The Origins of Chinese Communism

By Arif Dirlik | Go to book overview

8
May Fourth Radicalism at a Crossroads: Study Societies, Communes, and the Search for Social Revolution
In July 1921, thirteen Communists met in Shanghai, under the supervision of two Comintern advisors, to formally establish the Communist party of China. The Comintern advisors were the Dutch Communist Maring ( H. Sneevliet) and a Russian named Nicolaevsky from the secretariat of the Far Eastern Bureau of the Comintern. Neither Chen Duxiu (who was in Guangzhou) nor Li Dazhao attended, although Chen was represented by Bao Huiseng. The other twelve participants represented the fifty-three members of seven local Communist groups in China and abroad. They were:
Shanghai: Li Da, Li Hanjun
Beijing: Zhang Guotao, Liu Renjing
Hunan ( Changsha): Mao Zedong, He Shuheng
Hubei ( Wuhan): Dong Biwu, Chen Tanqiu
Shandong ( Jinan): Wang Jinmei, Deng Enming
Guangdong ( Guangzhou): Chen Gongbo
Tokyo: Zhou Fohai

In the activities that brought these individuals together in July 1921 is written the history of the founding of the Communist party of China. Each had followed his own path to Shanghai, but their paths had crossed repeatedly over the previous two years, and commonly shared hopes and frustrations brought them together. It would become clear in the aftermath of this first congress, when about half left the Party they had helped found, that they did not necessarily share a common set of reasons for being in Shanghai. But when they met there, they were already part of a radical network that shared a common orientation, if not a common program; what endowed their participation with significance was their membership in groups across the face of China which, though small in numbers, exerted considerable influence in their various localities, where they had been active since May Fourth or earlier. The first congress created neither a strong organization nor a welldefined program; rather, its power then rested largely on these groups' mobilization of support in their localities. The congress formalized the existing

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