Trotsky on China


From Writings of Leon Trotsky (1930). Text from Wu-ch’an-che, no. 4, October 30, 1930. Translated from the Chinese by Joseph T. Miller.

August 22 and September 1, 1930

Dear Comrade ''N.,''[Liu Jen-ching]

2. 128 Today I finally received a copy of Comrade Ch'en Tu-hsiu's letter of December 10, 1929.129 I feel that this letter is an extremely good document. Totally clear and correct attitudes are taken in answer to all the important questions; especially on the question of a democratic dictatorship, Comrade Tu-hsiu takes a completely correct stand. At the time you wrote to me explaining why you could not unite with Ch'en Tu-hsiu, your reason was that he still seemed to support the "democratic dictatorship" viewpoint. I feel this question to be a decisive one, because if you do not have a proletarian dictatorship leading the poor peasants, then it is the same as a democratic dictatorship, which in reality is only another name for a new Kuomintang policy, that's all! There can be no compromise on this question! But it is clear from the letter of December 10 that Comrade Ch'en's position is correct. Because of this, how can I explain and defend your position? What other differing opinions have you? None, I think, unless there are some unexpected difficulties. How can we get together on the question of a national assembly? What kind of role would the parliamentary system play in China? On fundamental questions we are in complete accord. As for the unexpected or more complicated questions, some are merely academic, while others are tactical questions. These questions will be decided as events unfold. Here, I must honestly tell you that your opinions on the national assembly and the parliamentary system cannot stand, in my view. It is true that Wo-men-tihua says that this is Kautskyism, but there is no basis for this. l30

When we have such an outstanding revolutionary as Ch'en Tu-hsiu, who formally breaks with the party, is then thrown out of the party, and finally announces that his stand is 100 percent in accord with the International Opposition, how can we ignore him? Is it possible that you have many Communist Party members who are as experienced as Ch'en Tu-hsiu? He made many mistakes in the past, but he is already aware of them. To become aware of one's past mistakes is very valuable to revolutionists and leaders. We have many young people in the Opposition who can and should learn from Comrade Ch'en Tu-hsiu!

3. You attack the Wo-men-ti-hua group for incorrectly assessing the general political situation in China and denying the utility of slogans about striving for democracy. I have received a long letter from them, and it appears that the differences of principle about which you speak have all been eliminated. You wrote that they have revised the agenda of the conference. If this is so, they have revised it for the better and, moreover, are even closer to us. You attack them for their underhanded methods (such as bringing up old disputes and revising the agenda). Naturally, this problem carries its own meaning, but if they feel there are some mistakes, and everyone agrees to revise the agenda, that isn't such a terrible crime. Isn't it a fact that they are still doing all this revising in a Marxist spirit? The three other points that you raised (the most important being whether to work inside or outside the party) are really not questions of principle, for there has not been one Opposition section that has taken as its mission the creation of a second party. We must continue to look upori ourselves as factions within the party. Naturally, we must recruit new members into the Communist Party ranks, that is, into the Opposition. The correct mixture of work both inside and outside the party can only be attained through practical work. No matter what, our work outside the party must be of the following nature: Comrades inside the party must look upon us as friends, not enemies. Let's look at the European experience. In that case, the opposition in France and Germany has recently grown closer to the party, and yet there has been absolutely no lessening in the struggle between the party and the Opposition. This strategy has already obtained the very best results in France and is fast doing so in Germany.

4. Biulleten Oppozitsii, in its current issue, is giving great space to the China question.13l  It's too bad that, up to now, you have not sent any materials regarding China's peasant (soviet) movement, in order that we might adopt a correct stand. It is very important that we collect all information and carefully research all facts; otherwise we just might kill our opportunity to affect the whole situation.

Isn't there still a chance that the peasant war will converge with the workers' movement? This is an extremely important question. Theoretically, it doesn't discard the possibility of making gains while underground. That is, under the influence of the peasant insurrection, the revolution in the cities can intensify and quickly move forward. If this comes about, then the peasant insurrection takes on a different objective meaning. Naturally, our fundamental mission is to improve upon the ordinary peasant insurrection and, at the same time, to fuse with it. In addition, we must explain to the workers the true nature of peasant insurrections and what might be obtained through them in the future. Furthermore, we must devise a means to raise the workers' spirits through these insurrections. At the same time, we must visibly support the insurrectionists in their demands and programs, while opposing the landlords, officials, and bourgeoisie in their rumors, slanders, and repression. It is upon this foundation, and only this foundation, that we can expose the tricks of the Comintern organizations. They say that "soviet regimes" have been established in China -- without a proletarian dictatorship! It has even reached the point where the workers refuse to actively participate in the movement. I expect that the "International" [International Left Opposition] will soon issue a manifesto on this question to inform China's Communist Party members.

5. It seems to be a fine time for me to send you a copy of The Permanent Revolution.132 You should receive it soon.

6. I am afraid that the address I have for Chten Tu-hsiu is no good. Please send him my regards, and tell him that I was very happy to read his letter of last December 10. I firmly hope we can work together in the future.

A warm handshake,



September 1, 1930

Dear Comrades,

I have already received your letter of July 27 (from the Shihyueh she).

I will only answer very simply, because the International Left Opposition is at this time planning to discuss the problems of China's present situation in a special manifesto. So I will merely repeat what has been written to the other groups.

1. It is the policy of the International Opposition not to side with any particular group of the Chinese Left Opposition against any other group. The reason being: nothing in any of our materials suggests the existence of serious differences requiring continued disunity.

2. In light of this, no single group of the Chinese Left Opposition can consider itself the sole representative of the i. International Left Opposition and attack any other group.

3. The same goes for Comrade Chten Tu~hsiu's group. Not long ago I received an English translation of Comrade Ch'en's open letter of December 10, 1929. Comrade Ch'en expressed views on fundamental issues which were in total agreement with our general stand. Realizing this, I fail to understand why some of our Chinese comrades still call Comrade Ch'en's group "rightist." At the same time, none of the other groups have furnished us with any documentary proof of this charge.

4. Because of this, we feel it is necessary that these four groups publicly unite in a sincere fashion, basing themselves on commonly held principles. Recently, the International Opposition has advised these groups on the basic points that should be incorporated in the party platform to be drafted by the platform committee, and on the methods of organizing for unification.

5. As for the question of the national assembly, I have already discussed that in previous articles. It seems that some of our Chinese comrades seek to "split hairs" with us over this question. If we struggle amongst ourselves over this question and its concomitant problems (personally, I don't think this will happen), then this dispute will certainly manifest itself throughout the drafting of a party platform. Only after we have received alternate analyses can the International Opposition gauge the depth of this dispute. However, we sincerely hope that the analyses we do receive are not written in a contentious way; rather, they should be written in such a way as to enable the Chinese Left Opposition to unify on a firm foundation of commonly held principles.

Communist greetings,


P.S: I am sending you two copies of this letter; forward one to Comrade Ch'en Tu-hsiu, as I do not know his address.


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