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The “Red” Guerilla War in China

(January 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 20, 17 May 1930, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

NOTE: This article by one of the leaders of the Chinese Opposition was received after our last issue was off the press. It gives a first hand picture and Marxist analysis of the guerilla warfare now going on in Southern China and serves as a thorough reply to the falsehoods and anti-Marxist nonsense which the official Party press (particularly its Chinese “expert” Doonping) publishes on events in China. Our next issue will contain another letter from comrade Niel-Sih. – Ed.)

SHANGHAI – TO have an idea of the real importance of the official Communist Party, it should be noted that according to the official figures the membership in Shanghai does not exceed one thousand. The organization has no active life; all is concentrated in the hands of the apparatus. The situation is still worse in the provinces.

The recent congress of the Party at Dazhan-Sus proclaimed that the revolutionary situation was “ripe” and appealed for the general strike and the armed uprising in the cities, and for the development of the guerilla war in the country.

Certain strikes imposed from above were terminated either with a lockout by the bourgeoisie or with bloodshed; in the best case, by the economic defeat of the workers. A spirit of passivity prevails within the textile industry which is the principal industry iu Shanghai. The bourgeoisie conducts a systematic offensive against the workers, replacing men in textiles by women and children.

Two or three Communist workers can sometimes be found in the most important industrial enterprises. For a long time nobody took the trouble to keep in contact with them. But the First of August saw the beginning of a period of artificial explosions: the Party organized demonstrations, one after the other. Outside of the kernel proper of the membership, the demonstration only attracted some chance passers-by. For the most part they proceeded as follows:

In a busy street, with many passers-by, small merchants, buyers and idlers, a bunch of Communists arrive and begin to shout: “Down with the Kuo Min Tang! Long live the Communist International!” and distribute leaflets. But this method gives no serious results: the leaflets fall on the sidewalk and street and are swept up with the dirt by the municipal street cleaners. A dozen demonstrators are led to the station house. Next day, the Party organ proclaims that the demonstration was magnificent, with thousands of participants, when only about one or two hundred Party members could be seen. Such demonstrations were frequently launched for the most futile motives.

On the other hand, Communists are sent to the Left Kuo Min Tang generals in order to help them in the constitution of new troops. It is even said that the Communists sent a delegate to the conference for a bloc against Chiang Kai-Shek. This conference was recently held in Hong Kong. It goes without saying that while it maintains its collaboration with the Left Kuo Min Tang, the official Party and its organ, The Red Flag, conducts a rabid campaign against the Left Opposition.

The situation is still worse among the provincial Party forces. No campaign has been conducted against the Kuo Min Tang for a long time, on the belief that was a finished phase and that after their disillusionment with the Kuo Min Tang the workers would rejoin the Communist ranks of their own accord.

In reality they did nothing of the kind. The Left Kuo Min Tang showed considerable flexibility, even taking the lead in numerous strike movements. In short, after the defeats of the demonstrations organized on the initiative of the C.P., many workers can be seen abandoning the Party and going over to the Left Kuo Min Tang and joining the yellow trade unions. This is what happened especially among the miners of Tang-Chan, near Tien-Tsin.

In the provinces, the strikes, acts of sabotage and other conflicts were often provoked in an entirely artificial manner in order to justify the schema of a revolutionary recrudescence. This sort of demonstration succeeded in embracing only a restricted part of the workers’ forces and contributed more to weakening than strengthening the movement

Rich Peasant Elements in Party

The very small proportion of proletarian elements within the Party frequently leads to the decay of the movement in the villages. Also, the rich peasants often join the Party. Easily solidarizing with the struggle against taxes, the assessments on domainal land leases and other state impositions.

Conversely, these same rich peasants show themselves basically hostile to the directives of the Party on the leases between individuals and usurious loans. In those regions, the poor peasants break away from the revolution, become discouraged and go to sleep at meetings. The movement has no hold on the class of poor peasants because it does not constitute a struggle against the rich peasants.

In the villages of the Tung-Cheiu and Kwang-Si provinces, the Party organizations are peopled with lumpen-proletarian elements or bandits whose armed detachments often cover themselves with the name of Red Army. Further in the same province of Tung-Cheiu the rich proprietors call themselves Communists in order to seek an alliance with these armed groups. Such proprietors often pay the “Red” chiefs so as to be authorized, under their protection, to levy rental rates on the poor peasant. When the peasants ask why these Communists levy rents, they are told that it is for various needs, including the provisionment of troops. Such troops of so-called Communists do not limit themselves to levying contributions on the rich, but also on the poor, and in general carry on numerous exactions and violence, arousing the hatred of the peasants and compromising the names of Communism and the Red Army.

Everything shows that with such a weak development of the revolutionary spirit in the villages and such an oppression of the proletariat, the guerilla war in the country can lead to nothing but pure banditry. In any event, that is the situation in the province of Kiang Su.

Frequently, also, troops of partisans proceed to the temporary occupation of small localities only in order to give their chiefs the opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the population and the State treasury. This it what is happening especially in the Hupei province.

Tchu-Deh’s Forces

The detachment of the Communist Tchu-Deh, composed of the remnants of Ye-Tin’s forces, has been reinforced by new groups of rebels. Pursued by the regular forces, this detachment goes from Right to Left, utilizing the lack of any contact between the governmental forces of the four provinces of Hunan, Kiang-Si, Kwantung and Fukien. This detachment, or at least its nucleus already exists since 1927. It wages war without cessation. It escapes all pursuit, taking refuge in the mountainous parts of the four provinces mentioned above. Tchu-Deh’s detachment distinguishes itself advantageously from the groups of bandits in that it really pursues a revolutionary aim. As soon as it invades a new region, it proceeds to share the land among the peasants, proclaims the annulment of debts, constitutes village Soviets, furnishes the poor peasants with provisions as far as it is possible, so that as soon as the government troops arrive the detachment leaves nothing but regrets among the peasants.

Personally, Tchu-Deh is a former Chinese student in Germany, a Communist, formerly a divisional general under the Wang Chin Wei government. The operations of this detachment, however, produce only a weak impression here because in the present general circumstances, they lack perspective. What the Moscow Pravda says, cited by the Left Opposition press, is manifestly exaggerated is order the better to serve the needs of the “Third Period”.

Our group has just issued its first appeal for the establishment of a Left Communist. League. The work is only beginning.

January 25, 1930


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