Li Ta-Chao and the Impact of Marxism on Modern Chinese Thinking 3112316185, 9783112316184

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Table of contents :
Part One. Li Ta-Chao And The Impact Of Marxism On Modern Chinese Thinking
I. The Converging Point Of Two World Currents Of Thought
II. Attempted Analysis Of Li Ta-Chao's Inclination Towards Radicalism
III. Ideological Appeal Of Marxism
IV. Evolution Towards Total Acceptance Of Marxism
V. The Problem Of Democracy And The Dictatorship Of The Proletariat
Part Two. Supplementary Documents
I. A Comparative View Of The French And Russian Revolutions
II. The Mandate Of The Morning Bell
III. The Victory Of The Common People
IV. A. The Economic Theory Of Marx
Section IV. B. The Four Texts On May The Fourth
Section V. A. From A Vertical Organization To A Horizontal One
Section V. B. Democracy And Ergatocracy
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MATÉRIAUX POUR L'ÉTUDE DE L ' E X T R Ê M E - O R I E N T CONTEMPORAIN Collection publiée par le Centre de Documentation Chinoise de la Maison des Sciences de l'Homme et de la Vie Section de l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, en collaboration avec la Section des Etudes Chinoises de la Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines de l'Université de Paris, le Centre d'Etude des Relations Internationales de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, et le Centre d'Etudes Chinoises de la Vie Section de l'Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes.




& CO - THE H A G U E




LI TA-CHAO and the Impact of Marxism on Modern Chinese Thinking

1965 M O U T O N & C O - T H E H A G U E - PARIS








1. The Background 2. Divergent Trends of Socialism in the May Fourth Period 3. A New Point of Departure in History I I . A T T E M P T E D A N A L Y S I S OF LI T A - C H A O ' s I N C L I N A T I O N T O W A R D S


1. Introductory Remarks 2. Elements of Radicalism in a New Philosophy A. Early Democratic Patriotism B. Philosophical Foundation C. Basic Solution and Human Efforts

14 16 16 17 18


1. The Attraction of Marxism in General


2. Concord through an Intuitive Sympathy



1. The Period of Theoretical Study 2. Unity of Theory and Action 3. The Strategy of the United Front

27 30 31







II. T H E M A N D A T E OF T H E M O R N I N G B E L L in. T H E V I C T O R Y OF T H E C O M M O N P E O P L E IV. A. T H E E C O N O M I C T H E O R Y OF M A R X B. T H E F O U R T E X T S O N MAY T H E F O U R T H V. A. F R O M A V E R T I C A L O R G A N I Z A T I O N TO A H O R I Z O N T A L O N E B. D E M O C R A C Y A N D E R G A T O C R A C Y




The Chinese Communist Party


Communist International


Executive Committee of the Communist International


Kuomintang (Nationalist Party)


Introduction to the Periodicals in the May Fourth Period (Wu-ssu shih-ch'i

ch'i-kan chieh-shao). Publications

Historical Material on Publications of Modern China

(Chung-kuo hsien-tai ch'u-pan shih-liao). Reference Material

Reference Material on the History of China's New Democratic Revolution

(Chung-kuo hsin-min-chu-chu-i ke-ming-shih ts'an-k'ao tzu-liao). Selected Works

Selected Works of Li Ta-chao.



Li Ta-Chao and the Impact of Marxism on Modern Chinese Thinking


Guiding the trend of modern China's intellectual and political revolution as a leading thinker in the crucial period between 1916-1927, Li Ta-chao (1888-1927) has made a vital contribution to the rise of Communism to power in China today. The study of his life and of the evolution of his thinking should reveal the course along which China travelled, emerging from an ancient civilization to an orientation towards the West and finally to the acceptance of Communism via Russia. This short span of a little over ten years was most decisive for the fate of the nation as it encompassed the two crucial events in modern Chinese history: firstly, the gradual collapse of Confucianism, the core of traditional Chinese culture, as a result of the assimilation of Western ideas and institutions and secondly, the catalytic impact of the October Revolution on the Chinese thinking world. For those who tend to underestimate the tremendous, be it indirect, influence of the October Revolution on the May Fourth Movement, 1 Li Ta-chao's writings serve as a valuable corrective. He was the first among the Chinese intellectuals to grasp the meaning of the Bolshevik revolution as the dawn of a new era.2 In February 1919, he had come to the conclusion that henceforth there would be no place for the democratic revolution of the Anglo-American type, and that the newborn social-democratic revolution of the German and Russian type would spreadall over the world. 3 Unversed in Marxist terminology, Li had in fact, though in an imperfect manner, touched upon two propositions which form the core of Lenin's theory on 'Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism' and the Leninist 'Theses on the National and Colonial Question'. 'The Victory of the Common People', and 'The Victory of Bolshevism' which both appeared in the October, 1918, issue of La Jeunesse, attributed the root cause of the Great War to international capitalism, and extolled the Bolshevik summons to a united international proletariat to pave the way to a world of true freedom.4 The international character of Bolshevism led Li to the assertion that the May Fourth Movement was not just a patriotic movement but, in fact, part of the liberation movement of mankind.5 From the very beginning Li had perceived that Bolshevism is the mass movement of the twentieth century which embraces the common people everywhere in the world. This realization, born of his great concern for the masses of his country and his faith in their potential power, had always made him regard the peasants and labourers as the mainspring of the national revolutionary movement. Li Ta-chao was likewise one of the very first to attempt to use Marxism as a scientific tool in analysing the Chinese situation.6 In his essay 'Explanation of the Cause of Modern China's Revolution in Thought from the Economic Point of View', written in January 1920, Li pointed out that the agricultural economy was the infrastructure of the feudal Chinese society from which Confucianism arose as the predominant ideology. The essence of this ideology was to sanction all the rights of 3

the rulers and to impose one-sided duties and moral principles upon the ruled. However, when the dynamic civilization of the West, with industries and commerce as its basis, invaded agricultural China, the result was the ruin of China's rural economy and the suppression of nascent indigenous industries under the pressure of the unfavourable competition of foreign capital. The agricultural basis of Chinese society was shaken and, with it, Confucianism, the cementing force of its superstructure. The Chinese people as a whole had been drawn into the orbit of the capitalist economic system and had become the World's proletariat. Li's conclusion was that socialism, the force of the second 'new thought tide', was invincible. Nothing could stand in its way, unless China were able to return to her ancient isolation and self-sufficiency by eliminating entirely the dynamic civilization of the West.7 The lack of original material on Li Ta-chao as well as the absence of a complete biography of him necessarily limits the scope and conclusiveness of the present study. However, the author is fortunate enough to have a copy of the Selected Works of Li Ta-chao published by the 'People's Publishing House', Peking, 1959, which contains most of his important works.8 The object of this monograph is primarily to make use of Li's own writing for a comprehensive analysis of the motivating factors which led Li to become one of the chief exponents of the transvaluation of traditional culture, and an inspired, but critical advocate of Western ideas, and which led finally to his embracing Marxism. What makes Li Ta-chao unique in modern Chinese history is the fact that, while championing the socialist future, he did not simply reject the past, but made a valuable synthesis, retaining some of the fundamental values both of Confucianism and of Western liberal thought. Emphasis will therefore be laid upon his own understanding of Marxism at the time and upon the interplay of the new elements in his thinking with some of the traditional ideas he cherished to the end. The present application of Marxist ideology in China, whether it be compatible or incompatible with Li's ideas, should not be allowed to colour our appraisal of the evolution of his thought, since it was his own understanding of Marxism which engendered his faith and hope in that ideology and which in turn influenced the young people of his generation. An attempt will also be made to show which are the lasting contributions he made to Chinese culture and which of his ideas still live on in the minds of many who have followed him in the revolutionary cause.



1. For source material on the May Fourth Movement see, inter alia, Source Material on the May Fourth Movement (Wu-ssu ai-kuo yiin-tung tzu-liao), edited by the Editorial Group on Source Material of Modern History of the Third Institute of the Academy for History, Academia Sinica, published by the Science Publishing House, Peking, 1959, 863 pages. The May Fourth Movement in Shanghai: Selected Historical Material (Wu-ssu yiin-tung tsai Shanghai: shihliao hsiian chi), edited by the Historical Research Institute of the Social Sciences College of Shanghai, published by the People's Publishing House, Shanghai, 1961, 807 pages. Introduction to the Periodicals of the May Fourth Period (Wu-ssu shih-ch'i ch'i-k'an chieh-shao), edited by the Research Unit of the Translation Bureau for the Works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin, Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, published by the People's Publishing House, Peking, 1958 and 1959. Vol. I, 832 pages, Vol. II, 962 pages, Vol. Ill, 1 1 2 1 pages. The three Vols, contain a large collection of source material, including manifestos, articles inaugurating the periodicals and lists of contents of all the important periodicals. Abbreviated hereafter to Periodicals. The May Fourth Mouvement, by Chow Tse-tsung, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, i960, 486 pages, with short biographical notes on all the important figures in the May Fourth Period. 2. Li Ta-chao, 'A Comparative View of die French and Russian Revolutions' (Fa Ngo ke-ming pi-chiao-kuan), Yen Chih Quarterly, July, 1918. Reprinted in Selected Works of Li Ta-chao (Li Ta-chao hsiian-chi), People's Publishing House, Peking, 1959, pp. 101-104. Abbreviated hereafter to Selected Works. Translated in Part T w o , Supplementary Document to Section I. 3. See Li Ta-chao, 'Post-war World Current' (Chan-hou shih-chieh ch'ao-liu), Morning Paper (Ch'en-pao), February, 1919, in Selected Works, p. 135. 4. Ibid., pp. 109-118. 5. See Part II, Supplementary Document to Section IV B . 6. According to the Periodicals, Kuomintang leaders such as Tai Chi-t'ao and Hu Han-min attempted to use Marxism 'in a distorted way' to analyse the Chinese situation in 1919 and 1920. Large numbers of articles by Tai and Hu on Marxism in relation to the Chinese situation were published in Sunday Review (Hsing-ch'i p'ing-lun) and The Reconstruction (Chien-she). See Periodicals, Vol. I., pp. 229-234. 7. Li Ta-chao, 'Explanation of the Cause of Modern China's Revolution in Thought from an Economic Point of View' (Yu ching-chi-shang-chieh-shih Chung-kuo chin-tai-ssu-hsiang pien-tung ti yiian-yin), La Jeunesse, Vol. Ill, No. 2, January, 1920, in Selected Works, pp. 295-302. 5

8. For a complete list of Li's publications (1923-1926) see: Chang Ching-ju, The Development of Comrade Li Ta-chao's Revolutionary Thought (Li Ta-chao t'ung-chili ke-ming ssu-hsiang ti fa-chan), People's Publishing House, Hu-Pei, 1957. Appendix, pp. 86-104. Chang Ts'u-ch'i, in Historical Material on Publications of Modem China (Chung-kuo hsien-tai ch'u-pan shihliao), compiled with a commentary by Chang Ching-lu, Chung-hua Book Company Ltd., Peking, 1954, Vol. I (Chia pien). Appendix, pp. 258-468. Abbreviated hereafter to Publications. According to Chang Ching-ju, this list contains many errors in dating. A comparison of the lists of the two Changs and of the articles contained in the Selected Works follows: Chang Ching-ju Chang Ts'ii-ch'i Sel 1912 11 — — 16 1 — 1913 1 1914 3 3 1915 — 4 3 18 1 1916 4 1917 6 50 38 20 1918 6 5 120 1919 58 "3 1920 26 16 32 1921 11 16 3 12 1922 10 9 12 10 12 1923 2 1924 6 5 2 1925 1 — 6 6 6 1926 42 date uncertain — — Total








1. The Background T h e primary significance o f the M a y Fourth M o v e m e n t is that it channelled the cultural revolution against feudalism, the outcome o f China's intellectual orientation towards the W e s t over several decades, into the main stream o f the political revolution against imperialism. Henceforth, revolution in thought went hand in hand w i t h the political struggle o f the Chinese people on a national scale, and the former had become the guiding spirit and the driving force o f the latter. Paradoxically enough, the M a y Fourth M o v e m e n t , thoroughly imbued w i t h the spirit o f Western liberal thought, also contained the germ o f socialism, a n e w competing ideological force. Indeed, it marked the high tide o f Western liberalism, for the sudden appearance o f a nationwide mass m o v e ment breaking away completely f r o m the traditional mentality w o u l d not have been possible w i t h out the fermenting period o f the cultural enlightenment 1 inspired b y Western ideas. T h e October R e v o l u t i o n o f 1917 deeply stirred the imagination o f the Chinese intellectuals, but at first emotionally more than doctrinally. It opened up a n e w vision o f the w o r l d , a possible alternative to finding the solution o f China's problems through Western ideas. T h e behaviour o f the Western Powers at the Peace Conference o f Versailles seriously undermined the moral prestige o f the W e s t . Faith in Western principles was shaken and enthusiasm for Western ideas cooled off. T w o representative though contrasting articles b y C h ' e n Tu-hsiu and L i Ta-chao, great pioneers o f the N e w Culture M o v e m e n t , illustrate the reactions o f the Chinese intellectuals. W r i t i n g in December 1918, on the E v e o f M a y Fourth, C h ' e n Tu-hsiu, editor o f the political journal, the Weekly Review (mai-chou p'ing-lun) affirmed in its inaugural article that, to the Chinese people, the defeat o f Germany b y the Allied Powers symbolized 'the victory o f right over might". 2 H o w e v e r , the Western decision regarding Shantung in particular caused a cruel awakening in China; overnight the symbol o f 'right' became a substitute for 'bandit'. In a M a y , 1919, issue o f the same Weekly Review, L i Ta-chao published his 'Secret D i p l o m a c y and the Bandit W o r l d ' . H e termed the Versailles Conference a European 'Horse Trading C o m p a n y ' . His biting remarks on the Peace Conference were a true reflection o f the feelings the students demonstrating on the historic day o f M a y 4 experienced. The European war has come to an end. We dreamt that humanity and peace had won and that from now on the world might cease to be a bandit world, that perhaps there would be some human touch to it. Who knows but humanity and peace are nothing more than false signboards of the bandit-governments? We have but to look at the resolutions of the Paris Conference. Is there any shadow of humanity, justice, peace or honour in them? Is there anything that is not a sacrifice offreedom and the rights of the weaker nations for the benefit of the great bandit-powers?3 7

If the disillusion of the Chinese intellectuals with the West was an important factor in directing their attention towards Russia for enlightenment, the Karakhan Declaration,4 issued in July, 1919, on behalf of the Soviet Government, nullifying 'all unequal treaties which Czarist Russia had forced upon China', was of even greater importance in encouraging the Chinese intellectuals to look upon Russia as their true friend and new hope. The Declaration had an electrifying effect on Chinese public opinion, and filled the hearts of many with a new enthusiasm. Thus, Russia ascended the ideological throne forfeited by the West, and became the symbol of justice and freedom. 5

2. Divergent Trends of Socialism in the May Fourth Period However great a role emotion may have played in furthering Chinese intellectual orientation towards Russia, the widespread interest in socialism during the May Fourth Period was by no means exclusively Russian-influenced. On the contrary, not only did various Western social democratic ideas flourish side by side with Bolshevik socialism, but also the encounter of socialism and liberalism provoked more serious thought on the essence and merits of both, resulting in free and lively discussion and polemics which made Chinese thinking at once more creative and more chaotic. So much so that the highly complicated and contradictory conditions in the thinking world of socialist-inclined intellectuals was such a common phenomenon that even some of the founders of the study groups for Communism shared in this general confusion.6 During the years between 1919 and 1921, leading periodicals and newspapers carried an increasing number of articles, correspondence and translations on the subjects of socialism, the Russian revolution, the labour movement and other related social problems.7 A general survey of these writings shows that among the enlightened intellectuals fear of a drastic social revolution at home was stronger in depth and broader in scope than was enthusiasm for the Russian revolution and sympathy with Communism. 8 Not only was this true of the anarchists9 and the Chinese-style guild socialism led by Chang T'ung-sun and Chang Chun-mai 10 , both avowed enemies of Bolshevism, but even the Sunday Review (Hsing-ch'i p'ing-lun) 11 , one of the periodicals most influential in the diffusion of Marxism, studied the problems of the Chinese revolution and socialism from the viewpoint of preventing the advance of social revolution by creating conditions for the development of national capitalism.12 Characteristic of the writings of this period is the emphasis laid on education as a means to selfawakening, a prerequisite leading to the awakening of the nation by the awakened. In point of fact, these strong idealistic tendencies were evident also in the writings of outstanding Communist leaders such as Li Ta-chao, who, even after the foundation of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 had introduced serious studies of Marxist theories, continued to maintain that the liberation of the spirit was the basis of liberations from all other fetters.13 It was only after prolonged and relentless political struggle which served as the touchstone of the unity of theory and action that Bolshevism was to emerge in China, as it had done in Russia, as Marxism par excellence.

3. A New Point of Departure in History The early polemics on the merits and demerits of liberalism and the various schools of socialism remained, it is true, on a purely theoretical level, but the theories brought into play were not developed 8

in vacuo, and did have a bearing on the actual situation of China. Honouring a great national tradition of respecting ideology as a guiding principle for action, those taking part in the discussions judged the value of a given theory precisely by its applicability to the solution of concrete problems. From the fact that the Chinese intellectuals were disillusioned with the actual working of the Western democratic system in China, it does not follow that they renounced at the same time the intrinsic value of democracy. On the contrary, democracy and science, which symbolised the spirit of the Era of May Fourth, had struck deep roots in the mind of modern China, and had become, so to speak, part of China's new heritage. N o one doubted any more the absolute necessity of developing science and of building up China as an industrial nation. The principle of democracy was likewise generally accepted. The question now confronting the Chinese intellectuals was how to achieve that end. In other words, which road was China to travel towards democracy and industrialization? It was the difference of opinion concerning this crucial point which finally split the united front of the N e w Culture Movement. Hu Shih, a consistent promoter of wholesale Westernization, advocated Dewey's pragmatism and insisted that China must take gradual reforms 'step by step' towards modernization. Li Ta-chao, a convinced believer in Marxist historical materialism, declared that China must seek a fundamental solution in reconstructing the infrastructure of society, that is, the economic basis. This resulted in the famous polemic on 'Problems and Isms' between Hu Shih and Li Ta-chao in Autumn 1919 1 4 which preluded the final dissolution of the La Jeunesse Group (Hsin-ch'ing-nien she) at the end of 1920. 16 In Hu Shih's opinion, civilization is not created at one stroke, but accumulated 'drop by drop'; therefore, instead of engaging in empty discussion of high principles (Isms) one should devote oneself to the study of concrete problems. 'There are so many urgent problems in China to be solved quickly'. Hu urged: From the problem of the ricksha-pullers' livelihood to the problem of the power of the President; from the problem of prostitution to the problem of office-selling and treason1, from the problem of dissolving the An-fu clique16 to the problem of entering the League of Nations; from the problem of the emancipation of woman to the problem of the emancipation of man . . . which of these is not as urgent as fire singeing the eyebrows ? If we are not going to study the livelihood of the ricksha-pullers, but entertain ourselves with lofty talks on socialism; not going to study how women can be emancipated and the family system remedied, but entertain ourselves with lofty discussions on the doctrine of communal wives andfree love; if instead of studying how to dissolve the An-fu clique and how to solve the problem of the North-South division, we engage in lofty discussions on anarchism and we even proudly boast that 'what we are discussing are the fundamental solutions', then, to be honest, this is only humbug, and deceiving both ourselves and others. This is the iron proof that the Chinese thinking world is bankrupt. This pronounces the death sentence on the reform of Chinese society!... Those who engage in lofty discussions on Isms and do not study the problems are only afraid of difficulties and want to have the easiest way out. It isjust laziness!17 Hu Shih's article 'More Study on Problems, less talking on Isms' provoked an immediate reply from Li Ta-chao. In the form of an open letter to Hu, Li explained that there is an inseparable relationship between problems and Isms. The solution to social problems depends on the common efforts of the majority. It is necessary to make the problems understood by the majority and bind the majority by a common idea: that is an ism. Li was of the opinion that while Hu Shih's programme of piecemeal reform might be workable in advanced countries, in China a fundamental solution was the only answer. 9

In a well-organized society, full of vitality, all functions are articulate; if you have a single instrument, it is therefor you to use. But in an unorganized society, lacking vitality, all functions are obstructed, no matter what instrument you possess, there is no chance for you to put it to work. Under such circumstances, I fear there can only be a fundamental solution, if there is to be any hope of solving the individual concrete problems one by one. Take for example Russia; before the downfall of the House of Romanov, and the reconstruction of the economic organization, no problem could be solved at all. Now they are all solved. According to the historical materialism of Marx, the spiritual structure of a society, manifested by law, politics, ethics, and the like, constitutes superstructure. At the base of it there is the economic structure. Whenever the economic structure changes, the superstructure is bound to change accordingly. In other words, the solution of the economic problem is the fundamental solution. Once the economic problem is solved, political problems, problems of law, of the family system, of the emancipation of woman, of the liberation of labour and so forth can all be solved.18

As we have indicated, the prevailing intellectual atmosphere of the May Fourth Period was by no means too favourable to a fundamental solution, as advocated primarily by Li Ta-chao and a little later by Ch'en Tu-hsiu19 and other communist leaders. However, China's political situation and the general conditions of life did not seem to allow peaceful and gradual reform. The young radicals had become more and more drawn to the idea of a thoroughgoing solution which could only be brought about by violent revolutionary measures. It was not on the ideological front that liberalism and the so-called 'bourgeois socialism' -guild socialism, syndicalism, revisionism and so forthpromoting gradual social reforms and the reconciliation of the interests of capitalists and workers, were to lose ground to Bolshevik socialism. The vanquished simply could not pass the exacting test imposed by China's historical circumstances.



1. The Period of Chinese cultural enlightenment, known as the New Culture Movement, is generally considered to run from 1915-1921. For reference material see inter alia: W u Ch'i-yiian, A Survey of the New Culture Movement in China, (Chung-kuo hsin-wen-hua yiin-tung kai-kuan), Shanghai, 1934. Chao Chia-pi, ed., A Corpus of China's New Literature (Chung-kuo hsi-wen-hsiieh ta-hsi), First Series, 1917-1927. 10 Volumes. Shanghai, 1935-1936. Huang Sung-k'ang, Lu Hstin and the New Culture Movement of Modern China, Djambatan, Amsterdam, 1957. 2. Ch'en Tu-hsiu, 'Inaugural article of the Weekly Review' (Mai chou p'ing-lun fa-k'an tz'u), December, 1918, in Periodicals, Vol. 1., p. 391. 3. Li Ta-chao, 'Secret Diplomacy and the Bandit World', (Pi-mi wai-chiao yii ch'iang-tao shih-chieh), Weekly Review, May, 1919, in Selected Works, p. 212. 4. According to The May Fourth Movement in Shanghai (p. 539, note 1), the First Russian Declaration to China, known as the Karakhan Declaration, was published on July 25, 1919, in Moscow. Newspapers in Shanghai reported this event on February 24,1920. The Sunday Review, No. 45, published on April 1 1 , 1 9 2 0 , carried a full translation of the Declaration. The Republic Daily (Min-kuo jih-pao) and The Times (Shih pao) on April 14, 1920, published the Declaration in different versions of translation. The translation in The Republic Daily includes the most controversial passage: 'The Government of the Workers and Peasants returns to China, without compensation of any kind, the rights on the Chinese Eastern Railway, mines and forestry, and all other privileges secured by the Russian Imperial Government, the Government of Kerensky, the outlaws Horvath and Semenoff, the Russian military men, lawyers, and capitalists'. This is the version reprinted in La Jeunesse, Vol. VII, No. 6, May, 1920, together with a collection of enthusiastic opinions from different social groups. The same translation can be found in Hu Hua, ed., Reference Material on the History of China's New Democratic Revolution (Chung-kuo hsin-min-chu-chu-i ke-ming-shih ts'an-k'ao tzu-liao), Commercial Press, Shanghai, 1951. pp. 33-35. Abbreviated hereafter to Reference Material. Also in The May Fourth Movement in Shanghai, mentioned above. The Eastern Miscellany (Tung-fang tsa-chih), Vol. X X I , No. 8 and 9, April 25 and May 10, 1924, carried a report entitled, 'Important Documents and Public Opinions in regard to the Sino-Russian Negotiations', which includes the two Karakhan Declarations 0uly25,1919; September27,1920). The translations were made by the China-Russia Correspondence Society (Hua-Ngo t'ung-hsiin she). The version of the 1919 Declaration left out the passage concerning the Chinese Eastern Railway quoted above. However, this version did not appear until December, 1923, and could not have affected the enthusiastic reactions of the Chinese intellectuals to this Declaration translated and published in 1920.


For English translations of the two Karakhan Declarations (Manifestos) see A. S. Whiting, Soviet Policies in China, 1917-1924, Columbia University Press, 1954, pp. 269-275. 5. See 'Public Opinions on the Proclamation of the Russian Government of Workers and Peasants'(Tui-yii Ngolo-ssu Lao-nung cheng-fu t'ung-kao ti yii-lun), collected and reprinted in La Jeunesse, Vol. VII, No. 6, May, 1920, Appendix, pp. 3-10. 6. Notably, Tai Chi-t'ao, Shen Hsiian-lu, and Li Han-chiin, see Periodicals, Vol. I., p. 193. The heterogeneous composition of the various Groups for the Study of Communism is described inter alia in: C. Martin Wilbur and J. L. Y. How, eds., Documents on Communism, Nationalism and Soviet Advisers in China, 1918-1927. Columbia University Press, 1956. For the Organization of the Shanghai Group see p. 48; for the Peking and Canton Groups see p. 50, for the contradictory opinions and convictions on Marxism and the purpose of the Groups for the study of Communism brought up during the First Congress of the Communist Party in May, 1921, see pp. 31, 32. 7. See The May Fourth Movement in Shanghai, report on the October Revolution in The Republic Daily, p. 80; index to the main articles related to the October Revolution and translations on Marxism-Leninism published in the newspapers of Peking and Shanghai, pp. 119-129 passim; index to the main articles or translations related to the works of Marxism in the newspapers of Shanghai (1919-1920), p. 532-533; index to the main articles or translations related to Soviet Russia, (1919-1920), pp. 533-535; translation of Marxist works, p. 537. Cf. List of Contents in the Periodicals. 8. For instance, Wang Kuang-ch'i, the chief founder of the 'Young China Association' (Shao-nien Chung-kuo hsüen-hui) see Periodicals, Vol. I., pp. 237-239; Chang T'ung-sun and some of the KMT leaders,see the following paragraphs. 9. See Periodicals, Vol. I., p. 163. 10. See commentary on Liberation and Reconstruction (Chieh-fang yii Kai-tsao) in Periodicals, Vol I., pp. 352-379. 11. Edited by the KMT leaders Tai Chi-t'ao and Shen Hsüan-lu (June, 1919-June, 1920). 12. See Periodicals, Vol. I., p. 163. 13. See Li Ta-chao, 'Liberation of the Spirit' (Ching-shen chieh-fang), New Life, No. 25, February 8, 1920. In Selected Works, p. 309. 14. Hu Shih's 'More Study of Problems, Less Talk of'Isms" (Tuo yen-chiu hsieh wen-ti, shao tan hsieh 'chu-i') first appeared in the Weekly Review, No. 31, July 20,1919. Li Ta-chao's reply 'Again on Problems and Isms' (Tsai lun wen-ti yii chu-i) was published in the same Weekly Review, No. 35, August, 17,1919). The Pacific Ocean (Tai-ping-yang) Vol. II, No. 1, November 5,1919, reprinted both of the above articles as well as Hu Shih's 'A Third Discussion on Problems and Isms' (San lun wen-ti yii chu-i) and 'A Fourth Discussion on Problems and Isms' (Ssu lun wen-ti yü chu-i), also a short article reprinted from Citizens' Gazette (kuo-min kung-pao) by (Lan) Chih-fei, a journalist. However, the first two articles by Hu Shih and Li Tachao respectively are more significant both in content and in the influence they exerted. 15. The dissolution of La Jeunesse group can be traced to 'Letters Concerning the Problem of La Jeunesse' (Kuan-yü Hsin-ch'ing-nien wen-t'i ti chi feng hsin), correspondence between Ch'en Tu-hsiu, Hu-shih, Li Ta-chao, Lu Hsün, December, 1920 - February, 1921, reprinted in Publications, pp. 7-16. 16. A political club of war-lords and bureaucrats under the leadership of Tuan Ch'i-jui. For an elaborate and analytical history of the war-lord rule (1919-28) see, inter alia, Li Chien-nung, Political History ofChina in the Last Hundred years (Chung-kuo chin-pai-nien cheng-chih-shih), Commercial Press, Shanghai, 1947. English transla12

tion by Jeremy Ingalls with Ssu-yii Teng as editor, The Political History of China, 1840-1928. D. van Nostrand Co. Princeton, N.J., 1956. 17. Hu Shih, 'More Study of Problems, Less Talk o f ' I s m s " , reprinted in Reference Material, p. 29. 18. Li Ta-chao, 'Again on Problems and Isms', reprinted in Selected Works, p. 26. 19. In an article entitled 'The Basis for the Realization of Democracy', (Shih-hsing min-chih ti chi-ch'u), written in November, 1919, Ch'en Tu-hsiu reiterated his faith in the Anglo-American type of democracy and expressed his hope that the class struggle could be avoided. See Collected Works of Tu-hsiu (Tu-hsiu wen-ts'un), Ya-tung Library, Shanghai, 1922. Vol. I., pp. 373-389. Ch'en Tu-hsiu's turning to the left and his embracing Marxism was, for the first time, clearly demonstrated in his article, 'Discussing Politics' (T'an cheng-chih), published in the September, 1920, issue of La Jeunesse, in which he stated that 'without undergoing the process of class struggle and a period in which the labouring class take over the position of the ruling class, democracy inevitably will remain the monopoly of the bourgeoisie and serve as a sharp weapon against the labouring class for the purpose of keeping the political power in bourgeois hands forever'. See Collected Works of Tuhsiu, Vol. I., p. 555.


Section II






1. Introductory Remarks W e have shown how the conflict between radicalism and mild reform had marked a new point of departure in modern Chinese history. Since Marxism with its Leninist development in party organization and revolutionary technique appeared at the time the only way to a realistic radical solution to China's problems, it is understandable that radicalism led the way to Marxism. T o Li Ta-chao and a great many of his student-followers, radicalism found its scientific foundation in Marxism. In an era of unlimited faith in the power and validity of science, it was but natural that the attraction of Marxism should have gradually become irresistible. It is difficult to discover whether there had been any particular personal experience which influenced Li Ta-chao's early life and thinking, since biographical material on his life is extremely rare and unspecific, while records of his childhood, if extant, are to date unpublished. However, as he was a determined social revolutionary we can reasonably assume that social conditions in general had more effect on his thinking than his personal vicissitudes. Moreover, we have his writings to speak for him, and even if interpretations may occasionally diverge from the original intention of the author, some of the basic truth will certainly be self-evident in spite of human limitations. According to the Foreword to the Selected Works of Li Ta-chao, he was born in the northern province of Hopei, on the 6th of October 1888. He was left an orphan in his early childhood and was brought up by his grandfather. At the age of seventeen (1905) he entered the Middle School in the prefecture of Jing-p'ing. T w o years later he was admitted to the Pei-yang College of Political Science and Law. There he came into more extensive contact with the so-called 'new studies', developed a better understanding of social life, and became concerned about the political situation of his country. 1 It goes without saying that Li Ta-chao's contact with the so-called 'new studies' meant in fact his systematic initiation into Western political and philosophical theories. The 'new studies' were the product of the Reformist School, advocated by K'ang Yu-wei and Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, and at the time when Li studied at Pei-yang College, Yen-fu's translations2 of T . H. Huxley's Evolution and Ethics, H. Spencer's The Study of Sociology,]. S. Mill's On Liberty, among other Western philosophical and political works, had become so popular and indispensable to the progressive-minded, that there is every reason to believe that Li must have studied these thoroughly even at that time. The influence of the theory of evolution in particular made a decisive impact on modern Chinese thinking, and Li's firm belief in Evolutionism proved to be the foundation of this new philosophy of life. 3 In the winter of 1913, Li Ta-chao went to Japan and studied political science at Waseda University in Tokyo. At that time Tokyo was the main centre for revolutionary activities of Chinese students abroad, and Li became intimately involved in the patriotic movement, in which he took a leading part. The articles he wrote in Japan were permeated with a glowing patriotism-an outpouring of


his desire to sacrifice his life for his country and of his deepest emotional reactions to the humiliations and the injuries China suffered at the hands of Japan and other imperialist powers. The outstanding difference between Li's articles and the general tenor of patriotic writing in China at that time is his revolutionary optimism, which encouraged many of the disheartened and the waverers to continue their struggle. Throughout his life, no disillusion or failure was too great for him to bear and not even a shadow of the pessimism, which at times overwhelmed other Chinese intellectuals, can be found in his writings. In an open letter to the editor of the Tiger Magazine (Chia-yin tsa-chih) in August i9i5,LiTa-chao gently criticized Ch'en Tu-hsiu's article on 'Patriotism and Self-awakening' for having said 'too much about the sickness of the world and too little about the meaning of self-awakening.' In Li's own view: the meaning of self-awakening lies in the improvement of the national spirit of a country, and in the search for a lovablefatherland to love. It is notfitting to give up the desire to love one's country because one's country is not worthy of love. It is even less fitting to give up, to regard oneself as a person without a fatherland and unable to build up a country worthy of love just because one'sfellow-countrymen have never enjoyed belonging to such a country. The making of a nation is the creation of men. In the vast cosmos, man is the master; since I live in the cosmos, why is it that my fellow human beings should be able to create nations and only I should not be able to do so?4 As a student of politics, Li Ta-chao read widely, studying various newspapers and current books on political and international affairs. He had a good command of English and Japanese, which naturally widened the scope ofhis search for knowledge and of his contacts with the world currents of thought. This is amply demonstrated by the constant references he makes to foreign newspaper reports, articles and books throughout his writings. There is no doubt but that he considered writing the chief medium through which he could infuse revolutionary ideas into the minds of the young to whom he entrusted the future of the nation. 5 Therefore, when he returned from Japan in the summer of 1916, the first occupation he took up in August the same year was that of editor of the Morning Bell Paper (Ch'en Chung pao).6 Simultaneously he began to write articles for La Jeunesse and later on for most of the other important periodicals, thus becoming one of the leading figures in the N e w Culture Movement. In February 1918, he was appointed Director of the University Library and in September 1920 concurrently Professor of Economics at Peking University. His scholarship and position certainly increased his prestige and influence in the thinking world of China. Li Ta-chao worked in close collaboration with Ch'en Tu-hsiu, who was appointed Dean of the School of Letters of Peking University by Ts'ai Yiian-p'ei, the new Chancellor of the University, in 1 9 1 7 on the strength ofhis publication of La Jeunesse? They were the co-founders of the Chinese Communist Party which was officially set up in July 1921. From then onwards, they both devoted all their energy to the hot political struggle, and directed the upsurging mass movement in general and the organisation of labour in particular. In April 1927, at the age of thirty-nine, Li Ta-chao died a revolutionary martyr 8 at the hands of Chang Tso-lin, a war-lord in control of Peking (April 1926June 1928). From the time Li appeared on the cultural front as one of the chief exponents of China's intellectual enlightenment in 1916 to his death in 1927 was but a short span of some ten years. Y e t these were decisive years in a crucial period of modern Chinese history, and Li Ta-chao, as a great revolutionary thinker as well as a man of action, had played a leading role in the making of that history. 15

2. Elements of Radicalism in a New Philosophy A. Early Democratic Patriotism

The source of Li Ta-chao's philosophy of revolutionary optimism is his belief, in a broad sense, in Henri Bergson's 'creative evolution' and his refutation of determinism.9 It was Li's firm conviction that the new is bound to grow, to overcome and to replace the old on a higher plane. Yet even though the force of the new is irresistible, it still depends on human efforts to precipitate its final victory. This combination of faith in creative evolutionism and in the power of man over circumstances proved to be the cornerstone of Li's philosophy of life, the fountain-head from which his actions were to derive their motive force. During his student days in Japan (1913-1916), Li Ta-chao published a series of articles which clearly and consistently pointed out that democracy was the new trend of the world. He considered absurd the popular argument that the special conditions of China made her unsuitable for the democratic system. Conditions are created by men, and therefore, even if conditions in China appeared incompatible with the parliamentary system, it was up to the Chinese people, now that democracy had become the new world trend, to create the new conditions under which the democratic system could be built. 'The conditions of the country in the past are today's history, while tomorrow's history is determined by the conditions of today.' 10 Another significant aspect of Li Ta-chao's thinking was his strong belief in the importance of spiritual qualities in the regeneration of human history. To him, humanity was on the threshold of a new and better age. To keep in step with the marching world China stood in need of a revolution, a revolution which, according to Li, could best be defined in the key word of Tolstoy as 'repentance'.11 It should be realised that this day is the beginning of the re-creation of the whole world and the recreation of China. Li exhorted the Chinese people: It is necessary to understand the essence of the Confucian daily renewal, to holdfast to the merits of Buddhist repentance, to observe the doctrine of the Christian resurrection, in order to reform my appearance, to cleanse my heart and to re-create the I in the first place. Forsake the evil I in order to welcome the bright I; forsake the corrupt I, to welcome the living I; forsake the absolutist I to welcome the constitutional I; so that the recreated I may fit in the new system of the re-created China, and that so the re-created China may fit in the new tide current of the re-created world.12

His belief in democracy was based more on the spiritual qualities it might contain than on any specific political form prevalent in the West. 13 In Li's opinion, the power of the trend of history was such that it was only possible for democracy to rise in the 19th century, but never for despotism to revive in the 20th century. Although the parliamentary system is still on trial today, it is difficult to predict whether or not it is a good system and whether or not it will remain unchanged. However, even if we presume it to be undesirable and think that it ought to be changed, the system which would arise and take its place would necessarily provide an even better communication between the natural disposition of the people and the law of the country than the parliamentary system. It could not possibly be a system reverting to despotism, this we can firmly believe, beyond any shadow of doubt.14 These early writings of Li Ta-chao contained the fundamental principles to which he adhered all his life, be they in their embryonic state. To sum up, Li believed in evolutionary progress as well as in the spiritual power of men to hasten the process of evolution. In concrete terms, Li identified the 'new' as democracy, to be realized by human efforts. 16

B. Philosophical Foundation Upon his return from Japan to China in 1916, Li Ta-chao wrote a series of articles in which the main stream of his philosophy of life was unfolded. To understand this philosophy, known as the philosophy of'youth' and of 'dynamism', it is necessary to grasp his view of the Universe. In a famous treatise on 'Youth' (Ch'ing-ch'un), Li's first contribution to La Jeunesse in the September issue of 1916, he plunged into an eloquent discussion of the ultimate reality of life. Attributing primary significance to youth in human existence, Li Ta-chao went on to interrogate himself: Is the life of the earth and of the human beings that inhabit it still young? Are the Chinese people and the Chinese nation still in the stage of youth? Is it within human power to be eternally youthful? The key to the answer to all these questions depends upon whether or not the universe itself is eternally young. If the universe is not forever young, it cannot grant man the bliss of eternal youth. As Li understood it, from an absolute point of view, the universe has neither beginning nor end; in space it is boundless and in time it is without termination. From a relative point of view, the universe is in evolution, therefore, there is life and death, prosperity and decline, yin and yang, evil and peace, youth and old age . . . To him, the evolution of the relative universe is youth advancing, while the universe absolute is youth eternal. Since human life is part of that eternal youth and advances with it, the human person is forever young. The essence of this view of the cosmos is that the universe is dynamic, dialectic in its advance, continuous and unending in time, indivisible and unlimited in space-it is eternally young. To make the human person one with the self-existent cosmos, the individual also becomes eternal. Nevertheless, man still must face the realities of evolution and change. What should be his attitude among all the vicissitudes of life? Li Ta-chao replied by quoting Emerson: 'If you love eternity, you must make good use of the present. Yesterday cannot be recalled, tomorrow is still uncertain. What you can hold fast is only today.' 16 Therefore, Li continued, 'the present moment is the youth of youths'.16 This is the core of Li's philosophy of life and the importance of this outlook is that it brought Li right down from his metaphysical abstraction to the solid realities of life. Li Ta-chao further developed this point in an article entitled 'The Present', which appeared in the April, 1918, issue of ha Jeunesse. To him, the Great Reality is a mighty stream flowing from the reaHty-without-beginning to the reality-without-end. There is not a single event in human history that is unrelated to the past and is isolated from the future; it is the present which links the past with the future to form eternity. 'When we sound the chimes of the present, the endless past and the perpetual future will all echo. When we throw a stone in the stream of time, the ripples and the sound we have stirred up will continue to move on to eternity and will never disappear'.17 The philosophy of living the present in eternal youth generated in Li an optimism which gave him great moral strength and inspired in him an almost religious desire to be the forerunner of a new age. Like most Chinese intellectuals of his generation, Li was conscious of the unique mission which history entrusted had him with: to save China from being crushed by foreign imperialists and to respond to the challenge of Western technical civilization. He was deeply patriotic, even though he had always refused to see China apart from the rest of mankind. He called upon the young to face reality honestly and bravely. 'Our country and our people have a long history; the burden of the past has fettered the life of the present and made us old and impotent; this is a fact we cannot deny'. Yet this realisation need not discourage them; on the contrary, 'what our young people must solemnly profess and show to the world is not tiresome argument, trying to prove that grey-haired China is not dying, but an earnest fostering of the rebirth of a young China'. 18


C. Basic Solution and Human Efforts A profound thinker and a keen observer, Li Ta-chao always saw through to the heart of the matter. The basis of scientific thinking which he acquired in Waseda University and later on in studying Marxism, further improved the quality of his logical reasoning and analytical penetration. The social and political essays he wrote were powerful and to the point. He was a born radical. In sharp contrast to his retiring disposition, mildness in appearance and accommodating attitude in social intercourse,19 his was the radical temperament. There seemed to be an inner urge in him to quest out the dénouement. No matter how insignificant any particular incident might appear, he was bound to expose its relation to the whole social system which had given rise to it. A typical example of this point is his article on 'The Question of the Abolition of Prostitution', written in 1919 for the Weekly Review. Li proposed several steps towards the solution of this social problem, such as the setting-up of large public institutions which were to take in all ex-prostitutes and to provide them with free education as well as arrange marriages for them. But immediately after proposing these mild reforms, Li went on: 'these are really temporary relief measures. The basic solution can only be found in a thoroughgoing reconstruction of the social structure which has given rise to this social phenomenon and has forced women to prostitution'.20 In spite of his unswerving conviction about the invincible power of democracy, Li Ta-chao in his pre-Marxist phase was extremely vague as to the concrete content and practicability of democracy in China. The futility and absurdity of the parliamentary system as practised by the warlords in the name of the republic so thoroughly aroused his disgust that at the first signal of the October Revolution, Li responded to its summons to a socialist world revolution. Initially no conflict of thought was involved in Li's overnight switch from Western liberalism to Bolshevik Socialism. The thrill of the new prospect at first left him little time to reflect. The cherished idea of democracy was not forsaken-it only assumed a new splendour. Western constitutional freedom which does not entail economic guarantees simply became 'non-fundamental' to him, now that the October Revolution had given a new content to democracy. As Li understood it, 'the spirit of democracy is for every member of the community to have equal opportunities in the political, social, economic and educational spheres to develop his personality and to enjoy his rights, no matter to what race, sex, class or region he belongs.'21 Li Ta-chao was fully aware that a high price must be paid for the creation of an ideal society and that a fundamental revolution cannot be brought to a successful conclusion without bloodshed and suffering. Yet it was his conviction that a life that is not creative is not worth living and that a mediocre existence is seldom as meaningful as a heroic sacrifice.22 His philosophy of life compelled him to sacrifice himself for the creation of a young China. His martyrdom came as no surprise to him; he was always ready to face it, but it may have come earlier than he anticipated.



1. Selected Works, p. i. For biographical sketches see also: Chang Ching-ju, op. cit. Biographies of the Martyrs of the Chinese Communist Party (Chung-kuo kung-ch'an-tang lieh-shih chuan), edited by Hua Ying-shen, published by New Democracy Publishing House, Hong Kong, 1949. It contains three short articles on Li. One of the three presumably was by the editor, the other two were by Chang Ju-hsin and (Li) Hsing-hua, daughter of Li Ta-chao. Li Ta-chao and Ch'ii Ch'iu-pai, by Lii Chien, Commercial Press, Shanghai ,1951. This is a pamphlet written for children; however, it contains significant information, namely that Li had already joined the K M T during the 1911 Revolution (p. 11). Unfortunately, it does not indicate the source for this statement. Kuo Chan-po, An Intellectual History of China in the Last Fifty Years (Chin wu-shih-nien Chung-kuo ssuhsiang shih), Jen-wen Book Co., Peiping, 1935, pp. 141-163, Section on Li Ta-chao. 2. For a full list of Yen-fu's translations with dates of translation and publication, see Chow Tse-tsung, op. cit., p. 294. 3. See above, p. 13 and note 9 to Section II. 4. Li Ta-chao, 'Sickness of the World and Self-awakening' (Yen-shih-hsin yii tzu-chiao-hsin), The Tiger magazine, Vol. I, No. 8, August, 1915. Reprinted in Selected Works, p. 29. 5. In Li Ta-chao's opinion, although literature must be realistic, the function of the writers in society is to awaken the world with their visions. A responsible writer should inspire optimism through his writings and not pessimism. See Selected Works, pp. 35 and 61. 6. According to Chia Chih, the Morning Bell Paper was Li Ta-chao's own creation. But Li's progressive ideas and anti-warlordist writings antagonized T'ang Hua-lung, President of the War-lord Parliament, who attempted to make the Morning Bell the mouth-piece of his own political party, the 'Chin-pu tang' (Progressive Party). Li therefore was obliged to resign after he had been editor for three months (August-October, 1916). Chia says that prior to this incident, T'ang had a great regard for Li. One can only presume T'ang must have financed the Morning Bell at Li's request. See Chia Chih, 'A Life-time Struggle of Comrade Li Ta-chao' (Li Ta-chao t'ung-chih chan-tou ti i-sheng) in The Glorious May Fourth (Kuang-hui ti Wu-ssu), Chinese Youth Publishing House, Peking, 1959, pp. 29-46. On the other hand, according to the Periodicals, the Morning Bell was the organ of the Progressive Party headed by Liang Ch'i-ch'ao and T'ang Hua-lung who intended to use the paper for political propaganda in favour of their party. T'ang invited Li Ta-chao to become the first editor but dismissed him within two months because Li's political ideas were incompatible with those of the war-lords. However, the Morning Bell was closed down by T'uan Ch'i-jui, a succeeding war-lord, in September, 1918, along with seven other newspapers. See Periodicals, Vol. I, p. 98.


7- According to Ts'ai's own account. See Ts'ai Yiian-p'ei. 'My career in Peking University', in Autobiographies of Famous People (Ming-chia chuan-chi), edited by Hsin-lii Literary Society, Chung-hua Book Co., Shanghai, March, 1937, p. 63. 8. For detailed descriptions on Li's arrest on April 7 and execution on April 28, 1927, see inter alia: 'Arrest of Political Offenders in Peking' (Pei-ching tang-yii), in T'ao Chii-yin, Biographies of the Six Gentlemen (Liu Chiin-tzu chuan), Chung-hua Book Co., Shanghai, 1946 (2nd edition, 1948). pp. 370-374. Sources in English, see inter alia: Wilbur and How, op. cit., pp. 8-9 and 408. W . J. Oudendyk, Ways and By-ways in Diplomacy, Peter Davies Ltd, London, 1939, pp. 348-349. Oudendyk was at that time the Dutch Minister to Peking, and as 'Senior Minister' he acted as the dean of the diplomatic corps. It was he who endorsed the warrant for the Chinese police of the war-lord government to enter the premises of the Soviet Embassy, where Li Ta-chao and 34 other K M T , C C P members and suspects were arrested. Li was among the 20 sentenced to death. Both T'ao and Oudendyk were eye-witnesses of the incident. 9. The influence of the theory of the creative evolution can be seen in Li's favourite themes on the concept of duration in evolution, on the oneness of the past, present and future and on man's power to invent and to create as shown in his articles'Youth','The Present', and 'Time', among others. However, Bergson was only one of the many names Li quoted to support his optimistic outlook. There is no means to judge to what extent he was influenced by the theory of creative evolution and much less can one infer what was Li's attitude towards Bergson's philosophical thinking as a whole. 10. Li Ta-chao, 'The Condition of the Country' (Kuo Ch'ing), The Tiger, Vol., No. 4, in Selected Works, p. 6. 1 1 . Li Ta-chao, 'Natural Disposition of People and Politics' (Min yi yii cheng-chih), Min Yi, Inaugural Issue, May, 1916. In Selected Works, p. 56. The influence of Tolstoy's humanism on Li Ta-chao is unmistakable in Li's writings till late 1919, when he definitely turned to the left. See above, pp. 3 1 , 3 2 . 12. Ibid. 13. See above, p. 34. 14. Li Ta-chao, 'Natural Disposition of People and Polities', in Selected Works, p. 50. 15. Li Ta-chao, 'Youth', in Selected Works, p. 74, Emerson was quoted also in 'The Present' (Chin), La Jeunesse Vol IV, No. 4, April 15, 1918. In Selected Works, p. 93. 16. Li Ta-chao, 'Youth', ibid., p. 74. 17. Li Ta-chao, 'The Present', ibid., p. 93. 18. Li Ta-chao, 'Youth', ibid., p. 7 1 . 19. According to Lu Hsiin's Preface to the Collected Works of Shou-ch'ang (i.e. Li Ta-chao), he met Li for the first time at one of the editors' meetings of La Jeunesse. 'In a nutshell, my impression of him was very good:, sincere, modest, and he spoke little'. See Collected Works of Shou-ch'ang (Shou-ch'ang wen-chi), Pei-hsin Book Company, Shanghai, 1949, p. 1, Preface. Chang Shih-chao, who served in the War-lord Government as Minister of Education and Minister of Justice, (1923-1925), commented on Li Ta-chao as 'a man upright, sincere, modest and quiet, and eloquent in writing'. See Chang Shih-chao, ' W u Ching-heng, Liang Ch'i- ch'ao and Ch'en Tu-hsiu' in The Tiger, Vol. 1 , No. 30, 1927, p. 7. Other fragmentary comments on Li's character by K M T leaders like Shang-chi and W u Ching-heng are also favourable. 20. Li Ta-chao, 'The Question of the Abolition of Prostitution' (Fei ch'ang wen-t'i), Weekly Review, No. 19, April 27, 1919. In Selected Works, p. 170. 20

2 1 . Li Ta-chao, 'The Problems of the Postwar Woman' (chan-hou chih fu-jen wen-t'i), La Jeunesse, Vol. VI, No. 2, February, 1919. In Selected Works, p. 140. 22. Li Ta-chao, 'Sacrifice' (Hsi-sheng), New Life (Hsin-sheng-huo), No. 12, November, 1919. In Selected Works, p. 247.





1. The Attraction of Marxism in General The immediate attraction of Marxism for Li Ta-chao, the first Chinese thinker to hail the October Revolution, lies in its universal appeal. As was the case with most intellectuals of his time, the great Confucian tradition of viewing the universe as one and humanity as a whole was deep-seated in him. To Li the classical ideal of Ta-t'ung (the Great Unity) continued to be the Utopian society, the realisation of which humanity longs for. 'When the Great Doctrine prevails, the whole world will become the common possession of all. The virtuous and the able will be chosen, sincerity extolled and harmony cultivated'. 1 The essence of the One World philosophy of Great Unity is that the universe belongs to all in common. This vision, combined with a new emphasis on the free development of individuality, formed the foundation of Li Ta-chao's new conviction regarding the purpose of life: 'What w e strive for today is a liberated and free individual and a world which is full of mutual love. The barriers of nation, class, and race, which stand between the I and the world, are all obstacles in the path of evolution, the burden of human life. They should be gradually abolished'.2 The universalist outlook of Li Ta-chao always urged him on to seek a solution for China which would at the same time encompass the world beyond China. Time and again he cautioned the young Chinese: 'since we are youth of the twentieth century, w e must have a world vision. W e must not be bound by corrupt family ties. W e must not be obstructed by narrow patriotism. Our new life should begin with the development of personality, and then it should go on to the promotion of happiness for the whole world. The scope of our family has been widened to include the whole world; the old restrictions are the traces left behind by evolution. W e should free ourselves from them. W e should live the life of the world as the life of our family. W e should realize that the love-humanity-movement is more important than the love-one's-own-country-movement'. 3 Li Ta-chao further developed his ideas on the Great Unity in an article on 'Federalism and World Organization', published in The Renaissance (Hsin-ch'ao), February 1919. The influence of the October Revolution can be traced in the opening statement: The present age is the age of liberation, and the civilization of the modern age is the civilization of liberation. The people demand liberation from the state, the local governments demand liberation from the central authority, the colonies demand liberation from the colonizers, the weaker races demand liberation from the stronger races, the peasants demand liberation from the landlords, the workers demand liberation from the capitalists, the women demand liberation from the men and the young people demand liberation from their parents and elders. Every movement that arises in the political or social sphere is a movement of liberation.1 The movement of liberation will necessarily bring destructions and disintegration in its wake, but 22

there is no reason for fear: the destruction of the old fosters the growth of the new and the disintegration of the past prepares the way for the integration of the future. Li Ta-chao was convinced that 'the present evolutionary course of humanity is following one line,- a line which is the thoroughfare leading to the Great Unity of the world . . . and this line has its origin in the spirit of liberation.' 5 T w o equally important aspects of a newly created world organization, according to Li, would be the liberation of the individual and the harmony of the Great Unity. To combine the movement of the liberation of the individual with the movement of the harmony of the Great Unity means, as Li pointed out, making two apparently contradictory elements complement each other. There are two indispensable factors in any organism, the quality of individuality and the inclination towards togetherness. The working principle should be that individuality develops in perfect freedom while the inclination towards togetherness develops according to the concept of mutual aid. The Confucian heritage of humanism which infused a strong sense of social responsibility in the soul of the Chinese was another factor that turned Li Ta-chao's eyes towards the Russian revolution. Deep concern for the fate of the common people had never been lacking in the traditional literature and in the minds of China's great social reformers and it was not surprising that the vindication of it embodied in Marx's theory on surplus value appealed to the Chinese sense of social justice. The October Revolution profoundly convinced Li that the Liberation of China could only be sought in the liberation of humanity as a whole and that China's national revolution formed an integral part of the proletarian world revolutionary movement. The question left for him to answer was how that Utopian society, in which all men are equal and free and subsistence belongs to all, was to be brought into being.

2. Concord Through an Intuitive Sympathy If Li Ta-chao was not alone in his response to the universal and humanist appeal of the October Revolution, he was certainly unique in at once enthusiastically accepting as final its message for the oppressed people. If the majority of the Chinese intellectuals in the May Fourth Period began to study socialism in order to test its suitability for China, Li Ta-chao, who already regarded as an established fact the major premise that from now on the Russian Revolution stood for the future of humanity, considered it his duty to study Marxism in order to deepen his theoretical insight. It was Li's belief that the civilization of the twentieth century would necessarily have to undergo an unprecedented transformation and that, just as the French Revolution fathered the political and social systems of nineteenth century Europe, out of the bloodtide of the Russian Revolution a new civilization based on humanism and freedom would emerge. In his opinion, the French Revolution, inspired by nationalism, had often been the cause of war, while the Russian Revolution, inspired by socialism and humanism, would become a fountain-head of peace.6 Li Ta-chao's identification of socialism with the ideal of the Great Unity and the new spirit of democracy is clearly demonstrated by a comparison of his two well-known articles 'The Victory of the Common People' and 'The Victory of Bolshevism', with a third article on 'The Defeat of Pan...ism and the Victory of Democracy'. The first two appeared in the same issue of La Jeunesse in October, 1918, and the latter was published in the July issue of The Pacific (T'ai-p'ing-yang) in the same year. These three articles in fact form a unity, and the main theme is Li's vindication of socialism as the regenerating force of a new era. The underlying cause of the Great War as well as of the political and social upheavals of contemporary China was the conflict between two spiritual forces, 23

Pan.. .ism and Democracy. The former relies upon force, values despotism, and seeks only domination by the few, while the latter relies upon reason, values freedom and seeks the co-existence of all individuals.7 In 'The Victory of the Common People', published three months later, Li identified the previously undefined notion of democracy with socialism. Commenting on the conclusion of the Great War, Li Ta-chao declared that 'it was not the victory of the military might of the Allied Powers, but the victory of the new spirit of humanity'. The fruits of the Great W a r were twofold: politically, it was the defeat o f ' P a n . . .ism' and the victory of Democracy; socially, it was the defeat of capitalism and the victory of proletarianism. Both were victories of the common people.8 The last article of the three went a step further and identified socialism with Bolshevism. The victory gained in the Great War, Li announced, 'is the victory of humanism, of peaceful thinking, of common reason, of freedom, of democracy, of socialism, of Bolshevism, of the red flag, of the international proletariat, of the new-tide current of the twentieth century'. 9 In a nutshell, Bolshevism was the symbol of all the noble aspirations and perfections that humanity could desire. It was not just by accident that Li Ta-chao's interpretation of Bolshevism was strongly coloured by his susceptibility to its spiritual power. Neither was it just a coincidence which caused him to find in Trotsky's book Bolshevism and World Peace the strengthening of his belief in the coming of a revolutionary transformation of the world. As Li explained, Trotsky's main point was that the Russian Revolution was to act as a fuse to the approaching world revolution. In Li's view, Trotsky was such a universalist, that during the Great World War, 'he was neither pro Germany nor pro the Allies. He does not even love Russia. What he loves are the common people of the international proletariat, and the international society of workers'. 10 Throughout Trotsky's book, Li continued, 'his heart is set on two main objects: world revolution and world democracy'. 11 Li Ta-chao's interpretation of Bolshevism and the points he emphasised suggest that he visualised Bolshevism according to his own idealistic image. They also suggest that he may have been, as he put it himself, caught by 'Bolshevik emotional frenzy', 12 and that he accepted it as 'a short-cut leading to a paradise on this earth'. 13 However, while the political revolution and the upsurging mass movement were in full swing, Li Ta-chao had little time to indulge in his Utopia. As a recognised intellectual leader of the nation and a determined revolutionary he had to make a more thorough study of the whole body of Marxism and to communicate the result in particular to the young radicals who looked to him for guidance. 14



1. Li Chi (The Book of Rites), Chapter VII, 'Li Yün' (The Evolution of Rites). Compiled in Han Period (206 B.C.-222 A.D.). The saying was attributed to Confucius, but modern scholars maintain that it was gready influenced by Taoist philosophy. See e.g. Fung Yu-lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy, translated by Derk Bodde, Princeton University Press, 1952, Vol. I, pp. 377, 378. 2. Li Ta-chao, 'The I and the World' (Wo yü shih-chieh), Weekly Review, July 6,1919. In Selected Works, p. 221. 3. Li Ta-chao, "The Youth Movement' of 'The Young China" ('Shao-nien Chung-kuo* ti 'shao-nien yiintung'), The Young China, Vol. I, No. 3, September I J , 1919. Ibid., pp. 237, 238 4. Li Ta-chao, 'Federalism and World Organization' (Lien-chih-chu-i yü shih-chieh tsu-chih), The Renaissance (Hsin Ch'ao), Vol. I, No. 2, February 1, 1919. Ibid., p. 130. 5. Ibid., p. 131. 6. Li Ta-chao, 'A Comparative View on the French and Russian Revolutions', ibid., p. 101. 7. Li Ta-chao, 'The defeat of Pan . . . ism and the Victory of Democracy' (Pan... ism chih shih-pai yü Democracy chih sheng-li), The Pacific, Vol. I, No. 10, July 15,1918. Ibid., p. 107. 8. Li Ta-chao, 'The Victory of the Common People' (Shu-min ti sheng-li), La Jeunesse, Vol. V, No. 5, October 15,1918. Ibid., p. n o . For a full translation see Supplementary Document to Section III. 9. Li Ta-chao, 'The Victory of Bolshevism' (Bolshevism ti sheng-li), ibid., p. 113. 10. Ibid., p. 116. 1 1 . Ibid., p. 117. 12. Ibid., p. 115. 13. Ibid. 14. Li Ta-chao's intimate relation with the students can be seen particularly from his leadership in the mass movement, his enthusiastic promotion of progressive students' organizations and their publications. In his capacity as the Director of the Library in Peking University, Li Ta-chao offered office space for the foundation o f ' T h e Renaissance Society' (Hsin-ch'ao she) in November 1918. He also permitted the students to hold meetings on the premises. In 1919, he took an active part in the formation of'The Association of University Teachers and Staff', to secure the release of the students arrested during the May Fourth Movement. See Liu Nung-ch'ao, 'The C-in-C Who Guided the May Fourth - Comrade Li Ta-chao' (Ling-tao Wu-ssu ti chu-chiang - Li Ta-chao t'ung-chih) in Collected Essays on the May Fourth Movement (Wu-ssu yün-tung wen-


chi), compiled by the Documentation Department on Marxism-Leninism of the Central China Engineering College, published by the People's Publishing House of Hu-Pei, 1957, pp. 56 and 59. An interesting episode, Mao Tse-tung's first contact with the leading intellectuals of the day during his first short stay in Peking (September, 1918-March, 1919) was made possible by Li Ta-chao's offering Mao employment in the Library. Mao was profoundly influenced by Li Ta-chao and Ch'en Tu-hsiu through personal contact. See Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, Eleventh impression, September, 1946, pp. 148, 149 and pp. 151, 154, passim. Li was one of the founding members of the very influential 'Young China Association' (July, 1919-1925), its members including leftist Mao Tse-tung, T'eng Chung-hsia, Huang Jih-k'ui, Yün Tai-ying and rightist Tseng Ch'i, Tso Shun-sheng. See Periodicals, Vol. I, p. 235. Section on 'The young China', pp. 235-269. Fragmentary accounts of Li Ta-chao's activities in Peking University, particularly Li's role in promoting the establishment of the 'Association for the Study of Marxist Theory', can be found in Peking University Daily (Pei-ching ta-hsüeh jih-kan), see Periodicals, Vol. II, p. 232.





1. The Period of Theoretical Study It is difficult to determine at which stage Li Ta-chao became a convinced Marxist, and to what extent he understood and accepted the body of Marxist tradition developed by Lenin. The wealth of ideas produced throughout by his complex mind, in which, moreover, idealistic and materialistic tendencies existed side by side, hardly leaves room for clear-cut demarcations. Indeed, Li's premature death interrupted his evolution in thought at a crucial stage, thus leaving his mind, as it were, forever suspended on the way towards the complete acceptance of Marxism. Yet, a thorough study of Li's life and works will reveal some landmarks illustrating the gradual shift of emphasis from idealistic to materialistic elements in his thinking, and enabling us to trace the essential stages of his mental evolution from vague liberalism to the compact whole o f Marxism. The first period of Li's theoretical studies, beginning when he started publishing a series o f articles on the October Revolution, in the latter half of 1918, ended in March 1920, about the time he promoted the foundation of the 'Society for the Study of Marxism' in Peking University. 1 The immediate outcome of these studies was an extensive essay entitled ' M y Views on Marxism', which was published in a special 'Marxism'-number of La Jeunesse in May 1919. 2 This essay impresses one as a detached and objective study, conceived in a frame of mind very different from the highly emotional one provoked by the October Revolution, which inspired Li's pen when he wrote his 'The Victory of the Common People', and 'The Victory of Bolshevism'. ' M y V i e w on Marxism' represents the first attempt to introduce Marxist theory as a relatively complete whole to the Chinese reading public. In this article, Li praises Marx for his unique contribution in elevating history to the level of pure science, while making a number of critical observations on some of the highly controversial aspects of Marxist theory. The first point Li raised concerned the incompatibility of Marx's economic determinism with his theory of the class struggle as a means of altering the course of human history. If indeed the economic force could not be affected by human action, class struggle would then be futile, or superfluous. Li judged Marx's attempt to explain this contradiction away by regarding the class struggle as one o f the 'natural changes' inherent in economic evolution 'somewhat unconvincing and contradictory'. 3 This relatively minor flaw did not, however, Li considered, detract from Marx's outstanding contribution to the study o f human society. It was Marx who discovered the fundamental law o f class struggle, w h o demonstrated that the economic phenomenon, entirely misunderstood and neglected hitherto, is the most important of all social phenomena, w h o had attributed the mighty force which determined the phenomenon o f law to the phenomenon of economics, pointing out conclusively thereby that it is against nature to try to regulate the economic phenomenon by legislation. It was Marx also, who, after the proclamation o f the Communist Manifesto, together with Engels, called 27

upon the proletariat of the whole world to unite for the overthrow of world capitalism. 'This opened the eyes of the world to the fact that socialism cannot possibly be realised without the people themselves, and this is an incomparable merit of Marxism'. 4 Li's second criticism started as a refutation of the argument, that the theory of class struggle implied the negation of ethical values. 'Marx by no means rejected the noble aspirations of the individual. He simply pointed out that the average ethical characteristics of a society, as expressed at its moral level, cannot influence the collective action springing from the consciousness of economic interest'.5 Ethical ideas, such as mutual aid and universal love, have always been present in the human mind, but the economic structure is such that it destroys every possibility of their realization. Li admitted, however, that Marx tended to rely too much on matter, a bias which, as Li saw it, would undergo a timely revision with the rise of N e w Idealism.6 The great transition to socialism demanded a redoubled effort to further the influence of ethics and humanism. Li concluded: That is why we advocate the simultaneous reform of the human spirit by humanism and of the economic structure by socialism. Failing the reconstruction of the economic structure, it is fruitless to reform the human spirit, and without the transformation of the human spirit the reconstruction of the economic structure is not likely to succeed. Our aim should be the dualistic reform of matter and mind and the harmonious rebirth of body and spirit.'' Li's third criticism concerned Marx's economic interpretation of history as an unalterable truth for all times. Not until after the industrial revolution, Li stated, was the predominance of the economic force firmly established. Marx's theory, according to his own interpretation, was just a reflection of that particular phenomenon. But Marx himself has forgotten this: It is but fair to remember that Marx's theory was in fact the product of a given time, and it was then indeed a great discovery. But, if we cannot use this theory, which is the product of a specific period and inspired by particular circumstances, to explain all histories or apply the entire theory as it is to the society in which we live now, neither should we deny its value for the age, or that it represents a unique discovery.9 The second part of the essay, dealing with Marx's economic theory, contains Li's fourth and last point of criticism. Li objected that what Marx called production price, i.e. the actual market price, was not identical with what he termed value. Quite apart from value, there is the actual market price, born of the competitive relationship between supply and demand, which bears no relationship to the quantity oflabour consumed in producing the commodity. The fact that the actual price of a commodity resultsfrom competition, Li concluded, strikes at the roots of the labour value theory. Now the labour value theory is the basis of Marxism. Should the basis crumble, then the whole body of Marxist theory will be affected, which can only be considered infinitely regrettable for the cause of Marxism.9 At first sight, these critical observations suggest that Li Ta-chao was far from being wholly committed to Marxism. His revisionist view on the dualistic reform of human society through material and spiritual forces in particular constitutes a vital contradiction of the theoretical basis of Marxism. Even so, careful analysis is bound to reveal that Li's exposé on historical materialism and on class struggle as the means of bringing about the socialist society which humanity was waiting for, was tantamount to a declaration of faith, irrespective of his objections, which he himself regarded as relatively unimportant, or rather academic. 10 The key to the paradoxical dualism in Li's mind of idealism and materialism appears to be two28

fold. In the first place, Li considered Marx's conclusion that economic force is the basis of human society, while ideas form only its superstructure, a major discovery. His difference of opinion with Marx concerning the extent to which human ideas and actions could influence the course of history was but a question of degree; the qualification was implied that these human ideas and actions do not go against the trend of economic development but work in harmony with it. In the second place, Li's idealism so strongly coloured his interpretation o f some of the essential elements o f Marxist theory, that conflict in his mind could hardly arise. This will be found demonstrated most distinctly in an article, now to be discussed, entitled 'Class Struggle and Mutual Aid', published in one of the July, 1919, issues of the Weekly Review. Li Ta-chao quoted Ruskin, William Morris and Kropotkin to support his allegation that 'the root o f socialism in every form is purely ethical (emphasis added). Co-operation and friendship make up the universal law in the social life of men. W h e n w e realize that the life of human society is forever governed by this universal law, w e shall be able to discover that this law is hidden in the commonly recognized basis of all socialists, no matter where or when they lived. Whether a socialist is Utopian or scientific, his conception will be built on this basis, depending on his knowledge and ability'. 11 As to the class struggle, Li explained, it was only 'apparently' contradictory to the theory of Mutual Aid. Since the opposition of two economically antagonistic classes has long been an actual fact and the development of the productive force continued to outgrow the existing social structure, 'the final class struggle thus becomes the final means to re-create society and to abolish the classes'.12 Li was o f the opinion that fear of the class struggle was unfounded because Marx did not consider class struggle a life companion of human history and had clearly stated that 'the capitalistic mode of productive relations is the final form of the opposition of social productive methods'. 13 Furthermore Li remarked that it was Marx's firm belief that a new era of human history must be created and that the first page of this 'real' history would be turned as soon as the economic structure which was to be based on mutual aid was established. Therefore, Li concluded, 'this final class struggle leads to the self-destruction o f the class society, which is inevitable and which nothing on earth can prevent'. 11 A month afterwards, Li Ta-chao's article 'Again on Problems and Isms'16 reiterated his belief in historical materialism and the class struggle. The major significance of this article is that in it Li started to relate these theories to the Chinese situation. The year 1919, in which the May Fourth Movement originated, was likewise the year in which Li Ta-chao was most prolific in his writing. 16 Articles on current trends of thought and especially short reflections and comments on the political situation and social problems of the day were full of Li's deep concern for the fate of his country; his fear of the Japanese-designed 'Pan-Asianism'; 17 his indignation towards the foreign legations which behaved as China's 'super governments'; 18 and his detestation for the utter corruption of the reactionary war-lord government in Peking. 19 Under these circumstances, it is quite understandable that the general atmosphere was none too congenial for the development o f metaphysical thinking or academic dispute. O n the other hand, radical inclinations were constantly being kept alive by national crises. In Li's own words, the relation between social injustice and radicalism is like the one between fertilizer and seeds: 'It is not quite possible, having applied fertilizer, to wish that the seeds would not grow'. 2 0 Subsequent events were to prove that the interplay o f the concrete situation and the prevailing ideas was decisive in determining modern China's ideological choice. Li Ta-chao, w h o was of all the intellectuals o f his generation the most sensitive to the significance of the October Revolution, and 29

who was a radical by temperament, led the way to China's intellectual development towards Marxism.

2. Unity o f Theory and Action The beginning of the second period of Li's Marxist studies-a period of deeper understanding, particularly of the special message of Marxism for China-coincided with the foundation of the 'Society for the Study of Marxist Theory' in 1920. An examination of the thorough study programme of the Society and the catalogue of its library clearly shows that it meant to make a serious effort to grasp the essence of Marxism as a revolutionary theory applicable to the Chinese situation.21 The 'Society for the Study of Marxist Theory' stood at the cradle of a 'Communist cell' in Peking, which in turn was one of the forerunners of the Communist Party. Ch'en Tu-hsiu and Li Ta-chao, co-founders of the Chinese Communist Party, failed to attend the Foundation Congress of the Party, held in Shanghai, in July, 1921; nevertheless it was thanks to these two leaders that the Congress convened. They had paved the way, under the guidance of the Secretary of the Far Eastern Bureau of the Comintern, Voitinsky, who had arrived in China in the spring of 1920, entrusted with the very task of founding a Chinese Communist Party.22 The establishment of the CCP and its organic relation with the Comintern set the Party irreversibly on the Bolshevik path, as evidenced by the official Chinese Communist Party history: The Chinese Communist Party was established after the October Revolution. From its very beginning it was based on Leninist principles and patterned after the Bolshevik model under the guidance of the Comintern. It has inherited the best traditions of the International Communist Movement. It was free from the influence of the European Social Democratic Party and the Second International both in regard to its ideology and its organization... Naturally, there were still some deficiencies in the CCP's theoretical preparations and in other aspects too. A thoroughgoing Bolshevization of the Party was achieved only after prolonged struggle. Nevertheless, at very inception, the CCP was a Party of the Bolshevik type; this is a fact about which there can be no doubt.2S

During the two years following its foundation, the CCP looked upon labour organization as its first and foremost obligation. For the first time Marxist theory was applied to the actualities of the labour movement in China. Waves of strikes on an unparalleled scale swept through all important cities. These were under the unified direction of the Chinese Labour Union Secretariat founded by the CCP in 1921. 24 The significance of the labour movement under Communist leadership is that the hitherto impotent and scattered spontaneous strikes became organized and co-ordinated and that the object of the strikes developed from minor economic demands to that of powerful political struggle against imperialism and warlordism. Official Communist sources state that Li Ta-chao played a leading role in labour agitation in the Northern Provinces. This assertion can be understood only in the light of the enormous influence Li exercised in promoting and protecting the cause of the labour movement.25 Scattered references to the decisive importance of the power of the masses throughout Li's writings from 1919 onwards26 also serve to substantiate the fact that Li was a leading figure both in the labour and in the peasant movement, although detailed description of his activities is lacking. There is no doubt that his faith in dialectical materialism and in the international proletarian revolution, of which the 30

Chinese revolution was an integral part, was greatly strengthened, even though his idealistic tendency persisted, especially in the nineteen-twenties.27 Historical materialism provided Li Ta-chao with a new approach to the study of history, and a new concept of life. Instead of being a dead record of unconnected past human activities, history was now transformed in his eyes to an organical whole, flowing on like an uninterrupted river, ever changing, ever advancing. The series of articles published by Li between 1920-1923 constitute a pioneering attempt to establish historical materialism as the only indisputably scientific tool with which to analyse Chinese history and Chinese society. It was placed at the centre of one's philosophy of life.28 A correct concept of history, Li states, is the prerequisite of a correct concept of life. It is the responsibility of modern historians, therefore, to rewrite all histories in the light of the new concept of history and of new historical material 29 -a highly provocative message to an age which still held traditional historical records and classical literature sacred. Li Ta-chao's conviction of the universal truth of historical materialism led to the logical conclusion that scientific socialism, based on dialectical materialism, would inevitably come about as the natural result of historical evolution, just as natural - to use one of Li's favourite expressions - as the chicken breaking the egg-shell, when the time is ripe. Li owed it to his convictions to join issue with the 'classical' argument that Marxism was not applicable to economically-backward countries like China. This is his refutation: Before asking whether economic conditions in China permit the practice of socialism, we should first ask whether world developments tend towards the realization of socialism. The economic conditions in China cannot escape the economic influence of the world outside China... The common people of China are being indirectly oppressed by organized capitalist economy and their suffering is greater than that of the labouring class which suffers direct oppression under capitalism... Consequently, if industry is to be developed in China, there is no other way than to organize a government by the actual producers and to organize the management of industry in accordance with socialist principles. Only then can the exploiting class be eliminated within, and international capitalism be resisted without.30

3. The Strategy of the United Front The final phase of Li Ta-chao's evolution in thinking corresponded with the entire period of the K M T - C C P alliance from 1923 to 1927. This alliance was a strategy decided on by the Executive Committee of the Communist International in January 1923 31 and was adopted by the Third National Congress of the CCP in July the same year.32 Li Ta-chao played a prominent role in promoting the realization of this strategy. He represented the CCP in the negotiations with Sun Yat-sen on the concrete terms of the alliance.33 He was also the first CCP member to join the KMT. 34 In January 1924, at the First National Congress of the reorganized KMT, when the advisability of admitting the CP members into the K M T was questioned, it was Li Ta-chao who spoke on behalf of the CCP, explaining that the members of his Party were joining the K M T entirely in their individual capacities and that they would pledge allegiance to the Three Principles and observe the discipline of the K M T in order to contribute to the victory of the national revolutionary movement.36 Among the twenty-four members elected to the Central Executive Committee at the First National Congress of the K M T , Li was one of the three Communist members. He was subsequently given the responsibility of directing the K M T 3i

Headquarters in Peking. There he lived and worked for the cause of the revolution most of the time until his death.36 Even though records of his activities are far from complete, scattered evidence shows that Li was an active leader of the mass movement against imperialism and warlordism 37 under the banner o f the K M T to such an extent, in fact, that it has long been an open secret that he, together with other K M T and C C P members, had to take refuge in the Russian Legation in order to direct party affairs. In striking contrast with this deep involvement in hot political struggle, Li from n o w on observes an almost complete silence as a political writer. The appearance of an article from his pen becomes an increasingly rare occurrence. 38 If he publishes at all, the contents of his articles tend more and more to centre on revolutionary practice rather than on the development of new thinking. Li's writings during the last phase of his life show three characteristics. Firstly there is the ostensible absence of his favourite discourses on the human spirit and on Utopian ideas. Secondly, Li's articles show only too clearly that the violent experience of the relentless political struggle of the people has opened his eyes to the revolutionary realities of the Chinese situation. As early as December, 1925, Li had pointed out that the success of the Chinese revolution depended on the support o f the peasant masses and that the organization o f the Poor Peasants Association as well as of the Peasant Guard was the key to the arousing of their class consciousness. As the peasants formed more than 70 per cent o f the total population, Li maintained that 'when calculating the motive power of the revolution, one should not overlook the fact that the peasants constitute its essential element' 39 and that 'if the overwhelming peasant masses can be organized and made to join the national revolution, victory will be in sight'.40 This revolutionary strategy finally proved to be the deciding factor in bringing the Communists to power. Last, but not least, Li was making conscious efforts to conform with the Communist Party line and the Comintern strategy. 41 This manifested itself in numerous ways and most revealingly in his different evaluations of the May Fourth Movement on various occasions 42 His last statement in 1924 signified an abrupt turning away from an internationalist to an intensified nationalist outlook. Moreover, among the handful of articles published in the last two years of his life, two were devoted to the memory of Sun Yat-sen. In other articles, references were often made to the leading position of Sun in the Chinese national revolutionary movement. The conscious stressing of Sun Yat-senism as 'the compass which guides the revolutionary course'43 suggests that Li was wholeheartedly supporting the Comintern line of strengthening the K M T - C C P alliance. N o doubt, there is an intimate connection between the disappearance of Utopian ideas and the growth o f revolutionary realism in Li's later writings. This is shown most clearly in Li's opinion on what should be the tasks o f the young people in the countryside. Li had always put his trust in the power of an awakened people. His great sympathy and concern for the fate of the common people had often led him to the realization o f some basic truths. For instance, as early as 1919, Li emphatically stated that 'only through the unity of the intellectual and labouring classes can the very roots o f modern civilization be transmitted to society.'44 A t that time, labouring class signified the peasants rather than the workers to Li Ta-chao, and time and again he urged the young people to go to the countryside so that 'the seeds of the spiritual reform falling in the thick good soil o f pure and beautiful nature will germinate naturally and the peasants, w h o are in touch with nature from day to day, will naturally become disciples of humanism'. 45 It was not until he had some real experience of the peasants' revolution that this idyllic picture of the countryside faded from his imagination and he lost his admiration for the narodniki. Instead of 'imitating Tolstoy w h o came 32

to the city to write when there was leisure and went to the fields to work during the busy season of the farmers',48 Li observed in December, 1925, that the time was ripe for the peasants to feel the need for self-defence organizations and urged the revolutionary youth 'to unite and go to the villages to help the peasants to improve their organizations and to resist oppressions'.47 However, revolutionary realism acquired in revolutionary activities cannot alone explain the sudden interruption of Li's preferred discussions on idealism for which he gave no theoretical justification, or why he ceased expressing new ideas on some of the crucial controversies such as class struggle and proletarian dictatorship, which were still unresolved for him. The silence of a man like Li Ta-chao, who was pre-eminently a thinker and who considered writing an essential means of awakening the people, suggests that Li was undergoing serious inner conflict springing from a clear realization of the incompatibility of the idealism and materialism co-existing in his mind. An endeavour to probe this conflict is going to take us back to and beyond the second stage of Li's evolution of thought.



1. 'The Society for the Study of Marxist Theory' was initiated in March 1920 under Li Ta-chao's leadership. The official foundation took place in October, 1921. See 'The Society for the Study of Marxist Theory at Peking University' (Pei-ching ta-hsiieh ma-ke-ssu hsiieh-sho yen-chiu-hui), compiled by the Documentation Department of the History of Peking University, in Collected Essays on the May Fourth Movement, op. cit., Appendix, p. 99. Some authors, basing themselves on Japanese sources, state that a 'Society for the Study of Marxism' (Ma-ke-ssu chu-i yen-chiu-hui) was established in 1918, under Li Ta-chao's leadership, and that this society was the forerunner of the 'Society for the Study of Marxist Theory', established in 1921 under the influence of C C P members. See Liu Nung-ch'ao, op. cit., pp. 55, 56. According to Professor Chang Hsi-man, Ts'ai Yiian-p'ei, Ch'en Tu-shiu, Li Ta-chao and he himself initiated a 'Society for the Study of Socialism' (She-hui-chu-i yen-chiu-hui) at Peking University during the May Fourth Movement in 1919, and this society was renamed the 'Society for the Study of Marxism' in 1920. See Chang Hsi-man, Historical Memoir, (Li-shih hui-i), Tung-fang Book Company, January, 1949, pp. 1 , 3 , 143, 144, 145 passim. T o what extent the 'Society for the Study of Socialism', the 'Society for the Study of Marxism' and the 'Society for the Study of Marxist Theory' were related and to what extent the former two can be regarded as organised societies instead of loosely formed groups of individuals are two questions awaiting further research. Cf. Chow Tse-Tsung, op. cit., p. 244, foot-note k ; B . I. Schwartz, Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao, Harvard University Press, 1958, pp. 1 6 , 1 7 and the 'Peking University Daily', op. cit. 2. In January 1918, a Committee of Editors was formed for La Jeunesse. Members of the Board took turns editing each issue. The special 'Marxism'-number was published under Li Ta-chao's editorship. For a detailed description of the composition of the Committee and of the general history of La Jeunesse, see Chow Tse-tsung, op. cit. pp. 44, 45, foot-note d. It is significant that Li Ta-chao availed himself of every possibility to promote publications on subjects related to Marxism and labour. Under Li Ta-chao's influence, in addition to the above, the following publications were brought out: The Special Number on 'Commemoration of May Day', Morning Paper Supplement (Ch'en-pao fu-k'an), May 1, 1919. This was the first time a Chinese newspaper had produced a commemorative issue for May Day. See Periodicals, Vol. I, pp. 99, 105. Regular Column on the 'study of Marxism', Morning Paper Supplement, ibid., p. 114. 3. Li Ta-chao, 'My Views on Marxism' (Wo ti Ma-ke-ssu-chu-i kuan), La Jeunesse, Vol. VI, No. 5, May 1919. In Selected Works, p. 190. 4. Ibid., p. 191. 34

5. Ibid., p. 193. 6. Ibid., p. 194. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid., p. 195. It is not clear from the original text whether 'its value for the age' (ta na shih-tai ti chia-chih) means its value for the age of Marx or its value for all the ages. In the context of the quotation, it seems Li meant the value of Marxist theory for Marx's own age, but in the context of the entire article it is clear that Li considered historical materialism still valid for his time as well as for the foreseeable future. This may serve to illustrate some of the contradictions between Li's academical approach to Marxism and his faith in Marxism as a revolutionary ideology. 9. Ibid., p. 205. 10. For instance, the difference between actual market price and value may constitute a problem in economic theory, but it does not alter the ethical judgment on capitalist exploitation. See above p. 19. 1 1 . Li Ta-chao, 'Class Struggle and Mutual Aid' (Chieh-chi ching-cheng yii hu-chu), Weekly Review, No. 29, July 6, 1919, in Selected Works, p. 222. 12. Ibid., p. 223. 13. Ibid., p. 224. 14. Ibid. 15. See above pp. 8, 9. 16. See List of Li's publications, note 8 to the introduction. 17. See, among other articles, Li Ta-chao, 'Pan-Asianism and New Asianism' (Ta-Ya-hsi-ya chu-i yii Hsin-Yahsi-ya chu-i), Citizens Magazine, Vol I, No. 2, January 1 , 1 9 1 9 . In Selected Works, pp. 119-221. 18. See Li Ta-chao, 'Super-Governments' (Tai-shang cheng-fu), Weekly Review, No. 23, May 26,1919. In Selected Works, p. 215. 19. See, among Li Ta-chao's other articles, 'Politics of the Pig-slaughter-house Type' (ts'ai-chu-ch'ang-shih ti cheng-chih), Weekly Review, No. 18, April 20, 1919. In Selected Works, p. 167. 20. Li Ta-chao, 'The Fuse of the Extremist School' (Kuo-chi-p'ai ti yin-hsien), Weekly Review, No. 1 1 , March2, 1919. In Selected Works, p. 1 5 1 . 2 1 . According to Circular No. Ill of the society, the study was to be carried out by: Discussion Meetings (weekly), Public Lectures (monthly) and Special Studies - aimed at forming ten groups for the following ten subjects: 1 . Materialism, 2. Class struggle, 3. Surplus value, 4. The dictatorship of the proletariat and the three periods prescribed by Marx for the completion of communism, 5. History of socialism, 6. Comparisons and criticism of the late schools of socialism, 7. History of economics and history of economic theory. 8. The Russian revolution and its construction, 9. The study of the Bolshevik Party and the Third Communist International, 10. The actual circumstances of the plunder by the world's capitalist countries in the world's weaker nations with special emphasis on China (italics added). See 'The Society for the Study of Marxist Theory at Peking University', in Collected Essays on May Fourth, pp. 1 0 1 , 1 0 2 . 22. C . M . Wilbor and How, op. cit. p. 79. For other English sources on the Chinese Communist Party see also: A. S. Whiting, op. cit., Brandt, Conrad, J. K. Fairbank, and B . I. Schwartz, eds., A Documentary History of Chinese Communism. Cambridge, Mass., 1952, North, Robert C., and I. de S. Pool, Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Elites. Stanford University Press, 1952, and X . J. Eudin and R . C . North, Soviet Russia and the East, 1920-1927, A Documentary Survey, Stanford University Press, 1957. 35

23. A Brief History of the Chinese Communist Party (Chung-kuo kung-ch'an-tang li-shih chien-pien), edited by Wang Shih and others, People's Publishing House, Shanghai, 1958, p. 34. 24. See T'eng Chung-hsia, A Brief History of the Chinese Labour Movement {igig-ig2^),

(Chung-kuo chih-kung-

yün-tung chien shih), People's Publishing House, 1957, pp. 38-39. The first edition of this book was published by the Central Publication Bureau of Soviet Russia in 1930. 25. According to T'eng Chung-hsia, the labour movement which started in January, 1921, at Ch'ang-hsin-tien, a central railway station near Peking, was led by T'eng himself and Chang Kuo-t'ao. Li Ta-chao's role in it consisted in using his influence on Kao En-hung, the Minister of Communication of the war-lord government, to have six Communist Party members (recommended by Li) appointed as secret investigators on the six main railways, thus facilitating greatly the penetration of the Communists into the labour movement. See T'eng Chung-hsia, op. cit., p. 15. Cf. Ch'i-wu lao-jen, 'Remember Comrade Li Ta-chao' (Hui-i Li Ta-chao tung-chih), in The Chinese Workers (Chung-kuo kung-jen) XI-XII, 12-5-1927, in which the author (one of the six investigators) gives a short account of Li's activities in Peking between 1922-23. The 'February Seventh' general strike of the railway workers in 1923, put down by W u P'ei-fu in a bath of blood, was alleged to be under the direct leadership of T'eng Chung-hsia and Li Ta-chao. However, T'eng in a detailed description on the whole development of the strike (op. cit., Chapter VII) did not even mention Li's name. Li Ta-chao in a short speech, 'Commemorating the 'February Seventh' and commemorating Lenin' (Chi-nien 'er-ch'i* yü Lenin), published in the New Students (Hsin hsüeh-sheng), February, 1924, states: 'I went to Han-k'ou to deliver speech(es) a few days prior to the 'February Seventh' incident of last year. I saw with my own eyes our comrades were promoting a great movement to struggle for the freedom of free association and of free organization. I also saw the beast-like soldiers slaughtering the workers. When I was in the boat, I heard about the bloody incident'. It is difficult to infer, from Li's own account, that he had been an active organizer in the 'February Seventh' Labour Strike. Li's article is reprinted in Selected Works, pp. 499-500. All sources seem to agree that Li was not an active leader directly involved in the labour movement, but rather, a guide and protector of it. 26. For instance: 'The Problem of Labour Education', February, 1919, in Selected Works, pp. 138-139. 'The Problem of Postwar Women', 1919, ibid., pp. 140-145. 'Workers' Life in the Mines of T'ang-shan', (T'angshan mei-ch'ang ti kung-jen sheng-huo) March, 1919, ibid., pp. 153-154. 'The Basic Evil of the Labour Problem', (Lao-tung wen-t'i ti huo-yiian), December, 1923, ibid., pp. 490-496. 'Land and Peasants' (T'u-ti yü nung-min), December, 1925, ibid., pp. 523-536. 'The R e d Spear Associations in Shan-tung, Ho-nan, Shan-hsi and other Provinces' (Lu Y ü Shan teng sheng ti Hung-ch'iang-hui), 1926, date and month unknown, ibid., pp. 564-570. 27. See e.g., 'The 'Youth Movement' of the 'Young China", op. cit., 'From a Vertical Organization to a Horizontal One", quoted above, p. 33, and translated in Part T w o , Supplementary Document to Section V B . 'The Liberation of the Spirit' (Ching-shen chieh-fang), February, 1920., ibid., p. 309. 28. Li Ta-chao, 'The Concept of History' (Shih kuan), part of the lecture notes on The Development of the History of Thought (Shih-hsüeh ssu-hsing shih), written in 1920, published by the Commercial Press, Shanghai, 1924, ibid., p. 287. 29. Ibid., p. 290, passim. 30. Li Ta-chao, Letter to Fei Chiao-t'ien, published in Review of the Reviews (P'ing-lun chih p'ing-lun), Vol. I, No. 2, March 20, 1921. Ibid., pp. 336, 357.


31. For a collection of instructions and resolutions of the Executive Committee of the Communist International to the Chinese Communist Party on the K M T - C C P alliance, see The Communist International, 1919-1943, Documents, selected and edited by Jane Degras, Oxford University Press, i960. Vol. II, 1923-1928. The E C C I resolution on the relations between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang was passed on January 12, 1923, see ibid., pp. 5, 6. 32. ' E C C I instructions to the Third Congress of the Chinese Communist Party' (excerpts), ibid., pp. 25, 26. The Third Congress of the C C P was convened in July, 1923. In the Manifesto of the Third Congress, the K M T was criticized for its illusion that it could secure foreign aid and its negligence in the field of mass propaganda. However, it stated that 'the K M T should be the central force of the national revolution. More than anything else, it should assume the leading position in the national revolution' (emphasis added). The Manifesto is reprinted in Hu Hua, ed., Reference Material, pp. 86-87. For an English translation of the Manifesto, see Conrad Brandt and others, op. cit., pp. 71-72. 33. According to Chang Ching-ju, 'After the Second Congress of the Chinese Communist Party', (July, 1922), Comrade Ta-chao represented the Party in its negotiation with Mr. Sun Chung-shan (Sun Yat-sen). He made Mr. Sun understand that only by carrying out the 'Three Great Policies' of alliance with Russia, alliance with the Communists, and aid to the workers and peasants, could the national revolutionary movement be pushed forward. Thus, the collaboration between the K M T and C C P was speedily arrived at'. See Chang Ching-ju, op. cit., p. 1 1 . 34. According to all K M T records. See for instance, Lang Hsing-shih, ed., Revolution and Counter-revolution, (Ke-ming yii fan ke-ming), Min-chih Book Company, Shanghai, 1928. A collection of essays by K M T leaders, including Wang Ching-wei, Hu Han-min, W u Ch'ih-hui and Chang Chi, denouncing Communists and defending the orthodoxy and the position of the K M T . See particularly p. 594. 35. Ibid., Hu Han-min's record, p. 160. Liu Lu-yin's record, pp. 459 and 460. See also, Tsou Lu, A Brief History of the Chinese Kuomintang (Chung-kuo Kuomintang shih liieh), Commercial Press, Ch'ung-ch'ing, 1945, Chapter VII, The Reorganization of the Chinese Kuomintang, p. 1 1 7 . According to Lo Chia-lun, Li Ta-chao not only spoke on behalf of the C C P members in K M T at the First National Congress of the K M T in 1924, but also submitted a letter in his own handwriting to the same effect. This letter is said to be preserved now in T'ai Wan. See Lo Chia-lun, Sixty Years of Chinese Kuomintang and China (Liu-shih-nien-lai chih Chung-kuo Kuomintang yii Chung-kuo), published by the Party History Compilation Committee of the K M T , T'ai Wan, 1954. 36. According to Chang Ching-ju, Li Ta-chao headed the C C P delegation to the Fifth Congress of the Comintern June 7-July 8, 1924. See Chang Ching-ju, op. cit., pp. 1 1 - 1 2 . It is very likely that Li travelled occasionally in the Northern provinces in order to investigate the actual conditions of the peasants movement, as his article on the ' R e d Spear Association' shows some real knowledge and experience of rural conditions. However, no detailed records of his activities are available as yet. 37. According to Chang Ching-ju, Li personally led the students and citizens in Peking in the movement for tariff autonomy, October-December, 1925. On March 28, 1926, three thousand people in Peking demonstrated and surrounded the State Department headed by Acting Prime Minister Tu'an Ch'i-jui, protesting the Government's policy of compromise towards the foreign imperialist governments in their unreasonable demands. Li Ta-chao was one of the leaders in the demonstration and was wounded by the police who opened fire at the crowd and killed 46 people. See Chang Ching-ju, op. cit., p. 13. Lu Hsiin in his Preface to the Collected Essays of Shou-ch'ang also mentioned that Li was one of the demon37

stxators on that occasion. For detailed descriptions on the incident from several points of view see, inter alia, The Modern Review (Hsien-tai p'ing-lun), Vol. Ill, No. 67 and 68, published by 'The Society of the Modem Review', Peking University, 1926. 38. See Note 8 to the Introduction. 39. Li Ta-chao, 'Land and Peasants', in Selected Works, p. 525. 40. Ibid., p. 535. 41. This does not mean, however, that all Li Ta-chao's words and deeds were approved by the Communist Party. For instance, in 1922, Li was among the seventeen signatories to the declaration of the 'good government' policy, promoted by Hu Shih. See 'Our Political Opinions' (Wo-men ti cheng-chih chu-chang) in Hu Shih, Collected Works ofHu Shih, Second Collection (Hu Shih wen ts'un er chi), Ya-tung Library, Shanghai, 1924, pp. 27-34. Cf. Liang Shu-min, The Final Awakening of the Movement for National Survival (Chung-kuo min-tsu tzechiu yün-tung chih tsui huo chüeh-wu), Village-administration Monthly (Ts'un-chih yiieh k'an), Peking, September, 1932, p. 333. 42. See Supplementary Document to Section IV B . 43. Li Ta-chao, 'The National Revolution of Sun Yat-senism and the World Revolution' (Chung-shan chu-i ti kuo-min-ke-ming yii shih-chieh-ke-ming), Political Life (Cheng-chih sheng-huo), 1926. Month and date are not given in the reprint, nor in any of the complete lists of Li Ta-chao's Writings. Ibid., p. 562. 44. Li Ta-chao 'The Young People and the Villages' (Ching-nien yii nung-ts'un), The Morning Paper, February 20-23, 1919, ibid., p. 146. 45. Li Ta-chao, "The Youth Movement' of'the Young China", ibid., p. 237. 46. Ibid. 47. 'Land and Peasants', ibid., p. 535.





Our proposition that Li Ta-chao's silence on the theories of idealism and materialism during the last three years of his life indicates that he was undergoing an inner search, is based on the observation that what abruptly ceased to flow and develop-or, rather, to manifest itself in the form of writing-were basic, consistent and durable principles that made up Li's personality and gave meaning to his life, namely, his convictions about the content and form of the ideal society here and now. Li Ta-chao was attracted to the October Revolution precisely because he considered socialism, of which the Russian people were the vanguard and Marxism was the ideological source, to be the essence of modern democracy, and identical with the classical ideal of the Great Unity. To him, socialism symbolizes the re-awakening of the human heart in the twentieth century. The signal of this reawakening was the structural change from a vertical form of society, based on force, to a horizontal one based on love. The motive force behind this change was economic development. Since the economic structure tended to develop horizontally, the social structure would necessarily move in the same direction. The historical tendency will finally lead to the foundation ofvarious international associations, uniting people according to their individual functions in society and their personal interests. The union of all these associations will result in making the whole world one horizontal confederation. 'In this great horizontal confederation, every individual is free and equal, and lives in a world of mutual love and mutual aid. This is the prospect of the Great Unity'. 1 Li's acceptance of the message of the October Revolution added a concrete element to his cosmopolitan outlook; he now clearly saw that only world revolution could bring about world democracy.2 The accent on the proletarian world revolution was subdued in favour of the national liberation movement during the entire period of KMT-CCP alliance. This temporary change of emphasis did not seem to constitute theoretical inconsistency in the minds of the CCP members within the KMT. According to Lenin's 'Theses on the National and Colonial Question', it was practicable as well as logical for Communists to regard a national liberation movement as a stepping-stone to the victory of the international proletarian revolution. Li Ta-chao for one had never failed to emphasize that the greatest merit of Sun Yat-sen was the remarkable insight he displayed in guiding the national revolution on the correct path. 'He accepted the Communist members representing the interests of the Chinese worker and peasant classes, reorganised the KMT, stressed the importance of organizing workers and peasants and so made it a party of the broad masses and brought the Chinese national revolutionary movement into close union with world revolution.3 If world revolution, one of the pillars of Li's faith in Bolshevism, was not the source of the conflict in his mind, then this could only have been caused by self-questioning on democracy in relation to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Li Ta-chao's clear realization that what class struggle would 39

create was not an imminent classless society, but, instead, a prolonged period of proletarian dictatorship, resulted from further serious study of Marxist theory and from his engaging in C C P activities. The July, 1922, issue of La Jeunesse carried a long article on 'Democracy and Ergatocracy', in which Li for the first time touched on the subject of proletarian dictatorship. This was introduced by an elaborate discussion on the meaning of democracy. As he put it, 'Democracy is a certain quality, a spiritual custom and a total expression of life. It is not merely a concrete political system, it is actually an abstract philosophy of life; not merely a product of pure reason, it is actually permeated with deep emotions, passions and desires.'4 Therefore, interpreting it as 'People's rule', or 'popular government' was already outdated. The best explanation, Li thought, was given by J . G. Masaryk: The political and social purpose of democracy is the aholiton of the relationship between subjection and rule. The original meaning of democracy is 'people's rule\ The purpose of democracy in modern times, however, is not at all to rule. It is to belong to the people, to be for the people and to let people administer themselves. How to implement the new plans and new conceptions of state organization is not just a question ofpower ; it is a difficult technical problem of administration.5 The faults of bourgeois democracy, Li continues, arise from hypocritical practices, rather than from its essential qualities. Lenin was at pains to draw a dividing line between bourgeois democracy and proletarian democracy, because the former is not the democracy of the 'people', as it claims to be, but the democracy of the middle class. Not only was the majority of men, the labouring class, excluded from the 'people', but the other half of the human race, the women, as well. On the other hand, Li asserted, under the reign of the proletarian democracy the difference in the status of the sexes will disappear, and all the people will have equal opportunity to work and to enjoy the fruits of their labour. In essence, proletarian democracy differs in no way from bourgeois democracy, except that it is to be more perfect and more real. This type of 'purified' democracy was given the new name of Ergatocracy so as to preserve it from contamination by bourgeois-abused democracy. Before the dawn of the golden age, however, Ergatocracy must be preceded by a period of workers' rule in order to put down any possible counter-revolutionary movement. This is the period of proletarian dictatorship; it is to last 'till private ownership, the characteristic feature of bourgeois democracy, is entirely wiped out, without any possibility of it reviving. The dictatorship of the proletariat will finally usher in the classless society. Then the content of Ergatocracy will undergo a fundamental change and the essence of ruling persons will gradually give way to the management of things. This will be the true Ergatocracy'. 6 The theory of proletarian dictatorship brought Li Ta-chao face to face with the sober reality of a prolonged, and sterner, rule of men over men in the wake of a Bolshevik revolution. Resorting to the maxim that 'the end justifies the means', Li could not help stressing his ideal-which was the end-all the more vigorously: The aim of true democracy is to abolish the relationship of rule and subjection, to break the system which abuses the person by treating him as a mere thing. Socialism pursues the very same aim. Whether it be the rich who rule the poor or the poor who rule the rich; men ruling women; the strong oppressing the weak; the old lording it over the young or vice versa; these are systems of abuse and domination which go against the spirit oj socialism. However, there are many stages in the development of democracy; at present, socialism lays special emphasis on resistance to economic abuse.7 40

It seems that Li Ta-chao had found temporary relief by directing attention away from the problems of the political system under socialism to those of the economic system only. 8 Yet the dilemma was such that it could not be removed simply by resorting to the formula that'the end justifies the means'. What Li regarded as true democracy presupposes minimum government interference as well as a fundamental improvement in human nature. The basis of democracy is not the power of the majority, Li quoted John Stuart Mill repeatedly, 'for the tyranny of the majority in no way differs from the despotism of a single man'. 9 The overall importance Li attributed to the freedom of the individual renders his passing remarks in defence of the use of force unconvincing.10 To replace the political rule of men over men by the economic administration of men over things was Li Ta-chao's idée fixe throughout his life. The inner conflict caused by the discrepancy between ideal and reality found only temporary relief in the consideration that in the given situation of China only force could be employed to end force.


1. Li Ta-chao, 'From a Vertical Organization to a Horizontal One' (Ts'ung tsung ti tsu-chih tao heng ti tsuchih), Liberation and Reconstruction (Chieh-fang yü kai-tsao), January 1920. In Selected Works, pp. 303, 304. 2. See above, p. 21. 3. Li Ta-chao, 'The Position of Sun Yat-sen in the History of the Chinese National Revolution' (Sun Chungshan hsien-sheng tsai Chung-kuo min-ts'u-ke-ming-shih shang chi wei-chih), Citizens' New Paper (Kuo-min hsin pao), March 12,1926. In Selected Works, p. 358. See also pp. 543, 544; and pp. 562, 653, passim. 4. Li Ta-chao, 'Democracy and Ergatocracy', La Jeunesse, Vol. IV, No. 6, July, 1922. Ibid. p. 395. 5. Ibid., p. 396. 6. Ibid., p. 398. 7. Ibid., p. 400. 8. See for instance: 'The Economic Organization under Socialism' (She-hui-chu-i hsia ti ching-chi tsu-chih), speech delivered to the Economics Academy of Peking University, published in the Journal of the Academy in January, 1923. Ibid., pp. 428-432. Also, 'Dissipating Doubts on Socialism' (She-hui-chu-i shih yi), speech delivered to the Academy of Social Problems o f Shanghai University in September, 1923. Published originally in Awakening, November, 1923. Ibid., pp. 476-478. 9. 'Democracy', ibid., p. 414. See also p. 51. 10. Apart from the remark in the article on 'Democracy and Ergatocracy', quoted above, see also Democracy, a booklet published by the Commercial Press in January, 1923, which is an elaborated version of'Democracy and Ergatocracy'. Ibid., pp. 407-427. Refer to pp. 411, 425, 426 in particular.



The Era of May Fourth, recognized by Chinese intellectuals as the dawn of a new age, witnessed two crucial turning points in Modern China's revolution in thought. The conflict between Western ideas and ways of life and traditional Chinese culture produced, on the Eve of May Fourth, the New Culture movement. This was a conscious endeavour by leading thinkers to promote Western ideas which crystallised in the spirit of democracy and science. The movement culminated in the collapse of Confucianism-the universal ideology and the social system that had been immutable through the ages. The second turning point arose from the powerful effect of the October Revolution on Chinese minds. The encounter of socialist doctrines and Western liberal ideas in the realm of Chinese thought initiated a new conflict between two world currents of thought. In the contest for ascendancy between these two ideologies, the realities of the political situation in China played a decisive role: an idea held no value for the Chinese intellectuals unless it could contribute to the solution of China's burning problems. In the preceding sections, an attempt was made to assess the role Li Ta-chao played in modern China's intellectual revolution, particularly in the promotion of Marxism during the Period of May Fourth. The development of his thinking along the lines of Bolshevik socialism was projected against the background of his Philosophy of Life and his Concept of the Universe on the one hand, and the historical setting of his time, on the other. His untimely death left unresolved the essential question how he would have reconciled his unshaken devotion to individual freedom with the total claims of Communist ideology on its followers. In Li's own lifetime, his position was overshadowed by the prestige of Ch'en Tu-hsiu, Chairman of the Central Committee of the C C P from 1921, the year of the foundation of the Party, to 1927. In to-day's China, however, Li is credited with being the principal founder of the Party and honoured as the forerunner of Chinese cultural enlightenment and as the real leader of the May Fourth Movement. 1 While Ch'en is cast aside as a 'rightist opportunist', Li is awarded the aureola of a revolutionary martyr of the Party. His writings, distributed over many different periodicals and dailies of the May Fourth Period, are being collected and reprinted; they are also being studied anew with the aim of learning from his revolutionary thinking and his heroic spirit. His too early death serves to explain why he did not entirely absorb Marxism and did not completely develop into a Marxist theorist. However, quite apart from its importance in the promotion of the Communist revolutionary cause, Li's philosophy of life was a valuable bequest to Chinese culture. While embodying the best philosophical traditions of the past, it absorbed the characteristic spirit of the West; it synthetized Chinese visions of the eternal Universe and of cosmopolitan society and the Western concept of life, 43

progressive and youthful. In addition, Li's introduction of Marxism as an instrument for the study of the history of China and the analysis of Chinese society contributed materially to the mushroom growth of the social sciences,2 and favoured the scientific approach in all fields of studies. The evaluation of the heritage of the May Fourth Era, animated by the spirit of democracy and science, of national liberation and of socialism, is not yet completed. The transvaluation of traditional culture brought about by the meeting of Confucianism with Western liberal thought destroyed the Confucian social structure, but left unimpaired some of the fundamental values of its humanist spirit and universal outlook. Likewise, the removal in China of the Western-type parliamentary system and its replacement by a Party Dictatorship by no means imply a repudiation of fundamental democratic principles, namely, the dignity of the individual as a person and the legal guarantee of his basic rights. A clue to this universal and persisting controversy between individual and society may be provided by the answer to the question, to what extent the present situation allows the creation of conditions reconciling individual freedom with social justice. Li Ta-chao, who sought in Marxism the scientific basis for the realization of the Great Unity, has enlightened the mind of his country, and given his life for the birth of a young China. His revolutionary spirit will continue to influence and inspire with a vision of a regenerated human society to be created and enjoyed by all nations and peoples.



1. See e.g. T'eng Chih, 'Who Led the May Fourth Movement?' (Shui ling-tao liao Wu-ssu yün-tung?) In Collected Essays on May Fourth Movement, op. cit., pp. 46-52. Liu Nung-ch'ao, 'The C. in - C . Who led the May Fourth Movement - Comrade Li Ta-chao', op. cit., pp. 53-60. 2. See e.g. 'The Field of Chinese Translation on Social Sciences in 1929', in Publications, Vol. II. pp. 7-18. In that year alone, 1 5 1 items were listed.





Each of the following texts from Li Ta-chao's works has been selected to illustrate the content of the appropriate Section of the monograph, preference being given, when feasible, to those texts least cited in it. These are not necessarily the most influential articles Li wrote, nor the best from a literary point of view. Moreover, as Li considered writing the chief means of infusing young minds with revolutionary ideas, most of his articles were written in a somewhat popular style and they were sometimes repetitious. To make the whole concise and more readable, therefore, in some cases only excerpts from some texts have been translated.







The present situation of the Russian revolution is that political power belongs entirely to the Radical Socialist Party, which has overthrown fundamentally the traditional political and social organizations. The appearance of temporary confusion is likely to provoke the pessimism of those who follow developments there. Also, many of our countrymen are secretly and groundlessly worried about the situation. I have gone into the matter. In any age, the foundations of a new life and of a new civilization are often laid in hardship and terror; examples of this can easily be found throughout history. The birth pangs of a new creation often frighten conventional people who regard basic change as a catastrophe, without realizing that in the course of the evolution of human history, the greatest success invariably comes in the wake of the greatest sacrifice and suffering. The Russian revolution today, like the French revolution in the past, is an unprecedented upheaval which will influence the civilization of the coming age. Did not France at that time give cause for fear and apprehension on the part of people throughout the world and make them deeply pessimistic about her? But the foundations of the later freedom and happiness of the French people were laid in that revolution. Not only that, but the entire world civilization of the nineteenth century, as expressed in political or social organizations, was wholly conceived in the bloody tide of the French revolution. The civilization following upon the early period of the twentieth century will inevitably undergo an unparalleled change; who knows but that its seed will germinate in the bloody tide of the Russian revolution just as it did in the eighteenth century French revolution? Do not those people who are now pessimistic about the Russian revolution resemble those who were pessimistic about France ? It may be said that what the French advocated and fought for was 'freedom' whereas what the Russians struggle for is 'bread'. Therefore, the demands of the French were directed at the liberation of reason whereas the demands of the Russians today concern the satisfaction of material needs and desires. The motivation of the Russian revolution is therefore inferior to that of the French revolution, consequently the result of the Russian revolution is necessarily less desirable than that of the French one. Moreover, there was the French patriotic spirit in the past which was strong enough to uplift the hearts of the French people, but such a patriotic spirit is absent in today's Russia. Therefore, although the French had taken untold risks to set off the revolution, in the end they were able to resist powerful enemies without and to stabilise the country within, thus firmly laying the foundation of democracy and broadening the scope of the reign of freedom. It is highly doubtful whether the Russians will be able to do what the French did in the past, namely to restore order and to rebuild the social structure. This reasoning fails to discern that the French revolution was an eighteenth century revolution, based on nationalism, and that it was a political revolution with 49

social connotations. O n the other hand, the Russian revolution is an early twentieth century revolution, based on socialism, and that it is a social revolution tinted w i t h the colours o f w o r l d revolution. T h e spirits o f the ages differ, so do the natures o f the revolutions; the t w o cannot be compared under the same sun. It is true that the French had the French patriotic spirit to uplift the hearts o f the w h o l e nation; but does Russia today have no Russian humanist spirit to awaken the mind o f the people within and to s w i m w i t h the world's current without? Otherwise it w o u l d have been impossible for the w h o l e country to rise in revolution under the flowing red banners. Furthermore, nowhere on earth has the penetration o f humanism into the hearts o f the people been as deep as it has been in Russia. For many decades, writers have risen continuously to fight tyrannical religious and political systems w i t h their humanist and social literature. T h e remote wilderness o f cold Siberia is full o f the graves o f those w h o died for the cause o f humanism. It is impossible, then, to deny the Russians the spirit o f humanism. T h e difference is, then, that the French spirit was the spirit o f patriotism, whereas the Russian spirit is the spirit o f universal love. T h e former has its root in nationalism, the latter inclines to internationalism; the former often becomes the source o f war, while the latter is likely to become the herald o f peace. Histories o f civilizations teach us that in any country a period o f prosperity is to be followed b y a period o f decline. T h e civilizations o f European countries like England and France have already reached full maturity and have exhausted the possibility o f further g r o w t h . T h e civilization o f Germany is in the heyday o f its g r o w t h and has dominating p o w e r over the world. H o w e v e r , the vitality o f German civilization can be considered to have reached its limits. F r o m n o w on decline can be expected to f o l l o w prosperity. A l t h o u g h Russia is also an European country, w h e n compared w i t h other European countries, the progress o f Russian civilization was the slowest and was three centuries behind the others. L o o k i n g back into history, the reason was that Russia suffered more than three hundred years under the M o n g o l iron-steeds w h i c h put an abrupt end to the then g r o w ing civilization and brought Russia back to the primitive barbaric stage. Therefore Russia alone remained unaffected b y the European Renaissance, and lost touch w i t h European civilization. Precisely because Russia was isolated, the progress o f her civilization was slower than that o f the European countries; and precisely because her civilization lagged behind, it still retains the vitality essential for development. Geographically speaking, Russia is situated between Europe and Asia, therefore the essence o f her civilization contains characteristics o f both Europe and Asia. Reinsch* made the following observation on the relation between the civilizations o f East and W e s t : ' . . . t h e Russian spirit will f o l l o w a middle w a y between the Eastern and Western civilizations, and w i l l act as the intermediary between the t w o . If Russia succeeds in assimilating the vastness o f China, Orientalism w i l l benefit f r o m a strong and healthy political organization, w h i c h w i l l help it to extend its virtue and characters all over the world. T h e confrontation o f these t w o forces is an event o f the future; however, that this confrontation w i l l produce an unprecedented result is quite o b v i o u s ' . * * This statement was made in 1900. A l t h o u g h many changes have taken place since, and the change in the political organization o f China preceded that in Russia, w h i c h prevents Reinsch's predictions f r o m being c o m pletely fulfilled, what he said about the capacity for the Russian spirit to act as a harmonising intermediary between Eastern and Western civilizations is certainly not incorrect. A s a matter o f fact, Asians are endowed w i t h religious talents, whereas Europeans are endowed * Paul S. Reinsch. * * See World Politics, Chapter III, 'The Meeting of Orient and Occident'. (Li's own notes).


with political talents. Except for the Druids, all religions in the world have their origins in Asia. Therefore, in Asia there is nothing which can properly be considered politics; at most there is 'politics of the theocracy' based on religious spirit. As for Europe and its extension, America, they are the sources of modern states and politics. None of the countries which practise liberal politics fail to follow their example. This development has become so popular that it has also reached Asia. A study of the people of Russia shows that they have three great ideals: 'God', 'the absolute monarch', and 'the people', and these three exert equal influence on the Russian spirit. The reason is that the Russian people are not only affected by the religions of Oriental civilization but also stirred by the politics of Occidental civilization, so that 'humanism' and 'freedom' have penetrated into the hearts of the people. Therefore the life and the civilization of the Russians are half-Oriental and half-Occidental, as hitherto the Russians have not succeeded in harmonising the two and making a synthesis out of them. Now that the tide of revolution has enabled the Russians to break through the spheres of influence of 'God' and the 'absolute monarch', basing themselves on the tenets of humanism and freedom, they have entrusted all political power to the masses. None of the peoples of the world except the Russians can create a new world civilization embracing the characteristics of both East and West and the talents of both European and Asian peoples. History is a record expressing the universal mind. Therefore, authoritative history can stir up the hearts of millions, and only history which expresses the mind of millions has the power to stir up the hearts of millions. There is nothing in human life which is not closely related to the great pivot of eternal reality. The future of one person is related to the future of humanity as a whole, and the symptom of any single event is related to the symptom of the entire world situation. The French revolution was not only a symptom of the awakening of the French mind, but was in fact a symptom of the awakening of the universal mind of humanity in the nineteenth century. The revolution of Russia is not only a clear symptom of the awakening of the Russian mind, but is in fact the clear symptom of the awakening of the universal mind of humanity in the twentieth century. When the leaves fall, the world is aware that autumn is approaching, and when the cuckoo calls, one perceives what the future has in store. In history there are many fallen leaves announcing autumn and the calls of many a cuckoo predicting the future, stirring the hearts of those who read it. This is not because historians deliberately write about startling events to excite emotions; it is simply that historical events manifest themselves. Our attitude towards the Russian revolution can only be to welcome it as the dawn of a new world civilization, and to lend our ears to the tidings of a new Russia based on freedom and humanity, so that we adapt ourselves to this new world current. There is no need to be pessimistic just because of the present temporary confusion. From: Yen Chih (Quarterly) Vol. Ill, July 1 , 1 9 1 8 ; reprinted in Selected Works, pp. 101-104.


Section II


(The creation o f a young China) The day has its dawn and so has the year, the individual has his youth and so has the nation. Today, grey-haired China has one foot in the grave, while a youthful China is not yet conceived. The twilight of the old year is fading and the dawn of the new year is approaching. Now, when things are dying, yet being born, when they are being ruined, yet being completed, destroyed, yet constructed, decaying, yet blossoming, we ring this Morning Bell, so that, together with our heroic and energetic young people, we can welcome every day anew the uplifting spirit of the morning, and make the efforts worthy of the new light of the twentieth century. Everyone filled with the vitality of youth should send forth the morning ray of a new youthful China. Every sound evokes an echo, and every echo awakes a dream, so that the self-awakening of each individual leads to the selfawakening of an entire people. Let everyone arise resolutely and march forward courageously without looking back, to demand from the goddess of liberty an ideal China, a youthful China. Let everyone cease to tarry and to hesitate, sitting away the time of day. Others are already drawing water from fresh springs, and tasting new grain, but we are still lingering in bed, caught up in the declining old age of grey-haired China, snoring away in the dreamland of a slumbering China. Foreigners who slander us used to say: the Chinese nation is a nation on the way to ruin, its people in decline. When such words come to the ears of our spirited and fearless young people, they cannot but at once provoke a violent reaction, making them determined to rise up together with our four hundred million countrymen to wipe out such an outstanding insult. After reflection, I have come to realize that the great cosmic evolution spirals through prosperity and decay, ups and downs. The living cannot escape death, the ruined will eventually be built up, decay awaits strength, old age is succeeded by youth, new life is often born in the midst of innumerable graves. Our country and people have a great past of several thousand years, unique in history. It is only nowadays that we are considered old and decaying. There is no need to conceal this fact, nor is there any harm in the fact itself; much less should it weaken the spirit of our young people and frustrate their ambitions! W e ought to realize that if we are to radiate splendour in the world of the twentieth century, it is no good for the old China to survive, but instead a new and glorious China should be re-born. Consequently, the best service our youth can render our country and our people is not to preserve the grey-haired China, but to create a young China. The way in which the Morning Bell serves the youth who are fostering the birth of the young China is not by lingering over the China at death's door, but by welcoming the new-born China. Therefore China herself has no definite future, but she takes the future of her youth as her own future; the Morning Bell itself has no definite future, but it takes the mandate of the youth as its own. China will not die so long as her youth lives. The sound of the Morning Bell is the voice of the youth. A nation cannot live for one day without its youth, and 52

youth cannot live for one day without being awakened. Whether or not a young China can be created depends upon whether or not youth can be awakened, and whether or not youth can be awakened depends upon whether or not the Morning Bell rings vigorously. Opening issue of the Morning Bell Paper, August 15, 1916; reprinted in Selected Works pp. 58-63. Excerpt from pp. 58-59.


Section III


These days we are celebrating victory and there is a lot of excitement about. However, let us ask ourselves: to whom does victory belong and for whom are we celebrating it after all? I should like to speak frankly. This victory has not been brought about by the military strength of the Allied powers, but by the new spirit of humanity in the world. It is not the victory of the war-lord or capitalist government of this or that country, but the victory of the common people all over the world. W e are not celebrating on behalf of one part of the people in this or that country, but on behalf of the common people of the world. Nor are we celebrating because the Germans are defeated, but because world militarism is defeated. The outcome of the great war is twofold: political and social. The political result is the defeat of 'Pan... ism', and the victory of democracy. We recall that the cause of the war lies entirely in the conflict between 'Pan...isms'. W e have heard that there were 'Pan-Germanism', 'Pan-Slavism', 'Pan-Serbism', 'Pan...ism' and the like. In our Eastern hemisphere, there appeared also 'PanAsianism', 'Pan-Japanism' and the like. In our China we have 'Pan-Northernism', 'Pan-Southwesternism' and the like. Within the 'Pan-Northernism', 'Pan-South-westernism' there are subdivisions into many more 'Pan...isms'. With 'Pan...isms' multiplying in this way, who will be less keen to be great than I am? In such a situation conflict develops between two 'Pan.. .isms' and between a 'Pan... ism' and the many small forces, causing continuous warring within and without, year in and year out. 'Pan... ism'is in fact a euphemism for despotism; it is nothing but a kind of-ism which relies upon force to oppress and ill-treat others. Because of the existence of this kind of -ism the peace of human society is disturbed. To resist the tyranny of this kind of violent force, people have advocated the principles of equality and freedom based on the spirit of mutual aid. These principles expressed in the political sphere are called democracy and are in direct opposition to 'Pan...ism'. The European war was a war between 'Pan...ism' and democracy, so were the civil wars in our country. The results are identical, namely, the defeat of'Pan... ism' and the victory of democracy. The victory of democracy is nothing else but the triumph of the common people. The social result is the defeat of capitalism and the victory of labourism. As a matter of fact the real cause of the European war was the development of capitalism. Within national boundaries productive forces could no longer be absorbed and therefore each capitalist government wanted to break through national boundaries by means of the great war, in order to establish a great world empire and to form one economic organization with their own country as the centre so that they could promote exclusively the interests of the capitalist class in their own country. The labour classes in Russia and in Germany were the first to discover their ambitious plot and did not hesitate to rise 54

in social revolution in order to check the war of the capitalist governments. The labour classes of the Allied powers also demanded peace, and there is a gradual tendency for them to take the same action as their fellow workers in other countries. Thus the unprecedented war came to an end; thus the new era of world reform began; thus capitalism was defeated; and thus labourism triumphed. Capitalists are but a handful in the world, while workers form the overwhelming majority. This is because the capital of the capitalists is accumulated either by inheritance or through the monopoly of capitalist economic organization. However, the ability to labour is common to all men, therefore, the victory of labourism is also the victory of the common people. Since democracy and labourism have triumphed, from now on everyone in the world becomes a commoner, and a labourer. Confronted with this new world tide, we should come to realize a few points. First, that the birth of a new life invariably involves much suffering and many dangers. It is thanks to the labour and the pains of the mother that the son is born. The creation of the new era also involves great hardship, inevitable in the course of evolution. There is no need to fear, nor to escape it. Secondly, we ought to realize that this current of thought is only to be welcomed and not to be rejected. W e should try to swim with this current and not resist it. The history of humanity is a record expressing the universal mind. The change of one person's heart is a sign of the changing of every heart throughout the world. The occurrence of a single event is the omen of an approaching world storm. The French revolution of 1789 heralded the nineteenth century revolution. The Russian revolution of 1917 heralds the world revolution of the twentieth century. Thirdly, we must realize that at the Peace Conference none of these plotting politicians of the 'Pan-ism' type ought to be allowed to speak and none of those terms stinking of'Pan-ism' or containing the seeds of'Panism' ought to be allowed. Even if such politicians should make proposals and even if such terms should be drawn up, these should be absolutely invalidated. Unless people who stand for justice and who are free from the prejudice of nationality are in the majority, there is little chance of the Peace Conference succeeding. Finally, we should realize that the world of the future is the world of the workers. W e should make use of this tide to enable everyone to become a worker and not a robber. Anyone who eats without working is a robber. Robbers who fight among themselves for the spoils are still robbers. W e Chinese are accustomed to being covetous and easy-going; we are either robbers or beggars. W e always hope not to have to work and that we can either rob others or beg from them. When the whole world will become one large factory and everyone enjoys the fruits of his own labour, where would we be, covetous and easy-going as we are? Therefore, if we want to be one of the common people of the world, we ought to be a worker of the world. Everyone, make haste to work! From: La Jeunesse, Vol. V., N o . 6, October 15, 1918, reprinted in Selected Works, pp. 1 0 9 - m .


Section IV A


It is commonly said that capital, land and labour are the three essential factors of production. However, from the point of view of Marxist economic theory, every form of production depends on labour. Capital and land are produced by labour and are the result of labour. For instance, unless water is conducted from the sea and coal is transported from the mine, they are valueless in themselves. Therefore all values depend on labour to transform and produce them. In former times, although all kinds of production depended upon labour, distribution was entirely dominated by the capitalists - we can simply say, 'there was no distribution at all'. From a practical point of view, 'socialism' is born within the womb of capitalism; when 'socialism' is born, it goes and overthrows capitalism. That is to say, 'capitalism produces its own executioner'. The opposition to capitalists is the working class, which is naturally in an oppressed position. Now those who are awakened with 'class consciousness" will unite all working classes of the world to form an 'economic organisation of the international proletariat'. Some say the Chinese working class has no economic organization and cannot unite with the international proletariat. This is not really true. China is influenced by the foreign capitalists; moreover, Chinese workers are spread all over the world. It cannot be said that the Chinese workers are not important. Let us reflect for a moment. There exists the tendency towards antagonism between the workers and the capitalists in other countries. Those small producers who have become proletarians under the oppression of the capitalists always have a place where they can assemble and know how to fight the capitalists on their own ground. But the Chinese workers are under different circumstances. They have nowhere to assemble, nor do they know how to go about fighting the capitalists! Small industries in our country are gradually dying out as a result of the economic pressure of foreign capitalists. The Chinese workers suffer more severely from the indirect oppression of foreign capitalists than do the working classes in the capitalist countries from the direct oppression of their home capitahsts. They are now homeless and dispersed everywhere, incapable of finding employment or the means of association. This is the condition of our country; so many proletarians exist. From an international point of view, can we say that the Chinese workers are of no importance to society? Perhaps it is not very reasonable to give a negative answer! 'Working classes of all countries, unite!' said Marx in the 'Manifesto of the Communist Party', and he pointed out that the proletarians of all countries are awakened, and possess an 'international organization'. Why must they have an international organization? Because the capitahsts want to oppress the workers, to make the working hours as long as possible and to reduce the wages. To oppose these methods, workers use the 'general strike' as a weapon to fight against capitalists. If 56

there is no international organization for the workers, capitalists would employ workers from foreign countries, so that the 'general strike' would be defeated. For instance, should the Japanese workers go on strike, the Chinese workers could go there to damage the cause, if there were no 'international organization' for the proletariat. 'The international organization of the proletariat' in fact does exist. There have been the 'First International', the 'Second International' and the 'Third International'. The 'First International' passed into oblivion after the Franco-Prussian war. The 'Second International' was imbued with much of the spirit of Marx. However, when the European war broke out, the majority of its members forsook the cause of the second international and plunged into the war, so that their International existed only in name. The 'Third International' has convened in Moscow, it carries on the spirit of world revolution of the 'First International' and is comparatively more progressive. In recent years, the strength of the working class is rising. The Communist Party of England has been ordered by the 'Third International' to join their country's Labour Party. At present, workers are gradually being united almost everywhere in the world. Their strength grows every day and the time of the revolution also draws nearer every moment. This is entirely the result of the influence of Marx's economic theory. It cannot be denied that the present condition of labour in China owes everything to the influence of Marx. From: Morning Paper, February 2 1 - 2 3 , 1 9 2 2 ; reprinted in Selected Works, pp. 3 7 1 378. Excerpt from 376-378.


Section IV B


1. Speech delivered on the anniversary o f the Kuo-Min Magazine (iOctober 12, 1919) The 'May Fourth Movement' is a movement against 'Pan-Asianism', that is, against aggressionism. It is not born out of hatred of the Japanese people. Whoever in this world aims at oppressing justice with might will be fought by us, no matter whether they are Japanese or non-Japanese! Therefore, I think it does not do justice to this movement to consider it merely a patriotic movement. It is, as a matter of fact, part of the liberation movement of humanity. Gentlemen, when you carry on the May Fourth Movement in this spirit, you will be making a great contribution to the well-being of the world. Exert yourselves! Citizen Magazine, Vol. II, N o . i , November, 1 9 1 9 ; reprinted in Selected Works,

P- 255 2. The 'May Day' o f the Chinese students The date of May 4 is the 'May Day' of Chinese students. Because it was on this day that the Chinese students rose to resist the world of might by direct action. It has the same significance as the May 1 of the working class and therefore it ought to be regarded as a day to be commemorated. It is my hope that the Chinese students will develop this spirit and will put down every kind of might with the spirit of human freedom, so that justice and humanism may shine ever more brightly in the world. We should not look at it from a narrow point of view, as if this is merely a commemoration day of the patriotic movement. I earnestly hope that henceforth every year when we commemorate this day, we can add some new meaning to it. I eagerly look forward to the unlimited advance of the Chinese students! Morning Paper, May 4 , 1 9 2 1 , in Selected Works, p. 358

3. Commemorating the May Fourth (Speech delivered at the Peking Student Association) Today is the commemoration day of the May Fourth. It was on this day that the students joined in the political movement and put right the political practices of the day. The chaotic condition of politics forced us to sacrifice our academic spirit in order to intervene in politics. More than ten 58

years have elapsed since the birth of the Republic. The revolution is not yet consummated and the heirs of the revolution are none other than we ourselves. But in undertaking this great task, we must have principles and goals. At present there are two things the students should do: 1. Organize the masses as the instrument to bring about the great revolution; 2. Take up the position of censors of the present government. It is not enough to organize the masses only, for the government is able to do damage to our work. I hope students will make efforts along these lines. In this way, they are sure to reap great results in the future. Morning Paper, May 4, 1923; in Selected Works, p. 463

4. This week' This week there are several commemoration days.* The commemoration day o f ' M a y Fourth'. This is the day on which the Chinese students of the whole country dealt a blow to the Chinese traitors, and launched a general attack on imperialism. This is also the day on which the oppressed peoples rose against their oppressor nations for freedom. It is the day of the citizens and of the students. On this day we should recall every detail of the humiliating history of the aggressions inflicted upon us by international imperialism. We should hold fast to the spirit of the 'May Fourth' movement and firmly resolve to recover our national sovereignty and to wipe out the humiliations of our people. Peking

University Economics Academy Bi-weekly,

N o . 24; in Selected


pp. 502, 503. * The other three commemoration days listed by Li Ta-chao are: May Day, May 1 ; May Fifth, birthday of Marx and May Seventh, national humiliation day, officially commemorating the Twenty-one Demands delivered to the war-lord government of Yuan Shih-kai by the Japanese Government in 1915 (Translator).


Section V A




Formerly society was organized vertically, while we now require society to be organized horizontally. Vertical organized society was one in which the upper class and the lower class stood in opposition to each other, while the society we now require is one of equal partners which does away with class inequality. The former society was one in which force dominated, while the society we now demand is one in which love will be the cementing force. Take politics as an example. In former times, subjects were subordinated to the king, people were ruled over by officials, local districts were governed by the central authority; it was a vertical organization. Now the people have united to form a horizontal organization and to overthrow the power of kings and officials, and all the local areas have united to resist the concentration of power in the central authority. As for economics. In former times, the rich hired the poor, capital robbed labour, and the landlords enslaved the tenants; it was a vertical organization. Nowadays, the working class, the proletariat unite to form a horizontal organization to resist the rich and powerful class and the capitalist class. As for society. In former times, those who worked with their intellect were honoured and those who worked with their hands were despised; the gentry, the nobility and men were exalted wheras the country-folk, the ordinary people and women were debased - it was a vertical organization. Now the class of manual workers are united to resist the class of mental workers, the class of countryfolk against the gentry class, the class of women against the class of men. As for the family. In former days, the patriarch governed the family, father and elders ruled sons and the younger ones, husbands lorded it over their wives - it was a vertical organization. Nowadays, sons and youngsters want to shake off the power of the patriarchs, wives want to shake off the power of their husbands, they walk out from their families to join youth and women's organizations which are of the horizontal type. The primary cause of this change is the economic change. The old economic organization was vertical; accordingly all social organizations are following this trend and moving towards horizontal structures. The tendency of today's world is that the vertical organizations decline all the time while the horizontal organizations are increasing and expanding every day. Even in China, all kinds of people's autonomous groupings begin to take shape. In the future, students, teachers, merchants, workers, peasants, women and every kind of occupation will have their own organizations, these organizations will eventually transcend national boundaries and join great world associations, and all these will be united into a great horizontal world confederation. In this confederation, every 60

person will be free and all will be equal; love and mutual aid will prevail: such will be the prospect of the Great Unity. In a vertical organization, the personality of the oppressed lower class is restricted, trodden upon, humiliated and ill-treated by those who set themselves in the position of the upper class, so that the personality of the lower class people is entirely sacrified for the sake of the upper class. But when there is a horizontal organization, the persons of the lower class can unite and become a great force against the powerful class of the vertical organization and restore the dignity of their personalities. Thus we can see our liberation movement is a movement aiming at the overthrow of vertically organized society, and our reconstruction movement is a movement aiming at the establishment of a horizontally organized society. The basis of a vertical organization is force, while the basis of a horizontal organization is love. Our supreme ideal consists in freeing all human relations from force and basing them purely on love, so that the totality of human life will not be based on strife but purely on love. From: Liberation and Reconstruction, Vol. II, No. II, January 1 5 , 1 9 2 0 ; reprinted in Selected Works, pp. 303-304.


Section V B


The common definition of democracy is that 'it is the government of the people, for the people, by the people'. But Mallock was not the only one who saw through the hypocrisy of this phrase. He exposed this hypocrisy in the very beginning of his Limits of Pure Democracy. The term 'people' is used in a very ambiguous and obscure manner. Half of humanity, the women, are excluded. The majority of the remainder, the proletariat, are also excluded, whilst the title 'the people' is usurped to deceive the people. Democracy, as commonly understood, is not true democracy, but the democracy o f the bourgeoisie. Therefore, in a speech delivered at the Third International, in Moscow, April, 1919, Lenin made painstaking efforts to make a distinction between bourgeois democracy and proletarian democracy. Later, in his State and Revolution, and other writings, Lenin more than once praised proletarian democracy. However, although he praised democracy, he was vigorously opposed to parliamentary politics, considering such methods purely deceptive. The cunningness of this device lies in its turning the parliament, possessing the splendid title of representatives of the people, into a talking shop. Appearances are kept up whilst behind the curtain the privileged class controls politics. T o remedy this defect, Lenin considered it necessary to make the house of representatives not only an organ for speech-making, but also an executive organ. Although the system of representation is indispensable for democracy, the parliamentary system is not. As a matter o f fact, true democracy cannot be realized without doing away with this hypocritical parliamentary system. From this, it can be seen that modern democracy is evolving along the path from bourgeois democracy to proletarian democracy. Under proletarian democracy, the discrimination between the sexes will disappear as a matter of course. This is w h y some say that only proletarian democracy is pure and real democracy. In essence, although proletarian democracy is also a kind o f democracy, communist political theorists replaced this term of democracy, which has been so very much abused by the bourgeoisie in the capitalist era, by a new term of their own, the ergatocracy, thus opening a new era. This is a new-born term that has not yet appeared in the dictionary. The philological origin of this word is to be traced to the rich source of the Greek language, just like the word 'democracy'. In Greek, 'ergates' means workers and therefore 'ergatocracy' means workers' rule, which can be translated as proletarian democracy. In time of revolution, to put down counter-revolution and to strengthen the basis of the new system and new ideal, a period o f the dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary. In this period, the power of the proletariat replaces the power o f the bourgoisie; working-class' rule replaces bourgeois oligarchy. In this period, ergatocracy involves 'rule', nay, a severe kind of rule; all power is concentrated in the central government, which rules over other classes by strict measures. Under the socialist system, the socialist spirit will be promoted so that it will penetrate 62

the masses until the characteristic feature of bourgeois democracy, namely, the system of private property, is entirely abolished, without any possibility of being revived. Then the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat will pass away, the class system will be eliminated and the content of ergatocracy will undergo a great change. 'Rule' will gradually disappear and the management of things will replace the rule over persons. Then, ergatocracy will be the administration of the workers, for the workers, by the workers, then, apart from the children and the invalids everyone will be a worker and there will be no ruling class. This alone is real proletarian democracy. From: La Jeunesse, Vol. IX, No. 6, July i, 1922; reprinted in Selected Works, pp. 395-400. Excerpt from pp. 396-398.



Original Texts

The following original texts are reprinted from Li Ta-Chao's works. The translations of these texts are to be found in Part Two.




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GLOSSARY A. Special terms

Aggressionism Anarchist Basic Solution Bolshevism Bourgeoisie Class Struggle Capitalist Chinese Labour Union Secretariat Communism Communist Party Declaration Democracy Dialectics Dictatorship of the Proletariat Dualism Evolutionism Extremist School1 Fundamental Change General Strike Great Unity (the) Guild Socialism

Historical Materialism Horizontal Organization Humanism Idealism Intellectuals Labour Movement

Ch'in-liieh chu-i Wu-cheng-fu chu-i-che Ch'e-ti chieh-chüeh Pu-er-shih-wei chu-i Tzu-ch'an chieh-chi Chieh-chi tao-cheng Tzu-pen-chia Chung-kuo lao-tung tsu-ho shu-chi-pu Kung-ch'an chu-i Kung-ch'an tang Hsiian-yen Min-chu-chu-i Pien-cheng-fa Wu-ch'an-chieh-chi chuan-cheng Er-yiian-lun Chin-hua-lun Kuo-chi-p'ai Ch'e-ti kai-tsao Tsung-t'ung-meng pa-kung Tat'ung Chi-er t'e she-hui-chu-i or Hang-hui she-hui-chu-i Li-shih wei-wu-lun Heng-ti-tsu-chih Jen-tao chu-i Wei-hsin-lun Chih-shih fen-tzu Kung-jen yün-tung

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Labourism Leftist Liberalism May Fourth Movement Manifesto Marxism Marxism-Leninism Nationalism Nationalist Party New Culture Movement New Idealism1 Orientalism2 P a n . . . ism Parliamentary System Pragmatism Progressive Party Radicalism Reformism Revisionism Rightist Opportunist Socialism Syndicalism Three Principles of the People Three Great Policies Third Communist International (the) United Front Vertical Organization Warlordism

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Refer to p. 24. Refer to p. 44.


Chiieh-wu Kuo-min tsa-chih Tung-fang tsa-chih Chieh-fang yü kai-tsao Ch'en-chung pao Ch'en pao Hsin-sheng-huo T'ai-ping-yang Cheng-chih sheng-huo Chien-she Hsin ch'ao

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La Jeunesse1


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1. Chinese Sources A. Articles by Li Ta-chao Translatedfrom Selected Works' in Part II

1. Fa-Ngo ke-ming pi-chiao-kuan. fe fin it ® 'A Comparative View of the French and Russian Revolution. Yen Chih Quarterly, 1,7,1918 " W ik fl] 'In Selected Works ofLi Ta-chao, 1918 2. Ch'en-chung chih shih-ming. Opening Issue, 15,8,1916. " flJflJSfe

ii • 'The Mandate of the "Morning Bell". Morning Bell Paper, •

3. Shu-mintisheng-li. 'The Victory of the Common People'. La Jeunesse, 5,5, I J , 10,1918; |fg g (fi

ifij •

4. Ma-ke-ssutiching-chihsiieh-shuo. 'The Economic Theory of Marx'. Morning Paper, 21-23,2> 1922. Jg


5. Tsai Kuo-min tsa-chih ch'ou-nien chi-nien-hui shang ti yen-shuo. • Speech delivered on the anniversary of the Kuo-min Magazine. Citizen Magazine, 2:1,11,19x9. " 0 S i ^ " * 6. Chung-kuo hsiieh-sheng chieh ti 'May Day'. ^ 13 Students'. MomingPaper, 3, j, 1921." fe # " •

£ Jf

'May Day'. 'The "May Day" of the Chinese

7. Chi-nien Wu yiieh ssu jih. fi^S-EI 0 0. Morning Paper, 4,5,1923. " ft " • 8. Che i chou. "fi —¿1'This Week'. Peking University Economic Academy bi-weekly, No. 24. " &



9. Ts'ung tsung-ti-tsu-chih tao heng-ti-tsu-chih. iSiit^JjBlftSJiiW'it&itt 1 'From a Vertical Organization to a Horizontal One'.Liberation and Reconstruction, 2:2,15,1,1920. " Sf H St" 10. P'ing-min cheng-chih yii kung-jen cheng-chih. ^SSCip^lICA®!: in. 'Democracy and Ergatocracy'. x. 7,1922. " if ^ "

La Jeunesse, 9:6,

B. Source Material on the Period of May Fourth

11. Chung-kuo hsin-min-chu-chu-i ke-ming-shih ts'an k'ao tzu-liao.^

• Hua, Commercial Press, Shanghai, 19,51. 494 pages. Ji J • - Contains some of the historical writings by Li Ta-chao, Ch'en Tu-hsiu, T'eng Chung-hsia, Yiin Tai-ying and other leading communists, as well as important communist Reference Material on the History of China's New Democratic Revolution, edited by Hu


declarations and observations on the current situation of China f r o m the early May Fourth Period till 1945. 12. Wu-ssu ai-kuo yun-tung tzu-liao. 3E Science Publishing House, Peking, 1959.863 pages, i t JR

Source Material on the May Fourth -ft tti M ft.

13. Wu-ssu yun-tung tsai Shang-hai*Shih-liao hsiian-chi. 2L 0 8 I f t f t _h ft ? jfe

i S 1$


The May Fourth

Movement in Shanghai; Selected Historical Material. People's Publishing House, Shanghai, 1961. 807 pages, i



g ffl SS i t 14. Wu-ssu shih chi'i ch'i-k'an chieh-shao.-ff H ^f W M -fll Jt" S3> Introduction to the Periodicals of the May Fourth Period. People's Publishing House, Peking, 1958 and 1959. Vol. I, 832 pages; Vol. II, 962 pages; Vol. Ill, 1121 pages. J b ^ A S W S S i t * - Contain a large collection of source material, including manifestos, articles inaugurating the periodicals and lists of contents of all the important periodicals of the May Fourth Period. 15. Chung-kuo hsien-tai ch'u-pan shih-liao.


China, edited and annotated by Chang Ching-lu.

f t ffl ® i t # Efc

Historical Material on Publications of Modem Chung Hua Book Co., P e k i n g . ^ £

2 Volumes and a Supplement, 1954,1955, and 1957.

C. Works on CCP, KMT and the Labour Movement 16. Chung-kuo Kung-ch'an-tang li-shih chien-pien. A Brief History of the Chinese Communist Party, edited b y W a n g Shih and others. People's Publishing House, Shanghai, 1 9 5 8 . A R W Sfi S t . 17. Chung-kuo Kuomintang shih-lüeh.'f* ¡8 | § BS 3K

. A Brief History of the Chinese Kuomintang,

Tsou Lu, J f # ^ . Commercial Press Chung-ch'ing, 19a.