A Puny Seed that a Giant Oak Became: The Chinese Communist Party

Kamal Nissanka, in The Island, 11 July 2021, where the title runs as “Hundred Years of the Communist Party of China” …. with highlighting added by The Editor Thuppahi

The Chinese Communist Party was formed on July 1, 1921 at the top floor of a private school for girls in Pubalu Street, Shanghai, the industrial city of China. The building was deserted except for a watchman who was on the ground floor. Students and teachers of the school were on summer holidays. Originally nine men gathered at this place. They were from various Marxist study groups in China who wanted to form a Communist Party. A little later three other Chinese and two foreigners joined the nine.

One of the Chinese present was Chou Fu-hai who represented a group of students who had returned from Japan. Another was Mao Tse-tung, a son of a Hunanese peasant who was studying at the University of Peking. One of the foreigners was a Dutchman named Henricus Sneevliet who represented the Communist International in Moscow and a Russian named Nikoruski.

All were expecting the arrival of Chen Tu-hsiu , an intellectual regarded as the father of Chinese Communist movement, but he was detained in Canton for a reason unknown.

This meeting was the first Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. Its first chairman was Chang Kuo-tao. Mao Tse-tung and Chou Fu–hai were elected secretaries. This meeting lasted four days and important subject areas such as the current political situation, basic tasks of the party, details of organization and constitution were discussed. There were serious disagreements among the participants. Li Han–chun argued that Chinese proletariat was too young and not matured and therefore establishment of a real working class party was premature and wanted to start a middle class party with democracy. (He was killed by counter revolutionary forces in 1923). Liu Jen–ching took the other extreme and said establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat should be the immediate task of the party. He opposed all legal avenues with regards to organizational structure. He was also of the view that the intelligentsia were essentially bourgeois and should not be admitted to the party. Pao Hui–sheng also followed this line. (Liu Jen–ching later turned a Trotskyite and Pao Hui-sheng defected to the Kuomintang)

The majority of members opposed both those views and urged that the party should struggle for a working class dictatorship and middle classes should not be rejected. They also thought that the working class should lead the bourgeois democratic movement; and also decided to start a trade union movement to support this line. Finally, they wanted the party to be a well-organized, militant, and highly disciplined body capable of both legal and illegal activity. Finally, they also agreed to make full use of the experience of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Later some spies and policemen arrived at the school and searched it, but only found some political literature and nobody was arrested. The participants left this place and reconvened the Congress on a small lake; they rented a boat and continued their discussions under the guise of nature lovers.

Another debate developed concerning their attitude towards Dr. Sun Yat-sen.’s Nationalist Movement and one line of thinking was that Communists and Nationalists represented two opposing classes and therefore no compromise was possible. However participants rejected this view saying that while criticizing and exposing the false teachings of Sun Yat Sen, the Communist Party should support his various practical and progressive activities through non-party collaboration. This line of thinking provided the basis of an anti-imperialist mass movement later.

A number of political conditions and events influenced the formation of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1911, under Dr. Sun Yat-sen a bourgeoisie nationalist revolution had taken place under the Kuomintang which ended the central power of Manchu dynasty. This event led to the emergence of nationalism among the Chinese intellectuals. The end of Second World War also had an impact on the change of political conditions in China; however most of all the leading imperialist powers in Europe had great interests in various Chinese harbors and also engaged in trade.

Most Chinese students opposed the Versailles Conference that gave legitimacy to the existence of European powers in China. To this effect, the May 4 movement launched by Chinese students created a sense of anti-imperialism and patriotism throughout the country. The 1917 October Revolution in Russia opened the eyes of many Chinese intellectuals.

On March 12, 1925 Sun Yat-sen died and General Chiang Kai-shek took power in the Kuomintang Party which was by then supported by the Soviet government led by J.V.Stalin. Since the 1930s, rivalry between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party was developing and it ended as a full scale war. This led to the Chinese Communist Party’s retreat to Yenan Mountains in the long March. It was in 1935 that Mao Tse-tung was recognized as the leader of the party and he launched guerrilla warfare against both Japanese aggressors and Chiang Kai–shek’s forces. However, in 1938 collaboration between the two parties occurred and they formed a United Front against Japanese aggression. When the Japanese were trounced in World War 2, China’s civil war started and by 1949 Chiang Kai-shek was defeated. He left the mainland and formed his government in Formosa (now Taiwan). The Chinese Communist Party under Chairman Mao Tse-tung proclaimed the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.



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