Rebellions and Revolutions: China from the 1800s to the 1980s

By Jack Gray | Go to book overview

12
THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY, 1927-1934

The Policy of Insurrection

The Fifth Congress of the 2 was held in Wuhan two weeks after Chiang's Shanghai coup in April 1927, with anti-Communist purges sweeping through China. Yet all did not seem lost. The Wuhan government was still hostile to Chiang Kaishek. Feng Yuxiang in Henan was assumed to be favourable to the left-wing Guomindang, and Tang Shengzhi had made plain his support for the left. The allegiance of the rest of the Nationalist forces was unknown, but it was a reasonable assumption then that only about one-third of the total owed any great loyalty to Chiang Kaishek. Perhaps the United Front could still survive.

Party histories written after 1945 when Mao dictated official history assert that a minority at the Congress argued for withdrawal from the United Front; specifically those who later supported Mao, or died before they opposed him -- Liu Shaoqi, Ren Bishi, and Qu Qiubai -- as well as Mao himself. Sources closer to the event do not confirm this. Mao had retired from the Congress, claiming to be ill, but perhaps incensed by the fall in position and influence he suffered in the elections as a result of hostility to his radical report on the peasant movement in Hunan. Most of the members of the Congress seem to have supported Borodin's reluctant acquiescence in Communist International demands for the maintenance of the United Front. It seems that only one man, Ren Bishi, demanded immediate withdrawal. The fact is that no one knew what to do. At one stage the idea was mooted of retreating to north-west China and direct Soviet protection; at another of marching east against Chiang Kaishek; and at another of retreating to the Guomindang base at Canton and starting the revolution over again. Later Party history accuses Secretary-General Chen Duxiu of having advocated surrender to the Nationalists, overlooking the fact that Chen as Chairman had to mediate between the Chinese party and the Comintern. The internal arguments were beside the point. Moscow wanted the United Front to continue. M. N. Roy, the representative of the Communist International, made this plain.

Had the International's orders laid down what specific policies were to be followed in maintaining the United Front, the Chinese Communist' Party could perhaps have taken some positive action. As it was, the Party was simply now faced, in a more acute form, with the fundamental dilemma

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