Harold R. Isaacs

The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution

II. Problems of the Chinese Revolution

Social change came belatedly to China. That is why it is to-day a land of such deeply chiselled contrasts. It is forced by the pull of a whole world system to make the leap from wooden plough to tractor, from palanquin to aeroplane. Imperialism forced the Celestial Empire to find its place in a terrestrial world that had already advanced far beyond it, economically, culturally, and politically. For China there was no gradual grade to ascend nor the opportunity to pass through the historical stages of development the rest of the world had already left behind. To come abreast it had to take a mighty leap forward. The West had taken centuries to make the changes China had to make in a few decades. This wrench could not occur without the most profound convulsions. Hence the turmoil, the speed, the scope, the depth, the explosive character of events in China during the last thirty years.

To lift itself to the material and cultural plane the new times so imperiously demanded, China had not only to break sharply with its own past. It had to transform its present. Old fetters and new both had to be sundered. Imperialist penetration introduced the most modern of techniques in production, transport, communications, and finance, the instruments of modern capitalism. Yet by adapting to its own uses the merchants, the landlords, the officials, and the militarists, imperialism helped to perpetuate the pre-capitalist forms of Chinese social organization. Foreign-built factories, foreign-built railroads, were used to extract super-profits out of the backwardness that still prevailed in China as a whole. By commanding all the strategic positions in Chinese economy and drawing off its tribute for the benefit of investors abroad, imperialism stifled the “normal” or independent development of China’s resources in the interest of a raised standard of living for the Chinese people. If the Chinese people were to be lifted from privation to the beginnings of plenty, productive forces had to be freed of all that fettered them. Land had to be restored to those who tilled it and the imperialist grip on Chinese economic life had to be broken. These were the inseparable elements of the problems of the Chinese revolution. Their solution, to be sure, could not be envisaged within China’s national framework alone. In modern conditions of world economy, the problems of one nation could no longer be divorced from the problems of the world as a whole. In China, in the most immediate sense, the nature of its historic tasks brought their solution into direct collision with the imperialist Powers. This dictated at once the international character of Chinese social and political conflicts. Reorganization of Chinese society could be only a factor in the economic and social reorganization of the whole world. At the same time China had now become part of this world, a gigantic element in the activity, the calculations, and the conflicts of opposing forces on a world scale. The development and ultimate solution of China’s internal crisis could not fail to exert an important, and perhaps a decisive, influence far beyond its own borders.

No radical revision in Chinese economic life could even be contemplated if in the first instance the revolution did not restore to the peasant the land and the product of his toil. Only in this way would the old land-holding system be destroyed. Without this indispensable first step, the eventual transformation of rural economy and the growth of agricultural productivity in new forms and by new methods were unthinkable. More than three-quarters of China’s population, or more than 300,000,000 people, depend upon the land for their livelihood. The problem of these millions is the problem of China. Their poverty is China’s poverty. In the release of the gigantic productive energies of this great mass of people alone lies the hope for China’s future. To-day they are pauperized by a social system that takes from them the produce they wring from the land as well as the land itself and gives them nothing in return. Chinese rural economy is characterized by the following main features: (1) The increasingly swift concentration of land ownership in the hands of a constantly narrowing section of the population; (2) the passage of title in much of the land to absentee landlords, government officials, banks, and urban capitalists, who control the commercial capital penetrating to the remotest villages through the local merchants and usurers, who in turn are controlled and dominated by foreign finance capital and the regime of the world market; (3) the dislocation and decline of agricultural production as a result of the uneconomic use of increasingly parcellized land, the preservation of the most backward farming methods, the harsh impositions of landlord, usurer, and the State, exposure to the ravages of famine, flood, and drought, and civil wars fought by armies swollen by dispossessed peasants.

Only recently, surveys, for the first time competently and scientifically conducted, finally destroyed the illusion, once so common, that China was a land of relatively comfortable small land-holders. From sectional studies made under his direction, Professor Chen Han-seng has estimated that no less than 65 per cent of the peasant population is either entirely landless or land-hungry, that is, possessing land in parcels too small and too burdened by the backward methods of production and the harshness of the regime to provide a living, even on the barest subsistence level.[1] Differences in land owned and used and in the labour applied or exploited on the land revealed the profound cleavages within the peasant population into the categories of rich, middle, and poor.*

[* Professor Chen defined these categories as follows: “When a peasant family is barely capable of self-support from the land, and in its agricultural labour not directly exploited by, nor exploiting, others, we may say that such a family belongs to the class of middle peasants. The status of the middle peasants helps us to determine that of the other two classes of peasantry. When a peasant family hires one or more agricultural labourers by the day or by the season during busy times, to an extent exceeding in its total consumption of labour power that required by the average middle peasant family for self-support, or when the land which it cultivates surpasses in area the average of the land used by the middle peasant, we shall then classify this family as that of a rich peasant. Where we see families cultivating twice as much land as the middle peasants in their village, we safely classify them as those of rich peasants without further considering the labour relations. The poor peasants are comparatively easy to recognize. All peasant families whose number of cultivated mow (one mow is one-sixth of an English acre) falls below that of the middle peasants and whose members, besides living on the fruits of their own cultivation have to rely upon a wage income or some income of an auxiliary nature, belong to the poor peasants in general. Those poor peasants who do not cultivate any land, either their own or leased, but hire themselves out, or who cultivate a mere patch of land but have to support themselves chiefly by selling their labour power in agriculture, are called hired agricultural labourers, but still belong to the peasantry.”— Agrarian Problems in Southernmost China, Shanghai, 1936, p. 8.]


Conditions of land tenure mirror class relations in agriculture. One official estimate made in 1927 held that 55 per cent of the Chinese peasantry was entirely landless and 20 per cent holders of inadequate land. It was calculated that 81 per cent of the cultivable land was concentrated in the hands of 13 per cent of the rural population.[2] These figures have been in the main substantiated by later investigators. In the north, where individual land-holders predominated, study of a sample district showed that although only 5 per cent of the farming population consisted of landless tenants, 70 per cent of the total held less than 30 per cent of the cultivated land in average plots of 10.9 mow, or less than two acres. In another district it was found that 65.2 per cent of the population held 25.9 per cent of the land in parcels of less than seven mow, or a fraction above one acre. Landlords and rich peasants, together comprising 11.7 per cent of the farming population, held 43 per cent of the land and middle peasant families held the rest.

In the far more densely populated Yangtze River Valley and in the south, where imperialist influence had first been felt and where the commercialization of agriculture was consequently more advanced, the disproportions were found to be much greater. In one district of Chekiang province investigators found that 3 per cent of the population owned 80 per cent of the land. In Wusih, another district of Central China, 68.9 per cent of the farming families owned only 14.2 per cent of the land in individual average holdings of 1.4 mow, or less than a quarter of an acre. Landlords and rich peasants, 11.3 per cent of the families, owned 65 per cent of the land.[3]

A separate survey made in the southern province of Kwangtung[4] revealed that owners of land in different sections of the province comprised 12 to 32 per cent of the population and tenants and agricultural labourers 68 to 88 per cent. Of the poor peasants representing 64.3 per cent of the population in one area, investigators found that 60.4 per cent were landless. An average of all the districts studied showed that more than half the farming population owned no land. Of all the land tilled by the poor peasants, only 17.2 per cent was owned and 82.8 per cent leased. The average area owned by a poor peasant family was found to be .87 mow and the average area cultivated, including leased land, 5.7 mow. The number of mow necessary to provide the barest subsistence for a peasant family was found, in different districts, to vary between six and ten and double that many for tenant farmers.

This extreme concentration of ownership in the land came about partially through the gradual alienation of the once considerable State, temple, or community lands and the conversion of the large collective holdings of the rural clans into the virtual private property of small groups of powerful clan leaders. The steady decline in agricultural production and increasing weight of the burden placed on the peasant’s shoulders soon lost him what land he had left. Not all his skill on his tiny plot of ground could meet the scientific advances made elsewhere in agriculture or provide him with means to deal with the decreasing productivity of his land. China’s chief commercial crops, tea and silk, surrendered their positions in the world market because better products were more efficiently produced by more modern competitors.[5]

The backwardness of the country as a whole, the lack of communications adequate to meet the demands of the modern market, the primitiveness of the peasant’s methods, combined to ruin the agricultural producer as soon as the penetration of commercial capital into the deepest hinterland and with it the influx of cheap manufactured commodities brought an end to his old self-sufficiency. He had to produce for sale in order to exist, yet the smallness of his land and the primitive character of his farming proved an impassable bar to doing this successfully. He not only could not produce enough to provide his needed surplus, but had to go into debt, for fertilizer, for food to tide him over until the harvest, for seed, for the rent and use of implements. For these he mortgaged his land, at rates never lower than 30 per cent and more often 60, 70, 80 per cent and even higher. The crushing burden of taxes and the rapacious extortions of the militarists who came to rule over him drove him more deeply into debt and placed him and his land at the mercy of the usurer and the tax collector.[6] He was fleeced at will by the merchant because he could not ship his tiny trop to more distant markets and hope for a return. Crops were freely cornered and prices manipulated. Invariably new debts and not a surplus became the result of the season’s toil. They followed him into the next year and unto the next generation. Losing his land, he became a tenant. To the landlord he had to surrender 40 to 70 per cent of his crop and a substantial additional percentage in special dues, gifts, and obligations borne through the centuries from the dim feudal past, including the duty of free labour on special occasions fixed by ancient tradition. Famines, floods, and droughts, against which he was defenceless, cost him his crop, his land, if he had any, his family, and most often his life. Even in the best years, however, he lived on the slimmest borderline of starvation. He was little better than a bonded slave to the landlord, the tax collector, the merchant, and the usurer.

This process, in its manifold aspects, plunged the great mass of the peasantry into chronic, unrelieved pauperism. Millions driven off the land begged, starved, took to banditry, or swelled the armies of the war lords. From the south they streamed abroad, to the Americas, to Malaya, and to the Indies. From the north they emigrated to the undeveloped lands of Manchuria. Millions clogged the cities and towns on the rivers and on the seaboard, an inexhaustible source of cheap man-power that the new industries could not absorb. Their labour was still cheaper than that of animals, and throughout the length and breadth of China men did the work of beasts of burden. More and more land was left untilled. China, one of the greatest of agricultural countries, was compelled to begin importing foodstuffs in steadily increasing measure.[7] The internal and external markets entered upon a disastrous decline. The whole economic structure rotted at its core.

These conditions meant that the release of the land for more productive use (and this meant the release of the peasant from his burdens) had become the indispensable first step in any effort to revive and revitalize Chinese economy. This could be realized, however, only if the economy of the country as a whole were at the same time freed to develop and co-ordinate the nation’s resources in accordance with its needs. This it would never be so long as existing imperialist economic and political privileges remained intact. Foreign capital occupied dominant positions in all the basic economic sectors, sucking the country leech-like of its resources. It owned nearly half the cotton industry, China’s largest. It owned a third of the railways outright and held a paralysing mortgage on the rest. It owned and operated more than half the shipping in Chinese waters and carried in its own bottoms nearly 80 per cent of China’s foreign and coastal trade. Favoured by their technical superiority and their political and economic privileges, the imperialists subjected China to a steady drain. The country’s adverse trade balance accumulated between 1912 and 1924 to the staggering total of $1,500,000,000,[Calculated in U.S. dollars at par] which was more than doubled in the subsequent decade. Between 1902 and 1914 foreign investments doubled and doubled again in the ensuing fifteen years, reaching an estimated total of $3,300,000,000. More than four-fifths of it was directly invested in transport and industrial enterprises and the rest in loans which converted Chinese Governments into docile tools of the imperialists and gave the latter a strangling grip on the nation’s internal and external revenues.[8]

To regain control of its own productive forces, China had to recapture this lost ground. It had to unify itself by cutting across the sectional rivalries perpetuated by the imperialist-supported war lords in the foreign “spheres of influence.” Only in this way could internal peace be restored, the incubus of militarism removed, the internal market expanded and developed. Only in this way could Chinese industry become the basis for a raised standard of living for the whole people. To solve the impasse on the land, China had to free itself from imperialism. To free itself from imperialism it had to galvanize the great masses of the peasantry by offering them hope of release from their intolerable burdens. An anti-imperialist movement that inscribed the slogans of agrarian revolt on its banners alongside those of national liberation would alone find the strength to bring imperialism to heel.

How and by whom could this be done? The answer resolves itself automatically into an estimate of class forces and relationships, for each section of the population stood in distinct and different relation to the land and to imperialism. Each would necessarily take the road of political struggle with different objectives in view. The peasantry, comprising the great majority of the petty bourgeoisie, as history has abundantly proved, cannot function independently in the political arena. It is deeply cleft into layers with sharply conflicting economic interests. It is the most scattered and the most backward section of the population. It is localized and limited, economically and psychologically. For these reasons the village has always followed the town. The peasantry has always been subject to the urban class able to centralize, weld, control, and command. Without the centripetal force of the city, around which rural economy must inevitably revolve, the peasant is helpless, especially the poorest peasant, the most exploited and the nearest to the soil. His own attempts to better his own lot, without the aid or in defiance of the dominant city class, have invariably taken the form of isolated acts of violence without permanent issue.

This was true of Russia and is especially true of China, a vast land of impoverished millions, darkened by illiteracy and superstition, so divided sectionally that customs, habits, and the spoken language differ sharply from province to province, from town to town and even from village to village. China’s great peasant wars had invariably ended in a restratification within the peasantry, for the revolting peasants were always taken in tow by a section of the ruling class that sought not a new society but a new Dynasty. When the fighting was done, a new emperor sat on the Dragon Throne and the landlords rose anew. Only an urban ally capable of transforming all social relations, of destroying the old State in its entirety and erecting a new one on its ruins, could release the peasantry from this vicious historical circle, free it from its own exploiting minority in the country-side, and help it bridge the cultural gap separating town and country.

In Europe the bourgeois revolutions of two and three centuries ago had played this historic role. The rising capitalists had to extend the rights of bourgeois property to the land and free labour from serfdom for the wage slavery of the newly-rising industrial system. The most radical sections of the petty bourgeoisie came forward to help the peasantry break the bonds with which feudalism kept it chained to the soil and laid the foundations of strong national bourgeois states. In China of the twentieth century a different social pattern forced different solutions. The bourgeoisie could not liberate the peasantry because, as a result of the peculiar conditions and the belatedness of its growth, it was the bourgeoisie that directly exploited the peasantry. It has already been shown how the bourgeoisie rose, not as a distinctly urban grouping, but out of the old ruling classes and how it remained bound by a thousand ties å the pre-capitalist or semi-feudal system of exploitation on the land in which it directly participated. The peasant was subject to the depredations of landlord, usurer, merchant, banker, war lord, tax-collector, and local officials. The interests of these exploiters fused and became the interlaced interests of the ruling class as a whole. Not uncommonly, the collector of rent, of interest, of feudal dues, and of taxes was one and the same person.

“Quite unlike the landlords in France sous l’ancien régime, the landlords in China are often quadrilateral beings,” wrote Professor Chen Han-seng. “They are rent collectors, merchants, usurers, and administrative officers. Many landlord-usurers are becoming landlord-merchants; many landlord-merchants are turning themselves into landlord-merchant-politicians. At the same time many merchants and politicians become also landlords. Landlords often possess breweries, oil mills, and grain magazines. On the other hand, the owners of warehouses and groceries are mortgagees of land, and eventually its lords. It is a well-known fact that pawnshops and business stores of the landlords are in one way or another affiliated with banks of military and civil authorities ... While some big landlords practise usury as their chief professions, nearly all of them have something to do with it. Again, many landlords are military and civil officers.”[9]

This is the real physiognomy of the Chinese ruling class and of the system of exploitation that grinds the peasant. The fundamental relations that govern it are bourgeois in character. Feudalism, in its classic form, disappeared from China many centuries ago when land, the basic means of production, became alienable. The penetration of commercial capital into the village established there essentially bourgeois forms of exploitation within an economic structure that retained many of its pre-capitalist features. The bourgeois of to-day, the landlord-merchant-banker-politician-tax collector, derives his income from usury, market speculation, land mortgages, State taxes, and ground rent. Himself a product of the backwardness of Chinese economy, he also benefits, to no small degree, from the pre-capitalist forms of exploitation embedded in the social structure. He extracts toll by methods strongly feudal in character and in origin, militarist requisitions, dues to the landlord in free labour and gifts, rent in kind, forced labour, military service, miscellaneous local taxation, and likin, or district customs taxes.

Under the moulding pressure of imperialism, the most important sections of the Chinese bourgeoisie had become brokers, once, twice, or thrice removed, for the operations of foreign or foreign-controlled capital, just as the war lords and their Governments had been converted, in their respective spheres, into pawns on the chess-board of inter-imperialist rivalries. While aspiring Chinese industrialists and bankers, envisaging an independent capitalist development of their own, would naturally want to loosen the imperialist grip, they were confronted with the fact that the gulf that separated them from the exploited masses in the country was far more profound and unbridgeable than the antagonism between them and the foreign rivals upon whom they still depended for so much. From the imperialists the bourgeoisie could and would try to exact concessions, to demand and secure a larger share of the spoils, but it could not hope to satisfy the masses without undermining itself. Land could not be restored to the peasantry without upsetting all existing property relations and destroying the economic base of the bourgeoisie in town and country alike. This fundamental fact predetermined the unity of the Chinese and foreign exploiters against the exploited. It also meant that the solution of China’s revolutionary tasks passed into the hands of the newest and youngest class, the urban proletariat, organizing and drawing behind it the millions of toilers and artisans in the towns and on the fields. Its interests alone were consistent with the radical revision of the whole of Chinese economic life.

The idea that the proletariat, a tiny minority in a teeming country, could assume the responsibilities of political leadership had ceased to be a theory and became a condition, in Russia in 1917. There the proletariat of a backward country had taken over the tasks a bankrupt bourgeoisie proved unable to shoulder. The October revolution had shown how the combination of a proletarian insurrection—the culmination of the new class antagonisms—and a peasant war—the carry-over of the old—offered the only way out for a backward country in the modern world of imperialism. Like Russia, China had to solve tasks that belonged historically to the past epoch of bourgeois revolutions. Russia had demonstrated that this could be done in the twentieth century only by radically transforming all class relations and the whole social structure. This was achieved by telescoping the bourgeois and proletarian revolutions.

The experience of the October revolution was decisive for the whole backward East, and especially for China. The bourgeois revolutions of the past had taken place in the early dawn of capitalism before the emergence of the proletariat as a distinct class. Yet even those revolutions were brought to their historical fruition only by the determined intervention of the plebeian masses. The artisans and city poor of Holland fought for a century to throw off the dead hand of Spanish feudalism and clear the path for the economic expansion of the Dutch bourgeoisie. It was the artisan and peasant in the ranks of Cromwell’s armies who laid the foundations of the British bourgeois commonwealth. In France, the land of the classic bourgeois revolution, the peasant insurrection drove the frightened burghers of the Third Estate back into the arms of the nobility. The city plebeian, the embryo proletarian, the pauper, the sans-culotte, rose from the gutters of Paris again and again to drive the revolution forward. It was the Jacobin republic of 1793, not the National Assembly of 1789, that finally smashed the chains of feudalism and freed the peasant, although it had to hand him over to the new slavery of the bourgeois order of which he became an integral part.

Between these events and the Russian revolution a whole historic epoch intervened, profoundly transforming all society and consequently the methods and instruments of social change. Capitalism established the division of labour on a world scale. Sweeping technological advances and the automatic expansion of capital wealth soon collided with the national barriers originally erected to facilitate reorganization of the internal country market and the productive system that fed it. Rival national groups fought for markets, for fresh sources of raw material, for cheap labour and higher profits. Out of these conflicts colonial empires grew. All the backward sections of the world became subjected to the more advanced countries and were drawn irresistibly into the orbit of world capitalist economy. Asia and Africa became the theatres of stupendous economic, political, and military conflicts. Out of the ruthless competition that lay at the heart of this swiftly unfolding process emerged the tendency toward concentration of capital wealth, the rise of monopolies on the basis of mass production in largescale industries, the division of the world into a decreasing number of increasingly mighty economic and political groups, incessantly at war with one another, by economic or military means. Industrial control was transformed into financial control that crossed seas and the highest mountains and even battered down the walls of old China. When backward Russia and the newly awakened East ripened for revolution, the world had already advanced far into the epoch of imperialism.

To the backward countries this transformed world came ready-made. The tardy had to make gigantic leaps forward, combining in single historical stages the progressive steps the rest of the world had already left behind. The high degree of interdependence between the advanced and the backward nations linked their political fate, destroying the possibility of any gradual, isolated national development for the latter. Economically they had to leap from the most primitive of pre-capitalist forms of production to the latest techniques of industry, transport, and market organization. No less a leap had to be taken on the political plane, folding into brief compass the long and relatively gradual development of modern democratic political institutions. This was not all, for the point to which society had already developed on a world scale forced the backward countries not merely to come abreast but to surge beyond. Capitalism was already a fetter on productive forces. Its national barriers blocked the further development that was possible now only on an international scale. For this, the capitalist world could offer only the solution of a catastrophic war. If in the advanced countries capitalism and its democratic political institutions already failed to correspond to the basic needs of expanding economy, for the backward countries the hope for peaceful capitalist development in a democratic political framework had entirely disappeared. To move forward at all, they had to step over a whole historical epoch and move directly toward Socialist development through the establishment of the transitional proletarian dictatorship. This is precisely what happened in Russia in 1917. Only the young proletariat proved capable of grappling with the problems inherited from the past and those posed by the present.

The October revolution was victorious because the course of historical development made the growth of productive forces dependent upon the elevation of the proletariat to power. In Russia the workers were able to rise to this historic occasion because they were led by a party that had developed to an extraordinary degree the consciousness of the class mechanics of history. This it drew from the revolutionary experiences of Europe in the mid-nineteenth century and from the more recent Russian past. It was generalized and made intelligible by those first great Communists, Marx and Engels, and after them, the Russian Marxists, Lenin and Trotsky, four men who have stamped their imprint on a whole historic epoch as few men have ever done.

It was not enough that the dialectics of history had taken the lever of social progress out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and placed it in the hands of the proletariat, in the advanced and backward nations alike. Rising against their class enemy in the economic domain, the workers had to acquire through their own experience a consciousness of their political and historical role and had to forge the necessary weapon, the political party which could lead them to independent action on the political arena.

The history of the class struggle is in one very direct sense the history of the liberation of oppressed classes from servility and dependence upon their oppressors. When the burghers no longer cringed before the barons, the struggle for the creation of the bourgeois State came on to the order of the day. The democratic movements in Europe in 1848 were abortive because the petty bourgeois democrats, frightened by the workers and the plebeian masses, betrayed the peasants to the feudal reaction and permitted Cavaignac and his German and Austrian counterparts to crush the nascent working-class movement. With a rising proletariat at its back, the bourgeoisie could no longer solve the agrarian crisis or establish a stable democratic power. It submitted itself instead to the Bismarcks and the Louis Napoleons, seeking partial and niggardly solutions of the impasse by other than revolutionary means.

Out of these events proletarian revolutionary thought crystallized. Marx and Engels, who had charted the course of history by illuminating its past and were already actively engaged as proletarian revolutionists, perceived that the workers had to achieve complete organizational and political independence as a distinct social grouping to whom the future belonged. “The proletarian party,” they wrote to the German Communists in 1850, must henceforth “appear in the arena as united and as independent as possible if it is not to be exploited and taken in tow by the bourgeoisie as was the case in 1848.” It had to avoid becoming an “appendage of the official bourgeois democracy” and work for “the establishment of an independent ... organization of the workers ... and make every municipality a centre and a nucleus of workers’ societies in which the position and interests of the proletariat should be discussed independently of bourgeois influences.” Against any common enemy, a “momentary connection” with the petty bourgeois democrats was possible, but only on the basis of vigilant distrust of these allies and the uncompromising presentation of the workers’ own demands “in contradistinction to the demands put forward by the bourgeois democrats.” Marx and Engels still saw the bourgeois democracy as the urban ally of the peasantry and therefore envisaged the establishment, in Germany, of a bourgeois democratic regime. It was the task of the workers’ party, however, to see that the revolution did not stop there.

“It is in our interest and it is our task,” they wrote, “to make the revolution permanent, until all propertied classes are more or less dispossessed, the governmental power acquired by the proletariat and the association of proletarians achieved, not only in one country, but in all the important countries of the world ... With us it cannot be a mere matter of a change in the form of private property, but of destroying it as an institution; not in hushing up class antagonisms but in abolishing all classes, not in the improvement of present-day society, but in the foundation of a new society.”[10]

A few years later Marx put his finger on the essential factor in the permanence of the revolution: “The whole thing in Germany will depend,” he wrote to Engels in 1856, “on the possibility of covering the rear of the proletarian revolution by a second edition of the Peasants’ War. Then the affair will be splendid.”[11] It did not turn out that way in Germany, but for what happened in Russia fifty years later it was an almost mathematically perfect forecast.

The lessons of 1848 and of the Paris Commune of 1871, which gave the world its first rough outline of the dictatorship of the proletariat, were the head-aters of the Russian Marxist current known as Bolshevism. While in the more advanced countries the “Marxists” watered down the international and revolutionary content of Marxism to fit it to their National Socialist, evolutionary conceptions, backward Russia embraced the hardiest of all revolutionary doctrines, just as it had taken over the boldest of capitalist techniques. Bolshevism, fashioned by the genius of Lenin, was rooted firmly in the conception of the unconditional independence of the working class, in its organization and in its policies. It based its whole notion of Russia’s future on the international character of the revolution, on the collaboration of the workers of the more advanced countries. The other current in the Russian labour movement, known to history as Menshevism, based itself on the practice of class collaboration, on the idea that Russia’s was a bourgeois revolution and that the workers had therefore to subordinate themselves to the bourgeoisie. In sharpest contrast to this, Lenin held that the bourgeois revolution would be achieved and carried through to the end only if the peasant were drawn behind the worker, not behind the bourgeois. The nature of the State that would emerge from this worker-peasant bloc Lenin left an open question, expressing it in the abstract formula of “the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.” Following Lenin, Trotsky made a bold theoretical thrust forward and declared that the collaboration of worker and peasant in the bourgeois revolution would and could be realized only through the dictatorship of the proletariat, drawing behind it the peasant millions. This was Trotsky’s famous theory of the permanent revolution. Its fundamental premise was that the bourgeois revolution in Russia would have to grow over into a Socialist, proletarian revolution, whose final victory, in turn, would be realized only on a world scale. Events, far sooner than most men dreamed, synthesized the thought and action of these two titans.[12]

The 1905 revolution revealed the readiness of the liberal bourgeoisie to content itself with crumbs from the autocracy’s table and in the years of reaction that followed the idea of proletarian independence became Lenin’s incessant theme. Bolsheviks, he wrote, “need not fear to inflict blows upon the enemy hand in hand with the revolutionary bourgeois democracy under the absolute provision: not to amalgamate organizations, to march separately and strike unitedly, not to conceal the conflict of interests, to watch its allies as much as its enemy.”[13] When in 1917 the Mensheviks tried to canalize the revolution into bourgeois channels, Lenin wrote: “All the bourgeois politicians in all the bourgeois revolutions have fed the people with promises and stupefied the workers. Our revolution is a bourgeois revolution, therefore the workers must support the bourgeoisie; that is what the worthless politicians from the camp of the Liquidators [The Liquidators were those Mensheviks who after the defeat of the 1905 revolution wanted to adapt the labour movement to Czarist legality.] say. Our revolution is a bourgeois revolution, say we Marxists; therefore the workers must open the eyes of the people to the deception of the bourgeois politicians, must teach it to put no trust in words, to rely on its own forces, its own organizations, its own unity, its own arms.”[14]

This was the corner-stone of Bolshevism. The Russian autocracy was a brake on the productive forces of a country where, as in China, capitalist and feudal forms of exploitation were entwined and held the great mass of peasants in their grip. This meant for the Bolsheviks not the unity of all classes against the Czar, but, on the contrary, the unfolding of the mutual struggle among these classes and the emergence of the proletariat as the real leader of the peasantry. The October revolution provided the “algebraic formula” of Lenin of the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry with its arithmetical content, or to use Lenin’s own words, “life brought it out of the realm of formul√¶ into the realm of reality, clothed it with flesh and blood, concretized it and thus changed it.”[15] It proved to be the dictatorship of the proletariat which alone could crown the peasant war with victory. Looking to the workers in the rest of the world to join them, the Bolsheviks and the Russian workers translated daring theory into dazzling reality. When the war tore the last props out from under Czarism, they transformed a vast backward nation into the first proletarian State in history.

The revolutionary stimulus that radiated from workers’ Russia across a war-weary world found responding impulses throughout the colonial empires of the Great Powers. The war had strained the imperialist world until it had broken at its weakest link and the October revolution caused the whole structure to totter. War had led to convulsions in Europe. It also stimulated colonial and national revolts in the East, near and far. Across Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Arabia, Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Indo-China to China and Korea, subject peoples tried to break the chains the war had weakened. For all of them the experience of backward Russia was of decisive importance, for the underlying theoretical-strategic lessons it concretized, and for the new objective factor it introduced into world politics, the challenge of the first Workers’ State, opposing its proletarian internationalism to the oppressive weight of imperialism. The men who led the proletariat to power in Russia staked everything on the further advance of the world revolution and defined their internationalism as “the subordination of the interests of the proletarian struggle in one nation to the interests of that struggle on an international scale and the capability and the readiness on the part of one nation which has gained a victory over the bourgeoisie, of making the greatest national sacrifices for the overthrow of international capitalism.”[16]

They based this not on sentimental considerations, but on the fact that the Socialist transformation of the world could be realized only through “the creation of a unified world economy based on one general plan and regulated by the proletariat of all the nations of the world,” carrying forward and perfecting the world economic system already established by capitalism. This created “the urgent necessity of transforming the dictatorship of the proletariat and changing it from a national basis (i.e. existing in one country and incapable of exercising an influence over world politics) into an international dictatorship (i.e. a dictatorship of the proletariat of at least several advanced countries capable of exercising a determined influence upon world politics).”[17] This transformation depended upon the confluence of two main streams, the struggle of the proletariat for power in the advanced countries and the struggle for national liberation in the vast subjected countries comprising between half and three-quarters of the world’s area and of the world’s population. At its founding under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, the Communist International based its entire world revolutionary strategy upon the collaboration of the workers of the West and the oppressed peoples of the East. Guided and helped by the former, the latter would be able to emerge from their varying stages of backwardness to direct participation in the socialized reorganization and administration of the world’s productive forces, skipping over the stage of capitalism. This bold conception was the firmly-rooted basis of the internationalism with which the name of Lenin is indissolubly associated.

The striving toward national liberation in the colonies and in those other subjected nations more indirectly subjected to the Powers (semi-colonies) took on forms determined by their relative economic development and consequent class structure. The Revolutionary Party of the worker had not merely to support national movements, progressive as a whole, but had to understand what classes in the subject countries were capable of conducting the struggle against imperialism most resolutely by solving the internal problems of the nation and in so doing moving the country in the direction of a noncapitalist development. In his discussion of these problems at the Second World Congress of the Communist International in 1920, Lenin heavily stressed the distinction between bourgeois-democratic and national-revolutionary movements in the colonial and semi-colonial countries. The former tended towards striking a bargain with imperialism on terms satisfactory to the upper trust of the native ruling classes. The latter sought to unite the masses of the population in a struggle against imperialism on the basis of the solution of their most pressing internal social and economic problems. It was in this stream that the proletarian revolutionists had to find their way, marshalling the masses against their native exploiters as the only means of carrying the national liberation movement to fruition.[18]

“It is of special importance to support the peasant movements in backward countries,” wrote Lenin in his colonial theses for the Second Congress,[19] “against the landowners and all feudal survivals. Above all we must strive as far as possible to give the peasant movement a revolutionary character, to organize the peasants and all the exploited into Soviets ...

“It is the duty of the Communist International to support the revolutionary movement in the colonies and in the backward countries for the exclusive purpose of uniting the various units of the future proletarian parties—such as are Communist not only in name—in all backward countries and educate them to the consciousness of their specific task, i.e. to the tasks of the struggle against the bourgeois-democratic tendencies within their respective nationalities. The Communist International must establish temporary relations and even unions with the revolutionary movements in the colonies and backward countries, without, however, amalgamating with them, but preserving the independent character of the proletarian movement, even though it be still in its embryonic state.”

To guard against being “taken in tow” by national bourgeois movements seeking to exploit the authority and prestige of the October revolution, Lenin injected a specific warning “to wage determined war against the attempt of quasi-Communist revolutionists to cloak the liberation movement in the backward countries with a Communist garb.”

In a supplementary document adopted by the same congress these ideas were concretized as follows:

“There are to be found in the dependent countries two distinct movements which every day grow farther apart from each other. One is the bourgeois democratic Nationalist movement, with a programme of political independence under the bourgeois order, and the other is the mass action of the poor and ignorant peasants and workers for their liberation from all sorts of exploitation. The former endeavour to control the latter, and often succeed to a certain extent, but the Communist International and the parties affected must struggle against such control and help to develop class consciousness in the working masses of the colonies. For the overthrow of foreign capitalists, which is the first step toward revolution in the colonies, the co-operation of the bourgeois Nationalist revolutionary elements is useful. But the foremost and necessary task is the formation of Communist parties which will organize the peasants and workers and lead them to the revolution and to the establishment of Soviet republics. Thus the masses in the backward countries may reach Communism, not through capitalist development, but led by the class-conscious proletariat of the advanced capitalist countries.

“The real strength of the liberation movements in the colonies is no longer confined to the narrow circle of bourgeois democratic Nationalists. In most of the colonies there already exist organized revolutionary parties which strive to be in close connection with the working masses. (The relation of the Communist International with the revolutionary movement in the colonies should be realized through the mediums of these parties or groups, because they are the vanguard of the working class in their respective countries.) They are not very large to-day, but they reflect the aspirations of the masses and the latter will follow them to the revolution. The Communist Parties of the different imperialist countries must work in conjunction with these proletarian parties of the colonies and, through them, give all moral and material support to the revolutionary movement in general ...

“The revolution in the colonies is not going to be a Communist revolution in its first stages. But if from the outset the leadership is in the hands of a Communist vanguard, the revolutionary masses will not be led astray, but will go ahead through the successive periods of development of revolutionary experience ... In the first stages the revolution in the colonies must be carried on with a programme which will include many petty bourgeois reform clauses, such as division of land, etc. But from this it does not follow at all that the leadership of the revolution will have to be surrendered to the bourgeois democrats. On the contrary, the proletarian parties must carry on vigorous and systematic propaganda for the Soviet idea and organize the peasants’ and workers’ Soviets as soon as possible. These Soviets will work in co-operation with the Soviet Republics in the advanced capitalistic countries for the ultimate overthrow of the capitalist order throughout the world.”[20]

In these words, the Communist International summarized and applied to the problems of the East the fruits of a half-century of revolutionary thought and experience, and above all and most concretely, the experiences of the Russian revolutions and what they revealed about the internal dynamics of the bourgeois revolutions in backward countries under twentieth-century conditions.

For China the lessons of the Russian revolutions bore a peculiar cogency. The fate of the two countries was joined, in the first place, by a contiguous frontier crossing Asia for a distance of nearly six thousand miles. Both composed of different races and nationalities with specific cultures and characteristics, the two countries and the two groups of peoples did not clash at a barrier, but tended gradually to merge across the Turkestan and Mongolian frontiers. In both the agrarian population overwhelmingly predominated, with the proletariat a small but decisive minority. Like the Russia of the Czars, China on the morrow of the Great War was a backward nation which combined the beginnings of capitalism with the hold-overs of a feudal past, an anomaly that spelt ruin and impoverishment for the great mass of the peasantry. Whereas in Russia the autocracy fettered the productive forces of the country and perpetuated the barbarism of the past, in China imperialism in a far more drastic manner paralysed the country’s economic growth. The backwardness in economy and social organization condemned the masses of both countries to conditions of helotry supported by the blackest superstitions, ignorance, and the burden of traditions centuries old. In the circumstances created by the war, the youthful Russian proletariat proved that it alone could release the latent creative energies of the nation, open the path to industrialization of its resources, and thence, with the aid of workers in other lands, to the establishment of a Socialist economy on a world-wide basis.

Backward as Russia was, China was more backward still because it came much later into the mainstream of world history and because imperialism was a far more potent obstacle in its path than the rotting autocracy of the Romanoffs. The 1905 revolution in Russia, which clearly demarcated the dividing lines of the classes and occurred at a time when backward Russia had become an imperialist nation in its own right, was one of the world-historical factors that led to the explosion in China in 1911, toppling the last Ching emperor from his throne. While in Russia the 1905 events had already introduced into the most advanced sections of the Russian working class a consciousness of its historic role, in China the revision of the economic structure and the emergence of new class divisions had not yet, in 1911, developed to the point where they could find expression in terms of political power. The bourgeoisie, stifled by imperialism, was too weak to replace the Manchus by a unified and modern State of its own. The proletariat was scarcely yet born. Power fell, therefore, to the militarists, whose warring satrapies thinly masked the interplay of imperialist antagonisms. The 1911 revolution had nevertheless ushered in a transitional epoch which could no longer lead, as in the past, to the rise of a new Dynasty, but had to lead to a complete transformation of the economic and class structure of the country and of the State superimposed upon it. The spectacular growth of productive fortes during the years of the war brought a modern Chinese proletariat into being. The momentary weakening of the imperialist pressure had given certain layers of the Chinese bourgeoisie a dazzling glimpse of unfettered growth and undreamed-of profit. Its hope for capitalist expansion collided, however, with the impassable barrier of the competition and the mutual rivalries of the imperialists, the enormous tribute extracted by foreign capital for its investment in production goods, supplementary raw materials, and manufactured goods. Moreover, it could not revitalize its internal market without solving the agrarian problem and the agrarian problem could not be solved without upsetting the whole existing structure of property relations.

The Russian revolution offered a new and radical point of departure. World revolution, on which the Russian Bolsheviks so firmly counted as the only possible condition for the preservation of their own victory, assumed the rational reorganization of world economy and the rational distribution of the world’s goods in accordance with the needs of those who people it. This meant abolition of the anarchy of the world market under capitalism. Taking its place in the new order, China would be assured the planned and systematic aid of the more advanced countries, working harmoniously in the interests of a general elevation of the economic and cultural level of all peoples. This was the only sense in which China would truly achieve its national liberation. The path to this lay through the mobilization of the great masses of the country for struggle against exploitation, native and foreign alike. The bourgeoisie, vassal to imperialism, could not lead such a struggle. The youthful proletariat, new and raw at its machines, was con-fronted at once with the task of guiding the greater mass of their people into the future. No other class could do so.

The political role of the proletariat in Chinese society was determined more by its specific gravity than by its bulk in relation to the rest of the population. It was no more a question of the “maturity” of the country for Socialism, any more than it had been for Russia. It was a question of the “maturity” of the world as a whole for Socialist reorganization. It was not so much a question of the actual numbers of the proletariat in relation to the whole population as it was the economic and political position held by the workers in the mutual relations of the different classes. Yet it is interesting to note that the factory population of Russia in 1905 was one and a half million, and the workers in city and village together were estimated at ten million.[21] The industrial spurt in China during and just after the war created a class of factory workers estimated at about one and a half million. Industrial workers, inclusive of the factory population, were put, in 1927, at about two and three-quarter million, and the handicraft workers at more than eleven million.[22] Even when properly weighted for distribution and density of population and taken in conjunction with the disparate totals, these figures nevertheless reveal a striking similarity. There was a similarity, too, in the militancy and combative qualities of the Russian and Chinese workers. The latter had only come into being as a class during the war, and the first unions, in the modern sense, appeared only in 1918. Yet a year later China’s working class was already intervening in the political life of the country, striking in support of Nationalist students against the Japanese rape of Shantung and the treachery at Versailles. Six years later one million workers participated in strikes, many of them on the basis of directly political demands. Two years after that the Chinese unions counted nearly three million members and the Shanghai workers carried out a victorious insurrection that placed power in their grasp. The intensity of this unprecedented growth was in part a source of weakness, yet it was also expressive of the profound reservoirs of strength of the Chinese working class, for all its youth. Here mere comparison must end and give way to the criterion of historical continuity. One of the deepest sources of this strength was the fact that the Russian working class had already triumphed and already ruled over the first Workers’ State in the world.

If the Chinese workers were comparatively weak because they were so young as a class, they were far stronger than the Russian workers had been before them precisely because this Workers’ State now existed as a gigantic objective factor in the class struggle viewed on a world scale. The influence of the October revolution was expressed in China not only in the intangible impulses it radiated or in the significant historical lessons it taught. It existed tangibly. Behind the Chinese workers rising fresh to the struggle stood the whole might of the Russian proletariat, the Russian proletarian State, and the most advanced sections of the workers of all the advanced countries united in the ranks of the Communist International. This was the world factor which more than any other single circumstance entitled the youthful Chinese proletariat to make its audacious claim to leadership of a nation of four hundred millions. Yet it was precisely at this point that an historical contradiction intruded itself and began to transform this decisively favourable circumstance into its opposite, the Chinese revolution’s greatest asset into its heaviest liability.

When the new and fresh forces of the Chinese revolution began to gather momentum, the revolutionary wave in Europe was already declining. The Soviet State in Russia was driven, internally and externally, to seek respite. The economic structure it had inherited from Czarism was ravaged by the war and had been strained to the utmost of its meagre limits by the needs of “war Communism.” The proletarian dictatorship was compelled to retreat to the New Economic Policy to win a breathing space for an exhausted people. Circumstances forced this strategic withdrawal primarily because the expected aid from the workers of advanced Europe had not materialized. The Social Democrats of the Second International at the head of the European labour movement had degenerated from internationalists in words to Nationalists in deeds as soon as the outbreak of war put their professions to the test. They had handed over the workers for defence of the bourgeois fatherlands of Europe. In the convulsions that followed the war’s end, they proved to be the firmest pillars of the bourgeois order. They dammed the proletarian tide and handed political power back, intact, to the bourgeoisie. Absence of a firmly consistent revolutionary leadership prevented the victory of the new revolutions upon which Lenin and the Bolsheviks calculated. Instead of the ready aid of European workers’ States, Soviet Russia faced the menacing bayonets of the imperialist intervention. It drove back its enemies, but was compelled in the end to find means of establishing a temporary truce with the rim of hostile capitalist States that surrounded it.

Lenin said and repeated a thousand times that the Workers’ State in backward Russia could not stand without the aid of the workers in at least several advanced countries. When he was compelled to lead the retreat to the New Economic Policy, he recognized the dangerous rise of hostile class influences that bore down upon the proletarian dictatorship from within and without as the revolutionary wave in Europe and the tension of the Russian masses began to recede. Through the Communist International and with the positive intervention of the Soviet State, the Bolsheviks hoped that a new conjuncture of events on the world scene would quickly enable them to shift the relationship of forces back in favour of the proletariat. The first four Congresses of the Communist International provided the ideological armament for the parties abroad upon whom this new conjuncture depended to no small extent. Yet it took more than the genius of a Lenin or a Trotsky to make history to order. Amid conditions of isolation and recession of the masses from the political arena, especially after the last great battles of the civil war were fought, bureaucratic reaction, refracting the pressure of hostile classes at home and abroad, grasped the machinery of the new State. It began to entrench itself long before the young revolutionary organizations of Europe could lead the workers once more to the threshold of political power.

This bureaucratic stratum which began to solidify on the outer crust of the newly-formed Soviet State took Russia’s national isolation as its starting-point. It began the shift in Soviet policy from the premise of world revolution to the narrowly conceived conservative national interests of the bureaucracy, identifying itself with the workers’ power. Lenin fought this tendency in his last years, but it was stronger than he. Too soon his struggle ended and power fell to representatives of the new bureaucratic caste, personified in Joseph Stalin. The Bolshevik opposition to the usurpers centred around Trotsky and the best elements of the proletarian core of the Bolshevik Party. They swam against the current, but they could not dam or divert it. The new leadership still espoused in words the extension of the proletarian revolution, but began to replace it in practice by consolidation of the privileges of the bureaucracy. The defeats of the revolution in Europe, above all the defeat in Germany in 1923, engendered moods of disillusionment and punctured the confidence in the capacity of the Western proletariat to win power. Out of these roots and these moods sprang the theory of “Socialism in one country” brought forward by Stalin for the first time in 1924. He superimposed it upon the uncompromising internationalism of Lenin and established it as the main axis of latter-day revised “Bolshevism.”

This Nationalist degeneration, proceeding under the corrosive influence of Soviet isolation, led inevitably to a departure from the proletarian basis of Soviet policy at home and abroad. Internally the regime entered upon a flirtation with the petty bourgeoisie, the rich peasants (“kulaks”) and the Nepmen. Externally it pursued a policy which more and more tended to subordinate the interests of the proletarian movements abroad to the diplomatic requirements of the new Soviet bureaucracy. It became no longer a question of “making the greatest national sacrifices for the overthrow of international capitalism,” but of making the greatest international sacrifices for the preservation of Russia’s national “Socialism.” This evolution took more than a decade and a whole series of dizzy zigzags to reach full flower in the Communist Parties of the Western countries. Its effect was sooner felt in the countries of the East where the desire to find strong bourgeois Nationalist allies, and the loss of confidence in the power of the working class, led to the application of policies that stemmed not from Bolshevism and the October revolution, but directly from Menshevism, with its insistence upon the leading role of the bourgeoisie in the bourgeois revolution and its readiness to subordinate the interests of the workers to those of the bourgeoisie. The pedantic and mechanical concept of rigidly chronological “stages” in the bourgeois revolution replaced the living experience of October which had shown how these stages were fused or telescoped.

It was not at all accidental that Stalin and with him many of the top ranks of the “Old Bolsheviks” slid so easily down this path. Prior to Lenin’s arrival in Russia in April, 1917, all of them, without exception, had assumed the inviolability of the bourgeois power that had emerged from the first phase of the revolution. Stalin had been the author of the famous formula of support to the bourgeois Provisional Government in March, 1917, against which Lenin fought to the point of threatening to break with the Party leadership. “In so far as the Provisional Government fortifies the steps of the revolution,” declared Stalin at the Party conference in March that year, “to that extent we must support it, but in so far as it is counter-revolutionary, support to the Provisional Government is impermissible.”[23] To this Lenin a few days later sharply counter-posed in his historic April thesis: “No support to the Provisional Government. Exposure of the utter falsity of all its promises ... Unmasking, instead of admitting, the illusion-breeding demand that this Government, a Government of capitalists, cease being imperialistic ... “[24] To a Bolshevik Party conference he declared: “Even our own Bolsheviks show confidence in the Government. This is the death of Socialism. You, comrades, have faith in the Government. In that case our ways part. I would rather be in the minority.”[25] When he demanded that the Party steer a course towards workers’ power and declared that the old idea of a “democratic dictatorship” was fit only for “the archive of Bolshevik pre-revolutionary antiques,”[26] the horrified “old Bolsheviks,” Stalin stunned among them, accused him of “jumping over the bourgeois democratic stage of the revolution.” Lenin’s course prevailed, and the October revolution rolled over the heads of the defenders of the “bourgeois-democratic stage.” When the wave receded and left power in their hands, it found them still clinging to their “pre-revolutionary antiques.” The experience of October had passed, barely leaving a trace upon them. The “antiques,” not the living reality that replaced them, were refurbished and stamped with the labels of Bolshevism and the October revolution to bolster the authority of the new ruling caste. By the time the revolution began to stir in China and the Soviet bureaucracy turned its attention to the East, the dynamic Bolshevism of Lenin and Trotsky had given way to the empiricism of Stalin clothed in the scholastic formulas of Bukharin. Not the interests of the proletariat in China, but the desire to find a strong national bourgeois ally became the fundamental motivation of their policies. The Mensheviks Martinov and Rafes emerged as the “interpreters” of Bolshevism for the Orient. Their axis was not the proletariat but the bourgeoisie.

The Chinese workers had already embarked spontaneously on the revolutionary path. The impulses they radiated from the cities were already beginning to stir great layers of the peasants into action. The Chinese bourgeoisie, its hopes for expansion fluttering, was already reaching out to control this nascent movement and was already attempting to cloak itself, as Lenin foresaw it would, with the authority of Communism and the October revolution. On the other hand, with the heroism, the courage, the capacity for sacrifice and endurance that is his distinguishing mark, the humble Chinese coolie was pitting himself against a society that tried to keep him a dumb and docile animal. To fill in the gap of his political immaturity, he needed the aid of the Workers’ State. Above all, he needed a revolutionary party, armed from the ideological arsenals of the October revolution, backed by the strength of the Communist International, and impregnated with a consciousness of its historic role. With these forces, the Chinese revolution had an incomparable opportunity to inflict a smashing blow on imperialism and break down the isolation of the Soviet State by galvanizing the whole subjected East and destroying the basis of imperialist power.

In a few short, swift years a stupendous mass movement rose from the streets of Chinese cities and the tired land of Chinese fields and threatened to destroy or transform all that was old, corrupt, and rotting in Chinese society. But those who put themselves at the head of these denim-clad ranks did not teach them to break for ever with the deadening tradition of submission, but yoked them, even as they rose to struggle, to the political chariot of their exploiters. The whole weight and authority of the October revolution and the Communist International were thrown not behind the proletariat as an independent force, but behind the national bourgeoisie. As a result of this the masses were halted at the height of their forward surge, their organizations were shattered, their leaders decapitated. The shaken foundations of the system of exploitation they challenged settled back and still stood. This was the tragedy of the Chinese revolution.


1. Chen Han-seng, The Present Agrarian Problem in China, Shanghai, 1933. Useful. Although less competently marshalled, facts will be found in J. Lossing Buck, Chinese Farm Economy, Shanghai, 1930. Lists of pertinent monographs and various specialized studies will be found in the footnotes to R. H. Tawney, Land and Labour in China, New York, 1932.

2. “Report of the Land Committee of the Kuomintang,” Chinese Correspondence, Hankow, May 8, 1927.

3. Chen, Present Agrarian Problem, pp. 2-5.

4. Chen Han-seng, Agrarian Problems in Southernmost China, Shanghai, 1936.

5. Cf. Annexes 6 and 7, Annexes to the Report to the Council of the League of Nations, Nanking, April, 1934; also briefer summary and bibliographical notes in Tawney, Land and Labour, pp. 50-4.

6. Wong Yin-seng, Requisitions and the Peasantry in North China, Shanghai, 1931; Chen, Present Agrarian Problem, pp. 15-18; Chen, Agrarian Problems in Southernmost China, Chap. V; “Kuomintang vs. Peasants,” in H. R. Isaacs (ed.), Five Years of Kuomintang Reaction, Shanghai, 1932.

7. Cf. Chinese Maritime Customs, Annual Report for 1932, p. 48 ff.; Chen Han-seng, “Economic Disintegration of China,” Pacific Affairs, April-May, 1933; C. H. Lowe, Facing Labour Issues in China, Table I; Dr. Friedrich Otto, “Harvests and Imports of Cereals,” Chinese Economic Journal, October, 1934; Louis Beale and G. Clinton Pelham, Trade and Economic Conditions in China, 1931-3, Department of Overseas Trade, London, 1933, p. 7 and 149 ff. Food imports were 5 per cent of the total in 1918 and 20 per cent in 1932. In the latter year it took 43 per cent of the total exports to pay for the imported food alone.

8. H. D. Fong, Cotton Trade and Industry in China, Table 2b; C. F. Remer, Foreign Investments in China, New York, 1933, pp. 69, 86-91, 135; China Year Book, 1926, p. 822; Fang Fu-an, “Communications, the Extent of Foreign Control,” The Chinese Nation, Shanghai, September to, 1930; L. K. Tao and S. H. Lin, Industry and Labour in China, Peiping, 1932, pp. 12, 16-17.

9. Chen, Present Agrarian Problem, p. 18.

10. “First Address of the Central Committee of the Communist League to its Members in Germany,” in Engels, Germany: Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Appendix III, p. 135

11. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Correspondence, 1846-1895, London, 1934 p. 87.

12. For Lenin’s 1917 estimate of his 1905 slogan, see V. I. Lenin, Works (Eng. ed.), v. XX, p. 218 ff.; for an exposition of these ideas and the polemics that later raged around them, see L. Trotsky, The Permanent Revolution, New York, 1931, and History of the Russian Revolution, New York, 1932, v. III, Appendix Three.

13. Lenin, Works (Russ. ed.), v. VI, p. 30.

14. Ibid. (Eng. ed.), v. XX, pp. 33-4.

15. Ibid., v. XX, p. 120.

16. “Theses on the National and Colonial Question,” Theses and Statutes of the Third (Communist) International (adopted by the Second Congress, July 17-August 7, 1920), Moscow, 1920, p. 70; cf. Lenin, “Preliminary Draft of Some Theses on the National and Colonial Questions,” Communist International, June-July, 1920.

17. “Theses on the National and Colonial Question,” p. 69.

18. Protokoll des II Weltkongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale, Hamburg, 1921, pp. 140-2.

19. ”Theses on the National and Colonial Question,” p. 70.

20. “Supplementary Theses,” Theses and Statutes, pp. 72-5; cf. “Theses on the Eastern Question,” Resolutions and Theses of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International, November 7-December 3, 1922, London, undated, p. 53 ff.; cf. Safarov, “Report on the National-Colonial Question and the Communist Attitude Thereto,” Proceedings of the First Congress of the Toilers of the Far East, January 21-February 1, 1922, Petrograd, 1922, p. 166 ff.

21. For useful Trotsky, History of the Russian Revolution, v. I, pp. 32 and 53.

22. Lowe, Facing Labour Issues in China, pp. 154-5; for a summary of studies made of the industrial population, see Fang Fu-an, Chinese Labour, Shanghai, 1931, Chap. II.

23. ”Minutes of the March, 1917, Party Conference,” appendix to Trotsky, Stalin School of Falsification, New York, 1937, p. 239.

24. Lenin, Works (Eng. ed.), p. 207.

25. Ibid., p. 98.

26. Ibid., p. 120.