Leon Trotsky

Problems of the Chinese Revolution

Appendix from Leon Trotsky Problems of the Chinese Revolution

Speech of Vuyo Vuyovitch

Delivered at the eighth plenum of the E. C. C. I.

COMRADE BUCHARIN began his speech with a historical presentation. Permit me to carry his historical exposition further from where he broke off, for the history of the great revolutionary movement in China does not end on the eve of the march to the North, on the contrary, it is precisely here that its most important phase begins.

Before all, however, a few words on our policy in China up to the Sixth enlarged Plenum of the Communist International, that is, up to the spring of 1926. Yesterday, comrade Petrov, basing himself on numerous quotations, demonstrated here that the principal decisions and the policy of the Chinese party as well as the decisions drawn up by the E. C. C. I. before and after the Sixth Plenum were correct.

I am very thankful to comrade Petrov for proving, on the basis of quotations, not only that comrade Zinoviev participated actively in the establishment of the political line in China up to the spring of 1926, but also that all the decisions of principle of the Chinese party and the Communist International at that time were correct.[1]

That is the best answer to the contentions of comrade Bucharin.

It is highly gratifying that comrade Petrov wants to share the responsibility for the policy in China before the Sixth Plenum of the C. I. but he exaggerates when he asks that comrade Zinoviev assume the responsibility for the policy that was carried out in China since the Sixth enlarged Plenum of the E. C. C. I., that is, since the march to the North; for it is a notorious fact that all the decisions on the political independence of the Communist Party of China, on the necessity of preserving its own physiognomy, were practically trampled under foot only in order to maintain the bloc with Chiang Kai-Shek at any price.

Comrade Petrov even went so far as to adduce here quotations from the decisions of the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in July 1926, in order to show that the Communist Party of China always had the intention of preserving its independence and an independent policy. Petrov, or perhaps comrade Martinov, submitted the decisions of this Plenum to a severe criticism in Number 11 of Die Kommunistische Internationale . The official organ of the E. C. C. I. condemned these decisions and proposed to the next congress of the Communist Party of China to revise them. Now, after the coup d’État of Chiang Kai-Shek, comrade Petrov comes along and bases himself upon the decisions whose revision he had asked for, and he wants to prove thereby that the Communist Party of China had a correct policy. Surely, there is no greater hypocrisy than this.

We said in our theses, and we repeat it here: the Chinese Communist Party repeatedly endeavored to correct its line and to leave the bloc-at-any-price with Chiang Kai-Shek, and we proposed in our theses to send a telegram instantly to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, saying that the decisions of the July Plenum were correct in essence and that their realization must be begun immediately. Unfortunately, all the attempts of the Chinese party to correct its political line and its false tactics, encountered the formal opposition of comrade Borodin and the representative of the E. C. C. I. in China.

If you want to know what the practical execution of these decisions looked like, the decisions which comrade Petrov condemned two months ago but praised here yesterday, then have the letter of the three comrades from Shanghai laid before you and you will get a vivid picture of what went on in China and continues to go on. You will then grasp much more easily how the coup d’État of Chiang Kai-Shek was possible.

But let us return to history. It was said here that the Opposition remained silent up to the coup d’État of Chiang Kai-Shek and that it is now endeavoring to utilize this coup d’État for its “factional” purposes. How do matters really stand?

After the Sixth Plenum of the E. C. C. I., comrade Radek sent his first communication to the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in July 1926 and asked for an answer to a series of questions that were arising in China, so that he could bring his activity as rector of the Sun Yat Sen University in harmony with the political line of the party. This letter remained without an answer. In view of the great events that were taking place in China, comrade Radek, at the beginning of the school year, sent a second letter to the Political Bureau with the request for enlightenment, the essential points of which were as follows:

”These are questions that require an answer:

”1. The establishment of a military dictatorship of Chiang Kai-Shek after March 20, 1926 and our attitude toward this dictatorship. The difficulty of this question lies in the fact that Chiang Kai-Shek is the leader of the Kuo Min Tang and that Borodin supports him formally. Our intervention against Chiang Kai-Shek has a very great political significance here.

”2. The balance of the work of the Kuo Min Tang among the peasants.

”3. The demand of the Kuo Min Tang that the Communists renounce their criticism of Sun Yat Senism.

”4. Should the Kuo Min Tang work among the proletariat?

”5. How should we support the Left elements of the Kuo Min Tang?

”6. The question of the semi-Menshevik tone of the last manifesto of the Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Party of China, in which it says: we must carry on a minimum of class struggle and when the policy of the Communist party is designated as Bolshevik, it is not a matter of Bolshevism but of Bolshevism in the interests of the whole nation.

”I consider it my duty to raise these questions and beg you to call upon me to make a report.”

After comrade Radek had sent the second letter in July 1926, he took up all these important questions again in September 1926. Absolute silence was the only answer of the Political Bureau.

In January 1927, comrade Radek again took up the most important questions of the Chinese revolution in a series of lectures which he gave in the Sverdlov University in accordance with instructions. But the course of events was so rapid and the dangerous mistakes had accumulated to such an extent, that af ter the Hankow crisis, comrade Radek considered it his duty to raise these questions openly. Only then did he finally speak in the Communist Academy, where he posed the questions in the following manner:

”The conclusive fate of the Chinese revolution will be decided in Hankow and not in Shanghai. Not the immediate military successes are decisive for the progress of the revolution but the issue of the class struggle inside the national revolutionary movement. Chiang Kai-Shek’s generals are shooting the workers and peasants almost everywhere and are mobilizing for the decisive struggle. The Left Kuo Min Tang and the Communist party have to muster the courage and the necessary forces to drive away the Right wing and to take over the leadership of the movement. To this end, the workers and peasants must be armed immediately, workers’ and peasants’ detachments must be formed in the army, the agrarian revolution must be consummated, the social questions must be solved by fulfilling the demands of the workers and above all the organizational independence of the Communist party must be established, for this independence does not exist in reality and we must fight for the achievement of real homogeneity in the national-revolutionary movement.”

What was the answer of the historian Bucharin and of the other comrades of the majority who “foresaw everything and whose prognoses were confirmed by the facts”?

Instead of examining seriously the questions raised by comrade Radek, they raised a cry about panic, and since just at that time there followed the settlement of the conflict with Chiang Kai-Shek, his “submission” and his declaration of loyalty towards the Central Committee of the Kuo Min Tang, a great shout of victory was raised. But they forgot that in the revolution, as in every other thing, the bourgeoisie never submits to resolutions, but only to armed power.

A few days later Shanghai was taken, and a new shout of victory was raised.

In the meantime, the development of events showed that Chiang Kai-Shek’s march on Shanghai was not a march against the imperialists but a march towards the imperialists in order to establish contact with the imperialist armies stationed in Shanghai, in order to provide himself with a rear guard, and in this way to prepare the execution of the coup d’Etat that had ended in failure a month previously.

Why did they raise a cry about panic, instead of adopting immediately the necessary measures for the dispatch of the enemy in our own ranks? Because of the false evaluation of the events in China, because of the underestimation of the bourgeoisie and the role it plays in the Chinese revolution. What were the most characteristic answers?

1. The bourgeoisie would already like to fight against the workers and peasants, but it cannot do it, because it is above all anti-imperialistic and it needs the workers and peasants for its struggle against the imperialists (Martinov).

2. The big bourgeoisie wants to eliminate feudalism in China in order to create the economic foundation for the development of industry. Therefore, it marches against the feudal militarists of the North and against the imperialists who support the remnants of feudalism (Bucharin).

3. The bourgeoisie is a minority in the revolutionary parliament which is constituted by the Kuo Min Tang. It subordinates itself to the majority composed of the Left wing and the Communists. It can do us no harm, we have all the means to utilize it in our own interests and then to cast it aside (Stalin).

In my opinion, there is no essential difference between these three viewpoints which, unfortunately, I have not the time to analyze.

But once I have assumed the role of historian, I would like to bring a really historic speech to your attention, which might otherwise remain unknown to history. That is the speech of comrade Stalin to the party workers of Moscow on April 6, 1927, that is, almost at the very moment when workers’ blood flowed in streams in the streets of Shanghai. I take the risk of being accused of lack of loyalty, or of making personal attacks, for comrade Stalin did not touch upon the question yesterday, since he probably counts it among the personal questions. Nevertheless, I made exact notes and hope to render the content of this speech faithfully enough to preserve my calling as a former translator at congresses of the Comintern. Comrade Stalin will always have the opportunity of rectifying unintentional inaccuracies by laying his stenogram before us. What did comrade Stalin say? (I touch only upon the most important questions).

The Chinese revolution differs from the Russian revolution of 1905 by the fact that it is primarily anti-imperialistic. The essential error of comrade Radek consists of not comprehending that the tempo of development of the revolution in China cannot be so rapid as he would wish. He is impatient; he would like the events to develop rapidly, he does not comprehend that the Russian revolution of 1917 had many difficulties to overcome although the imperialists were divided into two camps at that time which strove against each other; the Chinese revolution will have still greater difficulties, for the imperialists are making a united front in China. That is why the tempo of development will be slower. Radek appears here with very revolutionary slogans: Break with the Right Kuo Min Tang, drive away the Right—a few more of such r-r-revolutionary slogans and the Chinese revolution is lost. Out of the false estimation of the international situation, of the Chinese revolution and its tempo of development, result all the other mistakes of Radek. The Kuo Min Tang is a bloc, a sort of revolutionary parliament with the Right, the Left and the Communists. Why make a coup d’État ? Why drive away the Right, when we have the majority and when the Right listens to us?

The peasant needs an old worn-out jade as long as she is necessary. He does not drive her away. So it is with us. When the Right is of no more use to us, we will drive it away. At present, we need the Right. It has capable people, who still direct the army and lead it against the imperialists. Chiang Kai-Shek has perhaps no sympathy for the revolution, but he is leading the army and cannot do otherwise than lead it against the imperialists.

Besides this, the people of the Right have relations with the generals of Tchang Tso-lin and understand very well how to demoralize them and to induce them to pass over to the side of the revolution, bag and baggage, without striking a blow. Also, they have connections with the rich merchants and can raise money from them. So they have to be utilized to the end, squeezed out like a lemon and then flung away.

This, mind you, was said three days before the coup d’État .

The Chinese revolution is being led by a broad revolutionary party, whose Central Committee forms a sort of revolutionary parliament. The hegemony belongs to the Communists. If the Communists• provoke the Kuo Min Tang, they will be beaten and the hegemony will be transferred to the Right, etc.

In what manner did comrade Stalin view the massacres of workers and peasants by the generals of the national armies, these “individual questions” with which comrade Bucharin cannot occupy himself from Moscow? Comrade Stalin said: There have been such and there will be more of them. It would be ridiculous to think that a revolution which has lasted two years already, could proceed without that. Do we conceal this? No, that is not true. We do not conceal this, but we do not want to exaggerate it in our press, and Stalin concluded with the assurance that there are ways, other ways than those proposed by Radek, to achieve our aim, not so swift it is true, but more certain.

This speech was delivered a few days before the coup d’État . It was never made public. We protest against the confiscation of the articles of the Opposition, against the silence imposed upon us, but we are democratic enough to protest also against the silence that comrade Stalin has imposed upon himself, against this self-confiscation, which in all likelihood is to replace self-criticism. And after all this, our new historian, comrade Bucharin, appears here and becomes indignant that comrade Zinoviev in 1925 did not foresee the course of events in 1927 and allowed Hu Han Min to speak before the enlarged Executive in 1926. But comrade Bucharin forgets to read the very next paragraph of comrade Zinoviev’s pamphlet, in which Zinoviev, already in 1925, launched the slogan of the arming of the workers and peasants, a slogan that could not be carried out by you, because you wanted to maintain the bloc with Chiang Kai-Shek at any price. If you had armed the workers and peasants of China at the right time, the course of the revolution would have been quite different and the coup d’État of Chiang Kai-Shek would have been made impossible.

To be sure, the secret directions of the Political Bureau of March 3 were quoted here. If these directions actually signified a change of the political line in China, why did it not have any effect at all upon the attitude of our press and upon the content of the speeches which comrade Stalin and comrade Bucharin made a month later to the Moscow party workers? If it was really understood that the line was false, that it must be changed, that another attitude must be adopted towards the big bourgeoisie and Chiang Kai-Shek, why was confusion sown in the ranks of all our parties, why was there such a fear to admit the mistakes committed? The directions of March 3 only make the political responsibility of the majority and the responsible organs of the Comintern greater, for this body concerned itself with the Chinese questions, at any rate not the Praesidium.

Instead of that, comrade Stalin, on April 6, 1927, accused comrade Radek of understanding nothing about the Chinese revolution, which was above all anti-imperialistic. The principal task consisted of triumphing over the militarists of the North; to break with the Right prematurely would signify the destruction of the revolution. We need not hurry, we need not insist, for the big bourgeoisie is obedient, and we are utilizing them. A remark in passing: it was not we who utilized the big bourgeoisie, but they who utilized us, by hastening to occupy more than half the territory that the Kuo Min Tang held at that time and to slaughter thousands of proletarians so as to carry through the coup d’État of Chiang Kai-Shek….

Up to now, all the mistakes committed in China have been justified by saying that this was “a special tactic”, corresponding to the “special conditions” and due to the role of imperialism in China. Today, imperialism has completely disappeared from the presentation of comrade Stalin. Not a word on imperialism in China. The agrarian revolution has stepped into the place of imperialism. In its name, the attempt is now made to justify an equally false policy, in the same way that the false policy before the coup d’État of Chiang Kai-Shek was justified by the role of imperialism in China.

But where was the agrarian question before the coup d’État of Chiang Kai-Shek? Was not the agrarian revolution an essential point of the whole national revolution? Because before the coup d’État you had postponed the solution of the agrarian question, the completion of the agrarian revolution on the land and, in like manner, the arming of the workers and peasants, only in order to maintain the bloc with the bourgeoisie, which, according to Bucharin, was thoroughly anti-feudal and anti-imperialistic. Formerly, you wanted to use the bourgeoisie in order to beat the militarists of the North and to exterminate the feudal remnants. We have seen the successes. It was demonstrated that the Chinese big bourgeoisie can fight against the remnants of feudalism just as well as the big bourgeoisie of other countries who have achieved the same level of capitalist development.

Now, comrades, you say that the agrarian revolution in China stands on the order of the day, and you contend that the Hankow government has been appointed to complete the agrarian revolution and to direct it. Formerly you said: Chiang Kai-Shek must not be driven away, he will not betray us. We, on the contrary, told you that the militarists of the North and the imperialists can be beaten only by removing the big bourgeoisie and Chiang Kai-Shek from the leadership of the Kuo Min Tang army. This time, you are repeating the same mistake with the Hankow government, by contending that the petty bourgeoisie has been appointed and is in a position to carry through the agrarian revolution in China. You say: No Soviets before the agrarian revolution! Only after the Left Kuo Min Tang will have completed the agrarian revolution, only when we will have utilized them in this sense, will we be able to build Soviets in China. We answer you and appeal to the Chinese workers and peasants: You will never have the agrarian revolution under the leadership of the petty bourgeoisie. You are continuing the same false and criminal policy that prepares a repetition of the coup d’État of Chiang Kai-Shek and this time a coup d’État of the vacillating Left leaders of the Kuo Min Tang and the generals of the national army of Hankow.

The government of Hankow will be able to accomplish the agrarian revolution only when the hegemony of the proletariat is guaranteed on this territory. And the only means of achieving the hegemony of the proletariat in the Hankow government and in the Left Kuo Min Tang, does not lie in making concessions to the petty bourgeoisie, for it swings continuously to and fro between the proletariat and the big bourgeoisie and will finally go over to the stronger side; the only means lies in the organization of the forces of the proletariat and the peasantry and in investing it with an organizational form—the Soviets—that will not only make it possible for us to mobilize the broad masses, but also to conquer the leadership of these masses for the Communist party, in the Soviets as well as in the Kuo Min Tang.

Comrades, what you are doing in this case is only a continuation of the policy of concessions, but this time to the petty bourgeoisie. Comrade Bucharin could not cite a single concrete fact to show what the Hankow government has done, since the last session of the Central Committee of the party, or at least since the coup d’État of Chiang Kai-Shek, really to arm the workers and peasants and to help the peasants take possession of the land.

(Heinz Neumann: The Hankow government has defeated the militarists of North China!)

Comrade Neumann, Chiang Kai-Shek also defeated the militarists of the North. We greet these victories with all our heart. But we repeat to you once more: The most essential thing is not the overthrow of the militarists of the North in general, but their defeat by the national armies, by the national movement, whose direction lies in the hands of the only class that is really in a position to accomplish the agrarian revolution, namely, in the hands of the proletariat.

We do not know what surprises the present generals of the Hankow government, Tan Shen Shi and Feng Yu-hsiang, are preparing for us tomorrow. You do not know, either. The former is a real feudal lord, and the latter entered the Kuo Min Tang only recently. The last number of the MANCHESTER GUARDIAN carries the report that Feng Yu-hsiang is sending telegrams to Chiang Kai-Shek in Shanghai to keep him informed on his military victories.

The only possible organization at present is the Soviet which mobilizes the masses of the workers and peasants and guarantees the hegemony of the Communist party in the Kuo Min Tang and on the territory of the national revolutionary movement.

(Semard: That is full of contradictions!)

There is no contradiction here. If the Hankow government is revolutionary, as you contend, if it is in a position to accomplish the agrarian revolution, then why should this Hankow government be against the Soviets and against the revolutionary organization of the workers and peasants? It is against them, because it will only help to accomplish the agrarian revolution when we are strong enough to consolidate the armed workers and peasants in the Soviets under the leadership of the Communist party. Only in this case will the petty bourgeoisie be able to accomplish the agrarian revolution. In the contrary case, however, it will finish by running over to the side of the big bourgeoisie.

I conclude my speech with the remark that the Chinese comrade was right when he said today that the Chinese revolution will triumph only under the banner of Lenin. That is true, comrades; it is not under the banner of the Kuo Min Tang, so dear to our comrade Bucharin, that the revolution in China, even the agrarian revolution, will triumph, but only under the red banner of the Soviets and under the banner of Leninism.

Moscow, May 1927 V. Vuyovitch


1. Vuyovitch, former secretary of the Young Communist International, was a supporter of the Zinovievist section of the united Opposition Bloc and as such sought to present Zinoviev’s whole preceding course as correct. However, this view was not in harmony with the facts. Zinoviev’s position on the problems of the Chinese revolution was not only in-correct—and Quite in harmony with Stalin’s and Bucharin’s—prior to 1927, but was extremely weak during the period of the Bloc. As can be seen from his theses, he actually defended a semi-Centrist position even at the time he was delivering a telling criticism of the official line. In their speeches and articles of that period, the apparatus supporters made much of the contrast they revealed between Zinoviev’s position and that of Trotsky.—Tr.

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Last updated on: 3 October 2009