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A Shanghai Report of Com. Chen’s Arrest

(October 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 48, 26 November 1932, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The letter below, which we have just received from our comrade in Shanghai, will serve also as a reply to the vicious police article which appeared on the question of comrade Chen Du-Hsiu a few days ago in the Daily Worker. The article of the Shanghai correspondent of the Worker, if it had any meaning at all, might have been written in the chancellery of Chiang Kai-Shek. It announced that our comrade Chen was merely going to Nanking to “interview Chiang Kai-Shek”. In China, such “interviews” have a murderous meaning: the word is the cynical expression used to signify that a revolutionist is being sent to his death. The Stalinist crime in this case lies in the fact that they are not only surrendering our noted revolutionist to the Kuo Min Tang assassins without joining in our protest, but are actually covering up the black butchers by disseminating the malicious lie that comrade Chen has been sent under military escort to ... “interview Chiang Kai-Shek. No conscientious revolutionist can remain silent in the face of this horrible piece of Stalinist police work. Raise your voice in protest and demand that the party and the I.L.D. act to remove the stain they have cast on the Communist movement! – Ed.

SHANGHAI. – On October 15, the Kuo Min Tang government and British imperialism dealt a heavy blow to the Chinese section of the International Left Opposition Comrade Chen Du-Hsiu was arrested, and other arrests and raids continued for about three days. Twelve comrades were taken altogether, among them four members of the Central Committee, the rest being functionaries and technical workers. This came about, just as in May 1931, as a result of betrayal, of which there has been an epidemic in these last two years, in the official party as well as in the Left Opposition. For example, in Nanking, responsible workers went to the authorities to betray all the other comrades, so that over 30 comrades were shot. In some local organizations, the party secretary has handed to the police the other party workers. As for us, our best comrades, six of whom are members of the Central Committee, two of May arrests in 1931 took away many of them already dead in prison. The second betrayal followed in August 1931, in which five comrades, one of them a C.C. member, were arrested. There were also several individual arrests made this year.

But this time the loss to us is infinitely greater. Now nearly the whole C.C. (except for two worker-comrades) has been put in prison and you can well imagine the consequences.

Bourgeoisie Jubilant

The arrest of comrade Chen has called forth, both in the imperialist and in the Chinese bourgeois press a satisfaction and a wild joy. The Shanghai Times speaks of him as “the father of Communism in China”. The Chinese bourgeois press speaks of his arrest as “the most important case since the drive against Communism started”. Thus, in spite of the slanders of the Stalinists, in spite of the numerous arrests of Communists, the capitalist press still regards the arrest of comrade Chen as the most important one since 1927.

The Chinese Communist Party is decapitated. Nobody, not even in the party ranks, knows the party leader or leaders. Several months ago, I learned that the general secretary of the party is a youth named C. whom I knew well. He is of student origin, sent to Moscow at the end of 1926 to study as a member of the Y.C.I. First as student and then as interpreter, he remained in Moscow until 1929 or 1930, joined the party there and in 1932 he becomes the general secretary of a party which claims hundreds of thousands of members. There is nothing strange in it; he attained the post simply because he is the puppet of the Stalinist specialist on China, Miff. The party’s old leaders have either gone into the “Soviet and Red Army districts”, occupying posts as “people’s commissars” there, or have simply been removed from responsible work, like Strakhov, or have been expelled from the party. The party is physically exterminated under the “leadership” of such Moscow students who are only capable of obeying and transmitting instructions from the Comintern to the lower organizations, and of carrying on intrigues against their adversaries. Thus, a comrade in the high leading party organs once told me that the members of the Political Bureau show absolutely no initiative in the work, but only do what they are ordered. One of our own comrades from Hongkong, who just came out of prison, told me the following: in prison he met a responsible party worker who informed him that in Canton there are not even Communist elements, and in Hongkong there are only two party nuclei which consist exclusively of functionaries sent from the outside by the party. Communist ideas not only cease to penetrate into the masses but they even lose their hold on the old party members. Some vie with each other in delivering thir own comrades to the police: others have recanted and re-entered the Kuo Min Tang to receive jobs there.

Chiang’s “Blue Shirts”

Meanwhile, Chiang Kai-Shek has found a new orientation for his policies. He no longer feels able to control the heterogeneous K.M.T. effectively and has therefore organized a Fascist organization for himself, the socalled “Blue Shirts Association”. In actuality, the K.M.T. is a Fascist party in its relation to the workers and poor peasants. But Chiang no longer trusts the K.M.T. and is compelled to lead an independent political existence. This is symptomatic of the fact that the K.M.T. is in the process of disintegration. Therefore the edge of the “Blue Shirts Association” is directed more against Chiang’s political opponents inside the K.M.T. This association has its “blood and iron groups” in Nanking, Hankow and Shanghai, to initiate the “movement of extermination of opponents” or the “blue terror” They make secret arrests and assassins’ attacks. The cadres for this “blue” movement, Chiang Kai-Shek draws from two sources: (1) the former Whampoo cadets; (2) the students from Moscow. Chiang Kai-Shek often gives high pay to those renegades and Moscow students. He often puts the question to them: How did Stalin eliminate Trotsky? His press openly advocates that he should apply the same methods to his political adversaries as Stalin did to Trotsky, or Mussolini to Nitti. There are now more than 300 Moscow students in Chiang’s service. They are fighting for the non-capitalist development of China and the land to the peasants. Of course, not only Chiang Kai-Shek but other groups of the K.M.T. – under one cover or another, social democracy, peasants’ and workers’ party, etc. – draw recruits from the renegades from Communism. Owing to the absence of mass movement, these attempts have not come out into the open but group themselves around various magazines.

The entry of these renegades into the K.M.T. is the outcome of the Stalinist school of educaton. The Stalinist school suppresses free speech and free thinking, obligates the students to memorize the Marxian-Leninist catechisms mechanically, without understanding their inner connections, without remolding the mind, only disorients the best elements in our own ranks, facilitates it for alien elements to adopt protective colors, and at the decisive moment, – they turn against us. The Stalinist school does not educate the new generation from the point of view of Communism, i.e., of permanent revolution, but from the point of view of vulgar democracy, i.e., class collaboration. Stalin’s policy is always directed towards weakening the position of the C.P. and strengthening that of the enemy. It is disastrous indeed that during the revolutionary ascent, the Chinese party as a whole was put at the disposal of the K.M.T. and during the counter-revolutionary triumph, a part of its forces serve the K.M.T. as traitors. Re-education is needed to turn us into genuine Communist but under the blows of reaction and the prejudices sown for years, this is an extremely difficult task, which accounts for the slow progress the Chinese Opposition has been making.

Chen’s Record of Struggle

Comrade Chen has been the most prominent figure in the Chinese revolutionary movement for the last fifteen years. Born in 1879 of a rich Mandarin family, he carried on revolutionary activities from the time of his youth, mainly in the literary field, as the editor of newspapers and teacher of middle schools. He was abroad in Japan several times. At that time the revolution was directed at the Manchu dynasty, and it was national and democratic. The revolution of 1911 ended in a failure, in the setting up of the military dictatorship of Yuan Shi Kai and then Tuan Chi Jui. The former capitulated before Japanese imperialism on the “21 demands”; the latter was a notorious puppet of Japan.

Comrade Chen, in distinction from the quasi-revolutionists of that time, of the Sun Yat Sen type who aimed to overthrow Yuan Shi Kai and Tuan Chi Jui by military adventures, set himself the task of winning the youth by devoting himself to propaganda work. He founded the monthly called La Juenesse (The Youth), which played a most important role in the history of Chinese culture and social movement. In the name of science and democracy, he waged a merciless war against the teachings of Confucius which, as a tradition for 3,000 years, hindered the development of revolutionary thought among the youth. La Jeunesse also contributed to the reform of the Chinese language, to replace the old dead language in literary composition by the spoken language; this had the same significance as the replacement of Latin by the vernacular languages in Europe in the 16th century. Since then, writing is no longer for a small number of scholar’s but rather for the masses. This period (1916–1919) called the period of “ideological revolution and literary revolution” paved the way for the development of the mass movement, beginning with the anti-Japanese student demonstration on May 4, 1919. During this period, comrade Chen, as dean of the Literature Department of the Peking University, was forced to resign because his literary activities aroused strong opposition among the conservative circles, just as they aroused the mass movement and revolutionized the mind of the youth.

It is characteristic that the Kuo Min Tang, at the head of which stood Sun Yat Sen, even at that time looked upon the ideological and literary revolution with suspicion, met it half-way, and followed it when it became popular. Needless to say, the K.M.T. government tries every means today to restore the dignity of Confucianism and to spread the use of dead language in writing At the height of the student anti-Japanese movement, comrade Chen, a former professor but an ardent revolutionist, wrote a leaflet denouncing the treacherous Tuan Chi Jui government and he – the only one to do so – distributed the leaflets in the streets of Peking in order to direct the movement against its internal foe. He was thereupon arrested and put in prison for several months. After his release, he went to Shanghai and there he founded the Communist party in 1920, with several comrades, most of whom later became renegades and went into the K.M.T. He was arrested twice by the authorities of the French concession in 1921 and 1922. The last time he was released only because the authorities bowed to the pressure of many mass organizations.

Chen and the Epigones

In 1922, he attended the Fourth Congress of the Communist International as the delegate from the Chinese party. Later on, a leading comrade told me that he made remarkable progress when he returned to China. What an immense development he would have experienced and how easily the tragic fate that was suffered, might have been averted, had there been a correct leadership in the Comintern! His role in the Chinese revolution of 1925–27 is well known. I only wish to remind hero that up to May 1927, at the 8th Plenum of the C.I., Stalin and Bucharin still defended comrade Chen’s policy against the criticism of the Opposition. The Chinese Communist Party was called a model. But several months later, when the defeat of the revolution was too evident, Stalin and Bucharin suddenly threw all the responsibility upon comrade Chen. Even if their contentions were true, that comrade Chen in opposition to the “correct” directives of the C.I. had conducted a false policy, the act of Bucharin and Stalin who came out to attack him only when the revolution was approaching its tragic end, greatly resembles a Chinese expression: “Let one fall into the well and then throw stones at him”. Comrade Chen was a member of the Central Committee and the general secretary of the party since its foundation and up to August 7, 1927, when he was deprived of work and made the scapegoat of the Stalin policy.

After the defeat of the Chinese revolution, comrade Chen declined the repeated invitations to go to Moscow, knowing that he had nothing to learn from the epigones. Only in 1929 did he begin to make the acquaintance of comrade Trotsky’s writings on the Chinese revolution and he convinced himself of the correctness of the Opposition. Owing to such convictions and his refusal to fight against “Trotskyism”, he was expelled from the party in the Fall of 1929. Since then he became the leader first of one of the factions and then of the united Opposition. He contributed all his energy, his time and his means (modest though they were), that is, all that he possesses, to the movement. The K.M.T. government put up a high reward for his arrest, but he lived in the workers’ district of Shanghai, attended many meetings and directed the work, wrote articles and appeals and even supervised the technical work. In recent months, he was seriously ill, confined to bed.

A Heavy Blow

The K.M.T. has finally achieved its aim, utilizing the traitor in our ranks. He has been transferred to Nanking, and we do not know what fate is to befall him in the end. The K.M.T. government is not lacking in its desire for revenge. It is out of the question that the masses will speak, because they are in an amorphous state. But there are many influential Intellectuals, scholars, professors and journalists who, in view of his past services to Chinese culture, to the revolution, and because of his eminence, urge leniency towards comrade Chen. There are slanders being deliberately spread against him by the K.M.T. as if he had requested to see Chiang Kai-Shek. The first to “believe” such rumors are the Stalinists.

Comrade Chen’s revolutionary and literary activities for the last 15 years reflect his epoch with both its strong and weak sides. It was the period of the national awakening of the petty bourgeois students and the young proletariat, and many currents of socialist and revolutionary thought of the post-war epoch found their way into China. Events developed too rapidly to allow political fighters a systematic and serious study in the midst of these cross currents. Comrade Chen developed to Communism in a series of stages, therefore with some inconsistencies. Being limited by the fact that he knows only the Japanese language (he knows English poorly), he was hampered in obtaining a thorough Marxian education. He had to lead the Chinese revolution at the time when the Comintern leadership had already passed into the hands of the epigones. His development was not supplemented and assisted in due time. He is characteristic of the constant striving for progress but the remnants of old thought also weigh upon him. At a time when the Opposition urgently needs his leadership and his political experience, when his defects might be overcome under comrade Trotsky, he has been snatched away from our midst by the K.M.T. government – the greatest loss sustained by us in the last two years.

October 27, 1932

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