The mass line as principal method of work and direction of every communist party.
Every communist party had to face and will face the antinomy between the ideological and organizational autonomy of the party and the tight tie of the party with the masses. The first is necessary for the party “to elaborate” a right line. The second is necessary for the party “to discover” and “carry out” the right line. Every communist party had to face and will face the antinomy among the immediate, the present and the final targets. Every communist party often struggled and will struggle against two opposed deviations: the one of those who part themselves from the masses persuaded to go to the target faster and the other of those who mingle with the masses and reduced themselves to show what the masses already do, reflecting the medium, general, common, diffused status of the masses [in Italian language the first deviation is called “avventurismo”, (adventurism), the other is called “codismo”, and means to be in the queue (“coda” in the Italian language) with the masses, n.d.t.]
The mass line is the overcoming of those antinomies and the criterion to avoid both those deviations.
With the mass line, we first collect the elements of knowledge scattered and confused amidst the masses and their aspirations. Then from what we collect we draw out targets, lines, methods, criteria and we bring them to the masses until they take possession of them and carry them out. Then we return to the new situation and again we collect element of knowledge and aspirations in the new situation, elaborate them and draw out from them new targets, lines, methods and criteria and again bring them to the masses until they take possession of them and carry them out. The communists’ conceptions become richer and more concrete every time repeating this process many and many times. So the revolutionary process goes on towards victory.
From another point of view, with the mass line within each group we individuate the
left, the center and the right part. The left part is that which aims, if realized, will drive the group to flow together in the bed of the socialist revolution. With the mass line
we can mobilize and organize the left part so that it unifies to itself the center
and isolates the right part.
In order to carry out the mass line therefore the party must have assimilated the dialectical materialism enough well (“without theory the facts are blind”). It must do good inquiries (“without facts the theory is empty”). It must have a good knowledge of the current revolutionary process and of the role of the various classes in it.
On these conditions the party goes towards its final target (the socialist revolution). It does not point to that target directly and in every concrete circumstance. In every phase and concrete circumstance it points to the target that the masses can realize and which realization brings the masses near to the final target of party. In each phase of the struggle the mass line drives the party to gather a front as wider possible of classes, forces, personalities in order to realize the target of that phase. It implies in the party the greatest ideological and political independence, a great capacity to understand the real contradictions and the current movement, farsightedness, freedom of movement. The party parts from the masses because is not able to understand the concrete situation, because it is backward, and not because it is too much advanced than the masses themselves. A good doctor or a good teacher is as more advanced or “independent” as better he is able to understand the real situation of the sick person or of the schoolboy. They do not follow what sick persons or students say. They do not do what they suggest. They understand what the sick persons and students are and move them to reach the target that himself want to reach. The mass line allows to the party both to have in its hand the initiative both to be closely connected to the masses and to continuously strengthen this connection. The connection with the masses becomes closer as become higher the party’s quality, as become stronger its political and ideological independence. The mass line is also the synthesis between masses’ party and cadres’ party: the cadres’ party that directs the masses. It is the synthesis between party’s direction and independence of the masses, between politics from above and politics from below.
It was an acquired doctrine of the communist movement that the ideas come from the experience, and that the elements of higher knowledge were in germ, scattered and confused, in the masses’ practice. We can quote countless passages of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin which show and repeat this conception about the relation between ideas and sensations, conscience and experience and its reflections on the political activity. Mao Tse-tung expressed this conception systematically and organically, and indicated the mass line as the principal method of work and direction of the communist party (22) .