Origins of the CCP

In the 1920s, many aspects of Marxism appealed to Chinese revolutionaries across the political spectrum. On a theoretical level, it offered a unified framework to resolve the social, political, and economic predicaments that faced China. On a practical level, the success of the Russian Revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union only years earlier offered hope to many Chinese that China would benefit from a Marxist revolution. Yet, when Chinese Communists began to apply the Marxist model to Chinese conditions, several problems emerged. Marxism's emphasis on an alienated industrial working class simply had little traction in a country that remained overwhelmingly agrarian. Famously, Marx once referred to peasants as a "sack of potatoes" for their inability to throw off their oppressors. Or, put another way, orthodox (European) Marxists believed that attempting to start a revolution with peasants as the primary revolutionary catalyst was a non-starter. As a result, an early point of contention among the Chinese Communists revolved around whether the CCP should focus its limited resources on the urban centers or concentrate on the rural countryside.

Regardless of what Marx speculated, the CCP's most striking successes occurred in the countryside, while their most calamitous defeats uniformly took place in the urban centers. Marxist theory offered little guidance for an agrarian-based revolution, and the USSR Comintern advisors tended to disparage the CCP's efforts in the rural areas as misguided. For these reasons, the CCP objectives in the 1920s and early 1930s comes across as a bit confused and contradictory, with several branches of the party focusing exclusively on workers in the cities and others active only in the countryside. Yet, with the KMT increasingly dominant in the cities, the CCP progressively turned to the countryside to find support.

First Manifesto of the CCP on the Current Situation (June 15, 1922)

The spring of 1922 was a confusing period for the CCP. Chinese communists were intensely interested in the Soviet Union's emerging international presence. Many Chinese were inclined to view the Soviet government favorably since the Karakahan Manifesto (1919) renounced all of Russia's unequal treaties with China. Even as the Soviet Union's popularity rose generally, many within the CCP took issue with their instructions, demanding all Chinese Communists join Sun Yat-sen's Kuomintang (KMT) government. Specifically, many argued that the KMT, with its plan to establish alliances with warlords and form an army to unify China, differed little from the warlords themselves.

Under pressure from the Comintern representative, the CCP ultimately agreed to the notion of an alliance with the KMT whereby communists on an individual level could join the KMT. The following declaration is the first public CCP pronouncement adhering to the notion that the Kuomintang can be considered ''revolutionary.''


  • 1. What positive attributes does the CCP ascribe to the KMT?
  • 2. How do they describe the warlord situation? How do they suggest it be resolved?

The struggle for democracy is struggle of one class, a struggle which aims to overthrow the dominance of another class; it is the replacement of one system by another, and in no event can it be regarded as a struggle of one individual or one group for the overthrow of another individual or group.

A real democratic party must possess two characteristic elements:

  • (1) its principles must be correlated with the concepts of democracy; and
  • (2) its actions must consist in an active struggle against feudalism in the form of the military. Of all the political parties existing in China, only the KMT can be characterized as a revolutionary party, yet it possesses only a relative amount of democratic and revolutionary spirit. The program of this party has not yet been fully elaborated. But its three principles, "of the people, for the people, and by the people, in conjunction with plans for the industrial development of China reflect the democratic spirit of the KMT... .

Not infrequently, however, this party's actions have been contradictory in nature. On occasion the KMT manifests a friendly attitude even with respect to . . . monarchists, and an inclination for a rapprochement "for tactical reasons" with the Beiyang military clique. If the KMT, as a party, wishes to play a definite role in the revolutionary struggle for the consolidation of democracy in China, it must renounce once and for all every policy of vacillation, compromise, and endless zigzags... .

The military is the cause of civil war in China. So long as the military exists and rules, the creation of a so-called "good government" will be out of the question. In the present circumstances no government in China can be stable and firm, and the life and property of Chinese citizens are subject to destruction every time the militarists clash.. ..

Members of the KMT! You were originally revolutionary fighters for the triumph of democracy. You should also conduct a revolutionary struggle now for democracy and prefer to perish in this struggle than to vanish from the socio-political arena in consequence of a policy of compromise. During the first year [1912] of the existence of the Chinese Republic you were deceived by Yuan Shikai, who tried his best to demonstrate his loyalty to the republic. You were cruelly deceived also by Duan Qirui, when he proposed the restoration of parliament and of the constitution [in 1916-1917]. Do not let yourselves be deceived now by all this talk about restoring parliament, abolishing the dujun [warlord] system, demobilizing provincial troops, for the sake of concluding another compromise with the military of North China. Does the present constitutional parliament differ in any way from the parliament of the fifth and the sixth year [1916-1917] of the Republic? Aren't the hopes for abolishing the dujun system and for demobilization merely hopes that the tiger may shed its own skin? Does the title of "troop commander" as distinct from or other than dujun—a phenomenon which can be observed in the provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, and Hunan—differ essentially from the

dujun institution and the conditions which existed prior to the nominal abolition of the dujun? ....

MAO ZEDONG (1893-1976)—Bom

in Hunan, he became involved in the nascent CCP in Beijing during the May Fourth era. Mao played an increasingly prominent role in the Jiangxi Soviet in the early 1930s before rising to prominence during the Long March (1934). He successfully guided the CCP through the War of Resistance Against Japan and the Chinese Civil War before founding the PRC in 1949. His legacy is a mixed one of significant social and economic development as well as of policies that led to the deaths of tens of millions of Chinese citizens.

Workers, peasants, students, soldiers, policemen, and merchants! So long as the authority of the military is not overthrown, there will be no hope of disarming the provincial armies and abolishing the dujun system. So long as the authority of the military is not overthrown, there will be no hope of reducing the demands for national funds, which are used to cover war expenses and further to disrupt the entire national and local financial system. So long as the authority of the military is not overthrown, all conditions will be present to allow the military to secure new loans from foreigners and thus bring about an intensification of foreign influence in China. So long as the authority of the military is not overthrown, there will be no hope that the military will cease imposing heavy imposts on the citizens of China; there will be no hope that looting may cease, no hope that order may be restored in all regions of China. So long as the authority of the military is not overthrown, there will be no hope of a broad development of education in China and of industrial progress in our country. So long as the authority of the military is not overthrown, there will be no hope that the struggle among militarists for the expansion of their own spheres of influence may cease. Peasants and merchants are always war victims. These wars will be inevitable and endless if they are not stopped by the people themselves.

For all of us, the only way by which we can liberate ourselves from the hard yoke of the military is to join the democratic struggle against the relics of the past—a struggle for freedom and peace. The government opposition game, played by the bourgeoisie, the intelligentsia, and the politicians, cannot be trusted. We all want peace, but real peace rather than false peace. We welcome a war to achieve the triumph of democracy, to overthrow the military and the militarists and to liberate the Chinese people.

The CCP, as the vanguard of the proletariat, struggles for working class liberation and for the proletarian revolution. Until such time as the Chinese proletariat is able to seize power in its own hands, considering the present political and economic conditions of China's development and all the historical processes now going on in China, the proletariat's urgent task is to act jointly with the democratic party to establish a united front of democratic revolution to struggle for the overthrow of the military and for the organization of a real democratic government.

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