Chronicles of a revolution (6)

4th May movement in China 1919 and the actual uprisings in the Arab world.(becoming part 6 of my study)
Was the 4 May-movement (1919, China)[1] ON ITSELF “revolution” or could it play A PART  in the revolution when certain conditions were fullfilled? A consideration that to my opinion can also been made in the analyses of the actual protest-movements and uprisings in the Arab world. 

The 4th of may movement was not a sudden spontaneous protest movement, it was prepared and organised

“The first cultural revolution of China's twentieth century began with the
4 May 1919 movement. It has been described as a 'literary renaissance', especially in the United States, where the influence of the late Dr Hu Shih denied its fundamentally political nature. But the changes which affected Chinese literature cannot be dissociated from the politico-social upsurges of the period. The literary revolution was part of the political process. This first cultural revolution was a precursor of the Communist Revolution, in which Mao Tsetung      was to play a leading role, and his political radicalization was hastened by it.(...)
At the time, the question of utilizing the vernacular and abolishing the literary language was ardently debated, and Hu Shih approved of lecturing and writing in the vernacular rather than in the classical style, as this would 'broaden education'. But Hu Shih failed to comprehend that the fundamental question was not a change of style but a change of content and of system, a political and social revolution rather than a literary revolution alone.
The debates then current concerning language and literature were symptoms of a great upheaval. Hu Shih condemned all ' violence' and 'excesses' and argued that 'students must study and not concern themselves .... with political affairs'. But there is no traditional separation of the 'literary' from the 'political' in China[2]; this was a purely Western viewpoint which Hu Shih, unconsciously perhaps, imported into a Chinese situation. He was thus out of the historical movement before it had begun, as his acrimonious correspondence with several university associations two year before the 4 May movement testifies.
The origins of the 4 May movement are traceable to the Twenty-one Demands made by Japan upon China. During World War I Japan sought to replace all other colonial powers in China. The Twenty-one Demands crystallized  patriotic indignation among the students and  the intelligentsia  into a lucid, definite anti-imperialist and anti-feudal movement. The literary, political and social aspects of the movement became merged into impetuous national protest. After October 1917, the success of the Russian Revolution led to the spread of Marxism, in which Li Ta-chao was a leading figuree. A nationwide boycott of Japanese imports began. Within this context the literary revolution also took place. Informing the people became an imperative duty which could only be performed by a radicalized intelligentsia using the vernacular, expressing political and social events in language intelligible to ordinary people. Already in 1917 Mao in Changsha was using the vernacular in his workers' evening classes. (...)
Li Ta-chao's essays on Marxism, begun in the spring of 1912, and his translations of Lenin and Marx had set the trend of radical though. Student societies (among them the New People's Study Society founded by Mao Tsetung) organised centres for the production and dissemination of Marxist literature. These revolutionary groups fostered a large contingent of young intellectuals for the 4 May movement. (...) 

No study of Mao Tsetung's development can be complete without some knowledge of the 4 May movement, Mao's role in it, and his analysis and understanding of the event which shaped China's future more definitely than anything else at that time.
Undeterred by student agitation, Japan in 1917 and 1918 gave loans of about 150 million Japanese yen to Tuan Chi-jui, then president of a coalition of warlords an militarists forming the Peking government. Tuan agreed to secret pacts an military conventions which turned North China into a Japanes satellite.
The students learned of these deals through the Soviet-Union press, and demonstrations against Tuan's government occurred in May 1918; Several thousands students in Peking assembled in front of the presidential palace, demanding to know the contents of the “Sino-Japanese military mutual assistance conventions” and other pacts. The merchants guilds denounced Tuan Chi-jui, asked for a stop to the civil war then raging in various provinces between warlords, and for resistance to Japanese encroachement upon China. In the summer of
1918 a Student Society for National Salvation was founded on an all-China base, linking provincial student associations into united action. A section of industrialists and merchants supported the students. 
In November 1918, the end of World War I, the establishment of the League of Nations, and the declarations of Woodrow Wilson were received with great rejoicing. “The Chinese people were jubilant”, writes Chow Tse Tung[3]. They hoped the shameful unequal treaties imposed by the Western powers and Japan ever since 1842 (the first Opium War) would be abrogated in aequitable settlement in the peace treaty. (....)
But when the Paris Peace Conference opened on
18 January 1919, it became evident that promises were merely vague assurances, unsubstantial words which would never see performance.(....)[4]” 

The following could just be a report of an “uprising noticed in China”. (....to compare with just actualised reporting of uprisings today in the Arab world)

“ On 3 May, students in Peking learned that the Paris Peace Conference granted none of the Chinese Demands. On the contrary, Shantung province, Germany's previous 'sphere of influence',was now given to Japan.
“We at once awoke to the facts that foreign nations were still selfish an militaristic, and that they were all great liars.” “ We concluded that a greater world war would come.” “ We must struggle.” Thus spoke the students.
It was decided to hold a mass demonstration on 7 May, National Humiliation Day, the anniversary of Japan's ultimatum of 1915. but the demonstrations started earlier. On 4 May in Peking 3.000 students representing thirteen academic institutions circulated a manifesto written in vernacular and mached to the house of a pro-Japanese official; the police and army who were mobilised, arrested some and proclaimed martial law. Within the next twenty-four hours the students turned to rallying and organising all they could reach. Since the whole nation was shocked and indignant, a great alliance of merchants, workers, petty shopkeepers, craftsmen was formed very swiftly. And thus a massive united front was created, not only against imperialism, but against the Chinese warlords who had “sold out” the Chinese people. The newspapers and magazines printed articles in support of the students. 

On 10 May began a general strike in all the schools and academic institutions. On 2, 3 and 4 June, arrests of teachers and students occurred. This prompted strikes and demonstrations on 5 June, in which girls participated as well as boys, even from primary schools.
National indignation found itself through student organisations. Mobile groups of ten teamed to carry out street propaganda, put up posters, direct strikes, demonstrations and the burning of Japanese goods found in stores. Teachers and university professors joined in the student demonstrations. On the morning of 6 June, all the business firms and factories in Shanghai went on strike. The strike spread like a prairie fire. By noon it covered the whole city and the suburbs. Textile plants, railways, public utility enterprises – more than one hundred companies and factories, involving about 90.000 workers, including many women workers, shut down. Even restaurant, the brothels and singsong girls' houses of Shanghai closed. In the streets, the only activities were meetings – hundred of students speaking to listening crowds around them – and protest marches, banners flying, on the main roads. Even police units had gone on sympathy strikes.
Up and down Yangtze, river transport stopped. Labour unions, until then proscribed, suddenly blossomed. On 28 June, the date of the signature of the peace treaty at Versailles, Chinese students,  workers and overseas Chinese in Paris surrounded the Lutetia Hotel, where the delegation from Peking resided, and prevented the delegates from leaving the hotel; thus the Chinese government did not sign the Versailles Peace Treaty.[5]

But the evaluation of the revolutionary character is done by history itself

“The demand for abrogation of unequal treaties went on through the next three decades; only in 1949, thirty years later, when Mao led the Chinese Revolution to its all-China victory, were the aims of the 4 May movement achieved at last.[6]” 

And how could then the aims of the 4 May movement finally be achieved?

Mao Zedong in 1939 about the 4 May movement of 1919:

“On this very day twenty years ago there occurred in China the great historical event known as the May 4th Movement, in which the students participated; it was a movement of tremendous significance. What role have China’s young people played since the May 4th Movement? In a way they have played a vanguard role—a fact recognized by everybody except the die-hards. What is a vanguard role? It means taking the lead and marching in the forefront of the revolutionary ranks. In the anti-imperialist and anti-feudal ranks of the Chinese people, there is a contingent composed of the country’s young intellectuals and students. It is a contingent of considerable size and, even if the many who have given their lives are not included, it now numbers several million. It is an army on one of the fronts against imperialism and feudalism, and an important army too. But this army is not enough; we cannot defeat the enemy by relying on it alone, for when all is said and done it is not the main force. What then is the main force? The workers and peasants. Our young intellectuals and students must go among the workers and peasants, who make up 90 per cent of the population, and mobilize and organize them. Without this main force of workers and peasants, we cannot win the fight against imperialism and feudalism, we cannot win it by relying only on the contingent of young intellectuals and students. Therefore, the young intellectuals and students throughout the country must unite with the broad masses of workers and peasants and become one with them, and only then can a mighty force be created. A force of hundreds of millions of people! Only with this huge force can the enemy’s strongholds be taken and his last fortresses smashed.

In assessing the youth movement of the past from this viewpoint, we should call attention to a wrong tendency. In the youth movement of the last few decades, a section of the young people have been unwilling to unite with the workers and peasants and have opposed their movements; this is a counter-current in the youth movement. In fact, these people are not at all bright in their refusal to unite with the masses who make up 90 per cent of the population and in going so far as to oppose them outright. Is this a good tendency? I think not, because in opposing the workers and peasants they are in fact opposing the revolution; that is why we say it is a counter-current in the youth movement. A youth movement of that kind would come to no good. A few days ago I wrote a short article in which I noted:
In the final analysis, the dividing line between revolutionary intellectuals and non-revolutionary or counter-revolutionary intellectuals is whether or not they are willing to integrate themselves with the workers and peasants and actually do so.
Here I advanced a criterion which I regard as the only valid one. How should we judge whether a youth is a revolutionary? How can we tell? There can only be one criterion, namely, whether or not he is willing to integrate himself with the broad masses of workers and peasants and does so in practice. If he is willing to do so and actually does so, he is a revolutionary; otherwise he is a non-revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary. If today he integrates himself with the masses of workers and peasants, then today he is a revolutionary; if tomorrow he ceases to do so or turns round to oppress the common people, then he becomes a non-revolutionary or a counter-revolutionary.
Some young people talk glibly about their belief in the Three People’s Principles or in Marxism, but this does not prove anything. Doesn’t Hitler profess belief in “socialism”? Twenty years ago even Mussolini was a “socialist”! And what does their “socialism” amount to? Fascism! Didn’t Chen Tu-hsiu once “believe” in Marxism? What did he do later? He went over to the counter-revolution. Didn’t Chang Kuo-tao “believe” in Marxism? Where is he now? He has run away and landed in the mire. Some people style themselves “followers of the Three People’s Principles” or even old stalwarts of these Principles; but what have they done? It turns out that their Principle of Nationalism means conspiring with imperialism, that their Principle of Democracy means oppressing the common people, and that their Principle of People’s Livelihood means sucking the people’s blood.
They affirm the Three People’s Principles with their lips but deny them in their hearts. So when we assess a person and judge whether he is a true or false adherent of the Three People’s Principles, whether he is a true or false Marxist, we need only find out how he stands in relation to the broad masses of workers and peasants, and then we shall know him for what he is. This is the only criterion, there is no other. I hope that the youth of our country will never allow themselves to be carried away by this sinister counter-current but will clearly recognize the workers and peasants as their friends and march forward to a bright future......[7]”       

[2] The whole of Chiinese history is evidence of the close relationship between politics and literary production, to a far greater extent than in any Western country.
[3] Chow Tse-tung, “TheMay Fourth Movement: Inellectual Revolution in Modern China, Oxford University Press, London 1960.
[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] 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
[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] Out of “THE ORIENTATION OF THE YOUTH MOVEMENT, May 4th 1939”, in “Selected works of Mao Zedong, volume II”, From Marx to Mao ML © Digital Reprints 2006 / 2007

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