Documents

Georgi Dimitrov and the Chinese Revolution

The over-riding concern of Dimitrov and the Communist International to build and preserve the unity of the CPC and the Kuomintang in the struggle against Japanese imperialism and militarism clearly emerges from this collection of documents. In his assessment, published in Bulgaria in 1954, Mao rightly stresses the role of Dimitrov in taking the initiative to elaborate the strategy of the united national front from the rostrum of the 7th Congress of the Communist International in August, 19351 (Document I). Mao commended the role of the Communist International in calling upon the international working class to assist the Chinese people in their just struggle against Japan and recorded the valuable help which was received by the Chinese people and army. Moreover, Mao invoked the authority of Dimitrov's writings with regard to the Chengfeng, the movement for the rectification of style, which was conducted in Yan'an and about which Dimitrov had critical opinions.

Mao's interview with Edgar Snow of October 1939, which touched on the United Front of the CPC and the Kuomintang excited considerable controversy in the Communist International (Document II). It resulted in the telegram of Dimitrov to Mao which denounced the provocative essence of this statement and requested Mao and the Chinese comrades to desist from granting similar interviews to foreign correspondents. (Document III). The exact content of Dimitrov's criticism is not fully clear as the text of this telegram has come to us in an incomplete form but it appears that Dimitrov was of the view that Mao's statements to the effect that 'the areas at present under control of Communist troops were administratively independent of Chiang Kai-shek's Government', and that China 'could not be fully unified till the Kuomintang dictatorship was abolished and succeeded by a democracy representing the Communists and others' were considered provocative and likely to weaken the united national front.2

Edgar Snow was evidently eyed with considerable suspicion amongst progressives internationally. His book, Red Star Over China was recognised to be of value as an authentic first-hand account of the Red Army, its leaders and their aims. Nevertheless, the first five editions of the book were subjected to blistering criticism. Laurence Hearn in his review published in the journal of the American Friends of the Chinese People noted that Snow had written the most glorious pages about the Red Army of China and its leaders but that at the same time he had indulged in bitter, unsubstantiated attacks against the Soviet Union, Stalin and the Communist International which were basically in line with Trotskyist polemics.3 Thus Snow wrote such phrases as 'the Communist International... has become virtually a bureau of the Russian Communist Party', and referred to the 'dictatorship of Stalin'. Snow on several occasions attempted to build up the idea that the Communist International used the Chinese Communist Party as a 'kind of a poor step-child which might be disinherited whenever it did anything malaprop'. Laurence Hearn, who was cognizant of the changes which were to be made in the sixth edition, revealed that this was to be changed to read: 'In 1927 the Comintern was sending its direction to Chen Tu-hsiu (the then general secretary of the Communist Party of China), who made his own interpretation of them (ignoring them sometimes when he disagreed), without consulting his comrades'. And so on. Dimitrov, too, apparently was alerted by the publication of Edgar Snow's conversations with Mao which were included in Red Star Over China. Wang Ming records that he was instructed by Dimitrov to explain to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and to Mao personally that he, Mao, had departed from the positions expected of a Communist in the course of his talks with a U.S. bourgeois journalist.4

After armed conflicts between the armed forces of the CPC and the Kuomintang in the Southern province of Anhui in January, 1941 some leaders of the CPC considered the question of a possible breach of the United National anti-Japanese Front. A careful reading of Dimitrov s telegram suggests that Mao tended towards a rupture with the Kuomintang (Document IV). Taking the international situation and the political conditions of China into account the Communist International argued that the United National Front against Japan needed further strengthening.5 Dimitrov requested Mao to reconsider his stand on the question.

The paramount necessity for Chinese national unity against Japanese fascism and militarism again is evident in Dimitrov's letter to Mao of 15th June 1942 which expresses the view that Zhou Enlai's secret meetings with the opponents of Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang in Chongqing would lead to strained relations between the two political parties (Document V).

Dimitrov's letter to Mao of 22 December 1943 was sent some eight months after the dissolution of the Communist International. Dimitrov asserted that the former leaders of the Communist International could not intervene in the internal matters of a Communist Party. On what basis then was Dimitrov voicing his concern? Dimitrov had enormous moral authority in the international communist movement. Moreover, the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) had established an international information department after the dissolution of the Communist International. This had been initially headed by A.S. Shcherbakov but later by Dimitrov.6

Dimitrov expressed grave concern at a number of political errors which were being committed by the Communist Party of China (Document VI). He criticised the policy of winding up the struggles of the Red Army against the Japanese occupier. He asserted that the weakening of the policy of the United National Anti-Japanese Front with the Kuomintang could lead to the danger of sharpening civil war. In connection with the Chengfeng movement, the movement for the rectification of style7 which was directed against the 'empiricism' and 'dogmatism' of Zhou Enlai and Wang Ming, respectively, Dimitrov argued that this campaign incriminated the Communist International's policy of the United National Front of China against Japan. Rather than being placed beyond the pale the services of Zhou Enlai and Wang Ming should be retained and utilised to the full. Dimitrov expressed his anxiety on the anti-Soviet attitudes of a part of the cadre of the Communist Party of China. The particular target of Dimitrov's critique was Kang Sheng who was, together with Mao, leading the Chengfeng campaign. Kang Sheng was charged with playing into the hands of the Kuomintang who wished to divide Wang Ming and other party activists from Mao and to create a hostile frame of mind directed against those Communists who had lived and studied in Moscow. Dimitrov in this manner charged the immediate circle of Mao with having anti-Soviet attitudes. Dimitrov's correspondence with Mao cannot but be a reflection of the official thinking of the leadership of the Communist International and the CPSU(b) about the developments in China. After the dissolution of the Communist International Dimitrov had been invited to become a member of the Central Committee of the CPSU(b) and a Deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.8 Dimitrov's correspondence has one farther, extrinsic, value. It corroborates in a succinct form the account of developments within the CPC leadership given in the diary of the Liaison Officer of the Communist International who was stationed at the headquarters of the Communist Party of China at Yan'an.9

Vijay Singh

References

  1. G. Dimitrov: 'L'offensive du Fascisme et les taches de L'Internationale Communiste', VIIe Congress de L'Internationale Communiste, Moscow, 1939, and Wang Ming: 'The Revolutionary Movement In The Colonial Countries', Speech Delivered at the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International, Bombay, 1950.
  2. This is suggested by the annotation of the Russian text given in Kommunisticheskii Internatsional i Kitaiskaya Revolyutsiya. Dokumenty i Materialy, Moscow, 1986, p. 309, which cites these quotations of Mao from the Daily Herald.
  3. China Today, April 1938, pp. 17-18.
  4. Wang Ming. 'Mao's Betrayal', Moscow, 1979, p. 173.
  5. Kommunisticheskii Internatsional i Kitaiskaya revolyutsiya, op. cit. p. 309.
  6. V. Khadzhinikolov, 'Georgi Dimitrov i Sovietsksya obshchestvennost, 1934-45', Moscow, 1975, p. 279.
  7. Boyd Compton ed., 'Mao's China, Party Reform Documents, 1942-44', Seattle, 1952.
  8. V. Khadzhinikolov, op. cit., p. 282.
  9. P.P. Vladimirov, 'China's Special Area 1942-45', New Delhi, 1974.

I. Georgi Dimitrov and the Chinese People

Mao Zedong

The Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party has decided to publish a collection of writings on the life and activity of Comrade Dimitrov. I want to use this opportunity to say a few words on the relations between Comrade Dimitrov and the Chinese people.

During the entire period when he was the leader of the Communist International, Comrade Dimitrov paid a lot of attention to the Chinese revolution. When he was selected as the General Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Communist International at the 7th World Congress of the Communist International, he appeared before the Chinese people in the name of the world revolutionary proletariat:

'We have decided to support you in your heroic struggle for national freedom. We have decided to render our support to help you in the complex problems of oppression by all the imperialist bandits and their Chinese lackeys and to help you to achieve full independence'.

On several occasions - during November 1937, September 1938 and during May 1939 - The Communist International turned to the world working class with the call to extend all possible support to the Chinese people in the war against Japan. In response to the call of the Communist International the working class of different countries expressed great sympathy and rendered valuable help to the Chinese people and the Chinese army which resisted the aggression of Japan.

Comrade Dimitrov in good time paid attention to the question of creating an Anti-Japanese United Front in China. In the special article written in July, 1936 on the occasion of the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the foundation of the Communist Party of China, Comrade Dimitrov gave especially great significance to the politics of the Communist Party of China relating to the organisation of the United National Front and the need of the struggle against 'left' sectarianism and right opportunism in the process of the creation of this united national front. These conclusions drawn by Comrade Dimitrov rendered great help to the Chinese Communists in the correct realisation of the united Anti-Japanese National Front during this period.

In China wide attention is paid to the works of Comrade Dimitrov on revolution. His book Fascism Means War has a particularly large circulation in our country. In June 1939 the publishing house of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China published a volume of The Selected Works of Dimitrov which carries many important articles of Comrade Dimitrov relating to the questions of the international anti-fascist front.

In 1942 when the Communist Party of China was carrying out a campaign for its ideological rearming, the Central Committee wanted all its members to study the conclusion of the Report of Comrade Dimitrov to the 7th Congress of the Communist International when he spoke of the cadre politics and for the necessity for easily understood propaganda work. All party members paid extraordinarily great attention to these two points in the report of Comrade Dimitrov.

Comrade Dimitrov has left us for ever. The Chinese revolution, which he supported with such great enthusiasm is victorious. The People's Republic of Bulgaria from which his death has separated him is bravely walking on the path of socialism and has created strong friendship with the People's Republic of China. All these victories are the greatest tribute to Comrade Dimitrov who now is resting in peace.

Comrade Dimitrov is Immortal!

Georgi Dimitrov belezhit deets no mezhdunarodnoto rabotnichesko dvizhenie, Sofiya, 1954, pp. 6-9.

Translated from the Bulgarian by Nirmal Kumar.


II. New Soviet Aid for Chinese

From Edgar Snow
Daily Herald Special Correspondent
YENAN North Shensi (delayed)

Frank declarations of policy were made to me in this war-racked citadel of Chinese Communism by General Mao Tse-tung.

Mao is the acknowledged leader of all the Chinese, Manchurian and Inner Mongolian Communists.

He directs 500,000 guerilla troops, which operate from the suburbs of Shanghai to the Amur River - mostly in the rear of Japan's Armies.

And he sprung a number of surprises.

First, he denied flatly that the Chinese Communists had ever submitted to the Kuomintang [China's single official party, headed by General Chiang Kai-shek, the Communists were stated to have accepted its leadership in 1937, when they joined up with Chiang as the war began].

The Communist Party programme, Mao said, was completely independent of the Kuomintang and aimed ultimately at social revolution.

Moreover, he declared, the areas at present under control of Communist troops were administratively independent of Chiang Kai-shek's Government.

Next Mao talked of help from Russia, which he said was increasing as British and French aid was being withdrawn.

But as a condition for increased Soviet military help in the future, he said:-

'China must unwaveringly continue the war against Japan and establish a closer political association with the U.S.S.R.'

Finally, asked whether Soviet troops would invade Manchuria and Mongolia to aid the victims of aggression (as in Poland), Mao replied:-

'It is quite within the possibilities of Leninism'.

Mao expressed his full support of Soviet policy in Europe.

'It is a logical part of the world liberation and revolutionary movement', he said.

British policy in the East was now directed towards crushing Chinese resistance by helping Japan to impose peace terms on China.

China's first task today, Mao went on, must be 'to change the old-fashioned political system'.

She could not be fully unified till the Kuomintang dictatorship was abolished and succeeded by a democracy representing the Communists and others.

'Unless democracy is realised', he said, 'Victory against Japan is impossible'.

Reports that Russian troops have already entered China's western province of Sinkiang are ridiculed here as this is regarded as 'unnecessary'.

It is also denied that Russia has presented any demands to Chiang Kai-shek, except to ask for assurances that he is determined to carry on the war and to silence those in favour of 'appeasement'.

'Daily Herald', October 21, 1939.


III. From the Telegram of G. Dimitrov to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Occasion of the Interview of Mao Zedong by the American Journalist Edgar Snow

October 1939

It is necessary to denounce the provocative essence of this statement. Communicate the contents of the last conversation with E. Snow [...] We urgently requested that Mao Zedong and other Chinese comrades refrain from giving interviews to foreign correspondents such as the interview to Edgar Snow as this is utilised for provocative purposes.

'Kommunisticheskii Internatsional i Kitaiskaya Revolyutsiya', Moscow, 1986, pp. 284-5.

Translated from the Russian by Nirmal Kumar.


IV. Telegram of G. Dimitrov to Mao Zedong

4th January 1941

Mao Zedong

We consider that a break is not inevitable. You should not direct yourself towards a rupture. On the contrary, lean on the masses who stand by the defence of the United Front, fully depend on the Communist Party and our army to avoid the expansion of internecine war. We request a reconsideration of your present position on this question and inform us of your understanding and suggestions.

Dimitrov

'Kommunisticheskii Internatsional i Kitaiskaya Revolyutsiya', Moscow, 1986, p. 291.

Translated from the Russian by Nirmal Kumar.


V. Letter of G. Dimitrov to Mao Zedong

15th June 1942

The current situation imperatively dictates that the Communist Party of China undertake to do everything possible to improve relations with Chiang Kai-shek and to strengthen the United Front in China in the struggle against the Japanese. We know that Chiang Kai-shek and the leaders of the Kuomintang provoke the Communist Party in every possible way with the purpose of isolating and discrediting it. But one cannot consider it to be correct politically on our side if we yield to this provocation at all. We must react to them with wisdom. Meanwhile there is information that Zhou Enlai in Chongqing does not take this into account in his activity and at times plays into the hands of provocation. He organises secret meetings with the opponents of Chiang Kai-shek and foreign correspondents hostile to Chiang Kai-shek. The last knows of this and utilises it for subsequently stirring up things against the Communist Party and justifying his own provocative measures.

I request you to pay serious attention to this circumstance and take urgent measures so that representatives of the Communist Party in Chongqing conduct firm, consistent politics directed towards the improvement of relations between the Communist Party, Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang avoiding on our side anything that might strain these relations. It is necessary that disputed questions be cleared up and the endeavour be made to directly settle matters with Chiang Kai-shek.

We request you to inform us of the measures and decisions you adopt regarding this.

Dimitrov

'Kommunisticheskii Internatsional i Kitaiskaya Revolyutsiya', Moscow, 1986, pp. 291-92.

Translated from the Russian by Vijay Singh.


VI. Letter of G. Dimitrov to Mao Zedong on the
Situation in the Communist Party of China

22nd December, 1943

Mao Zedong (personally only)

1. About your son. He is settled in the Military Political Academy. On completion he will acquire a solid knowledge in the fields of Marxism-Leninism and contemporary military matters. The youth is able and I do not doubt that in his person you will receive a reliable and good assistant. He sends you warm greetings.

2. About matters of a political character. We ourselves understand that after the disbandment of the Comintern no one of the former leaders can intervene in the internal matters of a Communist Party. But in an honest and friendly way I cannot but speak to you of the anxiety which has been aroused in me by the condition of the Communist Party. You know that from the beginning of 1935 I was closely and frequently concerned with Chinese affairs. On the basis of all that which is known to me I consider that a politically mistaken course is being undertaken to curtail the struggles against the foreign occupiers of China, and that a deviation from the policies of the United National Front is becoming apparent. In the period of the national war of the Chinese people such a course threatens to place the party in isolation from the state of the mass of the people, and has the capacity to bring about a perilous sharpening of the civil war which can only be in the interest of the occupiers and their agents in the Kuomintang. I consider the conducting of the campaign against Zhou Enlai and Wang Ming to be politically incorrect. It incriminates the recommendations of the Comintern policy on the National Front as a result of which they supposedly lead the party to a split. Such people as Zhou Enlai and Wang Ming need not be severed from the party, but, retained and utilised to the utmost for the work of the party. I am troubled by the circumstance that a section of the party cadres have unhealthy attitudes with relation to the Soviet Union. Doubts arise in my mind also concerning the role of Kang Sheng. The carrying out of such correct party measures as the cleansing of the party of enemies and building its unity, is being accomplished by Kang Sheng and his apparatus in such abnormal forms, that it has the capacity only to sow mutual distrust and to provoke deep indignation in the ordinary masses of the party membership and to help the enemy and its efforts to demoralise the party. Even in August of this year we received from Chongqing thoroughly trustworthy information that the Kuomintangists decided to despatch their agents provocateurs to Yan'an with the purpose of making mischief between you, Wang Ming and other party activists, and also to create a hostile frame of mind against all those who lived and studied in Moscow. I forewarned you in good time of this insidious design of the Kuomintangists. The secret desire of the Kuomintangists is to corrupt the Communist Party from within as it is easier in this way to bring about its destruction. For me it is beyond doubt that Kang Sheng in his activities is playing into the hands of these provocateurs. Pardon me for this fraternal plain-speaking. But only my deep respect for you and the firm conviction that you, the generally acknowledged leader of the Party, are interested to see things in their genuine light, allows me to speak so candidly. I request you to reply to me about the channel by means of which I may send you the current correspondence. I strongly press your hands - D[imitrov].

'Kommunisticheskii Internatsional i Kitaiskaya Revolyutsiya', Moscow, 1986; pp. 295-96.

Translated from the Russian by Nirmal Kumar.

Click here to return to the September 1996 index.