Chronicles of a revolution (5)

The ripening of the conceptions “What is to be done?” and “How to organise for which objective?”

An organisation “
in which people would debate new ideas and create for themselves a new 'personality' by discussion, debate, self-analysis and action.

“In the summer of 1917 Mao set out across Hunan province on foot, journeying through many counties, accompanied by one of the  Siao brothers[1]. In the farmhouse where they rested, receiving hospitality from the peasants, Mao inquired of conditions, of crops and rain, of rent and landlords, a peasant talking to another peasants, but also budding social scientist and researcher.  Mao kept notes of what he had been told and remembered the peasants' names. He walked over three hundred miles on this trip.
Then in the autumn of that year of 1917 Mao Tsetung founded with his friend, Ho Shun-heng[2], the Hsin Min Hui, or New People's Study Society. The significance for the Chinese Revolution to come of this society cannot be overestimated, nor what it represented as training in leadership for Mao. For about a year he had entertained the idea of organising a society in which people would debate new ideas and create for themselves a new 'personality' by discussion, debate, self-analysis and action. The idea of becoming changed by argument and debate, by contact with 'reality' and by personal experience, he was later to expand, refine and apply to the making of revolutionaries. 'Feeling expansive and the need for a few intimate companions,' he inserted an advertisement in a newspaper, signed with the pseudonym under which he wrote his articles, Twenty-eight Strokes[3]. In this advertisement he explained his project for the organisation of a society of young men, active resolute and patriotic. ‘I specified youths who were hardened and determined and ready to make sacrifices for their country.'
Mao's New People's Study Society was only one of the many such student groups, but it grew into something else, the core of a political party. From the start it stipulated action as well as debate. It would not only talk revolution, but practice it, first of all revolutionising its own members, turning them into 'new men'. Even if it had no political label, nor any stated aim but the pursuit of truth and knowledge and their translation into deeds, 'the nucleus was formed of what later was to become a society that was to have a widespread influence on the affairs and destiny of China'.
Already in creating the New People's Study Society, Mao held the germ of the idea which would come to full blossoming at the Cultural Revolution: 'the conscious remoulding of man and his outlook, which in turns transform the world'. (.....) 

In later years all thirteen of the original members of the society were to join the Chinese Communist Party, founded in 1921. By 1919 there were eighty members, of whom over forty were to join the Party.
All these activities of Mao Tsetung would acquire their historical signification in the massive involvement of the student population of China in the
4 May 1919 movement. Mao was already influential before May 1919 explosion, with a considerable following not only among the intelligentsia but also among the factory workers of the city of Changsha.[4]” 

So studying, analysing, searching, discussion, organising, to have influence on “the uprising” which you cannot “predict”…. but will once be a fact

“Mao becomes involved in
1918 in a Hunan branch of the Society for Work and Study in France. Started in 1903 by two Chinese scholars, one of them a French-educated biologist, by 1908 it had branches in several cities. After 1913, dismayed by the debacle of Sun Yatsen's revolution, many students and teachers went off to France under the society's auspices. Hsu Te-li started a branch of the society in Changsha and asked Mao to help him. Mao and Tsai Ho-sen helped select students to be sent to France, but Mao wanted recruiting standards changed and engaged in a combative correspondence with the headquarters of the society in Peking. Mao did not feel that aptitude of languages alone should qualify for recruitment. He urged assessment of conduct, ideals and especially 'willingness to serve the country'.
It was Mao who suggested that women should also be recruited.... (....)
Mao's insistence that woman were also human beings inspired him to write lengthy articles championing their cause, notably The Woman’s Revolutionary Army, in the Hsiang Chiang Review; which he was to found in Changsha. Its first issue was on
14 July 1919. In the third issue he appealed to women's suffrage, railed against the unequal demand of women's chastity – 'Where are the arches of chastity to men?[5]'
It was a social revolutionary if not a Marxist, a fighter against traditional oppression, a challenger of abuses, the unpaid teacher of workers and small clerks, a speaker, a debater, a writer of articles, a champion of women's rights, an ascetic athlete and a patriot that MaoTsetung, in those five years at the Normal College, exercised a growing influence upon his contemporaries.[6]” 

….learning the achievements of an already reasonable successful revolution that has taken place

“Mao had spent only 160 Chinese dollars (this sum included his numerous registration fees) during his five years at the Changsha Normal College, one third on newspapers and journals. He did not ask for money from his father to go to Peking, but borrowed from friends. He went much of the way on foot, and managed to walk round Lake Tungting – at low level a circumference of
155 miles. On his trip he did also social investigation and research, for he stopped in farmhouses earning food and lodging by lending a hand in the labour, or writing calligraphic slogans of good omen, to paste on doors or festivals. (...)
When Mao arrived at Peking there were a good many Hunanese intellectuals already there. Soon he was calling on Professor Yang  Chang-chi, who was overjoyed to see him. (....) Yang (...) introduced Mao Tse-Tung to Li Ta-chao, then university librarian at Peking University. Mao was penniless and needed a job; Yang Chang-chi asked Li Ta-chao to help him.
Mao admired Li Ta-chao, whose articles in New Youth he had read; but Li Ta-chao seems at first to have paid little attention to him.(...) 

Li Ta-chao, eminent, brilliant, mercurial, was the first intellectual in China to praise the Russian Revolution of October 1917; he is described as having the first to introduce Marxist thought to China's intelligentsia. Although young – Li Ta-chao was thirty when Mao was twenty-five- he had a great reputation for progressive ideas and personal courage. He believed that a renaissance could be achieved only by discarding the suffocating moralities and values of the past. He likened the hampering of thought which the classics imposed upon the minds of students to 'bound-foot' women. At first attracted by the Western liberal democratic system, he had turned away from it because of the contradiction between the pious homilies of Western democracy and its ruthless exploitation of China. He denounced the economic stranglehold of Western finance; was one of the first to write and lecture about Lenin and to translate Lenin into Chinese. He was especially impressed by Lenin's The State and Revolution. Like Lenin, Li Ta-chao stressed the need for arousal of 'awareness' in the masses. 'Education of the masses' was essential for revolutionary results of a lasting kind. Li Ta-chao wrote and talked about this a great deal, and Mao Tsetung had certainly been influenced by Li's ideas, and through Li, by Lenin to a greater extent than by any other philosopher of Communism. (...)
Li Ta-chao was killed in 1927[7], possible unaware that the diffident young Hunanese man who had come to him for a job would be leader of the revolution Li Ta-chao ardently desired and died for. (...)
In the library of Peking University Mao's job consisted in fetching books required, checking the titles, writing  down the names of borrowers and those who came to read newspapers or magazines.(...)
This job provided Mao with insight into the vanity and egotism of the intellectual who talked of humanism and socialism yet cut himself off from the wretched masses of the poor. Abstract terminology the intelligentsia dealt with skilfully, but they would never have dreamed of investigating the beggars' hovels in the filth and garbage just outside the city walls, where Mao went. (...)
'I joined the society of philosophy and the journalism society.' These gave him the right to sit in on courses at the back of the lecture rooms, coming in quietly after all the others.[8]” 

A conscious choice of being or becoming a part of the exploited is essential for your later revolutionary ideology

“Mao thus met Chen Kung-po, a fellow student then, who became a Communist but reneged and became a Chang Kai-shek supporter; Tan Ping-shan, who became a Communist and later a member of a 'third party'; Shao Piao-ping, very earnest, very excitable, somewhat anarchistic (but in those early days this tendency was easily acquired), who helped Mao greatly and was killed in 1926; Chang Kuo-tao, who became a Communist, bitterly opposed Mao during the Long March, later defected to the Kuomintang, and is now in Canada; Kang Pei-chen, who joined the Ku Klux Klan in California; Tuan Hsi-peng, later to become vice-minister of education in Chiang Kai-shek's government. Once Mao tried to talk to the famous Dr Hu Shih, but the latter ignored him. And he met Chen Tu-hsiu, the prestigious editor of New Youth, the magazine which had radicalised a whole generation, the magazine Mao Tsetung read from cover to cover and for which he had already written articles under his usual pseudonym, the twenty-eight stroke man.
Many years later, in an interview, Hu Shih would say to some American friends: ' Mao Tsetung was quite remarkable ... All young people then were members of a Young China Study Society[9]; they were all interested in politics. Mao Tsetung was one of them. When I was at Peking University, he asked to be allowed to sit in on classes. As a prose writer, Mao was superb. No one could equal him.'
Mao Tsetung read all that Li Ta-chao wrote on Marxism and joined the Marxist Study Group,
founded by Li, towards the end of 1918. 'Under Li Ta-chao, I developed rapidly towards Marxism.' He also acknowledged his debt to Chen Tu-shiu, who was then thirty-nine years old. 'He influenced me perhaps more than anyone else.' For a long time Mao Tsetung thought Chen Tu-hsiu an outstanding revolutionary. Chen was to be the first, but not the last, of Mao's disappointing experiences with 'bourgeois radicals', revolutionaries and friends he would look up to and trust, and find to be unscrupulous opportunists. (....)
Mao began a series of social investigations among workers on the Peking-Hankow railway. Mao visited them, going as far as Chang Hsin Tien railway station, nine-three miles south. Today in one of Peking’s important machine plants, the 7 February plant, there are still old workers who recall how Mao Tsetung came to see them. Some of these workers became Communist trade unionists and took part in the Communist-led railway strikes of the 1920s. Some were sent to France by Mao on the work and study programme in 1921. (...)
It was then April 1919[10]

[1] Siao Yu,author of Mao Tsetung and I Were Beggars, op. cit.
[2] Ho Shu-heng was to be a founder of the Chinese Communist Party. He was executed in 1935 by Chiang Kai-shek.
[3] The three ideograms of his name, Mao Tsetung, are written with twenty-eight strokes of the brush.
[4] Out “The Morning Deluge – Mao Tse Tung and the Chines Revolution”, Han Suyin, http://www.amazon.com/morning-deluge-Tsetung-revolution-1893-1954/dp/0316342890
[5] It was the custom to erect an arch to a virtuous widow who had remained chaste all her life; also to a young girl who, once betrothed,, remain unwed and virgin till her own death if her husband-to-be died before the wedding.
[6] Out “The Morning Deluge – Mao Tse Tung and the Chines Revolution”, Han Suyin, http://www.amazon.com/morning-deluge-Tsetung-revolution-1893-1954/dp/0316342890
[7] He was strangled in the wave of massacres of Communists that swept over China in that year.
[8] Out “The Morning Deluge – Mao Tse Tung and the Chines Revolution”, Han Suyin, http://www.amazon.com/morning-deluge-Tsetung-revolution-1893-1954/dp/0316342890
[9] A society founded by Li Ta-chao, to which Mao adhered.
[10] Out “The Morning Deluge – Mao Tse Tung and the Chines Revolution”, Han Suyin, http://www.amazon.com/morning-deluge-Tsetung-revolution-1893-1954/dp/0316342890

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