Tchen Du Hsiu

How Stalin-Bucharin Destroyed
the Chinese Revolution

(December 1929)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 34, 1 December 1930, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

About the time the Northern Expeditionary took Shanghai in 1927, what Chi-Chai paid great attention to was the selection of the Shanghai municipal government and how to unite the petty-bourgeoisie (the middle and small traders) for opposing the big bourgeoisie; Peng Shu Chih, Lo Yih Nieng became very angry, and tore it to the Shanghai municipal government was not a central problem. The central problem was that if the proletariat did not overpower the military forces of Chiang Kai-Shek, the petty bourgeoisie would not stand for us and that Chiang Kai-Shek must, under the direction of the imperialists, massacre the masses. The Shanghai municipal government would not only be a phrase then, but a defeat throughout China would take place, for when Chiang Kai-Shek openly betrayed the revolution it would never be an individual action, but the signal for the bourgeoisie in the whole country to go over to the reactionary camp. At that time, Peng Shu Chih went to Hankow to state our opinion before the International delegate and the majority of the members of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and to consult them on how to attack the forces of Chiang Kai-Shek. But they did not care very much about the coup of Shanghai, but telegraphed to me several times urging me to go to Wuhan, in Hupeh province. They thought that the nationalist government was at Wuhan at that time, so all important problems should be solved there. At the same time, the International telegraphed to us instructing us to hide or bury all the weapons of the workers to avoid the military conflict between the workers and Chiang Kai-Shek, in order not to disturb the occupation of Shanghai by the armed forces. Having read this telegram, Lo Yih Nung became very angry, and tore it to bits. At that time I again obeyed the order of the International and could not maintain my own opinion. Based upon the policy of the International towards the Kuo Min Tang and the imperialists, I issued a shameful manifesto with Wang Chin Wei.

The Proposal to Withdraw from the K.M.T.

In the beginning of April I went to Hankow. When I first met Wang Chin Wei I heard from him some reactionary words, far different from what he said while in Shanghai. I told this to Borodin; he said that my observations were right and that as soon as Wang Chin Wei reached Wuhan he was surrounded by Hsu Chien, Kuo Meng Yu, Chen Pung Po, Tan Yien Kai and others, and became gradually colder. After Chiang Kai-Shek and Lu Chi Shung continually massacred the workers and peasants, the Kuo Min Tang hated the power of the proletariat more every day, and the reactionary attitude of Wang Chin Wei and of the Central Committee of the Kuo Min Tang developed rapidly. At the meeting of our Political Bureau, I made a report on the status of the joint meeting of our Party and of the Kuo Min Tang: “The danger of co-operation between our Party and the Kuo Min Tang is more and more serious. What they tried to seize on seemed to he this or that small problem; what they really wanted was the whole leading power. Now there are only two roads before us: either to give up the leading power or to break with them.” The attendants answered my report with silence. After the coup of May 21 at Changsha, in Huhan province, I twice suggested withdrawal from the Kuo Min Tang. Finally, I said: “The Wuhan Kuo Min Tang has followed the steps of Chiang Kai-Shek!” At that time only Yen Pih Si said: “Indeed!” and Chow Eng Lai said: “After we withdraw from the Kuo Min Tang the labor and peasant movement will be freer but the military movement will suffer too much.” All the rest still answered my suggestion with the attitude of quiet. At the same time I discussed this with Chi-Chiu Bai. He said: “We should let the Kuo Min Tang expel us, we cannot withdraw by ourselves.” I consulted Borodin. He said: “I quite agree with your idea but I know that Moscow will never permit it.” At that time I once more observed the discipline of the International and the opinion of the majority of the Central Committee and was unable to maintain my own opinion. From the beginning I could not persistently maintain my opinion; up to this time I could no longer bear it. Then, I tendered my resignation to the Central Committee. The chief reason for the resignation was: “The International wishes us to carry out our own policy, on the one hand, and does not allow us to withdraw from the Kuo Min Tang on the other. There is really no way out and I cannot continue with my work.”

From the beginning to the end, the International recognized the Kuo Min Tang as the main body of the Chinese national democratic revoluton. In the mouth of Stalin the words “leadership of the Kuo Min Tang” were shouted very loudly (see The Error of the Opposition in Problems of the Chinese Revolution). So it wished us throughout to surrender in the organization of the Kuo Min Tang and to lead the masses under the name and the banner of the Kuo Min Tang. Up to the time when the whole Kuo Min Tang of Feng Yu-Hsiang, Wang Chin Wei, Lang Lin Chih, Ho Chin etc., were openly reactionary and abolished the so-called three points policies: to unite with the Soviet Union, to allow the C.P. to join the Kuo Min Tang and to help the labor and peasant movement, the International instructed us by telegram: “Only withdraw from the Kuo Min Tang government not from the Kuo Min Tang.” So, after the “August 7” Conference, from the Nanchang uprising to the capture of Swatow, the Communist party still hid under the blue-white banner of the Left clique of the Kuo Min Tang. Among the masses it seemed that there was trouble within the Kuo Min Tang, but nothing more.” The young Chinese Communist Party, produced by the young Chinese proletariat, had not had a proper period of training in Marxism and class struggles. In the beginning of the founding of the Party, it was confronted by the great revolutionary struggle. The only hope of avoiding any very grave error was the correct guidance of the proletarian policy of the International. Under the guidance of such a continuously opportunist policy how could the Chinese proletariat and the Communist Party clearly observe their own future? And how could they have their own independent policy? They only surrendered to the bourgeoisie step by step and subordinated themselves to the bourgeoisie. So when the latter suddenly massacred us we did not know what to do about it. After the coup of May 21 at Changsha, the method given to us by the International was:

  1. Confiscate the land of the landowners from the lower strata, not to use the name of the nationalist government, but do not touch the land of military officers. (Not a single one of the bourgeoisie, landlords, tuchuns, and gentry of Hunan and Hupeh provinces but was the kinsman, relative or old friend of the officers of that time. All the landowners were directly or indirectly protected by the officers. To confiscate the land is only empty words if it is conditioned by “do not touch the land of the military officers.”)
  2. Check the peasants’ “over-zealous” action with the power of the Party headquarters. (We did execute this shameful policy of checking the peasants’ over-zealous action; afterwards the International criticized the Chinese Party as having “often become the obstacle of the masses” and considered it as one of the greatest opportunist errors.)
  3. Destroy the present unreliable generals, arm twenty thousand Communists and select fifty thousand worker and peasant elements from Hunan and Hupeh provinces for organizing a new army. (If we could get so many rifles, why should we not directly arm the workers and peasants and why should we still enlarge the new troops of the Kuo Min Tang? Why could not we establish the Soviet of workers, peasants and soldiers? If there are neither armed workers and peasants nor Soviets who and how can we destroy the said unreliable generals? I suppose that we should still pitifully beg the Central Committee of the Kuo Min Tang to discharge them. That the delegate of the International, Lois, showed Wang Chin Wei the instruction of the III International, was of course for this purpose.)
  4. Put new working and peasant elements into the Central Committee of the Kuo Min Tang to take the place of old members. (If we have power to deal freely with the old Committee and reorganize the Kuo Min Tang, why could we not organize Soviets? Why must we send our worker and peasant leaders to the bourgeois Kuo Min Tang, who have already been massacring the workers and peasants? And why should we decorate such a Kuo Min Tang with our leaders?)

A “Revolutionary” Court

  1. Organize a Revolutionary Court with a well-known member of the Kuo Min Tang as its chairman in order to judge the reactionary officers. How can the already reactionary leader of the Kuo Min Tang judge the reactionary officers in the Revolutionary Court?

Those who attempted to execute such a policy within the Kuo Min Tang were still opportunists of Left tendency. There was no change at all in the fundamental policy; it was like taking a bath in a urinal vessel! At that time, if we wanted to carry out the Left policy of revolution, the fundamental policy had to be changed. That is, the Communist Party had to withdraw from the Kuo Min Tang and be really independent. It had to arm the workers and peasants, as many as possible, establish the Soviet of workers, peasants and soldiers and seize the leading power from the Kuo Min Tang; otherwise, no matter what kind of Left policy was adopted, there was no way to realize it. At that time the Central Political Bureau wired to the Communist International to answer its instruction: we accept the instruction and will work according to its direction but it cannot be realized immediately. For all the members of the Central Committee recognized that that instruction was an impractical method. Even the participant of the meeting of the Central Committee, Fanck (it was said that he was the private deputy of Stalin), also thought that there was no possibility to carry it out. He agreed with the telegraphic answer of the Central Committee, saying: “We can only say so in our answer.” After the “August. 7” Conference, the Central Committee endeavored to propagate that the cause of the failure of the Chinese revolution was that the opportunists did not accept the instructions of the Communist International (of course, the instructions were the above mentioned one; besides these, there were no instructions!) to change the tactics at once; we did not know how they could change the policy within the sphere of the Kuo Min Tang and who were the so-called opportunists.

Where Responsibility Lies

As the Party has committed such a fundamental error, the other bigger and smaller subordinate errors, of course, would continually take place. I, whose perception was not clear, whose opinion was not decisive, sank deeply in the atmosphere of opportunism, sincerely carried out the opportunist policy of the Third International; I unconsciously became the tool of the narrow faction of Stalin; I could not save the Party; and the revolution. All this, both I and other comrades should be responsible for. The present Central Committee said: “You attempt to put the failure of the Chinese Revolution on the shoulders of the Third International in order that you might throw off your own responsibility!” This statement is ridiculous. Nobody can permanently withhold his right to criticize the opportunism of the Party leadership, or to return to Marxism and Leninism because he has himself committed opportunism. At the same time, nobody can take the liberty of avoiding his responsibility for executing an opportunist policy because opportunism came from high places. The source of the opportunist policy is the Third International; but why did not the leaders of the Chinese Party make a protest against the Third International, but sincerely carried out its policies? Who could remove this responsibility? We should very frankly and objectively recognize that all the past and present opportunist policies come from the Third International. The Third International should bear the responsibility. The young Chinese Party has not yet the ability of itself to invent any theories and settle any policy; but the leading organ of the Chinese Party ought to bear the responsibility for blindly executing the opportunist policy of the Third International without a little bit of judgment and protest. If we mutually excuse each other and all of us think that we have committed no mistakes, was it then the error of the masses? This is not only too ridiculous but also does not take any responsibility towards the revolution! I strongly believe that, if I, or other responsible comrades, could at that time have had a clear recognition of the falsity of the opportunist policy; a strong argument against it, even to the point of mobilizing the entire Party for an ardent discussion and debate, as comrade Trotsky has been doing, the result would inevitably have been a great help to the revolution and would not have made the revolution such a shameful failure, though I might have been expelled from the Third International and a split in the Party might have taken place. I, whose perception was not clear and opinion was not decisive, did not do so after all! If the Party were to base itself on such past mistakes of mine or on the fact that I strongly maintained the former erroneous line, in order to give me any severe punishment, I would earnestly accept it without uttering a word.

Last updated on 21.11.2012