Communism and Dictatorship

Communism and Dictatorship (1920–1921)
by Mao Zedong, translated by Foreign Language Press, Peking

The following work was extracted from two letters to Cai Hesen (Wade: "Ts'ai Ho-sen"), in November 1920 and January 1921. The source from which this work was transcribed comes from the Marxists Internet Archive.

In his lecture at Changsha, Russell . . . took a position in favour of communism but against the dictatorship of the workers and peasants. He said that one should employ the method of education to change the consciousness of the propertied classes, and that in this way it would not be necessary to limit freedom or to have recourse to war and bloody revolution. . . . My objections to Russell's view point can be stated in a few words: 'This is all very well as a theory, but it is unfeasible in practice'. . . . Education requires money, people and instruments. In today's world money is entirely in the hands of the capitalists. Those who have charge of education are all either capitalists or wives of capitalists. In today's world the schools and the press, the two most important instruments of education are entirely under capitalist control. In short, education in today's world is capitalist education. If we teach capitalism to children, these children, when they grow up will in turn teach capitalism to a second generation of children. Education thus remains in the hands of the capitalists. Then the capitalists have 'parliaments' to pass laws protecting the capitalists and handicapping the proletariat; they have 'governments' to apply these laws and to enforce the advantages and the prohibitions that they contain; they have 'armies' and 'police' to defend the well-being of the capitalists and to repress the demands of the proletariat; they have 'banks' to serve as repositories in the circulation of their wealth; they have 'factories', which are the instruments by which they monopolize the production of goods. Thus, if the communists do not seize political power, they will not be able to find any refuge in this world; how, under such circumstances, could they take charge of education? Thus, the capitalists will continue to control education and to praise their capitalism to the skies, so that the number of converts to the proletariat's communist propaganda will diminish from day to day. Consequently, I believe that the method of education is unfeasible. . . . What I have just said constitutes the first argument. The second argument is that, based on the principle of mental habits and on my observation of human history, I am of the opinion that one absolutely cannot expect the capitalists to become converted to communism. . . . If one wishes to use the power of education to transform them, then since one cannot obtain control of the whole or even an important part of the two instruments of education—schools and the press—even if one has a mouth and a tongue and one or two schools and newspapers as means of propaganda . . . this is really not enough to change the mentality of the adherents of capitalism even slightly; how then can one hope that the latter will repent and turn toward the good? So much from a psychological standpoint. From a historical standpoint . . . one observes that no despot imperialist and militarist throughout history has ever been known to leave the stage of history of his own free will without being overthrown by the people. Napoleon I proclaimed himself emperor and failed; then there was Napoleon III. Yuan Shih-K'ai failed; then, also there was Tuan Ch'i-jui. . . . From what I have just said based on both a psychological and a historical standpoint, it can be seen that capitalism cannot be overthrown by the force of a few feeble efforts in the domain of education. This is the second argument. There is yet a third argument, most assuredly a very important argument, even more important in reality. If we use peaceful means to attain the goal of communism, when will we finally achieve it? Let us assume that a century will be required, a century marked by the unceasing groans of the proletariat. What position shall we adopt in the face of this situation? The proletariat is many times more numerous than the bourgeoisie; if we assume that the proletariat constitutes two-thirds of humanity, then one billion of the earth's one billion five hundred million inhabitants are proletarians (I fear that the figure is even higher.), who during this century will be cruelly exploited by the remaining third of the capitalists. How can we bear this? Furthermore, since the proletariat has already become conscious of the fact that it too should possess wealth, and of the fact that its sufferings are unnecessary, the proletarians are discontented, and a demand for communism has arisen and has already become a fact. This fact confronts us, we cannot make it disappear; when we become conscious of it we wish to act. This is why, in my opinion, the Russian revolution, as well as the radical communists in every country, will daily grow more powerful and numerous and more tightly organized. This is the natural result. This is the third argument. . . .

There is a further point pertaining to my doubts about anarchism. My argument pertains not merely to the impossibility of a society without power or organization. I should like to mention only the difficulties in the way of the establishment of such a form of society and of its final attainment. . . . For all the reasons just stated, my present viewpoint on absolute liberalism, anarchism, and even democracy is that these things are fine in theory, but not feasible in practice. . . .

This work is in the public domain because it is exempted by Article 5 of Chinese copyright law. This exempts all Chinese government and judicial documents, and their official translations, from copyright. It also exempts simple factual information, and calendars, numerical tables, and other forms of general use and formulas.