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The birth of the Chinese Left Opposition

From Revolutionary History, Vol.2 No.4, Spring 1990. Used by permission.

This article and the one following appeared in a special issue of the Cahiers Leon Trotsky (no.15, September 1983) devoted to the history of Chinese Trotskyism during the ’hirties, which contains a substantial documentation and much necessary background material. There is also a limited amount of writing already available in English that must be consulted to round off the picture presented in this essay, among which the following cannot be safely neglected: Harold Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, London 1938, pp.400n; Wang Fang-Hsi, Chinese Revolutionary, Oxford 1980 (of which a more complete translation is promised to appear shortly); A Chinese Marxist in the ’20s, in Workers Liberty, nos.12-13, August 1989, p57; and Trotskyism versus Stalinism in the Chinese Revolution, pp.58-65; ed. Peng Shu-tse, Leon Trotsky on China, New York 1976; Ch’en Pi-Lan, Looking Back over my Years with Peng Shu-tse, in Peng Shu-tse, The Chinese Communist Party in Power, New York 1980, pp.13-47; and the appendices in L.D. Trotsky, Problems of the Chinese Revolution, London 1969, pp255-339.

Damien Durand is well known for his research into the formation of the International Left Opposition, for which he received his doctorate in 1984 and which has just appeared in book form as Opposants a Staline published by La Pensee Sauvage at the price of 150 francs. We are greatly indebted to him, along with our translator, John Archer, for the appearance of this piece in our magazine.

When in 1929 Trotsky was laying the foundations of the Left Opposition and proceeding to mark out the differences between the three principal tendencies in the international Communist movement, namely, the opportunist Right, the Marxist Left and the centre, he proposed three criteria: the Russian question, the question of the Anglo-Russian Joint Trade Union Committee, and the Chinese question.

The policy of the Communist International in China was in fact the essential stake in the battle between the Left Opposition and Stalin from 1925 onwards. The axis of the policy of Stalin and Bukharin was the subjection of the Chinese Communists to the Guomindang, the nationalist party which General Chiang Kai-shek succeeded in dominating after the death of its historic leader, Sun Yat-sen. [1] Its inevitable result was subjection to the political aims of the nationalist bourgeoisie. The desertion of the man whom Moscow was still calling its reliable ally a few days before he first moved to disarm and to massacre workers and peasants, dealt a heavy blow to the Communist Party and to the revolution. From the military point of view, the Communist Party and the workers’ militias were most often disarmed by the Guomindang – when they did not bury the arms themselves on the orders of the Communist International, ‘to avoid certain defeat’, as Bukharin said. From the political point of view, the Communist International and Moscow, searching for some new ally, found successively Wang Jingwei and his Wuhan Government, in which the Communists participated, and then Feng Yuxiang, the ‘Christian General’, after the fall of the Wuhan Government and the return of Wang Jingwei and the left wing of the Guomindang into the bosom of Chiang Kai-shek and his government at Nanking.

Then Stalin changed course. After having buried the arms, he went over to an insurrectionary line. This ended in the disaster of the Canton Commune: 5700 dead in a few days. The wave of subsequent uprisings, which has been called ‘the Autumn Harvest’, was held to confirm the ‘new revolutionary wave’ which the Communist International thought was unfolding in China, and of which the Canton Commune had been only a preliminary sign. This was in fact an adventuristic policy, the consequences of which were the defeat of the Chinese Revolution, the massacres of the peasants in the countryside, and the destruction of the workers’ movement in the cities. The fact is that Stalin, who was at the height of his struggle in the USSR against the Trotskyist Opposition, did not want to accept the slightest responsibility for this defeat, the very existence of which he denied as long as he could. When the hour of truth came, it was the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and especially Chen Duxiu, its general secretary, who were declared to be responsible and were accused of having misinterpreted the orders of the Communist International ...

In reality, the leadership had done no more than apply the policy of Stalin and of his successive emissaries, Borodin, Roy and Lominadze. Chen Duxiu was relieved of his functions in the course of a special conference of the Chinese Communist Party at Wuhan on 7 August 1927, in his absence. He was the scapegoat; he was not allowed to defend himself before his peers, all of whom were as ‘blameworthy’ as he, but who consented to throw the blame on him in exchange for the benevolence of Moscow. Chen Duxiu temporarily disappeared from the political scene. The Chinese Communist Party, which was already decimated by repression, was reorganised.

he Russian Opposition and Trotsky battled against the policy of the Communist International and Stalin. They battled against the zigzags, denounced the policy of class collaboration which handed over the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese workers to the hangman Chiang Kai-shek, put forward the slogan of ‘soviets’ when Stalin was busy applying the brake to the peasant movement, and condemned the adventurist, putschist line which followed. At each stage the Russian Opposition denounced the mistakes and dangers in Stalin’s policy. The documents of the Opposition tried to warn the party of the dangers to which this policy was exposing the Chinese Revolution, as well as its inevitable repercussions on the USSR and the world revolution.

Though events confirmed the analyses and forecasts of the Opposition, and though the official line often seemed to the Chinese Communists to be inapplicable, there did not yet exist a Left Opposition in China. The Russian Opposition did not have the necessary connection with China. Consequently, the first real opportunity for the Russian Opposition to go forward towards forming a Chinese Left Opposition was the large-scale visit to Moscow of Chinese Communist students in 1927.


The Chinese Trotskyist Opposition in Moscow

The first Chinese students in Moscow. Three of the schools and universities in Moscow were specially charged with receiving the Chinese students. These were the University of the Peoples of the East, the Sun Yat-sen University, and the Lenin School. Moreover, courses restricted to a few dozen students from China were given in various military schools in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev.

All the Chinese students who were members of the Chinese Communist Party or of the Chinese Socialist Youth, who earlier had been in France or in Germany, were in Moscow thereafter, at the University of the Peoples of the East. The decision on this point had been taken by Chen Duxiu during the Fourth Congress of the Communist International. The University of the Peoples of the East specialised in training revolutionary cadres for the countries of the East, and already included students from more than 70 nationalities and national minorities.

There was a first group of Chinese students in Moscow before 1922, among whom were Liu Shaoqi and Peng Shuzi. The second group, after 1922, included in particular Wang Jofei and the two sons of Chen Duxiu. Between 1923 and 1925 the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky found no echo among these students, even though their general sentiment was unfavourable to Stalin. Trotsky had no direct influence on them.

The first grouping of Chinese Oppositionists. From 1925 onwards, two universities shared the Chinese students in Moscow: the University of the Peoples of the East and the Sun Yat-sen University. The director of the former was Boris Choumiatsky, an enthusiastic supporter of Stalin, while the other was directed by Karl Radek and Adolf Joffe [2], two top-level Trotskyists.

After the rupture between Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communist Party, during the period of collaboration with Wang Jingwei and the Wuhan government, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party sent to Moscow some 600 to 800 students, most of whom entered the Sun Yat-sen University. Among them was Wang Wenyuan, who, under the pseudonym of Wang Fanxi, has written his memoirs  [3] and tells how he was sent to Moscow.

In August 1927 the Chinese Communist Party decided to send people to study the military art in Moscow. Those who were selected were full of enthusiasm. Wang writes:

Mao’s idea that ‘power comes out Of the muzzle of a rifle’ well expressed the mood of the Chinese Communists in Wuhan during this period...But we thought that things would be different now that we were going to learn how to use arms, to form our own army and no longer have to look for suitable allies among the existing generals. I think that this was an opinion common to all those of us who were on the point of leaving for Moscow ... [4]

These students arrived in Moscow one month before the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. Wang continues his account and discusses the difference between the universities. The Sun Yat-sen University had become a problem for the Stalinists; the rector was a leading figure of the Trotskyist Opposition, and numerous Chinese students had joined the Opposition and demonstrated in Moscow, in accordance with the decision of the Russian Opposition, at the time of the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. Some withdrew and were transfered to other schools – this is what happened to the son of Chiang Kai-shek. Others were sent back to China. Consequently, though Radek was replaced by the Stalinist, Pavel Mif, and though the participation of the first Chinese Oppositionists led to a certain number of exclusions and deportations, the Opposition deserves the credit, after these serious losses, for the fact that the group of students who were sent back to China organised a faction named Our Word, and took back to China the first of the documents of the Russian Opposition.

This was the first Opposition group. It was born in Moscow, but was to begin to express itself and to develop in China.

The students who arrived in Moscow from Wuhan in September 1927 had just left China in a state of complete defeat; the Chinese Communists were isolated and crushed, the man who had been General Secretary of the Communist Party since its formation was removed and charged with opportunism, and an ally of the Communists had once more betrayed them. They thirsted to understand what was happening to them.

Wang, who was one of them, writes:

We knew very little about the internal struggles that were going on in the CPSU. In Wuhan we had been told that Lenin had been succeeded by Stalin, who was now the leader of the Communist movement both in Russia and the world, whereas Trotsky was consumed by personal ambition, was a romantic, and was a militarist man of the Chiang Kai-shek type. [5]

Despite their ignorance of the history of the Russian Revolution and of the Communist movement, these students were interested in the struggles of the internal factions in the USSR, because they understood that these were not without effect on the course of events in China. They followed meetings and discussions with the greatest attention, and devoured all the documents that they could get. Their doubts about the policy which had been followed in China continued to grow, but the positions of the Opposition differed greatly from the positions which they had known in China with the Chinese Communist Party. Thus, Wang writes:

None of us either dared or wanted to express support for the Opposition, which had, after all, been denounced as counter-revolutionary ... We were very careful about what we said in the course of these discussions ...We behaved in this way only because words like ‘party’, ‘Central Committee’ and ‘majority’ had such a sacred and authoritative ring about them that none of us either dared or were equipped to challenge them. To that extent, therefore, I was a ‘Stalinist’ at the time of the celebrations to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. [6]

On the evening of the day of the ceremonies which had greatly impressed them, Wang and his comrades learned that the Opposition had held a counter-demonstration in which some Chinese students took part. The same evening, they were present at the showing of a film on the October Revolution. Wang tells:

It gave me a broad idea of the roles played by Trotsky and Stalin in the revolution. Despite the deliberate attempt to exaggerate Stalin’s role and play down Trotsky’s, the contrast between the two men – the one colourless and uninspiring, the other brilliant and outstanding must have been clear to anyone not utterly blinkered by factional prejudice. My own admiration for Trotsky dated from the showing of that film. [7]

The gulf between the Stalinist careerists in the apparatus and these Chinese students, avid to understand why their revolution had just been defeated, continued to deepen. This progressive involvement of the Chinese Communists in the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky was to lead a good number of them to the Opposition. In order to understand this, it is enough for us to follow the evolution of Wang Wenyuan.

Between October and December 1927 Wang devoted the major part of his time to studying and seeking out political documents, and developed rapidly towards the Opposition. The problem which faced him was that there were only small quantities of material to be had; it was incomplete, garbled and one-sided. He says:

The three main issues in dispute were the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Committee, Socialist construction in the Soviet Union, and the strategy and tactics employed in the Chinese Revolution. Because I was not clear about the reasoning behind the two positions, I was not prepared to make a judgement ... Naturally the Party Committee disapproved of our sceptical neutrality. [8]

This ‘sceptical neutrality’ enabled him, above all, to ask himself questions about the political problems of the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27:

Should we have entered the Guomindang? Should we have built and extended the organisation of the Guomindang? Had Chiang Kai-shek been a reliable ally of the proletariat in the Chinese Revolution? Were the Canton-Hong Kong strike committees a kind of soviet?...Had we been right to support another Guomindang leader, Wang Ching-wei, in order to create ‘a new revolutionary centre’ after Chiang Kai-shek’s betrayal? Had the tactic of ‘a bloc of four classes’ stood the test of events in China? [9]

From that point, Wang was in a position to propose elements of answers to these questions. His careful reading of the documents enabled him to understand that neither Borodin nor Chen Duxiu had been responsible for the mistakes, and that they were simply carrying into effect the policy which Stalin himself had elaborated. At the same time, Wang still lacked two elements, as did those who were sharing his evolution. These were the materials of the Opposition and a direct contact with the Russian Oppositionists.

This was the period when he met Luo Han. The latter was a Chinese student who had studied in France some years earlier. They discussed the internal conflicts in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, between Stalin and Trotsky. When he was subjected to questioning, he admitted that he had seen ‘one or two’ of the documents of the Opposition, even though he denied having any connection with it. In fact, though there were no organised Oppositionists in the University of the Peoples of the East, Luo Han knew some members of the Russian Opposition in the Sun Yat-sen University. Luo Han did not convert Wang to the Russian Opposition, but he helped to bring him much closer to it. Wang writes:

From that time on, I was no longer a naive and confused participant in the struggle. I had opinions of my own, and began to act with more prudence than before ... The persecution directed against the Opposition was now stepped up considerably. It no longer remained on the purely ‘theoretical’ level. [10]

Oppositionists were now dealt with by administrative means, harassed by the police and the GPU, driven out of the party en masse, sacked from their jobs and denied civil rights. Although nothing of this sort happened among the Chinese students at KUTV (The University of the Peoples of the East), a mood of anxiety and uneasiness grew up. Relations between fellow students became more and more strained. Everywhere there were spying eyes, and, as newcomers, they were singled out for special attention. [11]

Wang reached one conclusion:

The depth of the defeat ... was becoming more and more apparent, and we soon realised that it was an illusion to think that after a few months’ military training we could return to China and turn back the wheel of history. We were upset by the arbitrary and bureaucratic way in which the Stalinists conducted the inner-party struggle, and the suffocating atmosphere which this created – the gulf between what we thought and what we were allowed to say, between our sympathies and the demands of discipline, grew wider and wider – all 600 of us had just left behind a revolution, and we were restless and full of energy. For young rebels like us, a life of peace and quiet was worse than death. [12]

Different groups were in conflict for the control of the Chinese party in the Moscow branch of the Chinese Communist Party. The clique led by Pavel Mif and Wang Ming was to get the upper hand by cleverly exploiting the discontent of the Chinese students, who went as far as demonstrating sharply in the streets of Moscow for their demands. Mif decided to transfer all the Chinese students to the Sun Yat-sen University, of which he was the director. In this way he had control of the education and training of all the Chinese students in Moscow. From this jumping-off point, Mif removed Qu Qiubai from the leadership, at the Sixth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Moscow in June 1928, and installed Xiang Shungfa as General Secretary.

During this time, Wang, with his friend, Fan Jinpiao, who was in contact with the Russian Oppositionists, read the documents of the Opposition, of which he gives a list, and on which he comments:

The first document of the Opposition which I read was Zinoviev’s Theses on the Chinese Revolution. A little later, I read Trotsky’s The Chinese Revolution and the Theses of Comrade Stalin, and after that The Platform of the United Opposition of the CPSU. They had an enormous impact on me, because of their unassailable logic and also their superb style. They were a real contrast to the lifeless and insipid documents of the Central Committee. The arguments and warnings of the Opposition, especially those concerned with the Chinese Revolution, were so obviously true and had so often been confirmed in practice, that I could not help nodding vigorously in agreement as I pored eagerly over them. I was also deeply moved by Zinoviev’s writings ... I now realised that on all fundamental questions the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party had been acting on orders from Stalin’s faction; that the ill-conceived policies which had led to the defeat of the Chinese Revolution were very far from being Chen Duxiu’s mistakes; and that these mistakes had been warned against in advance and could have been avoided. [13]

This was the last stage in the evolution of Wang. He concluded that it was the obstinate refusal by Stalin and Bukharin to recognise that the criticisms of the Opposition were correct which was the origin of the defeat in China. He decided:

... when I turned to the Oppositionist documents dealing with such subjects as the Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee and economic construction in the Soviet Union I again found myself in complete agreement with the criticisms raised. From then on I became a ‘Bolshevik-Leninist’ (as the Oppositionists were called at that time)...My ideological commitment soon became a practical one. [14]


The formation of the faction

While most of the students were sent in summer 1928 for military training, Wang was sent to a rest home, where he met a group of workers from Shanghai.

One of the workers in this group, An Fu, is described by Wang as the most politically advanced of the group and as a semi-Oppositionist, or even an Oppositionist. At the Sun Yat-sen University he had clashed with the Wang Ming clique, with his comrades. The assumption of control by Mif and Wang over the Chinese Communist Party had demoralised them, and they believed that there was no hope whatever for the Chinese Revolution as long as such people dominated the party. An Fu and his group made contact with the Opposition through teachers and students who were working in secrecy in the University. This group, as well as Fan Jinpiao, who was coming near to it, was won to the Opposition during the summer holidays of 1928.

When An Fu and his friends arrived at the rest home, they brought with them small notebooks in which they had copied the principal documents of the Opposition. These notebooks were to have a great influence on the Chinese students, of whom there were nearly a hundred in the rest home.

At the end of summer 1928 the Chinese Communist students turned towards the Opposition. Wang states that this turn was linked to the events of the preceding six months in China, which had confirmed the analysis of the Opposition with remarkable speed. In fact, the ‘Autumn Harvest’ uprisings and the Canton Commune had demonstrated the bankruptcy of Stalin’s policy at a dreadful cost.

The students came back to the Sun Yat-sen University at the beginning of the academic year. By this time, nine-tenths of the students who had earlier been in the University of the Peoples of the East had been won to the Opposition. It was urgent to organise them. Wang recounts:

One Sunday in late September or early October, a dozen or so of us travelled out of Moscow by tram in groups of two or three to have a picnic. We found somewhere quiet, and there we ate, laughed and sang. As soon as there were no Russian holiday-makers within earshot, we got down to more serious business. We discussed and finally settled the problem of how to organise so many Trotskyists. Three of us – Fan Chin-piao, An Fu and myself – were chosen from this conference of activists to form a leadership committee. [15]
Two workers who took part in this meeting were to be imprisoned and to disappear in the USSR. [16]

The establishment of the leading committee was a decisive step in the formation of the Chinese Opposition in Moscow. From this time onward, its influence continued to grow among the Chinese students. The existence of this organisation quickly became a secret widely shared by the former students of the University of the Peoples of the East. The documents of the Opposition were openly discussed, even in the presence of students who had not yet joined the Opposition. One mimeographed copy of The Critique of the Draft Programme of the Communist International by Trotsky was translated by Wang and read by the Chinese Oppositionists, after it had circulated among the Russian Oppositionists. Wang did part of this translation in the apartment of a Russian Oppositionist, Poliakov, who was arrested by the GPU, along with the whole of the secret Moscow committee of the Russian Opposition. The Opposition was being fiercely repressed, but the Chinese Oppositionists were not alarmed. Among the militants who were arrested, no one betrayed the links between the Russian and the Chinese Oppositionists or the activities of the Chinese Oppositionists. This indication of strength is related to two factors: the confidence of the students and the Oppositionists in the political line of the Opposition on the Chinese questions, and the difficulty which the Stalinists encountered in mastering this student milieu, which was best placed to pronounce on Stalin’s policy in China. The Sixth Congress of the Communist Party of China was held in Moscow in June and July 1928. It could not deny that the revolution had been defeated in China, and explained the defeat by the ‘opportunism’ of Chen Duxiu and the ‘too great strength’ of the imperialists, refraining from calling into question the line of the Communist International. Among the delegates who remained in Moscow for the Sixth Congress of the Communist International were some who were contacted by the Opposition and were acquainted with its documents. [17]

It was in the room of one of them, Wang Jofei, that Wang began his translation of The Criticism of the Programme. However, these men do not seem to have taken part in any initiative in the course of the Congress: the only intervention on the line of the Left Opposition, presented in the form of a criticism of Bukharin, was made at the Congress by an Indonesian delegate [18], and dealt effectively with the Chinese question.

The progress of the Chinese Opposition continued rapidly during the winter of 1928. Wang estimates that nearly 150 out of the 400 students at the Sun Yat-sen University were members or sympathisers. Groups existed even in the military schools, and in the Lenin School. The organisation was clandestine, with a small leading committee unknown to all, but the documents circulated without difficulty. Thus, the article by Trotsky, entitled The Chinese Question After the Sixth Congress of the Communist International provoked a sharp discussion among the Oppositionists. In fact, Trotsky put forward the slogan of a Constituent Assembly, and this appeared to many to be ‘opportunist’. Liu Renjing intervened in the discussion, and proposed what was really an opportunist interpretation of the slogan, but found himself very isolated. Likewise, Wang mentions the confusion in the ranks of the Chinese Communists at the time of the attacks on Trotsky for his interview with the Daily Express, and their relief after reading his Letter to the Soviet Workers replying on this point.


The end of the Chinese Opposition in Moscow

Already by this time the attack had been opened up in the University to exterminate the Opposition, the strength of which was now a real threat and which, furthermore, was forming links with the comrades who had gone back to China in the preceding year. The general lines of work to be followed in China, as a faction in the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party, were decided in the course of a secret conference at the beginning of 1929, in the course of which the place of Wang, who was shortly to leave Russia, was taken by the teacher Chao Yenching. The news that Chen Duxiu in China had joined the Opposition led the authorities to determine to take strong measures. Its agents who had infiltrated the Opposition threw down the mask and began to denounce their comrades. Terrible pressure on Chao enabled the police to identify the principal elements. An armed detachment of the GPU arrived one night at the dormitories of the University and took away more than 200 ‘Trotskyists’. The unhappy Chao, who was set free, hanged himself the next day. The Sun Yat-sen University was closed, as a ‘Trotskyist lair’. Whether they capitulated or not under the interrogation of the GPU, none of the imprisoned militants ever saw their native land again. Only two escaped from Siberia. Among those who died was one of the earliest Oppositionists, Fan Jinpiao.


The birth of the Opposition in China

Three essential dates mark the beginnings of the Trotskyist Opposition in China; the two successive returns of the groups of students who had been won in Moscow, and the declaration by Chen Duxiu of support for the Opposition in December 1929.

The First Contacts. It was the first group back from Moscow that was to establish the first network of contacts of the Opposition, after taking part in the demonstration of the Russian Opposition at the commemoration of the Tenth Anniversary of the October Revolution. This group, Our Word, consisted of some 10 militants who were known for their Trotskyist opinions and had been excluded from the Chinese Communist Party in 1928. After their return to China, they managed to create small Oppositional groups in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Beijing. In Shanghai they were in contact with a publishing firm, New World Press. At Hong Kong, U Fang and Chen Yimou were, with others, well placed among the dockers, and the Oppositionists were very active among the students in Peking. They published a review on a national scale entitled, like the group itself, Our Word. Shi Tang, who was in charge of the work in Shanghai, received for publication from Wang Wenyuan in Moscow the translations of the documents of the Russian Opposition. Moreover, Shi Tang and his comrades were in correspondence with the Chinese Opposition in Moscow led by Wang Wenyuan up to the time of his return to China in September 1929 with the second group of returning students.

The Second Group of Students Back from Moscow. A second group of Oppositionists managed to get away from Moscow in September 1929. They left the USSR by way of Korea before they arrived at Shanghai, where provisionally they joined the Our Word group. However, in accordance with the orientation which had been decided in Moscow, they were to notify the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party that they were back in China and were willing to resume their places within the party. In this way, Wang Wenyuan became one of the right-hand men of Chou En-lai in Shanghai.

These members of the Opposition were to work in secret both inside and outside the party for the benefit of the Opposition, and in particular were to infiltrate the whole department devoted to the propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party. Many of them occupied important places in the apparatus as Moscow-educated cadres.

Liu Renjing returned a little in advance of the second group. In the course of his return journey, he passed through Paris, where he met Rosmer, before going to Prinkipo, where he spent several days with Trotsky. This gave the latter the opportunity to draft a project for a programme of the Chinese Bolshevik-Leninists, which Liu brought back to China. On his arrival, Liu declared that he would not work in the Chinese Communist Party, and hastened to reveal his Trotskyist positions when the comrades put pressure on him to write to the Central Committee. In fact, Liu refused to work in the Chinese Communist Party, and came out in favour of a new party. The ‘underground’ Oppositionists denounced this position as a pretext for not struggling to regenerate the Chinese Communist Party, and as a refusal to direct the struggle towards the party rank and file in order to convince them in favour of Trotskyist policies.

More groups are formed. The return of the successive groups was to lead to a certain amount of confusion and division of the Opposition. The first group back from Moscow consisted of notorious Oppositionists, who had been excluded from the Chinese Communist Party and who were to act independently of the Chinese Communist Party in China, while the second group, which remained secret up to 1930, worked essentially within the Chinese Communist Party, before being excluded after the Communist International sent a list of names of Oppositionists to the Chinese Communist Party. In any case, like Liu Renjing, a certain number of militants refused to struggle in the Chinese Communist Party, and formed a new group.

The result was that in 1929 there were three groups among the students who had come back from Moscow: Our Word, the October group, and the Militant group.

Our Word held its first congress in January 1929 and designated a Central Committee. This congress advanced slogans such as ‘Public Discussion between the Opposition and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party’, ‘For a meeting to re-organise the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party’, ‘Bring back Trotsky to the USSR and to Power’. This group was led by Shi Shuyun, the General Secretary; its essential characteristic was that it turned in on itself, because membership was restricted to students who had studied together in Moscow. It devoted itself to translating and commenting on Marxist texts and to polemics with rival groups. Thus, one of its favourite targets was to be Chen Duxiu, whom they attacked for his ‘opportunism’ between 1925 and 1927, while he was actually developing rapidly towards Trotskyism! This was to have disastrous consequences. Wang Wenyuan was rejected by this group, lost all contact with it, and turned towards the October group which Liu Renjing founded in Shanghai with 10 of the Moscow students. This small group was to grow quickly to more than 50 members, among them Luo Han. They published a short-lived journal, The Journal of the October Group.

The last group to be formed at the end of 1929 was the Militant group. Its members were all old Oppositionists who had worked in the Chinese Communist Party before being excluded. It had some 30 members, but was the least important or influential of the three groups formed by the Moscow ‘students’.

This is the situation within which a new faction was to appear and to give a new profile to the situation of the Opposition.


Chen Duxiu, his faction and the Opposition

The different groups of the Opposition, and especially the group which worked as a faction in the Chinese Communist Party, enjoyed real tolerance from the party. This was due to two factors: Moscow did not know that there existed different Opposition groups in China, and the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party underestimated, or, rather, ignored the Opposition groups, because they were more concerned about getting into trouble with Mif and Wang Ming – who manipulated the students who came back from Moscow, who backed them against the old leadership of Li Lisan, Chou En-lai, Liu Shaoqi and Mao Zedong.

When Stalin discovered that the Opposition existed in Moscow itself, and that Chen Duxiu had approached and then joined the Opposition, the situation changed radically. After the wave of exclusions of secret Oppositionists in the Chinese Communist Party, a ferocious campaign began against Chen Duxiu. At the same time, the Stalinists played another card; they suggested to Chen that he should go to Moscow for discussions and then take up a job in the Comintern. He refused. The campaign against him, orchestrated by Li Lisan, intensified. When Chen advanced the slogan of opposing the bad leadership of the nation by the Guomindang, in defence of Chinese national sovereignty, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party denounced him and accused him of bourgeois patriotism. Up to that point, Chen had not yet decided to return to the political arena, after all that he had undergone since being removed from his post as General Secretary of the Party and the 1927 defeat. He now flung himself into the battle and drew around him such old cadres as Peng Shuzi, Zheng Chaolin, Ho Tzuchen, Yin Kuan and Ma Yufu. This was the beginning of a new authentic political current of opposition within the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party. We hear of whole branches of supporters of Chen in the party, such as the committee in East Shanghai, composed exclusively of Chenists.

At the end of 1929, Chen Duxiu and Peng Shuzi received documents of the Russian Opposition translated and brought in by the Chinese Oppositionists back from Moscow and then later by Liu Renjing: The Chinese Question After the Sixth Congress and Summary and Perspectives of the Chinese Revolution. These documents were to serve as an introduction and to teach Chen to understand his own role in the 1925-27 period. For him it was a genuine revelation of the policy and role of Stalin, of the way in which he had been an instrument in the hands of Moscow, and of the profundity of the Trotskyist policy on the Chinese question. He accepted the positions which were defended in these documents in general; he was hesitant only on the nature of the Third Chinese Revolution that still lay ahead, which he always regarded as having ‘a bourgeois democratic character’.

The news that Chen had gone over to the Opposition created a sensation, and provoked a crisis in the Chinese Communist Party, and particularly in its apparatus. It was all very well for Chou En-lai to say: All right, let the old opportunists see if they can find a way out by joining the Trotskyists’, but Stalin, on the other hand, did not like to see such a figure go over to the Opposition. It had important repercussions not only on the old cadres of the Chinese Communist Party, but also in the Communist International. A new campaign was launched in the Chinese Communist Party and the Communist International against the ‘liquidatory centre of Trotsky and Chen’. A special meeting of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party was devoted to these problems. A special emissary from the Communist International came to China to interview Chen and bring him back to Moscow. All in vain!

The enforced silence of Chen after he was removed from his post as General Secretary of the party and the campaign waged against him by those who previously had shared his responsibilities on the Central Committee had not seriously impaired his prestige in the eyes of the old cadres and the mass of the party membership. For that reason, the party was shaken at every level when he went over to the Opposition and became the target of the campaign of denunciation. The depth of the crisis was such that the leadership had to exclude hundreds of members who supported Chen, or were supposed to do so.

This was a great purge ‘in the Russian manner’. The Oppositionists were cleared out of the Central Committee, the provincial committees and the Communist Youth League ...The party newspaper, The Red Flag, published every week the list of those who were excluded. Chen himself was finally excluded from the party on 15 November 1929, and hit back on 10 December by publishing An Open Letter to All the Comrades of the Party. Five days later, 81 old Communists who had had or still had responsibilities in the party made public a text entitled Our Political Position. This declaration came out openly in favour of Trotsky: ‘If we had had the political leadership of Trotsky before 1927, we would perhaps have been able to lead the Chinese Revolution on the road to victory.’ [19] Those who signed were the leading nucleus of the faction round Chen, the Proletarian Faction, which was essentially based in Shanghai. These cadres were all high-level intellectuals who had abandoned their cultural activities to join in the work of the Chinese Communist Party at the time of the first Chinese Revolution in May 1919. For example, there was Peng Shuzi, the former organisational secretary of the party. The same was true of Kao Yuhan and Wang Tuching. This new current, which was born in the Chinese Communist Party, because it was the expression of an authentic current in full political development and because it benefitted from the experience of former high-ranking cadres of the Chinese Communist Party, was to start from Shanghai and develop, establishing branches in Beijing, Tianjin, Wuhan, Sichuan, and Ningpo as well as in Shantung and Anhui. Some of its members even formed cells in Hong Kong and Macao. The total number of members which it regrouped reached several hundreds.

The responsibilities were shared out in the following way: Chen Duxiu was General Secretary, Peng Shuzi was responsible for propaganda, and the joint executive secretaries were Ma Yufu and Liu Renjing.

The sole reaction from the Kremlin to the publication of Our Political Position was a telegram inviting Chen to come to Moscow to discuss his positions and ‘the problem of his exclusion’. His definitive reply, on 17 February 1930, was negative.


Chen, the man and his politics

Chen Duxiu was born, like Trotsky, in 1879. He studied Chinese literature, English, French and naval architecture.

His political activity began in 1904, in Shanghai, where he was in contact with intellectuals and revolutionary bomb-throwers. From 1911 to 1913 he was adviser to the Governor of the province of Anhui. Harold R. Isaacs writes:

Out of the thinned ranks of the revolutionary intellectuals of 1911 emerged the figure of Chen Duxiu, scion of an Anhwei mandarin family, who began posing the tasks of revolt more boldly, more clearly, more courageously than anyone who had preceded him. The task of the new generation, proclaimed Chen Duxiu, was ‘to fight Confucianism, the old tradition of virtue and rituals, the old ethics and the old politics...the old learnings and the old literature’. In their place he would put the fresh materials of modern democratic political thought and natural science. [20]

Chen Duxiu became a professor at the University of Beijing. His influence as an intellectual and a revolutionary was great, and matched that of the national review which he directed, The New Youth.

He was one of the leaders of the movement of 4 May 1919, the movement of revolt against the pro-Japanese government in Beijing. After his imprisonment, he turned towards the West, notably France and Britain, in search of new ideas. He studied the nature of the state and began to struggle for the unification of China. In June 1920 he was definitively won to Marxism. He became the commissioner in charge of education in the provincial government of Guangdong. A year later he was elected as General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party which had just been founded.

Chen carried on his activities in university and cultural circles. He retained contacts in several Chinese cultural movements, and published a manual on Chinese history and literature.

As General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, he led the Chinese Communists during the revolution from 1925 to 1927, carrying into effect the policies and the instructions of Moscow. The defeat, and the campaign of slander which represented him as being personally responsible, affected him greatly, but not enough to lead him to go into battle against his accusers. For nearly a year he disappeared from the political scene.

Wang Wenyuan believes that there are two reasons why Chen withdrew to the sidelines. First, because of his upright, well-formed, intransigent character, he refused to make any deal with his accusers, who nonetheless were offering him one. Wang writes:

Whatever his weakness, Chen was certainly a lion. If Chen had been the usual spineless sort of politician, he would have agreed to take all the blame on to his own shoulders, thus enabling Stalin to ride out the storm of criticism from the Trotskyists. Had Chen chosen this course, he would have retained his status in the Comintern, and would probably have been able to climb to the top again in the Chinese Party. [21]

In fact, Chen did not publicly attack his accusers, and preferred to remain silent.

Wang also considers that there is a second element which enables this attitude to be understood and explains it. This relates to Chen’s lack of political education, his ignorance about the Soviet Union and about the conflicts within the Bolshevik Party. For that reason, he was not to reappear until he was in a position to deal with his slanderers and former comrades.

His spectacular evolution towards the Left Opposition and the formation of his own faction within the Communist Party were a striking reply to his adversaries. From May 1931 onwards he was to lead the United Opposition in China. There too, his temperament and force of character were to be important, if not decisive, assets in reaching the unification of the different groups, some of which criticised him with no less violence than the Stalinists a few years earlier.

Wang Wenyuan describes in the following way his first meeting with Chen, a little before the unification:

This middle-aged man in his early fifties, with his sincere and unassuming ways, swept all remaining traces of factional prejudice from me ... I was particularly impressed by his straightforwardness – there was not the slightest trace of ceremony or pretentiousness about him. But for all his frankness, I saw no signs of his notoriously hot temper. [22]

If we wish to characterise Chen in relation to another of the most important front-rank figures in the struggle of the groups before the unification, we can regard Chen as an anti-Liu Renjing. Finally, we must emphasise that Chen was only a moderate orator, while, on the contrary, he wrote brilliantly.


Towards the regroupment?

When a group of well-known cadres went over to the Opposition, and in particular Chen Duxiu, who enjoyed an international stature and reputation, the conditions for its development were changed. However, the immediate effect was to provoke additional confusion, because the general hostility (though in varying degrees) of the former students to the man whom until then they had regarded as an ‘old opportunist’ was superimposed on the rivalries between the three groups. He was a threat to the ‘little chiefs’, and also carried the burden of the defeat of the revolution of 1925-27 at the time when he was officially head of the party. After the defeat, could he become leader of the Left Opposition?  [23]

Could the Chinese Trotskyists from Moscow, already old stagers, and the recent recruits won in China, the young people who had been won in the Russian universities, and the old cadres who had rallied to Chen all unite their forces in a single formation?


Regroupment and unification: the first attempt

The congress of Our Word in September 1929 seemed to be unpromising; there were quarrels, splits and expulsions. Even though they agreed on a formula, the Chinese ‘Bolshevik-Leninists’ could not agree on its content. This is revealed by their discussion on the Constituent Assembly and the letter questioning Trotsky on this point.  [24] Were they going to break up? The conference of the groups claiming to stand for the Left Opposition in November 1929 was hardly more reassuring.

Chen Duxiu called for preparation for the ‘Third’ Chinese Revolution. He believed that national unification was going to be realised by the national bourgeoisie, with the aid of foreign imperialists. He declared that there was no finance capital in China, but only money-lending capital (banks). Our Word vigorously contradicted this, declaring that the banks controlled all financial operations and that the national capital was of a comprador type.

The tone of the discussion quickly sank. Personal attacks soon made any counter-position of ideas impossible. The very day that Chen was excluded from the Chinese Communist Party, the Our Word group wrote to Trotsky to denounce his ‘opportunism’, and to declare its determination to make the struggle against him a priority. The Chinese Opposition seemed well and truly in a blind alley.

Yet they continued to seek a way forward, and, at the end of the conference, they had set up a ‘consultative committee’ which included representatives of all four of the groups.  [25] Its task was to discuss the divergences, and even to publish texts on the major questions, such as the Constituent Assembly, the nature of the revolution and the lessons of the defeat on 1927. But there are few published documents and there were many incidents, even though each group declared in favour of unification and utilised this argument in order to try to get Trotsky’s personal support. He was very careful to do nothing of the kind, and restricted himself to repeating that the important thing was to go forward towards unification. In reply to an urgent letter from the October group he spelt out that he would not choose between the groups and, for his part, saw no difference between Chen and Liu.

The correspondence with Prinkipo became more and more frequent and systematic in 1930. Liu was the intermediary between Trotsky and the other groups. He did a great deal to try to win Trotsky’s support and to discredit the other groups in his eyes. His letters are full of personal attacks and unsupported political characterisations. In his opinion, the line of Our Word was ‘that of capitulators’, while Chen Duxiu represented ‘the Right Opposition masquerading behind the phraseology of the Left’. The other groups treated each other equally impolitely.’ [26]


Trotsky’s intervention

Trotsky’s correspondence was extensive enough for him to have been thoroughly acquainted with the Chinese dossier from this time onwards. He decided to intervene to effect a radical change in the now untenable situation of the Opposition. On 8 January 1931, in a long and urgently-worded plea, he called upon the opponents to unify without delay, to drop their exclusive attitude to Chen, and to set on foot a ‘negotiating committee’.

This stand on Trotsky’s part marked a turn for the Chinese Opposition. It was also a turn in its political judgement on the old Chinese leader, Chen. Trotsky’s analysis of Chen’s evolution centred round two key dates: December 1929 and August-September 1930.

On 22 December 1929 Trotsky wrote about Chen, in a reply to the Chinese Oppositionists:

As far as Chen Duxiu’s group is concerned, I am very well aware of the policy which it followed during the years of the Revolution; it was the policy of Stalin, Bukharin and Martynov, that is to say, an essentially Right-Menshevik policy. But comrade N, [27] nonetheless, writes that Chen Duxiu, on the basis of his experience of the revolution, has come very much closer to our positions. It goes without saying that we can only rejoice at this. Yet in your letter of information you categorically deny what comrade N tells me. You even claim that Chen Duxiu has not broken from the policy of Stalin, which is a mixture of opportunism and adventurism. But up to the present, I have not read more than one programmatic declaration by Chen Duxiu and am not in a position to express myself on this question. [28]

Trotsky’s attitude towards Chen was based on real hope and real caution. He did not change his position until he finally received a document by Chen and could make his mind up on the basis of evidence. In the event, Trotsky received and read Chen Duxiu’s declaration of 10 December 1929, The Open Letter to All the Comrades of the Party.

Trotsky wrote to the Chinese Oppositionists on the subject of this document on 22 August 1930:

I think that this letter is an excellent document. Perfectly clear, correct positions are put forward in reply to every important question; particularly in relation to the "democratic dictatorship", comrade (Chen) Duxiu adopts an absolutely correct position. At the same time, you are writing to me that, if you cannot unite with Chen Duxiu, it is because he still seems to favour the "democratic dictatorship". I think that this is a decisive problem...There can be no compromise on this question. But it is clear that comrade Chen has a correct position in his letter of 10 December (1929). In these conditions, how am I to explain or defend your decision? What other points of divergence have you? None, I suppose, even if there are some unexpected misunderstandings. [29]

Trotsky’s position and his support for Chen Duxiu were based on common political analyses of the Chinese question. But Trotsky went further:

Now that we have the support of a revolutionary of the first rank in Chen Duxiu, who has broken with the party and been excluded and who announces that he is henceforth in 100 per cent agreement with the international Opposition, how could you ignore him? Is it possible that you already have many members of the Communist Party as experienced as he? In the past he has made many mistakes, but now he is aware of this. To understand one’s past mistakes is profitable for revolutionaries and for cadres. We have young comrades in the Opposition who can and should learn from comrade Chen Duxiu! [30]

Thus Trotsky undertook to defend Chen against the ‘youth’ of the different groups who attacked him on the basis of his past errors. This support noticeably changed the position of Chen and his group during the battle of the groups before the unification. For all that, a further intervention by Trotsky was needed, on 8 January 1931, to ensure finally Chen’s authority and precisely thereby to enable unification to be achieved.

In this new context, it was Chen Duxiu who led the discussions with the authority that Trotsky’s support conferred upon him. The history of the consultative committee was not repeated. Thereafter matters went forward very quickly. Chen was given the task of drafting documents on the political resolution and on agrarian reform, and Wang on the slogan of the Constituent Assembly. The platform which Chen proposed was unanimously adopted.

As can be understood, organisational problems were still a source of difficulties. It had been decided to elect to the unification conference a number of delegates proportional to the number of members of each group. But it appears that Liang Ganjiao, of Our Word, was accused by the other groups of doubling the number of members which his organisation really had. How many militants were involved? In the preparatory discussions, Proletariat (which extended to Hong Kong and to the North) was estimated as having about 200, October 80, Militant about 30 and Our Word between 120 and 140.


An opportunity lost: the Jiangsu Affair

The perspective of an early unification at this time, the beginning of January 1931, seems to have opened a very favourable period. Before the unification had been formally completed in May 1931, during the period of the ‘negotiation committee’, a tragic episode was to demonstrate that Trotsky had been right to recommend that the different groups should unify without losing time, because they risked the creation of insurmountable divergences between them as well as the permanent danger of not being able to take all the political opportunities which presented themselves.

For example, at the time when the unification campaign was in full swing, Mif, who had finished off Li Lisan and driven him out of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, promoted ‘returned’ students who supported his leadership. He then drove out of the party a group of old militants who, for better or for worse, had been active under Li Lisan’s leadership. These old militants, party members and trade unionists, had a number of youth round them. They were led by He Mengxiong, the head of the provincial committee of the party in Jiangsu, who had round him Liu Weihan, a trade unionist, and Li Juiji, one of the leaders of the Communist Youth. Luo Zhanglong, the trade union leader of the General Union of All-Chinese Labour, who was still more hostile to the leadership, was excluded from the Chinese Communist Party.

Those who opposed Wang Ming were called ‘conciliators’ by the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and accused of ‘rightism’, ‘opportunism’ and ‘iiquidationism’. These attacks were intended to conceal the fact that He Mengxiong and his comrades were developing in the direction of the positions of the Left Opposition. [31]

In particular, they believed it to be urgently necessary for the party to win back a basis in the proletariat, in the cities, through work in the trade unions, while it relied on the Red Army in the countryside.

Two sources agree that [32] on 17 January 1931, He Mengxiong re-organised the Central Committee of the provincial party committee in Jiangsu, braving the authority of the Central Committee of Wang Ming. This factional ‘Central Committee’ was surprised by the British police of the International Concession in the middle of a meeting in a Shanghai hotel. He Mengxiong and 24 of his comrades were arrested and handed over to the Guomindang authorities. They refused to capitulate and were all executed at Lungwha, near Shanghai, on 7 February 1931. This drama had a bad effect on many of the rank and file militants of the Chinese Communist Party, but all internal opposition disappeared and Wang Ming’s ‘students’ became the unchallenged leaders of the party.

This offered an opportunity which the Chinese Left Opposition missed, a chance to influence a whole sector of the party and implant itself there as a faction. But the Jiangsu affair carried another lesson; it provoked some rumours which all agreed in attributing to Wang Ming the responsibility for having denounced the 25 militants concerned. Neither the Communist International under Stalin’s control, nor the Guomindang and its police would make the slightest concession to permit the Chinese Left Opposition so much as to live. To crush the Left Opposition, they were ready to go to any lengths.


The unification conference

The unification conference of the groups which claimed to stand for the Chinese Left Opposition was held in Shanghai, beginning on 1 May 1931, and lasted three days. The material and financial organisation was undertaken by Proletariat. The first two days were devoted to discussing documents and amendments, and the third to the election of a new leadership. Seventeen delegates and four observers were present. They represented 483 members; six came from Our Word, five from Proletariat, four from October and two from Militant.

Chen Duxiu presented a short political report. In fact there was only one outstanding point of difference: could the Guomindang realise national unity, or could it not? All the delegates present thought that only the dictatorship of the proletariat could solve the democratic tasks, but Chen did not exclude the possibility that some appearance of a solution might be possible. The majority rejected this, and in the end Chen withdrew the disputed formulation. The other resolutions were voted for unanimously (the Constituent Assembly, the nature of the Chinese Revolution, the problem of the soviets). The delegates elected a leadership of eight members, also unanimously, passing over the old personal divisions: Chen Duxiu, Peng Shuzi, Song Fengchon, Chen Yimou, Wang Wenyuan, Zhao Qi, Luo Han and Zheng Chaolin. The new, united organisation took the name ‘Left Opposition of the Chinese Communist Party’ and entitled its journal The Spark.

The unification in China was a victory for the international Opposition, not only because it regrouped forces, but because it purified the atmosphere by eliminating, in all the groups, the most ardent ‘factionalists’, whom the new tasks hardly suited. Liang Ganjiao, Liu Yin and Ma Yufu left the movement and were soon to find themselves a long way from it; as for Liu Renjing, he took provisional retirement.

The unification seemed to be opening a very favourable period. The new leadership soon took over and was recognised. [33] Luo Han, the secretary of the Central Committee, telegraphed to Trotsky that the Chinese Bolshevik-Leninists would soon be flying their banner from one end of China to another. The Guomindang government drafted a new constitution, which made what appeared to be concessions to the democratic aspirations of the masses, and the struggle for the Constituent Assembly appeared to be opening wide perspectives before the supporters of the Opposition. Meanwhile, the Communist Party was going through a deep crisis. After the failure of the Li Lisan leading group, Qu Qiubai was in turn driven out, but the Communist International enthroned the adventurer Wang Ming. The party veterans, disoriented by the zigzags of Moscow, could only question themselves and seek answers from Chen and Peng, whom everyone knew to be militants of integrity.


The arrests in 1931

Three weeks after the unification conference, the young organisation suffered a terrible blow. The special agents of the Guomindang police, acting on information from Ma Yufu, made a successful round-up from which only Chen Duxiu and Luo Han escaped. Nonetheless, the work went on and, three months later, a provisional Central Committee was reconstituted, with young, rapidly-promoted cadres. Fresh arrests at the end of summer 1931 forced the organisation to go further underground. Nonetheless, it held together, thanks to the long experience of secrecy of the old Communists who had formed it.

Damien Durand



1. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925): founder of the Guomindang; he led a nationalist government in Canton from 1919 to 1921.

2. Adolf Joffe (1883-1927) was ambassador in China, where he signed a treaty of alliance with the Sun Yat-sen government.

3. Wang Fan-hsi (Wang Fanxi), Chinese Revolutionary: Memoirs 1919-1949, Oxford, 1980.

4. Ibid., pp.41-2.

5. Ibid., p.45.

6. Ibid., pp.52-3.

7. Ibid., pp.54-5.

8. Ibid., pp.50-1.

9. Ibid., p.51.

10. Ibid., p.57.

11. Ibid., p.57.

12. Ibid., p.59.

13. Ibid., p.66.

14. Ibid., p.67.

15. Ibid., p.77.

16. According to R.C. Kagan, The Chinese Trotskyist Movement and Ch’en Tu-hsiu: Culture, Revolution and Policy (with an appended translation of Ch’en Tu-hsiu’s), London, University of Pennsylvania, 1969, p65.

17. This was the case of Wang Jofei, Kuan Xiangying and Luo Zhanglong.

18. This was Mohamed Tohir, who is mentioned in the official record under the name ‘Alfonso’.

19. Quoted by Kagan, op. cit., p.121.

20. Harold R. Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, second revised edition, Stanford 1961, quoted on p.53.

21. Wang, op. cit., p.121.

22. Ibid., pp.145-6.

23. Chen Duxiu, who was arrested in 1932, was liberated only in 1937. See Pierre Brout, Chen Duxiu and the Fourth International.

24. Letter from Our Word to Trotsky, 15 November 1929, No.1057 in the Houghton Library. This letter was published in Bulletin No.9 of the International Left Opposition (February-March 1930).

25. For Proletariat: Wu Qixien and Ma Yufu. For Militant: Liu Yin and Zhao Qi. For October: Song Fengchou and Wang Wenyuan. For Our Word: Lian Ganjiao and Chen Yimou were to replace Ou Fang who was arrested and Shi Dang who deserted the movement. Liu Renjing, whom his group did not select to represent it, left October and joined a clique within Our Word.>

26. Our Word, for its part, wrote a seven-page letter to Trotsky denouncing the mistakes of the Liu Renjing group; not to be out done, the Militant group wrote to the International Secretariat of the Left Opposition on 10 October 1930 a seven-page letter to introduce the group and its activities, but also to make a vigorous attack on Chen Duxiu. They wrote: ‘This faction worked in 1927 for the line of Martynov and against "Trotskyism". Obviously, we do not say that someone who made a mistake always continues to do so. But this faction is mistaken today even on the principled questions.’

27. Niel Shih; the pseudonym of Liu Renjing.

28. Trotsky: Reply to the Chinese Oppositionists, dated 22 December 1929, in Exile Documents, bMS Russ 13, T 3261.

29. Trotsky, letter to Niel Shih, 22 August 1930, Exile Documents, bMS Russ 13.1, 9412.

30. Ibid.

31. In his document, The Chinese Question After the Sixth Congress, Trotsky added an appendix, sub-titled A remarkable document on the policy and the regime in the Communist International, which highly praises the resolution which the provincial committee in Jiangsu of the Chinese Communist Party adopted on 7 May 1928. This was the first platform of this group. See Leon Trotsky on China, New York, 1976, pp.386ff. for the text of the resolution adopted by the Jiangsu Provincial Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on 7 May 1928.

32. J. Guillermaz, Histoire du Parti Communiste Chinois, Vol.1, p.221, and R. North, Moscow and the Chinese Communists, p.180, both give the same version.

33. Chen Duxiu became General Secretary, Zheng Chaolin was responsible for propaganda and Chen Yimou for organisation. Luo Han was secretary of the Central Committee and Wang Wenyuan directed the journal.

Revolutionary History, Vol.2 No.4, Spring 1990

Editor: Al Richardson
Deputy Editors: Ted Crawford and Bob Archer
Reviews Editor: Keith Hassell
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