Chronicles of a revolution (13)

Opportunism (IN a Communist party) which is not “detected” and countered will develop in a counterrevolutionary line .... and to capitulation before the bourgeoisie

It was against this backdrop of confusion, intrigue, betrayal, that Mao produced his Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan. In its passionate yet profoundly logical sweep, combining scrupulous social research and observation with an emotion almost volcanic, the report will remain one of the world's great literary documents as well as political manifesto. In it Mao's grasp of the Chinese agrarian revolution in its political, economic, social and human dimensions appears in consummate detail. There is not only analysis, but also a plan, detailed and minute, for organisation and leadership; for as Mao would say, quoting Marx: 'It is not enough to study the world ....one must change it.'
What Mao's report made clear was that the peasant upsurge had coincided with his return to Hunan the previous winter and so had the membership increase.
This was evidence to Chen Hu-hsiu that Mao was abetting peasant revolutionary action. He had failed to 'check and thwart'.
'Early next spring,' Mao said (that would be February 1927), 'when I reached Wuhan, an interprovincial meeting of peasants was held, and I attended it and discussed the proposals of my thesis ...At this meeting were Peng Pai, Fang Chih-min and two Russian Communists ... among others. A resolution was passed adopting my proposal for submission to the Fifth Congress of the Communist Party; the Central Committee, however rejected it.'
Mao had written: 'Every revolutionary comrade and every revolutionary party will put to the test, to be accepted or rejected as they decide. There are three alternatives. To march at their [the peasants'] head and lead them? To trail behind them, gesticulating and criticising? Or to stand in their way and oppose them? Every Chinese is free to choose, but events will force you to make the choice quickly.' Mao thus challenged 'every comrade' to measure up to revolution.
There were more meetings at which Mao Tsetung spoke forcefully on the peasant revolution. He was supported by Tsai Ho-sen, Li Fu-chun, Peng Pai, Fang Chi-min. But Chen Tu-hsiu refused to publish or to circulate Mao's report. Thus he chose to 'stand in their way an oppose them'.
Yet in the same February, in Moscow, the enlarged plenum of the executive of the Comintern had once again discussed the peasant question. Mao Tsetung's report, though denied printing in the official Chinese Communist weekly, the Guide, was favourably received. The thesis adopted by the plenum reiterated: The agrarian question at the present stage ....is in acute form .... It is the central point of the actual situation. The class which will boldly take up this essential question and give it a radical solutioon .... will direct the Revolution.
The might of Chinese militarism rests on foreign imperialism on the one hand, on the indigenous landlords on the other ... To overthrow completely the military and feudal cliques, the economic and political struggle of the peasantry must be developed, for its part of the anti-imperialist struggle.
The idea that an acute class struggle in the countryside will weaken the anti-imperialist united front is unfounded .... Not to boldly take up the agrarian revolution, not to give support .... to the objective demands of the peasant masses will be a real danger for the revolution .... It would be unwise not to put in first place in the programme of the national revolution the agrarian movement, for fear of alienating the uncertain and perfidious cooperation of a part of the capitalist class ... This tactic is not revolutionary proletarian politics ... the Communist Party must not fall into this error.
Can there be any doubt but that the Comintern thesis coincided with Mao's thesis? Again, in March 1927,at a meeting of the 'left' Kuomingtang (with Communists present), Mao Tsetung spoke with great passion of the peasant movement; defended the peasant organisation for their direct dealing with bullies, gangsters and bad landlords, and urged the arming of the peasantry. He once more presented his report to the Central Committee; it was rejected again, as counter to 'everything that had been decided'. In April, at a special commission called to 'investigate' the land problem, Mao Tsetung spoke: 'There is a high tide of the peasant movement, both in Hunan and in Hupei .... In solving the land question in China, we must first grasp reality.' To people who said the peasant's actions were 'illegal' he reported: 'Legal recognition of this reality will only come afterwards.' He did not advocate direct confiscation of land but simply 'not paying rent; this is enough'. In other meetings, he reminded the political cadres active in the peasant movement that land reform was the best way to get the peasants to join in the national revolution and that 'without this [land reform] the revolutionary forces would find it difficult to move'.
But Mao was not through with inept and hostile bureaucracy, the last dishonourable refuge of the Chen's 'leadership'.The special commission before which Mao spoke set up a 'land survey committee' ostensibly to ascertain how land confiscation should be done, and define the differences between big landlords and small ones. Mao Tsetung, irritated by this pointless procrastination, said that 'in Hunan, the peasants have already divided up the land themselves .... the landlords are fleeing to the cities'. He added, 'The militarists in Hunan are also exploiters of the peasants ....The Nationalist government, after establishing itself in Hunan, has also not eliminated this exploitation .... completely.'
And now not only Chen Tu-hsiu but other Communists, made to face the stark faces of revolution, turned against Mao. Chang Kuo-tao found Mao Tsetung's proposals on confiscation of land of landlords over thirty mous (five acres) but advocating 'flexibility', not thoroughgoing enough. He recommended wholesale immediate confiscation of all landlords land, big or small. Finally the land survey committee set the limits for confiscation at 500 mous (eighty acres), and only if there were no officers from the KMT armies in the family; any land belonging to officers' families, however large, could not be touched. Since there was scarcely a landlord family who could not boast, through clan connection of one relative, however distant, in the army, this simply meant there would be no confiscation of landlord land at all, nor any land reform.
Thus the betrayal grew.1

REMARK: As I wrote before: for those who have real revolutionary aspirations and want to be a part of a concrete revolution, it is good to study the texts of Mao Zedong but placed in the concrete historical context of the development of the Chinese Revolution and also of the study of the Chinese Revolution. It has to be conceived in the same way as Mao Zedong's appeal to study the texts of Lenin placed in a study of the concrete history of the Bolchevik (Russian) Revolution....to use all the lessons to develop the strategy for the Chinese Revolution.
In this light it is now interesting to study the texts written by Mao Zedong:
- Analysis of the classes of the Chinese society (March 1926) (you can read it here)
To sum up, it can be seen that our enemies are all those in league with imperialism -- the warlords, the bureaucrats, the comprador class, the big landlord class and the reactionary section of the intelligentsia attached to them. The leading force in our revolution is the industrial proletariat. Our closest friends are the entire semi-proletariat and petty bourgeoisie. As for the vacillating middle bourgeoisie, their right-wing may become our enemy and their left-wing may become our friend -- but we must be constantly on our guard and not let them create confusion within our ranks.

- Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan (March 1927) (you can read it here)
During my recent visit to Hunan I made a first-hand investigation of conditions in the five counties of Hsiangtan, Hsianghsiang, Hengshan, Liling and Changsha. In the thirty-two days from January 4 to February 5, I called together fact-finding conferences in villages and county towns, which were attended by experienced peasants and by comrades working in the peasant movement, and I listened attentively to their reports and collected a great deal of material. 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. I believe the same is true of many other places, too. 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, in China's central, southern and northern provinces, 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. They will sweep all the imperialists, warlords, corrupt officials, local tyrants and evil gentry into their graves. Every revolutionary party and every revolutionary comrade will be put to the test, to be accepted or rejected as they decide. There are three alternatives. To march at their head and lead them? To trail behind them, gesticulating and criticizing? Or to stand in their way and oppose them? Every Chinese is free to choose, but events will force you to make the choice quickly.

1Out “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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