Autobiography of Chairman Mao Tse-tung

Proletarians of all countries, unite!
There is one goal, the conquest of power!


Chairman Mao Tse-tung

Red Star Over China
Grove Press 1973
Reproduced by
The Red Flag
Chairman Mao Tse-tung in Yenan, 1936.

Chairman Mao Tse-tung with Edgar Snow in Yenan, 1937.


These autobiographical notes by Chairman Mao Tse-tung were told to the American journalist Edgar Snow in 1936 and included in the latter‘s book, „Red Star Over China“. Chairman Gonzalo wrote of Chairman Mao Tse-tung‘s life:We can say from Chairman Mao Tse-tung‘s biography that he was born on December 26th, 1893, opening his eyes to an agitated world scorched by the flames of war; the son of peasants, he was seven years old when the ‚Boxer Rebellions‘ began; a student at a teachers‘ training college, he was in his 18th year when the Empire collapsed and he enlisted himself as a soldier, later to become a great organizer of peasants and of the youth in Hunan, his native province. Founder of the Communist Party and of the Workers‘ and Peasants‘ Red Army, he established the path of surrounding the cities from the countryside, developing people‘s war as the military theory of the proletariat. He was the theoretician of new democracy and founder of the People‘s Republic; a promoter of the Great Leap Forward and of the development of socialism; the leader of the struggle against the contemporary revisionism of Khrushchev and his henchmen, leader and head of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. These are landmarks of a life devoted thoroughly and solely to the revolution. The proletariat has seen three gigantic triumphs in this century: Two of them belong to Chairman Mao, and if one is glory enough, two are even more.“ (1st Congress of the Communist Party of Peru: „Fundamental Documents“, 1988.)


I was born in the village of Shao Shan, in Hsiang Tan county, Hunan province, in 1893. My father‘s name was Mao Jen-sheng [Mao Shun-sheng], and my mother‘s maiden name was Wen Chi-mei.

My father was a poor peasant and while still young was obliged to join the army because of heavy debts. He was a soldier for many years. Later on he returned to the village where I was born, and by saving carefully and gathering together a little money through small trading and other enterprise he managed to buy back his land.

As middle peasants then my family owned 15 mou of land. On this they could raise 60 tan of rice a year. The five members of the family consumed a total of 35 tan — that is, about seven each — which left an annual surplus of 25 tan. Using this surplus, my father accumulated a little capital and in time purchased seven more mou, which gave the family the status of „rich“ peasants. We could then raise 84 tan of rice a year.

When I was ten years of age and the family owned only 15 mou of land, the five members of the family consisted of my father, mother, grandfather, younger brother, and myself. After we had acquired the additional seven mou, my grandfather died, but there came another younger brother. However, we still had a surplus of 49 tan of rice each year, and on this my father steadily prospered.

At the time my father was a middle peasant he began to deal in grain transport and selling, by which he made a little money. After he became a „rich“ peasant, he devoted most of his time to that business. He hired a full-time farm laborer, and put his children to work on the farm, as well as his wife. I began to work at farming tasks when I was six years old. My father had no shop for his business. He simply purchased grain from the poor farmers and then transported it to the city merchants, where he got a higher price. In the winter, when the rice was being ground, he hired an extra laborer to work on the farm, so that at that time there were seven mouths to feed. My family ate frugally, but had enough always.

I began studying in a local primary school when I was eight and remained there until I was 13 years old. In the early morning and at night I worked on the farm. During the day I read the Confucian Analects and the Four Classics. My Chinese teacher belonged to the stern-treatment school. He was harsh and severe, frequently beating his students. Because of that I ran away from the school when I was ten. I was afraid to return home for fear of receiving a beating there, and set out in the general direction of the city, which I believed to be in a valley somewhere. I wandered for three days before I was finally found by my family. Then I learned that I had circled round and round in my travels, and in all my walking had got only about eight li from my home.

After my return to the family, however, to my surprise conditions somewhat improved. My father was slightly more considerate and the teacher was more inclined to moderation. The result of my act of protest impressed me very much. It was a successful „strike“.

My father wanted me to begin keeping the family books as soon as I had learned a few characters. He wanted me to learn to use the abacus. As my father insisted upon this I began to work at those accounts at night. He was a severe taskmaster. He hated to see me idle, and if there were no books to be kept he put me to work at farm tasks. He was a hot-tempered man and frequently beat both me and my brothers. He gave us no money whatever, and the most meager food. On the 15th of every month he made a concession to his laborers and gave them eggs with their rice, but never meat. To me he gave neither eggs nor meat.

My mother was a kind woman, generous and sympathetic, and ever ready to share what she had. She pitied the poor and often gave them rice when they came to ask for it during famines. But she could not do so when my father was present. He disapproved of charity. We had many quarrels in my home over this question.

There were two „parties“ in the family. One was my father, the Ruling Power. The Opposition was made up of myself, my mother, my brother, and sometimes even the laborer. In the „united front“ of the Opposition, however, there was a difference of opinion. My mother advocated a policy of indirect attack. She criticized any overt display of emotion and attempts at open rebellion against the Ruling Power. She said it was not the Chinese way.

But when I was 13 I discovered a powerful argument of my own for debating with my father on his own ground, by quoting the Classics. My father‘s favorite accusations against me were of unfilial conduct and laziness. I quoted, in exchange, passages from the Classics saying that the elder must be kind and affectionate. Against his charge that I was lazy I used the rebuttal that older people should do more work than younger, that my father was over three times as old as myself, and therefore should do more work. And I declared that when I was his age I would be much more energetic.

The old man continued to „amass wealth“, or what was considered to be a great fortune in that little village. He did not buy more land himself, but he bought many mortgages on other people‘s land. His capital grew to 2,000-3,000 yuan.1

My dissatisfaction increased. The dialectical struggle in our family was constantly developing.2 One incident I especially remember. When I was about 13 my father invited many guests to his home, and while they were present a dispute arose between the two of us. My father denounced me before the whole group, calling me lazy and useless. This infuriated me. I cursed him and left the house. My mother ran after me and tried to persuade me to return. My father also pursued me, cursing at the same time that he commanded me to come back. I reached the edge of a pond and threatened to jump in if he came any nearer. In this situation demands and counterdemands were presented for cessation of the civil war. My father insisted that I apologize and kou-tou3 as a sign of submission. I agreed to give a one-knee kou-tou if he would promise not to beat me. Thus the war ended, and from it I learned that when I defended my rights by open rebellion my father relented, but when I remained meek and submissive he only cursed and beat me the more.

Reflecting on this, I think that in the end the strictness of my father defeated him. I learned to hate him, and we created a real united front against him. At the same time it probably benefited me. It made me most diligent in my work; it made me keep my books carefully, so that he should have no basis for criticizing me.

My father had had two years of schooling and he could read enough to keep books. My mother was wholly illiterate. Both were from peasant families. I was the family „scholar“. I knew the Classics, but disliked them. What I enjoyed were the romances of Old China, and especially stories of rebellions. I read the Yo Fei Chronicles, Water Margin, Revolt Against the Tang, the Tale of the Three Kingdoms and Pilgrimage to the West4, while still very young, and despite the vigilance of my old teacher, who hated these outlawed books and called them wicked. I used to read them in school, covering them up with a Classic when the teacher walked past. So also did most of my schoolmates. We learned many of the stories almost by heart, and discussed and rediscussed them many times. We knew more of them than the old men of the village, who also loved them and used to exchange stories with us. I believe that perhaps I was much influenced by such books, read at an impressionable age.

I finally left the primary school when I was 13 and began to work long hours on the farm, helping the hired laborer, doing the full labor of a man during the day and at night keeping books for my father. Nevertheless, I succeeded in continuing my reading, devouring everything I could find except the Classics. This annoyed my father, who wanted me to master the Classics, especially after he was defeated in a lawsuit because of an apt Classical quotation used by his adversary in the Chinese court. I used to cover up the window of my room late at night so that my father would not see the light. In this way I read a book called Words of Warning,5 which I liked very much. The author, one of a number of old reformist scholars, thought that the weakness of China lay in her lack of Western appliances — railways, telephones, telegraphs, and steamships — and wanted to have them introduced into the country. My father considered such books a waste of time. He wanted me to read something practical like the Classics, which could help him in winning lawsuits.

I continued to read the old romances and tales of Chinese literature. It occurred to me one day that there was one thing peculiar about such stories, and that was the absence of peasants who tilled the land. All the characters were warriors, officials, or scholars; there was never a peasant hero. I wondered about this for two years, and then I analyzed the content of the stories. I found that they all glorified men of arms, rulers of the people, who did not have to work the land, because they owned and controlled it and evidently made the peasants work it for them

My father was in his early days, and in middle age, a skeptic, but my mother devoutly worshiped Buddha. She gave her children religious instruction, and we were all saddened that our father was an unbeliever. When I was nine years old I seriously discussed the problem of my father‘s lack of piety with my mother. We made many attempts then and later on to convert him, but without success. He only cursed us, and, overwhelmed by his attacks, we withdrew to devise new plans. But he would have nothing to do with the gods.

My reading gradually began to influence me, however, I myself became more and more skeptical. My mother became concerned about me, and scolded me for my indifference to the requirements of the faith, but my father made no comment. Then one day he went out on the road to collect some money, and on his way he met a tiger. The tiger was surprised at the encounter and fled at once, but my father was even more astonished and afterwards reflected a good deal on his miraculous escape. He began to wonder if he had not offended the gods. From then on he showed more respect to Buddhism and burned incense now and then. Yet when my own backsliding grew worse, the old man did not interfere. He prayed to the gods only when he was in difficulties.

Words of Warning stimulated in me a desire to resume my studies. I had also become disgusted with my labor on the farm. My father naturally opposed me. We quarreled about it, and finally I ran away from home. I went to the home of an unemployed law student, and there I studied for half a year. After chat I studied more of the Classics under an old Chinese scholar, and also read many contemporary articles and a few books.

At this time an incident occurred in Hunan which influenced my whole life. Outside the little Chinese school where I was studying, we students noticed many bean merchants coming back from Changsha. We asked them why they were all leaving. They told us about a big uprising in the city.

There had been a severe famine that year, and in Changsha thousands were without food. The starving sent a delegation to the civil governor to beg for relief, but he replied to them haughtily: „Why haven‘t you food? There is plenty in the city. I always have enough.“ When the people were told the governor‘s reply, they became very angry. They held mass meetings and organized a demonstration. They attacked the Manchu yamen, cut down the flagpole, the symbol of office, and drove out the governor. Following this, the Commissioner of Internal Affairs, a man named Chang, came out on his horse and told the people that the government would take measures to help them. Chang was evidently sincere in his promise, but the Emperor disliked him and accused him of having intimate connections with „the mob“. He was removed. A new governor arrived, and at once ordered the arrest of the leaders of the uprising. Many of them were beheaded and their heads displayed on poles as a warning to future „rebels“.

This incident was discussed in my school for many days. It made a deep impression on me. Most of the other students sympathized with the „insurrectionists“, but only from an observer‘s point of view. They did not understand that it had any relation to their own lives. They were merely interested in it as an exciting incident. I never forgot it. I felt that there with the rebels were ordinary people like my own family and I deeply resented the injustice of the treatment given to them.

Not long afterward, in Shao Shan, there was a conflict between members of the Ke Lao Hui6, a secret society, and a local landlord. He sued them in court, and as he was a powerful landlord he easily bought a decision favorable to himself. The Ke Lao Hui members were defeated. But instead of submitting, they rebelled against the landlord and the government and withdrew to a local mountain called Liu Shan, where they built a stronghold. Troops were sent against them and the landlord spread a story that they had sacrificed a child when they raised the banner of revolt. The leader of the rebels was called Pang the Millstone Maker. They finally suppressed and Pang was forced to flee. He was eventually captured and beheaded. In the eyes of the students, however, he was a hero, for all sympathized with the revolt.

Next year, when the new rice was not yet harvested and the winter rice was exhausted, there was a food shortage in our district. The poor demanded help from the rich farmers and they began a movement called „Eat Rice Without Charge“7. My father was a rice merchant and was exporting much grain to the city from our district, despite the shortage. One of his consignments was seized by the poor villagers and his wrath was boundless. I did not sympathize with him. At the same time I thought the villagers‘ method was wrong also.

Another influence on me at this time was the presence in a local primary school of a „radical“ teacher. He was „radical“ because he was opposed to buddhism and wanted to get rid of the gods. He urged people to convert their temples into schools. He was a widely discussed personality. I admired him and agreed with his views.

These incidents, occurring close together, made lasting impressions on my young mind, already rebellious. In this period also I began to have a certain amount of political consciousness, especially after I read a pamphlet telling of the dismemberment of China. I remember even now that this pamphlet opened with the sentence: „Alas, China will be subjugated!“ It told of Japan‘s occupation of Korea and Taiwan, of the loss of suzerainty in Indochina, Burma, and elsewhere. After I read this I felt depressed about the future of my country and began to realize that it was the duty of all the people to help save it.

My father had decided to apprentice me to a rice shop in Hsiang Tan, with which he had connections. I was not opposed to it at first, thinking it might be interesting. But about this time I heard of an unusual new school and made up my mind to go there, despite my father‘s opposition. This school was in Hsiang Hsiang county, where my mother‘s family lived. A cousin of mine was a student there and he told me of the new school and of the changing conditions in „modern education“. There was less emphasis on the Classics, and more was taught of the „new knowledge“ of the West. The educational methods, also, were quite „radical“.

I went to the school with my cousin and registered. I claimed to be a Hsiang Hsiang man, because I understood that the school was open only to natives of Hsiang Hsiang. Later on I took my true status as a Hsiang Tan native when I discovered that the place was open to all. I paid 1,400 coppers here for five months‘ board, lodging, and all materials necessary for study. My father finally agreed to let me enter; after friends had argued to him that this „advanced“ education would increase my earning powers. This was the first time I had been as far away from home as fifty li. I was 16 years old.

In the new school I could study natural science and new subjects of Western learning. Another notable thing was that one of the teachers was a returned student from Japan, and he wore a false queue. It was quite easy to tell that his queue was false. Everyone laughed at him and called him the „False Foreign Devil“.

I had never before seen so many children together. Most of them were sons of landlords, wearing expensive clothes; very few peasants could afford to send their children to such a school, I was more poorly dressed than the others. I owned only one decent coat-and-trousers suit. Gowns were not worn by students, but only by the teachers, and none but „foreign devils“ wore foreign clothes. Many of the richer students despised me because usually I was wearing my ragged coat and trousers. However, among them I had friends, and two especially were my good comrades. One of those is now a writer, living in Council Russia.8

I was also disliked because I was not a native of Hsiang Hsiang. It was very important to be a native of Hsiang Hsiang and also important to be from a certain district of Hsiang Hsiang. There was an upper, lower, and middle district, and lower and upper were continually fighting, purely on a regional basis. Neither could become reconciled to the existence of the other. I took a neutral position in this war, because I was not a native at all. Consequently all three factions despised me. I felt spiritually very depressed.

I made good progress at this school. The teachers liked me, especially those who taught the Classics, because I wrote good essays in the Classical manner. But my mind was not on the Classics. I was reading two books sent to me by my cousin, telling of the reform movement of Kang Yu-wei. One was by Liang Chi-chao9, editor of the New People‘s Miscellany. I read and reread those books until I knew them by heart. I worshiped Kang Yu-wei and Liang Chi-chao, and was very grateful to my cousin, whom I then thought very progressive, but who later became a counterrevolutionary, a member of the gentry, and joined the reactionaries in the period of the Great Revolution of 1925-27.

Many of the students disliked the False Foreign Devil because of his inhuman queue, but I liked hearing him talk about Japan. He taught music and English. One of his songs was Japanese and was called „The Battle on the Yellow Sea“. I still remember some charming words from it:

The sparrow sings,
The nightingale dances,
And the green fields are lovely in the spring.
The pomegranate flowers crimson,
The willows are green-leaved,
And there is a new picture.“

At that time I knew and felt the beauty of Japan, and felt something of her pride and might, in this song of its victory over Russia.10 I did not think there was also a barbarous Japan — the Japan we know today.

This is all I learned from the False Foreign Devil.

I recall also that at about this time I first heard that the Emperor and Tzu Hsi, the Empress Dowager, were both dead, although the new Emperor, Hsuan Tung [Pu Yi], had already been ruling for two years. I was not yet an anti-monarchist; indeed, I considered the Emperor as well as most officials to be honest, good, and clever men. They only needed the help of Kang Yu-wei‘s reforms. I was fascinated by accounts of the rulers of ancient China: Yao, Shun, Chin Shih Huang Ti, and Han Wu Ti, and read many books about them.11 I also learned something of foreign history at this time, and of geography. I had first heard of the USA in an article which told of the American Revolution and contained a sentence like this: „After eight years of difficult war, Washington won victory and built up his nation.“ In a book called Great Heroes of the World, I read also of Napoleon, Catherine of Russia, Peter the Great, Wellington, Gladstone, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Lincoln.


I began to long to go to Changsha, the great city, the capital of the province, which was 120 li from my home. It was said that this city was very big, contained many, many people, numerous schools, and the yamen of the governor. It was a magnificent place altogether. I wanted very much to go there at this time, and enter the middle school for Hsiang Hsiang people. That winter I asked one of my teachers in the higher primary school to introduce me there. The teacher agreed, and I walked to Changsha, exceedingly excited, half fearing that I would be refused entrance, hardly daring to hope that I could actually become a student in this great school. To my astonishment, I was admitted without difficulty. But political events were moving rapidly and I was to remain there only half a year.

In Changsha I read my first newspaper, People‘s Strength, a nationalist revolutionary journal which told of the Kwangchow Uprising against the Manchu Dynasty and the death of the 72 Heroes, under the leadership of a Hunanese named Huang Hsing. I was most impressed with this story and found the People‘s Strength full of stimulating material. It was edited by Yu Yu-jen, who later became a famous leader of the Kuomintang. I reamed also of Sun Yat-sen at this time, and of the program of the Tung Meng Hui.12 The country was on the eve of the 1st Revolution. I was so agitated that I wrote an article, which I posted on the school wall. It was my first expression of a political opinion, and it was somewhat muddled. I had not yet given up my admiration of Kang Yu-wei and Liang Chi-chao. I did not clearly understand the differences between them. Therefore in my article I advocated that Sun Yat-sen must be called back from Japan to become president of the new government, that Kang Yu-wei be made premier, and Liang Chi-chao minister of foreign affairs!13

The anti-foreign-capital movement began in connection with the building of the Szechuan-Hankow railway, and a popular demand for a parliament became widespread. In reply to it the Emperor decreed merely that an advisory council be created. The students in my school became more and more agitated. They demonstrated their anti-Manchu sentiments by a rebellion against the pig tail.14 One friend and I clipped off our pigtails, but others, who had promised to do so, afterward failed to keep their word. My friend and I therefore assaulted them in secret and forcibly removed their queues, a total of more than ten falling victim to our shears. Thus in a short space of time I had progressed from ridiculing the False Foreign Devil‘s imitation queue to demanding the general abolition of queues. How a political idea can change a point of view!

I got into a dispute with a friend in a law school over the pigtail episode, and we each advanced opposing theories on the subject. The law student held that the body, skin, hair, and nails are heritages from one‘s parents and must not be destroyed, quoting the Classics to clinch his argument. But I myself and the antipigtailers developed a countertheory, on an anti-Manchu political basis, and thoroughly silenced him.

After the Wuhan Uprising occurred,15 led by Li Yuan-hung, martial law was declared in Hunan. The political scene rapidly altered. One day a revolutionary appeared in the middle school and made a stirring speech, with the permission of the principal. Seven or eight students arose in the assembly and supported him with vigorous denunciation of the Manchus, and calls for action to establish the Republic. Everyone listened with complete attention. Not a sound was heard as the orator of the revolution, one of the officials of Li Yuan-hung spoke before the excited students.

Four or five days after hearing this speech I determined to join the revolutionary army of Li Yuan-hung. I decided to go to Hankow with several other friends, and we collected some money from our classmates. Having heard that the streets of Hankow were very wet, and that it was necessary to wear rain shoes, I went to borrow some from a friend in the army, who was quartered outside the city. I was stopped by the garrison guards. The place had become very active, the soldiers had for the first time been furnished with bullets, and they were pouring into the streets.

Rebels were approaching the city along the Kwangchow-Hankow railway, and fighting had begun. A big battle occurred outside the city walls of Changsha. There was at the same time an insurrection within the city, and the gates were stormed and taken by Chinese laborers. Through one of the gates I reentered the city. Then I stood on a high place and watched the battle, until at last I saw the Han16 flag raised over the yamen. It was a white banner with the character Han in it. I returned to my school, to find it under military guard.

On the following day, a tutu17 government was organized. Two prominent members of the Elder Brother Society were made tutu and vice-tutu. These were Chiao Ta-feng and Chen Tso-hsing, respectively. The new government was established in the former buildings of the provincial advisory council, whose chief had been Tan Yen-kai, who was dismissed. The council itself was abolished. Among the Manchu documents found by the revolutionaries were some copies of a petition begging for the opening of parliament. The original had been written in blood by Hsu Teh-li, who is now commissioner of education in the Council Government. Hsu had cut off the end of his finger, as a demonstration of sincerity and determination, and his petition began: „Begging that parliament be opened, I bid farewell [to the provincial delegates to Peking] by cutting my finger.“

The new tutu and vice-tutu did not last long. They were not bad people, and had some revolutionary intentions, but they were poor and represented the interests of the oppressed. The landlords and merchants were dissatisfied with them. Not many days later, when I went to call on a friend, I saw their corpses lying in the street. Tan Yen-kai had organized a revolt against them, as representative of the Hunan landlords and militarists.

Many students were now joining the army. A student army had been organized and among these students was Tang Sheng-chih.18 I did not like the student army; I considered the basis of it too confused. I decided to join the regular army instead, and help complete the revolution. The Ching Emperor had not yet abdicated, and there was a period of struggle.

My salary was seven yuan a month — which is more than I get in the Red Army now, however — and of this I spent two yuan a month on food. I also had to buy water. The soldiers had to carry water in from outside the city, but I, being a student, could not condescend to carrying, and bought it from the water peddlers. The rest of my wages were spent on newspapers, of which I became an avid reader. Among journals then dealing with the revolution was the Hsiang River Daily. Socialism was discussed in it, and in these columns I first learned the term. I also discussed socialism, really social-reformism, with other students and soldiers. I read some pamphlets written by Kiang Kang-hu about socialism and its principles. I wrote enthusiastically to several of my classmates on this subject, but only one of them responded in agreement.

There was a Hunan miner in my squad, and an ironsmith, whom I liked very much. The rest were mediocre, and one was a rascal. I persuaded two more students to join the army, and came to be on friendly terms with the platoon commander and most of the soldiers. I could write, I knew something about books, and they respected my „great learning“. I could help by writing letters for them or in other such ways.

The outcome of the revolution was not yet decided. The Ching had not wholly given up power, and there was a struggle within the Kuomintang concerning the directorship. It was said in Hunan that further war was inevitable. Several armies were organized against the Manchus and against Yuan Shih-kai.19 Among these was the Hunan army. But just as the Hunanese were preparing to move into action, Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shih-kai came to an agreement, the scheduled war was called off, North and South were „unified“, and the Nanking Government was dissolved. Thinking the revolution was over, I resigned from the army and decided to return to my books. I had been a soldier for half a year.

I began to read advertisements in the papers. Many schools were then being opened and used this medium to attract new students. I had no special standard for judging schools; I did not know exactly what I wanted to do. An advertisement for a police school caught my eye and I registered for entrance to it. Before I was examined, however, I read an advertisement of a soap-making „school“. No tuition was required, board was furnished and a small salary was promised. It was an attractive and inspiring advertisement. It told of the great social benefits of soap making, how it would enrich the country and enrich the people. I changed my mind about the police school and decided to become a soap maker. I paid my dollar registration fee here also.

Meanwhile a friend of mine had become a law student and he urged me to enter his school. I also read an alluring advertisement of this law school, which promised many wonderful things. It promised to teach students all about law in three years and guaranteed that at the end of this period they would instantly become mandarins. My friend kept praising the school to me, until finally I wrote to my family, repeated all the promises of the advertisement, and asked them to send me tuition money. I painted a bright picture for them of my future as a jurist and mandarin. Then I paid one yuan to register in the law school and waited to hear from my parents.

Fate again intervened in the form of an advertisement for a commercial school. Another friend counseled me that the country was in economic war, and that what was most needed were economists who could build up the country‘s economy. His argument prevailed and I spent another dollar to register in this commercial middle school. I actually enrolled there and was accepted. Meanwhile, however, I continued to read advertisements, and one day I read one describing the charms of a higher commercial public school. It was operated by the government, it offered a wide curriculum, and I heard that its instructors were very able people. I decided it would be better to become a commercial expert there, paid my dollar and registered, then wrote my father of my decision. He was pleased. My father readily appreciated the advantages of commercial cleverness. I entered this school and remained — for one month.

The trouble with my new school, I discovered, was that most of the courses were taught in English, and, in common with other students, I knew little English; indeed, scarcely more than the alphabet. An additional handicap was that the school provided no English teacher. Disgusted with this situation, I withdrew from the institution at the end of the month and continued my perusal of the advertisements.

My next scholastic adventure was in the 1st Provincial Middle School. I registered for a yuan, took the entrance examination, and passed at the head of the list of candidates. It was a big school, with many students, and its graduates were numerous. A Chinese teacher there helped me very much; he was attracted to me because of my literary tendency. This teacher lent me a book called the Chronicles with Imperial Commentaries, which contained imperial edicts and critiques by Chien Lung.20

About this time a government magazine exploded in Changsha. There was a huge fire, and we students found it very interesting. Tons of bullets and shells exploded, and gunpowder made an intense blaze. It was better than firecrackers. About a month later Tan Yen-kai was driven out by Yuan Shih-kai, who now had control of the political machinery of the Republic. Tang Hsiang-ming replaced Tan Yen-kai and he set about making arrangements for Yuan‘s enthronement [in an attempted restoration of the monarchy, which speedily failed].

I did not like the 1st Middle School. Its curriculum was limited and its regulations were objectionable. After reading Chronicles with Imperial Commentaries I had also come to the conclusion that it would be better for me to read and study alone. After six months I left the school and arranged a schedule of education of my own, which consisted of reading every day in the Hunan Provincial Library. I was very regular and conscientious about it, and the half-year I spent in this way I consider to have been extremely valuable to me. I went to the library in the morning when it opened. At noon I paused only long enough to buy and eat two rice cakes, which were my daily lunch. I stayed in the library every day reading until it closed.

During this period of self-education I read many books, studied world geography and world history. There for the first time I saw and studied with great interest a map of the world. I read Adam Smith‘s The Wealth of Nations, and Darwin‘s Origin of Species, and a book on ethics by John Stuart Mill. I read the works of Rousseau, Spencer‘s Logic, and a book on law written by Montesquieu. I mixed poetry and romances, and the tales of ancient Greece, with serious study of history and geography of Russia, the USA, England, France, and other countries.

I was then living in a guild house for natives of Hsiang Hsiang district. Many soldiers were there also — „retired“ or disbanded troops from the district, who had no work to do and little money. Students and soldiers were always quarreling in the guild house, and one night this hostility between them broke out in physical violence. The soldiers attacked and tried to kill the students. I escaped by fleeing to the toilet, where I hid until the fight was over.

I had no money then, my family refusing to support me unless I entered school, and since I could no longer live in the guild house I began looking for a new place to lodge. Meanwhile, I had been thinking seriously of my „career“ and had about decided that I was best suited for teaching. I had begun reading advertisements again. An attractive announcement of the Hunan Normal School now came to my attention, and I read with interest of its advantages: no tuition required, and cheap board and cheap lodging. Two of my friends were also urging me to enter. They wanted my help in preparing entrance essays. I wrote of my intention to my family and I received their consent. I composed essays for my two friends, and wrote one of my own. All were accepted — in reality, therefore, I was accepted three times. I did not then think my act of substituting for my friends an immoral one; it was merely a matter of friendship.

I was a student in the normal school for five years, and managed to resist the appeals of all future advertising. Finally I actually got my degree. Incidents in my life here, in the Hunan Provincial 1st Normal [Teachers‘ Training] School, were many, and during this period my political ideas began to take shape. Here also I acquired my first experiences in social action.

There were many regulations in the new school and I agreed with very few of them. For one thing I was opposed to the required courses in natural science. I wanted to specialize in social sciences. Natural sciences did not especially interest me, and I did not study them, so I got poor marks in most of these courses. Most of all I hated a compulsory course in still-life drawing. I thought it extremely stupid. I used to think of the simplest subjects possible to draw, finish up quickly and leave the class. I remember once, drawing a picture of the „half-sun, half-rock“,21 which I represented by a straight line with a semicircle over it. Another time during an examination in drawing I contented myself with making an oval. I called it an egg. I got 40 in drawing, and failed. Fortunately my marks in social sciences were all excellent, and they balanced my poor grades in these other classes.

A Chinese teacher here, whom the students nicknamed „Yuan the Big Beard“, ridiculed my writing and called it the work of a journalist. He despised Liang Chi-chao, who had been my model, and considered him half-literate. I was obliged to alter my style. I studied the writings of Han Yu, and mastered the old Classical phraseology. Thanks to Yuan the Big Beard, therefore, I can today still turn out a passable Classical essay if required.

The teacher who made the strongest impression on me was Yang Chang-chi, a returned student from England, with whose life I was later to become intimately related. He taught ethics, he was an idealist and a man of high moral character. He believed in his ethics very strongly and tried to imbue his students with the desire to become just, moral, virtuous men, useful in society. Under his influence I read a book on ethics translated by Tsai Yuan-pei and was inspired to write an essay which I entitled „The Energy of the Mind“. I was then an idealist and my essay was highly praised by Professor Yang Chang-chi, from his idealist viewpoint. He gave me a mark of 100 for it.

A teacher named Tang used to give me old copies of the People‘s Journal, and I read them with keen interest. I learned from them about the activities and program of the Tung Meng Hui. One day I read a copy of the People‘s Journal containing a story about two Chinese students who were traveling across China and had reached Tatsienlu, on the edge of Tibet. This inspired me very much. I wanted to follow their example; but I had no money, and thought I should first try out traveling in Hunan.

The next summer I set out across the province by foot, and journeyed through five counties. I was accompanied by a student named Hsiao Yu. We walked through these five counties without using a single copper. The peasants fed us and gave us a piece to sleep; wherever we went we were kindly treated and welcomed. This fellow, Hsiao Yu, with whom I traveled, later became a Kuomintang official in Nanking, under Yi Pei-chi, who was then president of Hunan Normal School. Yi Pei-chi became a high official at Nanking and had Hsiao Yu appointed to the office of custodian of the Peking Palace Museum. Hsiao sold some of the most valuable treasures in the museum and absconded with the funds in 1934.

Feeling expansive and the need for a few intimate companions, I one day inserted an advertisement in a Changsha paper inviting young people interested in patriotic work to make a contact with me. I specified youths who were hardened and determined, and ready to make sacrifices for their country. To this advertisement I received three and one half replies. One was from Lu Chiang-lung, who later was to join the Communist Party and afterwards to betray it. Two others were from young men who later were to become ultra-reactionaries. The „half“ reply came from a non-committal youth named Li Li-san. Li listened to all I had to say, and then went away without making any definite proposals himself, and our friendship never developed.22

But gradually I did build up a group of students around myself, and the core was formed of what later was to become a society23 that was to have a widespread influence on the affairs and destiny of China. It was a serious-minded little group of people and they had no time to discuss trivialities. Everything they did or said must have a purpose. They had no time for love or „romance“ and considered the times too critical and the need for knowledge too urgent to discuss women or personal matters. I was not interested in women. My parents had married me when I was 14 to a girl of 20, but I had never lived with her — and never subsequently did. I did not consider her my wife and at this time gave little thought to her. Quite aside from the discussions of female charm, which usually play an important role in the lives of young men of this age, my companions even rejected talk of ordinary matters of daily life. I remember once being in the house of a youth who began to talk to me about buying some meat, and in my presence called in his servant and discussed the matter with him, then ordered him to buy a piece. I was annoyed and did not see that fellow again. My friends and I preferred to talk only of large matters — the nature of humanity, of human society, of China, the world, and the universe!

We also became ardent physical culturists. In the winter holidays we tramped through the fields, up and down mountains, along city walls, and across the streams and rivers. If it rained we took off our shirts and called it a rain bath. When the sun was hot we also doffed shirts and called it a sun bath. In the spring winds we shouted that this was a new sport called „wind bathing“. We slept in the open when frost was already falling and even in November swam in the cold rivers. All this went on under the title of „body training“. Perhaps it helped much to build the physique which I was to need so badly later on in my many marches back and forth across South China, and on the Long March from Kiangsi to the Northwest.

I built up a wide correspondence with many students and friends in other towns and cities. Gradually I began to realize the necessity for a more closely knit organization. In 1917, with some other friends, I helped to found the New People‘s Study Society. It had from 70 to 80 members, and of these many were later to become famous names in Chinese communism and in the history of the Chinese Revolution. Among the better-known communists who were in the New People‘s Study Society were Lo Man (Li Wei-han), now secretary of the Party Organization Committee; Hsia Hsi, now in the 2nd Front Red Army; Ho Shu-heng, who became high judge of the Supreme Court in the Central Council regions and was later killed by Chiang Kai-shek (1935); Kuo Liang, a famous labor organizer, killed by General Ho Chien in 1930; Hsiao Chu-chang,24 a writer now in Council Russia; Tsai Ho-sen, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, killed by Chiang Kai-shek in 1927; Yeh Li-yun, who became a member of the Central Committee, and later „betrayed“ to the Kuomintang and became a capitalist trade-union organizer, and Hsiao Chen, a prominent Party leader, one of the six signers of the original agreement for the formation of the Party, who died not long ago from illness. The majority of the members of the New People‘s Study Society were killed in the counter-revolution of 1927.25

Another society that was formed about that time, and resembled the New People‘s Study Society, was the Social Welfare Society of Hupeh. Many of its members also later became communists. Among them was Yun Tai-ying, who was killed during the counterrevolution by Chiang Kai-shek. Lin Piao, now president of the Red Army University, was a member. So was Chang Hao, now in charge of work among White troops [those taken prisoner by the Reds]. In Peking there was a society called Hu Sheh, some of whose members later became Reds. Elsewhere in China, notably in Shanghai, Hangchow, Hankow, and Tientsin,26 radical societies were organized by the militant youth then beginning to assert an influence on Chinese politics.

Most of these societies were organized more or less under the influences of the New Youth, the famous magazine of the literary renaissance, edited by Chen Tu-hsiu. I began to read this magazine while I was a student in the normal school and admired the articles of Hu Shih and Chen Tu-hsiu very much. They became for a while my models, replacing Liang Chi-chao and Kang Yu-wei, whom I had already discarded.

At this time my mind was a curious mixture of ideas of liberalism, democratic reformism, and utopian socialism. I had somewhat vague passions about „19th century democracy“, utopianism, and old-fashioned liberalism, and I was definitely anti-militarist and anti-imperialist.

I had entered the normal school in 1912. I was graduated in 1918.


(During Mao‘s recollections of his past I noticed that an auditor at least as interested as I was Ho Tzu-chen, his wife. Many of the facts he told about himself and the communist movement she had evidently never heard before, and this was true of most of Mao‘s comrades in Pao An. Later on, when I gathered biographical notes from other Red leaders, their colleagues often crowded around interestedly to listen to the stories for the first time. Although they had all fought together for years, very often they knew nothing of each other‘s pre-communist days, which they had tended to regard as a kind of Dark Ages period, one‘s real life beginning only when one became a communist.

It was another night, and Mao sat cross-legged, leaning against his dispatch boxes. He lit a cigarette from a candle and took up the thread of the story where he had left off the evening before:)

During my years in normal school in Changsha I had spent, altogether, only $160 — including my numerous registration fees! Of this amount I must have used a third for newspapers, because regular subscriptions cost me about a dollar a month, and I often bought books and journals on the newsstands. My father cursed me for this extravagance. He called it wasted money on wasted paper. But I had acquired the newspaper-reading habit, and from 1911 to 1927, when I climbed up Chingkangshan, I never stopped reading the daily papers of Peking, Shanghai, and Hunan.

In my last year in school my mother died, and more than ever I lost interest in resuming home. I decided, that summer, to go to Peking. Many students from Hunan were planning trips to France, to study under the „work and learn“ scheme, which France used to recruit young Chinese in its cause during the World War. Before leaving China these students planned to study French in Peking. I helped organize the movement, and in the groups who went abroad were many students from the Hunan Normal School, most of whom were later to become famous radicals. Hsu Teh-li was influenced by the movement also, and when he was over 40 he left his professorship at Hunan Normal School and went to France. He did not become a communist, however, till 1927.

I accompanied some of the Hunanese students to Peking. However, although I had helped organize the movement, and it had the support of the New People‘s Study Society, I did not want to go to Europe. I felt that I did not know enough about my own country, and that my time could be more profitably spent in China. Those students who had decided to go to France studied French then from Li Shih-tseng, who is now president of the Sing-French University, but I did not. I had other plans.

Peking seemed very expensive to me. I had reached the capital by borrowing from friends, and when I arrived I had to look for work at once. Yang Chang-chi, my former ethics teacher at the normal school, had become a professor at Peking National University. I appealed to him for help in finding a job, and he introduced me to the university librarian. He was Li Ta-chao, who later became a founder of the Communist Party of China, and was afterwards executed by Chang Tso-lin.27 Li Ta-chao gave me work as assistant librarian, for which I was paid the generous sum of $8 a month.

My office was so low that people avoided me. One of my tasks was to register the names of people who came to read newspapers, but to most of them I didn‘t exist as a human being. Among those who came to read I recognized the names of famous leaders of the renaissance movement, men like Fu Ssu-nien, Lo Chia-lun, and others, in whom I was intensely interested. I tried to begin conversations with them on political and cultural subjects, but they were very busy men. They had no time to listen to an assistant librarian speaking southern dialect.

But I wasn‘t discouraged. I joined the Society of Philosophy, and the Journalism Society, in order to be able to attend classes in the university. In the Journalism Society I met fellow students like Chen Kung-po, who is now a high official at Nanking; Tan Ping-shan, who later became a communist and still later a member of the so-called „Third Party“; and Shao Piao-ping. Shao especially helped me very much. He was a lecturer in the Journalism Society, a liberal, and a man of fervent idealism and fine character. He was killed by Chang Tso-lin in 1926.

While I was working in the library I also met Chang Kuo-tao, now vice-chairman of the Council Government; Kang Pei-chen, who later joined the Ku Klux Klan in California; and Tuan Hsi-peng, now Vice-Minister of Education in Nanking. And here also I met and fell in love with Yang Kai-hui. She was the daughter of my former ethics teacher, Yang Chang-chi, who had made a great impression on me in my youth, and who afterwards was a genuine friend in Peking.

My interest in politics continued to increase, and my mind turned more and more radical. I have told you of the background for this. But just now I was still confused, looking for a road, as we say. I read some pamphlets on anarchy, and was much influenced by them. With a student named Chu Hsun-pei, who used to visit me, I often discussed anarchism and its possibilities in China. At that time I favored many of its proposals.

My own living conditions in Peking were quite miserable, and in contrast the beauty of the old capital was a vivid and living compensation. I stayed in a place called San Yen-ching [„Three-Eyes Well“], in a little room which held seven other people. When we were all packed fast on the kang there was scarcely room enough for any of us to breathe. I used to have to warn people on each side of me when I wanted to turn over. But in the parks and the old palace grounds I saw the early northern spring, I saw the white plum blossoms flower while the ice still held solid over Pei Hai [„the North Sea“].28 I saw the willows over Pei Hai with the ice crystals hanging from them and remembered the description of the scene by the Tang poet Chen Chang, who wrote about Pei Hai‘s winter-jeweled trees looking „like ten thousand peach trees blossoming“. The innumerable trees of Peking aroused my wonder and admiration.

Early in 1919 I went to Shanghai with the students bound for France. I had a ticket only to Tientsin, and I did not know how I was to get any farther. But, as the Chinese proverb says: „Heaven will not delay a traveler“, and a fortunate loan of ten yuan from a fellow student, who had got some money from the Auguste Comte School in Peking, enabled me to buy a ticket as far as Pu-kou. On the way to Nanking I stopped at Chu Fu and visited Confucius‘ grave. I saw the small stream where Confucius‘ disciples bathed their feet and the little town where the sage lived as a child. He is supposed to have planted a famous tree near the historic temple dedicated to him, and I saw that. I also stopped by the river where Yen Hui one of Confucius‘ famous disciples, had once lived, and I saw the birthplace of Mencius. On this trip I climbed Tai Shan, the sacred mountain of Shantung, where General Feng Yu-hsiang retired and wrote his patriotic scrolls.

But when I reached Pu-kou I was again without a copper, and without a ticket. Nobody had any money to lend me; I did not know how I was to get out of town. But the worst of the tragedy happened when a thief stole my only pair of shoes! Ai-ya! What was I to do? But again: „Heaven will not delay a traveler“, and I had a very good piece of luck. Outside the railway station I met an old friend from Hunan, and he proved to be my „good angel“. He lent me money for a pair of shoes, and enough to buy a ticket to Shanghai. Thus I safely completed my journey — keeping an eye on my new shoes. At Shanghai I found that a good sum had been raised to help send the students to France, and an allowance had been provided to help me return to Hunan. I saw my friends off on the steamer and then set out for Changsha.

During my first trip to the North, as I remember it, I made these excursions:

I walked around the lake of Tung Ting, and I circled the wall of Paotingfu. I walked on the ice of the Gulf of Pei Hail I walked around the wall of Hsuchou, famous in the Tale of the Three Kingdoms, and around Nanking‘s wall, also famous in history. Finally I climbed Tai Shan and visited Confucius‘ grave. These seemed to me then achievements worth adding to my adventures and walking tours in Hunan.

When I resumed to Changsha I took a more direct role in politics. After the May 4th Movement29 I had devoted most of my time to student political activities, and I was editor of the Hsiang River Review, the Hunan students‘ paper, which had a great influence on the student movement in South China. In Changsha I helped found the Cultural Book Society, an association for study of modern cultural and political tendencies. This society, and more especially the New People‘s Study Society, were violently opposed to Chang Ching-yao, then tuchun of Hunan, and a vicious character. We led a general student strike against Chang, demanding his removal, and sent delegations to Peking and the Southwest, where Sun Yat-sen was then active, to agitate against him. In retaliation for the students‘ opposition, Chang Ching-yao suppressed the Hsiang River Review.

After this I went to Peking, to represent the New People‘s Study Society and organize an anti-militarist movement there. The society broadened its fight against Chang Ching-yao into a general anti-militarist agitation, and I became head of a news agency to promote this work. In Hunan the movement was rewarded with some success. Chang Ching-yao was overthrown by Tan Yen-kai, and a new regime was established in Changsha. About this time the society began to divide into two groups, a Right and a Left — the Left insisting on a programme of far-reaching social and economic and political changes.

I went to Shanghai for the second time in 1919. There once more I saw Chen Tu-hsiu.30 I had first met him in Peking, when I was at Peking National University, and he had influenced me perhaps more than anyone else. I also met Hu Shih at that time, having called on him to try to win his support for the Hunanese students‘ struggle. In Shanghai I discussed with Chen Tu-hsiu our plans for a League for Reconstruction of Hunan. Then I returned to Changsha and began to organize it. I took a place as a teacher there, meanwhile continuing my activity in the New People‘s Study Society. The society had a programme then for the „independence“ of Hunan, meaning, really, autonomy. Disgusted with the Northern Government, and believing that Hunan could modernize more rapidly if freed from connections with Peking, our group agitated for separation. I was then a strong supporter of America‘s Monroe Doctrine and the Open Door.

Tan Yen-kai was driven out of Hunan by a militarist called Chao Heng-ti, who utilized the „Hunan independence“ movement for his own ends. He pretended to support it, advocating the idea of a United Autonomous States of China, but as soon as he got power he suppressed the democratic movement with great energy. Our group had demanded equal rights for men and women, and representative government, and in general approval of a platform for a bourgeois democracy. We openly advocated these reforms in our paper, the New Hunan. We led an attack on the provincial parliament, the majority of whose members were landlords and gentry appointed by the militarists. This struggle ended in our pulling down the scrolls and banners, which were full of nonsensical and extravagant phrases.

The attack on the parliament was considered a big incident in Hunan, and frightened the rulers. However, when Chao Heng-ti seized control he betrayed all the ideas he had supported, and especially he violently suppressed all demands for democracy. Our society therefore turned the struggle against him. I remember an episode in 1920, when the New People‘s Study Society organized a demonstration to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the Russian October Revolution. It was suppressed by the police. Some of the demonstrators had attempted to raise the red flag at that meeting, but were prohibited from doing so by the police. The demonstrators pointed out that, according to Article 12 of the Constitution, the people had the right to assemble, organize, and speak, but the police were not impressed. They replied that they were not there to be taught the Constitution, but to carry out the orders of the governor, Chao Heng-ti. From this time on I became more and more convinced that only mass political power, secured through mass action, could guarantee the realization of dynamic reforms.31

In the winter of 1920 I organized workers politically for the first time, and began to be guided in this by the influence of marxist theory and the history of the Russian revolution. During my second visit to Peking I had read much about the events in Russia, and had eagerly sought out what little communist literature was then available in Chinese. Three books especially deeply carved my mind, and built up in me a faith in marxism, from which, once I had accepted it as the correct interpretation of history, I did not afterwards waver. These books were the Communist Manifesto, translated by Chen Wang-tao and the first marxist book ever published in Chinese; „The Class Struggle“, by Kautsky; and a „History of Socialism“, by Kirkup. By the summer of 1920 I had become, in theory and to some extent in action, a marxist, and from this time on I considered myself a marxist. In the same year I married Yang Kai-hui.32


(Mao was now a marxist but not a communist, because as yet there did not exist in China an organized Communist Party. As early as 1919 Chen Tu-hsiu had established contact with the Communist International through Russians living in Peking, as had Li Ta-chao. It was not until the spring of 1920 that Gregori Voitinsky, an authorized representative of the Communist International, reached Peking, in the company of Yang Ming-chai, a member of the Communist Party of Russia who acted as his interpreter. They conferred with Li Ta-chao and probably also met members of Li‘s Society for the Study of Marxist Theory. In the same year the energetic and persuasive Jahn Henricus Sneevliet, a Dutch agent of the 3rd Intemational came to Shanghai for talks with Chen Tu-hsiu, who was conferring with serious Chinese marxists there. It was Chen who, in May, 1920, summoned a conference that organized a nuclear communist group. Some members of it became (with Li Ta-chao‘s group in Peking, another group set up in Kwangchow by Chen, groups in Shantung and Hupeh, and Mao‘s group in Hunan) conveners of a Shanghai conference the following year that (with the help of Voitinsky) summoned the 1st Congress of the Communist Party of China.

When one remembered, in 1937, that the Communist Party of China was still an adolescent in years, its achievements could be regarded as not inconsiderable. It was the strongest Communist Party in the world, outside of Russia, and the only one, with the same exception, that could boast an army of its own.

Another night, and Mao carried on his narrative.)

In May of 1921 I went to Shanghai to attend the founding meeting of the Communist Party. In its organization the directin roles were played by Ch‘en Tu-hsiu and Li Ta-chao, both of whom were among the most brilliant intellectual leaders of China. Under Li Ta-chao, as assistant librarian at Peking National University, I had rapidly developed toward marxism, and Chen Tu-hsiu had been instrumental in my interests in that direction too. I had discussed with Chen, on my second visit to Shanghai, the marxist books that I had read, and Chen‘s own assertions of belief had deeply impressed me at what was probably a critical period of my life.

There was only one other Hunanese33 at that historic meeting [the 1st National Congress of the Party] in Shanghai. Others present were Chang Kuo-tao, now vice-chairman of the Red Army military council; Pao Hui-sheng; and Chou Fu-hai. Altogether there were 12 of us. In Shanghai [those elected to] the Central Committee of the Party included Chen Tu-hsiu, Chang Kuo-tao, Chen Kung-po, Shih Tseng-tung (now a Nanking official), Sun Yuan-lu, Li Han-chun (killed34 in Wuhan in 1927), Li Ta, and Li Sun (later executed). The following October the first provincial branch of the Party was organized in Hunan and I became a militant of it. Organizations were also established in other provinces and cities. Militants in Hupeh included Tung Pi-wu (now chairman of the Communist Party School in Pao An), Hsu Pai-hao, and Shih Yang (executed in 1923). In the Shensi Party were Kao Chung-yu (Kao Kang) and some famous student leaders. In [the Party branch of] Peking were Li Ta-chao (executed, with 19 other Peking communists, in 1927), Teng Chung-hsia (executed by Chiang Kai-shek in 1934), Lo Chung-lun, Liu Jen-ching (now a trotskyite), and others. In Kwangchow were Lin Po-chu (Lin Tsu-han), now Commissioner of Finance in the Council Government, and Peng Pai (executed in 1929). Wang Chun-mei and Teng En-ming were among the founders of the Shantung branch.

Meanwhile, in France, a Chinese Communist Party35 had been organized by many of the worker-students there, and its founding was almost simultaneous with the beginning of the organization in China. Among the founders of the Party [Youth League] there were Chou En-lai, Li Li-san, and Hsiang Ching-wu, the wife of Tsai Ho-sen. Lo Man (Li Wei-han) and Tsai Ho-sen were also founders of the French branch. A Chinese Party was organized in Germany, but this was somewhat later, among its militants were Kao Yu-han, Chu Teh (now commander-in-chief of the Red Army), and Chang Sheng-fu (now a professor at Tsinghua University). In Moscow the founders of the branch were Chu Chiu-pai and others, and in Japan there was Chou Fu-hai.

In May, 1922, the Hunan Party, of which I was then secretary,36 had already organized more than 20 trade unions among miners, railway workers, municipal employees, printers, and workers in the government mint. A vigorous labor movement began that winter. The work of the Communist Party was then concentrated mainly on students and workers, and very little was done among the peasants. Most of the big mines were organized, and virtually all the students. There were numerous struggles on both the students‘ and workers‘ fronts. In the winter of 1922, Chao Heng-ti, civil governor of Hunan, ordered the execution of two Hunanese workers, Huang Ai and Pang Yuan-ching, and as a result a widespread agitation began against him. Huang Ai, one of the two workers killed, was a leader of the Right-wing labor movement, which had its base in the industrial-school students and was opposed to us, but we supported them in this case, and in many other struggles. Anarchists were also influential in the trade unions, which were then organized into an All-Hunan Labor Syndicate. But we compromised and through negotiation prevented many hasty and useless actions by them.

I was sent to Shanghai to help organize the movement against Chao Heng-ti. The 2nd Congress of the Party was convened in Shanghai that winter [1922], and I intended to attend. However, I forgot the name of the place where it was to be held, could not find any comrades, and missed it. I returned to Hunan and vigorously pushed the work among the labor unions. That spring there were many strikes for better wages and better treatment and recognition of the labor unions. Most of these were successful. On May 1st, a general strike was called in Hunan, and this marked the achievement of unprecedented strength in the labor movement of China.

The 3rd Congress of the Communist Party was held in Kwangchow in [May] 1923 and the historic decision was reached to enter the Kuomintang, cooperate with it, and create a united front against the northern militarists. I went to Shanghai and worked in the Central Committee of the Party. Next spring [1924] I went to Kwangchow and attended the 1st National Congress of the Kuomintang. In March, I resumed to Shanghai and combined my work in the executive bureau [Central Committee] of the Communist Party with membership in the executive bureau [Central Executive Committee] of the Kuomintang of Shanghai. The other members of this bureau then were Wang Ching-wei (later premier at Nanking) and Hu Han-min, with whom I worked in coordinating the measures of the Communist Party and the Kuomintang. That summer the Whampoa Military Academy was set up. Galin became its adviser, other Soviet advisers arrived from Russia, and the Kuomintang-Communist Party entente began to assume the proportions of a countrywide revolutionary movement. The following winter I resumed to Hunan for a rest — I had become ill in Shanghai — but while in Hunan I organized the core of the great peasant movement of that province.

Formerly I had not fully realized the degree of class struggle among the peasantry, but after the May 30th Incident [1925],37 and during the great wave of political activity which followed it, the Hunanese peasantry became very militant. I left my home, where I had been resting, and began a rural organizational campaign. In a few months we had formed more than twenty peasant unions, and had aroused the wrath of the landlords, who demanded my arrest. Chao Heng-ti sent troops after me, and I fled to Kwangchow. I reached there just at the time the Whampoa students had defeated Yang Hsi-ming, the Yunnan militarist, and Lu Tsung-wai, the Kwangsi militarist, and an air of great optimism pervaded the city and the Kuomintang. Chiang Kai-shek had been made commander of the 1st Army and Wang Ching-wei chairman of the government, following the death of Sun Yat-sen in Peking.

I became editor of the Political Weekly, a publication of the propaganda department of the Kuomintang [headed by Wang Ching-wei]. It later played a very active role in attacking and discrediting the Right of the Kuomintang, led by Tai Chi-tao. I was also put in charge of training organizers for the peasant movement [the Peasant Movement Training Institute38], and established a course for this purpose which was attended by representatives from 21 different provinces, and included students from Inner Mongolia. Not long after my arrival in Kwangchow I became chief of the agitation and propaganda department of the Kuomintang and candidate for the Central Committee. Lin Tsu-han was then chief of the peasant department of the Kuomintang, and Tan Ping-shan, another communist, was chief of the workers‘ department.

I was writing more and more, and assuming special responsibilities in peasant work in the Communist Party. On the basis of my study and of my work in organizing the Hunan peasants, I wrote two pamphlets, one called „An Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society“ and the other called „The Class Basis of Chao Heng-ti, and the Tasks Before Us“. Chen Tu-hsiu opposed the opinions expressed in the first one, which advocated a radical land policy and vigorous organization of the peasantry, under the Communist Party, and he refused it publication in the communist central organs. It was later published in The Chinese Peasant, of Kwangchow, and in the magazine Chinese Youth. The second thesis was published as a pamphlet in Hunan. I began to disagree with Chen‘s Right-opportunist policy about this time, and we gradually drew further apart, although the struggle between us did not come to a climax until 1927.

I continued to work in the Kuomintang in Kwangchow until about the time Chiang Kai-shek attempted his first State coup there in March, 1926. After the reconciliation of Left and Right of the Kuomintang and the reaffirmation of Kuomintang-Communist Party solidarity, I went to Shanghai, in the spring of 1926. The 2nd Congress of the Kuomintang was held in May of that year, under the directorship of Chiang Kai-shek.39 In Shanghai I directed the Peasant Department of the Communist Party, and from there was sent to Hunan, as inspector of the peasant movement [for both the Kuomintang and the Communist Party].40 Meanwhile, under the united front of the Kuomintang and the Communist Party, the historic Northern Expedition began in the autumn of 1926.

In Hunan I inspected peasant organization and political conditions in five counties — Changsha, Li Ling, Hsiang T‘an, Hung Shan and Hsiang Hsiang — and made my report [„Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan“] to the Central Committee, urging the adoption of a new line in the peasant movement. Early next spring when I reached Wuhan, an interprovincial meeting of peasants was held, and I attended it and discussed the proposals of my thesis, which carried recommendations for a widespread redistribution of land. At this meeting were Peng Pai, Fang Chih-min, and two Russian communists, York and Volen, among others. A resolution was passed adopting my proposal for submission to the 5th Congress of the Communist Party. The Central Committee, however, rejected it.

When the 5th Congress of the Party was convened in Wuhan in May, 1927, the Party was still under the domination of Chen Tu-hsiu. Although Chiang Kai-shek had already led the counterrevolution and begun his attacks on the Communist Party in Shanghai and Nanking, Chen was still for moderation and concessions to the Wuhan Kuomintang. Overriding all opposition, he followed a Right-opportunist small-bourgeois policy. I was very dissatisfied with the Party policy then, especially toward the peasant movement. I think today that if the peasant movement had been more thoroughly organized and armed for a class struggle against the landlords, the councils would have had an earlier and far more powerful development throughout the whole country.

But Ch‘en Tu-hsiu violently disagreed.41 He did not understand the role of the peasantry in the revolution and greatly underestimated its possibilities at this time. Consequently the 5th Congress, held on the eve of the crisis of the Great Revolution, failed to pass an adequate land programme. My opinions, which called for rapid intensification of the agrarian struggle, were not even discussed, for the Central Committee, also dominated by Chen Tu-hsiu, refused to bring them up for consideration. The Congress dismissed the land problem by defining a landlord as „a peasant who owns over 500 mou of land“42 — a wholly inadequate and unpractical basis on which to develop the class struggle, and quite without consideration of the special character of land economy in China. Following the Congress, however, an All-China Peasants‘ Union was organized and I became first president of it.

By the spring of 1927 the peasant movement in Hupeh, Kiangsi, and Fukien, and especially in Hunan, had developed a startling militancy, despite the lukewarm attitude of the Communist Party to it, and the definite alarm of the Kuomintang. High officials and army commanders began to demand its suppression, describing the Peasants‘ Union as a „vagabond union“, and its actions and demands as excessive. Chen Tu-hsiu had withdrawn me from Hunan, holding me responsible for certain happenings there, and violently opposing my ideas.43

In April, the counterrevolutionary movement had begun in Nanking and Shanghai, and a general massacre of organized workers had taken place under Chiang Kai-shek. The same measures were carried out in Kwangchow. On May 21st, the Autumn Harvest Uprising occurred in Hunan. Scores of peasants and workers were killed by the reactionaries. Shortly afterwards the Left Kuomintang at Wuhan annulled its agreement with the communists and „expelled“ them from the Kuomintang and from a government which quickly ceased to exist.

Many communist leaders were now ordered by the Party to leave the country, go to Russia or Shanghai or places of safety. I was ordered to go to Szechuan. I persuaded Chen Tu-hsiu to send me to Hunan instead, as secretary of the Provincial Committee, but after ten days he ordered me to return at once, accusing me of organizing an uprising against Tang Sheng-chih, then in command at Wuhan. The affairs of the Party were now in a chaotic state. Nearly everyone was opposed to Chen Tu-hsiu‘s directorship and his opportunist line. The collapse of the entente at Wuhan soon afterwards brought about his downfall.


(A conversation I had with Mao Tse-tung concerning the much-disputed events of the spring of 1927 seemed to me of sufficient interest to mention here. It was not part of his autobiography, as he told it to me, but it was important to note as a personal reflection on what was a turning-point experience in the life of every Chinese communist.

I asked Mao whom he considered most responsible for the failure of the Communist Party in 1927, the defeat of the Wuhan coalition government, and the whole triumph of the Nanking dictatorship. Mao placed the greatest blame on Chen Tu-hsiu, whose „wavering opportunism deprived the Party of decisive directorship and a direct line of its own at a moment when further compromise clearly meant catastrophe“.

After Chen, the man he held responsible for the defeat was Mikhail Markovich Borodin, chief Russian political adviser, who was answerable directly to the Soviet Political Bureau. Mao explained that Borodin had completely reversed his position, favoring a radical land redistribution in 1926, but strongly opposing it in 1927, without any logical support for his vacillations. „Borodin stood just a little to the Right of Chen Tu-hsiu“, Mao said, „and was ready to do everything to please the bourgeoisie, even to the disarming of the workers, which he finally ordered.“ M. N. Roy, the Indian delegate to the Comintern, „stood a little to the Left of both Chen and Borodin, but he only stood.“ He „could talk“, according to Mao, „and he talked too much, without offering any method of realization.“ Mao thought that, objectively, Roy had been a fool, Borodin a blunderer, and Chen an unconscious traitor.

Chen was really frightened of the workers and especially of the armed peasants. Confronted at last with the reality of armed insurrection, he completely lost his senses. He could no longer see clearly what was happening, and his small-bourgeois instincts betrayed him into panic and defeat.“

Mao asserted that Chen was at that time complete dictator of the Chinese Party, and took vital decisions without even consulting the Central Committee. „He did not show other Party leaders the orders of the Comintern“, according to Mao, „or even discuss them with us.“ But in the end it was Roy who forced the break with the Kuomintang. The Comintern sent a message to Borodin ordering the Party to begin a limited confiscation of the landlords‘ land. Roy got hold of a copy of it and promptly showed it to Wang Ching-wei, then chairman of the Left Kuomintang Government at Wuhan. The result of this caprice is well known. The communists were expelled from the Kuomintang by the Wuhan regime, which soon afterward collapsed, having lost the support of regional warlords, who now sought safety in compromises with Chiang Kai-shek. Borodin and other Comintern agents fled to Russia, and arrived there in time to see the opposition crushed and Trotsky‘s „permanent revolution“ discredited, while Stalin set out in earnest to „build socialism in one country“.

Mao did not think that the counterrevolution would have been defeated in 1927 even if the Communist Party had carried out a more aggressive policy of land confiscation and created communist armies from among the workers and peasants before the split with the Kuomintang. „But the councils could have got an immense start in the South, and a base in which, afterwards, they would never have been destroyed.“

In his narrative of himself Mao had now reached the beginning of the councils, which arose from the wreckage of the revolution and struggled to build a victory out of defeat. He continued.)

On August 1st, 1927, the 20th Army, under Ho Lung and Yeh Ting, and in cooperation with Chu Teh, led the historic Nanchang Uprising, and the beginning of what was to become the Red Army was organized. A week later, on August 7th, an extraordinary meeting [Emergency Conference] of the Central Committee of the Party deposed Chen Tu-hsiu as Secretary. I had been a member of the Political Bureau of the Party since the 3rd Conference at Kwangchow in 1924, and was active in this decision, and among the ten other members present at the meeting were: Tsai Ho-sen, Peng Pai, Chang Kuo-tao and Chu Chiu-pai.44 A new line was adopted by the Party, and all hope of cooperation with the Kuomintang was given up for the present, as it had already become hopelessly the tool of imperialism and could not carry out the responsibilities of a democratic revolution. The long, open struggle for power now began.

I was sent to Changsha to organize the movement which later became known as the Autumn Harvest Uprising. My programme there called for the realization of five points:

  • Complete severance of the provincial Party from the Kuomintang.
  • Organization of a peasant-worker revolutionary army.
  • Confiscation of the property of small and middle, as well as great, landlords.
  • Setting up the power of the Communist Party in Hunan, independent of the Kuomintang.
  • Organization of councils. The fifth point at that time was opposed by the Comintern, and not till later did it advance it as a slogan.

In September we had already succeeded in organizing a widespread uprising, through the peasant unions of Hunan, and the first units of a peasant-worker army were formed. Recruits were drawn from three main sources — the peasantry itself, the Hanyang miners, and the insurrectionist troops of the Kuomintang. This early military force of the revolution was called the „1st Division of the 1st Peasants‘ and Workers‘ Army“. The first regiment was formed from the Hanyang miners.45 A second was created among the peasant guards in Ping Kiang, Liu Yang, Li Ling and two other county of Hunan, and a third from part of the garrison forces of Wuhan, which had revolted against Wang Ching-wei. This army was organized with the sanction of the Hunan Provincial Committee, but the general program of the Hunan Committee and of our army was opposed by the Central Committee of the Party, which seemed, however, to have adopted a policy of wait-and-see rather than of active opposition.

While I was organizing the army and traveling between the Hanyang miners and the peasant guards, I was captured by some min-tuan, working with the Kuomintang. The Kuomintang terror was then at its height and hundreds of suspected Reds were being shot. I was ordered to be taken to the min-tuan headquarters, where I was to be killed. Borrowing several tens of dollars from a comrade, however, I attempted to bribe the escort to free me. The ordinary soldiers were mercenaries, with no special interest in seeing me killed, and they agreed to release me, but the subaltern in charge refused to permit it. I therefore decided to attempt to escape, but had no opportunity to do so until I was within about 200 yards of the min-tuan headquarters. At that point I broke loose and ran into the fields.

I reached a high-place, above a pond, with some tall grass surrounding it, and there I hid until sunset. The soldiers pursued me, and forced some peasants to help them search. Many times they came very near, once or twice so close that I could almost have touched them, but somehow I escaped discovery, although half a dozen times I gave up hope, feeling certain I would be recaptured. At last, when it was dusk, they abandoned the search. At once I set off across the mountains, traveling all night. I had no shoes and my feet were badly bruised. On the road I met a peasant who befriended me, gave me shelter and later guided me to the next district. I had seven dollars with me, and used this to buy some shoes, an umbrella, and food. When at last I reached the peasant guards safely, I had only two coppers in my pocket.

With the establishment of the new division, I became chairman of its Party Front Committee, and Yu Sha-tou, a commander of the garrison troops at Wuhan, became commander of the 1st Army. Yu, however, had been more or less forced to take the position by the attitude of his troops; soon afterwards he deserted and joined the Kuomintang. He is now working for Chiang Kai-shek at Nanking.

The little army, directing the peasant uprising, moved southward through Hunan. It had to break its way through thousands of Kuomintang troops and fought many battles, with many reverses. Discipline was poor, political training was at a low level, and many wavering elements were among the troops and officers. There were many desertions. After Yu Sha-tou fled, the army was reorganized when it reached Ningtu. Chen Hao was made commander of the remaining troops, about one regiment; he, too, later on betrayed. But many in that first group remained loyal to the end, and are today still in the Red Army — people such as Lo Jung-huan, political commissar of the 1st Army Corps, and Yang Li-san, now an army commander. When the little band finally climbed up Chingkangshan they numbered in all only about one thousand.

Because the programme of the Autumn Harvest Uprising had not been sanctioned by the Central Committee, because also the First Army had suffered some severe losses, and from the angle of the cities the movement appeared doomed to failure, the Central Committee now definitely repudiated me.46 I was dismissed from the Politburo, and also from the Party [General] Front Committee. The Hunan Provincial Committee also attacked us, calling us „the rifle movement“. We nevertheless held our army together at Chingkangshan, feeling certain that we were following the correct line, and subsequent events were to vindicate us fully. New recruits were added and the division filled out again. I became its commander.

From the winter of 1927 to the autumn of 1928, the 1st Division held its base at Chingkangshan. In November, 1927, the first council was set up in Tsalin [Chaling] on the Hunan border, and the first council government was elected.47 Its chairman was Tu Chung-pin. In this council, and subsequently, we promoted a democratic programme, with a moderate policy, based on slow but regular development. This earned Chingkangshan the recriminations of putschists in the Party, who were demanding a terrorist policy of raiding, and burning and killing of landlords, in order to destroy their morale. The 1st Army Front Committee refused to adopt such tactics, and were therefore branded by the hotheads as „reformists“. I was bitterly attacked by them for not carrying out a more „radical“ policy.

Two former bandit leaders near Chingkangshan, named Wang Tso and Yuan Wen-tsai, joined the Red Army in the winter of 1927. This increased the strength to about three regiments. Wang and Yuan were both made regimental commanders and I was army commander. These two men, although former bandits, had thrown in their forces with the Kuomintang revolution, and were now ready to fight against the reaction. While I remained on Chingkangshan they were faithful communists, and carried out the orders of the Party. Later on, when they were left alone at Chingkangshan, they returned to their bandit habits. Subsequently they were killed by the peasants, by then organized and councilized and able to defend themselves.

In May of 1928, Chu Teh arrived at Chingkangshan and our forces were combined. Together we drew up a plan [at the 1st Maoping Conference] to establish a six-county council area, to stabilize and consolidate gradually the communist power in the Hunan-Kiangsi-Kwangtung border districts, and, with that as a base, to expand over greater areas. This strategy was in opposition to recommendations of the Party, which had grandiose ideas of rapid expansion. In the army itself Chu Teh and I had to fight against two tendencies: first, a desire to advance on Changsha [the capital of Hunan] at once, which we considered adventurism; second, a desire to withdraw to the south of the Kwangtung border, which we regarded as „retreatism“ [capitulationism]. Our main tasks, as we saw them then, were two: to divide the land, and to establish councils. We wanted to arm the masses to hasten those processes. Our policy called for free trade [with the White areas], generous treatment of captured enemy troops, and, in general, democratic moderation.48

A representative meeting [the 2nd Maoping Conference] was called at Chingkangshan in the autumn of 1928, and was attended by delegates from council districts north of Chingkangshan. Some division of opinion still existed among Party militants in the councils districts concerning the points mentioned above, and at this meeting differences were thoroughly aired. A minority argued that our future on this basis was narrowly limited, but the majority had faith in the policy, and when a resolution was proposed declaring that the council movement would be victorious, it was easily passed. The Party Central Committee, however, had not yet given the movement its sanction. This was not received till the winter of 1928, when the report of proceedings at the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of China, held in Moscow, reached Chingkangshan.

With the new line adopted at that Congress, Chu Teh and I were in complete agreement. From that time on, the differences between the leaders of the Party and the leaders of the council movement in the agrarian districts disappeared. Party harmony was reestablished.

Resolutions of the 6th Congress summarized the experience of the 1925-27 revolution and the Nanchang, Kwangchow, and Autumn Harvest uprisings. It concluded with approval of the emphasis on the agrarian movement. About this time Red armies began to appear elsewhere in China. Uprisings had occurred in western and eastern Hupeh, in the winter of 1927, and these furnished the basis for new council districts. Ho Lung in the west and Hsu Hai-tung in the east began to form their own worker-peasant armies. The latter‘s area of operations became the core of the Oyuwan Council, to which later on went Hsu Hsiang-chien and Chang Kuo-tao. Fang Chih-min and Hsiao Shih-ping had also begun a movement along the northeastern frontier of Kiangsi, adjacent to Fukien, in the winter of 1927, and out of this later developed a powerful council base. After the failure of the Kwangchow Uprising, Peng Pai had led part of the loyal troops to Hailufeng, and there formed a council, which, following a policy of putschism, was soon destroyed. Part of the army, however, emerged from the district under the command of Ku Ta-chen, and made connections with Chu Teh and myself, later on becoming the core of the 11th Red Army.

In the spring of 1928, guerrillas became active in Hsingkuo and Tungku in Kiangsi, led by Li Wen-lung and Li Shao-tsu. This movement had its base around Kian, and these guerrillas later became the core of the 3rd Army, while the district itself became the base of the Central Council Government. In western Fukien councils were established by Chang Ting-ch‘eng,49 Teng Tzu-hui, and Hu Pei-teh, who afterwards became a social-democrat.

During the „struggle against adventurism“ period at Chingkangshan, the 1st Army had defeated two attempts by White troops to retake the mountain. Chingkangshan proved to be an excellent base for a mobile army such as we were building. It had good natural defenses, and grew enough crops to supply a small army. It had a circuit of 500 li and was about 80 li in diameter. Locally it was known otherwise, as Ta Hsiao Wu Chin [Big-Little Five Wells], the real Chingkangshan being a nearby mountain, long deserted, and got its name from five main wells on its sides — ta, hsiao, shang, hsia, and chung, or big, small, upper, lower, and middle wells. The five villages on the mountain were named after these wells.

After the forces of our army combined at Chingkangshan there was a reorganization, the famous 4th Red Army was created, and Chu Teh was made commander, while I became political commissar. More troops arrived at Chingkangshan after uprisings and mutinies in Ho Chien‘s army, in the winter of 1928, and out of these emerged the 5th Red Army, commanded by Peng Teh-huai. In addition to Peng there were Teng Ping, killed at Tsunyi, Kweichow, during the Long March, Huang Kuo-nu, killed in Kwangsi in 1931, and Tien Teh-yuan.

Conditions on the mountain, with the arrival of so many troops, were becoming very bad. The troops had no winter uniforms, and food was extremely scarce. For months we lived practically on squash. The soldiers shouted a slogan of their own: „Down with capitalism, and eat squash!“ — for to them capitalism meant landlords and the landlords‘ squash. Leaving Peng Teh-huai at Chingkangshan, Chu Teh broke through the blockade established by the White troops, and in January, 1929, our first sojourn on the embattled mountain ended.

The 4th Army now began a campaign through the south of Kiangsi which rapidly developed successfully. We established a council in Tungku, and there met and united with local Red troops. Dividing forces, we continued into Yungting, Shangheng, and Lung Yen, and established councils in all those counties. The existence of militant mass movements prior to the arrival of the Red Army assured our success, and helped to consolidate council power on a stable basis very quickly. The influence of the Red Army now extended, through the agrarian mass movement and guerrillas, to several other county, but the communists did not fully take power there until later on.

Conditions in the Red Army began to improve, both materially and politically, but there were still many bad tendencies. „Guerrillaism“, for example, was a weakness reflected in lack of discipline, exaggerated ideas of democracy, and looseness of organization. Another tendency that had to be fought was „the ideology of roving rebel bands“ — a disinclination to settle down to the serious tasks of government, a love of movement, change, new experience and incident. There were also remnants of militarism, with some of the commanders maltreating or even beating the men, and discriminating against those they disliked personally, while showing favoritism to others.

Many of the weaknesses were overcome after the convening of the 9th Party Conference of the 4th Red Army, held in west Fukien [at Kutien] in December, 1929. Ideas for improvements were discussed, many misunderstandings leveled out, and new plans were adopted, which laid the foundations for a high type of ideological directorship in the Red Army. Prior to this the tendencies already described were very serious, and were utilized by a trotskyist faction in the Party and military directorship to undermine the strength of the movement. A vigorous struggle was now begun against them, and several were deprived of their Party positions and army command. Of these, Liu En-kang, an army commander, was typical. It was found that they intended to destroy the Red Army by leading it into difficult positions in battles with the enemy, and after several unsuccessful encounters their plans became quite evident. They bitterly attacked our program and everything we advocated. Experience having shown their errors, they were eliminated from responsible positions and after the Fukien Conference lost their influence.

This conference prepared the way for the establishment of the council power in Kiangsi. The following year was marked with some brilliant successes. Nearly the whole of southern Kiangsi fell to the Red Army. The base of the central council regions had been established.

On February 7th, 1930, an important local Party conference was called in south Kiangsi to discuss the future programme of the councils. It was attended by local representatives from the Party, the army, and the government. Here the question of the land policy was argued at great length, and the struggle against „opportunism“, directed by those opposed to redistribution, was overcome. It was resolved to carry out land redistribution and quicken the formation of councils. Until then the Red Army had formed only local and district councils. At this conference it was decided to establish the Kiangsi Provincial Council Government. To the new program the peasants responded with a warm, enthusiastic support which helped, in the months ahead, to defeat the extermination campaigns of the Kuomintang armies.


(Mao Tse-tung‘s account had begun to pass out of the category of „personal history“, and to sublimate itself somehow intangibly in the career of a great movement in which, though he retained a dominant role, you could not see him clearly as a personality. It was no longer „I“ but „we“; no longer Mao Tse-tung, but the Red Army; no longer a subjective impression of the experiences of a single life, but an objective record by a bystander concerned with the mutations of collective human destiny as the material of history.

As his story drew to a close it became more and more necessary for me to interrogate him about himself. What was he doing at that time? What office did he hold then? What was his attitude in this or that situation? And my questioning, generally, evoked such references as there are to himself in this last chapter of the narrative.)

Gradually the Red Army‘s work with the masses improved, discipline strengthened, and a new technique in organization developed. The peasantry everywhere began to volunteer to help the revolution. As early as Chingkangshan the Red Army had imposed three simple rules of discipline upon its fighters, and these were:

  • Prompt obedience to orders.
  • No confiscations whatever from the poor peasantry.
  • Prompt delivery directly to the government, for its disposal, of all goods confiscated from the landlords.

After the 1928 Conference [2nd Maoping Conference] emphatic efforts to enlist the support of the peasantry were made, and eight rules were added to the three listed above. These were as follows:

  • Replace all doors when you leave a house;50
  • Return and roll up the straw matting on which you sleep;
  • Be courteous and polite to the people and help them when you can;
  • Return all borrowed articles;
  • Replace all damaged articles;
  • Be honest in all transactions with the peasants;
  • Pay for all articles purchased;
  • Be sanitary, and, especially, establish latrines a safe distance from people‘s houses.

The last two rules were added by Lin Piao. These eight points were enforced with better and better success, and today are still the code of the Red soldier, memorized and frequently repeated by him.51 Three other duties were taught to the Red Army, as its primary purpose:

  • To struggle to the death against the enemy.
  • To arm the masses.
  • To raise money to support the struggle.

Early in 1929 several groups of guerrillas under Li Wen-lung and Li Shao-tsu were reorganized into the 3rd Red Army, commanded by Wang Kung-lu, and with Chen Yi as political commissar. During the same period, part of Chu Pei-teh‘s min-tuan mutinied and joined the Red Army. They were led to the communist camp by a Kuomintang commander, Lo Ping-hui, who was disillusioned about the Kuomintang and wanted to join the Red Army. He is now commander of the 32nd Red Army of the 2nd Front Army. From the Fukien guerrillas and core of regular Red troops the 12th Red Army was created under the command of Wu Chung-hao, with Tan Chen-lin as political commissar. Wu was later killed in battle and replaced by Lo Ping-hui.

It was at this time that the 1st Army Corps was organized, with Chu Teh as commander and myself as political commissar. It was composed of the 3rd Army, the 4th Army commanded by Lin Piao, and the 12th Army, under Lo Ping-hui. Party directorship was vested in a Front Committee, of which I was Chairman. There were already more than 10,000 troops in the 1st Army Corps then, organized into ten divisions. Besides this main force, there were many local and independent regiments, Red Guards and guerrillas.

Red tactics, apart from the political basis of the movement, explained much of the successful military development. At Chingkangshan four slogans had been adopted, and these give the clue to the methods of guerrilla warfare used, out of which the Red Army grew. The slogans were:

  • When the enemy advances, we retreat!
  • When the enemy halts and encamps, we trouble them!
  • When the enemy seeks to avoid a battle, we attack!
  • When the enemy retreats, we pursue!

These slogans [of four characters each in Chinese] were at first opposed by many experienced military persons, who did not agree with the type of tactics advocated. But much experience proved that the tactics were correct. Whenever the Red Army departed from them, in general, it did not succeed. Our forces were small, exceeded 10-20 times by the enemy; our resources and fighting materials were limited, and only by skillfully combining the tactics of maneuvering and guerrilla warfare could we hope to succeed in our struggle against the Kuomintang, fighting from vastly richer and superior bases.

The most important single tactic of the Red Army was, and remains, its ability to concentrate its main forces in the attack, and swiftly divide and separate them afterwards. This implied that positional warfare was to be avoided, and every effort made to meet the living forces of the enemy while in movement, and destroy them. On the basis of these tactics the mobility and the swift, powerful „short attack“ of the Red Army was developed.

In expanding council areas in general the programme of the Red Army favored a wavelike or tidal development, rather than an uneven advance, gained by „leaps“ or „jumps“, and without deep consolidation in the territories gained. The policy was pragmatic, just as were the tactics already described, and grew out of many years of collective military and political experience. These tactics were severely criticized by Li Li-san, who advocated the concentration of all weapons in the hands of the Red Army, and the absorption of all guerrilla groups. He wanted attacks rather than consolidation; advances without securing the rear; sensational assaults on big cities, accompanied by uprisings and extremism. The Li Li-san line dominated the Party then — outside council areas — and was sufficiently influential to force acceptance, to some extent, in the Red Army, against the judgment of its field command. One result of it was the attack on Changsha and another was the advance on Nanchang. But the Red Army refused to immobilize its guerrilla groups and open up its rear to the enemy during these adventures.

In the autumn of 1929 the Red Army moved into northern Kiangsi, attacking and occupying many cities, and inflicting numerous defeats on Kuomintang armies. When within striking distance of Nanchang the 1st Army Corps turned sharply west and moved on Changsha. In this drive it met and joined forces with Peng Teh-huai, who had already occupied Changsha once, but had been forced to withdraw to avoid being surrounded by vastly superior enemy troops. Peng had been obliged to leave Chingkangshan in April, 1929, and had carried out operations in southern Kiangsi, resulting in greatly increasing his troops. He rejoined Chu Teh and the main forces of the Red Army at Juichin in April, 1930, and after a conference it was decided that Peng‘s 3rd Army should operate on the Kiangsi-Hunan border, while Chu Teh and I moved into Fukien. It was in June, 1930, that the 3rd Army and the 1st Army corps reestablished a junction and began the second attack on Changsha. The 1st and 3rd Army corps were combined into the 1st Front Army, with Chu Teh as commander-in-chief and myself as political commissar. Under this directorship we arrived outside the walls of Changsha.

The Chinese Workers‘ and Peasants‘ Revolutionary Committee was organized about this time, and I was elected Chairman. The Red Army‘s influence in Hunan was widespread, almost as much so as in Kiangsi. My name was known among the Hunanese peasants, for big rewards were offered for my capture, dead or alive, as well as for Chu Teh and other Reds. My land52 in Hsiang Tan was confiscated by the Kuomintang. My wife and my sister, as well as the wives of my two brothers, Mao Tse-min and Mao Tse-tan, and my own sons were all arrested by Ho Chien [the warlord governor]. My wife (Kai-hui) and my sister (Tse-hung) were executed. The others were later released. The prestige of the Red Army even extended to my own village, in Hsiang Tan, for I heard the tale that the local peasants believed that I would be soon returning to my native home. When one day an airplane passed overhead, they decided it was I. They warned the man who was then tilling my land that I had come back to look over my old farm, to see whether or not any trees had been cut. If so, I would surely demand compensation from Chiang Kai-shek, they said.

But the second attack on Changsha proved to be a failure. Great reinforcements had been sent to the city and it was heavily garrisoned; besides, new troops were pouring into Hunan in September to attack the Red Army. Only one important battle occurred during the siege, and in it the Red Army eliminated two brigades of enemy troops. It could not, however, take the city of Changsha, and after a few weeks withdrew to Kiangsi.

This failure helped to destroy the Li Li-san line and saved the Red Army from what would probably have been a catastrophic attack on Wuhan, which Li was demanding. The main tasks of the Red Army then were the recruiting of new troops, the councilization of new rural areas, and, above all, the consolidation under thorough council power of such areas as already had fallen to the Red Army. For such a programme the attacks on Changsha were not necessary and had an element of adventure in them. Had the first occupation been undertaken as a temporary action, however, and not with the idea of attempting to hold the city and set up a State power there, its effects might have been considered beneficial, for the reaction produced on the national revolutionary movement was very great. The error was a strategic and tactical one, in attempting to make a base of Changsha while the council power was still not consolidated behind it.

(To interrupt Mao‘s narrative for a moment: Li Li-san was a Hunanese and a returned student from France. He divided time in Shanghai and Hankow, where the Communist Party had clandestine headquarters — only after 1930 was the Central Committee transferred to the council districts. Li dominated the Chinese Party from 1929 to 1930, when he was removed from the Politburo and sent to Moscow. Like Chen Tu-hsiu, Li Li-san lacked faith in the rural councils, and urged that strong aggressive tactics be adopted against strategic big capitals like Changsha, Wuhan, and Nanchang. He wanted a „terror“ in the villages to demoralize the gentry, a „mighty offensive“ by the workers, risings and strikes to paralyze the enemy in their bases, and „flank attacks“ in the north, from Outer Mongolia and Manchuria, backed by the USSR.)

But Li Li-san overestimated both the military strength of the Red Army at that time and the revolutionary factors in the national political scene. He believed that the revolution was nearing success and would shortly have power over the entire country. This belief was encouraged by the long and exhausting civil war then proceeding between Feng Yu-hsiang and Chiang Kai-shek, which made the outlook seem highly favorable to Li Li-san. But in the opinion of the Red Army the enemy was making preparations for a great drive against the councils as soon as the civil war was concluded, and it was no time for possibly disastrous putschism and adventures. This estimate proved to be entirely correct.

With the events in Hunan, the Red Army‘s return to Kiangsi, and especially after the capture of Kian, „Li Li-san-ism“ was overcome in the army; and Li himself, proved to have been in error, soon lost his influence in the Party. There was, however, a critical period in the army before „Li Li-san-ism“ was definitely buried. Part of the 3rd Corps favored following out Li‘s line, and demanded the separation of the 3rd Corps from the rest of the army. Peng Teh-huai fought vigorously against this tendency, however, and succeeded in maintaining the unity of the forces under his command and their loyalty to the high command. But the 20th Army, led by Liu Teh-chao, rose in open revolt, arrested the Chairman of the Kiangsi Council, arrested many officers and officials, and attacked us politically, on the basis of the Li Li-san line. This occurred at Fu Tien and is known as the Fu Tien Incident. Fu Tien being near Kian, then the heart of the council districts, the events produced a sensation, and to many it must have seemed that the fate of the revolution depended on the outcome of this struggle. However, the revolt was quickly suppressed, due to the loyalty of the 3rd Army, to the general solidarity of the Party and the Red troops, and to the support of the peasantry. Liu Teh-chao was arrested, and other rebels disarmed and liquidated. Our line was reaffirmed, „Li Li-san-ism“ was definitely suppressed, and as a result the council movement subsequently scored great gains.

But Nanking was now thoroughly aroused to the revolutionary potentialities of the councils in Kiangsi, and at the end of 1930 began its 1st „encirclement and annihilation“ campaign against the Red Army. Enemy forces totaling over 100,000 troops began an encirclement of the Red areas, penetrating by five routes, under the chief command of Lu Ti-ping. Against these troops the Red Army was then able to mobilize a total of about 40,000 troops. By skillful use of maneuvering warfare we met and overcame this 1st campaign, with great victories. Following out the tactics of swift concentration and swift dispersal, we attacked each unit separately, using our main forces. Admitting the enemy troops deeply into council territory, we staged sudden concentrated attacks, in superior numbers, on isolated units of the Kuomintang troops, achieving positions of maneuver in which, momentarily, we could encircle them, thus reversing the general strategic advantage enjoyed by a numerically greatly superior enemy.

By January, 1931, this 1st campaign had been completely defeated. I believe that this would not have been possible except for three conditions achieved by the Red Army just before its commencement. First, the consolidation of the 1st and 3rd Army corps under a centralized command; second, the liquidation of the Li Li-san line; and third, the triumph of the Party over the anti-bolshevik (Liu Teh-chao) faction and other active counterrevolutionaries within the Red Army and in the council districts.

After a respite of only four months, Nanking launched its 2nd campaign, under the supreme command of Ho Ying-chin, now Minister of War. His forces exceeded 200,000 troops, who moved into the Red areas by seven routes. The situation for the Red Army was then thought to be very critical. The area of council power was very small, resources were limited, equipment scanty, and enemy material strength vastly exceeded that of the Red Army in every respect. To meet this offensive, however, the Red army still clung to the same tactics that had thus far won success. Admitting the enemy columns well into Red territory, our main forces suddenly concentrated against the 2nd route of the enemy, defeated several regiments, and destroyed their offensive power. Immediately afterwards we attacked in quick succession the 3rd route, the 6th, and the 7th, defeating each of them in turn. The 4th route retreated without giving battle, and the 5th route was partly destroyed. Within 14 days the Red army had fought six battles, and marched eight days, ending with a decisive victory. With the break-up or retreat of the other six routes the 1st Route Army commanded by Chiang Kuang-nai and Tsai Ting-kai, withdrew without any serious fighting.

One month later, Chiang Kai-shek took command of an army of 300,000 troops „for the final extermination of the ‚Red bandits‘“. He was assisted by his ablest commanders: Chen Ming-shu, Ho Ying-chin, and Chu Shao-liang, each of whom had charge of a main route of advance. Chiang hoped to take the Red areas by storm — a rapid annihilation“ of the „Red bandits“. He began by moving his armies 80 li a day into the heart of council territory. This supplied the very conditions under which the Red army fights best, and it soon proved the serious mistake of Chiang‘s tactics. With a main force of only 30,000 troops, by a series of brilliant maneuvers, our army attacked five different columns in five days. In the first battle the Red army captured many enemy troops and large amounts of ammunition, guns and equipment. By September the 3rd campaign had been admitted to be a failure, and Chiang Kai-shek in October withdrew his troops.

The Red army now entered a period of comparative peace and growth. Expansion was very rapid. The 1st Council Congress was called on December 11th, 1931, and the Central Council Government was established, with myself as Chairman. Chu Teh was elected commander-in-chief of the Red Army. In the same month there occurred the great Ningtu Uprising, when more than 20,000 troops of the 28th Route Army of the Kuomintang revolted and joined the Red Army. They were led by Tung Chen-tang and Chao Po-sheng. Chao was later killed in battle in Kiangsi, but Tung is today still commander of the 5th Red Army — the 5th Army Corps having been created out of the troops taken in from the Ningtu Uprising.

The Red Army now began offensives of its own. In 1932 it fought a great battle at Changchow, in Fukien, and captured the city. In the South it attacked Chen Chi-tang at Nan Hsiang, and on Chiang Kai-shek‘s front it stormed Lo An, Li Chuan, Chien Ning and Tai Ning. It attacked but did not occupy Kanchow. From October, 1932, onward, and until the beginning of the Long March to the Northwest, I myself devoted my time almost exclusively to work with the Council Government, leaving the military command to Chu Teh and others.

In April, 1933, began the fourth and, for Nanking, perhaps the most disastrous of its annihilation campaigns“.53 In the first battle of this period two divisions were disarmed and two divisional commanders were captured. The 59th Division was partly destroyed and the 52nd was completely destroyed. 13,000 troops were captured in this one battle at Ta Lung Ping and Chiao Hui in Lo An Hsien. The Kuomintang‘s 11th Division, then Chiang Kai-shek‘s best, was next eliminated, being almost totally disarmed; its commander was seriously wounded. These engagements proved decisive fuming points and the 4th campaign soon afterwards ended. Chiang Kai-shek at this time wrote to Chen Cheng, his field commander, that he considered this defeat „the greatest humiliation“ in his life. Chen Cheng did not favor pushing the campaign. He told people then that in his opinion fighting the Reds was a „lifetime job“ and a „life sentence“. Reports of this coming to Chiang Kai-shek, he removed Chen Cheng from the high command.

For his fifth and last campaign, Chiang Kai-shek mobilized nearly 1,000,000 troops and adopted new tactics and strategy. Already, in the 4th campaign, Chiang had, on the recommendation of his German advisers, begun the use of the blockhouse and fortifications system. In the 5th campaign he placed his entire reliance upon it.

In this period we made two important errors. The first was the failure to unite with Tsai Ting-kai‘s army in 1933 during the Fukien Rebellion. The second was the adoption of the erroneous strategy of simple defense, abandoning our former tactics of maneuver. It was a serious mistake to meet the vastly superior Nanking forces in positional warfare, at which the Red Army was neither technically nor spiritually at its best.

As a result of these mistakes, and the new tactics and strategy of Chiang‘s campaign, combined with the overwhelming numerical and technical superiority of the Kuomintang forces, the Red Army was obliged, in 1934, to seek to change the conditions of its existence in Kiangsi, which were rapidly becoming more unfavorable. Second, the national political situation influenced the decision to move the scene of main operations to the Northwest. Following Japan‘s invasion of Manchuria and Shanghai, the Council Government had, as early as February, 1932, formally declared war on Japan. This declaration, which could not, of course, be made effective, owing to the blockade and encirclement of Council China by the Kuomintang troops, had been followed by the issuance of a manifesto calling for a united front of all armed forces in China to resist Japanese imperialism. Early in 1933 the Council Government announced that it would cooperate with any White army on the basis of cessation of civil war and attacks on the councils and the Red Army, guarantee of civil liberties and democratic rights to the masses, and arming of the people for an anti-Japanese war.

The 5th „encirclement and annihilation“ campaign began in October, 1933. In January, 1934, the 2nd All-China Congress of Councils was convened in Juichin, the council capital, and a survey of the achievements of the revolution took place. Here I gave a long report, and here the Central Council Government, as its personnel exists today, was elected. Preparations soon afterwards were made for the Long March. It was begun in October, 1934, just a year after Chiang Kai-shek launched his last campaign — a year of almost constant fighting, struggle and enormous losses on both sides.

By January, 1935, the main forces of the Red Army reached Tsunyi, in Kweichow. For the next four months the army was almost constantly moving and the most energetic combat and fighting took place. Through many, many difficulties, across the longest and deepest and most dangerous rivers of China, across some of its highest and most hazardous mountain passes, through the country of fierce aborigines, through the empty grasslands, through cold and through intense heat, through wind and snow and rainstorm, pursued by half the White armies of China, through all these natural barriers, and fighting its way past the local troops of Kwangtung, Hunan, Kwangsi, Kweichow, Yunnan, Sikang, Szechuan, Kansu, and Shensi, the Red Army at last reached northern Shensi in October, 1935, and enlarged its base in China‘s great Northwest.54

The victorious march of the Red Army, and its triumphant arrival in Kansu and Shensi with its living forces still intact, was due first to the correct directorship of the Communist Party, and second to the great skill, courage, determination, and almost superhuman endurance and revolutionary ardor of the basic cadres of our council people. The Communist Party of China was, is, and will ever be faithful to marxism-leninism, and it will continue its struggles against every opportunist tendency. In this determination lies one explanation of its invincibility and the certainty of its final victory.

1Mao used the Chinese term yuan, which was often translated as „Chinese dollars“; 3,000 yuan in cash in 1900 was an impressive sum in rural China.

2Mao used all these political terms humorously in his explanations, laughing as he recalled such incidents.

3Literally, to „knock head“. To strike one‘s head to the floor or earth was expected of son to father and subject to emperor, in token of filial obedience.

4The story of Hsuan Tsang‘s 7th century semi-legendary pilgrimage to India.

5By Chung Kuang-ying, who advocated many democratic reforms, including parliamentary government and modern methods of education and communications. His book had a wide influence when published in 1898, the year of the ill-fated Hundred Days Reform.

6The same society to which Ho Lung belonged.

7Literally „Let‘s eat at the Big House“. that is, at the landlord‘s granary.

8Hsiao San (Emi Siao).

9Liang Chi-chao, a talented essayist at the end of the Manchu Dynasty, was the leader of a reform movement which resulted in his exile. Kang Yu-wei and he were the „intellectual godfathers“ of the first revolution, in 1911.

10The poem evidently referred to the spring festival and tremendous rejoicing in Japan following the Treaty of Portsmouth and the end of the Russo-Japanese War.

11Yao and Shun were semilegendary first emperors (3,000-2,205 B.C.?), credited with forming Chinese society in the Wei and Yellow River valleys, and taming the floods (with dikes, canals), Chin Shih Huang Ti (259-221 B.C.) unified the empire and completed the Great Wall; Han Wu Ti solidified the foundations of the Han Dynasty, which followed Chin and lasted, (including the later Han) 426 years.

12The Tung Meng Hui, a revolutionary secret society, was founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen and was the forerunner of the Kuomintang. Most of its members were exiles in Japan, where they carried on a vigorous „brush-war“ (war by writing brushes, or pens) against Liang Chi-chao and Kang Yu-wei, leaders of the „reformed monarchist“ party.

13An absurd coalition, since Kang and Liang were monarchists at that time, and Sun Yat-sen was anti-monarchist.

14An act perhaps more anti-confucian than anti-Manchu. Some orthodox confucianists held that humanity should not interfere with nature, including growth of hair and fingernails.

15In 1911, the start of the revolution that overthrew the Manchu Dynasty.

16Han-jen means the ethnical descendants of „people of Han“, referring to the long-lived Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.). Europeans derived the name „China“ and „Chinese“ from the Chin Dynasty which immediately preceded the Han. China was known to Han-jen as Chung-kuo, the „Central Realm“, also translated as „Middle Kingdom“. In official terminology all its inhabitants, including non-Han peoples, were called Chung-kuo-jen, or „Central-Realm People“. Thus the Manchu were Chung-kuo-jen (China-people) but not Han-jen.

17A tutu was a military governor.

18Tang Sheng-chih later became commander of the Kuomintang armies of the Wuhan Government of Wang Ching-wei in 1927. He betrayed both Wang and the Reds and began the „peasant massacre“ of Hunan.

19Yuan Shih-kai, army chief of staff to the Manchu rulers, forced their abdication in 1911. Sun Yat-sen, regarded as „father of the Republic“, returned to China and was elected president by his followers in a ceremony at Nanking. Yuan held military control throughout most of the country, however. To avoid a conflict, Sun resigned when Yuan Shih-kai agreed to a constitutional convention and formation of a parliament. Yuan continued to rule as a military dictator, and in 1915 proclaimed himself emperor, whereupon his warlord supporters deserted him. The proclamation was rescinded after a few months, Yuan died, and the Republic (if not constitutional government) survived, to enter a period of provincial warlordism and national division.

20The gifted fourth emperor of the Manchu, or Ching, Dynasty, who took the throne in 1736.

21The reference is to a line in a poem by Li Tai-po.

22Li Li-san later became responsible for the Communist Party of China‘s „Li Li-san line“, which Mao Tse-tung bitterly opposed. Further on Mao tells of Li‘s struggle with the Red Army, and of its results.

23The New People‘s Study Society.

24Hsiao San (Emi Siao), brother of Hsiao Yu (Saio Yu).

25Other members included Liu Shao-chi, Jen Pi-shih, Li Fu-chun, Wang Jo-fei, Teng Tai-ynan, Li Wei-han, Hsiao Ching-kuang, and at least one woman, Tsai Chang, the sister of Tsai Ho-sen. All of these achieved high rank in the Communist Party of China. Mao‘s favorite professor and future father-in-law, Yang Chang-chi, and Hsu Teh-li, Mao‘s teacher at the 1st Normal School, were patrons.

26In Tientsin it was the „Awakening Society“, which led in organization of radical youth. Chou En-lai was one of the founders. Others included Teng Ying-chao (Mme. Chou En-lai); Ma Chun, who was executed in Peking in 1927; and Sun Hsiao-ching, who later became secretary of the Kwangchow Committee of the Kuomintang.

27The ex-bandit who became military dictator of Manchuria. Marshal Chang held power in Peking before the arrival of the Kuomintang there. He was killed by the Japanese in 1928. His son, Chang Hsueh-liang, known as the „Young Marshal“, succeeded him.

28Pei Hai and the other „seas“ were artificial lakes in the former Forbidden City.

29Considered the beginning of the „2nd Revolution“ and of modern Chinese nationalism.

30Chen Tu-hsui was born in Anhui, in 1879, became a noted scholar and essayist and for years headed the department of literature at Peking National University — „cradle of the literary renaissance“. His New Youth magazine began the movement for adoption of the pai-hua, or vernacular Chinese, as the national language to replace the „dead“ wen-yen, or Classical language. With Li Ta-chao, he was a chief promoter of marxist study in China and a pioneer organizer of the Communist Party of China.

31In October, 1920, Mao organized a Socialist Youth Corps branch in Changsha, in which he worked with Lin Tsu-han to set up craft unions in Hunan.

32Mao made no further reference to his life with Yang Kai-hui, except to mention her execution. She was a student at Peking National University and later became a youth leader during the Great Revolution, and one of the most active women communists. Their marriage had been celebrated as an „ideal romance“ among radical youths in Hunan.

33Ho Shu-heng, Mao‘s old friend and cofounder of the New People‘s Study Society; he was executed in 1935 by the Kuomintang.

34Those here noted as „killed“ or „executed“ were liquidated by warlord regimes if before 1927, and by Kuomintang generals if after March, 1927.

35Meaning the Communist Youth League, which began as the Socialist Youth Corps (Society, League). Other members included Teng Ying-chao and Li Fu-chun and his wife, Tsai Chang.

36Mao was also a director of the provincial Kuomintang. Following his agreement with Adolf Joffe for a two-party alliance, Sun Yat-sen had begun a secret purge of anti-communist elements in the Kuomintang. In Hunan, Sun authorized his old colleague Lin Tsu-han, together with Mao Tse-tung and Hsia Hsi, to reorganize the Party. By January, 1923, they had turned the Hunan Kuomintang into a radical tool of the Left.

37Communist and Kuomintang cadres in 1925 organized the first Shanghai Federation of Trade Unions which led to the May 30th demonstration, with demands for an end to extraterritoriality and a return of the Shanghai International Settlement to Chinese sovereignty. British Settlement police fired on the demonstrators and killed several, which provoked a boycott of British goods. Leading organizers were Liu Shao-chi and Chen Yun.

38In 1925 Mao was director of the Peasant Movement Training Institute, succeeding Peng Pai, who had set it up in Kwangchow in 1924. His brother, Mao Tse-min, was one of his students, who included a large percentage of Hunanese, probably recruited by Mao‘s provincial Party committee. Their publication was The Chinese Peasant.

39Mao attended the 2nd National Congress of the Kuomintang and was reelected an alternate to the Central Executive Committee. Communist membership in the Kuomintang Central Executive Committee at that time was still about 1/3 of the total.

40Since its inception, the Peasant Department of the Kuomintang had been headed by communists, of whom Mao was the last of five. Mao was first chief of the Communist Party of China‘s Peasant Department (May-October, 1926), formed at this time.

41So did Stalin. Mao was not present during the terminal sessions of the 5th National Congress, when a resolution was passed to limit land confiscation only to great landlords who were also „enemies of the people“, in line with Stalin‘s directives.

42About 33 hectares, or nearly 100 times the available cultivable land per farmer.

43Mao supported (and probably initiated) the Hunan Peasants‘ Union resolutions demanding confiscation of all large land holdings.

44Chu Chiu-pai was here chosen General Secretary of the Politburo, replacing Chen Tu-hsiu, who was accused of Rightism and dropped from the Politburo.

45Miners who had been organized by Mao, Liu Shao-chi and Chen Yun. In forming a peasants‘ and workers‘ army, and soldiers‘ councils and people‘s councils, Mao acted independently of the Central Committee and was reprimanded. By the time he had set up his first soldiers‘ councils the Kuomintang line had changed again. In November of 1927 the Central Committee expelled Mao from the Politburo for „Rightism“. All the basic work he did in Chingkangshan that winter was „illegal“, although Mao was not aware of it for some months. He was reinstated in June, 1928.

46Mao was reprimanded three times by the Central Committee and three times expelled by it.

47In the same month a „council“ was established by Peng Pai in Hailufeng, but it was quickly destroyed.

48Here Mao Tse-tung and Chu Teh formed an alliance with Lin Piao, Chen Yi, Hsiao Ke, Ho Chang-kung, Tan Chen-lin, Chang Wen-ping, Hsia Hsi, and others, which held together against all pressure from Comintern-backed Politburo leader Li Li-san and, later on, the Moscow-educated returned students called the „28 Bolsheviks“.

49One of Chang‘s recruits was Yang Cheng-wu, whom the author met in north Shensi in 1936.

50This order is not so enigmatic as it sounds. The wooden doors of a Chinese house are easily detachable, and are often taken down at night, put across wooden blocks, and used for an improvised bed.

51They were also sung daily in a Red Army song.

52The rent from which Mao had used earlier for the peasant movement in Hunan.

53There was considerable confusion, in many accounts written of the anti-Red wars, concerning the number of major expeditions sent against the council districts. Some writers totaled up as many as eight „suppression“ or „annihilation“ drives, but several of these big mobilizations by Nanking were purely defensive. Red Army commanders spoke of only five main anti-Red campaigns. These were, with the approximate number of Nanking troops directly involved in each, as follows: First, December, 1930, to January, 1931, 100,000, Second, May to June, 1931, 200,000; Third, July to October, 1931, 300,000, Fourth, April to October, 1933, 250,000, Fifth, October, 1933, to October 1934, 400,000 (over 900,000 troops were mobilized against the three main council districts). No major expedition was launched by Nanking during 1932, when Chiang Kai-shek was using approximately 500,000 troops in defensive positions around the Red districts. It was, on the contrary, a year of big Red offensives. Evidently Nanking‘s defensive operations in 1932, which were, of course, propagandized as „anti-Red campaigns“, were misunderstood by many writers as major expeditions.

54In this account Mao made no reference to the important meeting of the Central Committee held at Tsunyi, which elected him to the leadership.