Interview Given by Mao Tse-tung to Mr. Wang Kung-Tah, Correspondent of the Associated Press
In February, 1938, Mr. Wang Kung-tah, a correspondent of the American Associated Press Agency, arrived in Yenan and obtained an interview with Mao Tse-tung. The text of the interview, as recorded by Wang Kung-tah and approved by Mao Tse-tung, was published in the Chiehfang (Liberation), the organ of the Communist Party of China, in its issue of May 5, 1938, No. 32.
The Marxist tactic of revolutionary parliamentarism as developed and practiced by Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong is little known today. In India, after a brief attempt to adhere to this tactic in the early 1950s, it was replaced by the practice of reformist parliamentarism by the CPI and later the CPI (M) for a half century. At the far end of the communist spectrum revolutionary parliamentarism has been substituted by the complete rejection of any use of the parliamentary tactic in the name of armed struggle and people’s war. Historically the name of Charu Majumdar, the founding leader of CPI (ML), has been identified with this standpoint while today the CPI (Maoist) upholds this position formally. A number of communist revolutionary organisations have in the decades since the 1970s correctly rejected both of these positions and have stressed the need to utilise parliamentarism in a period when the masses have been relatively quiescent. However, with the exception of the PCC, CPI (ML) these trends have generally restricted the use of the parliamentary tactic to giving support to their own candidates, declining to distinguish between the role of various bourgeois parties in a period of growing authoritarianism and fascisation. The glaring sectarianism of this approach became apparent when these trends refused to recognise the great danger represented by the communal-fascist NDA alliance in the 2004 general elections and the need to isolate and defeat it. By way of example the comrades of the CPI (ML) Red Flag accepted the need to concentrate fire on the Hindu fascist Modi government in the Gujarat elections but reversed its position by the time of the general elections of 2004 when the opportunity presented itself of defeating the Hindu fascist government at the centre. The need to reject the approach of the strategic boycott of parliament has come to the fore yet again as the result of the needs of the struggles of the masses. In the case of the CPI (Maoist) the need to defeat the Chanderbabu Naidu government in Andhra Pradesh led the party to once more covertly direct the masses under its influence to vote him and his party out of power while overtly claiming that they were engaging in an electoral boycott. The party did not hesitate to hold pre-electoral parleys with the central national leadership of the Congress Party. This played a vital role in the electoral defeat of the most dangerous communal-fascist forces in the 2004 general elections. The revolutionary parliamentarist practice of the party ran far ahead of its boycottist theories. A more profound development has taken place during the course of the Nepali revolution where, after the termination of parliamentary democracy by the ruling monarchy the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has called for unity with the parliamentary parties around a programme of elections to a representative Constituent Assembly for the establishment of a democratic republic. These developments no doubt help to revive in practice the views of Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong on revolutionary parliamentarism.
During the course of the meeting held to commemorate the tenth anniversary of ‘Revolutionary Democracy’ a number of speakers noted that that there was a false polarity being projected between ‘parliamentarism’ and ‘militarism’. Much if not all of the discussion on the parliamentary tactic has taken place without reference to the experience of the great Chinese revolution where partisan warfare against Japanese imperialism went hand in hand with CPC participation in the parliamentary structures. The rich treasure-house of the writings of Mao prior to the revolution reveals the interest that the author showed on the parliamentary question in a number of articles. In the first document published below which consists of an interview conducted in February 1938, Mao, during the course of the united front with the Kuomintang advocates the establishment of a parliamentary democratic republic in China founded upon universal suffrage based on the notions of Sun Yat-sen. He further called for the convocation of a provisional National Assembly and the enlargement and extension of the central government in which the Kuomintang predominated. The second document consists of a declaration given by Communist members, including Mao Zedong, after they had accepted membership of the governmental body known as the National (or People’s) Political Council of China. Mao and other Communist members noted that though this body was not absolutely representative of the people it demonstrated that China was more and more effectively developing as a democracy. (The National Political Council was in fact less democratic than the Fourth Russian Duma in which the Bolsheviks had participated or the quasi-parliamentary structures in British India in which the Communist Party of India took part. Both of these were conducted on a narrow franchise.) The fact that the National Political Council was an unelected body, Mao considered, did not mean that it did not serve the demands and desires of the Chinese people. A year later Mao and his comrades in the People’s Political Council noted that it had been most successful when it reflected the people’s demand to continue the national resistance struggle against Japan but regretted that most of the adopted resolutions had not been effectively applied. Mao noted that with the extension of the terms of the Council members for a further year a number of political, military, economic, financial and diplomatic measures were needed. For our purposes we may observe the stress he placed on the promotion of democracy in the guerrilla bases, the realisation of ‘war democracy’, ensuring the rights of the people to freedom of speech, of publication, of assembly and to arm against the national enemy. Mao also fought for the democratic rights of the CPC: the explicit recognition of the legal rights of all anti-Japanese parties and groups and the abolition of all measures limiting or prohibiting the activities of political parties other than the Kuomintang.(1)
The participation of the CPC leadership including Mao himself in a parliamentary government together with the Kuomintang headed by Chiang Kai-shek during the national liberation war against Japan does not normally form part of the discourse on the use of the parliamentary tactic in the colonial countries. The history and evolution of Mao’s thinking on parliamentary questions and the establishment of a democratic republic in China after 1936 and its relation to the evolution of the strategy of New Democracy and People’s Democracy is not explored in detail here. The communist movement in India in its comprehension of the theory and practice of the use of the parliamentary tactic largely acts as though Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Dimitrov and Mao Zedong had never considered the utilisation of the rostrum of bourgeois parliamentarism as an intrinsic part of revolutionary strategy. Similarly, the rich experience accumulated by the communist parties in the use of the parliamentary tactic in semi-colonial countries as far apart as Latin America and Asia prior to the 20th Congress of the CPSU represents yet another neglected terra incognita.
(1) Mao Tze tung, Wang Ming, Po Ku, Wu
Yu-Chang, Tung Pi-Wu and Teng Yen-Chao, ‘The People’s Political Council, Its
Past Work and Present Tasks’, Published by New China Information Committee,
Chungking, China, January, 1940, pp. 4, 5, 8, 9, 14.
Question: At the present moment many people regard the prospects of China waging a war of defence with pessimism. What is your opinion?
Answer: I am inclined to be optimistic. Reverses and successes are bound to alternate in a war of defence: first there may be defeats, then victory is won. The side that is weak at the outset later proves to be strong – such is the usual, established trend of development.
During the first period of the war between Japan and China we could describe the general situation by saying that Japan was strong and China was weak. But from now on the position will be different: Japan’s weak spots will gradually be disclosed and will grow, while China’s forces will gradually increase and consolidate. Japan just now is again resorting to floating a loan. In the six months that it waged war in 1937 Japan spent 2,200,000,000 yen; it is said that this year Japan will spend another 4,000,000,000 yen; but actually this sum will probably be greater. This is greatly undermining the national strength of Japan even now. Her international credits are falling, her state loans are depreciating, her plan of ‘a swift war and swift victory’ has met with defeat.
The position at the front. China’s front extends from Hangchow to Poateh – a distance of several thousand li. (A li is equivalent to about half mile. Ed.) The Japanese are short of forces to defend the front. Thus the further they penetrate into China, i.e., the longer the line of the front extends, the weaker the Japanese forces become. Japan has seized a number of railway lines in China, but it has to post troops to guard every station. Japan has already mobilised a third of its military forces for the war of aggression in China. If it wants to seize Hankow, Canton and other cities it will have to mobilise at least several hundred thousand more men, and then its position will be very precarious. This is the more inevitable since Japan is faced not only with China. The accentuation of Japan’s international and internal contradictions is also a factor that will help to send Japan inevitably to her doom.
Question: Do you consider that China’s forces can constantly increase?
Answer: Judging from the experience of the last few months, we can say that if we succeed in correctly coordinating three types of war – tactical, trench and partisan warfare – the enemy’s force will inevitably find themselves in a very difficult position. In my opinion, what we must do now is organise a few more strong route armies numbering two to three hundred thousand picked men, deliver crushing blows to the advance guards of the enemy with the aim of destroying them by manoeuvering tactics; in addition eighty to ninety thousand regular army men should be assigned to from twenty or thirty well-trained partisan regiments. Each of these highly trained regiments could consist of three or four thousand men.
These regiments should be given resolute and self-reliant commanders, political work in them should be improved, and they should be dispatched to the front between Hangchow and Paoteh. These regiments must use the breaches that would form in twenty or thirty spots along such an enormously extended front, in order to penetrate into the rear of the Japanese army. And if they act correctly, they will succeed in uniting with the population and setting up innumerable small partisan units; they will be able to establish anti-Japanese bases in the enemy’s rear, rouse tens of millions of people, and provided they correctly coordinate their actions with the flanking operations of the regular armies, create insuperable obstacles for the enemy.
As regards trench warfare, it cannot serve as the main form of operations at the present time on account of our inadequate equipment. We must build up a defence industry of our own, so as to produce heavy armaments and anti-aircraft guns ourselves. At the same time we must take every step to import armaments from abroad, for they are indispensable in trench warfare. And we must wage energetic trench warfare, both defensive and offensive in nature.
Some people say that we advocate only partisan warfare. That is nonsense. We have always stood for coordinating tactical, trench and partisan warfare. At the present time tactical warfare is our main form of operations and the other two are auxiliary. In the future we must work hard to coordinate tactical with trench warfare. Partisan warfare has always been and will be an auxiliary form. But in a national liberation war in a semi-colonial country, particularly such a country as China, with its vast territory, partisan warfare will undoubtedly form a very important part of strategy.
The country is now united, and we enjoy the sympathy and support of the democratic forces throughout the world. But the unity we have achieved is not yet sufficient; we must consolidate and extend it. Increasing the country’s military and political might is an indispensable condition for victory. Our forces, our might will undoubtedly grow in the process of the struggle. Such are the bright prospects we see before us.
Question: Does the Eighth Route Army stand in danger of being entirely surrounded by the Japanese and would not the latter in this way be able to rout or even utterly destroy it?
Answer: At the present time the Eighth Route Army is waging a widespread partisan struggle in the following four large districts:
The first district covers the locality traversed by four railways – the Peiping-Hankow, Peiping-Suiyuan, Cheng-ting-Taiyuan and Tatung-Puchow railways and the regions adjoining it on the north and east. This district is inhabited by a population of 12,000,000, who are fighting vigorously against Japanese imperialism. They are all closely connected with the Eighth Army. This district is one of the most important centres of resistance to Japan, and there the Eighth Army is already firmly established. At present the enemy is intensifying offensive operations in this district, but nevertheless it will not be able to dislodge the Eighth Army, let alone destroy it. A number of units of the Eighth Army acting independently are already approaching the region of the Tientsin-Pukow railway.
The second district covers the northwestern part of Shansi – the districts to the south of the Peiping-Suiyuan railway, to the west of the northern sector of the Tatung-Puchow railway, and to the east of the Hwang-ho River.
The third district covers the southeastern part of Shansi and the southwestern part of Hopeh Province, that is, the districts lying between the Peiping-Hankow, Chengting-Taiyuan and Tatung-Puchow railways.
The fourth district lies in the southwestern part of Shansi Province.
The Eighth Army everywhere acts in close contact with the local population and constantly cuts the lines of communication in the rear of the Japanese troops. It has already won a large number of major and minor victories and has considerably reduced the enemy’s offensive force. In these districts China has lost only a number of railways and certain cities, retaining the rest. This example graphically proves that if it adheres to this method of warfare China can never be destroyed no matter what forces Japan puts into the field. The districts now occupied by the Eighth Army will continue to serve as a powerful centre for launching a counter-offensive against the Japanese army and for a struggle to retrieve China’s lost territory.
Question: Do you think that the present collaboration between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party will be lasting?
Answer: Yes, I do. The split that took place between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party in 1927 was against the Communist Party’s will. The Communist Party never wanted a split with the Kuomintang. During the last ten years, the Kuomintang, the Communist Party and the entire Chinese nation have been taught by bitter experience where division of forces leads. This experience will undoubtedly help us to become still more united. The purpose of our present and future collaboration is a joint struggle against Japanese aggression and joint work in developing the country. If we observe these conditions, if the party with which we now have friendly relations is as sincere as ourselves, our collaboration, controlled by all the people of China, will naturally be of a lasting nature.
Question: In its declaration on the situation in China the Communist Party proclaimed that the purpose of collaboration between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party is not only to wage a joint struggle against Japanese aggression but also joint work in developing the country after victory over the aggressors has been achieved. The question arises, however, how two parties can collaborate in developing the new state if they represent two different classes.
Answer: China is a semi-colonial country, its existence as a nation is endanger of being turned into a colony of Japanese imperialism. And though different parties represent different classes, their situation under the prevailing conditions is alike. As a result they can collaborate not only in the struggle against the Japanese aggressors, but in developing the country as well. However, their collaboration must be based on a definite programme. It must be based on principle, and productive of results, not forced and formal. No political party following a definite programme and principles resembles the heartfelt friendship of genuine friends. Only such a heartfelt friendship can be lasting.
Question: How do you picture the democratic republic advocated by the Communist Party?
Answer: In the democratic republic which the Communist Party advocates, parliament will be elected by our people, who refuse to be colonial slaves. Elections will be based on universal suffrage without any restrictions. Ours will be a democratic state. In broad outline it will be that state on whose establishment Sun Yat-sen insisted long ago. It is along these lines that the Chinese state must develop.
Question: It the Communist Party satisfied with the present central government? Does it consider a provisional National Assembly necessary?
Answer: We support the present central government since it is pursuing a determined policy of struggle against Japanese aggression and is heading armed resistance to Japan. But we hope that this government will be extended and enlarged, and that certain necessary reforms will be carried out in its home policy so that this policy may even more effectively further the interests of the war of defence. We have proposed the convocation of a provisional National Assembly, advocated in his time by Sun Yat-sen, since we think that it would further national unity and would increase our forces in the war of national defence. We are ready to do everything that really answers the interests of the war of defence.
Question: Is the Communist Party of China directing the struggle against Japan waged by the volunteer army of the three northeastern provinces (Manchuria)?
Answer: It is true that the Communist Party of China has established close contact with the volunteer army operating in the northeastern provinces of China. Thus, for instance, Yang Tsin-yiu, Chao, Shan Chi, Li Kun-kuen and other prominent leaders of the volunteer army are Communists. The successes they have achieved in organising determined resistance to Japan are generally known. In these provinces too a national united front is now being realised. Besides the Communists there are also other groupings – various military units and mass organisations. They have already united on the basis of a common programme of action.
Question: What is your general opinion of the position adopted by the U.S.A. with regard to the Japano-Chinese war?
Answer: The support that democracy in the U.S.A. is giving the cause of international peace, the condemnation of fascism by President Roosevelt, the sympathetic attitude of the American papers towards the resistance that China is offering to Japan and, in particular, the support the masses of the American people are giving the Chinese people in their struggle against Japan – all this we welcome and are grateful for to the American people. But we hope that the U.S.A. will go further, that it will unite with other states to wage a practical struggle against aggressors. It is time for China, the U.S.A. and all other states fighting against aggressors to unite for the purpose of resisting the enemies of universal peace.
Declaration by Communists,
Members of the National Political Council of China
Hsin Hua Jih Pao has published a letter by Mao Tse-tung, Wang Ming, Tsing Pan-sing, Lin Chu-han, Wu Yui-chan. Tung Pi-wu and Teng Yin-chao, the Communist Party of China’s representatives on the National Political Council.
The letter states:
‘We, seven members of the Communist Party, have been approved as members of the National Political Council. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China has sanctioned our acceptance of the government appointment. The establishment of the National Political Council during the war of liberation evinces that the political life of China is progressing towards democracy and that the united front of the parties and the people is developing still further. Although the Council, both in the method whereby it was established and in its composition, is not yet an absolutely representative body of the people, nevertheless, its authority and functions in uniting all the forces for armed resistance to the enemy show that in its political life China is more and more effectively developing as a democracy.
‘We Communists, having in mind the possibility of developing the Council into a genuine body of people’s representatives, will enthusiastically and sincerely participate in its work. We presume that our active participation in the Council will facilitate strengthening the forces of defence of the Wuchang cities (Hankow, Hanyang and Wuchang).
‘The purpose of the Communist Party of China in participating in the Council is to collaborate with the Kuomintang and other parties and groups in order to carry out the concrete proposals and measures which aim at achieving complete victory in the war of national liberation. The representatives of the Communist Party will cooperate with other parties and groups so as to defeat the Japanese invaders and create the foundation of an independent, free and happy new China.
‘In order to achieve this aim the fighting capacity of the army at the front must be strengthened and guerilla warfare conducted on a still larger scale. The political apparatus must be reorganised, the formation of popular organisations in the various provinces must be encouraged, the masses must be organised and mobilised in order to take an active part in the armed resistance. In the sphere of the national economy: national defence industries must be established rapidly, finances must be improved, industrial output increased and effective measures must be improved, industrial output increased and effective measures must be adopted to improve the conditions of life of the people. The growth and consolidation of the anti-Japanese united front will depend on the application of all these measures.’
In conclusion the letter states:
‘The Communist members of the Council do not repudiate responsibility on the pretext that the members of the Council are not elected by the people. We realise deeply that the members of the Council are the servants of the people, consequently we will resolutely strive to realise the desires, hopes and demands of the people of China. The unanimous demand of the people is that national unity be strengthened and the Japanese invaders driven out of China. We hope that our fellow countrymen will assist us and criticise us if we commit any mistakes. We hope that all the members of the Council will fulfill the desires of our people.’
From: Chen Lin: ‘China’s Fight for National Liberation,’ Workers’ Library Publishers, New York, 1938, pp. 54-63.
Click here to return to the
September 2005 index.
Click here to return to the Mao Archive.