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(CHINA in REVOLUTION, to 1927 – continued)

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CHINA in REVOLUTION, to 1927 (6 of 7)

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Mao Zedong and Peasant Rebellion, 1925-27

In 1925, Chiang and his Guomindang army extended Guomindang authority north from around Guangzhou 400 miles or so into Jiangxi Province. Briefly that year a Communist Party organizer, Mao Zedong, now thirty-one, was in neighboring Hunan Province to the west. Mao saw peasants rising spontaneously against their landlords. Here conditions were conducive to peasant revolt. They were forced to pay their taxes years in advance, they were paying high rents and were often in debt to landlords, who charged exorbitant interest rates. The average peasant in Hunan Province was having a hard time surviving.

A landlord army drove Mao out of Hunan. Back in Guangzhou, Mao spoke and wrote articles in support of peasant uprisings – contrary to Marxist orthodoxy. He pointed out that the proletariat in China was a small minority and that without the peasantry the proletariat would not win their revolution. Rather than having found peasants in need of guidance from an existing Communist Party vanguard, Mao found their passionate vigilantism as a model for revolution. The peasants, wrote Mao, were using "terror with fanfare," bringing their community together in meetings in which community members accused individuals of wrong-doing and intimidated the accused into making confessions. Mao described communities of peasants as attacking "local bullies and bad gentry and the lawless landlords." These community sessions, wrote Mao, are a force to which people either submit or perish. Mao recognized these vigilante groups as the "sole organ of authority" in their community. Even a quarrel between a man and his wife, he wrote, are settled at community meetings. As a result, he added, "the privileges which the feudal landlords have enjoyed for thousands of years are being shattered to pieces." Mao wrote that the peasants had accomplished "in a few months" what Sun Yat-sen had failed to accomplished in his forty-year effort at revolution (Mao ignoring changing conditions and attitudes across those forty years). A revolution, wrote Mao, is not the same as inviting people to dinner, painting a picture or doing fancy needlework. The peasants, he claimed, must use their maximum strength or they could never overthrow the deeply rooted authority of the landlords.

Communist Party leaders refused to publish his article in any Party literature. Contrary to Mao, Party leaders held to the position of the Communist international – the Comintern. The Communist Party was in a coalition within the larger more moderate Guomindang Party, and the Comintern's position was that peasants should not be encouraged to try to make revolution, that what was needed instead was national unification and China's Communists not aggravating moderates in the Guomindang Party.

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