Leon Trotsky

Problems of the Chinese Revolution

Appendix from Leon Trotsky Problems of the Chinese Revolution

The Letter from Shanghai

THE EVENTS OF recent months and especially the last events in Shanghai have finally convinced us that the present leadership of the Communist Party of China is incapable of conducting a firm Communist policy which is all the more necessary under the political conditions that have become extremely complicated. In the leadership of the party there is a group which is determinedly driving the party to the Right, on the path of liquidation, and this group and its policy are supported by the representative of the E. C. C. I. The further this goes the deeper and more extensive will become the crisis that has risen in the party and if the E. C. C. I. does not intervene immediately, it may have grave consequences for the. party as well as for the Chinese revolution. The reason for the crisis must be sought in the fact that the leaders of the Chinese party have considered and still consider the Chinese revolution as a bourgeois revolution from which nothing more than democratic liberties and a slight improvement in the economic situation can be expected. They do not believe in the socialist path of development of the Chinese revolution, just as they do not believe either in the Chinese proletariat or in the peasantry, in the masses or in mass action. The conception of the leading kernel was approximately this: China is living through its national revolution which is directed against the imperialists and the feudal militarists. In this revolution all classes are participating, among them also the national bourgeoisie, the well-off gentry and the landowner, and that is why class peace must be maintained as the guarantee for the victory of the revolution. We give only one example of how this conception was transformed in practise into the worst kind of opportunism. The resolution on the report of the C. C. at its Plenum of December 13, 1926, speaks of dangerous tendencies in the national revolutionary movement and declares:

“The greatest danger is that the mass movement is developing towards the Left, while the political and military authorities, seeing the swift growth of the mass movement, are seized with panic, and begin to incline to the Right. Should these extreme tendencies continue to develop in the future the cleavage between the masses and the government will deepen and in the end the Red united front will be demolished and the whole national movement will be endangered.”

The natural conclusion from this is: the mass movement must be limited, the wave of the workers’ and peasants’ movements, rising with an elemental force, dammed up.

“In the practical struggle of the workers and peasants,” the resolution further declares, “we must avoid illusions (exorbitant demands of the artisans and the workers, participation of the workers’ guard in administrative affairs, seizure of land by the peasants, etc.), so as to eradicate the infantile disease of Leftism.”

The leading circle of the party does not understand the mass movement; still more, it is afraid of it, it considers it as something out of place, at any rate, as an untimely phenomenon that hampers the united front with the bourgeoisie. It therefore subordinates the interests of the working class and the peasantry to the interests of the bourgeoisie and trots along at the heels of the bourgeoisie; therefore, on the one hand, it curbs the mass movement and, on the other hand, enters into all sorts of combinations at the top, sinking into bargaining over crumbs, and to horse-trading which, under revolutionary conditions, are equivalent to Menshevism. Since it regards itself solely in a secondary role of assistance in the Chinese revolution, it effaces itself, the party and the mass movement, and thus plays into the hands of the Right. The last four months brought a great deal that is new into the Chinese revolution. The growth of the revolutionary movement, and the sharpening of the inner contradictions based on this growth, have created an extremely complicated situation. The struggle for the hegemony of the proletariat in the Chinese revolution is actually the task of the day. We are of the opinion that it is just in these last months that the leadership of the Chinese party has shown that it can lead the party and the working class only to defeat and capitulation.

The last months, that is, the period beginning about the end of November, are characterized by the following facts: 1. The national revolutionary army has won a decisive victory by defeating Sun Chuan Fang; 2. In connection with this victory, a certain flirting of the imperialists with the Nationalist government and the Right Kuo Min Tang has begun; 3. The mass movement has embraced ever new strata and has swung to a height never before attained; 4. The accentuated inner contradictions have led to an acute conflict between the Left and the Right Kuo Min Tang. This period is marked by four features. 1. The reaction in Hankow; 2. The occupation of the concessions in Hankow; 3. The conflict between the C. C. of the Kuo Min Tang and Chiang Kai-Shek on the question of the government seat; and 4. The uprising in Shanghai. Now, what were the tactics of our party in this period?


Since the departure of the government for Wuhan, the Rights, who remained in Canton, with Li Ti Sin at their head, and with the approval of Chiang Kai-Shek, have inaugurated a rabid campaign against the Communists. It was said that since the Northern Expedition had won a decisive victory in Shansi, Canton was therefore outside of the war zone and a certain stabilization had to be established, which demanded “normal” conditions. The first step towards creating these “normal” conditions was the removal of the police chief for his amicable relations with the Communists, the dispersal of the Kuo Min Tang committee and the replacement of the Left by the Right, the decree forbidding strikes in the large public utilities, the prohibition of picketing in strikes, the disarming of the workers’ guard, etc. The new Provincial Committee of the Kuo Min Tang decided to prevent strikes, to give strikebreakers a free field, and it pronounced itself against the decreasing of rental payments by twenty-five percent. Then began the arrests of workers, the persecution of workers among the peasantry, anti-English demonstrations were forbidden and the gentry in the villages were encouraged. The government began to subsidize and to arm the Right wing labor organization, the Mechanics Union, and the Workers Federation of Kwantung, and incited them against the Left wing labor organizations.

This “stabilization” mood infected the Kuo Min Tang people not only in Canton, but also in the North. In Hankow, the organized bourgeoisie came out against the workers’ demands. The government wanted to follow the example of Canton and introduce compulsory arbitration. Finally, the notorious Right Kuo Min Tang speech of comrade Borodin also runs in this groove and was inspired by the same “stabilization” mood. Now, how did our party respond to the reaction that began in Canton and spread all over the country? In general, not at all, so far as one can speak of measures of struggle against the reaction. The resolution on the Kwantung question adopted by the Central Committee says literally as follows:

“The reason for the recent joint attack against the Communists and the elements of the Left who stand close to them, by the Center, Right and Left is, first, that the Provincial Committee of our party in Kwantung does not recognize the Left wing, and second, that it underestimates the influence of the Left leaders.”

And the C. C. proposes to wait until Wang Chin Wei returns. . . . We do not want to justify the standpoint of the Canton Left who, thanks to Borodin’s influence, actually underestimated the Left, but we cannot understand how the leading organ of the party can throw the responsibility for the activities of the reactionaries., which are to be explained by the growth of the mass movement, on the local party organization without adopting the standpoint that this mass movement must be emasculated. The C. C. of our party has showed itself helpless to begin the struggle against the reaction. The proletariat of Hankow undertook this struggle over the head of the Kuo Min Tang, and over the head of our party and its leading organs, when it occupied the English concessions on January 3, stimulated a new upsurge of the antiimperialist movement, and struck the heaviest blow at internal reaction at the same time.


Nobody foresaw the events of January 3. The occupation of the concessions by the Hankow workers took place spontaneously, without any leadership or instigation either from the government, from the Kuo Min Tang, or from our party. They were all confronted by an accomplished fact, by a spontaneous act of the masses, and all of them had to reckon with it. The events in Hankow were of exceptional significance. England had its ears boxed. The masses and the party organizations, which had succumbed to disillusionment, were again aroused, the Right wing of the Kuo Min Tang received a blow, and the national anti-imperialist movement overflowed the whole country and forced even such reactionaries as Tchang TsoLin to begin speaking a pseudo-nationalist language, to demand the return of the concessions, etc. Besides this, the events in Hankow had a great revolutionizing effect upon the government and upon Borodin: against their will, they turned to the Left under the pressure and the influence of this spontaneous action of the masses; the December moods were in a certain sense destroyed and when, two weeks afterward, the conflict arose with Chiang Kai-Shek over the question of the government seat, the members of the government and Borodin adopted a Left position, which would most likely have been unthinkable without the events of January 3. The Left wing which, as many believed, hardly existed any longer, consolidated itself and this was accomplished by a certain crystallization of the Right wing around Chiang Kai-Shek in Nanking, which led to the conflict between Nanking and Hankow.

Now, how did the C. C. of the Communist Party of China react to the events in Hankow? At first, it did not want to react at all. When the question was presented at the conference of the C. C. and the Russian comrades, comrade Tchen Du-Siu exclaimed: “Why should we clamor over it and what kind of agitation should we develop when the aggressors were not the English but the Chinese?” This was already on January 12 or 13. Only two or three weeks after the events did the C. C. issue an appeal on them. At the same time it sent a letter to the Hupeh Committee, and accused our comrades of responsibility for the fact that the workers’ guard had maintained order from the first day of the occupation of the concessions. The C. C. was of the opinion that the foreigners and the petty bourgeoisie should not have been incensed.


In January began the conflict over the question of the government seat. The Wuhan group, the majority of the C. C. of the Kuo Min Tang and of the government, insisted that in conformity with a decision that had been adopted back in Canton, the government should be transferred to Wuhan. The Nanking group, however, with Chiang Kai-Shek at its head, insisted that the government seat “be left” to Nanking. Naturally, this dispute was not a simple dispute over the seat of the government. The question was whether the national revolutionary movement would go with the masses and the Communist party, or with the dictator Chiang Kai-Shek who was already steering towards a compromise with Japan and Mukden. The dispute was and is concerned with the two paths of development of the Chinese revolution. The conflict assumed an extremely sharp character. For two months already, there actually exist two governments, two Central Committees and two Political Bureaus of the Kuo Min Tang, two armies. Nanking has become the Right wing center. The Kuo Min Tang committee of Shansi, composed of a majority of Communists, was dispersed and replaced by a new one composed of seven Rights, one Centrist and one ex-Communist. Chiang Kai-Shek entered into negotiations with Yeng Yui Tin (of Mukden) without the Kuo Min Tang knowing a thing about it. Through politicians like the former minister Tuan Tsi-Choi, through Huan Fu, or Tai Tsi Tao, and also directly, he carried on secret negotiations with the Japanese. The same is being done by his creature, Ho In-Tsin, in Futchang. Without daring to stand up openly against the U. S. S. R. and the C. I., Chiang Kai-Shek began a struggle against Borodin, Galen and others, and endeavored to invest the conflict with a personal character.

Very characteristic is the following declaration by Chiang Rai-Shek[1] to the Commander of the Sixth Army Corps, Tchen Tchin: “I am not at all opposed to the Russian Communists, I am only against the Right wing of the C. P. S. U. at whose head stands Stalin, but I know that a Left wing also exists in the C. P. S. U., led by Trotsky and Zinoviev. I am ready to work together with them because the Left is for the complete support of the national revolution in China and for the withdrawal of the Communists from the Kuo Min Tang, while the Right wing, represented by Borodin, Galen and others, though also for supporting the national revolution, are, however, against the withdrawal of the Communists from the Kuo Min Tang. If they would send Radek or Karachan here, I would be able to work with them.”

While Chiang Kai-Shek disguises himself as a “Russian Left Communist” (as Tchen Tchin expresses it), he has conducted a rabid hunt against the Communists, and finally came forward on February 21 with a veritable pogrom speech against the Communist Party of China.

What did the C. C. of our party do on this occasion? One would think that it should have launched the broadest mass campaign under the slogan of support to the Wuhan government and with the demand that the Nanking group submit to the decision of the majority of the C. C.; one would think that the party would expose the real motives behind this conflict, uncover the Right intrigants surrounding Chiang Kai-Shek and vigorously push the government and Borodin so that they would drop the personal tinge they imparted to this conflict and come forward before the masses with a political platform of social reforms, primarily of agrarian reform, and force Chiang Kai-Shek (if he would) to take up the struggle on the basis of a definite political platform, which would have created the greatest difficulties for him. But the C. C. of the Communist Party of China, and the representative of the E. C. C. I. simply “did not notice” this conflict for a long time and took no position towards it. Even up to the middle of February, that is, when the conflict had already come to an unusually sharp pass, nobody in Hankow knew what was the position of the C. C. of our party. Upon our energetic proposals to the representative of the E C. C. I. and the C. C. to move immediately to Hankow so as to direct from there the party and the government of the Wuhan group, we were met with nothing but evasions. Neither the representative of the E. C. C. I., nor the C. C., wanted to participate in the struggle against the internal reaction, which the Left and Borodin (probably against his will) wanted to begin, and they were of the opinion that we can and must make concessions to Chiang Kai-Shek, even though they didn’t say so openly. This line, if it can be called a line at all, was not so much the course of the C. C. as it was of comrade V.[2] This can be seen, for example, from the fact that after he had left for Hankow and seen Chiang Kai-Shek, he made the request of Moscow to recall Borodin and supplemented this request ambiguously with the remark that otherwise Chiang Kai-Shek would not make any serious concessions. During his absence, however, the C. C. adopted a more correct standpoint, when it declared that it was a question of the struggle of the proletariat for hegemony, and that any concession in the form of a recall of Borodin would be equivalent to a complete capitulation.

We do not entertain the slightest illusions about Borodin. As a Communist, we regard Borodin as one who is greatly similar to a Left Kuo Min Tang man; and like every petty bourgeois revolutionist, he is subject to very great vacillations. After March 20, 1926[3], he was for withdrawing from the Kuo Min Tang, denied the significance of the Left wing and even denied its very existence. By this, he lent support to that nihilism towards the Left Kuo Min Tang which is prevalent among the Kwantung comrades. Then, this denial of the Left wing led him remorselessly to the Right, to that capitulationist and laggard’s position which found expression in his speech of December 12, and in his idea of “buying back the land”. In January, he oscillated towards the Left, came forward at a banquet with a speech against personal dictatorship, that is, against Chiang Kai-Shek, and thus became the involuntary instigator of a struggle from which he himself immediately recoiled in fright. In the middle of February, he himself confessed to comrade F.:[4]

“I am afraid I made a mistake in this question. My standing up against Chiang Kai-Shek was provoked by the pressure of public opinion, and I do not know if I acted correctly. We will get as far as Peking with Chiang Kai-Shek, but hardly with the party [i. e., with the Kuo Min Tang].”

With this, Borodin characterized himself excellently, and one can hardly speak of a principled difference between the position of the Right group in the C. C. of the C. P. C., of comrade V. and of Borodin.

But we are of the opinion that to recall Borodin under the present political circumstances, would be to put ourselves at the mercies of Chiang Kai-Shek, because just as Chiang Kai-Shek has by force of circumstances become the banner of reaction, so Borodin has become the banner of the revolutionary elements of the national movement and the banner of the U. S. S. R. With all his shortcomings, with all his wretchedness and lack of principle, Borodin today nevertheless personifies the Left wing of the Kuo Min Tang on the one hand, and the U. S. S. R. on the other. This accounts for our position on this question. But the position of the representative of the E. C. C. I. cannot be explained by any principled motives. Since he disregards the principled content of the struggle, he has slipped down, here as everywhere else, into a combinationism which is pernicious and dangerous for the whole revolutionary movement.

We repeat: in the Nanking-Wuhan conflict, the leading core of the party took no steps for a period of two months, and if we do not count the last telegrams about Borodin, adopted on the insistence of a group of “Left” comrades, the C. C. has only concealed itself and evaded an answer to the questions posed before it by the situation.

The local party organization in Hupeh developed a campaign on its own responsibility on this question without waiting for the decision of the C. C.

But the question of Borodin has become one of the main questions in this conflict. Chiang Kai-Shek and the Right Kuo Min Tang people have come out openly against the Communists. Our party should have answered openly every accusation brought against it with a clear and distinct political declaration. It did not do this. The Right Kuo Min Tang and the bourgeois and imperialist press conducted a rabid campaign on this occasion and the Communist Party of China was silent, hoping to liquidate the conflict by all sorts of combinations, agreements and dickering.

Under the conditions of struggle between the Right and Left wings of the Kuo Min Tang, the Shanghai question assumes special importance. Chiang Kai-Shek needs Shanghai as a base for his further struggle against the Left wing and the Communists, as well as for his negotiations with the North and the imperialists; Chiang Kai-Shek marched against Shanghai with the idea in mind that its occupation would give him an incontestable preponderance in the struggle with the Left for the leadership of the Kuo Min Tang. Through Chiang Kai-Shek, the Chinese bourgeoisie aspires to assure its hegemony in the national revolution. There could be and there were three tactics in this connection. One group of comrades, especially the Russians and Borodin, were of the opinion that it would not hurt for Chiang Kai-Shek to break his. neck on Shanghai and Chekiang, and they egged him on; comrade Galen was of the opinion that the march on Shanghai was a hopeless military undertaking and did not participate in it. These comrades failed to take into consideration that not only Chiang Kai-Shek, but also the Chinese national revolution was conducting the struggle in Chekiang, and that a victory for Chiang Kai-Shek would at the same time be a victory for the revolution, while a defeat would be shared by Chiang Kai-Shek and the revolution.

The second tactic consisted of supporting, unconditionally and without circumlocution, Chiang Kai-Shek’s march on Shanghai, of uniting with his representative in Shanghai itself to prepare an uprising, and thereby to help the troops of the national revolutionary army to march into Shanghai. This group of comrades, representing the Right wing of the C. C. and the Shanghai Committee, failed to consider that Chiang Kai-Shek would create a Right wing government in Shanghai and would seek to convert Shanghai into a fortress of the Right wing of the Kuo Min Tang. Whether consciously or not, these comrades consented to hand over power to Chiang Kai-Shek in Shanghai, that is, to help the bourgeoisie intrench itself there.

The third tactic, which we and a part of the Chinese comrades supported, consisted, on the one hand, of supporting with all means the capture of Shanghai by the people’s revolutionary army and, on the other hand, by the unleashing of a mass movement in Shanghai as a counterpoise to the Right wing, of creating a democratic people’s power so that the democratic factor would predominate over the military factor and the occupation of Shanghai would simultaneously result in the victory of the national revolution, of the anti-imperialist movement, and in the defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek as the representative of the bourgeois Right wing of the Kuo Min Tang. We were of the opinion that Shanghai had become the point at which the question of the hegemony of the proletariat would be decided. Moreover, the uprising of the Shanghai proletariat from February 19 to February 21 was objectively an attempt to assure its hegemony.

With the first reports of the defeat of Sun Chuan Fang[5], the atmosphere in Shanghai became red-hot and in a couple of days a spontaneous strike of 300,000 workers broke out which just as spontaneously changed into an armed uprising and, lacking leadership, vanished into nothing.

In a previous letter, we have dwelled in detail upon the tactic of our party during the events in Shanghai. We therefore want only to underscore here the principal points.

The Canton advance guard is twenty-five to thirty miles from Shanghai. The troops of Sun Chuan Fang, absolutely demoralized, begin pillaging and dispersing homewards. In the city, sections of the military forces waver, the fleet comes over to our side. Three hundred thousand workers go out on strike and pass over to armed struggle. The military commander executes dozens of workers. A part of the petty bourgeoisie already comes out in sympathy with the workers, intervenes in the struggle and shuts up shop. At the same time, the C. C. of our party, which was taken completely unawares by the strike, even though it participated in its preparation, reflects on whether the uprising should be made or not, at the very moment when the uprising is already taking place. Neither the workers, the soldiers, nor the potty bourgeoisie receive as much as a single suggestion about what is to be done. The party confines itself to the bare slogan: “Down with Sun Chuan Fang” and “Hail the Northern Expedition” (in some places even simply “Hail Chiang Kai-Shek”). The anti-imperialist slogans disappear completely. One of the appeals to the workers, for example, declares:

“Sun Chuan Fang was far more cruel than the imperialists who committed the bloody massacre of May 30.”

By the very separation of the struggle against Sun Chuan Fang from the struggle against the imperialists, the party cooled the ardor of the masses. Instead of speaking with the masses, the party representatives spoke with the representatives of the bourgeoisie, waited for them, put their hopes in them. The slogan of the democratic national assembly, which we had advanced shortly before the strike, was conceived of as a new means of combinations at the top, and was not launched among the masses. As a result, we let slip by an exceptionally favorable historical moment, a rare combination of circumstances, where power lay in the streets but the party did not know how to take it. Worse yet, it didn’t want to take it; it was afraid to.

Thus, the Right tendency, which has already contaminated the party for a year, found a crass and consummate expression during the Shanghai events, which can only be compared with the tactics of the German Central Committee in 1923 and of the Mensheviks during the December uprising in 1905. Yet there is a difference. It lies in the fact that in Shanghai the proletariat had considerably more forces and chances on its side and with an energetic intervention, it could have won Shanghai for the revolution and changed the relationship of forces within the Kuo Min Tang.

It is not by accident that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party committed these errors. They flowed from the Right wing conception of the revolution, the lack of understanding of the mass movement and the complete lack of attention towards it.

The Party and the Masses

The upper strata of the Communist Party of China are not in touch with the masses. This is explained historically by the fact that three years ago the party was still only a small circle of intellectuals, and that the party leadership found it hard to understand that it had long ago ceased to be a circle and had been transformed into a party with 30,000 members, which enjoys influence over millions of workers and peasants and is the most powerful organized force of the Chinese revolution. Instead of hastening the liquidation of this detestable spirit of a small circle, the representative of the E. C. C. I. encouraged it and gave it his blessing.

The leadership of the party, of the organizations of the workers and peasants, consists everywhere of intellectuals, students, who with all their good qualities are very little connected with the masses and do not always understand their needs. This condition persisted up to now, not, it is true, because there were no workers capable of participating in the leadership, but because the upper circles of the party organizations do not want to admit the workers into leadership. Only a short time ago, in the middle of February, a party conference took place in Shanghai. As is known, seventy percent of the Shanghai organization consists of workers, but in the newly-elected party committee, sixteen were chosen, among whom there was not a single worker; three workers did get through as candidates. The attitude of the party leaders towards workers and peasants were best formulated by the member of the Central Committee, comrade Petrov[6], when the question of selecting students for a special course at the Communist University for the Toilers of the East was being considered. According to the arrangements, 175 workers and 100 peasants were to be named. Comrade Petrov explained to us that the C. C. decided to send only intellectuals and students, and motivated the decision with the following arguments:

1. The workers cannot read, cannot write, cannot speak and cannot understand anything. Where shall we find 175 workers for the course?

2. The workers and peasants, should they get the chance for a special course in Russia, will live tinder favorable conditions. This will have a demoralizing effect upon them and upon their return to China they will not want to work for the party.

The students, on the contrary, according to comrade Petrov’s opinion, are not afflicted with this defect. What was necessary were not Communist workers and peasants, but non-party people who could read and write very little, or illiterates. When we insisted on this, the C. C., even if unwillingly, accepted our plan, but the attitude of the leaders of a workers’ party towards the masses is very characteristic in this case. The attitude of the C. C. to the workers’ guard in Hankow was about the same. The Old Man[7] said to us that the workers’ guard in Hankow must be disbanded because it consisted of petty bourgeois and artisans, and partly of non-industrial workers. He was of the opinion that the workers’ guard must consist of a small number of “honest, class-conscious, irreproachable” workers (it was a question of the workers’ guard of Hankow).

When we looked into the matter, it appeared that the reference to the petty bourgeois nature of the workers’ guard in Hankow was simply a slander, which the representative of the E. C. C. I. had picked up. The workers’ guard in Hankow consists of workers, mostly of non-industrial workers, it is true, but to call it an “armed power of the petty bourgeisie” is not at all correct.

The attitude of the Right wing group in the C. C. towards a people’s representative assembly in Shanghai is also accounted for by this lack of faith in the masses and lack of understanding of them. When we proposed to carry through the elections to this popular national assembly in the factories and the streets, the leading comrades could not understand it for a long time. They decided to substitute representatives of organizations instead of elected delegates, in connection with which the Old Man said: “Otherwise the workers may elect the devil knows whom.”

According to the conception of the leading core of the party, the workers and peasants area dull, dumb mass, unconscious and inactive; this mass must be led by the Communists along a road which they themselves outline, without consulting these masses. The party leadership declares, for example, that the peasants do not want land. Still more, they would not even demand the reduction of rent payments, did not the Communists incite them to it with their agitation. In Shanghai, the leaders declared at the very moment when the workers were in an uprising, that the workers want no uprising, and that the people of Shanghai do not want to take power. The idea of a people’s representative assembly is called by the secretary of the Shanghai Committee, Bucharov[8], an “exotic idea”: This complete lack of understanding of the needs, the demands, and the struggle of the masses, this disdainful and arrogant attitude leads to this: that all mass movements take place spontaneously, without the party and outside of it. It has already reached a point where events are ascertained post factum and then “acknowledged”. The struggle of the peasants against the gentry, the struggle for the reduction of rent payments and the price of land, took place and still takes place spontaneously. The Hankow proletariat occupied the English concessions spontaneously. The strike in Shanghai arose and went on almost spontaneously. The Right wing group of party leaders, however, stubbornly persists in its disbelief in the masses. At best, the party creeps along at the tail of events, is in no position to direct them, not because its influence has been organizationally insufficiently strong, but because the heads of the party are sinking into opportunism and chvostism.

The Peasants’ Movement

Disbelief in the masses is reflected above all in the lack of attention to the mass movement and also in the curbing of this movement.

Up to October 1926, the question of the peasantry, the question of the struggle of the peasantry, was never raised in a more or less serious form either by the representative of the E. C. C. I. or by the C. C., if the decisions of the June Plenum of the C. C. are excepted which completely hushed up the peasants’ struggle and appealed for a bloc with the “good gentry” and the big landlords. In October, a program of peasants’ demands was worked out, but the representative of the E. C. C. I., as well as the party leaders, considered it only as a program for the party congress. For a period of three to four months, this program did not pass beyond the walls of the C. C. and only in January was it sent out to the local organizations. But up till now, nothing has been essentially changed in the tactics of the party in the peasant question. The old line of curbing the struggle in the village and applying the brakes to the peasants’ movement as a whole, still prevails. Despite the fact that the curbing of the peasants’ movement was already condemned in November and December in the report of Bucharin to the Plenum, in his speech, and furthermore, at the Plenum and in the resolution, the party has not revised this tactic to this day and has not recognized its mistakes. One should not even expect it to recognize them when the representative of the E. C. C. I. already declared in January at the session of the C. C.

“So far as I know, (I have not any official documents yet), we were attacked a bit in the E. C. C. I. because the party has not bestowed sufficient attention upon the peasant question. There is not a kernel of truth in that ...”

The fear of the peasants’ movement has existed and still remains in the party. The realization of peasant possession of the land (that is, the occupation of the land by the peasants) is called by the C. C. “a dangerous infantile disease of Leftism”. It continues to speak of “the united front with the good gentry and the small and middle landlord against the bad gentry and the blackguards” (report from Hunan of December 30). The expression: “good gentry”, is found to this day in all party documents, in articles by leading comrades. This replacement of social categories by moral categories is essentially a suspension of the revolutionary movement in the village.

At the December Plenum of the C. C., a resolution on the peasant question was adopted with the participation of the representative of the E. C. C. I. Not a word is to be found in this resolution on an agrarian program and on the struggle of the peasantry. The resolution does not answer a single one of the most burning questions of the day; the question of the peasants’ power is answered negatively. It says, the slogan of a peasants’ power must not be raised so as not to frighten away the petty bourgeoisie. From the neglect of the peasants’ revolution springs the suspension by the leading party organs of the arming of the peasantry. When Tan Shen Shi made a proposal to our comrades in Wuhan to recruit volunteers and members of the Peasants’ Leagues for his army, the Wuhan Committee rejected it. The comrades are of the opinion that the peasants do not need to arm themselves. Typical is the declaration of the Old Man at the December Plenum where the question came up of arming the peasants in Hunan. In the villages of Hunan a genuine civil war is in progress; the gentry are murdering the peasants by the dozens and hundreds, but the Old Man says:

“If the peasants do not need arms now, then we are not opposed to the government keeping the arms. If neither the Min Tuan nor the peasants will have weapons, then the latter will win even though the struggle should be kindled.”

The Workers’ Movement

The tactic of the party in the workers’ movement is no different from its tactic in the peasants’ movement. Above all, there is an absolute underestimation and lack of attention to it. The C. C. has no trade union department. More than a million organized workers have no guiding center. The trade unions are separated from the masses and remain to a large degree organizations at the top. The political and organizational work is replaced everywhere by compulsion, but the main thing is that reformist tendencies are growing inside as well as outside the revolutionary trade union movement.

The continual hobnobbing with employers, sharing in profits, restriction of production, participation in the raising of labor productivity, the submission of the trade unions to the employers and masters, are common phenomena.

On the other hand, there occur refusals to support and defend the economic demands of the workers. Out of fear of the elementary growth of the labor movement, the party in Canton consented to compulsory arbitration, then it did the same thing in Hankow (the idea of compulsory arbitration itself comes from Borodin). Especially great is the fear of the party leaders of the movement of non-industrial workers. Incidentally, the overwhelming majority of the organized workers in China consists of non-industrial workers.

The report of the C. C. at the December Plenum says:

It is unusually difficult for us to decide our tactics in relation to the middle and petty bourgeoisie, since the strikes of non-industrial and office workers are only conflicts within the petty-bourgeoisie themselves. Both sides [i. e., the employers and the workers] being necessary for the national united front, we can support none of the two sides, neither can we be neutral ... The employees in concerns producing vital necessities (rice, salt, coal, fuel, etc.) must never resort to strikes if there is the slightest possibility of attaining concessions in a peaceful manner.”

Thus, the party abandons the defense and support of the non-industrial workers, i. e., of the majority of the Chinese working class, and covers it up with the necessity of the united front with the petty bourgeoisie. Incidentally, it is quite clear that it is not so much a question of the petty bourgeoisie, especially of the artisans, as of the commercial middle bourgeoisie.

In the telegram elucidating the resolution of the C. C., adopted and signed as it was even by the representative of the E. C. C. I., and Borodin, the checking of the struggle of the non-industrial workers is spoken of. Therein is concealed the checking of the workers’ struggle in general, since the few industrial establishments existing in Central China are either closed or else belong to the state or to joint stock corporations, and as is well known, strike struggles must not be started in state establishments.

The party leadership also fears the arming of the workers. We have already spoken of the slander spread against the Hankow workers’ guard and of the attitude of the C. C. towards the worker pickets who participated in the occupation of the concessions in Hankow. One solitary time was the question of arming the workers raised in the C. C., and even here it was decided that a part of the pickets must be disarmed because they are petty bourgeois elements. Even in the days when the uprising in Shanghai was in process, some party organizations would not so much as permit that the workers be furnished with common bamboo sticks. The party never spoke to the workers about arms or armed struggle. That is how the collapse of the Shanghai uprising came about. The Right group in the party, especially the leaders of the Shanghai organization, pictured the uprising as an action of purely military forces, as a putsch. That is how the uprising of October 23 and February 22 was carried through.

The Army

A characterization of the party attitude towards the army was given by comrade Tchou In Lai in his report. He said to the party members; “Go into this national revolutionary army, strengthen it, raise its fighting ability, but do not carry on any independent work there.” Up to recently there were no nuclei in the army. Our comrades who were political advisors, occupied themselves exclusively with military and political work for the Kuo Min Tang.

The C. C. of the party staked everything on the commanding staff, not on the commanding staff coming forward from the ranks, but on the old staff. With the aid of all sorts of combinations, oppositions, etc., our comrades hoped to maintain a balance of forces in the army, but it never occurred to them to capture it. In the opinion of the party leaders and the representative of the E. C. C. I., the Canton army is not the armed people but a mercenary army in which it is impossible to do any political work. With particular ardor does the representative of the E. C. C. I. deny the possibility of political work in the army. The December Plenum of the C. C. adopted a decision to build nuclei in the army (only of commanders, to be sure, with the prohibition against taking in soldiers ) and in January of this year, when the other Russian comrades (not for the first time) raised the question of work in the army, Comrade V. already expressed himself sharply against the organization of nuclei. In the beginning he said (to comrade Mandalyan[9]) that Moscow has decided against the organization of nuclei, then he showed the impossibility of organizing them: first, because the military command. especially Chiang Kai-Shek, would see in it the machinations of the Communists, which would strain the relations; second, because the Cantonese Army was not susceptible to influence from below. When it was proposed to draw workers and Communists into the army on a mass scale (very great unemployment happened to be prevalent among the industrial workers, there were a few thousand trained worker pickets in Canton as well as in Hankow), as well as peasants and members of the Peasants’ Leagues, he laid it aside with pretexts, declaring that nobody would take them into the army anyway, nothing would ever come of it, there is no recruiting going on now, etc. And since he did not dare to appear as an opponent in principle in the question of arming the workers, he discovered a thousand difficulties, and showed that the arming of the workers is absolutely unthinkable, that we can’t get weapons anywhere, etc.

Besides, there are dozens of company commanders and a few regiment commanders who are Communists and have a colossal influence, there is a Communist regiment, and through all these channels an enormous work could be conducted. But out of the fear of revolutionizing the army which pervades some party leaders, the various comrades working in the army become detached from the party, are transformed into “individual” Communist commanders, and, as one of the Russian comrades in charge of military work in the C. C. declared: “they probably refuse to take workers into their sections of the army, because the workers constitute a turbulent element.”

Despite the fact that the representative of the E. C. C. I. after a long resistance admitted to us that the work of the party in the army must be reorganized, he subsequently did nothing to carry through this reorganization. We do not even know if he spoke about it to the C. C.

The Petty Bourgeoisie

The lack of faith in and understanding of the masses leads quite naturally to the fact that some party leaders regard the party as a medium between circle and clique, about like the other cliques existing in China. From this comes a special passion for negotiations at the top with military leaders and with the big bourgeoisie. The whole tactic of our party in Shanghai consisted for half a year in continuous reunions with the national bourgeoisie and its representatives. Besides, these reunions are covered up with the formula of the necessity of a bloc with the petty bourgeoisie. The bogey of the petty bourgeoisie runs to the grotesque. No peasants’ power can be reorganized, for it will frighten away the petty bourgeoisie. No demands must be raised for the workers, for they will scare away the petty bourgeoisie. No strike movement must be developed, else the petty bourgeoisie will fall away. No Communist party must be developed, for it will frighten the petty bourgeoisie. No actions should be taken so long as the petty bourgeoisie has not taken any. In reality, however, the party leadership interests itself very little in the petty bourgeoisie, especially in the artisans and the home workers among the petty bourgeoisie, who run into the millions, if not tens of millions. The party has never applied itself to this stratum, has conducted no work there, has not attempted to make connections with them. It occupies itself only with parleys at the top with representatives of the small and middle commercial bourgeoisie, representatives who are closely bound up with the big bourgeoisie. By this alone, the party has sanctioned the subordination of the petty bourgeoisie to the big bourgeoisie.

The petty bourgeoisie has in reality lost and is still losing more than the other sections of the population who participate in the revolution. That is just why one would think that the Communist party would have to lend its attention especially to the fact that the petty bourgeoisie should not be ruined by the inflation, the high taxes, by an insane tax system, by usury, etc. But here the party proceeds mainly along the line of restricting the demands of the workers. In the political report of the C. C. on January 8, it says:

“We must raise the slogan: `Discharge of the bad and greedy officials’, `honesty with the people’s money’, etc., but not `Reduce the burdens of the people’—especially not in the period of the war with Mukden.” ‘When it is a question of immediately necessary social reforms in the sense of lightening the tax burdens which fall chiefly upon the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie, and the shifting of these burdens on to the possessing classes, the party shows a fear which, to call a spade a spade, is a fear not of the small bourgeoisie, but of the big bourgeoisie and the landed aristocracy.

In the days of the Shanghai general strike, when a part of the petty bourgeoisie had already joined the strike, and another part awaited a signal and a call, the Right wing in the party sought to procure the support of the big bourgeoisie under the pretext of the passivity of the petty bourgeoisie. We speak of this in our letter on the Shanghai uprising and in the letter of Tsiu Tsiu Bo.

The Party, the Kuo Min Tang and the Government

The tactic of the party in the peasants’ and workers’ movement, as well as in the army, is really a covert support of the bourgeois wing of the national revolutionary movement. This is an inevitable consequence of the disdainful and arrogant attitude towards the masses and the purely bourgeois conception of the revolution which the Right wing of the party possesses. Not for nothing do we frequently encounter such designations as a “Chiang Kai-Shek Communist”, a “Tan Shen Shi Communist”, etc. and when this tactic is accompanied by the fear of raising big political questions, by the fear of perspectives, the party must fall into a narrow, business practicalism which is not far removed from reformism. Comrades Petrov and Bucharov are the most typical representatives of this Right tendency. It is with them that this petty business spirit is mostly manifested, this striving to reduce a principle question to trifles, to technical difficulties. It is not surprising that with such a conception, the struggle of Chiang Kai-Shek against the Left elements around Wang Chin Wei appeared to many comrades less as a struggle of two tendencies than as a struggle between two cliques (comrade V. furnished the “theoretical” foundation for this). From this also followed the attitude towards the return of Wang Chin Wei as the salvation from all evil, the neglect of the social content of the struggle and of the necessity of mobilizing the mass movement. In the political report of the C. C. of January 8 it says:

“In our opinion the most important task that stands before us is to reestablish good relations between Wang Chin Wei, Chiang Kai-Shek, and the other generals. If we cannot solve this task then the whole national movement will be absolutely destroyed.”

It is now more than half a year that this campaign has been conducted and Wang Chin Wei has not returned and probably never will return; in the meantime our party has bound up all its work within the national revolutionary movement with the return of Wang Chin Wei.

All talk of the Left Kuo Min Tang, of connections with the Left Kuo Min Tang, leads in the end to Wang Chin Wei. In the meantime, the Hankow events of January 3 have shown that the Leftward developments of the Kuo Min Tang and the formation of a Left wing is only possible on the basis of a rise of the mass movement, not only a movement of the petty bourgeoisie but also of the workers and peasants. The C. C., on the contrary, and the E. C. C. I. representative, have sought the Left Kuo Min Tang at the other extreme, occupying themselves with fishing for Left leaders from above. In conformity with this policy, there was a theory that these Left leaders must be given a part of the masses over whom the Communists had acquired the monopoly of influence.

In the resolution on the report of the C. C. at the December Plenum, it says:

“In the mass movement, we must cling to every possibility to collaborate with the Left and help them to win the masses (the peasants and the urban petty bourgeoisie).”

It will appear then that it is not the masses who must push the leaders of the Kuo Min Tang to the Left, but that the latter must win the masses.

In the question of the government, the position of the party was ambiguous. Locally, the Communists told the workers and peasants that the government is a people’s government, something very close to a workers’ and peasants’ government; the C. C., on the contrary, is of the opinion that the government is not yet a people’s government that the people are not yet free. Proceeding from this, it is against the entry of Communists into the governmental organs even on a local scale. When some Communists were made magistrates (that is, district chiefs) in Tsiang Si, the C. C. wrote a letter on December 2 to the party committee in Tsiang Si:

“The comrades are of the opinion that the government is already a people’s government, that the people are already free. Further, they forget that our party is not yet the party in power, that we must not in any way enter a government in order to take up any kind of posts. Can we, if we receive the posts of two or three district chiefs, carry through the tactic of our party? Everyone knows that this is absolutely impossible. This would only mean that we would lose the positions from which we can now speak to the masses, that we would lose the confidence the masses have in us. The party committee must immediately correct this serious and erroneous deviation.

All these comrades must immediately be ordered to resign or leave the party.”

This standpoint, was also supported by Comrade V. who, in October 1926, on the proposal that the posts of certain district chiefs in Hupeh and Honan be given to Communists, declared that this would be tantamount to covering up the Right wing policy of Tan Shen Shi, and that the Communists would take over the responsibility before the masses for this policy.

The C. C., as well as comrade V., were still more opposed to Communists entering the Canton central government, not because Communist principles would thereby be soiled, as the letter of the C. C. asserted, but because they were afraid of colliding with the Right government, for entry into a government organ would have obligated them to a struggle against the Right bourgeois tendency. It is characteristic that there was no essential difference here between the positions of Borodin and comrade V., even though Borodin was for entering the government. In actuality, the latter regarded this entry as a cover for the Right policy, as a capitulation to the Right.

The Independence of the Party

Since the Right wing leadership feared the government as well as the masses and showed extraordinary caution wherever it was a question of extending and deepening the mass movement, it also came to the point of minimizing the role and the significance of our party. The party concealed itself, went deep into the underground, without daring to show its face to the masses. Yet there was no one at all from whom the party had to hide, so far as the Right and the reactionaries were concerned, for Chiang Kai-Shek as well as Feng Yu-hsiang, Tan Shen Shi and even Wu Pei Fu were in correspondence with the C. C. of the Communist Party of China through the intermediary of the Old Man. A party of 30,000 members is fed by a little weekly sheet which, moreover, fails to appear for weeks at a time. The party is afraid to legalize itself and gives as its motive that this would surely frighten the petty bourgeoisie. In Honan, the party organization decided not to extend its work and to close its books to new members in order not to scare the petty bourgeoisie. The party leadership says:

“So far as the political problems on the field of the national government are concerned, we must elucidate the practical political events, but we must not conduct propaganda or raise our propaganda and agitation to the level of the Kuo Min Tang propaganda”.

The Honan Committee says in a letter on December 30:

“Our anti-imperialist propaganda is still too far advanced, it is more advanced than that of the Kuo Min Tang, which is a big mistake. We have a Left deviation. Everywhere we hear: `Long live the Communist International!”Long live the Communist party!’ ...”

That is the tactic of the party, more correctly, of its Right leaders. The revolutionary movement is rising to a higher plane, the class antagonisms grow sharper. The bourgeoisie and the possessing classes in the village are conducting, together with a part of the militarists, an active struggle against the democratic tendencies. This struggle proceeds along four basic lines: 1. Restriction of anti-imperialist propaganda; 2. Restriction of the peasants’ movement through armed repressions; 3. Restriction of the workers’ movement by direct military and administrative pressure as well as by compulsory arbitration; 4. Creation of a bureaucratic government supporting itself on the army. And the Communist Party of China is yielding its positions along all these four lines. The struggle for the democratizing of the government was not conducted by the party up to the recent events in Shanghai. Even now, the party leadership has not sufficiently understood the necessity of this struggle.

It would, however, be false to draw the conclusion from this letter that our whole party is infested with opportunism. The party masses and many of the lower organizations are, on the contrary, more than healthy. But the replacement of the leading circles, or more correctly, the Right wing, is an urgent necessity. Without this replacement and the adjustment of its tactical line, the recovery of the party is unthinkable.

The responsibility for all this lies equally with the Right wing of the leadership and the representative of the E C. C. I. In tactical questions in the past he cannot be separated from the C. C.; on the contrary, every time that the party hesitated and began to seek new paths, he forced it back into the old swamp of petty combinations, tricks, of political jugglery, which have nothing in common with revolutionary tactics. Completely lacking in principle, he adapted himself to the party and frequently excelled the other leaders in his zeal. Thus, infected with a capitulationist mood, he proposed after March 20, 1926 (together with Borodin) that the Communists withdraw from the Kuo Min Tang. While he declared to us that Petrov and Bucharov were opportunists, and that Ho Sun-Lin, the chairman of the Shanghai Trade Union Council, was an adventurer, he not only made no effort to help the other Chinese comrades to remove them from leadership, but on the contrary he supported them. Despite the fact that he saw many shortcomings in the party, which were to be explained simply by ailments of growth (for example, its narrow “circle” character, its organizational formlessness thanks to which decisions adopted by the party remain on paper), he not only made no attempt to correct them, but sanctified them by reference to “specific Chinese conditions”. He sent Moscow bastardized information, held back material, and concealed the real situation in the party from the E. C. C. I. Without principles, as well as without political courage, he viewed everything as a functionary and did not stop at pushing the C. C. into absurd decisions. For example, when the telegram arrived from Moscow saying that the Northwestern army must return to Mongolia, that is, must traverse some 660 miles, the Central Committee and its military collaborators were of the opinion that this was absolutely impossible to realize. But comrade V. brought this decision (from Moscow) before the C. C., without deciding to show Moscow the absurdity of such an operation. But a week later, Moscow itself reported that this decision had been adopted without a knowledge of the real situation and that it had been revised after the receipt of supplementary information.

In December, comrade V. came out against participation in the government. After receiving the resolution, he declared that it was possible to enter the government, only not right away, and when the resolution was being considered together with the C. C., he announced that we had indeed always been supporters of participation in the government, which made the Old Man indignant.

Such a representative of the E. C. C. I. can only ruin the work. Were he not here to cover up the Right wing elements with the authority of the E. C. C. I., the party would perhaps be able to fight the Right wing successfully with its own forces. Now even this will be difficult. It is not only necessary to recall comrade V., but to send here a much stronger worker who is capable at the same time of representing the E. C. C. I. and of directing Borodin.

In the Central Committee itself, which now really consists of three people, Petrov constitutes the Right wing, Tsiu Tsiu Bo the Left and the Old Man the Center. We believe that by isolating Petrov and comrade V., and by letting some fresh air into the C. C. by the introduction of a certain number of workers, the Old Man who, in spite of all his defects, is a much stronger man than comrade V. and enjoys an enormous authority, could continue to be one of the party leaders. But outside of all this, it is necessary that the E. C. C. I. should once more confirm and concretize the tactical line presented in the Plenum resolution. It is necessary that our leading comrades accord China more attention than they have up to now.

Shanghai, March 17, 1927

N. Nassonov
N. Fokine
A. Albrecht

1. It is to this alleged statement by Chiang Kai-Shek that Trotsky refers in his reply to Stalin’s theses. See page 59 —Tr.

2. The reference is evidently to Voitinsky, one of the apparatus “experts” on the Far East who represented the Communist International at that time in China.—Tr.

3. The date of Chiang Kai-Shek’s first reactionary overturn in Canton which was carefully hushed up in the international Communist press.—Tr.

4. The initial apparently stands for Fokine, one of the signatories to this document.—Tr.

5. A Chinese mercenary general whose defeat in the Shanghai territory finally made possible the occupation of the city by Chiang Kai-Shek’s troops.—Tr.

6. Despite the Slavic name, in all probability a Chinese Communist, a number of whom adopted similar pseudonyms. —Tr.

7. Tchen Du-Siu, secretary, founder and acknowledged leader of the Chinese Communist Party during the whole revolutionary period. A respected figure in the Chinese revolutionary movement, he faithfully executed the policies of Stalin and Bucharin during 1925-1927. In 1929, he published a letter to the Chinese Communists announcing his support of the Left Opposition led by Trotsky and explaining his own part in the defeat of the Chinese revolution as well as the part played by Stalin and Bucharin under whose direction he had worked.—Tr.

8. Despite the Slavic name, in all probability a Chinese Communist, a number of whom adopted similar pseudonyms. —Tr.

9. A representative of the Russian Communist Party in China. His agreement with the views expressed in this document among others by Nassonov, who represented the Russian Young Communist League in China, caused them both to be recalled to Moscow by Stalin.—Tr.

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Last updated on: 3 October 2009