One of Serge’s responsibilities as a supporter of the Left Opposition was to sit on the sub-committee it set up to frame a policy on the Chinese Revolution (Memoirs of a Revolutionary, p216). Since their prime source of information was the Comintern press itself, they were not always very accurately informed (or at times even informed at all, such as when they were not even told of the opposition of the Chinese Communist Party to its subordination to the Guomindang), and it is surprising how clear their analysis of the situation turned out to be.

Although this account has been reprinted as a full-length book in French (Savelli, 1977), Italian (Samonà e Savelli, 1971) and German (Verlag Neue Kritik, 1975), and the fifth and last items in ‘Documents sur le mouvement révolutionnaire en Chine’ (part 2, Cahiers du CERMTRI, no 55, December 1989), this is its first appearance in English. Apart from the last piece on Canton, which appeared over the pseudonym of ‘Paul Sizoff’ in La Lutte de Classes (no 1, February-March 1928; cf Memoirs, p239), they originally came out over Serge’s name in Clarté magazine, the first, ‘Le Bolchevisme dans l’ Asie’, as a separate article (new series, no 7, 15 March 1927), and the rest as five letters in a collection entitled ‘La Lutte des classes dans la révolution chinoise’ (Clarté, nos 9, 11, 12, 13 and 14, May-October 1927). The editors of Clarté since it resumed publication in June 1926 were sympathetic to the ideas of the Left Opposition, for amongst them were the future French Trotskyist leaders Pierre Naville and Gérard Rosenthal, who had been introduced to Trotsky by Serge at the tenth anniversary celebrations of the Russian Revolution. The magazine changed its name to La Lutte de Classes in the spring of 1928. The publication of these articles may have been the final cause of Serge’s arrest, though as he points out, this would have happened in the long run anyway (Memoirs, pp238-40).

As the ‘select bibliography’ appended to the 1984 Writers and Readers edition of Serge’s Memoirs reminds us, the text we print below was planned to appear some years ago. The original project to translate and annotate Serge’s writings on China was begun by Greg Benton, but pressure of work and the uncertain state of left-wing publishing at the time obliged him to relinquish his task when he had drafted out three of the chapters. Al Richardson had independently worked on two other chapters when Dr Benton was kind enough to hand over the texts of all the French originals and his own preliminary translations. The whole was then finished off and annotated by Al Richardson and checked against the original French by Harry Ratner, Ian Birchall and Greg Benton, who also helped with the footnotes, which as a result are far richer in our version than the simple reproduction of Serge’s own notes appearing in the modern French, German and Italian reprints. Except in the very few cases where Chinese names are so familiar in their previous Wade-Giles forms that changing them would only have added to the confusion of the reader, all proper names have been given in the modern Pinyin mode of transliteration (a brief table showing the differences can be found in Revolutionary History, Volume 2, no 2, Spring 1990, p1). Again to avoid confusion, all quotations from the Marxist classics or from Stalin and Mao have been reproduced in the wording of the familiar Russian or Chinese-produced English versions.

Whilst the main thrust of Serge’s analysis has held up remarkably well over the years, not all of his opinions on these events have received confirmation from the further development of our knowledge. For example, his favourable verdict on Mao Zedong (repeated in his Memoirs, p220), whom he discusses as if this Chinese Socialist Revolutionary had Bolshevik politics, has not been endorsed by the development of the state Mao set up. Trotsky’s own views on these events can be followed in Leon Trotsky on China (New York, 1976), and some of the opinions of the other Russian leaders can be consulted in the appendices to the New Park edition of Problems of the Chinese Revolution (London, 1969) or in Pierre Broué’s La Question chinoise dans l’Internationale communiste (Paris, 1965). For the overall historical background, the first edition of Harold Isaacs’ The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (London, 1938) is still required reading, and Workers News has performed an invaluable service by reprinting Max Shachtman’s original preface to the Problems of the Chinese Revolution in its supplement for May-June 1992 (no 38). Subscribers to Revolutionary History should also refer to the collection we brought together in Volume 2, no 4 (Spring 1990). For first-hand reminiscences, Wang Fanxi’s Memoirs of a Chinese Revolutionary should be consulted in its second edition (New York, 1991), whilst Peng Shuzhi’s L’Envol du communisme en chine as yet only exists in a French version edited by Claude Cadart and Cheng Yinxiang (Paris, 1983). Greg Benton’s history of the Chinese Trotskyists is promised to appear later this year.




Bolshevism and Asia


IF the importance of a matter is to be measured by the amount of stupidity and the number of gunboats it moves about in the world, there is no more serious question at present than that of the awakening of Asia. This awakening of old, oppressed and exploited peoples whom we are accustomed to regard as virtually passive objects to be conquered, plundered, divided and ‘administered in an enlightened fashion’, is revealed by the national revolution in Turkey, the victorious struggles in China, the massive and deep preparation in India, and the regaining of independence by Persia and Afghanistan. [1] The exploitation of the colonies as sources of raw materials and vast markets became in the nineteenth century the foundation of the great prosperity of capitalist Europe. Now that the foundation has been shaken, what will happen to this edifice, which is already cracked in other ways? The relative social peace of the continent before the war was to a great extent due to the exploitation of the colonies. The lucrative sweat of hundreds of millions of black, yellow, olive and brown slaves accumulated such riches in the metropolitan countries that it was easy to skim off a modest proportion for the benefit of the working class, or, to be more precise, for the aristocracy of labour. The stability of the capitalist world ultimately rested upon the participation of at least a part of the working class in colonial exploitation. Recalling this elementary fact allows us to understand what an immense revolutionary threat hangs over capitalist Europe as a result of the awakening of Asia, and how deep is the connection between the nationalist movements of the East and the proletarian revolutionary movement of the West…


The amount of stupidity and the number of gunboats moved about the world oblige us to ponder this. Whilst cruisers sail and chancelleries work, their faithful intellectuals carry out parallel tasks. Any preparation of artillery today is preceded by an intellectual preparation. A marvellous feat of synchronisation! The press, magazines, literature, criticism, history and philosophy, taking up Wilhelm II’s refrain (the yellow peril), [2] have for many years been denouncing the Asiatic peril. Restricting ourselves to recent documentation, we might here refer to The Times, Le Temps, and the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung; to M René Grousset, a serious historian, M Paul Morand, a short story writer, M Henri Massis, a Catholic reactionary, and Romain Rolland, a ‘revolutionary’ (in the domain of the spirit only, of course…), [3] names, titles and texts in abundance. And lies, unfortunately, in abundance too.


The weaknesses of contemporary understanding — which is bourgeois — are beginning to appear to us at times in stark relief. This understanding, like the society whose most subtle emanation it is, is marked by insoluble contradictions. It would be puerile and pernicious to deny its admirable successes; but it would be no less dangerous for proletarian revolutionaries not to notice its weaknesses, at times lamentable and at times farcical. Contemporary understanding has some curiously defined limits. Farsighted, audacious, brave and innovative as long as it advances upon firm social ground, it becomes confused, hesitant, inarticulate, shy and quickly retraces its steps at the slightest disturbance of its social ground. In other words, as long as scientific investigation does not endanger the established order, as long as the progress of the sciences (both intellectual and technical) increases the power of the capitalist system, modern understanding goes forward. We might also say that as long as the bourgeoisie is revolutionary, its intellectuals are revolutionary as well. But as soon as scientific progress becomes revolutionary in relation to a bourgeoisie that has become reactionary, as soon as scientific research results in conclusions prejudicial to the established order, understanding stops dead at this exact point, and we witness remarkable about turns that in less than a generation bring the thought of a country with a great tradition of philosophical materialism into mysticism, arrayed, as is fitting, in fresh raiment. In a number of states in the great American democracy the teaching of Darwinism is officially forbidden in the name of the Bible. We would have to be blind not to see the social causes of this legislation, the exact counterpart of that which makes a crime of sabotage, equates militant workers with spies, and punishes ‘criminal trade unionism’ with forced labour. [4]


Long ago Marx showed how capitalist development quickly checked the progress of political economy: ‘Political economy can remain a science only so long as the class struggle is latent or manifests itself only in isolated or sporadic phenomena.’ As soon as the class struggle had developed, ‘in place of disinterested inquirers, there were hired prize-fighters; in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience and the evil intent of apologetic’. [5] This was the case with political economy even before 1850. And what are we to say of historical writing today? That dealing with the Great War, for example, in all capitalist countries, is obviously only apologetic and falsification. And as for ‘philosophy’ and ‘morality’, they were always the obedient servants of the ruling classes.


The confusion of the intellectuals in the face of the awakening of Asia can be explained by similar causes. Confusion? Is that the right word? Men and groups are disoriented; so the honest intellectual probes — the type is not rare, for good faith is one of the conditions for success in the work of elaborating ideas which is the social mission of intellectuals — searches painfully and gropes his way. No doubt. However, we are in general witnessing the already well advanced elaboration of a reactionary ideology intended to mobilise opinion with a view to the class wars and colonial wars to come.


The fact is that a certain number of ideas on Bolshevism, Russia and Asia have already entered the public domain to such an extent that some intellectuals sincerely sympathetic to the party of the proletariat are accepting them without discussion. Thus ‘Russia is Asia’, ‘Bolshevism is Asiatic’. From these common and convenient premises reactionaries are deducing the defence of the West (M Henri Massis) against oriental ‘barbarism’, or against the ‘decadence’ of the East, or even against forms of civilisation and culture ‘profoundly alien’ to European culture (which during the war was one of the main anti-Russian themes of the German press). All these words disguise so many hazy notions, so much bad faith and class feeling that we should not be allowed to quote them without resorting to quotation marks to indicate the necessary reservations.


Some ‘revolutionaries’ are deducing from these common and convenient premises that ‘light comes from the East’, and that Bolshevism, bringing Russia back to its ‘Asiatic origins’, is finding in the East the elements of a new culture… These ideas, much less explicitly developed than those of the reactionaries, are no less widespread. They even have supporters in Russia. We would do well to remember the fine poem of Alexander Blok: [6] ‘Yes, we are Scythians, yes, Asiatics. With slanting, greedy eyes.’ The poet, then close to the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, [7] who were publishing a magazine entitled The Scythians, uses as an epigraph two lines by the mystic Vladimir Soloviev: ‘Pan-Mongolism. This word, however bizarre, is sweet to my ears.’


I recently heard a young proletarian poet read a poem in a small group that ended with these words: ‘O old Europe, we will stone thee!’ A French translation of Boris Pilnyak’s The Naked Year has just been published. The entire work of this Russian writer [8] incessantly develops, sometimes in a masterly fashion, as in the powerful novel the City of St Petersburg, the theme that Russia is Asia, Asia. All roads meet at the Pamirs, the heart of old Asia…


These theories rest upon an abuse of geographical concepts and a superficial observation of customs. Of all the countries in Europe, Russia is without a doubt the one which in the course of its long history has been most subject to the ascendancy of Asia. The yoke of the Mongols lasted until the end of the fifteenth century. [9] This was not, however, the yoke of barbarian hordes, but that of a solidly organised and powerful military empire, with a fairly developed culture. By ethnography and in certain respects by its customs, European Russia is really close to Asia. Turkestan, Siberia and the Soviet Far East belong in many ways to Asia, but to a very Europeanised Asia in its main centres. Now in talking about manners, customs and ways of life it is necessary to disentangle the role of ethnic and historic influences from that of economic influences. The Asiaticism of the Russian countryside is most often, we think, scarcely Asiatic at bottom; it is the condition of a peasant provided with very backward equipment. The wooden plough is still used in certain forgotten corners of northern Russia. [10] But the peasant who uses it is neither Scyth nor Mongol. He is a very backward European. He changes in no more than six months, as soon as a cooperative gets him an iron plough, or, better, a machine tractor. This peasant has very close brethren in all backward agricultural countries: in the forgotten hamlets of Europe and South America, for example. Race provides far too easy explanations for social problems. We should be on our guard against ethnographic romanticism.


At the time when the Russian Empire, with its feudal and religious autocracy, its Byzantine social hierarchy, its obscurantist Holy Synod, its all-powerful Okhrana, its persecution of the Jews, [11] its chronic famines and the dazzling luxury of its capitals, was the faithful ally of French democracy, the intellectuals of the West did not give any thought to the authentic Asiaticism of this ‘great European power’. The Russian Empire in fact belonged to the system of imperialist powers, being, it is true, a particular, semi-colonial type. It owed its economic progress to capital imported from abroad. A good share of the surplus value extracted from the labour of the Russian worker mounted up in the vaults of Paris, London and Berlin. The Empire’s military power was built on French money.


The Russian Revolution was the collapse, under the pressure of the proletariat, of the least resistant, the youngest and the most war-weary part of the imperialist system of the Entente. [12]


Capitalist Europe, for many years subject to a formidable conflict of forces, broke at its weakest point, which was — as is logical and natural — the strongest point of the international proletariat. The Russian proletariat, with its great revolutionary experience, confronted a youthful bourgeoisie, quite inexperienced, few in numbers, and deprived of the support of a middle class democracy; and it had the support of the peasant movement.


The British bourgeoisie had something to do with the fall of Nicholas II, [13] and the Scythians had nothing to do with it. The Russian Revolution was the completion of a new Europe.


The European spirit is characterised by scientific thought, inseparable from practical activity, and by industrial technique, summed up in the development of mechanised production. We must add a qualification. This spirit is only European in its historical origins; in its application, its developments and its ends it tends towards universality. European civilisation has this double basis: the machine in the economy and the experimental method in the sciences. It has produced mechanisation, great industrial concentrations, and the proletariat.


Scientific thought, handled by men thoroughly possessing a European culture, gave the proletariat a clear understanding of its mission, and of its higher interests. The founders and adherents of scientific socialism, from Marx to Lenin’s successors, have placed at the disposal of the proletariat the keenest intellectual weapon that Europe has produced: dialectical materialism.


It is doubtless not without value in this connection to remind ourselves of Bolshevism’s line of descent. In the nineteenth century Marx had brought about a synthesis of German, French and British thought ‘into a higher unity’; [14] Hegel’s dialectic [15] and the political experience of France, the only country in which the bourgeois revolution had won a rapid and complete victory, were the elements of this synthesis.


From 1900 onwards this quintessence of European thought only preserved its purity — or should we say all its vitality — in the teaching of a handful of Russians (Plekhanov [16] and Lenin). The development of imperialism and the economic and political corruption of a great part of the proletariat of the western countries by the skilful methods of democracy had obscured the class consciousness of the workers. Opportunism adapted the teaching of Marx to the needs of bourgeois society. A handful of Russians and Germans, Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, [17] resisted it. Their merit was not personal; the genius of Lenin, great as it was, could only live and operate within the context of a given social situation. Russia was the weakest point of international capitalism, and the strongest point of the international proletariat. The Russian labour movement was served by magnificent teams of intellectuals loyal body and soul to the proletariat, because the country’s middle classes were revolutionaries as regards the old order, and because the Russian bourgeoisie did not have the capacity to corrupt and enlist in its service the entirety of the intellectuals, as in the western democracies.


The Russian Revolution unfolded entirely in accordance with a system of scientific thought that proved to be astonishingly reliable and sure of itself. Lenin, leaving Switzerland for Russia a few days after the toppling of Nicholas II, had traced out its programme with a firm hand and defined its greatest possibilities and even its limits [18] for eight months, and in some respects, many years in advance. His predictions were based solely upon the analysis of facts, of social factors, and of their dynamics. From March to the October insurrection the policy of the Bolshevik Party, deriving from a consistent Marxist analysis of the situation, step by step resisted its own traditions, the influence of some acquired ideas, the pull of the masses, and the pressure of sentiment; it was a policy of reason and resolute will. The great party marching towards the dictatorship reminds you of a ship: every ship is guided across the ocean by a human brain equipped with the knowledge of natural laws. But social dynamics are far more complex than those of the elements or of machines. The October insurrection provides us with the model of a revolution accomplished by countless masses, under the clear, attentive and minutely organised leadership of a great proletarian party. It was accomplished, as Trotsky has rightly emphasised, on a fixed date, [19] without the dispersal of forces and without thoughtless actions. To sum up, it was characterised by the maximum of organisation in action. Bolshevik policy, showing proof of the maturity of the proletariat, as we have seen, obeyed disciplines of action and thought that were strictly European.


How does the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics differ essentially from all other states? What is its nature as a Socialist state? It is this: that the USSR is the only country in the world whose entire economic life is regulated, controlled and directed in conformity with a scientific plan. Obviously, the real leaders of capitalist society, the financiers and heads of industry, introduce an element of rational calculation into economic life which it would be foolish to underestimate. The steel cartel, for example, attempts to regularise metal production, and to dominate the market. It is very possible that it will succeed in so doing. The entirety of each capitalist country, however, is outside of any rational control, which means we can speak of capitalist anarchy.


Not long ago Trotsky wrote with reference to the figures of the Planning Commission:


The statisticians of the Harvard Economic Service, when they attempt to determine the tendencies and rates of growth of certain branches of the US economy, are proceeding to a certain extent like astronomers; that is, they attempt to grasp the dynamics of processes that are entirely independent of their control. The difference is merely in the fact that these statisticians by no means work with the accurate methods that are at the disposal of the astronomer. The Russian statisticians, however, are in an entirely different position; they work as members of institutions which are in charge of economic life. A preliminary plan in our case is not merely a product of passive prediction, but also a lever for active economic forethought. In this case, each figure is not only a photograph, but also a guideline.


And again:


… the table [of control figures of the Planning Commission]… represents a dialectical combination of theoretical prediction and practical volition, that is, a union of the calculated objective conditions and tendencies with the subjectively imposed tasks of the workers’ and peasants’ state. Herein lies the chief difference between Gosplan’s general review table and all the statistical summaries, calculations and approximations of any capitalist state… We are dealing here with the immense superiority of our, that is, Socialist, methods over those of capitalist states. [20]


The USSR is the only country in the world where the rationalisation of production and exchange is tenaciously pursued. Everywhere else economic laws are in general merely studied and put up with. Here knowledge of economic laws becomes a capacity for practical activity; the Soviet economist foresees crises and attempts to avoid them, like a pilot, who, when directing his ship towards a safe haven, takes account of the probable shifts of wind and undersea currents. This impressive application to the organisation of social life of methods of scientific action hardly even dreamed of by the most audacious thinkers of the twentieth century is only rendered possible by the dictatorship of the proletariat. It has made humanity take a decisive step towards its complete victory over nature. Since the bourgeois revolution man has achieved brilliant victories over the elements; he has mastered fire, electricity, waterfalls, extended the domain of what is knowable into the infinitely great and the infinitely small, and — no doubt in a relative sense, but to a marvellous degree — conquered time and distance. But in the capitalist countries economic science has not yet resulted in a technology. By a curious paradox social life remains the final domain of ignorance and lack of foresight; the blind laws of the market and competition, and state and class wars, hold sway there… European civilisation has practically overcome plague and leprosy: but it does not know how to cure a country of unemployment. The path of comets, climatic variations and earthquakes are predicted: but they do not know how to predict wars…


Good Lord, you might say, they prepare enough for them! That is precisely what I want to come on to. Sociology, economics, politics and history do not appear to be capable of a truly scientific development in capitalist Europe, since their progress can only be contrary to the interests of the ruling classes. Happily, proletarian Europe has no stake in this stagnation — on the contrary! It takes up again the progressive triumphant traditions of the revolutionary bourgeoisie of earlier days. It knows that it is called upon to crown the work of the nineteenth century, the creator of modern production on the basis of skilled technique, by the rational (which we might call the most equable and intelligent) organisation of this production by human collectives.


International Communism — dialectical materialism and the theory of action of the proletariat — opens up today the highest possibilities of the European civilisation compromised and threatened by the capitalist regime.


It is exercising a great and legitimate influence over the peoples of Asia. What did capitalist Europe bring them? The Bible, alcohol and opium — imposed by the British upon the Chinese with cannon fire — the despotism of viceroys and resident generals, exploitation, plunder, poison gas and the example of bloody rivalries. Communist Europe is bringing them the science of Marx and Lenin, greeted on his deathbed by Sun Yat-sen; [21] opening for them the Chinese universities of Moscow to which Radek [22] is devoting his energies; sending Soviet airmen into Mongolia, Persia and Afghanistan; giving back the concessions taken from them by the Russian autocracy; and proclaiming its solidarity in the face of the British cannon with their movement of emancipation.


Since 1919 the British have the massacre of Amritsar [23] to their credit. Last year the French bombarded Damascus, [24] the ancient capital of Muslim culture, whose mosques are worth quite as much as Rheims cathedral; and the British bombarded Wang-Sien. How many deaths? Such is the hideous face of capitalist barbarism turned towards the Orient. And contrasting with it, international Communism, with the Russians in the lead, from today onwards is bringing to the peoples of Asia a deep spiritual liberation, preceding and preparing for their total liberation. Another Europe has been born, Asian brothers! The nightmare of the bombardments is going to end. The proletarians of the West are extending their hands to you, and offering you their finest weapons: their science, their experience, their class consciousness, and their solidarity as oppressed and as revolutionaries.


The influence of Bolshevism over Asia is very great. That of the old Asia of the oppressed over Bolshevism is practically nil. Whoever knows the life of the USSR, however slightly, knows it. The thoughts and ideas of the old Asia, on the other hand, have for some years been finding a very favourable welcome in the cultured circles of the European bourgeoisie. Buddhist studies are in favour in Germany, Britain and America. There are theosophical circles in almost all the world capitals. Count Keyserling’s school of wisdom [25] has followers in the whole of continental Europe, but not among the proletarians… The decadent or despairing spirits of capitalist Europe are turning freely towards the mystery of the great Asian decadences. We Bolsheviks and world Communists are the most vital of Europeans.


February 1927


The Class Struggle in the Chinese Revolution: First Letter


FOR some years now the Chinese Revolution has been looming on the horizon. The recent events in Shanghai brutally pose before the international working class the problems of class struggle within this great revolution, which up to now has all too often been regarded as essentially national and bourgeois. What has happened? This: on 21-22 March a working-class insurrection, headed by the trade unions and a few handfuls of courageous Communist militants, took Shanghai, China’s real industrial and commercial capital, after a bitter street battle waged against the troops of the Northern reaction. The proletariat carried out this exploit under the muzzles of English, French, American, Japanese and Italian cannon (not to mention the rest). Less than a month later, on 13-14 April, the Generalissimo commanding the revolutionary-nationalist armies of the Guomindang [26] had this proletariat treacherously disarmed and machine-gunned, defeated and strangled in a single night by his official allies. And this grievous blow — foreseen and announced for many weeks by the bourgeois press of every country — was a sad, frightful surprise for the working-class militants and Communists of all countries… To begin with, let us deplore the lamentable weakness of our information on the Chinese Revolution. What do we know of the internal struggles and social crises which produced these results? In a word, nothing. The interests of international Communism require on the contrary careful, complete and vivid reports, made possible by the existence of Soviet news agencies in China. But even in the USSR it is necessary to state that this information, whilst better than in all the capitalist countries, remains inferior to what it could and ought to be. Let us hope that there will be a remedy to this failing, which from now on is indisputable.


I cannot hope in these very hasty notes to deal with the immense problem of the Chinese Revolution. The next Enlarged Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Communist International will no doubt study it. [27] It seems useful to me, on the eve of these deliberations of our international party, to bring out some information and some aspects upon which the attention of militants has not been focused until now. This is all I can aspire to.


The ‘Driving Forces’ of a Revolution


Everyone agrees that the Chinese Revolution has the character of a bourgeois, nationalist and anti-imperialist revolution. The economic enslavement of China to the foreign powers has become an obstacle to the development of the national bourgeoisie. The big industries, transport, the financial establishments and the customs are in the hands of foreigners; the national bourgeoisie feels all the more frustrated, and cannot, in these conditions, set up the solid state that it needs. Youthful Chinese industry cannot be guaranteed any customs protection against foreign competition. The armed contests of the generals in the pay of foreign powers have also contributed to preventing the creation of a modern, centralised, ordered and well-administered state essential to the successful development of business… Hence the aims of the national revolution, as the Chinese bourgeoisie understands them: cancellation of the old enslavement treaties, independence and national unity, and the creation of a firm, ordered and enlightened central government, preferably conceived upon the American model (with, however, a military president with a firm hand, the better to hold the proletariat in check…).


But the Chinese bourgeoisie is too weak, too few in numbers and too unpopular to lead the revolution, which it counts on depriving of a part of its fruits in order to organise the country immediately after the victories paid for with the blood of the toiling classes, and come to an agreement with the imperialist bourgeoisie. What are the real driving forces of the revolution?


To begin with there is the proletariat (between three and four million strong), outrageously exploited by foreign and native capitalists, a proletariat organised, intelligent and matured in the struggles of these last few years, which has shed rivers of blood as well as scoring memorable victories — in Guangzhou (Canton), Hankou, Hongkong, Shanghai and Tianjin…


Then there are the natural allies of the proletariat, the peasant masses — hundreds of millions of people who are among the most wretched inhabitants of this planet — surviving on the intensive but still primitive cultivation of tiny plots of land, exploited by the large landowner, the first-rank tenant (the land is often sub-let), the moneylender, the military leader, the bureaucrat and the merchant. The system of internal customs barriers, the result of the foreigners’ stranglehold on the external customs, is a terrible cause of poverty to the Chinese peasant; the generals impose upon him conscription, troop maintenance and arbitrary taxation. The poverty of the peasant masses is such that, according to foreign researchers, their normal income is considerably below the minimum subsistence level… with the result that their very existence poses a constant problem, testifying to a record of brute endurance. Entire strata of the rural population are literally reduced to the condition of animals. What is necessary for the Chinese peasants to be able to become human beings again? An end to the rule of the feudal lords — generals, landowners — and the moneylenders kept in being by imperialist rivalry; the unity of the country, a well-ordered administration and a fair taxation system. We see that these minimum demands coincide with those of the bourgeois national revolution — and go beyond them, since they do not limit themselves to the abolition of the vestiges of feudalism, but strike at the property of the capitalist moneylenders.


The industrialisation of the country, even though slowed down during the last 10 years, is forcing more and more of the very numerous artisans into poverty, and is proletarianising them. The misery in the countryside and the unceasing internal wars are calamities for small trade. The fairly numerous intellectuals — students, literati, people of the liberal professions — bring to our notice the complaints and aspirations of the middle classes. They provide the revolutionary movement with its leaders and cadres.


So brief an account of social classes so varied, divided and subdivided in very different environments in a country as vast as a continent, with an extremely complex economic structure, can only be lamentably schematic. Such as it is, it nonetheless enables some deductions to be made.


The basic interests of these various classes at present rouse them against imperialism. On the other hand, they nonetheless remain antagonistic and must even enter into conflict over how to complete the national revolution and organise its future. What benefit will the workers get from it? How far will they push their gains? How far will the agrarian revolution go, which only the proletariat can guide and support? These are vital questions for all the classes involved.


In these conditions, the bourgeoisie and the upper strata of the commercial and intellectual petit-bourgeoisie possess a formidable capacity for betrayal and reaction, at the same time as representing a factor for moderating the drive of the revolution and for compromise with the foreigners (the Chinese bourgeoisie would doubtless gladly accommodate to an ‘invisible’, delicate economic penetration by foreign capital that is respectful of its ‘national interests’, in short comparable with that of French, British, German and Belgian capital in Russia from 1890 to 1914). But neither proletarians, artisans nor poor peasants — and they are the majority — can be satisfied with a moderate revolution that would stop short, overcome with pious respect, in face of large industrial property, cash boxes and land registers… And this deep conflict of interests confirms that the only revolutionary classes capable of ensuring the victory of the national revolution over feudal survivals within and foreign imperialism without are precisely the toiling classes that can no longer carry out the bourgeois democratic revolution without going beyond it and directing themselves towards Socialism all the more forcefully since betrayals, attempts at reaction, the plotting of the bourgeoisie with the foreigner, and even war might call for responses that are difficult to foresee…


To sum up, the bourgeoisie cannot accept the leadership of the proletariat in the national revolution; now this leadership is a precondition for the victory of this revolution and, by the same token, of its progress towards Socialism. Either the national revolution, strangled by the national bourgeoisie, will be aborted and will have to start all over again in a few years, or it will triumph, led by the proletariat supported by the middle classes of the towns and the poor peasant masses; but in this case it could no longer confine itself to carrying out the democratic programme of the radical bourgeoisie, even as Sun Yat-sen formulated it; it will have to go further, it will go towards Socialism following the example of the Russian Revolution and with the support of the international proletariat. Moreover, in our period there are no longer clearly defined limits between a bourgeois revolution and a Socialist revolution: there are only questions of power and of class consciousness.


The Beginnings of the Peasant Revolution


The inner history of the Chinese Revolution is — naturally — dominated by the class struggle. From 1922 Sun Yat-sen, then subject to American influence, was only able to maintain himself in power in Guangzhou thanks to the workers, who forced the merchants to accept the banknotes issued by the governmental bank. But the strikes set the proletariat and the leaders of the Guomindang against each other. Sun Yat-sen attempted to control the workers’ movement, demanding that its congresses be subject to governmental authorisation, etc… A gulf opened up between the Guomindang and the Cantonese working class. The latter did not understand the alliance of Sun Yat-sen with Zhang Zuolin [28] against Wu Peifu, [29] then master of central China. The police chief Hai Ho-Ping, sheltered by Sun Yat-sen, suppressed the workers’ movement in Canton, which did not react when the army of the reactionary demagogue Chen Jiongming [30] drove Sun Yat-sen from power (15-16 June 1922).


Sun Yat-sen’s evolution to the left dates from this painful experience. His thought, until then attached to Wilsonian ideas, [31] henceforth turned itself towards Lenin. The tireless old revolutionary initiated a new and fruitful policy of rapprochement between the Guomindang and the toiling masses and the Soviet Republic, of alliance with the Communists, and of support for the peasant masses against the feudal lords and the large landowners. The following year (1923) Sun met Joffe [32] the Soviet ambassador to China, in Shanghai. Shortly afterwards he again became head of the Guangzhou government. His last thoughts on his death bed — he died in Beijing in March 1925 — hailed the Russian Revolution.


The southern capital, however, remained the arena of ceaseless social struggles exacerbated by armed conflicts that set the peasants and the large landowners against each other in the neighbouring provinces. At the end of 1923 the struggle polarised between the counter-revolutionary organisation of big business and the bosses, the Paper Tigers, [33] and the working class and the lower strata of artisans. In January 1924 the Tigers slit the throat of the leader of the rice workers; soon afterwards, they prevented with armed force the circulation of banknotes issued by Sun Yat-sen; and on 1 May they fired on demonstrations. In May-June their congress in Guangzhou mobilised 15 000 men. The British trade and finance of Hongkong and the foreigners of the Shamin — the concessionary quarter in Guangzhou — accorded them official protection. They prepared for the seizure of power. Always manoeuvring, at the end of June Sun Yat-sen offered them a silk banner in the name of the Guomindang. That did not prevent him from having their arms seized; the merchants obtained their restitution by a strike. The Tigers soon put them to use. They fired on the people’s demonstrations, attempted a coup d’état, and were defeated on 14-17 October, thanks to ready support for the Guomindang government from the proletariat and the common people. General Chen Jiongming ‘went to war to free Guangzhou from Bolshevism’. A period of troubles, military plots and confused betrayals began. In May 1925 the situation was so critical that the government had to take refuge in the Huangpu Military Academy. [34] The working-class movement showed its strength in the strikes of the Shamin and of Guangzhou, marked on 23 June by the Shamian shooting, where the British killed 57 and wounded more than 200 on the threshold of the foreign concessions… The Guomindang government was caught between the workers’ and peasants’ movement and the counter-revolution. It had to choose. Wang Jingwei [35] and Liao Zhongkai (who was assassinated on 20 August 1925) adopted a left popular policy. Helped by Russian advisers, they reorganised the army, and formed sections for political education and propaganda within it; the Huangpu Military Academy was conceived on the model of the military academies of the Red Army; China, a country of mercenary armies, with neither faith nor law, witnessed the birth of an army whose strength lay in its conviction, its consciousness, its moral discipline and its intelligence.


Even more than the workers’ movement and the aggressions of the counter-revolution, it was the outbreak of the agrarian revolution that obliged the Guomindang to choose between reaction and revolution. A few facts allow us to judge the poverty of the Chinese peasant. The American researcher Taylor fixed a living standard of a minimum income of 187 Mexican dollars per annum below which poverty begins for the Chinese peasant. Now 41 per cent of the peasant families studied have an income less than 40 dollars a year. ‘The survival of this class requires such an exertion of strength that the struggle for a daily pittance kills the germs of all intellectual, spiritual and even physical development’, writes another foreigner, Mr Dittmer. [36] These observers have studied northern China: but the situation is the same throughout this huge country. The peasant masses are driven by it to depravity, bestiality — or revolt. All who have any energy in them rebel — ‘banditry’ is on the increase.


Eighty-five per cent of the land in Guangdong (Guangzhou’s province) belongs to the large landowners who have formed powerful mercenary militias in order to squeeze the peasants. Our comrade Alsky has described the beginning of the peasant revolution in this country in 1924-25 in a remarkable chapter of his little book Canton Victorious. [37] From time immemorial there have existed a large number of secret societies in the Chinese countryside. One of these societies, set up in Haifeng (Guangdong) adopted as its motto ‘He who does not work, neither shall he eat’, another, ‘Take from the rich and give to the poor’, and a third ‘Do good in the name of the Almighty’. There was always in Haifeng — this town is a centre of the peasant movement — a party of the poor that wanted ‘to become the vanguard of the workers’ revolution’. Some of these organisations were clearly semi-Anarchist. In 1924 the Guomindang felt threatened and appealed to the peasants, and its appeal was heard. But from then on it was forced to take up a position on the incessant armed conflicts between the landowners and the peasant organisations. On many occasions the Cantonese troops sent against the landowners passed over to their side. Even Sun Yat-sen’s own bodyguard went over to the landowners. The Guomindang broke down this resistance and this is also one of the reasons why it succeeded in holding on to power. By the end of 1925 the Guangdong peasant associations, strengthened by their victories, already had 200 000 members. The Guomindang decreed that land rent could not exceed half the harvest, and should be divided up as follows: 25 per cent to the landowner, 12.5 per cent in taxes, and 12.5 per cent reimbursement made by the government to the cultivator. We do not know if this measure was applied, or to what extent. But it is certain that since the coup d’état of 20 March 1926 (the coming to power of Chiang Kai-shek [38] and the Centre-Right within the Guomindang) the agrarian policy of the southern government has above all attempted to contain the peasant movement.


As regards the Chinese Communist Party, Comrade Tan Pingshan [39] explained at the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI that one of its main mistakes was that it had elaborated no agrarian programme whatsoever; he noted that the peasant movement had developed spontaneously, outside the influence of the party. ‘We must defend the interests of the peasantry’, he added, ‘but we must also maintain the united front of the national revolutionary movement.’ Some Chinese Communists, fearing the breakup of this front, showed themselves hostile to the agrarian movement. [40] The resolution of the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI on the Chinese situation condemned this mistake and emphasised the decisive role of the peasants in the revolution.


The Struggles of the Working Class


Comrade S Dalin, who knows China well, has published from Canton two exceptionally interesting articles in Moscow’s Pravda on the labour policies of the Guomindang government. [41]


It is known that at the end of 1926 the London cabinet attempted to initiate a policy of rapprochement with the Guomindang government, which responded by lifting the blockade of Hongkong. But the boycott of the British ships was enforced by unionised workers’ pickets. The Cantonese trade unionists whom Mr Eugene Chen, Minister of Foreign Affairs, [42] failed to consult, maintained a successful continuous boycott for 16 months. When being interviewed, Mr Eugene Chen declared to the journalists that the government well knew how to make itself obeyed by the workers. The British governor of Hongkong for his part declared himself prepared to support the reassertion of order in Guangzhou and… had a search made by British customs officials of a ship flying the Soviet flag in the port of the revolutionary nationalist capital. The diplomatic courier of the USSR was harassed. It was necessary for the Cantonese proletariat to come out onto the streets to make Mr Eugene Chen swallow his words and for British hopes to be dashed yet again. ‘At the time we were in Guangzhou’, wrote Dalin, ‘power belonged to the revolutionaries in the streets… The Central Committee of the Guomindang and the government had become rather like arbitration commissions.’


These arbitration commissions had to work hard, torn as they were with internal divisions! There were demonstrations by bosses, workers and merchants — all of them threatening — and delegations of poor peasants and landowners besieged the commissions with urgent and contradictory demands.


At the time of the start of the great Northern Expedition [43] that was to end in the taking of Shanghai, the Guomindang Central Committee launched an appeal for social peace for victory, and the military authorities forbade strikes and workers’ meetings. The Cantonese proletariat supported the military effort but continued its wage struggles, and not without success. The threat of a management lockout in the Guangzhou arsenal was broken by a call for a general strike. The greater part of the Cantonese workers are organised (there are more than 200 000 trade unionists; these are, for the most part, handicraft workers, not industrial). Their wages have hardly risen since 1917, even though the cost of living has risen sharply. The working day varies between 11 and 15 hours. Incessant struggles are also necessary to maintain these wretched living conditions. The workers are obliged to set up armed detachments (pickets) to protect strikers and their organisations against the attacks of the bands formed by the bosses, and so as not to be at the mercy of a coup d’état. There have been several attempts to disarm them. On 6 August 1926 the Commander in Chief of the Southern army ordered the disarming of the workers; in December 1926, after the first great victories of the revolutionary nationalist army in the Yangtse region, there was an attempt to disarm the proletarian organisations in Guangzhou (but without success or any attempt to do the job thoroughly). The government brought in compulsory arbitration in clashes between capital and labour. But it soon turned out that this arbitration would only be compulsory for the workers. A law of 5 January 1927 limited the right to strike, and in some cases forbade the use of strike pickets. [44] Whilst the government was subjecting the working class to these pressures, the employers were forming and arming a confederation of scab trade unions in Guangzhou. To conclude with the words of the Russian magazine of the Red International of Labour Unions, [45] ‘the toiling masses had to sustain a relentless struggle for the improvement of their economic conditions within the territory of the Nationalist government’. [46]


Now these are the masses who gave the Chinese Revolution its greatest victories: the great strikes of Hankou and Shanghai, which ended in massacres; the 16 month boycott of Hongkong; the victories of the Guomindang over reaction; the seizure of the British concession in Hankou — it was occupied by the trade unions — and the taking of Shanghai. These are the most outstanding features of their activity.


And what, in these circumstances, was the policy of the Chinese Communist Party? Nothing has been published on this subject. But the disproportion in membership between the trade unions (1.5 million) and the party (15 000) is striking. [47]


The Proletarian Victory and the Shanghai Ambush


On 21-22 March Shanghai fell into the hands of the Reds. This is how. The Southern army was approaching. The Northern troops of Shandong were occupying the town. The day of the 21st had been calm. At 11 o’clock at night a mysterious signal, a cannon shot, rang out. Immediately there was a general strike. After laying down their tools, the proletarians got out their guns. The insurrection began, as always, with an attack on the police stations. The Chinese city was covered with barricades. General Pi Shucheng bombarded the working-class districts. According to the China Courier, the bombardment destroyed some 1500 houses. But on the morning of the 22nd the insurgents carried out an attack on the railway station where the armoured train of the general was stationed, defended, moreover, by White Russians. [48] That night the defeated White Russians and Northerners had to seek refuge in the foreign concessions after 24 hours of battle. [49] The Nationalist army of General Chiang Kai-shek was able to enter the city. After it entered, its first aim was to attempt to disarm the real liberators of Shanghai!


The taking of Shanghai could not fail to intensify the class struggle within the Chinese Revolution and internal dissensions in the Guomindang. With Hankou and Shanghai, powerful working-class cities, now added to Guangzhou, the hegemony of the proletariat in southern China was beginning to become a reality. It was necessary to subdue this proletariat, which had just carried off two striking victories by the occupation of the British concession in Hankou and the Shanghai uprising. The bourgeoisie, the Guomindang right, understood that its fate was in the balance. The Times and Le Temps repeated ad nauseam their formula for salvation: compromise, and an agreement between the moderate right of the Guomindang and Zhang Zuolin; ‘but’, they asked themselves anxiously, ‘will Chiang Kai-shek be able to subdue the extremists?’. The roar of the Anglo-American cannon let loose in Nanjing effectively underlined the burden of the advice in the imperialist press. It was a classic situation, an interval between two dictatorships, either that of the right, with a brave general at its head, or that of the left, with the working class in charge. People manoeuvred. The revolutionaries and the Chinese Communist Party, concerned for the unity of the national anti-imperialist movement, and doubtless also hoping that the bourgeoisie ‘would not dare’, allowed themselves to be fooled. A Guomindang conference held at Hankou decided on the return of the left leader Wang Jingwei, sympathetic to the Communists — but to what extent? — who had been exiled since the Guangzhou coup d’état of 20 March 1926 that had given power to the right. A new government was formed including two right-wingers, four centrists and two Communists (Tan Pingshan as Minister of Agriculture, and Su Zhaozheng [50] as Minister of Labour); the modest Chiang Kai-shek solemnly declared that he would confine himself to his military functions; on 5 April Wang Jingwei, barely returned from exile, in the name of the Guomindang signed a splendid joint manifesto with the Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Chen Duxiu [51] which said that ‘the colonial and semi-colonial countries are not at the stage of transition from capitalism to Socialism’, and added with obvious self-satisfaction that ‘the military authorities in Shanghai have declared that they will submit to the central authorities’. [52] In the meantime, Chiang Kai-shek was quietly replacing unreliable troops with reliable ones, negotiating with foreign agents, allowing or organising the surveillance of the Soviet consulate, and, in short, carrying out the preparations for his sinister coup…


Moreover, other quite singular things happened that should have served as a warning. In Hankou on 30 March an attempt was made to dissolve the trade unions (a riot, with eight workers killed). The newspapers announced numerous executions of ‘rioters’ in Shanghai. In Hankou they carried out executions of militant workers accused of having taken part in the invasion of the British concession… Whose heads were the executioners of Chiang Kai-shek cutting off in Shanghai? We don’t know. The Echo de Paris spoke of ‘Communist vermin’ being massacred. Some newspapers reported 300 executions. ‘Clashes’ between ‘extremists’ and ‘moderates’ occurred in the night of 4-5 April, and martial law was declared in Shanghai (on the 5th). Martial law in a centre of the working class world is always an unpleasant thing, and most significant… It was barely mentioned in the workers’ press.


Moreover, the head of the Guomindang army had a rather suspect past, having been one of the main perpetrators of a coup d’état carried out in Guangzhou on 20 March 1926, which had resulted in the formation of a right-wing leadership in Sun Yat-sen’s party, the exile of Wang Jingwei, and a semi-military dictatorship. A Russian comrade, L Heller, [53] amongst the better-informed on Chinese affairs, was able to say recently: ‘Those Chinese Communists who had not stopped emphasising that, despite his verbal radicalism, Chiang Kai-shek in no way differed from the Guomindang rightists, were absolutely correct.’ [54]


However this may be, the disarming and bloodbath inflicted on the Shanghai proletariat amounted to a heavy defeat that in no way appears to have been inevitable. It was possible to foresee it, and perhaps even to prevent it. The revolutionary proletarians of Shanghai allowed themselves to be led into an ambush by the liberal bourgeoisie and the military who make up the Guomindang right. The Communist International will not fail to study the mistakes made and to draw lessons from these facts.


The Chinese Communist Party and the Guomindang


Within the Chinese Revolution the proletariat and its party have shown themselves to be extremely anxious to maintain the unity of the national revolutionary movement — a unity that was to make it invincible — but the bourgeoisie and its top brass did not hesitate to break up this unity with machine-gun fire and severed heads. There is no room for surprise: the reverse would have been surprising. ‘Selfish class interests have gained the upper hand among the Chinese capitalists; they prefer bargaining and then an alliance with the imperialists to the struggle for the freedom of their country’, wrote l’Humanité on 16 April. [55] For heaven’s sake! Communists must never forget that capitalists only obey, always obey and can only obey their class interests; to expect we know not what generosity from them toward the national revolution is to drift into the dangerous illusions of utopian Socialism cultivated by opportunism, and so often refuted by Lenin.


The editorial in Communist International no 11 informs us how the Chinese Communist Party viewed the problem of the unity of the national revolutionary movement from the time of the session of its Central Committee of June 1926 onwards. At this session the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in fact took some important decisions concerning relations between the Communist Party and the Guomindang:


1. To pass from a policy of affiliation to that of alliance.


2. To have its own distinctly Communist policy.


3. To attempt to provide a base for the Guomindang in the urban petit-bourgeoisie.


4. To consider the Guomindang not as having to be a centralised party as before, but a party made up of local clubs.


The editorial in Communist International no 11 considered these decisions to be wrong and contrary to those of the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI which upheld the affiliation of the Chinese Communist Party to the Guomindang. [56] It is not for me to enter into the merits of this debate, which to me seems to be dominated by two basic truths: inside or outside the Guomindang, the Communist Party cannot cease being itself and following its own proletarian policy; secondly, this question is really far more about the real relationship of forces than of formal affiliation to the party of Sun Yat-sen. The proletariat is strong and active enough in the national revolution for its party to be able — assuming it knows how to go about it — to develop into a real leading party of the national movement, whether it uses the method of allying with the Guomindang or affiliating to it, without renouncing any of its principles.


True, the bourgeoisie, very alert to this danger, strove to avoid it by imposing a ‘monolithic’ unity of the Guomindang upon the Communists on the basis of the purely bourgeois liberal teachings [57] of Sun Yat-sen (nationalism, democracy and Socialism — the word Socialism being understood rather in the same way as the French Radical Socialists understand it in regard to poor people). This meant denying Marxism even the right to exist. But the question really came down to — and still comes down to — interpretations that can only be based upon the real relationship of forces. The great Sun was no doubt the ideologist of the advanced bourgeoisie and of the revolutionary middle classes; his militant Wilsonism had no doubt nothing in common with Communism; but his last thoughts were of homage to the Russian Revolution, and his final advice to his followers was to collaborate with international Communism and the Soviet republic. Hence the arguments about the compatibility or incompatibility of Sun Yat-senism and Communism are equally valid depending on whose class interests it is a question of defending. But what is certain is that a Communist party neither can, nor ever should — on pain of losing its reason for existence, and its members — allow in the course of its daily activities its own programme to be replaced by that of a party representing other classes. But it could not be better put than by Lenin in his draft theses on colonial and national questions presented to the Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920, which served as the basis for the resolution adopted:


The Communist International should support bourgeois-democratic national movements in colonial and backward countries only on condition that, in these countries, the elements of future proletarian parties, which will be Communist not only in name, are brought together and trained to understand their special tasks, that is, those of the struggle against the bourgeois-democratic movements within their own nations. The Communist International must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in the colonial and backward countries, but should not merge with it, and should under all circumstances uphold the independence of the proletarian movement even if it is in its most embryonic form. [58]


Given this principle, in other words, ensuring the correctness of the class policy of the Chinese Communist Party, the choice between affiliation to the Guomindang or forming a bloc with it seems to me to be of no more than tactical or formal significance. From another point of view, the Guomindang appears to us to be more like the governmental apparatus of the national revolution than a party in the proper sense of the word; and it follows from this that the party of the proletariat must try to get its hands on at least some of the levers of this apparatus; but such results, as Communists know all too well, cannot be obtained by diplomatic transactions. They can only be the result of a firm and far-sighted proletarian policy of constantly appealing to the masses, and of organising their activity.


Towards the Democratic Dictatorship of the Workers and Peasants


When, on 22 January 1905, Emperor Nicholas II had the proletarians, who had come in procession to present a petition at the feet of the ‘little father’, machine-gunned in front of the windows of the Winter Palace, he had no idea that he was signing at one and the same time his own death warrant, that of his dynasty, and that of his regime. By shooting the Shanghai proletarians in the back, the Chinese bourgeoisie could very well have committed a similar blunder — only the future will show. The military actions of Chiang Kai-shek demonstrate to the Chinese proletarians that they can only rely upon themselves. If they still had illusions in the liberal bourgeoisie, those illusions were now shot down. This lesson will be understood, of that there can be no doubt. During the present struggles the Chinese proletariat has provided evidence of an astonishing revolutionary maturity. Are we aware that workers locked out of a Japanese factory in Hankou decided some weeks ago to restart production themselves? [59] We have seen that the proletariat has peasant masses as allies whose activities have at times been astonishing. The exploits of the Red Spears, those Robin Hoods of that part of the world who expropriate the rich on the spot, and often defeat the regular armies of the counter-revolution, show the potential of the agrarian revolution. A large part of the petit-bourgeoisie, linked by its interests to the proletariat and peasantry, is compelled to follow them. Even inside the Guomindang itself the treachery of the bourgeoisie (which the teaching of Sun Yat-sen will not easily justify) — the compromise with the Northern counter-revolution, and the compromise with the foreign imperialists whilst unleashing class war within — could very well provoke a purge and a change of line favourable to the leadership of the proletariat. The Chinese bourgeoisie, an accomplice of foreign imperialists, is striving with blind perseverance to teach the implacable laws of class struggle to the workers. It will reap what it sows.


Henceforth, the national revolutionary movement is split. Perhaps there will even be two Guomindangs, just as there are at present two southern governments. [60] The class struggle is reclaiming its rights. From now on doctrinal intransigence on the part of the Communist Party, the arming of the workers and peasants — it was wrong, so it seems, not to have made this demand until now one of the basic slogans of the activity of the proletariat (the party would have done better to have drawn its inspiration from the directives issued by Lenin in March 1917 at the time of the fall of the Russian autocracy) [61] — the leadership of the proletariat in the revolution, the leadership of the Communist Party in the revolutionary Guomindang, the extension of the agrarian revolution, an appeal to the masses, control by the masses over the revolutionary government, and the creation of mass organisations that would allow this control, are the only ways forward, and these ways lead from bourgeois democratic revolution to Socialist revolution.


Obviously a temporary victory of the bourgeoisie allied with foreign imperialists, who are quite anxious, so it seems, to salvage their present position by means of a policy of concessions to reactionary nationalism, cannot be excluded. It is necessary to take into account the possibility of a movement inspired by Fascism that would recruit its troops among the middle classes, and, armed with British rifles, would provide shock troops and a true class army to the Chinese bourgeoisie, which is numerically rather weak, but relies upon the middle traders who are very rich and numerous, with many different subdivisions. If the working class and peasant masses who come to the revolution with immense hopes were to be deceived, if they saw the fruits of their labour escape them, if they felt misled by some and betrayed by others, a backlash would occur, and the counter-revolution would win. That is the greatest danger.


However that may be, China’s economic and social situation, even in the event of the victory of the bourgeoisie, does not allow us to count on a really lasting stabilisation. The Chinese bourgeoisie can solve neither the agrarian problem nor the ‘labour problem’. [62] And the Chinese Revolution is not, in its present phase, at the mercy of a pronunciamento. It requires rather broader and more radical solutions than that of the sabre. Chiang Kai-shek will last for a few weeks or a few months. The tide will sweep him away. Economic necessity, historical precedent, the deep impetus that drives hundreds of millions of exploited forward towards victorious revolts — all this leads us to think that the rising of the Chinese workers is only at its beginning… The counter-revolution’s military adventurers will tomorrow perhaps appear to have been the involuntary architects of the democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants.




End of April 1927


Second Letter: The Communist Task


THE Chinese Revolution is the greatest historical event of the present age. Nothing so important has happened in the world since the ‘Great War’ — capitalist society’s first attempt at suicide — and the Russian October, the first decisive victory of the international proletariat. The relative stabilisation of capitalism, its future development or decline, the preservation of the USSR, and the conditions and activity of the international proletariat depend to a great extent upon the struggles unleashed along the banks of the Yangtse by the Hankou trade unionists and the ‘Red Spears’. Therefore revolutionaries have a duty to think about the Chinese events. Here we are once more in the school of revolution. The situations, facts, tactics and ideas that determine matters over there, as well as the passionate controversies that they have aroused in China itself and in the USSR, must be the object of deep study. Within the limits of its resources Clarté has in this case done its duty. [63] But how can we not deplore the lack of intellectual initiative of the revolutionary press in general? The Communist and sympathising press has limited itself to publishing a few economic studies and translations of a certain number of works, which were important ones, by Russian militants. We are entitled to demand more from our movement and our party. The Chinese Revolution imposes upon all revolutionary Marxists the tasks of study, understanding, and research. Obviously, it is a question of events of very considerable complexity, developing in a social universe about which we are almost completely without serious information. What do we know about the Chinese Communist Party? About its attitude towards the agrarian problem and the role of the working class? About its internal struggles? What do we know about the Guomindang? What is its structure? To what extent do its leading bodies express the aspirations of the masses? What do we know about the magnificent Shanghai insurrection of May 1927, of which it could well be said without the slightest exaggeration that on this sale of things it was the greatest working-class military feat since the Russian October insurrection (not forgetting the splendid battle of Hamburg in 1923)? [64] And what in the end do we know about the controversies aroused by the Chinese Revolution? What do we know about all this? Very little. Too little. We should react, comrades. The Communist International needs the activity, the initiative and the intelligence of all its militants. It needs international information and a wide-ranging and serious work of theoretical elaboration, which can only be the result of the combined efforts of the revolutionary Marxists of all countries. Indecision, mistakes and even deviations are inevitable: we must not be afraid of them. In the party of action, the party on the march, we have to fear only ignorance, passivity, inaction and routinism.


Without an understanding of international problems there is no Communist education. Without diligent, critical and self-critical labour, without the initiative of the mass of militants themselves, there is no real, fertile understanding of international problems.


Get to know and understand the Chinese Revolution in order to fight alongside it.


The ‘Normal Course’ of Bourgeois Revolutions


Much has been said about the nature of the Chinese Revolution, defined as anti-imperialist and bourgeois democratic. The foreign imperialist yoke is holding back the capitalist development of China. The vestiges of feudalism (Bukharin) [65] or the rule of landed property and usury (Radek) determine and make necessary the agrarian revolution. Let us emphasise a third, no less decisive factor: the class struggle drives the proletariat, already numerous and concentrated in several great centres, into an activity that can only be distinctly revolutionary. [66]


The national revolution is thus the result of the converging efforts of the bourgeoisie, the middle classes, the peasants and the proletarians. Nonetheless, it would be a childish over-simplification to deduce from this conclusion that these four distinct and antagonistic social forces can reach through common activity a common result, and thus mark off one stage of development before passing on to the following one: that stage in which the former allies, now enemies, confront each other, the proletarians and poor peasants on the one side and the bourgeoisie on the other (the less homogenous middle classes would be pulled as usual in different directions). In the present activity, which is really more convergent than common, each class can only pursue its own aims. There is no doubt that the words ‘Chinese Revolution’ have a different meaning for each class. The Cantonese merchant and the Hankou industrialist translate them as ‘national independence, order, property and respect for the law’. The intellectual naturally adds ‘democracy, reforms, liberty, Socialism, utopia…’. The peasant and worker are more concise: ‘Land! The eight hour day, the factory!’ These ideas, very clear amongst the representatives of the ruling classes, are quite confused amongst the workers; but since they express a real need, they impose themselves. The complicated interplay of all bourgeois revolutions begins, then, with a certain division of labour in which the workers incur all the costs. We see the bourgeoisie lavish with their promises, whilst the intellectuals, with the greatest sincerity, emphasise the idealism of the movement, forging useful myths (homeland, national independence, liberty, people’s rights), and the peasants and workers provide the real driving force, the human material, the cannon fodder, fists, spears and blood that are indispensable for victory.


History has repeated itself many times. The people put up the barricades. The people fight. The people kill, the people are killed. What is this ‘people’? It is the slum dweller, the artisan, the worker and the peasant (French historians talk about ‘the people’, whereas the English more bluntly write freely about ‘the mob, the populace’). When the people has done its duty and pulled the bourgeoisie’s chestnuts from the fire, the bourgeoisie turns up with its procession of orators, lawmakers, financiers and generals, organises power, codifies the revolution and very often, in order to enforce the new order, machine-guns or deports the deceived proletarians who resist…


Such almost everywhere was the normal course of bourgeois revolutions from the French Revolution of 1789-99 onwards, in 1830, in 1848, until 1917 in Russia (the March-October period) and 1918 in central Europe. One of the problems posed by the Chinese Revolution can be expressed in these terms: history must not repeat itself in this way on the shores of the Pacific in the epoch of proletarian revolution. Now the coup of Cavaignac and of Kornilov [67] has already been successfully carried out in Shanghai.


The Class Struggle and Class Collaboration against Imperialism


As early as 1899, Plekhanov said: ‘The Russian Revolution will triumph as a workers’ revolution, or it will not triumph.’ The merit of the Russian Marxist revolutionaries was to emphasise from then on with perspicacity — in an agricultural country where there were powerful feudal survivals, at a time when the Russian proletariat was only just being born to political life — the leadership of the working class in the inevitable revolution. Is the leadership of the proletariat in the Chinese Revolution in our time more questionable after the Red October?


China has almost five million industrial or craft workers (120 000 railwaymen, 420 000 miners, 300 000 textile workers, and 200 000 metal workers). [68] Working-class centres such as Shanghai, Hankou and the mines of Hainan are strong strategic positions for the proletariat. All the recent epoch-making events of the Chinese Revolution are those of working-class action. The boycott of Hongkong kept up for 16 months is the work of the Guangzhou workers (the Cantonese bourgeoisie, helped by the National government, has lifted it). The great Shanghai strikes of 1925 marked the take-off point of the revolution. The taking of the British concession in Hankou by the proletarians is the greatest victory of the ‘Northern Campaign’. Then followed the admirable exploit that was the seizure of Shanghai by the workers’ insurrection. For their part, the poor peasants have done their duty. The Guangzhou government only survived thanks to their support. The success of the ‘Northern Campaign’ which was to take the Cantonese troops as far as the Yangtse, was only possible thanks to their support. Some details are forthcoming: the Southern army crossed regions with its artillery where cannon have to be carried and dragged by human beings; if the peasants had not provided the ‘driving force’, in the literal sense of the word, it would not have got through… And if the Chinese Revolution remains alive since the two successive coups d’état of Chiang Kai-shek [69] — in spite of the decapitation of the Shanghai proletariat — it is thanks to the extent of the ‘agrarian troubles’…


The intellectuals have provided these masses with agitators, propagandists and, in a word, cadres; the bourgeoisie has provided politicians, generals, officers, Hu Hanmin, [70] Chiang Kai-shek, Feng Yuxiang, [71] etc.


Better organised, rich and cultured, the Chinese bourgeoisie intends to use the pressure of the masses to obtain the national independence that will make possible its profitable collaboration with European and American imperialism. It is not anti-imperialist, to tell the truth, but it wishes to survive, and for the moment imperialism is preventing it from doing so. The appeal to national sentiment allows it to divert the workers from the class struggle. I have in front of me a speech of Sun Yat-sen to the workers of Guangzhou delivered on 1 May 1924, an illuminating document if ever there was one, about the attitude of Chinese liberalism towards the workers. ‘You are oppressed’, the great Sun more or less tells them, ‘by foreign capitalists, and in no way by Chinese capitalists.’ He ended by invoking the example, not only of the British, but also the Russian workers. [72] Here we catch hold of the extent of the nationalist lie in the very act. Thus the artisan, the worker and the peasant, who nourish some millions of great and middle heavenly bourgeois, are only oppressed by foreigners! The reality is quite different. Here are some little-known statistics. Chinese capitalists are the owners of 60 per cent of the country’s mining industry, 20 per cent of the metal industry, 67 per cent of the textile industry, 58 per cent of the railways, 26 per cent of the river and maritime transport, 25 per cent of the sugar refining industry, and 70 per cent of the match factories. Were the Russian capitalists much richer than this under the old order? [73]


National unity ‘against the imperialists’ can amount only to a con-trick in these circumstances. This doesn’t mean that we refuse to support the Chinese bourgeoisie against its rich rivals from Europe and America — on the contrary, the task of the Chinese revolutionaries is precisely to know how in the face of the common enemy to combine this support with the vigorous continuation of the class struggle.


The Chinese Revolution Will Be That of the Workers and Peasants or it Will Not Triumph


The Russian bourgeoisie found it impossible in 1917 to carry through its own revolution. To finish with the feudal survivals of the old Russian order, far more distinct, so it seems, than those of China, it was necessary to expropriate the landowners. But how could they give out the land belonging to the landowners and refuse the workers rights in the factory? How could they agree to so monstrous an attack against the sacrosanct principle of private property? Moreover, the landowners did not form a social class completely distinct from that of the capitalists properly so-called. In 1789-93 the French bourgeoisie expropriated the nobility and the clergy, whilst at the same time proclaiming the inviolability of private property (its own). The Russian bourgeoisie of 1917 would have had to expropriate some of its most powerful members. Henceforward the bourgeois revolution could only be carried out in Russia by the proletariat and the peasants. We see an analogous situation in China. The countryside suffers indescribably from the progress of usury, whose mechanism has been laid bare by Radek: ‘The stagnation of Chinese capitalism, caused by imperialism… prevents commercial capital from transforming itself into industrial capital, and directs it towards the countryside in the form of usurious capital. Thus a new class of landowners completely alien to feudalism takes shape.’ [74] The ‘Red Spears’ who have risen up against the landowners, far from taking up the struggle on the side of the bourgeoisie against a feudalism distinct from it, are really fighting an influential part of this bourgeoisie: usury in China reinforces the links between landownership, trade, banking and industry — and it therefore seems to us that the agrarian revolution can only be completed against the bourgeoisie, even if it is nationalist…


As the ally and natural guide of the innumerable peasant masses, pushed towards revolution by an inexorable economic process, can the Chinese proletariat content itself on its own account with half-measures? It is said that it is relatively not very large. No doubt: but how powerful is its ally! How strong are its strategic positions in the great ports dominating the rivers that nourish the country! What proof of political maturity and energy it has provided in these last few years! And what an example and what a support it has in the proletariat of the USSR! The Social Democratic comments about the backwardness, numerical weakness, isolation, etc, of the Chinese proletariat are only mechanical repetitions at 10 years’ distance of arguments provided in 1917-18 by opportunists of all stripes to demonstrate the impossibility of a proletarian revolution in Russia, and to condemn ‘the adventurist folly of Lenin’. But let us imagine for a moment the victory of the poor peasants. Would the private property of the rich, having been worsted in the countryside, be respected in the industrial centres out of consideration for the (theoretically purely) bourgeois nature of the agrarian revolution? Let us imagine the victory of the national anti-imperialist revolution. Wouldn’t the factories of the foreign imperialists have to be expropriated — with compensation, never mind that! — and wouldn’t the workers demand of the state — even a bourgeois state — that the control of this industry be entrusted to their organisations? We can see that many of these things depend on their level of class consciousness and organisation. Let us sum up: There can no longer in our epoch be a bourgeois revolution in the classic sense of the word in the great economically developed colonial countries (China, India and Egypt). The bourgeoisie can no longer carry out its revolution by itself; whilst making the bourgeois revolution, the proletarians and peasants must pursue and attain their own aims. The bourgeois revolution must be transcended, or it will remain unfulfilled. The concept of development by stages, according to which once the bourgeois revolution has been achieved, national unity realised and the imperialists expelled, the era of proletarian activity and of the agrarian revolution — some even say ‘agrarian reform’ — would open up, demonstrates only a fanciful casuistry.


The Danger


The Chinese bourgeoisie can neither carry out the bourgeois revolution nor genuinely ensure national independence. Does that mean that it cannot win, and that in a very real sense?


No. It can, at one and the same time, in a struggle waged on two fronts, the one national and the other class, win a relative victory over the foreign imperialists and a far less relative victory over the Chinese workers. Proletarians and peasants would have shed their blood only to provide themselves with new national masters. The latter, moreover, would get on very well with the foreign capitalists, enemies for a day, but brothers forever. They would allow themselves to speculate on the rivalries between competing capitalists, with the help of the accoutrements of independence: diplomacy, a national army and navy, and customs duties. The new China would be scarcely any more difficult to colonise than the Russia of the Tsars, which did not sign unequal treaties and remained a great power, but was nonetheless, in Lenin’s words, ‘a branch of the Franco-British imperialist firm’. The import of capital into the new China would bring a big return; but the profits would be shared with the Chinese bourgeoisie. Using the methods of the Americans and of Stolypin [75] at one and the same time, it would attempt to create an aristocracy of labour and a well-to-do peasant class, to use them as a double defence against the toiling masses subjected to harsh exploitation, deprived of all rights and kept in a state of obedience by a state backed by Fascist formations.


It goes without saying that the new China would ally with the imperialist powers against the USSR. Its relative independence would slightly increase capitalist competition; its victory over the poor classes would greatly increase the forces of reaction in the capitalist world and belief in the solidity of the old order.


I have heard a comrade expound this paradox, sprung from a naive exaggeration of the economic contradictions of the capitalist system, that the independence of a bourgeois China would suffice to deliver a terrible blow to British, American and Japanese imperialism. Obviously, they would feel a blow; its future consequences would be great; but it would not be terrible as regards the present. Gold melts and runs. In the gentlest possible way the United States is conquering Canada by a sort of financial infiltration. In the gentlest possible way the United States is strangling old Europe, sucked dry of blood and gold. Only a short time ago France, Britain and Germany were able without violence to get control of the best part of the economic life of the Russian Empire. The coming of a colonial country to national independence through the victory of a bourgeois revolution (incomplete, let us add, insofar as it would only be bourgeois) would lead only to a modification of the conditions of capitalist rule. At the end of such a national revolution, the workers and peasants would be the only losers. That is the danger.


The Mistakes


At the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI in November 1926, Stalin and Tan Pingshan agreed that a major mistake had been made in China: the Chinese revolutionaries — some Communists included — had hesitated, through fear of frightening off the nationalist bourgeoisie, to support the peasant movement. This action sacrificed the agrarian revolution, an impressive reality, to the dangerous myth of class harmony in the face of the foreign imperialists. The International’s resolution corrected this error.


The same mistake was to be repeated later on, in another form. Through fear of a rupture with the nationalist bourgeoisie, a rupture that was moreover admitted to be inevitable, but that it was hoped could be put off for as long as possible, the military dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek was tolerated. [76] Starting with the Guangzhou coup d’état of 20 March 1926 up to the tragedy of Shanghai, the anti-working-class policy of the Guangzhou government only encountered a half-hearted resistance; [77] whilst completely manipulating the revolutionaries with the aid of fancy speeches, Chiang was quietly able to prepare the murder of the Shanghai proletariat. [78] The living reality of the class struggle was yet again sacrificed to the myth of anti-imperialist class harmony.


Wasn’t the mistake to wish to extend the territory of the revolution before deepening it? The Guomindang left seems to have pursued — and still pursues — the achievement of national unity above all else: social ‘reforms’ will come later. Anxious for national unity, the Wuhan government, with two Communist ministers, after a series of ‘symbolic gestures’, gave up fighting Chiang Kai-shek; Feng Yuxiang, appointed generalissimo by this government, quickly came to an understanding with the butcher of Shanghai. Betrayal? No way! These generals were only betraying the illusions of petit-bourgeois revolutionaries. They were serving their class extremely well; they would be betraying it if they served ours. The bourgeoisie that is chopping off heads has neither lost its own head, nor is it sacrificing its interests to class harmony with the workers. Chiang Kai-shek being now strengthened, the repression of the peasant movement in Hunan followed; then the coup of Feng Yuxiang; so much work got through in so little time… The preparation of a general offensive against Beijing justified all the delays and all the intrigues.


The Left Guomindang (and the Wuhan government) are vacillating between reaction and the toiling masses. One moment they are frightened by the imposing imperialist squadron anchored in the waters of the Yangtse, the next they are intimidated as well as encouraged by the congress of the Communist Party. But who profits from these temporisations and hesitations that we are tempted to compare with those of Kerenskyism [79] in the Russian Revolution? For the proletariat, weakened by the bloodletting inflicted on it, finds it difficult to guide the peasant movement. Why is it that in history the upsurge of the mass movement is always followed by an ebb? It is because the workers, seeing the immediate sterility of their efforts and their sacrifices, grow tired. Hence the disastrous character — for revolutionaries — of temporisations, hesitations, conciliation and half measures in periods of civil war.


The seizure of Beijing by the Southerners would be a big event. But it would be of lesser importance than the seizing of the land by the peasants, which measure alone would ensure the lasting conquest of the whole of China.


The Method of Lenin


I do not know to what extent the Chinese Communist Party could — and can — influence events. About the middle of last year it formulated an excellent slogan: ‘Power to the masses!’, [80] amounting to the equivalent of the ‘All power to the soviets!’ of the Russian workers: for the masses can only exercise power through an organ of direct representation of the toilers alone. But this slogan does not appear to have received any practical application. Before the actual seizure of total power, the organs of mass power in a revolution have the task of controlling, overseeing and prodding the official government, not without defending if need be the toiling classes against it, and not without making good its inevitable deficiencies. Read again the history of the Russian Revolution from March to October 1917. [81] This dual power is the only true guarantee of a proletarian development of the revolution. Outside of the dictatorship of one class, moreover, there cannot be true unity of power in a society divided into antagonistic classes: relative unity of power can only be achieved in it to the detriment of the less organised classes and those less influential in the state, in other words, the poor classes.


If the slogan of power to the masses had found some practical application, perhaps the Communist Party would have been able to persuade the Guomindang left to commit itself to the path of transforming society, instead of pursuing the attainment of national unity by military methods. The dilemma was — and remains — to appeal to the masses or to cooperate with the generals (the appeal to the masses does not exclude the use of generals; but the use of certain generals excludes the appeal to the masses). The shortest road to national unity and true independence passes not through the general staffs of Chiang Kai-shek, Feng Yuxiang, or the Guomindang — whether it be united, or led by the right or by the left — but through the rebellious countryside and the poor districts of the workers’ red guards. I am thinking of Lenin’s imperious directives, formulated in the very first days of the revolution of March 1917. Before leaving his emigré’s lodgings in Zürich, in his Letters from Afar, Lenin enunciated the rules of ‘the art of beginning a revolution’. [82] The first of these rules is the arming of the people, the first decisive demonstration of the real power of the masses.


The second, already formulated by Marx, prescribes the smashing of the old bureaucratic machine of the state (which the Guomindang has everywhere maintained, whilst limiting itself to placing a number of functionaries in its organisations). The whole art of winning (without generals! — for the proletarians and peasants must defeat the generals before using them) is summed up in a sentence of Lenin’s, spoken in October 1917. Lenin spent most of the night that followed the victory of the Petrograd insurrection drafting the decree on the expropriation of the landowners promulgated the following day. On the morning of 26 October, smiling and tired, he showed his comrades the pages covered with his large writing: ‘Give us only 24 hours’, he said, ‘to promulgate this decree, and then let them try to take it from us!’ The proletariat, victorious only in the capital of the immense Russian land, did not yet have an army or a governmental apparatus: but this decree of expropriation instantly rallied to it 100 million peasants. At one blow the workers’ insurrection conquered a sixth of the globe, and became invincible. On the day the real Chinese revolutionaries are inspired by this example, their cause will be won.




End of June 1927


PS: On the ‘Weakness’ of Wuhan


These notes had already been sent when the post brought me an important article by Bukharin, ‘The Present Stage of the Chinese Revolution’, in the Moscow Pravda of 30 June.


Alarmed at the weakness of the Wuhan government, in other words the Guomindang left, supported by the Communists, Bukharin was led to consider the hypothesis of its fall, under the blows of reaction. ‘Whence comes the weakness of the Wuhan government?’, he asks.


Because it does not have reliable troops. Its army is melting away. The treachery of Feng Yuxiang has robbed it of its best units. Those that remain, commanded by Tang Shengzhi, [83] are not reliable either… In the second place the weakness of Wuhan comes from the fact that even in its own camp (in the Central Committee of the Guomindang and in the government) there are direct agents of Chiang Kai-shek and vacillating politicians, typical representatives of the petit-bourgeoisie, who follow the liberals in times of crisis… If we recall that the Communist leaders have themselves lapsed into opportunist errors, we can easily understand how the extreme weakness and inconsistencies of Wuhan’s policy, flatly contradicting the mounting aspirations of the masses, contribute the most to disarming this government…


If the directives of the Communist International had been implemented, if agrarian revolution had not been impeded, if the arming of the workers and peasants had been vigorously carried out, if reliable troops had been gathered together, if the masses had been presented with a clear policy, if the directive about democratising of the Guomindang had been applied as it ought, etc, etc, the situation would not be so serious for Wuhan. The disagreement, and to a certain extent the contradiction, between the Guomindang’s commanding tops and the mass of its members, between the leadership and the actual movement, make up the Wuhan government’s greatest weakness.’ [Bukharin’s emphasis — VS]


These few words confirm very appositely the arguments expounded in the article that you have just read. Where, in fact, do these ‘weaknesses’ of the left Guomindang and Wuhan come from? From a systematic misunderstanding of the class struggle typical of the vacillating middle classes, who are all too inclined in their vacillation to lean on the bourgeoisie. They were afraid to appeal to the masses, to arm them, to call upon them to seize the land, and afraid to imitate the magnificent example of the Bolsheviks in 1917-18. They preferred to bet on the generals, and with them prepare for the conquest of Beijing, not by the insurgent masses, but by armies of mercenaries commanded by reactionaries. What a terrible series of ‘ifs’ Bukharin has inflicted on us! But can we not sum it up in just one single ‘if’?: If the petit-bourgeoisie had not been what it always is.


All these mistakes and all these weaknesses were in no way avoidable, from the very moment that the vacillating petit-bourgeoisie maintained its leadership within the power system, the Guomindang, and doubtless also in the revolution, which was held back from then on, with its vital forces threatened. There was — there still is — only one means of winning: a constant appeal to the masses, even against the cadres and the petit-bourgeois tops, and the leadership of the proletariat. Victory is without doubt there to be won; and the first condition for winning it is obviously for the Communists to break openly in front of the workers with the equivocal and indecisive politics of petit-bourgeois revolutionaries, or the discredit will rebound upon them. [84]


2 July


Third Letter: The Strength of the Agrarian Revolution: The Red Spears


NEXT to nothing is known in the West of the main factor in the Chinese Revolution, the peasant movement. First of all, let us deplore the fact that not a single serious work has been published on this subject. Some works do, however, exist in the Soviet Union, and information about events in China would be greatly improved for the French workers, if, for example, the remarkable study of A Ivine on the Red Spears were put at their disposal. [85]


‘For 2000 years’, writes Ivine, ‘the history of China has been based upon the agrarian question.’ In 2000 years China has experienced no fewer than five great peasant rebellions, all led by vast secret associations of poor peasants against the big landowners, the usurers, the feudal lords and the state bureaucracy; all of them ended, having caused innumerable calamities, in the more or less complete expropriation of the rich classes; after which the process of the concentration of wealth and the pauperisation of the small cultivator began again, until the next peasant rising. The history of China therefore provides a spectacle of the tragic repetition of an economic process that for 20 centuries until our own day has only undergone minor modifications. Ivine lists the agrarian revolts of the ‘Red Eyebrows’ at the beginning of the first century of the Christian era; [86] the great peasant uprising of the ‘Yellow Turbans’, which went on for 20 years at the end of the second century; [87] the uprising of Huang Chao, which overthrew the Tang dynasty after a long and confused period of troubles at the end of the ninth century; [88] the national revolution that overthrew the Mongol Yuan dynasty in the fourteenth century, which was also an agrarian revolution in which the ‘White Lotus’ sect played an important role; [89] and the revolt of Li Zicheng and Zhang Xianzhong, which depopulated China at the end of the sixteenth century. [90] In modern history the revolt of the Taipings (1851-1865) led to the liquidation of the big landowners in various provinces. [91] Precise information seems to indicate that we are on the eve of a peasant movement comparable with the greatest ones of the past. Will the former cycle of revolutions be repeated once again? That is the question.


Ivine draws our attention to the following facts. The concentration of land ownership: since 1918, according to official statistics, three million rich families have owned more land than 31 million poor or middle families; about 50 per cent of the cultivators are without land and have to rent it; taxation burdens the peasant, on whom weigh all the charges of the local warlords; opium growing is imposed upon him; taxes are collected for years in advance; repeated contributions are added to those taxes; poverty declasses the peasant, often turning him into a hungry beggar, sometimes a mercenary soldier, and more frequently a bandit or a rebel; finally, in the course of the last few years, there has arisen the powerful peasant movement of the Red Spears, which has proved itself and is still proving itself in innumerable struggles every day.


Amongst the more or less secret peasant organisations of this immense country — the ‘Hard Stomachs’, ‘Big Knives’, ‘Fans’ and ‘Black Spears’ — that of the Red Spears is the most widespread and the most typical. Like all the rest it has its roots in the semi-religious secret societies that made the revolutions of past centuries, and above all in the ‘White Lotus’ sect of the fourteenth century. It is subdivided into two ‘orders’, major and minor, whose members wear red or yellow headbands; the weapon of both groups is a spear adorned with a red tassel. The adherent takes an oath to live honestly and fight the good fight. Study of the secret rites makes him at first ‘almost invulnerable’ and then ‘completely invulnerable’. The Red Spears, organised in groups of 10 and by detachments, maintain guard over the villages night and day, brought together in the event of danger by the sound of a gong, just as our peasant rebels of olden times assembled to the sound of the alarm bell. Their main objective is to protect the countryside against banditry and against pillaging armies. In reality they impose upon the rich minority the law of the poor majority. The rich peasants often pretend to follow the movement, to divert it or to profit from it; they put on the turban and take up the red spear. Splits followed by fierce struggles erupt even inside the movement, as in Henan between ‘great’ and ‘little’ spears, in other words once more between rich and poor. The strength of this movement can be judged by the following facts. In 1926 the district of Luoyang, in the province of Henan situated to the north of the Yangtse [92] alone counted 20 000 organised Red Spears; they were present in almost all villages. ‘All the east of Henan will soon be red’, wrote one Chinese journalist. The local authorities, unable to oppose the movement, opted for legalising it. The national revolutionary government of Guangzhou realised the importance of this movement only when the peasants inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Second ‘People’s Army’, commanded by its ally Yue Weijun and supported by the Guomindang. This army, having gone over to the national cause, occupied Henan at the beginning of 1926, enabling, you may recall, the First ‘People’s Army’ of Feng Yuxiang to occupy Beijing and Tianjin. Through its indiscipline, its pillaging and its excesses, the Second Army alienated the peasants. Yue Weijun, threatened by the ‘Red Spears’, attempted to smash the movement with the support, necessary from now on, of the rich and the reactionaries. ‘A real peasant war broke out in a region inhabited by more than 30 million souls’ says Ivine. The uprising began in mid-January 1926; the peasants took the town of Y-Li, threatened Luoyang, destroyed the railways and threatened Chang-chou (on the Beijing-Hankou railway), but were defeated to begin with. Their imprisoned leaders were shot. Wu Peifu, Britain’s man in central China, seized the opportunity to attack the People’s Army in northern Henan, which was harassed in the rear by Red Spears. Defeated by Wu Peifu, the Second People’s Army was literally finished off, crushed by the peasants who turned his retreat from Kaifeng to Shanxi into an indescribable rout. The soldiers avoided the villages in their desperate flight. The Red Spears collected a ‘colossal quantity of weapons, guns, machine-guns, etc’. The army of Yu Weijun, which had numbered 60 000 men, was annihilated (the retreat of Feng from Tianjin and Beijing towards Mongolia was one of the consequences of this disaster). A missionary who was making his way through Henan at this time estimated the forces of the Red Spears at more than 100 000 men, and noted that ‘they understood how to make guns themselves’, firing Mauser bullets. Wu Peifu occupied Kaifeng, and attempted to corrupt the peasant leaders; a number even entered his army. But because of the Red Spears it was extremely difficult for him to start taxing again. The peasants soon rose up everywhere against him, under a leader who enjoyed immense popularity, Liu Po-Hsiun, whose programme was limited to a few words: abolition of iniquitous taxation, militarism, banditry and bureaucracy. Liu was defeated on 9 May; the peasants refused to hand him over; 30 villages were burned by way of reprisals. The struggle went on. These episodes are quite typical of the peasant war of Henan of which we knew nothing.


At practically the same time, southern Shandong was the scene of a peasant uprising in the region of Tai’an (the mountain mass to the south of Jinan), where 30 000 Spears inflicted a series of reverses on Northern regular troops, and were only at length brought to submission by negotiations as much as by weapons. The peasant war, however, continued with terrible ferocity in Shandong. Small armies of Red Spears held the countryside, occupied towns and spread terror. The White Spears and the Black Spears waged a war of extermination on them. Class formations can easily be guessed at behind these names. In order to acquire weapons, many peasants enrolled among the regular troops and then deserted.


The Victory of the Hunan Peasants


The Guomindang owed its victories in the Northern Expedition to the peasants and workers. The workers gave it Shanghai and Hankou. The peasants cleared the way for its armies towards the Yangtse. Let us quote one fact. The army of Chiang Kai-shek marching towards Hankou arrived before the fortified town of Pingjiang, to the north of Changsha (Hunan), firmly in the hands of the Northerners. The approaches to it were mined. Modern fortifications completed the defences. The peasant organisations delivered this citadel to the Southern Seventh Army, which had become discouraged by an assault as costly as it was fruitless. And the rapid advance of the Southern army continued thanks to the peasants, who built bridges in front of it, transported its baggage and cannon on human backs, informed the General Staff, and harassed the enemy… [93] If the truth about the victories of the Southern armies had been known earlier — and it is barely known, even in Russia — would we not have made a better assessment of the generals’ true role?


And what did the Guomindang do in the presence of this formidable peasant movement? I have already indicated that, in order to survive, the Guangzhou government had taken the tack of backing the peasant movement in Guangdong, though not without having first to overcome the resistance of the military. [94] Since March 1926 it has everywhere attempted to moderate, divert, obstruct, legalise and bureaucratise the movement of the ‘peasant associations’, forced as it was to tolerate their activity in its entirety, in spite of the number of conflicts between the bourgeoisie, the administrations, the generals and the peasants. Its agrarian programme, with an all too understandable moderation, is contained in a resolution of the Second Congress of the Guomindang in 1924 that advocated the organisation of the peasant masses, the dissolution of the armed bands of the counter-revolution, local autonomy, a struggle against usury, the fixing of a maximum land rent, the creation of agricultural banks, and labour legislation. This programme approved what could not be prevented, moderated the revolutionary initiatives in the economic sphere, and made wonderful promises to the country folk (agricultural banks, labour legislation, compulsory education). Its revolutionary significance does not appear to have been greater than, for example, the programme of the liberal Constitutional Democrats [95] in the Russian Revolution… Readers can verify this for themselves.


I have before me a document of the greatest interest on the peasant movement in Hunan. It is a detailed letter written from Changsha on 18 February last by the Communist student Mao Zedong, and published in number 20 of the Russian magazine The Revolutionary East. [96] I am obliged to summarise it very briefly. The peasant associations of Hunan, clandestine until the arrival of the Southern troops, came out of illegality with more than 300 000 members. By last January they had two million for the most part heads of families, which meant that their real activity extended to 10 million souls. About half the peasants of Hunan were organised.


The peasants… went right into action and within four months [from October 1926 to January 1927] brought about a great and unprecedented revolution in the countryside… The peasants attack as their main targets the local bullies [administrators and local tyrants] and bad gentry [commercial bureaucracy, usurers, etc] and the lawless landlords, hitting in passing against patriarchal ideologies and evil customs in the rural areas… Those who resist it perish… The privileges which the feudal landlords have enjoyed for thousands of years are being shattered to pieces… [as if] a tempest or hurricane [had blown them away]… The peasant association becomes the sole organ of authority.


They also administered justice. Sometimes the rich offered to pay an admission fee to be admitted into them. The mere threat of being entered on the blacklists of the peasant associations terrified them.


Naturally the urban petit-bourgeoisie, which was related to the gentry, quickly raised a cry about scandal, terror, etc (it was like reading the Russian press in 1917, which unceasingly branded Bolshevism in analogous terms). ‘The peasants declared: Whoever has land is a thief. There are no gentry who are not criminals.’ They sacked the dwellings of the rich. These ‘excesses’ filled the towns with indignation. ‘All actions labelled as “going too far”’, wrote our Chinese comrade rightly, ‘had a revolutionary significance… To put it bluntly, it was necessary to bring about a brief reign of terror in every rural area.’ The leaders of the Guomindang described the revolutionary peasants as ‘criminals’. Just as in the Committees of Poor Peasants (Kombedy) [97] of the Russian Revolution organised on the initiative of Lenin in 1918, yesterday’s beggars were at the head of the movement:


All those who were formerly despised or kicked into the gutter by the gentry, who had no social standing, and who were denied the right to have a say, have now, to everyone’s surprise, raised their heads. They have not only raised their heads, but have also taken power into their hands.


Here we can recognise the initiative taken by a minority, as in all deeply rooted revolutions. [98] According to a survey of Changsha county, the poor peasants comprise 70 per cent of the rural population, the middle peasants 20 per cent, and the rich peasants and landlords 10 per cent… ‘This enormous mass of poor peasants … is the backbone of the peasant association, the vanguard in overthrowing the feudal forces.’ (It could not be otherwise; it never was in any way otherwise.) The Guomindang committees, compounding their ‘political errors’, imprisoned the peasant leaders, etc, when they were able to get away with it.


I have read much on the Chinese Revolution. But I have found no piece of Communist thinking of better quality than that of this young unknown militant Mao Zedong. He advances striking formulae that irresistibly call to mind those of Lenin in 1917-18. Here are his conclusions (and mine):


This leadership of the poor peasants is absolutely necessary. Without the poor peasants there can be no revolution. To reject them is to reject the revolution. To attack them is to attack the revolution. Their general direction of the revolution has never been wrong.


To give credit where due, if we allot 10 points to the accomplishments of the democratic revolution, then the achievements of the urban dwellers and the military rate only three points, whilst the remaining seven points should go to the peasants in their rural revolution.


If the leaders of the Chinese Revolution were inspired by so clear a concept of the class struggle, complete victory would be possible. Alas!


The Classic Manner of Conjuring Away a People’s Revolution


Some important facts stand out with stark clarity. The immense strength of these peasant masses is the essential, and moreover the most powerful factor, in a revolution that is above all agrarian, bourgeois to the extent to which it struggles against feudalism, and anti-capitalist to the extent — no less great — to which it challenges the principle of property, and attacks usurious capitalists or landowners, and supports the urban proletariat. This revolution could only be led and enlightened by the proletariat of the great centres and its Communist vanguard.


The middle bourgeoisie of the towns and the liberal, anti-imperialist, revolutionary nationalist, etc, bourgeoisie — in short, the leading circles of the Guomindang and of the Wuhan (Hankou) government — faced with this revolution obviously had to adopt a similar attitude to that of the middle bourgeoisie and the Russian liberals in 1917 in the presence of Bolshevism.


All that Lenin wrote in 1917 against the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, [99] against class collaboration during the revolution, class harmony, and the vacillations of the petit-bourgeoisie, can in its broad outlines be applied to brilliant effect to the social situation in China. At that time Lenin frequently made use of comparisons between France in 1848 and Russia in 1917; so we have even better reason to compare revolutionary China in 1927 with Russia in 1917. If this has not been done more often, it is because the anti-imperialist character of the Russian Revolution and the anti-capitalist character of the Chinese Revolution have both been misunderstood. The entire critique of the mistakes committed in China exists, for example, in embryo in an article written by Lenin on 16 June 1917, ‘The Class Origins of Present-Day and “Future” Cavaignacs’. The Guomindang leaders, the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries assured the Bolsheviks that they would be on their side ‘when a real Cavaignac comes’. Lenin retorted:


An excellent promise! Only, it is a pity that it reveals a misunderstanding of the class struggle, typical of the sentimental or timid petit-bourgeoisie. For a Cavaignac is not an accident… Cavaignac represents a class (the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie) and carries out the policies of that class. And it is that class and those policies that you… support today… It is to that class and its policies that you, who at the moment admittedly command a majority in the country, give predominance in the government… Once there is a shaky, vacillating petit-bourgeoisie dreading the revolution’s progress, the Cavaignacs are sure to appear.


These three prophetic pages, which warned about Kornilov several months in advance, and about Chiang Kai-shek, Tang Shengzhi and so many other celestial swordsmen 10 years in advance, ought to be quoted in their entirety. Let us note here the description of the vacillating Socialists, blinded by the idea of class peace:


Louis Blanc, [100] too, was as far removed from Cavaignac as heaven is from earth. Louis Blanc, too, made countless promises ‘to fight in the same ranks’ as the revolutionary workers against the bourgeois counter-revolutionaries. Nevertheless, no Marxist historian, no Socialist, would venture to doubt that it was the weakness, the instability, the credulity of the Louis Blancs with regard to the bourgeoisie that brought forth Cavaignac and assured his success… [101]


The misfortune of the Chinese Revolution is that no one was found in Wuhan to repeat these old truths…


As was to be expected, the Chinese counter-revolution — the Cavaignacs! — after having ‘tricked’ and decapitated the Shanghai proletarians, delivered its second blow against the Hunan peasants, the Changsha coup d’état. And yet again the revolutionaries allowed themselves to be fooled. The Changsha coup d’état, like that of Wuhan, which did no more than put the stamp in broad daylight on the long prepared going over of the Guomindang (organisation, leaders, cadres) and of the national government to the counter-revolution, was the result of a conspiracy hatched in broad daylight. Between Chiang Kai-shek and the Guomindang government — with two Communist ministers handed over as ‘hostages’ to the bourgeoisie — there had never been anything other than a sort of division of labour against the workers and peasants. Three facts provide a bloody proof of this:


1. The Wuhan government took no measure in support of the masses, but strove solely to hold back — that is, repress — the peasant movement.


2. Amid a great din of sonorous declarations, it appointed to fight Chiang Kai-Shek a general no less reactionary than Chiang, the Buddhist Tang Shengzhi, a large landowner.


3. Moreover, it eagerly and straightaway called off the struggle against Chiang Kai-shek in order to conclude with him a sort of united front ‘against the imperialists and the Northerners’ (!!!!), but in fact against the workers.


The ‘fine-sounding’ declarations of a Sun Fo, [102] reprinted with satisfaction by the Soviet press, should have deceived no one. The double game of the Guomindang leaders put the majority of Communists so completely on the wrong track that the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, Stalin, approved their decision not to take the offensive against Chiang Kai-shek, so that they could concentrate their efforts against the Northerners. [103] The illusions that the shrewd Wuhan petit-bourgeois counter-revolutionaries inspired in us were so deep that at the very moment that their duplicity was beginning to be recognised by everyone in Russia, Doriot [104] was writing in l’Humanité of 25 June:


The Hankou government, which is the Guomindang stripped of its bourgeois wing [!], and representing the working class, [!!] peasant [!!!] and petit-bourgeois masses… is capable of carrying out this great historic task… By beginning [!] the agrarian revolution, it has made up in quality what it lost in quantity.


The truth that has since been recognised on all hands is that this government even opposed the agrarian revolution by repressing it… But at the Saint-Denis Conference of 26 June (see l’Humanité, 27 June, page 4) Doriot again said: ‘It is necessary to support the Hankou government so that it arms the peasants… Suspicious words against it are incorrect.’ Doriot was mistaken: suspicion against the maggoty Kerenskyism rehashed by the Wang Jingweis and Sun Fos with the lamentable agreement of two Communist ministers has prevailed to such an extent that some days later Bukharin published in Pravda a bitter indictment against those Chinese Communists guilty of allowing themselves to be taken in by the bourgeoisie.


Salvation Lay in Dual Power


At least from mid-April onwards some Russian militants were vigorously denouncing within the leading organs of the Communist Party of the USSR the equivocal and counter-revolutionary character of the Wuhan government; [105] it is known that they advocated an appeal to the masses, the rectification of the Chinese Communist Party’s class policy, and the formation of soviets throughout the country. Stalin replied to them in his theses of 22 April by declaring himself opposed to any dual power in Wuhan, and consequently to soviets. [106] Experience seems to show that, as in Russia in 1917, dual power was the only cure for a situation that is becoming more and more dangerous for the proletariat. At that time — when the popular revolution was in full flood — organs of mass power could have been formed (whether called soviets or otherwise, the reality matters, the name is immaterial), since the Guomindang leaders did not yet have the strength to break with the Communists and reduce them to illegality. These organs would have controlled, stimulated and spurred on revolutionary democracy and the official government; they would have thwarted the intrigues of the counter-revolution, and the Communists would have been able to prepare in them the seizure of power… Doubtless they would have hastened the conflict with reaction. But in any case, reaction would not have been able freely to choose its moment, and the proletariat would have been able to confront it better armed and better organised. Now it is too late: the slogan of soviets in China formulated by Pravda on 26 July is no more than an agitational slogan, however excellent. For the revolutionary proletarians are reduced to clandestine action, and soviets cannot be built in illegality.


At the end of May, in the Eighth Plenum of the ECCI, Stalin, in the course of a violent reply to Trotsky (published in Russian), declared: ‘The Guomindang in Wuhan and the Wuhan government are the centre of the bourgeois-democratic revolutionary movement.’ [107] From then on the error of assessment was blatant: even before then the Wuhan revolutionary democracy, with its lamentable vacillations, its fear in the face of the peasants and workers, who were the only true vehicles of the revolution, had been playing the game of the worst reactionaries. And it was easy to see where this game was leading.


After the seizure of the British concession in Hankou by a workers’ demonstration, the taking of Shanghai by a workers’ insurrection, and the tide of peasant revolution in Hunan, the bourgeoisie and the petit-bourgeois democracy were no longer able to continue the revolution and, all the more so, to take part in leading it. The time for class peace against the imperialists had passed. The revolution could only be led to victory from now on by the farsightedness of the proletariat, in other words, by a policy of class struggle that would restore the initiative and the ‘power of the masses’ [108] in opposition to the official government: the Communist Party, the party of social revolution; in opposition to the Guomindang bureaucracy; and the soldiers, the peasants, the red guards and the Red Spears in opposition to the landowners, the crafty ministers, the generals and the bourgeoisie. And from then on neither in Shanghai nor in Changsha nor in Wuhan could the workers have been surprised and defeated as they have been.


The Farsightedness of the Masses


Was this possible, or had we not yet arrived at the stage of mass action, as some have maintained? It was possible. It was necessary. Permit me to repeat once more that all the great epoch-making events of the Chinese Revolution are those of action by the masses and not by armies, nor by the generals, nor by the government, nor by the Guomindang… Allow me to recall these events:


1. The boycott of Hongkong by the Cantonese workers (a boycott the Guangzhou government attempted to break).


2. The great Shanghai strikes of 1925.


3. The Hankou exploit (the seizure of the British concession by the workers).


4. The admirable exploit that was the Shanghai insurrection last March.


5. The peasant struggles in the whole of China from Zhili to Guangdong.


6. The peasant war in Henan.


7. The victory of the peasant revolution in Hunan.


The proof is, I think, quite convincing.


The masses moved, the masses threw themselves into struggle, the masses saw clearly. Here is how the articles by Doriot in l’Humanité confirm my conclusions on this point. In a civil war atmosphere in Nanchang, Doriot overheard an enthusiastic soldier calling for an offensive against the revolution’s internal enemies. Unfortunately, notes our comrade, ‘the leaders of the various left organisations were far from understanding the situation in the army so clearly’ (l’Humanité, 12 July). Still in Nanchang, Doriot saw the people’s forces ‘infinitely superior to those of the reaction’ passively awaiting orders from the ‘centre’. An absurd bureaucratic discipline ‘paralysed the initiative of the popular masses’. [109]


I already observed in Germany in 1923 the damage caused by the bureaucratisation of revolutionary organisations at times of civil war. [110] We shall have to return to this problem some day. Did not the Guomindang try to substitute the activity of its bureaucratic machinery for the activity of the masses? This certainly seems to me to be the case. As for the proletarian organisations, the damage came to them from class collaboration. Lenin observed similar facts in Russia in May 1917: the Russian revolution was more fervent in the provinces than in the centres:


The soviets [in the centres] are less proletarian in their make-up, the influence of the petit-bourgeois elements in the executive committees is incomparably wider, and there is — especially in the commissions — ‘cooperation with the bourgeoisie’, which curbs the initiative of the masses, bureaucratises the revolutionary movement of the masses and their revolutionary aims, and blocks all revolutionary measures that are liable to affect the capitalists. [111]


The opportunist errors of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party were the object of an intensive, although belated, criticism in Pravda beginning from 10 July. To illustrate these errors, I will quote only this monumental phrase of the Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Chen Duxiu, in his report to the congress of the party held in May in Hankou:


We must not fall into ultra-left deviations, but follow a centrist line. We must also await the further development of military actions [!!!] before seizing middle and large landed property. The only correct solution at the moment is that the extension of the revolution must happen before its development in depth. [112]


As if an appeal to the masses and the expropriation of the rich, as in all social revolutions in history, would not have been the only way of assuring military victory! It is distressing to state that no one corrected this blunder in our Communist press — a blunder hardly worse than the Shanghai manifesto published at the beginning of April under the signature of the two Secretaries of the Guomindang and the Chinese Communist Party, whose singular character I think I was the first to point out in Clarté no 9, recently referred to by Bukharin.


Other Chinese Communists, on the other hand, seem to have seen more clearly. [113] Thus there were those in Shanghai who objected to making the workers enter the Southern army: ‘Let us not provide the bourgeoisie with cannon fodder’, they said, ‘let us rather form workers’ guards, for the workers do not want to enter the army.’ The army of Chiang Kai-shek was obviously a trap; the workers were not wrong to distrust it. Chen Duxiu himself seems to have been subject to opposing influences. ‘We do not want the workers to enter the Guomindang’, he said on 23 March, ‘because there they will fall under the influence of the right.’ And when the national government in Shaanxi nominated several Communists to administrative positions, the party’s Central Committee wrote: ‘These comrades will be cut off from the masses whose confidence our party will lose; they should therefore choose between their positions and the party.’ [114] The false position of the Communists as members of a nationalist party led by bourgeois elements and based on a bourgeois ideology, being members of a coalition cabinet where they were in a minority, as functionaries of the Wuhan government and soldiers of Chiang Kai-shek, was quite likely to give rise to political divisions. Such are the bitter fruits of a policy of class harmony.


But What Should Have Been Done?


Some conclusions impress themselves upon me. They are these:


1. Not to subordinate Communism to Sun Yat-senism, and the Communist Party to the Guomindang (the alliance of the one with the other but without its subordination would have been much more fruitful). In this sense to apply strictly the directive of Lenin and of the Second Congress of the Communist International, ‘under all circumstances uphold the independence of the proletarian party even if it is in its most embryonic form’.


2. To support the peasant movement everywhere to the utmost, and not to hold it back or try to moderate it as has sometimes been attempted.


3. To arm the workers and poor craftsmen of the towns instead of sacrificing the arming of them to the crafty ‘sensitivity’ of the ‘revolutionary’ nationalist bourgeoisie.


To put the workers on their guard against the generals, and not to allow them to be surprised by ‘expected betrayals’, and not to allow oneself to be manipulated by the Chiang Kai-sheks, the Fengs, the Tang Shengzhis, etc.


5. To support the ‘revolutionary’ middle bourgeoisie against reaction, to support Wuhan against Nanjing, but as the Bolsheviks ‘supported’ Kerensky against Kornilov, without ceasing to denounce him and keep on his heels before the masses.


6. To imitate the example of Lenin, who without respite, without respite, appealed for the initiative of the masses in 1917-18.


7. To get it well into our heads that a revolution is the work of the masses; that the apparatus of the proletarian party must assist and lead the masses, not substitute for them or hamper them.


8. To set up as soon as possible organs of ‘mass power’, dual power being the only real guarantee of the organised progress of the revolution and the sole effective preparation for the democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants.


9. To base ourselves on the directives of Lenin at the Second Congress of the Communist International on the formation of soviets in the colonial countries ‘at the first opportunity’.


10. To give priority to the expropriation of the landowners over the march of the Southern armies on Beijing, expropriation being the indispensable condition for the success of arms.


11. To appeal to the troops to keep watch over the generals.


12. To ensure abundant and precise information on the Chinese Revolution for the international Communist movement; and to initiate a fraternal, unceasing, wide and lively self-criticism about its struggles.


Isn’t it obvious that under such conditions the chances of victory would be infinitely greater, and even the defeats more fruitful?




1 August 1927


Fourth Letter: The Outcome of an Experience of Class Collaboration


‘THE Chinese Revolution will be that of the workers and peasants, or it will not triumph’, I wrote in a former article, because ‘there can no longer be in our time a bourgeois revolution in the classic sense of the word in the great economically developed colonial countries (China, India and Egypt); the bourgeois revolution must be transcended, or it will remain unfulfilled.’ I did not expect to see events providing so literal a confirmation of such broad Marxist formulae in so short a time. The Chinese proletariat is defeated at the moment, and the halt in the revolution (even in the bourgeois revolution) is a fact.


Ever since the coup of Chiang Kai-shek in mid-April, it would appear that the military successes of the southerners have come to an end. By stabbing the Shanghai proletarians in the back, the Chinese bourgeoisie has gradually reduced itself to impotence. For war is a continuation of politics: the national anti-imperialist war must have the emancipation of the oppressed classes as its point of departure. It cannot base itself on reaction at home. Generals and politicians will be able to weave the most elaborate intrigues with a view to ‘taking Beijing’. Chiang has stabbed the revolution in the back. His armies owed their victories solely to the workers and peasants. In conflict with the workers they will be able to do no more than hold on, perhaps with great effort, to the positions they have conquered. The southerners cannot march on Beijing with troops that have become reactionary in the eyes of the poor population, that have been consigned to unpopularity, who will leave behind them a country in ferment, delivered over to oppression, to uprisings and to clandestine activity.


The Wuhan (Hankou) government — with two Communist ministers — could still, it is true, save the situation by an appeal to the masses to reverse the Shanghai counter-revolution. But this is a purely theoretical possibility. For in reality this government is one of the radical petit-bourgeoisie, greatly influenced over a long period by the bourgeoisie, very anxious for a compromise with the foreign imperialists, and very hostile to the masses whom it has never ceased to persecute. To it, Chiang’s coup seems premature; a sort of division of labour has been established between Wuhan and Nanjing. There they are beheading Communists; here they are preparing to do so. The proletarians and peasants are too powerful in Hunan and the regions around Hankou for the Wuhan government to break quickly with them. Chiang Kai-shek has given the game away. Will they not defend themselves, and take the offensive? The heads of the Guomindang are trembling. But the proletarians have no real revolutionary leaders, or cadres, capable of leading them into a civil war. Their party has lost its way. Right up to the last minute the leaders of the Communist Party and the trade unions equivocated. One and all, they fear above all else ‘ultra-leftist errors’, and a break with the petit-bourgeoisie, whose equivocal role they do not understand. They fetishise the Guomindang, which is no more than a trap.


The radicals of the ‘Left’ Guomindang, Wang Jingwei, Sun Fo and others, gave way to multiple pressures in mid-August. There are the guns of the imperialist fleets anchored in the Yangtse; the peasant revolution which is rising in the adjoining regions; the ferment of the working class and the new orientation required of the Communist Party by the Third International; and, finally, there is Nanjing’s demanding example. Step by step the ‘revolutionary democrats’ of Wuhan are carrying out their coup d’état using a technique that we would do well to remember. To begin with, they are unleashing a press campaign against Marxism, naturally not without depriving the Communists, their party comrades in the Guomindang, of their right of reply… A great ‘discussion’ in the Guomindang (a discussion, in other words, in which the official leaders alone speak). The pernicious nature of Communism is demonstrated with the aid of innumerable quotations from Sun Yat-sen, Dostoevsky, Bakunin, [115] and even Lenin (against ‘Leftism’!!!). Listen to one witness. [116] Wang Jingwei and his ilk ‘… whilst roundly cursing the evil misleaders of the proletariat, are proclaiming their unshakeable devotion to the worker and peasant masses…’:


The clamour of the radicals masks the reactionary coup d’état. Whereas meetings and demonstrations are loudly calling for an immediate campaign against the traitor Chiang Kai-shek, the generals are carrying out their work in silence. The troops of General He Jian, [117] notorious for their suppression of the peasant movement in Changsha, are quietly occupying the headquarters of the working-class organisations. The workers, anxious to avoid provocation, no less silently leave the scene. Trade union headquarters are empty, and active militants pass over into illegality. The leaders of the Guomindang are hesitating right up to the last minute; they fear a break [with the Communists], but are no more than puppets in the hands of the military chiefs. The definitive solution [the ejection of the Communists], in theory postponed until the conference of the Guomindang, is already being applied. The weather is oppressively hot; the political atmosphere is even more so.


It is not hard to believe. The tactic of class collaboration with the national bourgeoisie has resulted in this strangulation. And reaction is throwing off its mask: the heads of the Communists are going to fall in hundreds, all the more easy to hunt down because they have been listed by name and number in the political party of their enemies. But what is hard to imagine is the confusion in the minds of the masses. The worst reactionaries use the most revolutionary language; Sun Yat-sen and Lenin, so necessary to each other yesterday, are shown to be incompatible today; the Communists, ministers only yesterday, are outlaws today; they proclaim their devotion to the Guomindang, and the Guomindang massacres them… A frightful battle in the darkness.


Finally, on about 15 July 15 the Communist Party announces the withdrawal of its members from the national government, and denounces the counter-revolutionary attitude of the leaders of the Guomindang. A few days later the hangmen come out into the open. He Jian carries out the execution of a hundred Communists, and machine-guns a demonstration.


This is the result of all too many mistakes. The Manifesto of the Central Committee of the Guomindang, while announcing the ejection of the Communists, includes these lines: ‘After the Hunan events, the Communists themselves recognised that the peasants’ action had been erroneous and premature; they even agreed that it should be limited.’ It is a fact that the Communist Party had blamed the ‘ill-considered actions of the peasants’ in a document dated 23 May. But a simple catalogue of dates and facts showing what the Wuhan (Hankou) government was doing all along, will demonstrate how the policy of support practised by our Chinese comrades with regard to that government was profoundly wrong:


13 May: The Wuhan government publishes an edict on the protection of Buddhist temples (these temples frequently serve as meeting places for workers’ organisations, and the edict is really aimed at them).


14 May: The government forbids any confiscations and arbitrary ‘requisitions’ of goods; justice must only be rendered by the regular authorities (this measure is obviously aimed at the rebellious peasants, who clearly cannot take account of legal forms).


17 May: The government orders the release of two counter-revolutionary industrialists of Hanyang, who had been arrested by the local Guomindang committee, and orders the restitution of their confiscated goods.


19 May: The Central Committee of the Guomindang orders the workers and bosses to collaborate in the national interest, and declares that the activity of the trade unions must be limited.


20 May: Tan Pingshan, the Communist Minister of Agriculture, assumes office. Same day: a message from the Central Committee of the Guomindang to party members condemning once again attacks on property.


21 May: The reactionary Changsha coup d’état. A military clique using barely 1500 bayonets takes power in the capital of Hunan, a huge province where the peasant revolution has triumphed. The strong organisations of the working masses, bureaucratised and held on a leash by the Guomindang, offer practically no resistance. The Communist Party ‘calls upon’ the Guomindang to intervene energetically. The Guomindang attempts to ‘allay the conflict’ by ‘reorganising’ the peoples’ organisations of Changsha.


23 May: General Tang Shengzhi declares himself a supporter of collaboration with the Communists.


24 May: The government declares the property of the officers of the national armed forces inviolate (which means transforming these armies into legal refuges for landlords).


26 May: The Communist Minister of Agriculture denounces in a manifesto the ‘leftist infantile disorders’ (sic) of the peasant movement, on which he urges moderation.


30 May: The Communist Minister of Labour assumes office. [118]


1 June: The Central Committee of the Guomindang restricts the activity of the army political services (a measure aimed at Communist propaganda).


In spite of their perpetual hesitation, it can be seen that those in charge of Hankou had a policy that consisted in curbing the agrarian revolution and the workers’ movement. Was it possible to force them to adopt a revolutionary attitude? Perhaps; but by force. And above all it was necessary to be under no illusions.


Failure of the National Revolution


The comedy is over, and the drama is on. There is a savage repression in the countryside; there are arrests, executions and assassinations in the towns. The Communists are outlawed, the trade unions dissolved; Fascist formations are masters of the streets. The government of a great national party that still pretended to represent the anti-imperialist revolution in mid-July represents no more than bourgeois counter-revolution, the natural ally of the imperialists… The proletarians and peasants are defeated, and the national (bourgeois) revolution is defeated along with them.


It is no longer a question of achieving the unity of China. The mercenary armies can do nothing without the help of the country people, and the Red Spears will not fail to deal with the perpetrators of the Hunan massacres in the same way as last year in Henan they dealt with the ‘Second People’s Army’ and Wu Peifu. Forced labour will not produce arms in the arsenals; forced labour on the railways will not improve communications. Scarcity is rampant in Hankou; burnt fields provide no food. The urban petit-bourgeoisie appears to triumph in this debâcle with the resignation of Chiang Kai-shek, whose policy was too straightforward, too sharp and too quickly exposed to be defensible in the eyes of the radical intelligentsia and, even less so, of the hesitant masses. [119] But having embarked on the road of counter-revolution, and no longer able to rely on popular forces, it could find no solution to its difficulties other than — the classic one — of Bonapartism [120] (subordinating itself, moreover, after a few painful delays, to the big bourgeoisie). So here we have, for the time being, returned in a slightly modified form to the war of the Dujun, in other words, the warlords [121] as autocrats in the provinces subject to their sabres: Feng Yuxiang to the north of the Yangtse and Li Zongren, [122] as successors to Chiang Kai-shek in Shanghai, Tang Shengzhi in the Hunan region, He Jian in Hangzhou, and Li Jishen [123] in Guangzhou. Need I go on? ‘High policy’ is reduced to the intrigues, alliances and misalliances of this top brass, and a return to military anarchy.


The dollar, the pound sterling and the Nippon yen will recover at one fell swoop profitable fields of activity. Even if the reconciled politicians of Wuhan and Nanjing were to succeed in conferring a semblance of unity on this bunch of generals, how would they then win the respect of the foreign imperialists? Last year Britain abandoned its Hankou concession to the popular masses. It has just treated Shanghai’s national authorities with the most brutal contempt (the incident of 17-18 August: a British aircraft that had fallen on Chinese territory was detained for a few hours, so General Duncan occupied a railway junction, addressed an ultimatum to the Chinese, and obtained complete satisfaction…).


Balance sheet: A rebel army is on the way to Guangdong. Bombs are exploding in Guangzhou. The excesses of the White terror in Shanghai were such that they discredited Chiang even in the eyes of his political friends. On the eve of his resignation (13 August) Chiang Kai-shek, in his official organ, Gomin, deplored the great number of summary executions committed by his generals who, as he said word for word, ‘do not seem to have realised the seriousness of the capital punishments’(!!).


All death sentences’, he ordered, ‘must henceforth be submitted to the General Staff before (!!) being carried out’. In a report datelined 17 August, the Pravda correspondent on the spot, M Ivine, gives the following details on the situation in Hankou: All the working-class organisations are dissolved. Books suspected of Communism are destroyed in bookshops and libraries:


Fear of the troubles that repression and the intolerable economic and financial crisis could provoke forces the government to resort to the rigours of martial law. The catastrophic fall in the value of paper money, food shortages, the forcible disarmament of some of the troops billeted in the proximity of the city, and, to cap it all, a cholera epidemic have resulted in a panic flight of the inhabitants… The rice stocks were exhausted the day before yesterday. Rioters were dispersed by force… The compromise with the Nanjing generals must have been aimed at lifting the blockade of Hankou. (Pravda, 18 August)


Here are other aspects of the situation. The North China Courier writes (13 or 14 August): ‘In Wuchang Communists are being arrested and executed en masse. Many students and even traders have been arrested. They are being beheaded or shot on the spot.’ The purge commissions of the Guomindang are operating everywhere; new trade unions put under the control of the police and ‘workers’ section’ of the Guomindang are being formed… Jui Fu-San reports in the China Weekly Review: ‘The working class and peasant groupings of Hunan are completely destroyed. Those of the leaders who are not able to take flight are killed, buried alive, burned in boiling oil or mutilated.’


Let us state yet again that a failed revolution costs the workers far dearer than a victorious one… China, bloody and divided, is once again at the mercy of the foreigner. Can it hope to assert itself?


The agrarian problem cannot be solved by executioners. The extreme fragmentation of the land and the extreme poverty of the mass of the country people are major obstacles to an agrarian reform that, like Stolypin’s in Russia in 1906-07, would attempt to form a class of rich peasants, interested in preserving order. To attempt this reform requires a strong and centralised state that the Guomindang, caught between the hatred of the working masses and the hostility of the imperialists, will not succeed in founding quite so quickly. I have shown previously (Clarté, no 9) why there is no place in China for a reformist solution to the demands of the working class.


The Nanchang Uprising


Will the Nanchang uprising mark a new point of departure for the revolutionary movement? It is not impossible. In any case, it reveals how strong were the positions of the Communists, and how great were the possibilities for action based upon the class struggle. We should recall that before the Shanghai coup d’état, Chiang Kai-shek had to reorganise the troops; he could not rely on all of them. It is well known that when he carried out his coup he had to disarm entire divisions. Learning at the end of July of the counter-revolution at Wuhan, two armies, the Twenty-Third, commanded by He Long, and the Twenty-Fourth, commanded by Ye Ting, [124] amounting to almost 20 000 men, rose up at Nanchang in Jiangxi, 300 kilometres to the south of Wuhan. Communists flocked there from all over the country. The rivalry of the generals seems to have prevented the Guomindang from undertaking a prompt offensive against the rebels.


According to the latest news, the revolutionary troops, at whose head is said to be a committee to which several known Communists belong (we might mention the resigned ministers Tan Pingshan and Sou Zhaozheng), are approaching the frontiers of Guangdong after a skilful retreat. Their plan seems to be to threaten Guangzhou. Will they succeed in taking it in order to make it the red capital again? In Hunan, Jiangxi, Hubei and Guangdong, the peasant movement is neither vanquished, nor likely to be definitively so. The railwaymen of the Jiujiang (on the Yangtse-Nanchang route) have assisted the rebel movement. The Russian papers announced their entry into Dingzhou, in Fujian. They would therefore seem to have progressed half the way from Wuhan to Guangzhou.


We have no information about this revolutionary army, which by a successful manoeuvre, supported by the peasants, has just avoided an attempt at encirclement. In any case, its fate seems to me to depend upon its politics rather than on its strategy. If in the volatile countryside of southern China it proclaims itself the army of the workers’ and peasants’ revolution, if, in other words, it inscribes upon its banners ‘the expropriation of the great landowners, the moneylenders and the notables’, if it calls the masses to action and the poor to dictatorship, if it helps to form peasant soviets, if it places its generals under the control of soldiers’ committees, if, whilst prosecuting social war, it renounces the personal intrigues and traditional phraseology of the Guomindang, it is possible a priori, very possible, that it could provide a new point of departure for the revolutionary movement.


But if, on the other hand, it hesitates to embark upon this road, feats of valour by a few thousand revolutionaries sworn to sell themselves dearly will not prevent the Nanchang uprising from being an episode without a future.


The Causes: The Guomindang and the Communist Party


In order to disentangle the lessons of this defeat, let us try to get back to its causes.


The Guomindang led the revolution into this blind alley. Around 1900, Dr Sun Yat-sen founded the Guomindang, a radical revolutionary party that primarily recruited among intellectuals associated with the commercial bourgeoisie of the Pacific coast. The party played a leading role in the 1911 revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty, established the republic, and for a while brought Sun Yat-sen to the highest office of state; but because it did not appeal for the activity of the great popular masses it was soon strangled by a military dictator. Yuan Shikai had himself elected president of the republic in 1912, then proclaimed emperor in 1915, and ended by committing suicide in 1916 in the face of the rise of a new revolution. [125] China became split up into great military holdings. The era of the Dujun, in other words, the warlords, began with a series of internal wars. However, Sun Yat-sen and the former Guomindang exiles founded a republican government at Guangzhou in 1916. In 1922 the Guomindang reorganised itself in order to appeal to the working masses. Sun, who was a bourgeois revolutionary besotted with American ideas (democracy, industry, trade and class collaboration) and who had remorselessly repressed the working-class movement in his republic, felt a new social orientation all the more necessary since his unpopularity amongst the workers had caused him to lose power for a while. His meetings with Joffe, the Soviet Ambassador, succeeded in converting him to a ‘new course’. Henceforth, the Guomindang would support the peasants against the feudal lords and the big landowners, tolerate the working-class movement and even attempt to incorporate it, draw near to the Communists, and orientate itself no longer towards the United States, but towards the Soviet republic. This step marked the start of a new era in the history of this party. Nonetheless, Sun’s ideology did not fundamentally change. It still held to his three principles of bourgeois liberalism: nationalism (national independence), democracy (American style) and Socialism (as understood by the worthy French Radical Socialists…), and denied that there was a place in China for class struggle. This was an ideology as suitable for the purely liberal big bourgeoisie as for the advanced petit-bourgeoisie. Each could find a nuance in it to its taste.


The Chinese Communist Party was founded around 1920 by intellectuals who for the most part had come from radicalism, or Anarchism like Chen Duxiu, coming via the Guomindang. It acquired some dozens of militants in the working-class districts of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. It held its first congress in Shanghai in 1921. In the following year — not without internal struggles — it joined the Guomindang, in order to draw near to the anti-imperialist petit-bourgeois masses, and to attempt to take over the Guomindang from within. The programme of the Chinese Communist Party adopted at its Third Congress in 1923 was, moreover, very moderate: [126] anti-imperialism, democracy, labour laws and agrarian reform. This party was still, so it seemed, as a whole a mere left wing of the Guomindang. It numbered around 1000 members at its Fourth Congress in 1925. Its situation was therefore extremely difficult. It supported the working-class movement, but it could not do so wholeheartedly; it influenced the government, but was suspect to it; it belonged to the ruling party, but it was always on the edges of illegality. Truly bad conditions for development! The year of 1925 saw the rise of the proletarian movement, notably magnificent strikes in Shanghai. Would this not be the time for the Communist Party to recover its complete independence, free itself from all official radicalism, and place itself at the head of the class struggle? But it feared the break with the ‘revolutionary’ petit-bourgeoisie, without understanding that it had sacrificed to the Guomindang its influence over the workers. For it was necessary to choose between political alliance with the middle and petit-bourgeoisie and proletarian action. I think that the main mistake of the Chinese Communist Party dates from 1925.


Its concessions to the Guomindang reduced its popularity without rendering it less suspect in the eyes of the bourgeoisie, terrified by the strikes and the example of Russia. Whereas from 1921 to 1925 the trade unions reached about 1.5 million members, the Communist Party had only between 13 000 and 15 000 of them around November 1925. [127] In March 1926 Chiang Kai-shek’s first coup, not mentioned by our press, excluded the Communists from government in Guangzhou. In reality, Chiang assumed the dictatorship. On 15 May 1926 the Guomindang succeeded in muzzling and paralysing the Communists by a resolution whose gist is as follows: ‘Criticism of the teaching of Sun Yat-sen is incompatible with membership of the party’; parties affiliated to the Guomindang are to hand over to it a detailed list of their members (what a trap!); only one third of the members of the Executive can belong to these parties (a ‘crushing’ majority and a ‘crushed minority’ if ever there was one). Members of the Executive of the Guomindang belonging to other parties cannot chair committees of the Guomindang; members of the Guomindang cannot create political organisations without prior authorisation (which prohibition prevents the Communists from forming workers’ circles!).


By a consummately skilled manoeuvre, the Guomindang leaders at the same time got their party accepted as a sympathising party of the Communist International (since the Guomindang has not been expelled from it, it still belongs to the Communist International at the time of my writing). [128] Let us stress this curious method of using weapons forged by the proletariat against the proletariat. The Guomindang had already in its internal organisation copied the organisation of the Russian Communist Party, a party of proletarian dictatorship. This is obviously because it wanted to set up a party of bourgeois dictatorship on the same model (since there cannot be a party and a fortiori a dictatorship of several classes at one and the same time). Chiang Kai-shek said:


Let us follow the example of the Russian Revolution, which only triumphed under the leadership of a single party… The Chinese Revolution forms part of the world revolution, which knows only one leadership: the Third International. The Chinese Revolution itself must also have a single leadership, the Guomindang.


This theory of the unity of leadership, supported by affiliation to the Communist International, was all of a piece, the same as that of the Guomindang ‘monolith’ directed against the Communist Party, implicitly accused of wanting to divide the revolution by inflicting on it the pernicious system of two parties. Chiang Kai-shek concluded this remarkable speech to the Central Committee of the Guomindang on 25 May 1926 by reaffirming the need to curb the class struggle and retain the independence of the Guomindang with regard to the Communist International in specifically Chinese matters. It was a masterpiece of political fraud.


The Communist Party reacted healthily. One month later, it decided to change from affiliation to the Guomindang to alliance with the Guomindang, and henceforth to maintain an independent class policy. The Communist International disapproved of this attitude, in which it saw the threat of a split with the revolutionary petit-bourgeois who formed the left wing of the Guomindang (there was no left wing in the Guomindang, said some Chinese Communists, whom events have unfortunately proved right). [129]


For the same reason, the Communist Party had to give up its daily paper and content itself with a weekly (a Communist Party without a daily paper during a period of revolution!). Its influence decreased in the army. The Communists had contributed to forming the army’s political services (education, propaganda and control), conceived after the model of those services that maintained the morale of the Red Army.


This admirable instrument forged by the proletariat in arms was turned against it. ‘We had to make concessions (in the army)’, wrote a Chinese militant, and he quoted the titles of leaflets and tracts disseminated in 16 million copies in the course of a campaign against Wu Peifu. Here are some of these titles: ‘Down with Wu Peifu!’, ‘Down with imperialism!’, ‘Call a Constituent Assembly!’, ‘Down with the unequal treaties!’ [130] Not one title with a hint of Communism! Not one word about workers’ rights! Our comrades had formed the powerful apparatus of the political services of the army; the bourgeoisie put its content into it and turned the machine back on us:


No Socialist propaganda was carried out in the army and amongst the masses of the soldiers, because this propaganda would be opposed by the army commanders, and because anti-imperialist propaganda and activity was considered to be the sole need of the moment… The overwhelming majority of the officers belonged to the possessing classes, and principally to the agrarian bourgeoisie. [131]


In the Light of the Facts


It was under these disquieting auspices that the northern campaign of the southern armies began. Chiang Kai-shek undertook it to rebuild his prestige. Some Communists would have preferred first of all to settle by struggle the vital questions of the internal politics of the Guangzhou government. The southern armies, supported by the workers of town and country, went from victory to victory, reaching first Hankou and then Shanghai. But whilst the Communists showed themselves above all anxious not to break the policy of class collaboration against the imperialists, the Chinese bourgeoisie refused them legal status in the provinces, repressed agrarian disturbances, forbade strikes, instituted compulsory arbitration between capital and labour, attempted to disarm the working-class ‘pickets’ and continued to set up yellow unions.


In Shanghai, under the bloody dictatorship of the northerner Sun Chuanfang [132] who himself gave allegiance to Zhang Zuolin, the trade unions organised themselves, won legal status in a city traversed each night by squads of executioners who decapitated agitators on street corners, and armed themselves clandestinely under the guns of the imperialist fleets… Strikes spread. Half a million workers were on strike during 20-26 February. Sun Chuanfang had 31 strikers executed. The northern fleet sympathised with the people. The workers’ actions continued irresistibly, in spite of the presence of 36 warships and 13 000 imperialist troops (7000 of them British). But around 20 March, some days before their victorious insurrection, when the Shanghai trade unions drew up their list of 22 demands, the Guomindang enjoined them to delete the economic demands (read those of the working class), since the strike was supposed to be strictly ‘political’ and national! The provincial government of Guangzhou had just restricted by a decree of 25 February the rights of the workers and trade unions. Thus the worker and peasant masses arose, fought and provided the southern generals with victories and provinces; the Guomindang, dead set on restricting the revolution to its national objectives, defended the bourgeoisie and resisted the masses step by step. As far as the Guomindang was concerned, it was a matter of using the popular forces for its own ends. We shall see what happens next.


At the same time, the national army underwent a profound change. The haughty generals, anxious to avoid unpopularity, rallied to it one after the other and were well received, no matter what was their past record as adventurers. Amongst the southerners, these troops who had gone over immediately became much more numerous than the Cantonese soldiers. And the workers remained disarmed. They possessed only a few thousand rifles in the whole of China — even though in March they had held the Shanghai arsenal…


It was at least necessary to accord the popular masses some semblance of satisfaction. Had the Communists placed themselves at their head, that would have been too serious a step. Radical declarations followed one after the other. Chiang Kai-shek produced them at every opportunity. A Guomindang conference meeting in Hankou on 13-15 March recalled the exiled leader of the left, Wang Jingwei, and granted two out of eight ministerial portfolios to the Communists — with the right also gaining two and the centre four, what a fine coalition it was! At the same time, the Guomindang forbade its members any manifestation of disagreement with the party’s official policy. It would be superfluous to recall here the subsequent events. The two Communist ministers entered officially into their functions only two months later, at the end of May. I do not know if they were sharing power from March to May. But during that difficult period, which included the preparation of the Shanghai coup d’état and its immediate aftermath, the authority of the Communist Party shielded the Guomindang.


This dangerous situation, so contrary to the teachings of Lenin and the experiences of the Russian revolutions, required theoretical justification. It required the theory, expounded time and again, of the ‘bloc of four social forces’ — ‘the industrial bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the peasants and the urban petit bourgeoisie’ [133] — represented by the Guomindang. We might add: ‘the left tendency of the Guomindang, including the Communist Party, amounts to 220 000 supporters; the centre and the right share the remaining 30 000’. [134] Does history know of a single example of a government that achieved a ‘bloc’ of antagonistic classes? For any Marxist, the state is by definition an instrument of class domination (of the domination of certain classes over certain others). The bourgeois state assures the domination of the possessing classes. Nonetheless, all bourgeois states pretend — and you can understand that this is in their interest — to represent the interests of all classes, to be above classes. But as far as we are concerned, we are not fooled by this stale verbiage.


What state did the Guomindang really represent? All bourgeois parties, in all countries, pride themselves on incorporating all levels of the population; and reactionary parties often contain a great number of workers. Everyone knows that the nature of a party depends essentially on the social composition of its leading circles. Those of the Guomindang were formed from bourgeois and petit-bourgeois politicians; we have just seen under what conditions a small Communist minority entered into it, representing the workers and the poor peasants, in short, the overwhelming majority of the population. Moreover, the Guomindang maintained the old administrations everywhere, restricting itself to imposing compulsory membership on numerous functionaries. This party, within which rank and file organisations had no say, was in reality a bureaucratic governmental apparatus, led by right-wingers. For the rank and file to take it over, the structure had to be broken.


31 August 1927


‘Communists are in duty bound, not to gloss over shortcomings in their movement, but to criticise them openly so as to remedy them the more speedily and radically.’ — Lenin at the Second Congress of the Communist International (1920) [135]


Fifth Letter


‘UNDOUBTEDLY, the revolution will teach us and will teach the masses of the people. But the question that now confronts a militant political party is: shall we be able to teach the revolution anything?’ — N Lenin, Preface to Two Tactics, July 1905 [136]


A Revolutionary Army in Shantou


The ‘red’ troops of Generals He Long and Ye Ting (who is a Communist), whose uprising in Nanchang on 1-2 August and victorious march towards Guangzhou (thanks to the support of the peasants) we reported on 26 September last, reached and took the port of Shantou, 200 kilometres as the crow flies from the capital of Guangdong. In two months they had crossed almost 600 kilometres of mountainous country with no railways, where the roads are poor. They had defeated all the forces sent to meet them. Everywhere on their journey the peasants backed them up. Ivine, the Pravda correspondent in Shanghai, telegraphed the following details (27 September) on the taking of Shantou. It was a repetition of the taking of Shanghai by the Southerners. A railway 60 kilometres long links Shantou, a port of 60 000 inhabitants, to Chaozhou in the interior. Upon the approach of the revolutionary troops, peasant bands rose up everywhere in the region. On 23 September the troops of He Long and Ye Ting entered Chaozhou. Shantou had been in the hands of the workers and peasants since the 21st. The local authorities formed a body of 600 coolies and the trade unions a detachment of 200 workers there to assist the advance of the revolutionary army, which on the night of the 23rd entered a celebrating city, where supporters welcomed it wearing red armbands…


The taking of Shantou was in itself only one episode in a campaign full of ups and downs. The revolutionaries held on in this town for only about 10 days. The superior forces of the counter-revolution, more or less supported by the Japanese, who had landed in order to ‘protect their nationals’, forced the troops of Ye Ting and He Long to evacuate Shantou on 2 August. The bourgeoisie, that is, local traders no doubt, boycotted them. To our mind, this reverse emphasises the difficulty, and the necessity at the moment, of providing territory for the revolution, and that such territory is indispensable for deepening and legitimising the social revolution over the area conquered by force of arms. On the other hand, far too many dispatches inform us that ‘perfect order’ reigned in the city occupied by the ‘Reds’. Isn’t this tantamount to saying that property and the bourgeoisie were respected there? The class war, above all in backward countries, does not take place with lace cuffs and ‘perfect order’ in captured cities. The proof of this lies in what we have already been told, that in the city recaptured by the troops of reactionary order, there have been mass shootings. This is obviously not perfect order, it is better — from the point of view of a social class that knows how to exploit the success of its arms. Have the small revolutionary armies of the south reverted to the errors that led the Chinese Revolution into this present crisis?


If the small revolutionary armies of the south enter resolutely on the path of calling upon the poor peasants to seize the land, if they assist the workers to form their own organs of power (soviets), to take over the dictatorship, and, by satisfying the demands of the workers and the poor peasants, to give a clear and deep social content to the struggle; and if these armies — whose structure, based on mercenaries, is still similar to that of all Chinese armies — are then reorganised as those of a rebellious people, it seems impossible that reaction, grappling with a vast country in ferment, and weakened by military anarchy, would be able to subdue them. But if the fatal policy of the ‘Left’ Guomindang is repeated in Shantou, if the proprietors are spared, if there is fear of ‘excesses’ as a result of the peasant revolution, if the activity of the masses is held back, if the army is not transformed, then the disintegration of the ‘red’ forces will be only a matter of time. The future of the Chinese Communists of the Twenty-Third and Twenty-Fourth armies lies largely in their own hands.


What prospects would their success open up for us? The defeat inflicted by the bourgeoisie on the Chinese proletariat and the poor peasants is severe, but not decisive. The failure of the national revolution, the absence of reformist solutions to the land and labour questions, the disasters caused by military anarchy, the profound differences of interest between the petit-bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie properly so-called, and the semi-feudal ‘old order’ represented by the Northerners, make it impossible for us to envisage in the near future a social ‘stabilisation’ comparable, for example, to that experienced by Russia on the morrow of the defeated revolution of 1905. The Chinese counter-revolution has gained a mere truce, though of some duration, it is true. Heads cut off cannot be replaced. The cadres of the workers and peasants movement have been severely hit. In Changsha (Hunan) alone, according to Lozovsky, more than 1000 revolutionaries were massacred. The proletariat has been decapitated in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hankou. The rise of the masses has been broken. The masses need time to recover, to overcome the inevitable crises of demoralisation, to dress their wounds, to create fresh cadres, to reform under conditions of illegality their destroyed organisations, and first and foremost the Communist Party. A few months, a few years? It would be a very brave man who attempted a precise guess. It would in any case not require many years, and we have just seen why. In these conditions, the aim of the southern revolutionaries can be defined thus: to conquer territory for the revolution, to gain time, to reform the proletarian organisations and to reorganise the army.


I spoke too little of the army in my former articles as a result of both lack of space and documentation. That historic law to which we know of no exceptions has been profoundly misunderstood in the Chinese Revolution: without the disintegration of the army of the ruling classes there can be no victorious revolution. The General Secretary of the Red International of Labour Unions, Lozovsky, who has recently returned from China, tells us that the Southern army was made up exclusively of mercenaries: [137]


The army in China is an undertaking based on commercial calculation: its aim is to obtain profits for the generals. Whilst raising taxes, the big military chiefs never forget to take their own share. The dictator of Guangzhou, Li Jishen, has two million dollars in the bank, and is a shareholder in a host of commercial and financial enterprises… The officers imitate their chiefs and amass money at the expense of the population. The officer corps is linked in its entirety to landownership and business… It is hard to tell in China where the bandit ends and the general begins… The Chinese army represents the organised counter-revolution… We must get it into our heads that for several years the revolution has not succeeded in organising the army on fresh foundations, or in getting enough revolutionary workers and peasants to enter it.


The Chinese workers’ distrust for this army was well grounded, of that we need not doubt… ‘The political services assisted the officers rather than the soldiers.’ And Lozovsky, after describing how the thieving generals — the Southerners — dispute the provinces amongst themselves and how they carried out the reactionary Changsha coup d’état on 21 May last, whose thread, so he said, went back to the Left Guomindang, sums up as follows:


This military system has proved itself to be very flexible and intent on making use of the revolution for its own benefit. Only one conclusion follows: either the revolution will annihilate this medieval military system, or this system will annihilate the revolution. [138]


And it is upon armies like this, often described as ‘red armies’, that the international proletariat has based such high hopes! [139] The mistake was obviously to consider the radical bourgeoisie as the leading class of anti-imperialist revolution: hence its army, whatever it may have been, has become sacrosanct. Indeed in Guangzhou there was a revolutionary military school — the Huangpu Academy — but in 22 months it trained only 1700 young officers. The most disciplined and best army, the Cantonese, did not exceed 70 000 men; at the end of the northern campaign, when the Southerners arrived at the Yangtse, some hundreds of thousands of mercenaries in the pay of the bandit-generals joined them, submerging them.


Reactionary classes cannot be beaten by their own armies. The Marxist analysis of the social character of the Nationalist armies was in no way wrong. Extending the territory of the Guomindang by means of these fundamentally counter-revolutionary armies was to sacrifice the real revolution, that of the masses, which is incompatible with that of the generals. It was necessary to resist all the fatal illusions of class harmony ‘in the face of the foreign imperialists’.


If the revolutionaries wish to survive and to have a future, and to avoid falling back into the lamentable errors of yesterday, their main concern must be to reorganise themselves, by taking as their inspiration the example of the Russians and their army, and to become truly, as Trotsky put it, ‘the shield and sword of the oppressed’.


The Way of Lenin… and the Other


The time seems to have come to draw up a balance sheet of yesterday’s mistakes. These mistakes originate from a set of ideas that unfortunately cannot be discussed with any great thoroughness in these columns, but whose basic points we should note.


People argued that in a large colonial country, nationalism must prevail over the class struggle; in other words, the conflict of interests between the indigenous bourgeoisie and the imperialists was greater than that between the bourgeoisie and the poor classes. We lost sight of the prime, essential role of the class struggle in history. So we misunderstood both the social nature of the national revolution in China and the anti-imperialist nature of the proletarian revolution in Russia in the frequent theoretical comparisons we made of the two movements.


The correct idea, emphasised on several occasions by Lenin, that the proletariat in struggle must not neglect possible alliances, and in colonial countries must not neglect an alliance with the revolutionary nationalist petit-bourgeoisie, has degenerated into a simplistic theory of class harmony in the face of the foreign imperialists, thus implying a sort of political abdication by the proletariat. The Communists feared to break the unity of fronts in the face of ‘the common enemy’ in times of war. The bourgeoisie, whose political experience is much greater than ours, never hesitated in times of war to repress the proletarian movement or to carry out coups d’état as long as it believed that they were in line with its interests. Lenin wrote:


The bourgeoisie were unafraid of seizing power at the price of civil war at times when the enemy threatened from without. The revolutionary proletariat will reckon just as little with this ‘argument’ [of the external threat — VS] from liars and lackeys of the bourgeoisie. [140]


The Guomindang was thought to embody a ‘bloc of four classes’ — bourgeoisie, petit-bourgeoisie, peasantry and proletariat — in other words, a government located above social classes. This was to turn Marxism back into liberalism. It was to forget the elementary Marxist truth that political power rests ultimately on economic power, and that in a society divided into classes government can only ever represent the possessing classes.


An attempt was made to replace the initiative of the masses, which necessarily entailed various excesses, by the action of a political apparatus which, in the given circumstances, could not fail to be bureaucratic.


This mistaken viewpoint is inspired by a schematic conception of successive phases of the movement (a national phase to begin with, then a revolutionary democratic phase, then a soviet phase). This was a case of purporting to assign directions to reality instead of taking account of reality. Obviously events are only ever connected by successive phases, as M de la Palisse [141] has said. The mistake was obviously to accept that a ‘bourgeois-national’ phase would prepare for — instead of prevent — the proletarian and peasant phase of the movement. Moreover, it is not so easy to distinguish such phases in social conflicts as it is for the historian or theoretician to discover them later at his leisure.


None of these conceptions is new. Lenin tirelessly refuted them in 1905 and 1917, in the course of the two Russian revolutions. We continue to be gripped with admiration whilst reading in his work under present conditions. Right from the start of the revolution of 1905 he wrote:


The immediate arming of the workers and of all citizens in general, the preparation and organisation of the revolutionary forces for overthrowing the government authorities and institutions — this is the practical basis on which revolutionaries of every variety can and must unite to strike the common blow. The proletariat must always pursue its own independent path… always bearing in mind its great, ultimate objective, which is to rid mankind of all exploitation. But… [this must] never cause us to forget the importance of a common revolutionary onset at the moment of actual revolution. We… can and must act independently of the bourgeois-democratic revolutionaries and guard the class independence of the proletariat. But we must go hand in hand with them during the uprising, when direct blows are being struck at Tsarism, when resistance is offered by the troops, when the bastilles of the accursed enemy of the entire Russian people are stormed. [142]


On the necessity for intransigence, and the danger of concealing disagreements between the proletariat and the radical bourgeoisie, he wrote in February 1905:


… forces are spared… by a united, welded organisation which is at one on questions of principle, and not by lumping together heterogeneous elements… To achieve a ‘fighting unity’ in deed and not merely in word, we must know clearly, definitely, and from experience exactly wherein and to what extent we can be united… The history of revolutionary epochs provides many, all too many, instances of tremendous harm caused by hasty and half-baked experiments in ‘fighting unity’ that sought to lump together the most heterogeneous elements in the committees of the revolutionary people, but managed thereby to achieve mutual friction and bitter disappointment… We see in the independent, uncompromisingly Marxist party of the revolutionary proletariat the sole pledge of Socialism’s victory and the road to victory that is most free from vacillations. We shall never, therefore, not even at the most revolutionary moments, forego the complete independence of the… party or the complete intransigence of our ideology. You believe this rules out fighting unity? You are mistaken. [143]


Lenin saw the conditions for this unity — or, as we would say today, this united front — in the activity of the masses.


The Mensheviks claimed that it was necessary ‘to utilise all elements… wholly undismayed by the fact that they rob us of a share in the leadership’ (to ‘utilise’ the Guomindang, the generals, etc). Lenin replied:


If it is really our demands that are adopted by those we utilise, then they do not rob us of the leadership, but accept our leadership. If, on the other hand, all these elements really rob us of the leadership (and of course not only ‘technical’ leadership, because to separate the ‘technical’ side of a revolution from its political side is sheer nonsense), then it is not we who utilise them, but they us… Yesterday’s priest, general, or government official who becomes an adherent of the revolution may be a prejudice-ridden bourgeois democrat, and insofar as the workers will follow him the bourgeois democrats will be ‘utilising’ the workers. [144]


The Mensheviks went around saying: Above all, let us not frighten the bourgeoisie! Lenin summed up the viewpoint of their most persistent theoretician, Martynov, [145] in these terms:


If in the period of the democratic revolution the proletariat uses the threat of the Socialist revolution to frighten the bourgeoisie, this can lead only to reaction, which will also weaken the democratic gains already won. [146]


The Mensheviks, fearing to go beyond the aims of bourgeois revolution, rejected participation in any future revolutionary power. Lenin contended that only the proletariat, supported by the poor peasants and the lower layers of the urban petit-bourgeoisie could complete the bourgeois revolution by means of the bourgeois-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry — very different from the Socialist dictatorship of the proletariat. He wrote on 27 May 1905:


Every serious revolutionary situation confronts the party of the proletariat with the task of giving purposive leadership to the uprising, of organising the revolution, of centralising all the revolutionary forces, of boldly launching a military offensive, and of making the most energetic use of the revolutionary governmental power. [147]


The outcome of the revolution depends on whether the working class will play the part of a subsidiary to the bourgeoisie, a subsidiary that is powerful in the force of its onslaught against the autocracy, but impotent politically, or whether it will play the part of leader of the people’s revolution. The more intelligent representatives of the bourgeoisie are perfectly aware of this. [148]


They were perfectly aware of this in China, too…


Mass action and the leadership of the proletariat, such were Lenin’s directives for a bourgeois revolution, one destined, in other words, to end in a bourgeois democracy. There is no class harmony here, no impotent ministerial collaboration, no ‘bloc of four classes’.


Because it lacked an experienced Communist party, steeped in and familiarised with the history of the revolutions of the West, the Chinese proletariat, in spite of its great revolutionary qualities, fell far short of its real potential. The Chinese bourgeoisie, on the other hand, has given proof of consummate skill in the class struggle. It knew how to draw inspiration from our own methods, to imitate the structure of the Russian Communist Party within that of the Guomindang, to create political services in the army modelled on those of the Red Army, to manipulate the masses, and thus to turn our own weapons against us and to stop at nothing when its own interests were seen to be threatened.


Building the Chinese Communist Party


There is only one way of preparing for the future: build the Chinese Communist Party.


China’s culture, which is thousands of years old and of great intellectual richness, has moulded the brains of innumerable generations in an almost unique way. This culture is that of a society based on the feudal, bourgeois and bureaucratic exploitation of the peasant, the craftsman and the worker under very particular conditions of historical stability. The ideology, ethics, logic and even language of the Chinese are the result of efforts carried on unceasingly for 4000 years by the possessing classes to defend themselves against the exploited in struggles that broke out again and again between these three categories: feudalism, bureaucratic absolutism and peasant revolution. In the course of time, the entire intellectual activity of Chinese culture was adapted to the defence of the interests of the privileged classes. It could not be otherwise in a society divided into classes but without a large proletariat, for the proletariat alone, through its concentration, its fairly uniform conditions of existence, and the necessity imposed upon it of sustaining organised struggles, can rise to forms of consciousness different from those of its masters and thus introduce new elements into social consciousness. Neither peasants nor craftsmen are the creators of revolutionary intellectual values. [149] Until our own time, China never experienced (industrial) capitalist development, and its age-old culture is amongst those furthest away from that of which Marxism is, in the intellectual sphere, the ripest consummation. We must take account of this fact in order to appreciate the obstacles to the penetration of Marxism into China. The first ideologists of the labour movement were, in China as elsewhere, the intellectuals, but they were much more taken with idealism than were intellectuals elsewhere. The condition of the proletariat is still too wretched for it to be able to form theoreticians who would be its own true intellectuals (the Chinese proletariat has already produced agitators, organisers and militants in abundance; that is a great achievement, but it is not enough: the proletariat needs leaders, in other words men who possess class consciousness to the highest degree: a leader is an agitator, militant and organiser who is armed with a correct theory). The Chinese Communist Party was founded by intellectuals who originated from the comfortable or rich classes, [150] far more the prisoners of their ancestral culture than they doubtless themselves realised. Anarchism, Sun Yat-senism, the idealist teaching of Daoism [151] which deny class struggle, and various forms of nationalism are spiritual nets from which Chinese revolutionaries must free themselves if they are to assimilate dialectical materialism. Clear Communist consciousness is a precondition for the existence of the party. Chinese Communism must come into existence as a result of intellectual liberation, a decisive break with the past. From this viewpoint, the ideological compromises with the teaching of Sun Yat-sen have done great harm. [152]


We should not forget that in Pravda last July, Bukharin, angered at the opportunist compromises of the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party, advocated calling an extraordinary conference of the party that would not stop short of expulsions in order to liquidate opportunism. This idea seems to have been abandoned, and a very good thing too. At the last Central Committee meeting of the Communist Party of the USSR. Krupskaya [153] asked rightly — but vainly — that the passage in paragraph 25 of the theses concerning the Chinese revolution that emphasises the responsibilities of the Chinese Communist Party be suppressed. ‘It is not fitting’, she said, ‘to remind it of its former responsibilities at a time when the party is hunted by the counter-revolution.’ The question of responsibilities, moreover, should be posed much more widely.


The ideological purge of the Chinese Communist Party must result from changes in its activity rather than from theoretical criticism. We do not know exactly what our comrades over there are now doing. But it seems to us that their slogans should be:


1. An intransigent defence of the interests of the working class.


2. Expropriation of the landowners and guerrilla warfare in the countryside.


3. Propaganda for Socialist solutions to the problem of the extreme fragmentation of cultivated plots, which is the cause of poverty.


4. Propaganda for soviets (and their formation in the region of Shantou).


5. An alliance with the USSR — an alliance that would make revolutionary China truly invincible.


6. The formation of real red armies.


7. Regarding the lower layers of the petit-bourgeoisie, whom it is necessary to attract, an analysis and a close criticism of Sun Yat-senism, to which we oppose our principle of the proletariat (supported by its natural allies) as the sole liberator of the nation. [154]


India and China — Where Are We Now?


What will be the international consequences of the defeat of the Chinese proletariat? The British government’s nervousness about the USSR has decreased a little, which only shows how susceptible are the British Conservatives to panic. If the Chinese bourgeoisie succeeds in achieving a certain degree of social stability, the encirclement of the USSR in Asia will be achieved at a blow; we will then have to wait for Zhang Zuolin, Japan and Britain to raise the question of Mongolia, which since the decisive sovietisation of Siberia has become a friendly people’s republic allied to the USSR. The semi-official press, both British and French, has already made allusions to this question. Shady deals have taken place between Chinese Turkestan, bordering on Soviet Turkestan, and Zhang Zuolin. The ‘defeat of Bolshevism in Asia’ would not fail to provoke within the international proletariat a wave of discouragement similar to that following the setback of the German Revolution in 1923 (this is how the internal differences of the Russian Communist Party were accentuated). But we are far from finished! As we have seen, it seems unlikely that China will achieve stability at present. Tendencies in the direction that we have just indicated will, however, appear in the course of the present lull, and we must neutralise them by closely following events, by securing good information, and by the support of the international labour movement for those revolutionaries who are continuing their heroic action, subject to partial reverses, but in the end invincible.


The balance sheet of the Chinese experience should aim at correcting the position of the Communist International. There is a very strong current in favour of the creation in other colonial countries of large revolutionary nationalist parties analogous to the Guomindang. Stalin, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR, again told the students of Sun Yat-sen University in Moscow 13 May last:


I was thinking of it [the Guomindang]… as the type of structure of a distinctive people’s revolutionary party in the oppressed countries of the East, especially in such countries as China and India; as the type of structure of such a people’s revolutionary party as must be based on a revolutionary bloc of the workers and the petit-bourgeoisie of town and country. I plainly stated at that time [in May 1925] that ‘in such countries the Communists must pass from the policy of a united national front to the policy of a revolutionary bloc of the workers and petit-bourgeoisie’. [155]


At the same time l’Humanité published an article devoted to the revolutionary movement in British India that expounded the same thesis. In these circumstances, what was to become of the directives of the Second Congress of the Communist International, so wisely adopted on the proposal of Lenin, that explained the need to ‘uphold the independence of the Communist Party, even if it is in its most embryonic form’? Alarmed by ‘the popularity acquired in India by the idea of a people’s party, following the successes of the Guomindang’, an Indian comrade on the eve of the bankruptcy of the Guomindang timidly raised these insidious questions:


Would not the realisation of this idea lead to the control of the petit-bourgeoisie — and not the proletariat — in the Indian revolutionary nationalist movement? Would it not be better to say to those who wish to organise a people’s party: ‘Organise yourselves in the Communist Party, and strengthen it, because it is the only party capable of directing the national movement.’? [156]


To understand the lying and anti-proletarian nationalism of the type epitomised by the Guomindang whose rise these unfortunate tendencies could assist, it is enough to read Arthur Hollitscher’s interviews with the leaders of the Indian national movement in his excellent book A travers l’Asie effervescente: [157] here we find only equivocation, honeyed phrases, and veiled denials of the class struggle. But the experience of the Guomindang is so decisive that Bukharin was able to tell the Leningrad militants on 11 August:


In my opinion we should not necessarily apply the entire tactic used in China in other colonial countries. We are studying the question of India in the Communist International… The bourgeoisie of this country is far more closely linked with the British imperialists, against whom it is unlikely to take real measures. We cannot mechanically transpose the Chinese experience to India…


This is reassuring — in part, at least.


It is necessary to make the point in a general fashion, to pass a clear and justified verdict on the roads travelled. Political experiences of this importance are the legacy of our international party. Now too many aspects of them remain obscure. Where are we now? Is the directive of the Communist International to the Chinese Communists to remain in the Guomindang at all costs, even against the will of its Central Committee, still in force? Or has it been rescinded? Is the Guomindang still a sympathising party of the Communist International (it has not been excluded from the International, as far as I am aware)? Should we still base our hopes on some mythical Guomindang ‘of the left’? L’Humanité of 31 August reproduced at length the opinions of Sun Yat-sen’s widow, Song Qingling, [158] who has taken refuge in Moscow, without adding any Communist commentary. Inspired by the best of intentions, and sincerely attached to the revolutionary cause, the widow of the great Sun distorts history to no slight degree: Sun, who always denied the class struggle, becomes in this eloquent but barely convincing message the apostle of a people’s revolution: he who only ever spoke about agrarian reform is represented as having ‘preached an agrarian revolution’.


‘I am sure that all members of the Guomindang worthy of the name would wish to continue along the revolutionary path’, concludes Madam Sun. It is a nice thought: but where are these members of the ideal Guomindang… unless they are in the prisons of the real, majority, official Guomindang, the legal master of an immense territory? The illusions of a worthy lady must not cause us to lose sight of social realities. Finally, the Chinese Revolution has given rise to very lively discussions inside leading circles of the Communist International and the Communist Party of the USSR, about which we know only that revolutionary minds of the first order have unceasingly issued warnings that have been rejected, and obstinately supported theses that have been invariably condemned. Should we not now coolly face up to yesterday’s contrary opinions, and coolly and for the greatest profit of the International and of the young Chinese party draw up the balance sheet of a battle of ideas which has brought into conflict some of the best of the world’s Communists? History has delivered its verdict. It should be possible from now on to verify ideas by deeds and facts. We should then be able to see better how revolutionary Marxism emerges strengthened from this daunting test.




September-October 1927


Canton, December 1927


CHINA has three natural revolutionary power centres. Two are in the north: the great industrial and commercial city of Hankou on the Yangtse in the heart of the country, on the Beijing-Guangzhou railway, and the great modern port of Shanghai, at the Yangtse’s mouth, with 600 000 proletarians. The other is in the south, the old port of Guangzhou, of far less industrial and commercial importance, but inhabited by workers and poor proletarianised artisans, amongst whom old revolutionary traditions maintained since 1900 by the struggles of Sun Yat-sen remain alive. The imperialists’ influence has been less effective over southern China than over northern China, for Guangdong is encircled by vast mountainous areas difficult to penetrate, and is therefore of less interest, in the view of foreign capitalists, than the fertile valleys of the Yangtse and the Yellow River. On the other hand, the Manchu yoke was less felt in this far-off province of the Empire, [159] whose trade with Indo-China, Formosa, Malaysia and the Philippines afforded great possibilities for development. The Beijing emperors concerned themselves with Guangdong only every now and then to milk it, and to regulate its trade in favour of the northern ports. In 1840-42, the British took over the important entrepôt of Hongkong, at the mouth of the Zhujiang, 150 kilometres downstream from Canton: they also set about reducing and controlling the entire trade of Guangdong. Guangzhou’s revolutionary traditions in relation to Beijing and the foreign imperialists can also be explained by obvious economic reasons.


In 1927, as a result of a rapid succession of fatal mistakes, the Chinese proletariat lost the strong positions in Shanghai and Hankou that it had gloriously conquered at the head of the national movement. In April Chiang Kai-shek’s coup, which was prepared in broad daylight and should have been foreseen, robbed the workers of Shanghai. In August the sharp turn to the right by the ‘left’ Guomindang, on which had been based inadmissible hopes, robbed the workers of Hankou. In the meantime, the seizure of Changsha, carried out with the complicity of the Hankow government (in which the Communists participated), decapitated the Hunan peasant movement. After these grave defeats, followed as in all other social wars by the massacre of the vanquished — for as far as the bourgeoisie was concerned, it was not a matter of contenting itself with a political victory that could well prove to be ephemeral, but of inflicting a bloodletting on the exploited classes that would put them out of action for a long time — the Chinese revolution nonetheless maintained one position: Guangzhou.


This position was obviously also in the power of the counter-revolution. A general acting in alliance with Chiang Kai-shek had been in control of it since April. But in spite of repeated outbursts of white terror, the capital of southern China had maintained most of its revolutionary forces. Since they had not engaged in great battles, they had not been badly hit. General Zhang Fakui [160] even succeeded in expelling the more obviously reactionary Li Ti-Sin by investing in apparently ‘revolutionary’ slogans. Zhang Fakui even made advances to the Communists, and one of the speakers at the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR, Lominadze, [161] was rightly pleased at the political maturity shown by the Chinese Communist Party in not allowing itself to be taken in by the demagogic patter of this warlord… The triumph of the Chinese counter-revolution required the smashing of the Guangzhou workers. Guangdong could yet again become the focus, the point of departure, for a fresh revolutionary wave. But this position has just been lost in circumstances that we will examine.


We should recall that in August, after the Communists had fled Wuhan, where the Guomindang, of which they had been members, had revealed itself as a traitor party, where the government in which they had participated had been revealed as counter-revolutionary, and where their massacre had been openly prepared in the name of ‘the higher interests of the revolution’ — they had raised two divisions stationed in Nanchang and commanded by generals Ye Ting and He Long. In two months this small army, supported by the sympathy of the poor population, covered some 500 or 600 kilometres across mountainous country and on 26 September took the port of Shantou, which it held for no more than a few days. After that we received no more news (what words are there to describe such a deplorable lack of information?). Two months passed. On 10 or 11 December, Bukharin, speaking to the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR about the work of the delegation of the party to the ECCI, finally provided us with a swathe of unexpected good news:


The peasant soviets are masters of five districts in Guangdong. For the first time in the history of the Chinese peasant movement, soviet power has been installed on a rural basis and has declared a veritable war of extermination against the landed proprietors. The heads of between 300 and 400 landed proprietors have fallen… In this territory of several million inhabitants, the landed proprietors have been physically exterminated… The situation is extremely tense in Guangdong, and particularly around Guangzhou. Several indications suggest that very important events are ripening in China… The remains of the army of Ye Ting are maintaining themselves in Guangdong; if events unfold in Guangzhou, and if the activity of the workers and peasants meets with success, they could play the role of shock troops… (Pravda, 13 December)


The same day’s dispatches published in the same issue of Pravda announced the seizure of Guangzhou by the workers and peasants, and the formation of a soviet government in that city. A telegram from the Japanese agency Toho gave the following details. Workers’ and peasants’ detachments, operating in concert with regular troops, had taken public buildings by surprise on 11 December. The presence of a workers’ army of 5000 men in the city was noted. The shops were closed. The peasants held the areas around the city. The majority of the garrison troops had passed over to the Reds. Posters on the walls proclaimed:


Down with Li Ti-Sin, Chiang Kai-shek, Zhang Fakui and Wang Jingwei, enemies of the peasants and workers! Down with the Guomindang, agent of the counter-revolution! Rice and meat to the workers! Land to the peasants! The workers, peasants and red troops alone defend the masses!


The dispatches of 12 December announced the formation of the Soviet government of Guangdong, presided over by a member of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, Su Zhaozheng. General Ye Ting commanded the troops.


On the 15th, a manifesto of the ECCI, commenting upon the global significance of the exploits of the Cantonese workers, called upon the workers of all countries to assist the encircled city. It was too late. The Communists were able to hold on for only 48 hours. After prolonged assaults and prolonged street battles, the city was taken by the forces of generals Zhang Fakui and Li-Fulin on the evening of the 13th. Artillery had started more than 50 fires. The workers’ and peasants’ detachments were retreating, leaving behind more than 300 dead (the Japanese and American press spoke of some 4000 dead; we prefer to believe the later telegrams of the Soviet Tass Agency). Summary executions began the same day. Losses of vanquished rebels are always far higher after than during the battle. Up to today (according to the reports of 29 December), more than 2500 people have been executed in Guangzhou.


The repression was frightful. Human torches were created. The condemned were paraded through the streets. The Soviet consulate in Guangzhou was pillaged, and its personnel were assassinated or arrested. Khassis, [162] the Vice Consul, perished, along with some 20 Russians. The consular staff of the great powers remained impassive: they approved of what was happening. The Guangzhou insurrection had revived resentments within the Chinese counter-revolutionary camp against the USSR, whose representatives were naturally accused of grave malpractice. Subsequently, the governments of southern China and the USSR officially broke off diplomatic relations. [163] The Soviet consulates in Hankou and Shanghai were attacked, and their personnel were arrested and maltreated before being expelled. The consular staff of the other powers allowed this to happen everywhere, and even encouraged or facilitated these outrages.


To Clarify Ideas: Soviets and the Red Army


The proletariat needs clear ideas and a correct theory as much as it needs good information (which is woefully lacking). Nothing is more dangerous in this respect than the use of incorrect terminology liable to misrepresent the facts. On several occasions, the ‘Red Army’ commanded by Ye Ting has been referred to in connection with the events in Guangzhou. Let us not forget the social meaning of words! In Russia the ‘Red Army’ was born of proletarian revolution: it is a class army, a proletarian, or a peasant and proletarian army, but in the latter case formed from poor and middle peasants, organised, led and inspired by proletarians. An army does not become red because it hoists red flags, because its leaders are members of a Communist Party, or because it obeys a revolutionary or even a soviet government. Woe to those workers, woe to those Communists, who allow themselves to be deceived by such verbal tricks! The army of General Ye Ting, which we know was made up, like all Chinese armies, of mercenaries commanded by career officers belonging, at least by origin, to the ruling classes, could not in the course of a difficult campaign transform itself into an authentic Red Army, in other words, an army composed of workers, artisans and peasants, who are volunteers or mobilised by the proletarian authorities, and organised by Communist commissars who keep a check on the career officers. It was a revolutionary army, but not a Red Army. The workers’ detachments of Guangzhou could rightly be called Red Guards, comparable to those in Russia that paved the way to the formation of the Red Army. Let us use words precisely. An army means organisation, centralisation, method and broad scope in all its undertakings. A rebellious city can improvise red guards, but surely not an army.


The term ‘soviet government’ calls for similar observations. There can be no soviet government, obviously, without soviets. Was there a soviet, in other words, a workers’ council, in Guangzhou, when the new red government was set up there? No. Now a revolutionary government that has not developed from soviets has no right to call itself soviet. It can only be a revolutionary committee, which, moreover, can quite possibly set itself the task of creating soviet institutions called on to replace it (as happened, for example in Siberia, after the collapse of Kolchak). [164] The use of wrong terms in such circumstances risks casting discredit on the very idea of soviets.


On 14 December Marcel Cachin [165] wrote in l’Humanité:


The Chinese Revolution, an exclusively proletarian revolution, this time uniquely working class and peasant, is once more unleashed… An entire people, crushed and enslaved, is marching towards a soviet revolution in the Russian way.


Even more than wrong words we should fear ideological confusion, a serious obstacle in the way of class consciousness. Can we conceive of an ‘exclusively proletarian revolution’ in an immense peasant country, where the proletariat amounts to no more than a small minority of the population? Guangdong has 37 million inhabitants, 200 000 of them workers. And an ‘exclusively workers’ and peasants’ revolution’? Either the words ‘exclusively proletarian revolution’ mean ‘a Socialist revolution made by a proletariat so strong that it does not even need to grant important concessions to the petit-bourgeoisie’ (in this case ‘exclusively’ means to the exclusion of concessions)… or they mean nothing, and we have here nothing more than a wrong idea wrapped up in a fine-sounding phrase…


‘A soviet revolution in the Russian way’ is even more of a misnomer. The ‘Russian way’ was in a certain sense possible in China, a year ago: but we should have had to understand this at the time. Today, it is too late. What is this ‘Russian way’, if we are not to make a mockery of words? The soviets were born in Russia along with the revolution itself; they developed alongside, or rather concurrently with, the power of the bourgeoisie, and it is this same state of affairs that we call dual power; little by little, the Bolshevik Party, the party of proletarian intransigence, won a decisive influence in them and drove out the original opportunist leaders; never once did this party relinquish its independence, never once did it forget that its duty was not to support the parties of bourgeois revolution, but to allow the proletariat to prevail within the revolution. Whilst the support of the masses strengthened the Bolshevik soviets, whilst the uprisings of the peasants supported the activity of the city proletariat and saw in it a firm and far-sighted leadership, the bourgeois government was reduced little by little to impotence. The October Revolution was the final sweep of the broom. That was ‘the Russian way’. To attempt to imitate it, soviets would have had to be created in Shanghai and Hankou at the time of the Communists’ honeymoon with the Guomindang, even if such a step would have somewhat disconcerted the comradely effusions of the time, effusions that cost us so dear. It would have been necessary to combat opportunism step by step, to strengthen through dual power the control and initiative of the masses, to ‘foresee’ the treachery of the generals and the bourgeois politicians, fated to ‘betray’ everyone, apart from their own class, of course… We should not forget that comrades who did foresee this treachery at the time were very badly received. The ‘Russian way’ of which Cachin speaks is today completely impossible in China: the Russian Revolution of 1917 never experienced horrors comparable to those of the Chinese Revolution. Never were the proletarians of Moscow, Petrograd and Kharkov massacred on the same scale as their brothers in Shanghai, Hankou and Guangzhou…


A 48-Hour Feat of Arms…


Let us return to the Guangzhou events. The revolutionaries had little trouble capturing the city, but they were not able, in spite of their heroism, to hold it for more than 48 hours. These simple facts should make us think.


The success of the revolutionaries shows how great were their forces, and how solid and well rooted was their clandestine organisation. In a word, it proves that in Guangdong the Chinese Revolution retained considerable forces and great potential. The overwhelming defeat that followed shows that the time of the offensive was badly chosen, that insufficient account had been taken of the adverse forces, and that the coup was, in a word, adventurously premature.


In what circumstances might revolutionaries find it necessary to take part in a manifestly premature insurrection? Here two situations can be envisaged: when a spontaneous mass movement goes beyond the party, the latter, even though it judges the time ill-chosen, can do no more than support the masses unreservedly; or when the party, on the eve of a surprise attack by hostile classes, on the point of being outlawed or strangled, feels it can try to ward off the danger by some sort of preventive action. Basically, in both cases, it has no choice. In the first case, you would discredit yourself if you abandoned the workers (and you would not escape the consequences of defeat); in the second, why wait to be strangled? But it very much seems that the Cantonese Communists were in neither of these situations. There have been no reports of mass action before the coup: the general strike followed rather than preceded or prepared for the seizure of Guangzhou. The very success of the insurrection eliminates the second hypothesis; the revolutionaries were not on the eve of being surprised, on the contrary, they surprised their enemies, who were much stronger than they were. [166]


It is possible that important reasons at which we cannot guess at this distance might have militated in favour of an adventurist action. But whatever may have been the infinitely dangerous consequences of playing for time or abstaining, they would doubtless have been less serious than those of a defeat that resulted in the decapitation of the southern proletariat. After the opportunist errors of the past year, we have the impression in the face of these precipitate events, this hasty ‘sovietisation’, this apparently premature offensive, of an abrupt and clumsily executed turn to the left; the leadership of the movement having passed to men who had more courage and heroism than good sense; more faith in themselves, their devotion and their will than Marxist training; and more faith in the magic of slogans than proletarian realism. We have the impression that we have here witnessed one of those ‘leftist errors’ that Lenin and Trotsky so vigorously criticised at the Third Congress of the Communist International after the German insurrection of March 1921.


On the other hand, the slogans of the Guangzhou ‘soviet government’ seem to have been very vague. ‘Land to the Peasants’, is of course entirely correct. But ‘Rice and Meat to the Workers’? This is not a slogan. No government, even a reactionary one, would claim to refuse rice and meat to the workers. This is not a real slogan. Was there no announcement or decision regarding workers’ control of production, the confiscation of foodstocks, and the requisition of housing? We know nothing of any such measure. These vague slogans, coinciding with the decidedly military character of the action, confirm our first impression. [167]


Obviously, social problems that the revolution could not resolve will not be resolved by the reaction. The machete will provide no solution to the agrarian problem. In this sense, the Chinese Revolution has not ended. Obviously, this great nation of exploited people can pour out its blood in endless waves, without, for all that, ceasing to be immortal. And being immortal, it will triumph. In this very broad sense, the Chinese Revolution is invincible. But that is scant consolation, after all, when the massacres of Guangzhou are depriving the Chinese Revolution of its last base of operations. The oppressed masses are only in the long run invincible. The European proletarians who witnessed the defeat of the revolutions in Finland, Germany, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria know that. [168] We would be foolish to ignore the seriousness of the Guangzhou defeat.


Obviously, the peasant movement will not be extinguished in this huge country; has it not already gone on for many years? But as Communists, we know that it can only succeed if it is backed by the city proletariat, called upon to provide it with cadres, leaders and decisive support. All this leads us to think that China is now entering a period of military anarchy, in the course of which the proletarians and peasants will for a while no longer be able to join in great struggles: they will only recover their ability to act after having recuperated their strength.


Will the counter-revolution, by putting this lull to good use, succeed in stabilising its position? I very much doubt it. The defeat of the proletariat is also that of the national revolution. It represents a halt in the development of the nation, a painful and bloody interregnum before fresh social conflicts erupt.


We should not drift into the revolutionary fatalism of those who claim that the proletariat will necessarily arise strengthened after each defeat. If that were true, we would only need to pile up defeats in order eventually to win the most shattering victories in the class struggle. But these ‘optimistic’ (!?) rationalisations are hardly worth refuting. A victory for the Chinese bourgeoisie — capitalist stabilisation in China — is not impossible. It does not seem possible at this moment, none of the goals of the bourgeois national revolution having been attained. If the bourgeoisie had only turned on the proletariat after the gaining of national independence, after the liquidation of feudalism and military anarchy, and after the unification of the country, the prospects would have been otherwise. The tragedy of the situation is that the bourgeoisie feared — and rightly feared — being carried away by the workers’ and peasants’ revolution along with its enemies. The bourgeoisie was the first to realise that in our time there can no longer be a bourgeois revolution in the classic sense of the word in the most advanced colonial countries.


For a Correct Theory


At the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR [169] the Chinese Revolution was the subject of several interesting interventions in the course of the discussion of Bukharin’s report on the Communist International. Unfortunately, the great struggles of 1927 had not yet been subjected to serious debate within the Communist International; it would have been worthwhile to hold such a debate. Let us look at the new documentation that is now available to us. Two speeches in particular appear to be worth considering: that of Khitarov [170] (in Pravda, 15 December) and that of Lominadze (in Pravda, 14 December). [171]


Khitarov’s speech in particular is of historic interest, and of the first rank. This comrade seems to have followed the Shanghai and Wuhan events closely. He informs us that in April 1927 the Shanghai revolutionary leaders were expecting Chiang Kai-shek’s coup d’état, but refused to listen to the advice of those who proposed hiding the workers’ weapons. Legalistic illusions had the upper hand, no one hid the weapons, and they were taken… Khitarov further informs us that the Wuhan government included many of Chiang’s political friends. Khitarov gives us some details about this period of the revolution: How the counter-revolutionary coup of Changsha [172] — undertaken by a military clique in the provincial capital of Hunan, where the peasant revolution had reached its highest pitch — was carried out by officers of the Generalissimo of the Wuhan army (Tang Shengzhi) with 1700 men ranged against 20 000 armed peasants. The army, having carried out numerous summary executions, found themselves practically surrounded by peasants who were to march on the town on 31 May. In the meantime, the Communist committee received a letter from Chen Duxiu, General Secretary of the Party, saying: ‘Avoid conflict [!!?], take the matter to Wuhan.’ This is what Khitarov adds:


The committee immediately ordered the peasant detachments to halt their advance. Two detachments that did not receive this order marched on Changsha and were wiped out there… Thus the counter-revolution strengthened itself without the slightest effort in a province that was the centre of the revolutionary movement in China, and that contained five million organised peasants…


A few days later, General Chou Pei-De carried out his coup in Jiangxi. Having invited all the leaders of the workers’ and peasants’ movement, of the left Guomindang and the Communist Party to a banquet, he made the following speech: ‘I respect you extremely, my dear friends, but you are obstructing me: here is a boat, here is some money, clear off!’ Once he had exiled the leaders, he set about exterminating the peasants. In order ‘not to shed blood’ he buried them alive… The destruction of the peasant unions of Hubei began at the same time…


Lominadze, in his intervention, tried to explain the past and present phases of the Chinese Revolution. In his opinion, the defeat of 1927 stemmed from the fact that the advance of the peasant movement did not coincide with that of the workers’ movement: ‘At the time of the counter-revolutionary coup d’états of Shanghai and Wuhan, the peasant movement did not have so revolutionary a character as at present.’ That is profoundly inaccurate. At the beginning of 1927 in Hunan, as in Henan, the peasant movement broke out with extreme violence. [173] We should add that, led as described by Khitarov, it naturally failed to win a striking victory… For Lominadze, the proof that today’s peasant movement is more powerful lies in the fact that soviets were created here and there in Guangdong, and that they were executing the landowners. Does he not realise that the peasants would not be prepared to wait forever, as they had done previously, to receive the necessary directives to show no mercy to their oppressors? And that if they had not formed soviets in the previous year, was that not because they had been advised not to do so, just as they had been forbidden to revenge themselves upon the Changsha military clique?


Lominadze has confidence in the Chinese proletarians. ‘I consider that the forces of the Chinese proletariat and peasantry are fully sufficient to ensure the revolution complete victory’, he says, ‘these forces are enough for China to throw off the yoke of the landowners, the bourgeoisie and the foreign imperialists.’ But if these forces are still sufficient, even after the defeats in Shanghai, Wuhan and the south, why consider them as insufficient in 1927, when they were certainly greater and more enthusiastic than they are today, and when all hopes were based upon the coalition with the nationalist revolutionary bourgeoisie, the Guomindang and the generals?


Incidentally, Lominadze confirms the Opposition’s criticism of the composition of the cadre of the Chinese Communist Party, which is made up, he says, ‘not of workers or of peasants, but of petit-bourgeois intellectuals, who maintained their prejudices and all their hesitations… Even today, the best decisions of the Central Committee are distorted by those who are applying them on the spot.’ Let us observe that even — and we would prefer to say especially — in an advanced colonial country the cadre of the Communist Party should not be composed, as this speaker seems to suppose, ‘of workers or of peasants’, but of an overwhelming majority of workers. To forget that is to forget one of the first truths of revolutionary Marxism.


After the brief occupation of the port of Shantou by the revolutionary army of Ye Ting and He Long, a feat of arms that constituted a sort of repetition of that of Guangzhou, we would have hoped that there would be no repetition of the fatal policy of the Guomindang left, that the possessing classes would not be spared, that the peasant movement and the general activity of the masses would not be held back, in a word, that everything would not be done to disorientate the ‘red’ forces. But what does Lominadze tell us at the Fifteenth Congress?


The mistakes that the Chinese Communist Party openly recognised and criticised at its conference [174] have been repeated by the Communist leaders — intellectuals — of the armies of Ye Ting and He Long. The absence of any link with the peasant masses, the insufficiency of work amongst the peasants, the absence of revolutionary slogans have caused the army, through lack of timely support from the peasants, to be defeated… just as the purely military leadership of the operations was rendered impotent.


Do these criticisms apply only to the Shantou period (the end of September)? Do they not also apply to the Guangzhou events, which seem to have been carried out by the same people, and inspired with the same spirit? ‘The Chinese Communist Party’, Lominadze now says, ‘has decided to form soviets only when there are guarantees of a durable victory.’ Instead of ‘guarantees’ — are there ever guarantees in the Socialist struggle? — we would prefer to say ‘serious chances’, but the idea is right. ‘We must not play at insurrection’, said Marx; Lenin said the same thing in September 1917. The Second Congress of the Communist International repeated the same message in special theses that had to be adopted to prevent the German and Austrian Left Social Democrats from discrediting the soviets by opportunist adventures. But did our Chinese comrades properly digest these correct ideas? Generally speaking, soviets can and must arise in periods of upsurge of the revolutionary movement; they should have arisen at the time of the seizure of Shanghai by the working-class insurrection, an undeniable and admirable upsurge. Is the Chinese Revolution going through a similar period of upsurge now? We rather get the impression of a period of scattered and desperate resistance in the face of anarchic counter-revolution. As for propaganda for the idea of soviets, it is, it was, relevant at all times: the decisions of the Second Congress of the Communist International are as precise with regard to this point as are the recommendations of Lenin.


All the speakers at the Fifteenth Congress of the Communist Party of the USSR have affirmed that the Guomindang is now a counter-revolutionary organisation. No one has any reservations about the left Guomindang, a myth henceforth abolished. Lominadze has gone so far as to say that the Guomindang, split into four or five sections, and frequently purged by ‘non-party’ warlords, no longer exists ‘as a political party’. Divided or not, at the service of unprincipled soldiers or employing them, the Guomindang has phraseology, doctrines, a history, politicians and cadres; divided or not, it remains more or less what it clearly always was: the apparatus of bourgeois dictatorship. It is a dictatorial ‘party’, neither more nor less than Mussolini’s party, as monolithic as the latter, which nevertheless in no way resembles class political parties such as we ought to define them. By definition, a party is a voluntary association based upon a community of interests, of ends and means. Neither the Fascio, nor the Guomindang, nor the Kemalist party [175] correspond to this definition. Let us not engage in theoretical debate on this subject: let us observe that new parties have been formed that are in reality no more than a dictatorial apparatus. Let us not refuse them the titles with which they successfully clothe themselves; to do so would be playing with words.


Lominadze went further, so much further that we are surprised to see him lose sight of the most elementary propositions of Marxism, when he said:


The Chinese bourgeoisie has been no more than an historical abortion. As soon as it passed over to counter-revolution, it fell apart, and ceased to be a unitary political force. Its detached groups are at the command of the militarists. [A voice: ‘You are exaggerating!’] I am exaggerating nothing. Look at the Guomindang… [Then follows the argument that we have reported above — VS] The Guomindang is no more insofar as we are speaking of a party. [Stalin: ‘And what remains of the bourgeoisie?’] There are only scattered bourgeois left. [Laughter]


These propositions, even worse than the puerile mouthings of Marcel Cachin, and quite astonishing from the lips of a Communist militant enjoying such authority and spoken before the highest body of the International’s greatest party, reveal the ideological confusion created by the present defeat of the Chinese Revolution. There can be only one way of remedying the mess; to bring out into the open, by means of a serious scientific — and non-polemical — examination, the ideas, facts and lessons of a year of struggle. To say that there remains of the bourgeoisie only some ‘scattered bourgeois’, is to forget that the bourgeoisie is not defined by its class consciousness, nor by its level of political organisation: there is a bourgeois class, and it is absurd to talk of ‘scattered bourgeois’, as long as there are owners of the means of production (or of capital) employing wage labour. Moreover, the Chinese bourgeoisie is far from having suffered the political bankruptcy that is ascribed to it. It would be far more correct to speak of the failure of the revolutionary-nationalist petit-bourgeoisie, whose opportunist illusions have been subjected to a severe test by the class struggle. The Chinese bourgeoisie knew all too well how to take advantage for the time being of the revolutionary energy of the proletariat; and a little later on, it knew very well how to wring the necks of the workers and peasants, its momentary allies against the foreign imperialists. First, it deceived the authentic revolutionaries; then, since they threatened it, it massacred them. These are no small successes in the class struggle. Will it overcome the military anarchy and an economic crisis that grows more serious from day to day? That is the problem. We would be wrong, whatever may be the result in the short term, and without doubting, moreover, the final victory of the Chinese workers, to deny the energy and political skill of enemy classes who have just inflicted such cruel defeats upon us.




[1] The revolution of the Young Turks overthrew the Sultan and established a republic in 1923, with Mustafa Kemal, called Atatürk (1880-1938), as dictator. In 1921 the nationalist colonel Riza Khan repudiated the Anglo-Persian agreement of 1919 that had made Persia (Iran) a virtual protectorate of British imperialism. In 1919 Amanullah Khan signed the Treaty of Rawalpindi at the end of the Third Anglo-Afghan War, restoring to Afghanistan the right to conduct its own foreign policy. He subsequently visited Moscow, was greatly fêted there, and signed a treaty of friendship with the USSR, which remained in force until 1979. Cf Harry Wicks, Keeping My Head, London, 1992, p84.


[2] Wilhelm II Hohenzollern (1888-1918), Kaiser of Germany, was outraged by the killing of his ambassador, Baron Klemens von Ketteler, during the Boxer Rising of 1900, and tried to initiate an absurd campaign among the other European powers against what he called ‘the Yellow Peril’.


[3] René Grousset (1885-1952) was an orientalist, the author of a well known history of the Crusades. Paul Morand (1888-1976), the writer of such books as Le Flagellant de Séville and La Folle Amoureuse, was later Vichy ambassador to Switzerland. Henri Massis (1886-1970) was the right-wing author of Défense de l’Occident (1928) and L’Homme en Face de Dieu. Romain Rolland (1866-1944) was a French novelist, a pacifist during the First World War, who became a fellow traveller of Stalinism in the 1930s, justifying the Moscow Trials.


[4] Until the famous ‘monkey trial’, the teaching of the Darwinian theory of evolution was banned for some decades in certain areas of the USA, as being contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Along with this ban, a wave of repression had spread over the USA following the First World War, in which 35 states passed laws outlawing ‘criminal Syndicalism’, and there were widespread arrests of Communists in 1919 on behalf of the Lusk Committee investigating ‘seditious activities’.


[5] Karl Marx, ‘Afterword to the Second German Edition’, Capital, Volume 1, Moscow, 1958, p15.


[6] The Scythians were a semi-barbarous tribal people who inhabited southern Russia during the sixth century BC. On the significance of The Scythians by the modernist poet Alexander Blok (1880-1921), cf Isaac Deutscher, Stalin, Harmondsworth, 1970, pp383-5.


[7] The Socialist Revolutionaries were a peasant party founded in 1901, led by Victor Chernov. During the Russian Revolution they split into two groups. The Left SRs participated in the first revolutionary government along with the Bolsheviks, but turned to terrorism in protest at the signing of the Brest Litovsk peace treaty with Germany in March 1918. The Right SRs opposed the revolution violently from the start, and even formed part of the counter-revolutionary White governments set up by various army generals during the Russian Civil War.


[8] Boris Pilnyak [1894-1937], of whom I have spoken to the readers of Clarté on several occasions, and at great length, stands very much to the right of proletarian literature. Communist criticism goes so far as to describe him as a ‘writer representative of the new bourgeoisie’. [Author’s note]


[9] The period in Russia of the ascendancy of the Golden Horde, to which the Russian princes had to pay tribute, is generally dated between 1240, when Batu took Kiev, and 1480, when his successors were defeated.


[10] On the other side of the USSR, the Khevsours, mountain dwellers of the Caucasus, still wear coats of mail, and on their shoulders the crusader crosses of their grandfathers. These backward Europeans of the fourteenth century make truly Asiatic figures. [Author’s note]


[11] The Holy Synod was the Tsarist bureau responsible for church affairs, which censored books and discriminated against all who did not belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Its procurator was a member of the Cabinet. The Okhrana was the state secret service, notorious for spying, infiltrating revolutionary organisations, and using assassins as provocateurs. Periodic massacres of the Jews, carried out by the Black Hundreds and encouraged by the state, were very common in pre-revolutionary Russia, the most notorious being the Kishinev pogrom of 1903.


[12] The Entente Cordiale entered into by Britain and France in 1904 gave its name to the alliance of Britain, France, Serbia, Russia, Belgium, Italy, Romania, the USA and Greece, which was victorious in the First World War.


[13] Nicholas II Romanov (1894-1917) was the last of the Tsars, being overthrown by the February Revolution.


[14] Cf Kautsky, Introduction to Marx’s Capital. [Author’s note]


[15] The dialectical reasoning of George William Frederick Hegel (1770-1831) formed the philosophical basis of Marxist thought.


[16] Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov (1856-1918) was the pioneer of Marxism in Russia, who passed over to the side of the Entente during the First World War and became a virulent defencist.


[17] Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) defended the revolutionary content of Marxism when the old leaders of the German SPD abandoned it to support their government in the First World War.


[18] After having analysed Lenin’s Letters from Afar (in a series of articles provided for International Correspondence in April 1925), I concluded concerning the two methods (that of the bourgeois politicians and that of the revolutionary Marxists):


The programme of social change sketched out in broad lines in the Letters from Afar was realised, item by item at least during the first years of the revolution (we are leaving on one side the problem of the Soviet state, surrounded for an indefinite time by bourgeois states). Will you permit me to recall, in order to make yet more striking the contrast between the great Marxist revolutionary and the leaders of the bourgeoisie, and the pro-bourgeois Socialist statesman experienced in government (to rule is to foresee…), how the prophecies and declarations of each have been verified? A year later Lloyd George [1863-1945, British Prime Minister] advocated the punishment of war criminals in his electoral campaign: ‘Hang the Kaiser! Hang… Hindenburg!’ We see what became of that. Wilson, greeted as the prophet of the new democracy, crossed the ocean to build the League of Nations and banish war forever… We see what became of that. The senile and wizened ‘Tiger’ Clemenceau [Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), Prime Minister of France, and a most ardent supporter of war to the finish during the First World War] dictated the Versailles peace treaty, repeating: ‘Make Germany pay!’ We see what became of that… Ebert [Friedrich Ebert, 1871-1925, German President] greeted the dawn of the German republic, which was progressing towards Socialism by way of democracy. We see what became of that! Renner [Karl Renner, 1870-1950, Austrian Chancellor] and Otto Bauer [Heinrich Weber, 1881-1938, Austrian Foreign Minister] created a commission for socialisation in Austria… We see what became of that! [Author’s note]


[19] This is probably a reference to Trotsky’s article ‘Is it Possible to Fix a Definite Schedule for Counter-Revolution or a Revolution?’, 23 September 1923, Fourth International, Volume 8, no 7, July-August 1947, pp215-7.


[20] I provided in La Vie Ouvrière a detailed analysis of this work, devoted to demonstrating the superiority of the economic methods of Socialism, and of their triumph in the USSR. [Author’s note] LD Trotsky, ‘Towards Capitalism or Socialism?’, 28 August 1925, The Challenge of the Left Opposition 1923-25, New York, 1975, pp326-7.


[21] Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925) is generally regarded as the founder of modern Chinese nationalism.


[22] Karl Berngardovich Radek (1885-1939) was a supporter of the Left Opposition, and principal of the Sun Yat-sen University until his removal in 1927. Apart from this institution, at which there were hundreds of Chinese students, there was also in Moscow the Communist University of the Toilers of the East. Cf Wang Fan-hsi, Memoirs of a Chinese Revolutionary, New York, 1991, pp47ff, and Harry Wicks, Keeping My Head, op cit, p83. Radek later became a hack for Stalin, polemicised violently with Trotsky, and co-authored ‘The Stalin Constitution’ before perishing in the purges.


[23] In 1919 British troops machine gunned a peaceful demonstration in Amritsar (India); nearly 400 dead. [Author’s note]


[24] Syria had been awarded as a mandate to France by the Versailles conference. In 1920 the French occupied Damascus after defeating King Feisal’s army.


[25] Count Hermann Keyserling (1880-1946) was a philosopher and writer on Eastern mysticism.


[26] The Guomindang was the Chinese Nationalist Party founded by Sun Yat-sen in August 1912.


[27] The Eighth Plenum of the ECCI met in Moscow on 18-30 May 1927. It considered that the previous policy of subordinating the Chinese Communist Party to the Guomindang had been correct, and supported a further alliance with the ‘Left’ Guomindang government in Wuhan.


[28] Zhang Zuolin (1873-1928) was a warlord of the north. He was assassinated by the Japanese.


[29] Wu Peifu (1874-1939) was warlord of the Henan, Hubei and Hunan area in central China, and a protegé of the British.


[30] Chen Jiongming (1878-1933) was the early republican governor of Guangdong who attempted to arrest Sun Yat-sen.


[31] Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), President of the USA from 1913 to 1921, came from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.


[32] Adolf Abramovich Joffe (1883-1927) was the first ambassador of the Soviet Union to China, and a supporter of the Left Opposition. He later committed suicide in protest at the expulsion of Trotsky from the Communist Party. Cf LD Trotsky, ‘In Memory of AA Joffe’, The Challenge of the Left Opposition, 1926-27, New York, 1980, pp470-2.


[33] The Paper Tigers were a movement of compradors and capitalists in 1924 against the Nationalist government in Guangzhou. They were quickly defeated.


[34] The Huangpu Military Academy was opened in 1924 in order to train the officers of the Guomindang army along the lines of the Red Army, and was a product of the discussions between Joffe and Sun Yat-sen. Its principal was Chiang Kai-shek.


[35] Wang Jingwei (1883-1944) was Chairman of the Guomindang government in Guangzhou in 1925, and a leader of the party’s left wing. He went into exile in Europe after Chiang Kai-shek’s Guangzhou coup in March 1926, but returned in the following year to lead the Nationalist government in Wuhan.


[36] Clarence Gus Dittmer (1885- ) published his Estimate of the Standard of Living in China in 1918.


[37] M Alsky, Canton Victorious, published by the Communist Academy, Moscow, 1927. [Author’s note] AD Alsky (1892-1939), an Old Bolshevik, was a hero of the Russian Civil War and a supporter of the Left Opposition. His book is discussed in Trotsky’s ‘Letter to Alsky’, Leon Trotsky on China, New York, 1976, pp128-32. Alsky was deported to Siberia in 1928.


[38] Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975) was ruler of China from 1927 to 1949, when he was overthrown on the mainland by Mao Zedong. After that he continued to be President of the Nationalist Chinese regime on Taiwan.


[39] Tan Pingshan (1887-1956) was head of the organisation department of the Guomindang and Communist Minister of Agriculture in the Wuhan government. He was later made a scapegoat for the failure of the 1925-27 Revolution, and was expelled from the Chinese Communist Party.


[40] Report of the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI. [Author’s note]


[41] ‘Canton’, Pravda, 3 March, and ‘Workers’ Canton’, Pravda, 3 April. [Author’s note] Sergei A Dalin had gone on a mission to China in April 1922 for the Communist Youth International to meet Sun Yat-sen and to argue for collaboration between the Chinese Communist Party and the Guomindang. On his return he was considered as a specialist on Chinese affairs, and wrote In the Ranks of the Chinese Revolution (1926) with a preface by Radek.


[42] Eugene Chen (1878-1944) was Minister of Labour in the Guomindang government.


[43] The Northern Expedition was an advance of the Guomindang armies begun in summer 1926 to destroy the warlords and unite China.


[44] Cf the editorial of Communist International, no 11. [Author’s note]


[45] The Red International of Labour Unions (RILU) was set up in July 1921 to compete with the Amsterdam-based International Federation of Trade Unions, which was associated with the Social Democracy. Its General Secretary was Solomon Abramovich Lozovsky (1878-1952).


[46] A Markov, ‘Letter from China’, The International Workers Movement, Moscow, no 13, 31 March 1927. [Author’s note]


[47] It was said at the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI that the Chinese Communist Party had about 13 000 members. I have since picked up the number of 15 000 in the press. Bukharin has just written 30 000 (Pravda, 20 April). [Author’s note]


[48] The Whites were the counter-revolutionary armies led by ex-Tsarist commanders that attempted to overthrow the Bolshevik regime during the Russian Civil War (1918-21). After Kolchak’s army in Siberia collapsed, many of them fled eastwards into China.


[49] Kan-Wei, Letter to the Moscow Pravda, 15 April 1927. [Author’s note]


[50] Su Zhaozheng (1885-1929) was Communist Minister of Labour in the Wuhan Guomindang government.


[51] Chen Duxiu (1879-1942) was the founder of the Chinese Communist Party, who later went over to the Left Opposition.


[52] International Correspondence, no 14, 13 April 1927. [Author’s note]


[53] Leo Heller was the Far Eastern representative of the RILU.


[54] Trud, Moscow, 18 April 1927. Report to the Bureau of the RILU. [Author’s note]


[55] l’Humanité was the daily newspaper of the French Communist Party.


[56] The Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI took place in November-December 1926, and supported the subordination of the Chinese Communist Party to the Guomindang. Trotsky described the editorial in Communist International, no 11, as ‘an exceptional mockery of the basic elements of Marxist theory and Bolshevik politics’, and ‘the worst expression of right Menshevism’ (LD Trotsky, ‘Class Relations in the Chinese Revolution’, 3 April 1927, Leon Trotsky on China, p136).


[57] Lenin defined it in these terms from 1912 onwards. Cf also S Dalin, In the Ranks of the Chinese Revolution, Moscow, 1926. In 1922 Dalin had numerous interviews with Sun Yat-sen. [Author’s note]


[58] VI Lenin, ‘Draft Theses on National and Colonial Questions’, 5 June 1920, Collected Works, Volume 31, Moscow, 1966, pp149-50.


[59] We should no doubt connect this fact, mentioned in a letter in the Moscow Trud, with telegrams that announced the execution of extremists in Hankou who had attacked Japanese property. [Author’s note]


[60] The Guomindang government moved into Wuhan in December 1926, against the objections of Chiang Kai-shek. After his Shanghai coup of April 1927, Chiang set up a rival government in Nanjing, so that there were now two Guomindang governments in China. The original government is variously referred to as the ‘Left’, Wuhan or Hankou regime (Wuhan is a triple city made up of Hankou, Hanyang and Wuchang). The two governments reunited shortly afterwards.


[61] Cf ‘Letters from Afar’ written by N Lenin in March 1917 [cf VI Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 23, Moscow, 1966, pp295-342]. A decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR dated 3 March 1927 evaluates the situation in almost these same terms. [Author’s note]


[62] In this article I have no choice but to proceed by way of unsupported affirmations. May I draw the attention of the reader to the interesting analyses of the Chinese Revolution formulated by K Radek and N Bukharin? Let us hope that they will be translated into French. [Author’s note]


[63] The persevering efforts of Clarté show that it is possible for French Communists to take an active interest in the Chinese events (I am far enough off to be able to observe this with some objectivity). [Author’s note]


[64] In 1923 the German Communist Party sent out directives to its local organisations ordering an insurrection. Upon further consideration, all these instructions were withdrawn, but the courier for Hamburg had already left, and the Communists there rose on the night of 22 October and took out all the police stations. The Reichswehr moved in and smashed the uprising with great brutality. Cf Larissa Reissner, Hamburg at the Barricades, London, 1977.


[65] Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin (1888-1938), the leader of the Right Opposition, was Stalin’s main spokesman in the Communist International on China. He resisted the turn to forced collectivisation and industrialisation in 1927-32, and was killed in the purges.


[66] The wretched condition of the Chinese proletariat recalls in a striking fashion — but is worse than — that of the English proletariat round about the time Marx was studying it (Capital, Volume 1). Remarkable studies have been published in Russian on this subject under the direction of K Radek. The Chinese employers, subject to the harsh regime of foreign competition, are not at present in a position to grant improvements to the workers; the foreign employers who have set up in China are more disposed to compromise with the Chinese bourgeoisie — against the workers — than to use the profits created by the strength of the imperialist capitals to improve the coolies’ lot. Even when they use reformist language, the Chinese proletarians are led by force of circumstances to actions of a revolutionary type. [Author’s note]


[67] General Louis Eugene Cavaignac (1802-1887) was notorious for the brutality with which he slaughtered the French workers in 1848. Lavr Georgevich Kornilov (1870-1920) attempted to march on Petrograd, overthrow the Provisional Government, and annihilate the Bolsheviks during August 1917. He later sustained a campaign against the Reds in the region of the Don and Kuban, and was killed in 1918 outside Ekaterinodar.


[68] M Baranovsky to S Chvartsalon, What It is Necessary to Know About China, Moscow, 1927. [Author’s note]


[69] 20 March 1926 and 12-15 April 1927. [Author’s note]


[70] Some time ago Hu Hanmin, who is today at the head of the reactionary government in Nanjing, made a journey to Russia and Europe, in the course of which he repeatedly spouted revolutionary declarations. [Author’s note] Hu Hanmin (1879-1936) was one of the leaders of the right wing of the Guomindang.


[71] Feng Yuxiang (1882-1948), the ‘Christian General’, was a warlord in northern China. After a three months’ stay in Moscow in the summer of 1926, Stalin believed that he had been won over to the support of the Communist-Guomindang alliance.


[72] International Correspondence, 1 May 1927. Chiang Kai-shek has lately used similar language. It is ‘on the line’. [Author’s note]


[73] Here are a few facts about the economic dependence of Tsarist Russia on foreigners: ‘The basic capital of the Russian commercial banks on 1 January 1914 amounted to 585 million roubles, of which 434 million roubles belonged to banks representing branches of foreign banks.’ (N Vanag, Finance Capital in Russia, Moscow, 1925) Through the intermediary of the big Russian banks, foreign financial establishments controlled Russian metal industry in proportions varying between 60 and 88 per cent, etc. Vanag continues: ‘On the eve of the war Anglo-French finance capital dominated Russian capitalist industry.’ [Author’s note]


[74] K Radek, ‘On the Second Anniversary of the Death of Sun Yat-Sen’ (Izvestia, no 58). There has been much discussion on this strange formulation of ‘alien to feudalism’, which seems to me to be a hasty formulation. These usurers harshly oppress the cultivator, maintaining their power with the aid of armed bands called ‘mintuans’, and pay generals… The possession of a strongbox does not appear to me to be incompatible with economic subjection and feudal customs. [Author’s note]


[75] Stolypin’s agrarian reform, which began after the defeat of the 1905 Revolution, attempted to create a strong class of rich peasants in the countryside loyal to the regime. The First World War prevented the reform from going further and bearing fruit. [Author’s note] Count Pyotr Arkadyevich Stolypin (1862-1911) was the Tsar’s most reactionary Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior.


[76] Concerning this tolerance, Thälmann [Ernst Thälmann, 1886-1944], Chairman of the Central Committee of the German Communist Party, wrote in the 16 April issue of International Correspondence: ‘The year 1926 was enough for the Chinese Revolution to smash the bourgeois right wing in the Guomindang and in its leadership… which is now in the hands of the left. Chiang Kai-shek has to confine himself to military leadership.’ This leniency towards the nationalist bourgeoisie has woefully distorted the viewpoint of our German comrade, as we can gather from reading the article of Lian Han-sin in the 23 April issue of International Correspondence, where it is related that starting from 20 March 1926 Chiang Kai-shek exercised an ‘absolute dictatorship’ in the Guomindang, promoting ‘his relatives and friends to leading positions and himself assuming six of the party’s offices… In short, the Guomindang was heading for ruin, threatened with shipwreck… Later on, the betrayal of Chiang Kai-shek would have been much more serious.’ (!!?) But what were we waiting for, then? [Author’s note]


[77] In November 1926 the Chinese Communist Party, although affiliated to the Guomindang, was still illegal in most of the provinces occupied by the Southern army. This fact is mentioned in the report of Tan Pingshan to the Seventh Enlarged Plenum of the ECCI. On the other hand, the Southern generals did not stop suppressing, often with gunfire, the peasant movement and working-class agitation. Space does not allow me to quote the facts. [Author’s note]


[78] It is estimated in the Russian press that to date almost 2000 revolutionary militants have been executed in the regions subjected to the power of Chiang Kai-shek. [Author’s note]


[79] Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky (1881-1970) was first of all Minister of Justice, then War Minister and finally the Prime Minister of the Provisional Government.


[80] Tan Pingshan, The Stages of the Chinese Revolution, Moscow, 1927. Cf also Clarté, no 10. [Author’s note]


[81] In Russia in March-October 1917 the Provisional Government tried to maintain the old army. The Soviet (led by the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks) maintained democracy. The Provisional Government prepared the flight of the Tsar to Britain: the Soviet decreed the arrest of Nicholas II; the Provisional Government held the monarchical principle in reserve, the Soviet demanded the republic. Later, the Provisional Government attempted to purge the Petrograd garrison, and the Soviet, led by Trotsky, opposed it. [Author’s note]


[82] Cf Victor Serge, Lénine, March 1917, International Correspondence, May 1925, and Vie Ouvrière, June-July 1926. [Author’s note]


[83] Tang Shengzhi (1890- ) was warlord of Hunan.


[84] The most recent events — the ‘resignation’ of the Communist Tan Pingshan, Minister of Agriculture in the Wuhan government (9 July); the decision taken by the Communist International to call upon the Chinese Communist Party to cease its support for the Wuhan government and to denounce the bourgeois leaders of the ‘Left’ Guomindang (11 July) — confirm Victor Serge’s conclusions on every point. [Clarté Editor’s note]


[85] This pseudonym is that of a Russian Sinologist. Cf the study by Marcel Fourrier in Clarté, nos 10 and 11. [Author’s note]


[86] The Red Eyebrows were peasants whose revolt brought the rule of the usurper Wang Mang to an end in 23AD.


[87] The Yellow Turbans were a Daoist-inspired peasant revolt in 184AD, which broke the power of the Later (or Eastern) Han dynasty (25-220AD).


[88] Huang Chao led a peasant revolt in Hunan that sacked Guangzhou in 879AD. He was defeated only with difficulty five years later. From then on, the rulers of the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD) lost control of China.


[89] The movement that ended in the overthrow of the Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368) and brought the Ming Dynasty to power (1368-1644) began with the peasant uprising of the White Lotus sect.


[90] A serious famine in 1628 gave rise to a ‘bandit’ movement led by Zhang Xianzhong and Li Zicheng, which controlled a large area between the Yangtse and Yellow rivers and undermined the Ming rulers, so that they easily fell prey to the Manchus.


[91] The Taiping or ‘Heavenly Kingdom’ revolt against the Qing or Manchu Dynasty (1644-1911) advocated a type of Christian Communism, and had considerable success in the south of China, setting up a rival court at Nanjing. It was put down only with assistance from the Western powers, who feared a resurgence of national feeling if the Manchus were overthrown. In order to cope with the extent of the uprising, the Manchus had to concede the right of direct taxation to local military governors, thus fatally weakening the central imperial power, and leading to the rise of warlordism.


[92] In an area considered under the control of the northern militarists. [Author’s note]


[93] A Ivine, Red Spears, the Canton Army and the Peasants, Moscow, 1927. [Author’s note]


[94] Clarté, nos 9 and 11. [Author’s note]


[95] The Party of the Constitutional Democrats, or Kadets, was founded in 1905 by Paul Milyukov.


[96] What a shame it is that documents of such freshness, such force, and such great interest have not been translated into French! [Author’s note] Cf Mao Zedong, ‘Report of an Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan’, March 1927, Selected Works, Volume 1, London, 1954, pp23, 27, 28, 31-2. It should be noticed that this text has been ruthlessly edited by Mao’s compilers. The final passage allotting the points of the revolution is not to be found in the Lawrence and Wishart edition, but appears in that quoted by Stuart Schram, The Political Thought of Mao Tse-Tung, Harmondsworth, 1969, p252. The sentence stating that ‘the peasants declared: Whoever has land is a thief, there are no gentry who are not criminals’ appears in neither edition. Perhaps it was removed because it contradicted the appeal to the gentry and rich peasants contained in the policy of the ‘Bloc of Four Classes’.


[97] The Committees of Poor Peasants (Kombedy) were established by a decree of the Bolshevik government on 11 June 1918 in order to establish a base for the Soviet regime amongst the rural poor, and to help with food requisitioning for the urban centres. They were later integrated into the rural soviet structures.


[98] This is how Taine describes the provincial Jacobins (Origines de la France Contemporaine). [Author’s note]


[99] The Mensheviks were a minority of the delegates when the Russian Social Democrats split at their Second Congress in 1903, and constituted themselves as a separate party in 1912 under the leadership of Martov, Dan, Chkeidze, Tsereteli and Abramovitch. Both Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries held seats in the Provisional Government of 1917 that was overthrown in the October Revolution.


[100] Louis Blanc (1811-1882), a revolutionary voluntarist, was a member of the provisional government in France in 1848 responsible for providing work for the people. He was falsely accused of advocating an insurrection.


[101] VI Lenin, Collected Works, Volume 25, Moscow, 1964, pp95-6.


[102] Sun Fo [1891-1973], Sun Yat-sen’s son and one of the leaders of the extreme right of the Guomindang, was amongst the inspirers of the… left policy of the Wuhan (Hankou) government!!! Here is a simple recall of the facts:


Mid-April: The Wuhan government puts Feng Yuxiang and Tang Shengzhi at the head of the armies. The latter announces an offensive against Nanjing… and buries its offensive without a sound.


8-10 June: Whilst the Wuhan government is preparing its offensive against Beijing (!) and neglecting Chiang Kai-shek, a counter-revolutionary coup d’état is carried out by its military cliques in Changsha, the capital of Hunan. The Communist Party addresses an ultimatum full of moderation to the Central Committee of the Guomindang (rather like beseeching Kerensky to alter his character).


Mid-June and end of June: Friendly negotiations between Feng and Chiang. Feng’s ‘betrayal’.


28 June: In order to avoid conflicts with the army (!!), the Hankou trade union leaders decide upon the disarming of the workers’ organisations. Immediately the army ransacks the headquarters of several trade unions.


4 July: The workers’ youth organisations are disarmed in the same way by opportunist leaders, who denounce their ‘dangerous leftist infantile disorder’ (sic!). The Communist Minister of Agriculture, Tan Pingshan, resigns… for health reasons.


10 July: Bukharin’s first article denouncing the opportunist errors of the Chinese Communists. Tang Shengzhi’s ‘betrayal’.


Mid-July: The leaders of the Guomindang left break with the Communists. Bloodless coup d’état in Wuhan.


15 July: The Chinese Communist Party denounces the counter-revolutionary character of the policy of the Wuhan government and declines all responsibility… (It is high time. And what a lot of euphemisms!) [Author’s note]


[103] To the question ‘Why is the Wuhan government not conducting an offensive against Chiang Kai-shek, but is attacking Zhang Zuolin?’, Stalin replies: ‘You are asking too much of the Wuhan government… Let Chiang Kai-shek rather continue to flounder in the Shanghai area and hobnob there with the imperialists… Would it not be more expedient first to join forces with Feng, acquire sufficient military strength, develop the agrarian revolution…?’ Feng, alas, was no better than Chiang, with whom he was no doubt already negotiating. And the Wuhan governments were only playing for time and searching for good ‘strategic’ reasons for not fighting the murderer of the Shanghai proletariat. [Author’s note] JV Stalin, ‘Talk with Students of the Sun Yat-sen University’, Moscow, 13 May 1927, Works, Volume 9, London, 1975, pp258-60.


[104] Jacques Doriot (1898-1945) visited China in 1927 along with Earl Browder, Tom Mann and Henry Sara, and supported the Wuhan government. He was expelled from the French Communist Party in 1934 for advocating a united front of Socialists and Communists to fight the Fascists, but became a Fascist himself a few years later.


[105] Radek, Trotsky, Zinoviev [Grigorii Yevesyevich Zinoviev (Radomyslsky, 1883-1936), Bolshevik leader, opponent of the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917, sided first with Stalin and then with Trotsky, capitulated to Stalin in 1927, and was executed after the first Moscow Trial] and the Oppositionists of the Communist Party of the USSR, amongst whom a certain number of comrades should be mentioned who know China well: Joffe, Alsky, Dalin and Vikhensky-Serebriakov [1890-1937]. Their theses not having been published, their approximate content is only known to us from the numerous refutations of which they have been the target. [Author’s note]


[106] JV Stalin, ‘Questions of the Chinese Revolution’, Works, Volume 9, pp224-34. Cf Trotsky’s reply of 7 May 1927, ‘The Chinese Revolution and the Theses of Comrade Stalin’, Leon Trotsky on China, pp158-98.


[107] JV Stalin, ‘The Revolution in China and the Tasks of the Comintern’, 24 May 1927, Works, Volume 9, p314.


[108] ‘Power to the masses!’ I mentioned in my former articles that last year this had been one of the slogans of the Chinese Communist Party, an excellent translation of ‘Soviets to Power’. [Author’s note]


[109] I am condensing it a little. These are the very words Doriot uses in l’Humanité on 14 July. These articles should be read again and considered. [Author’s note]


[110] Victor Serge, ‘Le parti communiste allemand se critique lui-même’, Notes d’Allemagne (1923), Paris, 1990, pp191-8.


[111] VI Lenin, ‘Draft Theses to the Resolution on the Soviets’, 8-9 May 1917, Collected Works, Volume 24, Moscow, 1964, p255.


[112] International Correspondence, 4 June. I am slightly correcting a rough translation. [Author’s note]


[113] I should recall that the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party had decided in June 1926 to move from affiliation to the Guomindang to alliance with it, and to have its own class policy… This resolution was censured at the time in the editorial of Communist International, no 11. [Author’s note]


[114] I have borrowed these quotations from an article in the Moscow Pravda of 16 July signed by T Mandalyan. The author seems to me to include in the same condemnation two different tendencies in the Chinese Communist Party, one opportunist, and another that could be described as of the left. It is possible, as he maintains, that for otherwise opposite reasons both of them had hampered the application of the directives of the Communist International. [Author’s note]


[115] The writer FM Dostoevsky (1822-1881) advocated a form of Christian pacifism; Mikhail Aleksandrovich Bakunin (1814-1876), on the other hand, was an Anarchist advocate of violent insurrection.


[116] D Zaslavsky, Izvestia correspondent in Hankou, Sunday, 22 August. [Author’s note]


[117] General He Jian (1887-1956) suppressed the Communists in July 1927.


[118] On the same day, 30 May, the Eighth Plenum of the ECCI sitting in Moscow adopted a resolution on the Chinese question that stated in particular:


VI: The ECCI considers incorrect the view which underestimates the Wuhan government and in practice denies its powerful revolutionary role. The Wuhan government and the leaders of the left Guomindang by their class composition represent not only the peasants, workers and artisans, but also a part of the middle bourgeoisie. Therefore the left Guomindang Wuhan government is not the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, but is on the road to such a dictatorship… It is effectively leading a revolutionary struggle against the imperialists and feudal lords, and now, also, against an important part of the bourgeoisie of its own country. (Cahiers du Bolchévisme, no 75, 25 June 1927, p749) [Author’s note]


[119] ‘Chiang Kai-shek’, I wrote in Clarté, no 9, ‘will last for a few weeks or a few months; the tide will sweep him away.’ The man of the Shanghai coup d’état will obviously return to the scene only if reaction succeeds in asserting itself. [Author’s note]


[120] ‘Bonapartism is a form of government which grows out of the counter-revolutionary nature of the bourgeoisie, in the conditions of democratic changes and a democratic revolution’, wrote Lenin on 19 August 1917. [Author’s note] VI Lenin, ‘They Do Not See the Wood For the Trees’, Collected Works, Volume 25, Moscow, 1964, p255.


[121] On the Dujun, or warlords, cf above, n91.


[122] Li Zongren (1890- ) was leader of the Guangxi clique of warlords; he supported Chiang Kai-shek’s purge of the Communists in April 1927.


[123] Li Jishen (1886-1959) was a Guomindang general favourable to the Chinese Communist Party.


[124] He Long (1896-1969) and Ye Ting (1897-1946) were Guomindang generals who supported the Chinese Communist Party.


[125] Yuan Shikai (1859-1916) was the general in charge of the modern part of the army in the Beijing district during the 1911 ‘Double Tenth’ revolution that overthrew the Manchus. To avoid civil war, Sun Yat-sen handed over the presidency to Yuan, who in return deposed Pu Yi, but Yuan quickly converted his position into a dictatorship. Other warlords eventually rose up against him, plunging China into anarchy. Serge is mistaken about the causes of his death. He died of urenia, brought on by nervous prostration.


[126] Did it even conform with the ‘Twenty-One Conditions’ for adherence to the Communist International decided by the Second Congress of the Communist International? [Author’s note]


[127] The membership of the Chinese Communist Party reached 58 000 at its Fifth Congress held at Hankou last May. But we should ask ourselves if so rapid a growth, at a time when, on Bukharin’s admission, the policy of the party was strongly tainted with opportunism, could be considered healthy. [Author’s note]


[128] The Guomindang was accepted as a sympathising section of the Communist International in March 1926, and Chiang was made an honourary member of the Praesidium of its Executive Committee.


[129] Let us summarise the different political positions taken up with regard to this by the Communists. The resolution of the Eighth Plenum of the ECCI in June 1927 ordered the Communist Party to remain in the Guomindang and to take it over from below, whilst engaging in energetic revolutionary activity. Some time previously, the Opposition of the Communist Party of the USSR had drawn up minimum conditions of freedom of action regarding affiliation to the Guomindang for the Chinese Communist Party. A little later it demanded the withdrawal of the Chinese Communist Party from the Guomindang. Bukharin, on the other hand, wrote in Pravda on 10 July: ‘Even if the Central Committee of the Guomindang declares the expulsion of the Communists (which is almost certain), the Communists must defend their positions inside the Guomindang as they do in the British Labour Party and trade unions.’ How can we fail to observe, here, that the Labour Party is a working-class party, whereas the Guomindang is a bourgeois party; and that heads are not chopped off in Ramsay MacDonalds’s party, which is a capital question all the same. [Author’s note]


[130] L’Orient Révolutionnaire, no 2/1927, Moscow. The article is signed Li-Dzi-Kou. [Author’s note]


[131] A Ivine, Pravda, 10 July 1927. [Author’s note]


[132] Sun Chuanfang (1885-1933) was the warlord of Shanghai, closely associated with the British.


[133] Martynov, Pravda, 10 April 1927. [Author’s note] For Martynov, cf n145 below.


[134] Pierre Semard, l’Humanité, 12 April 1927. Our comrade also wrote whilst commenting on the first news in the bourgeois press about the repression of Communism by Chiang Kai-shek: ‘Even if this information were partially true, that would not put the revolutionary movement at risk…’ [Author’s note] Pierre Semard (1887-1942) was a French Communist trade union leader.


[135] VI Lenin, ‘Theses on the Fundamental Tasks of the Second Congress of the Communist International’, 4 July 1920, Collected Works, Volume 31, Moscow, 1966, p185.


[136] VI Lenin, ‘Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution’, Collected Works, Volume 9, Moscow, 1977, p18.


[137] Lozovsky has published a very interesting series of articles entitled ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution in China’ in Pravda in September. His documentation and even his conclusions very much confirm the point of view expressed in these studies. His final words are: ‘Either complete submission to imperialism and restoration, or workers’ and peasants’ revolution.’ This is exactly what we have always said. [Author’s note]


[138] Lozovsky, Pravda, 8 September. [Author’s note]


[139] From this point of view, the greatest mistakes were committed by the French Communist press in assessing the role of the Nationalist army. After the famous ‘betrayal’ of Chiang Kai-shek, Péri [Gabriel Péri, 1902-1941, French Communist deputy] wrote on the front page of l’Humanité of 16 April an article in which he voiced the hope that the revolution would continue and triumph thanks to the Red Army: ‘Chiang’s soldiers are not mercenaries; they are the brothers of the 800 000 workers who opened the gates of Shanghai to them. Their chief is passing over to the enemy at a time when the Duncans, the Williams and the Bazires are pointing cannon at their breasts. The red soldiers will not follow their unworthy chief… Their sole aim is to reserve for their general the punishment that counter-revolutionary traitors deserve, etc…’ Obviously lack of documentation caused this error. But speaking in front of 15 000 Parisian workers on 17 June at the Cirque de Paris, Doriot, who had just returned from China, ‘declared his confidence in the final victory of the Hankou armies’: ‘I say our army [!] because it is a revolutionary army [!]’, etc, etc. ‘The Chinese army’, says Lozovsky, speaking of the Southerners, ‘represented the organised counter-revolution.’ [Author’s note]


[140] VI Lenin, ‘They Do Not See the Wood For the Trees’, 19 August 1917, Collected Works, Volume 25, Moscow, 1964, p253.


[141] Jacques de la Chabannes, Marshal of France and Seigneur de la Palice (c1470-1525) was killed at the battle of Pavia. He is famous in French literature for stating the obvious, though not all the remarks attributed to him are true.


[142] VI Lenin, ‘The Beginning of the Revolution in Russia’, Collected Works, Volume 8, Moscow, 1977, pp99-100.


[143] VI Lenin, ‘A Militant Agreement for the Uprising’, Collected Works, Volume 8, pp158-9.


[144] VI Lenin, ‘Should We Organise the Revolution?’, Collected Works, Volume 8, pp174-5.


[145] In 1922 Martynov joined the Russian Communist Party. Three days before the coup d’état of Chiang Kai-shek in Shanghai, he wrote in Pravda of 10 April last that the distrustful attitude towards the Wuhan government and Chiang advocated by Radek ‘would lead to an alliance of the urban petit-bourgeoisie and the big industrial bourgeoisie against the workers and peasants’. He concluded that fortunately ‘judging by the latest news, the Chinese Communist Party is on the right road’. [Author’s note] During the 1905 Revolution, Aleksandr Samoylovich Martynov (1865-1935) occupied a position on the extreme right of Menshevism, arguing that the working class must ally with others in a multi-class bloc, and not frighten away bourgeois democrats with talk of insurrection. He was the originator of the theory of the ‘bloc of four classes’ that was the basis of the Comintern’s approach to the Guomindang.


[146] VI Lenin, ‘Social Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government’, Collected Works, Volume 8, p283.


[147] VI Lenin, ‘On the Provisional Revolutionary Government’, Collected Works, Volume 8, p481.


[148] VI Lenin, ‘Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution’, Collected Works, Volume 9, p19.


[149] Even though they tried to imbue traditional ideas with revolutionary meaning, the people of the communes of the Middle Ages often used Christianity to attack the high clergy, the natural ally of the feudal lords. [Author’s note]


[150] The role of intellectuals was no less great in the original founding of the Bolshevik party. Cf Lenin, What is to be Done?. [Author’s note] Serge is wrong to lay the blame for the disastrous policy of the Chinese Communist Party on the class origins of its leaders, who made repeated attempts to cut free from their enforced subordination to the Guomindang in 1922.


[151] Daoism is an ancient school of thought that advocated integration with the flow of life instead of an effort to transform it.


[152] On this topic, here is a fact that sadly speaks for itself. On 4 July 1926 the General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Chen Duxiu, published an open letter to Chiang Kai-shek, who had carried out a reactionary coup d’état four months previously. In it we find these lines:


Sun’s Three Principles constitute the common belief of the Guomindang, which is a party of collaboration of all classes, and not the party of one class. It is also necessary to recognise the right of each class represented inside the Guomindang to have its own beliefs in addition to the common belief… We cannot forbid the worker who is a member of the Guomindang from believing in Communism, in addition to the Three Principles, just as the trader or the industrialist believes in capitalism… The Communist Party recognises no other leader than Sun Yat-sen… [!!!]


The concluding sentence is quite frankly outrageous. Judge for yourself. Chiang was complaining that the Communists were discrediting him. Discrediting a general who, since 20 March (and we are now in July), though a dictator, presented himself as an irreproachable revolutionary (sic!), and discrediting him in wartime, in the face of the enemy (itemised as British, Japanese, Zhang Zuolin, etc) is, Chen declares, to become complicit in a counter-revolutionary conspiracy. ‘Moreover’, wrote the Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party to the barely concealed Chinese Gallifet, ‘if amongst the comrades of the Communist Party there are any who harbour ideas of such a counter-revolutionary conspiracy, [!!] you should shoot them [!!!] without the least ceremony. [!!!!]’ [Author’s note] Gaston de Gallifet (1830-1909) was responsible for many of the executions following the suppression of the Paris Commune.


[153] Nadezhda K Krupskaya (1869-1939) was Lenin’s widow, an adherent of Zinoviev, and therefore formerly a supporter of the Joint Opposition, who had since made her peace with Stalin.


[154] During the economic warfare in the Ruhr in 1923, the German Communists rightly emphasised this principle. [Author’s note]


[155] JV Stalin, ‘Talk with Students of the Sun Yat-Sen University’, Works, Volume 9, p250-1.


[156] Savdar, ‘Mouvement révolutionnaire aux Indes et les Evénements de Chine’, L’Orient Révolutionnaire, no 2. [Author’s note]


[157] Published by Fischer Verlag in Berlin. Some of the pages of this book really must be translated into French. [Author’s note]


[158] Song Qingling (1892-1975), Sun Yat-sen’s widow, became a fellow traveller of the Communist Party, and later formed part of the rump Guomindang set up after Mao’s triumph in 1949.


[159] The Qing dynasty set up its capital in Beijing.


[160] General Zhang Fakui (1896- ) was the commander of the Fourth Army of the Guomindang who crushed the Nanchang uprising.


[161] Vissarion Lovenadze, known as Lominadze (1898-1934), presided over the emergency conference of the Chinese Communist Party. On his return to the USSR he sided with Bukharin against the forced collectivisation. He committed suicide at the time of the assassination of Kirov.


[162] Khassis was the Soviet Vice-Consul in Guangzhou.


[163] The day after the first shootings of workers in Shanghai and the first attack against the Soviet consulate in that city (last April-May), Bukharin felt that he had to make clear, in a declaration reproduced in the Soviet press, that the USSR did not see any reason for breaking off diplomatic relations with the Nanjing government. Chiang’s compliance with the imperialists was nevertheless no longer in any doubt. Perhaps now we should ask whether the USSR would not have done better at that point to have itself broken off all relations with the executioner of the Shanghai proletarians. It would have been a natural gesture to make. [Author’s note]


[164] Admiral Alexander V Kolchak (1873-1920) was a Whiteguard commander who set up a government in Siberia during the Russian Civil War, and attacked the Bolsheviks along the Trans-Siberian Railway.


[165] Marcel Cachin (1869-1958) was one of the more discreditable leaders of the French Communist Party, who in 1915 had been sent by the French government to urge Mussolini to carry on a campaign for the entry of Italy into the First World War.


[166] We learned this from an incidental declaration made at the Fifteenth Party Congress of the USSR. [Author’s note]


[167] Here are the political slogans that were launched by the Chinese Communist Party according to l’Humanité of 6 February: ‘Immediate freeing of political prisoners, arming of the proletariat, freedom of the press and assembly, the right to organise and strike, the restoration to the revolutionary trade unions of their headquarters, the dissolution of the yellow unions, unemployment benefit, an increase in soldiers’ pay from 12 to 20 dollars a month, land to the peasants, against all the reactionary generals, an alliance with the Soviet Union and the world proletariat.’ And here are their agitational slogans: ‘Rice to the workers, land to the peasants, down with militarist war, all power to the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers.’ Here is the list of decrees that were issued over 48 hours:


1. The establishment of soviet power.


2. The organisation of the armed forces of the revolution.


3. The suppression and annihilation of all forces of the counter-revolution.


4. An eight-hour day. Unemployment benefit. A rise in wages.


5. Nationalisation of the factories and the land. Land redistribution. The abolition of the large landowners. The legalisation of village soviets.


6. Confiscation of the property and houses of the bourgeoisie. The cancellation of rent agreements.


7. A rise in soldiers’ pay, revolutionary soldiers’ committees, one year’s voluntary service.


8. Legalisation of the All-China Federation of Workers’ Trade Unions. [Author’s note]


[168] The Finnish Revolution was put down by Mannerheim with the aid of German troops in 1918; the German Revolution was smashed by the Freikorps and the Reichswehr in 1918-19, 1921 and 1923; in 1920 the Italian workers occupied the factories, but the strike wave burned itself out, and Mussolini came to power in 1922; the short-lived Hungarian Soviet regime of Béla Kun was overthrown by a Romanian and White invasion in August 1919; and a right-wing coup overthrew Alexander Stambolisky’s peasant government in Bulgaria in June 1923.


[169] The Fifteenth Congress of the CPSU took place in Moscow on 2-19 December 1927, and ratified the expulsion of the leaders of the Opposition. Whilst it was sitting, the Guangzhou uprising took place; it was intended to restore Stalin’s by then considerably damaged revolutionary reputation.


[170] Rafael Moisevich Khitarov (1900-39) took part in the Russian revolution whilst still a young man, and was the Young Communist representative to the Communist International in the mid-1920s, in which capacity he made several trips abroad. Although a loyal Stalinist, he perished in the purges.


[171] See also the ‘Letter from Shanghai’. [Author’s note]


[172] On 21-22 May 1927. [Author’s note]


[173] On this subject cf the article by Victor Serge in Clarté, no 2. [Author’s note]


[174] The press has published nothing on this question. [Author’s note]


[175] The Fascio was the sole legal party allowed under Mussolini’s dictatorship. Kemal Atatürk also set up a state with a single party, the Republican Peoples Party (cf n1, above).