Mao Zedong
Original publication:
Translation: Sun Feiyang
Editing: Roderic Day

We Must Unite All The Forces That Can Be United (1956)

On 25 April 1956 Mao gave a Politburo speech titled “On the Ten Major Relationships,” in which he explained several differences between the Soviet and Chinese socialist models. [1] The now well-known speech circulated internally among CPC cadres until Mao’s death in 1976, when it was officially published. Much less well-known is this shorter speech given on that same day to representative delegates from Latin American parties, which touches on the same points but addressed to an international audience. The text, printed in Mao’s Collected Works (1996), is based on conversation transcripts held at the Central Archives.

I am very happy to meet fellow comrades. It is not easy to meet in person, as North and South America are far away from China, separated by the Pacific Ocean, in addition to the man-made obstacles presented by the United States. At present, China has not established diplomatic relations with many countries in the world, especially with countries in North and South America, and there are few business and cultural exchanges. However, we believe that diplomatic relations can be gradually established.

China used to be a semi-colony, and today it is still a relatively economically backward country. Imperialists are miserly and not at all willing to help other countries to build up their industries. They left us nothing when they withdrew.

It is, therefore, very important to win over the people in the middle. In China, as in North and South America, the national bourgeoisie plays a very important role. They are not large in number, but they have great influence, in some cases even greater than the influence of the working class. Therefore, the work of getting these people onboard is very important. Now, we must not only fight to win over the national bourgeoisie, but also to unite them and give them benefits so that they too can embrace the socialist transformation. What benefits do we give them? One is to give them work to do, and the other is to give them the right to vote.

The transformation of national capitalists cannot be completed all at once, so we also give them time. It has been six years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and we currently plan to give them another three years, for a total of nine years. This is beneficial to workers and peasants. Production will not be interrupted, there will be no shortage of commodities needed by the masses in the market, prices will be stable, and the purchasing power of currency will be stable. We are now reforming the national bourgeoisie and abolishing their private ownership of the means of production. Our approach is to educate the capitalists, to include them in classes and meetings, to make them self-critical, to encourage their positive side, and to open their minds. Taking the socialist road is not without pain or struggle for capitalists. We have mobilized a wide range of social forces to help them in their rehabilitation work. Not only did the workers struggle against the capitalists, but the progressive children of the capitalist families also struggled against their parents. Thus, six years later, capitalist industry and commerce are essentially on the track of socialist transformation.

As we carried out socialist transformation, we arranged for capitalists to gradually become part of the working class. At present there are factories where the director is a capitalist and the deputy director is one of our comrades. They are asked to be factory directors because they know the technology, but their businesses are gradually becoming state-run enterprises. Capitalists are much more useful than feudal landlords. To landlords we only allow some land for cultivation, so that they can become farmers. They still don’t have the right to vote. But it is different for capitalists. They have skills and management capabilities, and in these areas the proletariat must learn from them.

China’s policy towards the national bourgeoisie can be used as a reference for fraternal parties in Central and South America. You can consider more cooperation with the national bourgeoisie before the revolution, to win them over against imperialism. They, too, are dissatisfied with imperialism. You can unite them, win them over, or keep them neutral. If you can get all the peasants to accept the leadership of the proletariat, and you also win over the bourgeoisie, your job will be easy. For current national liberation movements and future social emancipation movements, the likelihood of success will increase. The proletariat must unite with the petty bourgeoisie, mainly by uniting those of the petty bourgeoisie who do not exploit others, i.e. independent farmers and craftsmen. This is an alliance between the exploited and independent producers who do not exploit others. This kind of alliance is very important. In addition, the proletariat has another alliance to consider; with the national bourgeoisie, enlightened religious figures, and enlightened landlords. Independence and liberation are impossible for semi-colonized countries without such alliances.

In short, we must unite all those who can be united, so that we can reduce the enemy’s numbers to a minimum, leaving only imperialists and a few pro-imperialist elements in the country, i.e. big capitalists and big landowners who have close ties with imperialism. For us, the more friends we have, the better, and the fewer enemies we have, the better.

For this purpose, our party must make full use of all the forces available to it. It is necessary to develop policies to handle comrades who have made mistakes, to help them rather than punish them. Criticism does not imply mistreatment. People will always make mistakes. The difference is that some commit more and some commit less; some correct earlier and some correct later. There was a tendency in our party to “relentlessly strike” against comrades who made mistakes. People are passionate, and comrades are no exception. But “relentless strikes” generate division and disunity. “Today I will strike at you, and tomorrow you will strike at me” infighting creates a bad atmosphere within the party, which also harms the party’s cause. Our party later corrected this bias and helped comrades in correcting their mistakes. The more forces that can be united, the better.

Comrades who have made mistakes have learned their lessons and may be better at this than those who have not made mistakes. Comrades who have never made a mistake may make a mistake in the future.

Before a great rival we must mobilize all forces that can be mobilized, including all social and intraparty forces that can be united.

It is the same internationally. Without the support of international progressive forces, our revolution cannot be victorious. Imperialism has global reach, so it is necessary for us to mobilize all international progressive forces, including those in South America, Central America, North America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. We can cooperate with you to contain some of the imperialist forces. Imperialists are involved everywhere, and so we will be able to fight them in many places simultaneously, making it difficult for them to act. Our victory thus rests on the support of progressive forces around the world. For example, during the Korean War [2], the United States could only place one third of its forces in North Korea and the East, another third in Europe, and another third in the Americas. They had to split their forces. This helped us. Otherwise, how could we have won? How could we have ended the war on the 38th parallel? [3] Similarly, in the struggle against Chiang Kai-shek’s rule and in the struggle to build socialism, we have been helped in this way by various countries.

You have helped us a lot, even if you haven’t realized it yet. The United States is concerned about Central and South America, they fear that you will rise up and rebel. There are powderkegs everywhere for the United States; one in Asia, one in Europe, one in Africa, and one in your Central and South America.

In Brazil there are some Chinese who were driven out of mainland China. For the Chinese diaspora, our policy is also to fight for all those who are willing to come and fight against US imperialism, no matter how serious the crimes they may have committed in the past. We can forgive them. We hope that they will come back, whether to visit or to stay. Even Chiang Kai-shek could come back if he wanted to, but he is very stubborn and refuses to come back.

The same is true for certain countries. No matter how reactionary they are, as long as they are willing to do business with us and establish diplomatic relations with us, we will strive for good relations with them, whether they are small or a large capitalist country. We also try to win over Japan. No matter how great our hatred of their invasion of China in the past, we will also strive even for Japanese capitalists and former high-ranking Japanese military officers. A group of Japanese soldiers who had invaded China in the past asked to come back to China to see it, and we said yes. They have organized a delegation of more than a dozen people to come after May Day. This is because the status of Japan today is very different from what it was in the past. Today, it is actually a semi-colonized country. In the past Japan bullied others, but today the United States bullies it. Although the United States has signed military agreements with Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan, its position in these countries is extremely tenuous.

China is still very backward economically and culturally. It will take a long time to gain true independence and realize the country’s prosperity and industrial modernization. It needs the support of comrades and people from all countries.

I want to make it clear to everyone that China’s experience can only be used as a reference, and is not to be blindly copied. Each country should decide on principles and policies based on its own national characteristics, and integrate Marxism with its own national characteristics. China’s experience has been good and bad, successful and unsuccessful. Even then, China’s successful experiences may not be suitable for the specific conditions of other countries. It is dangerous to copy a successful experience. Experiences which were successful in one country may lead to failure in another country, due to that country’s unique situation. Copying the experiences of other countries will lead to suffering, and is the method of fools. This is a lesson of international importance.

I heard that you comrades are very serious and willing to study. It is good to study hard. It guarantees success over the enemy. It is important to analyze everything and figure out what is right and what is not, because everything has a bright side and a dark side. We should show foreigners both of these aspects of China. You have seen the good side, and you should see the bad side.

The lessons of failure are also worth studying. They can save people from needless detours. Wang Ming’s error of dogmatism [4] once caused great losses to our country’s revolution. But his mistakes helped us educate the party and the people. From this point of view, I am his student. Our teachers are not just Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin. Imperialism is also our teacher, Chiang Kai-shek is our teacher, and comrades who make mistakes are also our teachers. Without them, we would not have learned so much.

Stalin did things that were right and things that were wrong. Wang Ming learned his “leftist” opportunist mistakes from Stalin. He advocated overthrowing everything, and undermined unity with the bourgeoisie. In society everything was overthrown, but within the party there was disunity. He later learned his right-leaning errors from Stalin as well. [5] This is something we have not published much about because we are also responsible. Stalin is generally regarded as having been seventy percent correct and thirty percent incorrect. If you say that he is eighty percent correct and twenty percent wrong, you may get pushback; if you say that he is sixty percent correct and forty percent wrong, you may still get pushback. At any rate, it is not correct to deny what Stalin got right.

The Stalinist question is not a matter for individual people or individual countries, but for the whole international proletarian cause. Stalin’s mistakes weigh heavily on all our hearts. That article from the editorial board of the People’s Daily [6] was discussed at an enlarged meeting of our Politburo, and was revised six or seven times before it was published.

Mistakes are inevitable. Who doesn’t make mistakes? Did imperialism make fewer mistakes? We account for both the positive and the negative. We criticize mistakes and safeguard successful experiences. Mistakes are often the result of inexperience, and Marxism is only a little over a hundred years old. Mistakes are bound to be made, and mistakes will occur in all countries, in revolution and in construction. China will certainly make mistakes in the future as well. If we are more focused, we will make fewer mistakes, especially at the national level. Even if we make a national mistake, we will be able to correct it earlier. Understanding materialism means accepting it is impossible to not make mistakes, for the human mind cannot reflect objective reality completely and exactly. Human beings will only gradually overcome their lack of understanding in the process of understanding things; there is no way around it. Things are very intricate, constantly changing and developing. Understanding dialectics means accepting mistakes will be made for as long as the reflection of the human mind cannot keep up with objective reality.

Contradictions are always there, and will still be there 10,000 years from now. As one contradiction is overcome, another contradiction arises. At any time, in any place, in any person, there are always contradictions, and without contradictions there is no world. Some people think that as soon as the socialist stage of society is reached, flaws disappear and the country achieves perfection. This is no more than a form of superstition.

  1. Mao Zedong, April 1956. On the Ten Major Relationships. [zh] [en] 

  2. In June 1950, a war broke out between the North and the South (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Korea) on the 38th parallel of the Korean Peninsula. Subsequently, the United States sent troops to intervene under the banner of the United Nations, and crossed the 38th parallel to aggressively attack the border between China and North Korea, seriously threatening China’s security. In order to resist US aggression and aid Korea and defend the country, the Chinese People’s Volunteers fought side by side with the Korean People’s Army, which struck a severe blow to US aggression and forced it to sign the Korean Armistice Agreement in July 1953. 

  3. Near the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to use the 38th parallel in North Korea as a temporary boundary line for military operations against Japan and the scope of surrender. This boundary line is commonly known as the “38th parallel.” 

  4. Wang Ming’s dogmatism error refers to Wang Ming’s “Left” adventurism error.  [7] 

  5. Wang Ming’s right-leaning error.  [8] 

  6. Refers to the “On the Historical Experience of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” [web] 

  7. In January 1931, at the Fourth Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Wang Ming and others, with the support of the Communist International and its representative Pavel Mif, were elevated to a leading position in the Party Central Committee. They confused the boundaries between the democratic revolution and the socialist revolution politically, juxtaposed anti-bourgeois thought, anti-imperialism and anti-feudalism; denied the obvious changes in domestic class relations after the September 18th Incident, regarded the middle forces as the “most dangerous enemy”; continued to promote the “cities at the center” theory, and advocated that the army seize the central cities to achieve victory in one and several provinces to get to national victory. In military matters, adventurism was promoted first, and then it came conservatism and escapism. In terms of organization, sectarianism was practiced, and people who disagreed with their erroneous claims were put through “cruel struggle and ruthless attacks.” Wang Ming’s “Left” adventurism led the party for four years, causing great losses to the party and the revolutionary cause. In January 1935, the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee convened the Zunyi Conference to establish the correct leadership of the new Central Committee represented by Mao Zedong, thus ending the rule of Wang Ming’s “Left” adventurism in the Party Central Committee. 

  8. In December 1937, Wang Ming, who had just returned from the Soviet Union, presented “How to Continue and Win the National War of Resistance?” at the meeting of the CPC Central Committee. The report put forward many right-leaning capitulationist propositions. Later, while serving as secretary of the Yangtze River Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, he published some declarations, resolutions, and articles that included Rightist errors. He believed that the Kuomintang had surpassed the Communist Party, daring not to launch mass struggles, developing the people’s army, or expand the liberated areas in Japanese occupied territories, but advocated for passing the leadership role of the struggle against Japan to the KMT. Since the correct line represented by Mao Zedong already predominated within the party, these mistakes of Wang Ming only had a minor impact in some areas. At the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China from September to November 1938, Wang Ming’s right-leaning capitulationist error was criticized and the policy of the whole party to independently lead the armed struggle against Japan was established.