Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung


November 6, 1938

[This article is part of Comrade Mao Tse-tung's concluding speech at the Sixth Plenary Session of the Sixth Central Committee of the Party. In his "Problems of Strategy in Guerrilla War Against Japan" and "On Protracted War", Comrade Mao Tse-tung had already settled the question of the Party's leading role in the War of Resistance Against Japan. But some comrades, committing Right opportunist errors, denied that the Party must maintain its independence and initiative in the united front, and so doubted and even opposed the Party's line on the war and on strategy.

In order to overcome this Right opportunism, bring the whole Party to a clearer understanding of the prime importance of the problems of war and strategy in the Chinese revolution and mobilize it for serious work in this connection, Comrade Mao Tse-tung again stressed the importance of the subject at this plenary session, approaching it from the viewpoint of the history of China's political struggles, and analysed the development of the Party's military work and the specific changes in its strategy The result was unanimity of thought in the Party leadership and unanimity of action throughout the Party.]


The seizure of power by armed force, the settlement of the issue by war, is the central task and the highest form of revolution. This Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution holds good universally, for China and for all other countries.

But while the principle remains the same, its application by the party of the proletariat finds expression in varying ways according to the varying conditions. Internally, capitalist countries practice bourgeois democracy (not feudalism) when they are not fascist or not at war; in their external relations, they are not oppressed by, but themselves oppress, other nations. Because of these characteristics, it is the task of the party of the proletariat in the capitalist countries to educate the workers and build up strength through a long period of legal struggle, and thus prepare for the final overthrow of capitalism. In these countries, the question is one of a long legal struggle, of utilizing parliament as a platform, of economic and political strikes, of organizing trade unions and educating the workers. There the form of organization is legal and the form of struggle bloodless (non-military). On the issue of war, the Communist Parties in the capitalist countries oppose the imperialist wars waged by their own countries; if such wars occur, the policy of these Parties is to bring about the defeat of the reactionary governments of their own countries. The one war they want to fight is the civil war for which they are preparing.[1] But this insurrection and war should not be launched until the bourgeoisie becomes really helpless, until the majority of the proletariat are determined to rise in arms and fight, and until the rural masses are giving willing help to the proletariat. And when the time comes to launch such an insurrection and war, the first step will be to seize the cities, and then advance into the countryside' and not the other way about. All this has been done by Communist Parties in capitalist countries, and it has been proved correct by the October Revolution in Russia.

China is different however. The characteristics of China are that she is not independent and democratic but semi-colonial and semi-feudal, that internally she has no democracy but is under feudal oppression and that in her external relations she has no national independence but is oppressed by imperialism. It follows that we have no parliament to make use of and no legal right to organize the workers to strike. Basically, the task of the Communist Party here is not to go through a long period of legal struggle before launching insurrection and war, and not to seize the big cities first and then occupy the countryside, but the reverse.

When imperialism is not making armed attacks on our country, the Chinese Communist Party either wages civil war jointly with the bourgeoisie against the warlords (lackeys of imperialism), as in 1924-27 in the wars in Kwangtung Province [2] and the Northern Expedition, or unites with the peasants and the urban petty bourgeoisie to wage civil war against the landlord class and the comprador bourgeoisie (also lackeys of imperialism), as in the War of Agrarian Revolution of 1927-36. When imperialism launches armed attacks on China, the Party unites all classes and strata in the country opposing the foreign aggressors to wage a national war against the foreign enemy, as it is doing in the present War of Resistance Against Japan.

All this shows the difference between China and the capitalist countries. In China war is the main form of struggle and the army is the main form of organization. Other forms such as mass organization and mass struggle are also extremely important and indeed indispensable and in no circumstances to be overlooked, but their purpose is to serve the war. Before the outbreak of a war all organization and struggle are in preparation for the war, as in the period from the May 4th Movement of 1919 to the May 30th Movement of 1925. After war breaks out, all organization and struggle are coordinated with the war either directly or indirectly, as, for instance, in the period of the Northern Expedition when all organization and struggle in the rear areas of the revolutionary army were co-ordinated with the war directly, and those in the Northern warlord areas were co-ordinated with the war indirectly. Again in the period of the War of Agrarian Revolution all organization and struggle inside the Red areas were co-ordinated with the war directly, and outside the Red areas indirectly. Yet again in the present period, the War of Resistance, all organization and struggle in the rear areas of the anti-Japanese forces and in the areas occupied by the enemy are directly or indirectly co-ordinated with the war.

"In China the armed revolution is fighting the armed counterrevolution. That is one of the specific features and one of the advantages of the Chinese revolution."[3] This thesis of Comrade Stalin's is perfectly correct and is equally valid for the Northern Expedition, the War of Agrarian Revolution, and the present War of Resistance Against Japan. They are all revolutionary wars; all directed against counter-revolutionaries and all waged mainly by the revolutionary people, differing only in the sense that a civil war differs from a national war, and that a war conducted by the Communist Party differs from a war it conducts jointly with the Kuomintang. Of course, these differences are important. They indicate the breadth of the main forces in the war (an alliance of the workers and peasants, or of the workers, peasants and bourgeoisie) and whether our antagonist in the war is internal or external (whether the war is against domestic or foreign foes, and, if domestic, whether against the Northern warlords or against the Kuomintang); they also indicate that the content of China's revolutionary war differs at different stages of its history. But all these wars are instances of armed revolution fighting armed counterrevolution, they are all revolutionary wars, and all exhibit the specific features and advantages of the Chinese revolution. The thesis that revolutionary war "is one of the specific features and one of the advantages of the Chinese revolution" fits China's conditions perfectly. The main task of the party of the Chinese proletariat, a task confronting it almost from its very inception, has been to unite with as many allies as possible and, according to the circumstances, to organize armed struggles for national and social liberation against armed counterrevolution, whether internal or external. Without armed struggle the proletariat and the Communist Party would have no standing at all in China, and it would be impossible to accomplish any revolutionary task.

Our Party did not grasp this point fully during the first five or six years after it was founded, that is, from 1921 to its participation in the Northern Expedition in 1926. It did not then understand the supreme importance of armed struggle in China, or seriously prepare for war and organize armed forces, or apply itself to the study of military strategy and tactics. During the Northern Expedition it neglected to win over the army but laid one-sided stress on the mass movement, with the result that the whole mass movement collapsed the moment the Kuomintang turned reactionary. For a long time after 1927 many comrades continued to make it the Party's central task to prepare for insurrections in the cities and to work in the White areas. It was only after our victory in repelling the enemy's third "encirclement and suppression" campaign in 1931 that some comrades fundamentally changed their attitude on this question. But this was not true of the whole Party, and the