The Origins of Chinese Communism

By Arif Dirlik | Go to book overview

7
Corporatist Resolutions: Class Politics Without Class Struggle

Starting in June 1919, the question of class quickly emerged as a central one in May Fourth cultural and political thinking. The radicals who expressed this with the greatest sharpness were those of the older generation, more sensitive to the political emergence of Chinese labor than the younger generation of New Culture radicals, who were still most interested in cultural change. It was also these older radicals who most feared the imminent appearance of class conflict in China, and believed it would threaten the Chinese revolution. In 1919 they displayed the greatest urgency in seeking ways to incorporate labor into politics so as to forestall violent social upheaval. They discovered their answer in a variety of corporatist socialisms.

The term corporatism, like socialism has been applied to movements that run the gamut of the political spectrum. I use it here as it has been employed in studies of European politics in recent years: a means of transcending capitalism through the use of class reconciliation rather than conflict. 1 The sense in which the term has been absorbed into Chinese political vocabulary supports this use. A recent Chinese dictionary defines the term corporatism as "class reconciliationism" (jieji tiaohe zhuyi).2 I shall use it to describe those currents in Chinese socialism that accepted class as a fundamental fact of contemporary social organization but rejected political solutions premised on the inevitability of class struggle. The intention was not to abolish classes, but to reorganize the articulation of social interest so as to render class struggle unnecessary. To the extent that socialism assumed political form in May Fourth thinking, it appeared in a number of guises that promised this kind of peaceful social revolution.


Guomindang Socialism in the May Fourth Period

The new consciousness of labor and its implications, with all the contradictions it brought out, was nowhere more evident than in the writings of Dai Jitao and his coeditors in the Weekend Review, which with the other Guomindang-related publications, Awakening and Construction, emerged between

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