Comrade Lin Piao:

I have not yet replied to your letter although it is several days since New Year. One reason is that several things have kept me busy, and another is that I have been wondering what to write to you. What have I to offer you that is really good? I have racked my tired brain but found nothing suitable, which is why I have been putting it off. Now I believe I have thought of something. I don’t know whether it applies exactly to your situation, but what I have to say is indeed about an important problem in the present struggle. Even if it does not correspond exactly with your particular circumstances, it is a vital general problem, and that is why I am bringing it up.

The question I want to raise is the problem of how to evaluate the present situation and what actions of ours must follow from this. I felt before, and to some extent still feel, that your estimate of the situation is rather pessimistic. This view of yours was made very clear at the meeting on the evening of May 18th last year in Juichin. I know you believed that the coming of the revolutionary high tide is inevitable, but you did not believe that it could possibly come quickly. So, when it came to action, you did not agree with the plan to take Kiangsi in a single year and only approved of guerrilla fighting in three districts in Fukien-Kwangtung-Kiangsi border regions. At the same time you had no profound belief in setting up Red political power in the three districts, or in deepening and expanding this Red political power to hasten a nationwide revolutionary high tide. To judge by your belief in (* * *)-stylefootnote1 mobile guerrilla policies, you seem to think that in a period when the revolutionary high tide is still far off it is a waste of effort to do the arduous work of establishing political power. You would prefer using the more convenient mobile guerrilla methods to extend our political influence, waiting until we have succeeded in winning over the masses throughout the country, or have gone some way in that direction, before launching a nationwide insurrection that, with the strength of the Red Army added to it, will be a great nationwide revolution.

I do not think that your theory of establishing political power on a nationwide scale everywhere, having won over the masses first, is applicable to the Chinese revolution. In my view this theory of yours arises from a failure to see clearly that China is a semi-colony competed for by several imperialisms in their final stages. If you recognized that China is a semi-colony competed for by imperialisms in their final stages, you would understand first why it is that China alone in the whole world shows the strange phenomenon of ruling classes locked in chaotic wars among themselves, why it is that the fighting is fiercer and more widespread with each passing day, and why there can never be unified state power. Second, you would appreciate the grave importance of the peasant question and thus also realize why rural uprisings have developed on their present national scale. Third, you would understand the absolute correctness of the slogan of worker peasant political power. Fourth, you would comprehend why China is the only country in the world in which the strange phenomenon of ruling classes locked in complicated wars among themselves has given birth to another oddity: the existence and growth of a Red Army and guerrilla units, and, as a consequence, the existence and growth of small areas of Red political power (soviets) that have appeared in the midst of White political power. So strange a thing as this is not to be found outside China. Fifth, you would understand that the Red Army, the guerillas and the Soviet districts are both the highest form of peasant struggle in a semi-colony and the form towards which such struggles must move. Sixth, you would see that these (the Red Army and peasant soviets) are beyond any doubt the most important force allied to the proletarian struggle in a semi-colony—the proletariat must step forward to lead it—and that this is an important factor hastening the coming of the nationwide revolutionary high tide. Seventh, you would realize that a policy of fighting purely in a roving guerrilla way cannot fulfill the task of hastening a nationwide revolutionary high tide. You would also see the undoubted correctness of the policies of the Chu-Mao, Ho Lung, Li Wen-lin and Fang Chih-min sort, policies of developing our political power through wave-like expansion. This involves: the planned establishment of political power in base areas; the Red Army and the guerrillas on the one hand and the great mass of the peasantry, on the other being closely co-ordinated and organized, and being trained through combat; an intensified agrarian revolution; and the expansion of the military organization from forces involved in rural uprisings through district Red Guard battalions, county Red Guard regiments and local Red Army units to Red Army units that can operate anywhere. This is the only way in which we can build the confidence of the revolutionary masses throughout the country, in the way Soviet Russia has done for the whole world. This is the only way to cause extreme difficulties for the ruling classes, rock their foundations, and hasten their internal disintegration. It is also the only way of really creating a Red Army that will be one of the most important tools in the great revolution that is to come. It is, in short, the only way of hastening the revolutionary high tide.

I would like to talk next about what I feel are the reasons for your rather pessimistic evaluation of the present situation, which I regard as the exact opposite of the evaluation made by the Party’s revolutionary hot-heads. The comrades who suffer from revolutionary hot-headedness overestimate subjective forces and underestimate objective ones. Such evaluations spring largely from an idealist viewpoint and must result, beyond any doubt, in wanting to take a mistaken adventurist course. You have not made this mistake; your shortcomings seem to have been in the other direction—tending to underestimate subjective forces and overestimate objective ones. This incorrect evaluation gives rise to bad results of the opposite sort. You see the weakness of subjective forces and the strength of objective ones, but do not recognize the following vital points:

1. Although the subjective forces of the Chinese revolution are weak, all the organizations of the ruling classes (political power, armed forces, parties, other organizations, etc) which are based on China’s fragile socio-economic organizations, are also weak. This explains why it is that, although the subjective revolutionary forces of Western European countries are far stronger than those of China, they are unable to unleash revolutions at once: their ruling classes are many times stronger than the Chinese ones. Although the subjective strength of the Chinese revolution is weak, it is bound to reach a high tide sooner than Western Europe because the objective forces are also weak.

2. After the defeat of the Great Revolution the subjective revolutionary forces were indeed enormously weakened. The revolutionary forces that have survived are so tiny in appearance that they naturally give pessimistic ideas to the comrades who see things that way; but if one looks at their real nature they are very different. In the words of an old Chinese saying, ‘A single spark can start a prairie fire’. This is to say that, although our forces are tiny at present, they are developing fast. In the Chinese environment not only can they develop, they are bound to develop, as was thoroughly proved in the May 30th Movement and the Great Revolutionary Movement that followed. In looking at things we must look at their real nature, taking their form only as a guide to lead us inside. Once inside we must grasp their real nature and cast aside the form that guided us there. This is the only scientific, reliable and revolutionary method of analysis.