The Origins of Chinese Communism

By Arif Dirlik | Go to book overview

10
The Parting of the Ways: The Ideological Emergence of Communism

The emergence of a Communist organizational identity was accompanied by division in the ranks of May Fourth radicals who had cooperated in the propagation of socialism for over a year. The division was immediate in some places, more gradual in others. It was finalized in the controversies over socialism in late 1920 and early 1921, which drew a clear boundary between the political beliefs of the Communists and their ideological competitors on the left.

The division was immediate in Shanghai and France. As we have already noted, socialists such as Dai Jitao and Zhang Dongsun withdrew from the Marxist Research Society in Shanghai as soon as it was suggested that it convert to a party nucleus; they were accompanied by those among the Zhejiang radicals of anarchist persuasion. At about the same time, in July, members of the Labor-learning Promotion Association in France held a three-day meeting in Montargis which was the scene of heated debates between a radical faction led by Cai Hesen, who had now become a Bolshevik and advocated political activity, and a more moderate faction led by Xiao Zisheng (the formal head of the New Citizens' Study Society), who wanted the group to continue with its original work-study (gongdu) goals. The disagreement divided the membership of the resilient New Citizens' Study Society. In August, the radical faction (which also included Xiang Jingyu and Cai Chang) split from the main body to establish its own Labor-learning World Association. 1

In other places in China, Marxists and anarchists continued to cooperate in the activities that led to the establishment of Communism well into the fall of 1920. As far as I am aware, this cooperation was extended to the admission of anarchists into the Communist nucleus only in Beijing; in other places, such as Jinan, Changsha, and Guangzhou, the cooperation ended as the Communist nuclei were formed. In Beijing the nucleus not only made a concession to anarchist sentiments by relinquishing formal organization and hierarchy, but even handed the editorship of its labor publication, The Voice of Labor, to its anarchist faction. In November the nucleus finally decided to establish a stricter organization and tighten itself ideologically. Anarchists objected, since they were opposed to "national and regional leadership, officials of any

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