Victor Serge

Second Letter:

The Communist Task

(June/July 1927)

From Revolutionary History, Vol. 5 No. 3.
Originally published in Clarté (new series), No. 11, July 1927.
Translated by Gregor Benton & Al Richardson.
Transcribed by Alun Watson.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

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. [1] 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)? [2] 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) [3] 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. [4]

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 [5] 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). [6] 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 [7] – 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 [8], Chiang Kai-shek, Feng Yuxiang [9], 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. [10] 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? [11]

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.’ [12] 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 [13] 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. [14] 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 [15]; whilst completely manipulating the revolutionaries with the aid of fancy speeches, Chiang was quietly able to prepare the murder of the Shanghai proletariat. [16] 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 [17] 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![18], 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. [19] 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’. [20] 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

P.S.: 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 [21], 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. [22]

2 July


1. 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]

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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]

5. 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.

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

7. 20 March 1926 and 12-15 April 1927. [Author’s note]

8. 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.

9. 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.

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

11. 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]

12. 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]

13. 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.

14. 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]

15. 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]

16. It is estimated in the Russian press that to date almost 2,000 revolutionary militants have been executed in the regions subjected to the power of Chiang Kai-shek. [Author’s note]

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

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

19. 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]

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

21. Tang Shengzhi (1890- ) was warlord of Hunan.

22. 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]

Last updated on 15.3.2011