The Origins of Chinese Communism

By Arif Dirlik | Go to book overview

9
The Comintern and the Organization of Communism in China

To the extent that we emphasize organization over spontaneity, the role played by the organizers of the Party in the establishment of Communism assumes significance. Stress on organization underlines the part Voitinsky played as architect of the Party, and draws attention to the fact that Chen Duxiu, not Li Dazhao, played the key role in the founding of the Communist party of China.


Gregory Voitinsky and the Comintern Contribution

Voitinsky's mission in China was to provide Chinese radicals with their first real insight into the Russian Revolution. He did not merely bring a message; he also participated in the founding of the Party. While in Beijing he promised his Beida audience that should they decide to establish a Communist party, he would secure its affiliation with the Comintern -- a source of hope for his listeners. 1 In Shanghai, he was not only a frequent visitor at Chen Duxiu's house, but guided the organization of the Communist group there in the summer of 1920. 2 The materials he brought (which included a copy of John Reed 's Ten Days that Shook the World), as well as his conversations, aroused great interest, and young radicals avidly studied them. Surprisingly, he seems to have neglected to bring with him a copy of the constitution of the Russian Communist party; when the organizers in Shanghai got around to establishing a program for the Communist group, they had to rely on Marxist books and Comintern pamphlets. 3 Nevertheless, Voitinsky's materials, and his personal presence, served as essential sources for Communist organization and provided the first direct contact with Bolshevism.

Voitinsky himself seems to have stressed for his audiences the similarities between the Russian and Chinese revolutions. In a brief article he published under his Chinese name, Wu Tingkang, on the third anniversary of the October Revolution, he portrayed the revolution as one that had overthrown the power not only of foreigners but of "bankers, warlords, and bureaucrats." 4 We may only speculate that what he conveyed to his radical audiences was

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