15-09-2011

Chronicles of a revolution (12)


How the revolutionary strength and energy of the people can be unleashed by revolutionary leadership which has to be an integrated part OF those masses? .... And how those can be bound and chained by a 'false' leadership having another agenda than that of the revolution?
A “self-declared” leadership, but who is just “following” events and the tide, is objectively compliant to that conscious-working-for-another-agenda leadership.

“Allowing” the recuperation of the revolutionary energy of the workers is compliancy to the bourgeoisie.
“On 9 July 1926, the Nationalist Army left Kuanchchow for the Northern Expedition in the greatest enthusiasm. To the exultant crowds cheering in the grey-clad battalions, Chiang had promised to defeat all the warlords, unify China, secure the abolition of unequal treaties and extra-territoriality, the abolition of imperialism and the achievement of 'universal peace'. Chiang was the man of the hour, hero of the land. This was great timing; Chiang had again wrested the initiative; the CCP appeared a captive chained to his triumph.
Within two months Kiangsi, Hunan, Hupei provinces fell to Nationalist armies. On 12 September the army of General Tang Sheng-chih, a Hunan 'liberal' militarist who had rallied to Sun Yatsen's Kuangchow government in 1923, entered Changsha. By the end of September the province was in his hands, and Tang became acting governor; the other warlords fled.
In these swift victories, it became evident that success was largely due to organised strikes of city workers and to the peasant uprisings behind enemy lines. The fervour and self-sacrifice of the workers was unequalled; they formed militia battalions and took the warlord garrisons by surprise. The peasants in the countryside marched to seize police posts, acted as porters, couriers, guides, stretcher-bearers, fed and watered the Nationalist Army – all without pay. In Hunan, especially, where Mao Tsetung had worked so hard, the Nationalist Army was assisted by peasant self-mobilised militia which continued to expand on their own. The battles were won for the army before the battalions arrived. This massive demonstration of popular power frightened many of the officer cadets and big capitalists. Here was might and power, it could make a thoroughgoing revolution. The more victories, the more they feared for themselves.
In December 1926 Mao was back in Changsha. His presence there was of great importance, for he addressed the first Peasants and Workers Congress of Hunan (20-29 December 1926), of which he had been elected chairman. At this congress of workers and peasants whose significance has been blurred and even ignored, Mao made a speech important in its timing and also challenging, for it went against Chen Tu-hsiu's orders.
According to a report in the Changsha newspaper dated 29 December 1926, Mao said that a great chance was coming to China. Already 1.200.000 peasants had been organised; a united front of workers, peasants, traders and students was necessary. The Revolution needed a union of all revolutionary classes, but fundamentally the national revolution was a peasant revolution under leadership of the working class, and it therefore depended on the peasantry. He then analysed the market for the commercial trades in the countryside. He also analysed the situation of the students and intellectuals; most of them were non-revolutionary, some were progressive, a few were reactionary; if they wanted to make revolution they must ally themselves with workers and peasants[1]. We can imagine how unwelcome this speech was to Chen Tu-hsiu. But even more significant is the situation in which Mao found himself at that time.[2]

When a REFORMIST line rules the Communist Party, “(commanding or demanding) party-discipline” turns into its CONTRADICTION
“Mao was torn between what he felt ought to be done and what he had been ordered to do. Complaints by the Kuomintang through its delegates in Moscow about 'excesses' of the peasants and workers had even reached Stalin. Borodin received truculent messages from Chiang Kai-shek declaring that Hunan was 'out of control' and that there would be incidents due to peasant excesses. Strict orders were given to labour unions to restrict the workers and to peasant cadres to 'restrain' the peasantry in Hunan. This also was Mao's mission; he had been told to 'check and thwart', to tell the Congress of Peasants and Workers to submit to orders. But as he faced the tremendous tide of peasant power he saw the dreadfulness of the wrong decisions and the betrayal of the Revolution they entailed. The speech he made was therefore more militant than expected by Chen Tu-hsiu.
Meanwhile Stalin, who and advocated rousing the peasants, had now been swayed; this explains a telegram from Stalin in October 1926, in which he enjoined 'caution and restraint'. Stalin, who did not know the situation, could not imagine how Chen Tu-hsiu would jump at this chance to stop effective action.
In November Stalin reversed himself. 'The information we got is incorrect,' he said, and a telegram was then sent in November which reinforced the line of peasant mobilisation. In the same month the Comintern (seventh plenum) under Stalin's directive also reversed its resolution advising 'restraint'. But it is a pointer to the confusion and contradictoriness which existed – not to mention translation difficulties, misreporting, misinterpretation – that Chen Tu-hsiu did not show this later reversal to Mao, nor, it appears, to other members of the Politburo until much later, 'No one can direct a revolution by telegraph,' Stalin is reported to have said, yet this was now happening. The Comintern resolutions, Stalin's directives, came thick and fast because the CCP leadership was incapable of making its own decisions. But it was also incapable of making its own decisions. But it was also incapable of implementing those of others, and this 'think-tank help' from afar added to the disaster, so much that even today the tangle has led to erroneous interpretation[3] Moscow cables gave a stream of advice to China, but never knew in what circumstances it would misapply. The Comintern organised committees to work on the 'documentary material' and submit theses; these took time; two committees produced two divergent theses. Envoys were sent who squabbled openly and contradicted each other. And there was the time element; the situation changed so rapidly that by the time 'advice' came from Moscow all was radically different. And in Moscow.  Itself the Stalin – Trotsky struggle did not make things easier.
In the midst of this appalling muddle[4], what was Mao to do? A photograph shows him at this December Peasants and Workers Congress singularly gaunt, standing in a loose-fitting jacket, hands on his hips. His face is not happy. All we know is that he did not restrain the peasants and workers at the Congress, who passed resolutions for confiscation of land from the landlords.
In the meantime, the revolutionary army swept forward to Wuhan, which fell in December, Chiang Kai-shek arrived in Changsha and delivered a speech, in his role as a 'people's hero', calculated to please and audience of militant workers and banish all suspicion of himself.
'Only after imperialism is overthrown can China obtain independence ... The Third International is the headquarters of the world revolution ... We must unite with Russia to overthrow imperialism .... The Chinese revolution is part of the world revolution.... We must unite all partisans of world revolution to overthrow imperialism.' Thus he spoke, and already the workers in Kungchow were being murdered by his lieutenants.

'In Hunan I inspected peasant organisations and political conditions in five districts, Changsha, Liling, Hsiang Tan, Hungshan and Hsiang Hsiang, and made my report urging the adoption of a new line in the peasant movement.' This was Mao's famous Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan[5] based on a five-week tour, 4 January to 5 February 1927.
Suppression of the peasants' associations had begun right after Nationalist Army victory in Hunan at the end of September 1926. Yet the registered membership in the peasant associations had increased in two months, November and December, from one million to two million families; fifty-four counties out of seventy-five now had peasant associations. But the head of the CCP Peasant Department pelted Mao with angry telegrams urging that the 'riff-raff' be restrained so as not to antagonise the KMT. What were Mao's feelings as he clutched the telegrams, knew the policies wrong and heard round him the ovations of the peasantry? He could not 'check and thwart'. He investigated. Between 30 December and 3 January Mao spent five days in Shaoshan preparing his spirit for the great battle he would now begin.
The peasants had already started on their own to confiscate landlords' land, to punish bullies and corrupt officials; these actions, described as 'atrocities' by the fleeing landlords, had the approval of Mao Tsetung. Considering what they had suffered, the peasants were remarkably fair-minded and lenient. This was revolution, and Mao Tsetung found himself on the side of the peasant masses in the midst of this tornado, this tempest, as he was to describe it, outpouring of revolutionary energy, cosmic, elemental, irresistible; an avalanche capable of 'changing heaven and earth'.
All his life he would remember the impact of this extraordinary strength, 'mightier than any' when once set in motion, animated by the ideas that would 'teach the sun and moon to change places'. Every day and night of these thirty-two days he would remember as a bone-deep experience, shaping his thoughts.

'During my recent visit to Hunan I made a firsthand investigation of conditions ... I called together fact-finding conferences in villages and county towns ... I listened attentively ... Many of the hows and whys of the peasant movement were the exact opposite of what the gentry in Hankow and Changsha are saying. I saw and heard of many strange things of which I had hitherto been unaware. All talk directed against the peasant movement must be speedily set right. All the wrong measures taken by the revolutionary authorities concerning the peasant movement must be speedily changed. Only thus can the Future of the Revolution be benefited. For the present upsurge of the peasant movement is a colossal event. In a very short time ... several hundred million peasants will rise like a mighty storm, like a hurricane, a force so swift and violent that no power, however great, will be able to hold it back. They will smash all the trammels that bind them and rush forward along the road to liberation.'

Mao Tsetung went on to describe, paragraph by paragraph, all he had seen, drawing anecdotes, vivid word pictures. The development of the peasant movement fell into two periods: before September 1926 a period of organisation, but from 'last October to January or this year ... of revolutionary action'. This latter period did coincide with the Northern Expedition, and during it the membership in peasant associations had jumped to 2 million families, which meant 10 million people[6] 'Almost half the peasants in Hunan are now organised.
They were attacking the local tyrants – landlords who respected no law or common humanity, who killed, raped the daughters and wives of peasants or kidnapped them at will – 'the privileges which the feudal landlords enjoyed for thousands of years are being shattered to pieces'. ' “All power to the peasant associations” has become a reality. Even trifles such a quarrel between husband and wife are brought to the peasant association.' So powerful were they that small landlords sought admission to the peasant association. 'Who wants your filthy money?' the poor peasants would reply, and refuse them.
But more telling is Mao's pointed remark on the reaction to all this. ' “It's terrible” ore “It's fine” ... When the news from the countryside reached the cities, it caused immediate uproar.' Even quite revolutionary-minded people in the cities were 'down-hearted,' said Mao, and thought 'It's terrible.' But Mao asserted that it was fine.

'The great peasant masses have risen to fulfil their historic mission ... In a few months the peasants have accomplished what Dr Sun Yatsen wanted but failed to accomplish in the forty years he devoted to the national revolution. This is a marvellous feat ... It's fine.'
If your revolutionary viewpoint is firmly established and if you have been to the villages and looked around, you will undoubtedly feel thrilled as never before. Countless thousands of the enslaved - the peasants – are striking down the enemies who battened on their flesh. What the peasants are doing is absolutely right; what they are doing is fine!
The peasants are clear-sighted. Who is bad and who is not ... the peasants keep clear accounts ... A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.'
Mao made fun of those who said the peasants were going too far. 'Proper limits have to be exceeded in order to right a wrong, or else the wrong cannot be righted.'
Mao listed 'fourteen great achievements' of the peasantry. These achievements sound very much like the suggestions and proposals which then being made by the Comintern. Mao was proving that the peasants were indeed carrying out the agrarian revolution and doing the things they were supposed to do, according to Communist dicta. They were organising themselves, hitting the landlords politically and economically, overthrowing feudal rule, defeating landlord armies, organising their own self-defence, eliminating bandits, abolishing levies and starting movements for education and cooperatives. They were also building roads and repairing embankments. And all this they were doing by their own strength, through their own organisations. Mao ended with a gibe at the Chen leadership: 'To talk about “arousing the masses of the people” day in and day out and then to be scared to death when the masses do rise – what difference is there between this and Lord She's love of dragons?' .This referred to a famous lord who loved dragons in paint, but when a real live dragon came to visit him, he nearly died of fear.
Back Mao went to Changsha with this piece, to find that things had very much deteriorated during the thirty-two days that he had been gone in the countryside. For now all was fear and faint-heartedness. In Wuhan, where the Kuomintang government[7] had moved from Kuangchow, he found things highly unpleasant. This corruption of the cities under the Kuomintang we must trace briefly; for much had happened during the time Mao was away in the countryside seeing peasant power ' teach the sun and the moon to change places.'
In Kuangchow and in other cities under the KMT actually under Chiang Kai-shek's military control, public meetings, the press, the workers' and peasants' volunteer corps, the right to strike, were restricted in the name of 'maintaining discipline to ensure the success of the Northern Expedition'. All strikes were labelled 'counterrevolutionary'. The secret society men from Shanghai had been pouring into Kuangchow since the summer of 1926; they came by sea from Hong Kong, laden with money and weapons (supplied in great part by the British and the French), to destroy Communist organisations.
The secret society men formed spurious labour unions. One gang became a 'policeman's union', and was then turned in armed attacks on the real workers' unions, a dress rehearsal for the massacres to take place the next year. The ferocity of the gangs, the cruel tortures they inflicted, gravely affected morale. More than fifty workers were killed in a few days, and hundreds crippled. The employers threw out the crippled workers without compensation; they were upheld by the 'collective bargaining' teams instituted and accepted by the CCP Labour Department[8].
In December, in a speech on the peasant question, Stalin himself had suggested the formation of elected revolutionary committees by the peasantry to carry out the agrarian revolution. He had added, 'I know there are people in the KMT, even in the Chinese Communist Party, who think it is impossible to have a revolution in the countryside, who are afraid that pushing the peasantry in the revolution will break the united anti-imperialist front ....This is a profound error ....The peasant question must be linked to the perspectives of the Chinese final aim.'
There is nothing in his speech of Stalin's supporting the restraint preached by Chen Tu-hsiu.[9]


[1]     Documents on Mao's speech seen by the author in Changsha museum, 1971.
[2] Out “The Morning Deluge – Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese Revolution”, Han Suyin, http://www.amazon.com/morning-deluge-Tsetung-revolution-1893-1954/dp/0316342890
[3]     See Kostas Mavrakis, Du Trotskysme, François Maspero, Paris, 1971, pp. 151-62.It is now reported in the USSR that the Russian General Galen established a plan for the Northern Expedition and all the military operations; but neither he or any of the other Russian advisers drew attention to the class struggle; they divided the KMT into 'right' and 'left' and stated that the 'left', 'due to the objective course of events',would 'remain with the CCP'. The Russian documents are interesting in that although they assess clearly most of the Chinese generals, they only mention Chiang Kai-shek favourable (the documents were prepared six months or more before Chiang's coup of March 1926). The Russians thought Chiang would be forced to keep 'left' because he depended on the Kuangchow government for funds and resources. In this way they signally failed to understand the financial network of Western big business in China.
[4]     M. N. Roy, the Comintern Indian who became a Trotskyte, and Bukharin, later to be purged by Stalin, hammered out between October and December 1926 two entirely divergent lines of action for the Chinese revolutionary situation. Tan Ping-shan, director of the CCP Labour Department, who was in Moscow as head of a delegation to the Comintern in November 1926, contradicted himself twice in his report. At one moment he was strongly urging that the peasant revolution should not be restricted but later urged that it should be. Borodin emphasised that the main task was military victory over the militarists, and Borodin's thesis was supported. The seventh plenum of the Comintern, however emphasised that ' the party of the proletariat must put forward a radical agrarian programme... or it will lose hegemony in the national revolutionary movement'. 
[5]     Selected Works, Vol. I.
[6]     As Mao explained, each family registered only one name.
[7]     The Kuomingtang government, previously sited in Kuangchow, installed itself in Wuhan on 1 Januari 1927.
[8]     To some foreign delegates of the Third International who visited Kuangchow in Januari 1927 (among them J. Doriot, then a French agent of the Comintern, later a fascist) General Li Chih-seng, Chiang's henchman there, declared that he 'loved and cherished tenderly the working class'! He was at that very moment beating, jailing and shooting them.
[9] Out “The Morning Deluge – Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese Revolution”, Han Suyin, http://www.amazon.com/morning-deluge-Tsetung-revolution-1893-1954/dp/0316342890

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