collective leadership by the Party committees. Democratic centralism must be adhered to and there must be a vigorous inner-Party life, criticism and self-criticism, and democracy, so that military work will be done well by concerted efforts.
The conference particularly emphasized that it was necessary to keep firmly in mind Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s teaching that “modesty makes one progress, whereas conceit makes one lag behind” and be modest, prudent, and honest in word and deed at all times.
The conference called on all members of the army to sharpen their vigilance a hundred-fold and work earnestly to increase their combat-readiness.
It noted that U.S. imperialism was now shifting the focus of its strategy to Asia. It was frenziedly enlarging its war of aggression in Vietnam and directing the spearhead of its aggression against China. At the same time the modern revisionists were working even more shamelessly in the service of U.S. imperialism, thereby aggravating the danger of war.
The conference declared: “All members of the army must know that the root cause of war will remain until imperialism is overthrown and capitalism is eliminated. U.S. imperialism has obstinately set itself against the Chinese people, and against the people of all countries. It has always wanted to impose war on the Chinese people and have a contest of strength with us. Therefore, to increase our combat-readiness is not a temporary measure but a long-term strategic task.
“We will not only defend our motherland and be ready at any moment to smash aggression by U.S. imperialism. We will also resolutely support and help the people of other countries in their struggle against U.S. imperialism. This is our bounden internationalist duty.
“We must make full preparations against the war of aggression which U.S. imperialism may launch at an early date, on a large scale, with nuclear or other weapons, and on several fronts. All our work must be put on a footing of readiness to fight.”
In conclusion the conference declared: “We are convinced that we will be invincible provided we put politics first, maintain an atmosphere of keen study of Mao Tse-tung’s thought and foster a high level of proletarian consciousness, high morale, solid unity and deep hatred for the enemy, and a spirit of revolutionary heroism, the spirit of daring to make revolution and daring to struggle, fearing neither war nor sacrifice.”
Should U.S. imperialism dare to attack China, “our army, like a steel hammer, will crush anything it hits. Armed with the thinking of Mao Tse-tung, closely linked with the people throughout the country, and closely linked with the people throughout the world, we shall be more than a match for such a thing as U.S. imperialism, and final victory will certainly be ours.”
 Comrade Lin Piao’s five-point principle guiding the work of the P.L.A. in 1966 is: 1) creatively study and apply Chairman Mao’s works and, in particular, make the utmost effort to apply them; regard Chairman Mao’s works as the highest instructions on all aspects of the work of the army; 2) persist in giving first place to man as between man and weapons, in giving first place to political work as between political and other work, in giving first place to ideological work as between ideological and routine tasks in political work, and, in ideological work, in giving first place to living ideas as between ideas in books and living ideas. And, in particular, make the greatest effort to grasp living ideas; 3) leading cadres must go to the basic units and give energetic leadership in the campaign to produce outstanding companies and ensure that the basic units do their work effectively, and, at the same time, that a good style of leadership by the cadres is fostered; 4) boldly promote really good commanders and fighters to key posts of responsibility; 5) train hard and master the finest techniques and close-range and night fighting tactics. —Ed.
At Play at the Time
Lin Biao, Mao’s right hand man, was consolidating power within the People’s Liberation Army, and preparing for the launch of the Cultural Revolution. At the time Lin was in the midst of a power struggle within the PLA with the high ranking General and member of the Secretariat Luo Ruiqing. Luo was opposed to political training in the army the theory of putting politics in command, and was seen by Lin and Mao as a revisionist and a threat to their power within the CCP and the PLA. This report and the theme of the conference makes clear that the main objective of the PLA was to put politics in command of all other work. The issue of United States aggression in Vietnam, and the intensifying war there are pushed towards the bottom of the article and marginalized. The emphasis on politics over Vietnam heightens the idea that the primary contradiction in the PRC was an internal political contradiction, not the external contradiction between Chinese revolution and western imperialism. Later in the CR the army became a main pillar for the party’s left, a role which often was structurally problematic in respect to the task of expanding the mass movement.
On Mao’s thoughts about Lin Biao, see:
“The center is asking my permission to publish the speech given by my friend [Lin Biao], and I shall agree…. I have doubts about some of his views. I have never believed that my little red book contained so much spiritual power. When he praises it to heaven, the whole country will do the same. It is all exaggerated…. (I have been pushed by them onto Mount Liang [among the rebels]), and I cannot refuse my consent. To be forced to give it against my convictions is something that has never happened to me in all my life…. I feel sure of myself, yet I have doubts…. At the Hangzhou conference last April, I said that I did not approve of the formulas my friend uses, but my words had no effect…. They have used even worse expressions, they have exalted me to the heavens as the miracle of miracles…. I have become the Zhong Kui [a terrifying mythological character] of the XX century Communist party…. I’ll break my bones in the fall…. If they have already demolished Marx and Lenin, why not us, too—and with more reason? You should think about this and not let victory go to your head…. Our task today is to knock out some of the rightist elements in the Party and in the country (to knock all of them out would be impossible); in seven or eight years we could launch a new campaign…. When can these lines be published?…. Perhaps the moment will be after my death, when the Right will have appropriated the power…. The Right will exploit my words to raise the black banner, but without much luck. Since the Chinese empire was overthrown in 1911, the reaction has never been able to hold power for long. The Left, however, will use my words toward organizing itself, and the Right will be overthrown…”
—Mao, in a letter to his wife Jiang Qing, July 8, 1966. From Edoarda Masi, China Winter: Workers, Mandarins, and the Purge of the Gang of Four (NY: 1982), p. 19. Originally from an English translation of the letter in Issues and Studies, January 1973, pp. 94-96, and in the Yearbook of Chinese Communism, 1973, pp. 2-3, cited in Dictionary of Revolutionary Marxism