PROBLEMS OF THE CHINESE REVOLUTION, LEON TROTSKY, PATHFINDER PRESS, 1967
Recently I reviewed in this space Andre Malraux’s Man’s Fate, a novelistic treatment of the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27, that emphasized the problems at the base of Chinese society in its late phase after the popular front alliance with General Chiang Kai-Shek’s bourgeois nationalist Kuomintang broke down and Chiang began his extermination drive against the Chinese Communists. In Leon Trotsky’s book, under review here, we get a real time, real life analysis of the political questions that led to that catastrophe and what revolutionaries could learn from it.
I have noted elsewhere that the Communist International (hereafter Comintern) evolved in the mid-1920’s , under the impact of Stalinization, from a revolutionary organization that made political mistakes, sometimes grossly so, in pursuit of revolution to an organization that pursued anti-revolutionary aims as it turned primarily into an adjunct of Soviet foreign policy. Prima facie evidence for such a conclusion is the Soviet Communist Party /Commintern policy and its implementation toward the budding Chinese Revolution.
As much as policy toward the Chinese Revolution became a political football in the internal Russian Communist party fights between Stalin’s bloc and Trotsky’s bloc it is impossible to understand the strategy for the Chinese Revolution without an understanding of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. No Marxist, at least not openly and honestly, put forth any claim that in the West the national bourgeoisie could be a progressive force in any modern upheaval. Russia, in the early 20th century was, however, still a battleground over this question. This is where Trotsky formulated the advanced Marxist notion that in Russia the national bourgeoisie was too weak, too beholding to foreign capitalist interests and too dependent on the Czarist state and its hangers-on to fulfill the tasks associated with the classic bourgeois revolutions in the West. Thus, for Russia alone at that time Trotsky postulated that the working class had become the heirs of the revolutions in the West. The Revolution of 1905 gave a glimmer of understanding to that proposition and the Revolution of October 1917 cannot be understood except under that premise.
In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution the question of who would lead the revolutions of the countries even less developed that Russia, mainly colonial and semi-colonial regimes, formed one of the new political battlegrounds. And China was the first dramatic test that Trotsky’s originally Russia-only premise applied to underdeveloped ‘third world’ capitalist regimes, as well. However,unlike in Russia, this time Trotsky lost. The necessary independent organization of the working class and the political separation of the communist vanguard were not carried out and, to our regret, the Chinese Revolution was beheaded. As mentioned above this was a conscious Stalinist policy of kowtowing to Chiang by unequivocably ordering the Communist Party to make itself politically and militarily subservient to the Kuomintang as well as providing Comintern military advisers to Chiang.
Today, even a cursory look at countries of belated and uneven development emphasizes the fact that the various tasks associated with the Russian and Chinese Revolutions still need to be carried out. Thus, the political fights that wracked the international communist movement in the 1920’s which under ordinary circumstances would only be of historical interest today take on a more life and death meaning for many of the peoples of the world. That makes this book well worth the read.
I might add that there is a very interesting appendix at the end of this work detailing reports from the field filed by those Communist agents that carried out Comintern policy in China and who as a result of disillusionment with that policy had become oppositionists. These reports give added ammunition to Trotsky’s more theoretical arguments. They also give flesh and bones to the some of the points that Malraux was trying to bring out in Man’s Fate. Read on.
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Peter Paul Markin comment on this series:
This is an excellent documentary source for today’s leftist militants to “discover” the work of our forebears, particularly the bewildering myriad of tendencies which have historically flown under the flag of the great Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky and his Fourth International, whether one agrees with their programs or not. But also other laborite, semi-anarchist, ant-Stalinist and just plain garden-variety old school social democrat groupings and individual pro-socialist proponents.
Some, maybe most of the material presented here, cast as weak-kneed programs for struggle in many cases tend to be anti-Leninist as screened through the Stalinist monstrosities and/or support groups and individuals who have no intention of making a revolution. Or in the case of examining past revolutionary efforts either declare that no revolutionary possibilities existed (most notably Germany in 1923) or alibi, there is no other word for it, those who failed to make a revolution when it was possible.
The Spanish Civil War can serve as something of litmus test for this latter proposition, most infamously around attitudes toward the Party Of Marxist Unification's (POUM) role in not keeping step with revolutionary developments there, especially the Barcelona days in 1937 and by acting as political lawyers for every non-revolutionary impulse of those forebears. While we all honor the memory of the POUM militants, according to even Trotsky the most honest band of militants in Spain then, and decry the murder of their leader, Andreas Nin, by the bloody Stalinists they were rudderless in the storm of revolution. But those present political disagreements do not negate the value of researching the POUM’s (and others) work, work moreover done under the pressure of revolutionary times. Hopefully we will do better when our time comes.
Finally, I place some material in this space which may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. Off hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these entries from the Revolutionary History journal in which they have post hoc attempted to rehabilitate some pretty hoary politics and politicians, most notably August Thalheimer and Paul Levy of the early post Liebknecht-Luxemburg German Communist Party. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts. So read, learn, and try to figure out the
wheat from the chaff.
The birth of the Chinese Left Opposition
Then Stalin changed course. After having buried the arms, he went over to an insurrectionary line. This ended in the disaster of the Canton Commune: 5700 dead in a few days. The wave of subsequent uprisings, which has been called ‘the Autumn Harvest’, was held to confirm the ‘new revolutionary wave’ which the Communist International thought was unfolding in China, and of which the Canton Commune had been only a preliminary sign. This was in fact an adventuristic policy, the consequences of which were the defeat of the Chinese Revolution, the massacres of the peasants in the countryside, and the destruction of the workers’ movement in the cities. The fact is that Stalin, who was at the height of his struggle in the USSR against the Trotskyist Opposition, did not want to accept the slightest responsibility for this defeat, the very existence of which he denied as long as he could. When the hour of truth came, it was the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and especially Chen Duxiu, its general secretary, who were declared to be responsible and were accused of having misinterpreted the orders of the Communist International ...
In reality, the leadership had done no more than apply the policy of Stalin and of his successive emissaries, Borodin, Roy and Lominadze. Chen Duxiu was relieved of his functions in the course of a special conference of the Chinese Communist Party at Wuhan on 7 August 1927, in his absence. He was the scapegoat; he was not allowed to defend himself before his peers, all of whom were as ‘blameworthy’ as he, but who consented to throw the blame on him in exchange for the benevolence of Moscow. Chen Duxiu temporarily disappeared from the political scene. The Chinese Communist Party, which was already decimated by repression, was reorganised.
he Russian Opposition and Trotsky battled against the policy of the Communist International and Stalin. They battled against the zigzags, denounced the policy of class collaboration which handed over the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese workers to the hangman Chiang Kai-shek, put forward the slogan of ‘soviets’ when Stalin was busy applying the brake to the peasant movement, and condemned the adventurist, putschist line which followed. At each stage the Russian Opposition denounced the mistakes and dangers in Stalin’s policy. The documents of the Opposition tried to warn the party of the dangers to which this policy was exposing the Chinese Revolution, as well as its inevitable repercussions on the USSR and the world revolution.
Though events confirmed the analyses and forecasts of the Opposition, and though the official line often seemed to the Chinese Communists to be inapplicable, there did not yet exist a Left Opposition in China. The Russian Opposition did not have the necessary connection with China. Consequently, the first real opportunity for the Russian Opposition to go forward towards forming a Chinese Left Opposition was the large-scale visit to Moscow of Chinese Communist students in 1927.
The Chinese Trotskyist Opposition in Moscow
There was a first group of Chinese students in Moscow before 1922, among whom were Liu Shaoqi and Peng Shuzi. The second group, after 1922, included in particular Wang Jofei and the two sons of Chen Duxiu. Between 1923 and 1925 the struggle between Stalin and Trotsky found no echo among these students, even though their general sentiment was unfavourable to Stalin. Trotsky had no direct influence on them.
In August 1927 the Chinese Communist Party decided to send people to study the military art in Moscow. Those who were selected were full of enthusiasm. Wang writes:
Mao’s idea that ‘power comes out Of the muzzle of a rifle’ well expressed the mood of the Chinese Communists in Wuhan during this period...But we thought that things would be different now that we were going to learn how to use arms, to form our own army and no longer have to look for suitable allies among the existing generals. I think that this was an opinion common to all those of us who were on the point of leaving for Moscow ... 
The students who arrived in Moscow from Wuhan in September 1927 had just left China in a state of complete defeat; the Chinese Communists were isolated and crushed, the man who had been General Secretary of the Communist Party since its formation was removed and charged with opportunism, and an ally of the Communists had once more betrayed them. They thirsted to understand what was happening to them.
Wang, who was one of them, writes:
We knew very little about the internal struggles that were going on in the CPSU. In Wuhan we had been told that Lenin had been succeeded by Stalin, who was now the leader of the Communist movement both in Russia and the world, whereas Trotsky was consumed by personal ambition, was a romantic, and was a militarist man of the Chiang Kai-shek type. 
None of us either dared or wanted to express support for the Opposition, which had, after all, been denounced as counter-revolutionary ... We were very careful about what we said in the course of these discussions ...We behaved in this way only because words like ‘party’, ‘Central Committee’ and ‘majority’ had such a sacred and authoritative ring about them that none of us either dared or were equipped to challenge them. To that extent, therefore, I was a ‘Stalinist’ at the time of the celebrations to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the October Revolution. 
It gave me a broad idea of the roles played by Trotsky and Stalin in the revolution. Despite the deliberate attempt to exaggerate Stalin’s role and play down Trotsky’s, the contrast between the two men – the one colourless and uninspiring, the other brilliant and outstanding must have been clear to anyone not utterly blinkered by factional prejudice. My own admiration for Trotsky dated from the showing of that film. 
The three main issues in dispute were the Anglo-Russian Trade Union Committee, Socialist construction in the Soviet Union, and the strategy and tactics employed in the Chinese Revolution. Because I was not clear about the reasoning behind the two positions, I was not prepared to make a judgement ... Naturally the Party Committee disapproved of our sceptical neutrality. 
Should we have entered the Guomindang? Should we have built and extended the organisation of the Guomindang? Had Chiang Kai-shek been a reliable ally of the proletariat in the Chinese Revolution? Were the Canton-Hong Kong strike committees a kind of soviet?...Had we been right to support another Guomindang leader, Wang Ching-wei, in order to create ‘a new revolutionary centre’ after Chiang Kai-shek’s betrayal? Had the tactic of ‘a bloc of four classes’ stood the test of events in China? 
From that time on, I was no longer a naive and confused participant in the struggle. I had opinions of my own, and began to act with more prudence than before ... The persecution directed against the Opposition was now stepped up considerably. It no longer remained on the purely ‘theoretical’ level. 
The depth of the defeat ... was becoming more and more apparent, and we soon realised that it was an illusion to think that after a few months’ military training we could return to China and turn back the wheel of history. We were upset by the arbitrary and bureaucratic way in which the Stalinists conducted the inner-party struggle, and the suffocating atmosphere which this created – the gulf between what we thought and what we were allowed to say, between our sympathies and the demands of discipline, grew wider and wider – all 600 of us had just left behind a revolution, and we were restless and full of energy. For young rebels like us, a life of peace and quiet was worse than death. 
The first document of the Opposition which I read was Zinoviev’s Theses on the Chinese Revolution. A little later, I read Trotsky’s The Chinese Revolution and the Theses of Comrade Stalin, and after that The Platform of the United Opposition of the CPSU. They had an enormous impact on me, because of their unassailable logic and also their superb style. They were a real contrast to the lifeless and insipid documents of the Central Committee. The arguments and warnings of the Opposition, especially those concerned with the Chinese Revolution, were so obviously true and had so often been confirmed in practice, that I could not help nodding vigorously in agreement as I pored eagerly over them. I was also deeply moved by Zinoviev’s writings ... I now realised that on all fundamental questions the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party had been acting on orders from Stalin’s faction; that the ill-conceived policies which had led to the defeat of the Chinese Revolution were very far from being Chen Duxiu’s mistakes; and that these mistakes had been warned against in advance and could have been avoided. 
... when I turned to the Oppositionist documents dealing with such subjects as the Anglo-Soviet Trade Union Committee and economic construction in the Soviet Union I again found myself in complete agreement with the criticisms raised. From then on I became a ‘Bolshevik-Leninist’ (as the Oppositionists were called at that time)...My ideological commitment soon became a practical one. 
The formation of the faction
When An Fu and his friends arrived at the rest home, they brought with them small notebooks in which they had copied the principal documents of the Opposition. These notebooks were to have a great influence on the Chinese students, of whom there were nearly a hundred in the rest home.
At the end of summer 1928 the Chinese Communist students turned towards the Opposition. Wang states that this turn was linked to the events of the preceding six months in China, which had confirmed the analysis of the Opposition with remarkable speed. In fact, the ‘Autumn Harvest’ uprisings and the Canton Commune had demonstrated the bankruptcy of Stalin’s policy at a dreadful cost.
The students came back to the Sun Yat-sen University at the beginning of the academic year. By this time, nine-tenths of the students who had earlier been in the University of the Peoples of the East had been won to the Opposition. It was urgent to organise them. Wang recounts:
One Sunday in late September or early October, a dozen or so of us travelled out of Moscow by tram in groups of two or three to have a picnic. We found somewhere quiet, and there we ate, laughed and sang. As soon as there were no Russian holiday-makers within earshot, we got down to more serious business. We discussed and finally settled the problem of how to organise so many Trotskyists. Three of us – Fan Chin-piao, An Fu and myself – were chosen from this conference of activists to form a leadership committee. 
Two workers who took part in this meeting were to be imprisoned and to disappear in the USSR. 
The progress of the Chinese Opposition continued rapidly during the winter of 1928. Wang estimates that nearly 150 out of the 400 students at the Sun Yat-sen University were members or sympathisers. Groups existed even in the military schools, and in the Lenin School. The organisation was clandestine, with a small leading committee unknown to all, but the documents circulated without difficulty. Thus, the article by Trotsky, entitled The Chinese Question After the Sixth Congress of the Communist International provoked a sharp discussion among the Oppositionists. In fact, Trotsky put forward the slogan of a Constituent Assembly, and this appeared to many to be ‘opportunist’. Liu Renjing intervened in the discussion, and proposed what was really an opportunist interpretation of the slogan, but found himself very isolated. Likewise, Wang mentions the confusion in the ranks of the Chinese Communists at the time of the attacks on Trotsky for his interview with the Daily Express, and their relief after reading his Letter to the Soviet Workers replying on this point.
The end of the Chinese Opposition in Moscow
The birth of the Opposition in China
Liu Renjing returned a little in advance of the second group. In the course of his return journey, he passed through Paris, where he met Rosmer, before going to Prinkipo, where he spent several days with Trotsky. This gave the latter the opportunity to draft a project for a programme of the Chinese Bolshevik-Leninists, which Liu brought back to China. On his arrival, Liu declared that he would not work in the Chinese Communist Party, and hastened to reveal his Trotskyist positions when the comrades put pressure on him to write to the Central Committee. In fact, Liu refused to work in the Chinese Communist Party, and came out in favour of a new party. The ‘underground’ Oppositionists denounced this position as a pretext for not struggling to regenerate the Chinese Communist Party, and as a refusal to direct the struggle towards the party rank and file in order to convince them in favour of Trotskyist policies.
Our Word held its first congress in January 1929 and designated a Central Committee. This congress advanced slogans such as ‘Public Discussion between the Opposition and the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party’, ‘For a meeting to re-organise the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party’, ‘Bring back Trotsky to the USSR and to Power’. This group was led by Shi Shuyun, the General Secretary; its essential characteristic was that it turned in on itself, because membership was restricted to students who had studied together in Moscow. It devoted itself to translating and commenting on Marxist texts and to polemics with rival groups. Thus, one of its favourite targets was to be Chen Duxiu, whom they attacked for his ‘opportunism’ between 1925 and 1927, while he was actually developing rapidly towards Trotskyism! This was to have disastrous consequences. Wang Wenyuan was rejected by this group, lost all contact with it, and turned towards the October group which Liu Renjing founded in Shanghai with 10 of the Moscow students. This small group was to grow quickly to more than 50 members, among them Luo Han. They published a short-lived journal, The Journal of the October Group.
The last group to be formed at the end of 1929 was the Militant group. Its members were all old Oppositionists who had worked in the Chinese Communist Party before being excluded. It had some 30 members, but was the least important or influential of the three groups formed by the Moscow ‘students’.
This is the situation within which a new faction was to appear and to give a new profile to the situation of the Opposition.
Chen Duxiu, his faction and the Opposition
At the end of 1929, Chen Duxiu and Peng Shuzi received documents of the Russian Opposition translated and brought in by the Chinese Oppositionists back from Moscow and then later by Liu Renjing: The Chinese Question After the Sixth Congress and Summary and Perspectives of the Chinese Revolution. These documents were to serve as an introduction and to teach Chen to understand his own role in the 1925-27 period. For him it was a genuine revelation of the policy and role of Stalin, of the way in which he had been an instrument in the hands of Moscow, and of the profundity of the Trotskyist policy on the Chinese question. He accepted the positions which were defended in these documents in general; he was hesitant only on the nature of the Third Chinese Revolution that still lay ahead, which he always regarded as having ‘a bourgeois democratic character’.
The news that Chen had gone over to the Opposition created a sensation, and provoked a crisis in the Chinese Communist Party, and particularly in its apparatus. It was all very well for Chou En-lai to say: All right, let the old opportunists see if they can find a way out by joining the Trotskyists’, but Stalin, on the other hand, did not like to see such a figure go over to the Opposition. It had important repercussions not only on the old cadres of the Chinese Communist Party, but also in the Communist International. A new campaign was launched in the Chinese Communist Party and the Communist International against the ‘liquidatory centre of Trotsky and Chen’. A special meeting of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party was devoted to these problems. A special emissary from the Communist International came to China to interview Chen and bring him back to Moscow. All in vain!
The enforced silence of Chen after he was removed from his post as General Secretary of the party and the campaign waged against him by those who previously had shared his responsibilities on the Central Committee had not seriously impaired his prestige in the eyes of the old cadres and the mass of the party membership. For that reason, the party was shaken at every level when he went over to the Opposition and became the target of the campaign of denunciation. The depth of the crisis was such that the leadership had to exclude hundreds of members who supported Chen, or were supposed to do so.
This was a great purge ‘in the Russian manner’. The Oppositionists were cleared out of the Central Committee, the provincial committees and the Communist Youth League ...The party newspaper, The Red Flag, published every week the list of those who were excluded. Chen himself was finally excluded from the party on 15 November 1929, and hit back on 10 December by publishing An Open Letter to All the Comrades of the Party. Five days later, 81 old Communists who had had or still had responsibilities in the party made public a text entitled Our Political Position. This declaration came out openly in favour of Trotsky: ‘If we had had the political leadership of Trotsky before 1927, we would perhaps have been able to lead the Chinese Revolution on the road to victory.’  Those who signed were the leading nucleus of the faction round Chen, the Proletarian Faction, which was essentially based in Shanghai. These cadres were all high-level intellectuals who had abandoned their cultural activities to join in the work of the Chinese Communist Party at the time of the first Chinese Revolution in May 1919. For example, there was Peng Shuzi, the former organisational secretary of the party. The same was true of Kao Yuhan and Wang Tuching. This new current, which was born in the Chinese Communist Party, because it was the expression of an authentic current in full political development and because it benefitted from the experience of former high-ranking cadres of the Chinese Communist Party, was to start from Shanghai and develop, establishing branches in Beijing, Tianjin, Wuhan, Sichuan, and Ningpo as well as in Shantung and Anhui. Some of its members even formed cells in Hong Kong and Macao. The total number of members which it regrouped reached several hundreds.
The responsibilities were shared out in the following way: Chen Duxiu was General Secretary, Peng Shuzi was responsible for propaganda, and the joint executive secretaries were Ma Yufu and Liu Renjing.
The sole reaction from the Kremlin to the publication of Our Political Position was a telegram inviting Chen to come to Moscow to discuss his positions and ‘the problem of his exclusion’. His definitive reply, on 17 February 1930, was negative.
Chen, the man and his politics
Out of the thinned ranks of the revolutionary intellectuals of 1911 emerged the figure of Chen Duxiu, scion of an Anhwei mandarin family, who began posing the tasks of revolt more boldly, more clearly, more courageously than anyone who had preceded him. The task of the new generation, proclaimed Chen Duxiu, was ‘to fight Confucianism, the old tradition of virtue and rituals, the old ethics and the old politics...the old learnings and the old literature’. In their place he would put the fresh materials of modern democratic political thought and natural science. 
Chen carried on his activities in university and cultural circles. He retained contacts in several Chinese cultural movements, and published a manual on Chinese history and literature.
As General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, he led the Chinese Communists during the revolution from 1925 to 1927, carrying into effect the policies and the instructions of Moscow. The defeat, and the campaign of slander which represented him as being personally responsible, affected him greatly, but not enough to lead him to go into battle against his accusers. For nearly a year he disappeared from the political scene.
Wang Wenyuan believes that there are two reasons why Chen withdrew to the sidelines. First, because of his upright, well-formed, intransigent character, he refused to make any deal with his accusers, who nonetheless were offering him one. Wang writes:
Whatever his weakness, Chen was certainly a lion. If Chen had been the usual spineless sort of politician, he would have agreed to take all the blame on to his own shoulders, thus enabling Stalin to ride out the storm of criticism from the Trotskyists. Had Chen chosen this course, he would have retained his status in the Comintern, and would probably have been able to climb to the top again in the Chinese Party. 
His spectacular evolution towards the Left Opposition and the formation of his own faction within the Communist Party were a striking reply to his adversaries. From May 1931 onwards he was to lead the United Opposition in China. There too, his temperament and force of character were to be important, if not decisive, assets in reaching the unification of the different groups, some of which criticised him with no less violence than the Stalinists a few years earlier.
Wang Wenyuan describes in the following way his first meeting with Chen, a little before the unification:
This middle-aged man in his early fifties, with his sincere and unassuming ways, swept all remaining traces of factional prejudice from me ... I was particularly impressed by his straightforwardness – there was not the slightest trace of ceremony or pretentiousness about him. But for all his frankness, I saw no signs of his notoriously hot temper. 
Towards the regroupment?
Regroupment and unification: the first attempt
The tone of the discussion quickly sank. Personal attacks soon made any counter-position of ideas impossible. The very day that Chen was excluded from the Chinese Communist Party, the Our Word group wrote to Trotsky to denounce his ‘opportunism’, and to declare its determination to make the struggle against him a priority. The Chinese Opposition seemed well and truly in a blind alley.
Yet they continued to seek a way forward, and, at the end of the conference, they had set up a ‘consultative committee’ which included representatives of all four of the groups.  Its task was to discuss the divergences, and even to publish texts on the major questions, such as the Constituent Assembly, the nature of the revolution and the lessons of the defeat on 1927. But there are few published documents and there were many incidents, even though each group declared in favour of unification and utilised this argument in order to try to get Trotsky’s personal support. He was very careful to do nothing of the kind, and restricted himself to repeating that the important thing was to go forward towards unification. In reply to an urgent letter from the October group he spelt out that he would not choose between the groups and, for his part, saw no difference between Chen and Liu.
The correspondence with Prinkipo became more and more frequent and systematic in 1930. Liu was the intermediary between Trotsky and the other groups. He did a great deal to try to win Trotsky’s support and to discredit the other groups in his eyes. His letters are full of personal attacks and unsupported political characterisations. In his opinion, the line of Our Word was ‘that of capitulators’, while Chen Duxiu represented ‘the Right Opposition masquerading behind the phraseology of the Left’. The other groups treated each other equally impolitely.’ 
On 22 December 1929 Trotsky wrote about Chen, in a reply to the Chinese Oppositionists:
As far as Chen Duxiu’s group is concerned, I am very well aware of the policy which it followed during the years of the Revolution; it was the policy of Stalin, Bukharin and Martynov, that is to say, an essentially Right-Menshevik policy. But comrade N,  nonetheless, writes that Chen Duxiu, on the basis of his experience of the revolution, has come very much closer to our positions. It goes without saying that we can only rejoice at this. Yet in your letter of information you categorically deny what comrade N tells me. You even claim that Chen Duxiu has not broken from the policy of Stalin, which is a mixture of opportunism and adventurism. But up to the present, I have not read more than one programmatic declaration by Chen Duxiu and am not in a position to express myself on this question. 
I think that this letter is an excellent document. Perfectly clear, correct positions are put forward in reply to every important question; particularly in relation to the "democratic dictatorship", comrade (Chen) Duxiu adopts an absolutely correct position. At the same time, you are writing to me that, if you cannot unite with Chen Duxiu, it is because he still seems to favour the "democratic dictatorship". I think that this is a decisive problem...There can be no compromise on this question. But it is clear that comrade Chen has a correct position in his letter of 10 December (1929). In these conditions, how am I to explain or defend your decision? What other points of divergence have you? None, I suppose, even if there are some unexpected misunderstandings. 
Now that we have the support of a revolutionary of the first rank in Chen Duxiu, who has broken with the party and been excluded and who announces that he is henceforth in 100 per cent agreement with the international Opposition, how could you ignore him? Is it possible that you already have many members of the Communist Party as experienced as he? In the past he has made many mistakes, but now he is aware of this. To understand one’s past mistakes is profitable for revolutionaries and for cadres. We have young comrades in the Opposition who can and should learn from comrade Chen Duxiu! 
As can be understood, organisational problems were still a source of difficulties. It had been decided to elect to the unification conference a number of delegates proportional to the number of members of each group. But it appears that Liang Ganjiao, of Our Word, was accused by the other groups of doubling the number of members which his organisation really had. How many militants were involved? In the preparatory discussions, Proletariat (which extended to Hong Kong and to the North) was estimated as having about 200, October 80, Militant about 30 and Our Word between 120 and 140.
An opportunity lost: the Jiangsu Affair
Those who opposed Wang Ming were called ‘conciliators’ by the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and accused of ‘rightism’, ‘opportunism’ and ‘iiquidationism’. These attacks were intended to conceal the fact that He Mengxiong and his comrades were developing in the direction of the positions of the Left Opposition. 
In particular, they believed it to be urgently necessary for the party to win back a basis in the proletariat, in the cities, through work in the trade unions, while it relied on the Red Army in the countryside.
Two sources agree that  on 17 January 1931, He Mengxiong re-organised the Central Committee of the provincial party committee in Jiangsu, braving the authority of the Central Committee of Wang Ming. This factional ‘Central Committee’ was surprised by the British police of the International Concession in the middle of a meeting in a Shanghai hotel. He Mengxiong and 24 of his comrades were arrested and handed over to the Guomindang authorities. They refused to capitulate and were all executed at Lungwha, near Shanghai, on 7 February 1931. This drama had a bad effect on many of the rank and file militants of the Chinese Communist Party, but all internal opposition disappeared and Wang Ming’s ‘students’ became the unchallenged leaders of the party.
This offered an opportunity which the Chinese Left Opposition missed, a chance to influence a whole sector of the party and implant itself there as a faction. But the Jiangsu affair carried another lesson; it provoked some rumours which all agreed in attributing to Wang Ming the responsibility for having denounced the 25 militants concerned. Neither the Communist International under Stalin’s control, nor the Guomindang and its police would make the slightest concession to permit the Chinese Left Opposition so much as to live. To crush the Left Opposition, they were ready to go to any lengths.
The unification conference
The unification in China was a victory for the international Opposition, not only because it regrouped forces, but because it purified the atmosphere by eliminating, in all the groups, the most ardent ‘factionalists’, whom the new tasks hardly suited. Liang Ganjiao, Liu Yin and Ma Yufu left the movement and were soon to find themselves a long way from it; as for Liu Renjing, he took provisional retirement.
The unification seemed to be opening a very favourable period. The new leadership soon took over and was recognised.  Luo Han, the secretary of the Central Committee, telegraphed to Trotsky that the Chinese Bolshevik-Leninists would soon be flying their banner from one end of China to another. The Guomindang government drafted a new constitution, which made what appeared to be concessions to the democratic aspirations of the masses, and the struggle for the Constituent Assembly appeared to be opening wide perspectives before the supporters of the Opposition. Meanwhile, the Communist Party was going through a deep crisis. After the failure of the Li Lisan leading group, Qu Qiubai was in turn driven out, but the Communist International enthroned the adventurer Wang Ming. The party veterans, disoriented by the zigzags of Moscow, could only question themselves and seek answers from Chen and Peng, whom everyone knew to be militants of integrity.
The arrests in 1931
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