Mao on the Soviet Union

Alongside his preference for self-sufficiency and the importance of Chinese traditions, Mao was also quite aware of the importance of international conditions for the success of the Chinese Revolution. The Soviet Union was pivotal. To begin with:

The Soviet Union is a defender of world peace and a powerful factor preventing the domination of the world by the U.S. reactionaries Selected Readings, p. 348).

More specifically:

In the epoch in which imperialism exists, it is impossible for a genuine people’s revolution to win victory in any country without various forms of help from the international revolutionary forces, and even if victory were won, it could not be consolidated. This was the case with the victory and consolidation of the great October Revolution, as Lenin and Stalin told us long ago. This was also the case with the overthrow of the three imperialist powers in World War II and the establishment of the People’s Democracies. And this is also the case with the present and the future of People’s China. Just imagine! If the Soviet Union had not existed, if there had been no victory in the anti-fascist Second World War, if Japanese imperialism had not been defeated, if the People’s Democracies had not come into being, if the oppressed nations of the East were not rising in struggle and if there were no struggle of the masses of the people against their reactionary rulers in the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and other capitalist countries — if not for all these in combination, the international reactionary forces bearing down upon us would certainly be many times greater than now. In such circumstances, could we have won victory? Obviously not. And even with victory, there could be no consolidation (Selected Readings, pp. 377-78).

As for the end of the Second World War and the surrender of Japan, Mao already saw what recent historians have rediscovered: Japan surrendered because Soviet troops pushed the Japanese out of China and threatened to invade Japan:

The decisive factor for Japan’s surrender is the entry of the Soviet Union into the war. A million Red Army troops are entering China’s Northeast; this force is irresistible. Japanese imperialism can no longer continue the fight … The Soviet Union has sent its troops, the Red Army has come to help the Chinese people drive out the aggressor; such an event has never happened before in Chinese history. Its influence is immeasurable. The propaganda organs of the United States and Chiang Kai-shek hoped to sweep away the Red Army’s political influence with two atom bombs. But it can’t be swept away; that isn’t so easy. Can atom bombs decide wars? No, they can’t. Atom bombs could not make Japan surrender. Without the struggles waged by the people, atom bombs by themselves would be of no avail. If atom bombs could decide the war, then why was it necessary to ask the Soviet Union to send its troops? Why didn’t Japan surrender when the two atom bombs were dropped on her and why did she surrender as soon as the Soviet Union sent troops? (Selected Readings, pp. 324, 337)

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Ten Rules of Red Army warfare

In the long struggle towards 1949, the Red Army in China had learnt a few tricks, both from the communists in Russia during the ‘civil’ war and from their own experiences. With fewer fighters, inferior equipment and fewer resources against Chang Kai-Shek’s superior forces (supplied and trained by the Germans, Italians, Americans and English), they had developed a number of rules of engagement.

1. Do not fight any losing battles. Unless there are strong indications of success, refuse engagement.

2. Surprise is the main offensive tactic of the well-led partisan group. Static war must be avoided. The partisan brigade has no auxiliary force, no rear, no line of supplies and communications except that of the enemy.

3. A careful and detailed plan of attack, and especially of retreat, must be worked out before any engagement is offered or accepted. Superior manoeuvring ability is a great advantage of the partisans, and errors in its manipulation mean extinction.

4. The greatest attention must be paid to the mintuan (the landlord militia), the first, last, and most determined line of resistance of the landlords. The mintuan must be destroyed militarily, but must, if at all possible, be won over politically to the side of the masses.

5. In a regular engagement with enemy troops the partisans must exceed the enemy in numbers. But if the enemy’s regular troops are moving, resting, or poorly guarded, a swift, determined, surprise flank attack on an organically vital spot of the enemy’s line can be made by a much smaller group. Many a Red ‘short attack’ was carried with only a few hundred against an enemy of thousands. Surprise, speed, courage, unwavering decision, flawlessly planned manoeuvre, and selection of the most vulnerable and vital spot in the enemy’s ‘anatomy’ are absolutely essential.

6. In actual combat the partisan line must have the greatest elasticity. Once it becomes obvious that their calculation of enemy strength or preparedness or fighting power is in error, the partisans should be able to disengage with the same speed as they began the attack.

7. The tactics of distraction, decoy, diversion, ambush, feint and irritation must be mastered. In Chinese these tactics are called ‘the principle of pretending to attack the east while attacking the west’.

8. Avoid engagements with the main force of the enemy, concentrating on the weakest link, or the most vital part.

9. Every precaution must be taken to prevent the enemy from locating the partisans’ main forces. For this reason, partisans should avoid concentrating in one place when the enemy is advancing, and should change their position frequently – two or three times in one day or night just before attack.

10. Besides superior mobility, the partisans, being inseparable from the local masses, have the advantage of superior intelligence; the greatest use must be made of this. Ideally, every peasant should be on the partisans’ intelligence staff.

From Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China, pp. 275-76.

Eleven rules of the Red Army

Before the revolution, the Red Army in China had the following eleven rules, divided into two groups, one of three, the other of eight.

The three preliminary rules:

1. Prompt obedience to orders

2. No confiscations whatever from the poor peasantry

3. Prompt delivery directly to the government (Red soviets), for its disposal, of all goods confiscated from the landlords

The eight key rules, with a focus on dealings with peasants:

1. Replace all doors when you leave a house (!)

2. Return and roll up the straw matting on which you slept

3. Be courteous and polite to the people and help them when you can

4. Return all borrowed articles

5. Replace all damaged article

6. Be honest in all transactions with the peasants

7. Pay for all articles purchased

8. Be sanitary, and, especially, establish latrines a safe distance from people’s houses

Apparently, these eight form a song, sung on the march or while working.

Update: here it is.

It takes all sorts: priestly agitators in the Russian Revolution

Not a few Orthodox priests joined directly in the massive effort of the Red Army in the ‘civil’ war (the White armies were funded and supported with troops and equipment by the Entente) after the October Revolution:

The Second Army had a rather peculiar agitator: he had been a priest before the October Revolution, but after he had become an agitator for the Bolsheviks. At a meeting of five thousand Red Army men in Perm he spoke of the Soviet power’s intimate link with the masses. “The Bolsheviks,” he said, “are today’s apostles.” When asked by a Red Army man in the audience, “What about baptism?” he answered: “That would take a couple of hours to explain, but briefly it’s pure eyewash”.

Krupskaya, Reminiscences of Lenin, p. 526.