Remembering the Chinese Revolution

In Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the

Chinese Revolution



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Part One

The Pre-1949 Revolutionary Process

China, like India, was a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country. After the Opium War of 1840 foreign capital penetrated the Chinese economy. This foreign capital retarded the nascent growth of national capital within China. Numerous revolutions shook the old feudal/imperialist order. Upto the May 4th Movement of 1919, they were of the old-democratic type, which was led by the bourgeoisie; the revolution from the May 4th Movement to 1949 was of the New Democratic type, which was led by the working class and constituted a part of the world proletarian revolution.

Unlike India, China went through a bourgeois democratic revolution, though it was later defeated. The Taiping Revolution lasted 14 years (1851-64) which set up a revolutionary government in Nanking. They challenged feudal culture, promulgated the Agrarian Law abolishing the feudal land system etc. The government was destroyed by the joint attack of the Ching imperial troops and the American, British and French aggressors. In 1905 Dr. Sun Yat-sen established the Revolutionary League which led a series of uprisings between 1905 and 1911. The bourgeois democratic revolution of 1911 put an end to the feudal monarchy (overthrowing the Ching dynasty) which had reigned in China for over 2000 years and gave birth to the Republic of China and a provisional revolutionary government in Nanking. But this too collapsed and state power fell into the hands of the Northern warlord, Yuan Shih-kai.

(A) Birth of the Communist Party of China

At the beginning of the 20th century, six imperialist powers dominated China : Britain, Germany, France, Russia (Tsarist), the US and Japan. During World War I Japan increased its hold on China and set up a puppet government.

It was the October Socialist Revolution of 1917 that had a far-reaching impact on the on-going working class movement that had peaked in the last few years. To this was added the anger of the people against the traitorous capitulation of the government to the imperialists at the Versailles Peace Conference in January 1919. The May 4th movement began as an uprising of the students demanding the resignation of the three ministers involved. By June the centre of the movement shifted from Peking to Shanghai where the workers took the lead with huge strikes and militant actions. Soon the movement spread to the whole country becoming an extensive patriotic mass movement embracing workers, students, merchants and other social strata. With this a cultural movement also developed attacking feudal values and customs.

It was amidst this upsurge that Marxism took roots in China. Democratic culture was spread widely by the two periodicals ‘New Youth’ and ‘Weekly Review’, both under communist influence. Li Ta-chao, the founder of Marxism in China, actively propagated Marxism through the columns of these two magazines.

From 1918/1919 Marxist study circles sprouted in Shanghai, Peking and also in the provinces of Hunan, Hupeh, Shantung and also amongst Chinese students in Paris and Tokyo. By 1920 these circles consolidated into active groups within the working class bringing out magazines and other publications. All these merged, and on July 1, 1921, with the assistance of the Communist International the First Congress of the Communist Party of China was held at Shanghai. The 12 delegates (representing 57 members), including Mao, adopted a Constitution and elected a leading body.

The First Congress opposed two erroneous views. First, that of the "Legal Marxists" who opposed strict organisation amongst the working class, and was for mere propaganda and publication; second, the "Left" view point which held that the proletarian dictatorship was the immediate aim and opposed the party’s participation in the bourgeois democratic movement.

In January 1922 the Third International convened, in Moscow, the First Congress of the Communist Parties and the National Revolutionary Bodies of the Various Countries of the East. This Congress, set the tasks for the East as being anti-imperialist and anti-feudal in alliance with the proletariat of the West and Russia.

At the Second Congress of the CPC in July 1922, the party laid down a maximum programme and a minimum programme, based on the Leninist theories concerning revolutions in the colonies and semi-colonies. The Second Congress laid the foundation of the party’s political line and programme. Its weakness lay in the fact that it did not put the proletariat as the leader of the democratic revolution and failed to put forward the workers’ and peasants’ demand for political power and the peasants’ demand for land. These weaknesses were the basis on which the Chen Tu-hsui Right opportunist deviation developed during the 1924-27 revolution.

During this entire period the party built deep roots in the working class, led numerous militant struggles, some of which took the form of uprisings. Meanwhile, in June 1923, the Third Congress of the CPC, established the basic tactical line of the party and resolved to form a broad united front with Sun Yat-sen’s Kuomintang. But at this Congress bitter struggle ensued against two deviations : Chen Tu-hsiu and the capitulationists held that the present revolution, being bourgeois democratic, should be led by the bourgeoisie... and the Kuomintang. On the other hand, a sectarian tendency maintained there should be no cooperation with the Kuomintang. The Congress criticised both the Right and Left deviations.

In January 1924 the Kuomintang held its First National Congress in Canton, where Mao and other communists played an important leading role. At this Congress Sun Yat-sen’s New Three Principles of the People was accepted based on : opposition to imperialism and feudalism, establishment of a democratic coalition government of the revolutionary classes, welfare and livelihood of the people, and alliance with the Soviet Union.

Also the Soviet Union helped Sun Yat-sen establish a revolutionary army, by the founding of the Whampoa Military Academy in Canton in May 1924. The communists were part of this as well.

In January 1925, when the mass movement was already sweeping China, the Fourth Congress of the CPC was held at Shanghai. The Congress criticised the mistakes of the Left and Right opportunists in the work of the united front during the past year, and adopted a policy of expanding the ranks of the Left within the Kuomintang, criticising the middle and opposing the Right. The Fourth Congress prepared the party organisationally for a new wave of mass struggles. Its shortcoming lay in its failure to put forward an agrarian programme.

On March 12, 1925 Dr. Sun Yat-sen died.

1925 and 1926 saw a mass upsurge of the working class, leading in many places to armed confrontations. This was led by the CPC. In these two years, on the eve of the Northern Expedition, the peasant movement in the whole country also made rapid advances. It was on the basis of the worker-peasant movement that the Kuomintang revolutionary government was founded and consolidated. The peasant movement in Hunan, Hupeh and Kiangsi began to develop with membership in lakhs. In the northern provinces peasant riots broke out and in Hunan province alone the Peasant Association was established with a membership of 3 lakhs and a Peasant Self-Defence Corps numbering 1 lakh.

During this period, to counter Chen Tu-hsui’s Right opportunist line and also the "Left" line which opposed mobilising the peasantry, Mao wrote in March 1926 the article "Analysis of classes in Chinese Society". But by mid-1926 itself, Chiang Kai-shek began his attacks on the communists. He was encouraged by Chen Tu-hsui policy of compromise and concession which regarded Chiang as the "pillar" of China’s revolutionary movement.

(B) The Northern Expedition

Japanese imperialism openly supported the Northern warlords and in December 1925 the first imperialist armed intervention occurred when Japanese troops directly assisted some warlords. The British backed the Chihli (Hopei province) warlord. While the imperialists controlled their respective warlords and competed for superiority in China, they jointly supported the reactionary rule of the Northern warlords.

The strategic plan of the Northern Expedition was to put the main force of the Revolutionary Army on the Hunan-Hupeh front, and send two contingents to the eastern and northern borders of Kuangtung. The cooperation between Communist Party and Kuomintang in 1924 marked the beginning of the struggle for the establishment of the revolutionary base in Kwangtung. With the support of the revolutionary masses of workers and peasants, the revolutionary base was unified and consolidated and the foundation of the Northern Expeditionary war was laid.

The Northern Expedition started in July 1926. Within half a year, the Northern Expeditionary Army (of the Communists and Kuomintang) crushed the troops of the Chihli warlords and extended its forces to the Yangtse Valley, countering the Fengtien warlords of the North. On the eve of the Northern Expedition the workers and peasants of Hunan, Changsha, Yuehyang, Wuhan and Hupeh under the leadership of the CPC gave the Revolutionary Army powerful support which enabled it to penetrate quickly into the two provinces. In less than 6 months (from July to December 1926) the Kwangtung Revolutionary Army took Hunan, Hupeh, Fukien, Chekiang, Kiangsi and Anhwei, put two other major warlord’s forces out of action and encircled Shanghai, Nanking and other towns of Kiangsu. As the National Revolutionary Army advanced further and achieved more victories, it seemed all but certain that with the support of the broad masses, it would defeat the imperialists and the Northern warlords and bring about the independence and unification of China.

But this was not to be. As the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants grew, the bourgeoisie and warlords (many of whom had surrendered during the Northern Expedition) within the Revolutionary Army, with support from the imperialists, began to make preparations to seize the leadership of the revolution. This was facilitated by the domination of Chen Tu-hsiu’s capitulationist line which failed to organise effective resistance against the impending attack.

Chen Tu-hisu hoped to placate the landlords and bourgeois elements within the Kuomintang; he opposed the agrarian programme, he opposed leading the peasantry and was for unity with the bourgeoisie at all costs, and he continued to assert that the national bourgeoisie would lead the on-going revolution. To counter these trends and specifically to assert the role of the peasantry, Mao went to Hunan in January 1927 and made an investigation into the role of the peasantry in the period of this First Revolutionary Civil War. The Hunan Report, put things in proper perspective.

Meanwhile, the party organised three armed uprisings of the workers, in October 26, February 27 and March 27. The first two failed, but in the third, with the Northern Expeditionary Army in the vicinity, the uprising was victorious, the workers set up the Shanghai Commune and at a citizens’ rally elected officials to a Shanghai People’s Government. Nanking too was liberated. But then began the massacres : First in Nanking by the imperialists themselves, followed by the Shanghai massacres by Chiang Kai-shek. In April the massacres of Shanghai and Nanking spread to Kwangtung where Kuomintang reactionaries killed many communists and advanced workers and disarmed pickets of the Whampoa Military Academy.

At this critical movement the CPC held its Fifth Congress in April 1927 at Hankow which set before the party two tasks — carrying out the agrarian revolution and establishing a people’s regime. Chen Tu-hsui, inspite of his right line, was elected secretary. Due to his line of capitulation towards the Kuomintang, with the latter’s shift to the Right and, in effect, a coup against the communists, the First Revolutionary Civil War ended in failure.

After the failure of the revolution in 1927, the class alignments in China underwent a change. The big bourgeoisie betrayed the revolution, the national bourgeoisie had capitulated and part of the petti-bourgeoisie had deserted. The imperialists, landlords, bureaucrat compradors and the right wing of the Kuomintang formed a counter-revolutionary alliance. Between January and August 1928, one lakh workers and peasants were killed, while those who survived were more ruthlessly oppressed and exploited than ever before. The revolution reached a low ebb.

(C) Revolutionary Base Areas

With the increased attacks on the peasantry, the peasant movement in Kwangtung, Hunan, Hupeh, and Kiangsi assumed the form of an armed occupation. The peasants organised their own armies and set up their own governments.

Meanwhile, at this critical juncture when Chiang Kai-shek etc had betrayed the revolution, the party set out to salvage the revolution from defeat by organising an armed uprising in Nanchang (Kiangshi Province) on August 1, 1927, with more than 30,000 troops under the command of Chou En-lai and Chu Teh. Within three hours the city was liberated. Though this was soon defeated, the Nanchang uprising had great historical significance. It marked the birth of the Chinese people’s army, an army under the sole leadership of the CPC.

On August 7, 1927, the CPC held an emergency conference of the CC in Kiangsi province. This conference criticised the erroneous capitulationist line of Chen Tu-hsui, removed him from the leading post and called on the peasants to launch uprisings at the time of the autumn harvest to save the revolution. It was decided to start the uprising in Hunan, Hupeh, Kiangsi and Kwangtung, where the revolution had the strongest footing.

Mao was sent to Hunan. Here, he organised the miners of the Anyuan Colliery, and set up a workers’ and peasants’ Revolutionary Army. The Army, set up under the leadership of the party, marched to the Chingkang Mountains on the Hunan-Kiangsi border and in October 1927 set up the first revolutionary base. Meanwhile, the workers and soldiers in Canton staged an uprising in December 1927 and set up the Canton commune. But this was brutally crushed and 8000 revolutionaries were killed by the Kuomintang warlords.

But at this time there was a rapid rise of "Left" sentiment within the party — a reflection of the impetuous attitude of the petti-bourgeoisie, which was aggravated by hatred for the Kuomintang reactionaries’ policy of massacre and indignation of Chen Tu-hsiu’s capitulationism. At the November 27 enlarged meeting of the CC for the first time a ‘Left’line dominated the leading body. They denied the two stages of revolution, they erroneously appraised the Chinese revolution as being on a "continuous upsurge"; they called for the peasant masses to seize political power in a number of provinces and for workers in some industrial centres. They denied that the First Revolutionary Civil war had ended in failure and that the revolution was then at a low ebb. Wherever there were party organisations, orders were given to prepare actively for armed uprisings. After some failures this line was abandoned by mid-1928.

Meanwhile Chu Teh’s forces joined with Mao’s, consolidated the revolutionary base at Chingkang Mountains fighting back three encircling attacks (between 1928 and 1931) by Chiang kai-shek’s reactionary forces. In the process Mao elaborated his concepts of base areas, the Red Army and the concept of increasing the number of base areas and of encircling and seizing the cities, in his two famous works (written in 1928) : "Why is it that Red political power can exist in China" and "The struggle in Chingkang Mountains".

In July 1928, the CPC convoked the Sixth Congress. The Congress thoroughly rectified Chen Tu-hsiu’s Right opportunist line (in end 1929 he was expelled for forming an anti-party faction in league with Trotskyites) and also criticised the mistake of ‘Left’ putschism. Putschism, military adventurism and authoritarianism, all of which led to isolation from the masses, were the reflection of ‘Left’ petti-bourgeois sentiments in the party. But as the criticisms were not thorough, the leadership continued in the hands of the ‘Leftists’ after the Congress, and later developed by the ‘Left’ opportunists into a full-fledged wrong line.

By the beginning of 1930, after 3 years of struggle, revolutionary bases and the people’s armed forces were established in many areas : The central base in the Chingkang Mountains; the Hunan-Hupeh-Kiangsi Base; the Hupeh-Honan-Anhwei Base etc. From the Autumn Harvest Uprising in 1927 to the beginning of 1930, the areas of armed uprisings and the rural revolutionary bases covered parts of Kiangsi, Fukien, Hunan, Hupeh, Anhwei, Honan, Kwangtung, Kwangsi and Chekiang provinces. The Red Army grew to 60,000 and a little later, to one lakh. Advantage was taken of the continuous internecine wars between Chiang Kai-shek’s forces and various warlords within the Kuomintang.

But, these victories gave rise the second deviation of ‘Left’ ideas culminating in the ‘Left’ line of Li Li-san. This line, did not distinguish between struggles in the cities and those in the countryside, it gave emphasis to uprisings in the cities; it negated organisational preparations; it denied the unevenness of world revolution; it overlooked the protracted nature of China’s bourgeois democratic revolution and blurred the line of demarcation between the democratic revolution and the socialist revolution, etc. On June 30 the "Leftists" mapped out an adventurist plan of organising uprisings in the major cities throughout the country and for concentrating all the units of the Red Army for attacking these major cities.

Again this line was short-lived due to the losses faced and by September 1930 the plenary session of the CC rectified the ‘Left’ line .... yet, due to lack of a thorough criticism, sectarian mistakes continued. From 1928 to 1931, during the Chingkang Mountain period, the party’s agrarian policy was drawn up from summing up the experience. Also in the process of building the revolutionary bases and advancing the armed struggle, Mao for the first time outlined some points for a military line for the proletariat.

(D) Anti-Japanese United Front

On September 18, 1931, the Japanese army stationed in the North-East, launched a sudden attack on Shenyan. Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Chinese army to offer no resistance. Also, he ordered the withdrawal of all troops from the region allowing the Japanese imperialists to occupy the whole of the North-East in just 3 months. In January 1932 the Japanese army attacked Shanghai to take the city, in order to colonise entire China. When the local army and civilians rose in revolt, Chiang Kai-shek withdrew the army and signed a humiliating agreement with Japan, which stipulated that China should not station its troops in Shanghai and should ban anti-Japanese movements throughout the country.

This resulted in strong anti-Japanese, anti-Chiang sentiments throughout the country, most of which were given a direction by the CPC — In the North East, the Anti-Japanese Volunteers harassed the Japanese through guerilla struggles; in Shanghai 8 lakh workers formed the Resist-Japan-and-save-China Association; students of Peking, Tientsin, Shanghai, Hankow and Canton came to Nanking smashed the Kuomintang party headquarters and ordered a people’s court to try the Mayor and police chief, and even urban industrialists and merchants launched a campaign to boycott Japanese goods.

A great change took place in the internal political situation after the Japanese invasion in the North East in 1931. The reasons for this development were : the rise of the popular anti-Japanese and anti-Chiang Kai-shek movement in the Kuomintang-controlled areas; the split within the Kuomintang; the anti-Japanese tendency of the national bourgeoisie; the victory of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army in the Third Counter-Encirclement Campaign; and the establishment of the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Democratic Government and its declaration of war on Japan.

The slogan of the anti-Japanese United Front was put forward, which demanded resistance to the Japanese aggressors and opposition to Chiang Kai-shek, setting up a national defence government and an anti-Japanese allied army. If the party had adopted the correct tactics there could have been a big advance. But, from the period of the establishment of the Provisional Central Committee, headed by Chin Pang-Hsien and Wang Ming on September 1, 1931 to the Tsunyi Conference in January 1935, there was the continuous development of a third ‘Left’ line.

After the victory of the Third Encirclement campaign, they called on the Red Army to attack the cities; they opposed the united front policy; they saw the ruling classes as a united block and refused to take cognizance of the divisions; they branded the correct line as a rich-peasant line and they called for the distribution of land of the rich peasants and confiscation of capital of the national bourgeoisie.

Yet, the fourth encirclement campaign in 1932, when Chiang Kai-shek mustered a force of 5 lakhs was yet again smashed by the Red Army. But in 1933, Chiang Kai-shek began preparations for an all out offensive in the fifth encirclement campaign. Before launching the military offensive massive attacks were launched on communists, democrats and sympathisers all over the country. Hundreds of magazines and journals were banned, progressive writers arrested or killed. The suppression and massacre of revolutionary writers and young progressives were unparalleled in history. No less than 3 lakh young people were butchered between 1927 and 1935, not counting those who were missing or imprisoned.

Then in October 1933 Chiang mustered one million troops for the encirclement. But on this occasion the ‘Left’ line also dominated military strategy, opposing guerilla and mobile warfare and demanding that the Red Army "must not yield an inch of the Red territory to the enemy." Due to a series of mistakes in battle because of the ‘Left’ line, in order to break Chiang’s encirclement, the Red Army, in October 1934, undertook the historic Long March. Breaking through numerous enemy cordons the Red Army pushed its way to Tsunyi.

Under constant enemy fire, the historic Tsunyi conference was convened in January 1935. At this enlarged meeting of the Polit Bureau of the Central Committee, the Tsunyi Conference repudiated the ‘Left’ military line and approved the correct line of Com. Mao Tsetung. The ‘Left’ opportunists were removed from their leading positions and a new party leadership headed by Mao was established. The conference also chalked out the further direction of the Long March towards the North. Finally, after a full year, the Red Army reached Shensi province and set up its red base at Yenan.

During the 12 months from October 1934 to October 1935 the Central Red Army marched through 11 provinces, climbed high snow-covered mountains, crossed grass lands with practically no sign of life, and smashed the encirclement, pursuit, obstruction and interception attempted by the enemy. It marched for 12,500 kilometers, overcame innumerable military and political difficulties as well as natural obstacles, and finally reached the revolutionary base in northern Shensi in triumph to join forces with the Red Army there. The Red Army which had grown to 3 lakhs was reduced to 30,000 by the end of the Long March.

Mao said, "the Long March is the first of its kind ever recorded in history, it is a manifesto, an agitation corps and a seeding machine." (Vol. 1, page 161). A new historic record, because the Long March was an event unparalleled in history; a manifesto, because it confirmed the invincibility of the Red Army; an agitation corps, because it declared in a vast area of China that the road of the Red Army led to the people’s liberation; and lastly, a seeding machine, because it sowed the seeds of revolution in 11 provinces.

It was in order to counter years of doctrinairism and dogmatism, resulting in a ‘left’ line, as also subjectivist errors within the party that Mao wrote his famous philosophical writings ‘On Practice’ and ‘On Contradictions’ in 1937.

After the fascist military dictatorship was set up in Nanking, the Kuomintang reactionaries began to organise an economic monopoly of bureaucrat-capitalists represented by the ‘Four Big Families’ of Chiang Kai-shek, TV Soong, H.H. Kung and the Chen brothers. Between 1928 and 1935 they took control of China’s major banks. After taking control of finance, the ‘Four Big Families’, in 1935 and 1936, proceeded to dominate and monopolise industry. They were also the biggest landlords in the country. Through their monopolist control over finance, commerce, industry and agriculture, the ‘Four Big Families’ plundered the people and became known as the biggest vampires in the country,

Also, before the anti-Japanese war, in the Kuomintang controlled areas, the imperialists monopolised the coal and iron industries, railway and water transport and many other enterprises. The Japanese imperialist policy of conquering China seriously jeopardised the British and US imperialists’ interests in North and Central China and shattered the economic foundation of the ‘Big Four Families’, who were linked to the Western imperialists. This led to increasing divisions within the Kuomintang.

The Japanese latest aggression in North China in1935, was followed by capitulation of the Kuomintang and the signing of the "Ho-Umezu" agreement under which China lost her sovereign rights, bringing humiliation upon the whole nation. In August 1935 the CC of the CPC issued a statement calling for "Resistance to Japan and National Salvation". After the Long March, in December 1935 the CC of the party held a conference in Wayaopao, which laid down the tactics of establishing an anti-Japanese National United Front. At this conference it was put forward that the national contradiction between China and Japan had become the principal one, while the internal class contradiction was relegated to secondary place.

The party leadership in the united front ensured victory of the revolution and in order to establish this more firmly it was decided that the party should expand its own ranks; expand the party organisation, the party-led army and the revolutionary bases. A strong communist party, the Red Army and the revolutionary bases — these formed the mainstay of the united front. Also China must link her anti-Japanese united front with the peace front of the world, and completely isolate Japanese imperialism.

Prior to 1936 the party had not included Chiang Kai-shek as part of the united front. But with the growing revolt of Kuomintang generals against the Japanese, the party gave a call "for a democratic republic" in September 1936 involving the Kuomintang. Finally, due to communist pressure, Chiang Kai-shek was forced to call off the war against the communists when two of his top generals, Chang and Yang, arrested him on December 12, 1936 and forced him to be part of an anti-Japanese front. At the May 1937 National Conference of the CPC, Mao stated that the party’s principal task was to fight for democracy and freedom within the country. The war against Japan required internal peace and mobilisation of the people, but without democracy, peace ... there was no way to proceed with mobilisation. The fight for political democracy and freedom was a central link in ensuring victory for armed resistance. The conference emphasised proletarian leadership of the front, the essentials for this being : the putting forward of its political programme, the exemplary example in revolutionary activities, the establishing of proper relationships with its allies, and the expansion of the ranks of the party.

(E) Anti-Japanese War

On July 7, 1937, the Japanese fascist troops launched an attack on Marco Polo Bridge, some 10 km from Peking. On August 13 they attacked Shanghai. The brutality of their aggression matched that of Hitler. The massacres, rapes, plunder, arson, demolition and other atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese fascist troops left an indelible stain on human history. In the massacre after the fall of Nanking, which went on for more than one month, no less than 3 lakh civilians were killed. A great number of soldiers who had laid down their arms were machine-gunned in groups or burnt alive. All the Chinese people’s wealth, whether it consisted of modern factories or peasant cottages, met with the most outrageous destruction and plunder.

The people’s anger against the Japanese forced Chiang Kai-shek to form a front with the communists which finally came into being on September 22, 1937. When the Japanese attacked, the Anglo-American imperialists pursued a policy of "watching the tigers fight from a safe distance" in the belief that in the Sino-Japanese war the flames of China’s national liberation movement would be stamped out, while the Japanese imperialists would be weakened. Britain and especially the US, kept supplying Japan with huge quantities of war materials even after the outbreak of the anti-Japanese war. Until the outbreak of the Pacific war in 1941, they either tried hard to seek a compromise with Japan, or sat back in the hope that China and Japan would both be exhausted in the war. Also, before the fall of Nanking, the Kuomintang government, in repeated negotiations with Japan, was ready to capitulate.

Their resistance was half-hearted and within six months they had been routed all over China. By October 1938 Canton and Wuhan fell to the Japanese. Within a period of 15 months Kuomintang troops retreated from Peking, Tientsin, Shanghai, Canton and Wuhan right upto Szechuan.

In contrast, when in August 1937, the Red Army with just 40,000 troops went into combat, it won a series of victories over the Japanese. The Eighth Route Army penetrated deep behind enemy lines and set about establishing a number of anti-Japanese base areas. The New Fourth Army, reorganised from the Red guerilla units in the South, set up headquarters in Nanchang in January 1938 and subsequently penetrated behind enemy lines in central China, to set up base areas.

In military affairs the policy of independence and initiative meant to carry on independent guerilla warfare in the mountain areas, to stick to guerilla warfare in the main, but lose no chance for mobile warfare under favourable conditions; that is to say, to establish anti-Japanese bases behind enemy lines and wage extensive guerilla warfare on the enemy’s flanks.

At this time, a trend developed in the party that the Chinese can achieve quick victory. Seeing the Kuomintang was putting up some resistance and also the big victories of the communists, ideas of quick victory became widespread. To counter such views and develop a correct perspective to people’s war, in May 1938 Mao wrote his historic work ‘On Protracted War’. In this he outlined strategic and tactical details of conducting a people’s war. Also it was in 1938 that Mao further developed the science of people’s war, in his major military writings : ‘Problems of strategy in guerilla war against Japan’, and ‘Problems of war and strategy’. Till today, these military writings are essential texts for anyone seeking to conduct ‘people’s war’.

The Red Army’s victories continued through 1939 and 1940. By end 1940, the people’s army recovered 150 counties and inflicted 4 lakh casualties on the Japanese and puppet troops. The liberated and guerilla areas had a population of 100 million and the membership of the communist party increased to 8 lakhs.

The Japanese mainly targeted the communists, and as far as the Kuomintang was concerned, they sought to induce them to capitulate. The British and US indulged in intrigues to assist the process of capitulation. In the process, in December 1938, a section openly capitulated and went over to the Japanese. The Wang Ching-wei clique, which represented a section of the big bourgeoisie, formed a puppet government in Nanking. Meanwhile the Chiang Kai-shek section in the Kuomintang, representing the pro-American section of the big bourgeoisie, was also on the brink of capitulation.

The Chiang Kai-shek clique turned their fire on the communist party and whipped up an anti-communist campaign which reached a climax in 1940. In the spring of 1940 Chiang Kai-shek ordered his troops to attack the general headquarters of the Eighth Route Army. ... but were routed in battle. In March 1940, Mao reiterated the party’s policy concerning the anti-Japanese united front — to develop the progressive forces, win over the middle-of-the-road forces and isolate the die-hards.

To develop the progressive forces meant to develop the forces of the proletariat, the peasantry and the urban petti-bourgeoisie; to give free rein to the expansion of the Red Army; to establish anti-Japanese democratic bases; and to give free rein to mobilising the masses and setting up organisations of the communist party and the people’s anti-Japanese political power in these bases.

To win over the middle of the road forces meant to win over the middle bourgeoisie, the enlightened gentry and the influential local groups.

To isolate the die-hard forces meant to isolate the forces of the big landlord class and big bourgeoisie, represented by Chiang Kai-shek, who pursued a dual counter-revolutionary policy. On the one hand, they resisted Japan, and on the other hand, they carried out an extremely reactionary policy of destroying the progressive forces, in preparation for capitulation in the future. They were fighting against Japan, but not actively; they opposed the communist party but they dared not as yet resort to an open split.

In January 1941 Chiang Kai-shek resorting to duplicity ambushed a 10,000 contingent of the New Fourth Army killing 9000 fighters. This created an out burst against Chiang Kai-shek, even within the Kuomintang. Besides, the international situation was changing and the governments of Britain and the US were now for an all out attack on the Japanese and stopping the civil war.

It was in the midst of these desperate battles that Mao produced his important work ‘On New Democracy’ in January 1940, which is, till today, the major theoretical basis for all present day democratic revolutions. At that time the Kuomintang die-hards had launched a ideological offensive against the communists trumpeting concepts of Kemalism and theories of ‘a single revolution’.

In the anti-Japanese base areas, village and county assemblies were set up. Between 1941 and 1942 assemblies were elected in all the bases. These assemblies discussed and promulgated administrative programmes and passed basic laws. As a representative body elected by the people, the assembly had the power to elect the government and make laws. A "tripartite system" was carried out under the democratic regime in which the communists (representing the working class and the poor peasantry), the progressives (representing the middle bourgeoisie and enlightened gentry) each occupied one third of the posts in all government organs and people’s representative bodies. The administrative programme of the anti-Japanese democratic regime took as its basic starting point "resistance to Japanese imperialism, readjustment of the interests of all the anti-Japanese social strata, improvement of the living conditions of the workers and peasants and suppression of the collaborators and reactionaries."

In 1942, in the period of intense struggle against the Japanese invaders, Mao launched what has come to be known as the rectification campaign — a Marxist-Leninist educational campaign to rid the party of non-proletarian ideas which had reached quite a serious extent in the party and were still hindering the implementation of the Party’s correct line and policies. The Rectification campaign was mainly directed against tendencies towards subjectivism in the approach to study, towards sectarianism in the style of party work and towards their form of expression — stereo-typed party jargon in literary work. It was during this period that Mao wrote a series of articles on party functioning which helped enrich Leninist principle of a proletarian party.

The party’s First Rectification Campaign reduced the influence of doctrinairism which had existed in the party since 1931, helped many new party members of petti-bourgeois origin to discard their original stand, greatly raised the party’s ideological level and achieved an unprecedented unity of the whole party around the central committee. All this ensured the implementation of the political line of the CC on all fronts, enabled the party to overcome extreme difficulties during the anti-Japanese war and laid the ideological basis for the Seventh Congress of the party (April 1945).

The people’s political and economic reforms, the Rectification Campaign and the extensive production campaign made it possible for the liberated areas to wage a more effective struggle against the enemy. But, most important, the party was able to organise the entire masses for armed resistance.

The war in the anti-Japanese base areas was a people’s war in which the regular army, guerilla units and militia fought in close coordination. The regular army defended the base areas as a whole; the guerilla units, the counties and districts; and the militia, the villages and townships.

At the very beginning of the war, party organisations had penetrated behind enemy lines, roused the masses to action and built up the people’s armed forces, the People’s Self-Defence Corps. In the early stages of the war the Corps watched for enemy espionage activities and did other war-time service for the regular army. From 1941, to meet the needs of the war, a section of the Corps joined the militia in actual fighting.

There were altogether about 2½ million militia in the liberated areas. In places with a dense population, where political work had been done thoroughly, the militia sometimes comprised 8% of the population. Under the direction of their own leading bodies, the People’s Armed Forces Commissions at different levels, the militia became a well organised fighting unit, a powerful assistant to the regular troops. With the participation of the militia, guerilla warfare behind enemy lines became a real mass struggle.

The militia conducted the following tasks :

(i) Patrolling and reconnoitering, scouting in enemy strongholds, searching out spies and traitors; specialising in mine warfare, helping inhabitants to hide grain, firewood and all household goods before an enemy attack.

(ii) The militia led the masses in digging up roads and transforming them into ditches to hold up enemy units. Digging ditches to destroy enemy’s communication lines became one of the major tasks of the militia.

(iii) To counter "village-combing" by penetrating deep behind enemy lines. Militia entered into enemy strongholds to capture enemy agents and destroy puppet organisations. Besides there were highly secret underground militia within enemy occupied areas. They gathered information on enemy movements, kept up the morale of the people and also attacked major targets.

(iv) Finally, the militia paid as much attention to production as to fighting. Besides, the militia trained every member of the mutual aid teams to lay mines, under the slogan of "every citizen a soldier".

The Seventh Congress of the CPC took place at Yenan in April 1945 when Mao presented the political report entitled "On Coalition Government". The report explained in detail the general and specific programmes of the party for uniting all the people in the country in order to win the anti-Japanese war and the democratic revolution.

The general programme was to establish a new-democratic society after the defeat of the Japanese aggressors. In this society, the political leadership of the proletariat, together with the state enterprises and cooperatives led by the proletariat, would be socialist factors.

The specific programme dealt with vital war-time and post-war problems. They included the complete defeat of the Japanese aggressors; the formation of a democratic coalition government; the guarantee of civil liberties for the people; the implementation of national unity; the establishment of a people’s army; the carrying out of agrarian reform; the development of modern industry; the promotion of people’s culture; the realisation of the equality of all nationalities in China, and an independent peaceful foreign policy.

By April 1945, the people’s army had expanded to 9 lakhs; the militia to 22 lakhs and the self-defence corps to one crore. Within the two months of August 11 to October 10, 1945 the People’s Liberation Army liberated 3 lakh square kilometres of territory, with a population just under 2 crores; recovered 190 cities, and killed or wounded 2.3 lakh enemy and puppet troops. The major cities were besieged by the PLA, but owing to the active interference by the US, and Kuomintang obstruction, not all of them were liberated. On September 2, 1945 the Japanese surrender was signed.

(F) Civil War and Final Victory

After the defeat of the Japanese while the PLA sought to disarm the enemy, the Kuomintang, backed by the US, sought the collaboration of the Japanese forces in order to "maintain order". In fact, in the Kuomintang areas only 6% were disarmed and the puppet troops were absorbed into their ‘National’ Army. US forces, were also stationed in major cities and provided military support to the Kuomintang army.

In the liberated areas the CPC now launched a big campaign for agrarian reform. After the Japanese surrender the peasants of the various liberated areas seized the land from the landlords in the course of liquidating traitors, settling accounts and reducing rents and interest. The traitors, local despots and landlords fled to the cities. The middle-of-the-roaders showed doubts. A number of people in the party wavered. In the directive issued on May 4, 1946, the party resolutely supported all just demands and actions of the peasants, approved their ownership of the land they had obtained or were about to obtain, and proclaimed the change from a policy of rent and interest reduction to one of confiscating the landlord’s land and distributing it among the peasants. The claims of traitors, local despots and landlords were repudiated; the doubts of the middle-of-the-roaders were dispelled; and the mistaken views in the party were rectified. The agrarian reform was enthusiastically supported by the peasants, and increased their determination to defend the liberated areas and struggle for peace and democracy.

The CPC, in August 1945 issued a declaration for the achievement of peace, democracy, solidarity and unification and putting forward emergency measures to avert civil war. This was followed by 40 days of talks between the CPC and Kuomintang which culminated in the October 10 Agreement. The agreement stipulated that both sides were to resolutely avert civil war, and on the basis of peace, democracy, solidarity and unification, to build up an independent, free, prosperous China... and for the convocation of a political consultative conference to discuss the peaceful construction of the country.

But the Kuomintang merely used the peace talks to divert from its war preparations. While the talks were going on Chiang Kai-shek secretly distributed to his henchmen a "manual on Bandit suppression". The Kuomintang mobilised 13 lakh of its own troops plus another 5 lakh Japanese and puppet troops. A massive military onslaught was launched on 11 provinces. The attack was repulsed and over one lakh enemy troops were wiped out.

Under pressure from the CPC and other democratic parties the Kuomintang was compelled to sign a cease-fire in January 1946. Simultaneously the Political Consultative Conference began at Chunking, attended by delegates of the Kuomintang, the CPC, the Democratic League, the Youth Party and individuals without party affiliations, representing the Left, Right and middle-of-the-road political groupings of the country. Despite the fact that the reactionaries were in the majority, the Conference adopted five resolutions which contributed to peace, solidarity, democracy, and unification; namely on government organisation, the national assembly, the programme for the peaceful construction of the country, the draft constitution and military questions. Other resolutions called for : the end of one-party dictatorship and for the participation of the various democratic parties in the government; the calling of a national assembly to draw up a democratic constitution; and certain policies to be carried out by a democratic coalition government.

Hardly was this Conference over than the Kuomintang began an anti-communist, anti-Soviet hysteria and between January and June 1946 its army launched no less than 4,365 attacks on 4,158 places in the liberated areas, occupied 40 towns and 2,577 villages. Simultaneously, top US officials visited China, supposedly as mediators between the Kuomintang and the Communists, but in reality to back the Kuomintang aggression.

In July 1946, Chiang Kai-shek once again launched a full-fledged war on the communists. At that time the balance of forces were weighed in favour of the reactionaries. The Kuomintang had an army of 43 lakhs ruled over a population of 300 million and controlled all major cities. The CPC’s PLA comprised 12 lakh men and the liberated areas constituted a population of 130 million.

The enemy struck the liberated areas from all directions, and the PLA adopted the tactics of defensive warfare. The CPC laid down a strategic plan, which aimed chiefly at the annihilation of the enemy’s man power rather than the defence of any particular town or area. With this strategy the enemy’s all-out offensive was checked after eight months of fighting in which the PLA once again inflicted heavy causalities on the enemy. From March 1947 onwards, the enemy was compelled to abandon the all-out offensive in favour of a concentrated offensive, resulting in a see-saw pattern with the enemy’s partial offensive balanced by the PLA’s partial counter-offensive. During the one year of battles, the PLA put out of action 11 lakhs of regular and irregular enemy troops, while its own regular army grew from 12 lakhs to 20 lakhs.

Meanwhile American intervention increased enormously. Since July 1947 the US had given $4000 million ‘assistance’ to the Kuomintang. The ‘Big Four Families’ who had made enormous profits in the war, became even more close collaborators with the Americans. The booty from the defeat of the Japanese were shared between these ‘Big Four’ and the Americans. And now, their stooge, the Kuomintang, after being routed by the communists, put on a show in April 1947 of ‘reorganisation of its government’ and ‘multi-party’ system incorporating into their fold the Youth Party and the Democratic Socialist Party (which had anyhow capitulated to the US-Kuomintang a year earlier during the military offensive).

Faced not only with military defeat, but with an uprising of the students and workers in the major cities, the Kuomintang was forced into new political swindles.

From July 1947 the PLA switched from the strategic defensive to the strategic offensive, while the Kuomintang forces were compelled to do exactly the opposite. The PLA’s large-scale offensive penetrated into Kuomintang-controlled areas, bringing the war to the Yangtse regions. On October 10, 1947 the PLA issued a manifesto in which the slogan "Down with Chiang Kai-shek! Liberate the whole country" was put forward.

One of the primary factors that contributed to the successful repulsing of the Kuomintang offensive and the speedy change of the PLA from a defensive to an offensive strategy was the agrarian reform which had been universally carried out in the liberated areas. The CPC had drawn up the "Outline of the Agrarian Law" and published "How to Analyse the Classes" and "Resolution Concerning some problems arising from Agrarian struggles". Within a year of the promulgation of the "Outline of Agrarian Law" one crore peasants in the liberated areas received land.

Simultaneous to the agrarian reform, the CPC led all its members in another rectification campaign to tidy up its organisations at the grass-roots level, improve the working style of the party members and expel the alien elements. Only by preserving the purity of the party, getting rid of alien elements and overcoming bad working style, could the party stand on the side of the broadest masses of the labouring people and lead them forward. Only by so doing could the party’s agrarian policies be resolutely and correctly carried out and the rear of the PLA be firmly consolidated. It was during the 1940s that Mao wrote a series of articles to remould the outlook of the party, which acted as the basis for this Rectification movement. It was during this period that Mao wrote : ‘Reform our Study’, ‘Rectify party style of work’, ‘Oppose stereotype party writing’, ‘Some questions concerning methods of leadership’, ‘Serve the People’, ‘ The foolish old man who removed the mountains’, etc.

On May 1, 1948 the CC of the CPC proposed the convocation of a new people’s political Consultative Conference, with no reactionary elements taking part in it, to discuss the establishment of a democratic coalition government. All the democratic parties sent messages in favour of the convocation of such a conference. Thus the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which was first convened in September 1949, became the organisational form of the people’s democratic united front.

From September 1948 the PLA launched three major military offensives. On January 31, 1949 Peking fell to the PLA. In another ruse Chiang Kai-shek, in January ’49, again tried to sue for peace. The communist party said it was willing under eight conditions — (1) Punishment of war criminals (2) renouncement of the legitimacy of the bogus regime (3) abolition of the bogus constitution (4) reorganisation of all reactionary troops on democratic principles (5) confiscation of bureaucrat capital (6) implementation of agrarian reform (7) annulment of treaties betraying national interests (8) convocation of a political consultative conference with no reactionary elements participating, and establishment of a democratic coalition government which would take over all power of the reactionary Kuomintang Nanking government and its subordinate governments at all levels.

In April 1949, negotiations continued for 15 days, but the proposed Agreement of the CPC was rejected by the Nanking government. On April 21, 1949 the PLA advanced across the Yangtse and within three days of fighting Nanking was liberated, which had been the centre of the Kuomintang’s reactionary rule for 22 years.

After Peking, Tientsin, Nanking, Shanghai and Wuhan were successively liberated. The first session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference was convened in Peking on September 21, 1949 in order to wipe out the remnant Kuomintang reactionaries, rehabilitate and develop the people’s economy and culture, consolidate national defence and establish a People’s Republic of China. The People’s Political Consultative Conference was of a broad representative character, which adopted a common programme, the Organic Law of the Central People’s Government and the Organic Law of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. It elected Mao Tsetung as Chairman of the Central People’s Government.

The inauguration of the new state was held on October 1, 1949. Chairman Mao Tsetung issued a message to the entire world, solemnly proclaiming the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and the Central People’s Government.



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