‘How the Chinese Red Army Fights’ by General Chow En-Lai from the New Masses. Vol. 12 No. 3. July 17, 1934.

Zhou with Mao Zedong and Bo Gu in Yan’an, 1935.
‘How the Chinese Red Army Fights’ by General Chow En-Lai from the New Masses. Vol. 12 No. 3. July 17, 1934.

 [With the beginning of the counter-revolution in 1927, which gave birth to the Nanking Government, the workers and peasants throughout south and central China went into revolt. Peasants formed partisan bands and fought against the feudal landlords and militarist troops sent against them. Workers, particularly railway men and miners, revolted and formed other partisan bands, fighting over all hills and valleys of central China. Some of the soldiers – former workers from Canton and Hongkong-in the nationalist army revolted under the leadership of their commanders, and fought. Their chief commanders were the Communist officers Yeh Ting, Ho Lung, Chu Teh and Mau Tse-tung.

As the months and years Passed, these partisan and soldier groups amalgamated and formed Red Armies; in 1928 they united and became the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. The Chinese Communist Party was, and remains, the highest commanding organ of the Red Army.

The first congress of the Party in the Central Soviet Area, 1931.

Wherever the Red Army fought, the workers and Peasants, rising to fight with them, formed their own mass organizations, such as Trade Unions, Peasant Leagues, Women’s Unions, or similar organizations. At first Revolutionary Committees were formed from these; then these became transformed into Soviets, or Councils of workers, peasants, and soldiers. The Red Army became the defender of the revolutionary masses, the defender of the Soviets which spread until they today control a territory as large as Germany, with a population of about eighty millions. Within this territory feudal agrarian conditions which included serfdom and often slavery have been completely eliminated. All elements upon which imperialism depended for its control of China, have also been eradicated. The masses exercise full and free democratic rights, control the entire economic, social and cultural life within all Soviet territory. They have introduced sweeping reforms in all branches of their life.

The Red Army is the armed force of the struggling workers and peasants, linked body and soul with the masses who mobilize all their forces to support it in all battles against the reactionary Kuomintang – imperialist armies sent against it. Because it is the armed power of the masses, it has grown from small partisan bands in 1927 to a powerful, iron-disciplined army of more than 350,000 today, and with irregulars – Red Guards, Youth Vanguards, Partisans, etc. totaling about 600,000. It is armed with the weapons captured in battle from the Kuomintang-imperialist troops sent against. Guarding the firmly-established territory of the Chinese Soviet Republic, established in November, 1931, its strength represents the strength of the mighty Chinese workers and peasants.

Six great campaigns have been waged against it, and the following article relates from the inside the story of the 5th campaign. The Kuomintang troops are armed with the best weapons the foreign imperialist powers can furnish. -THE EDITORS.]

‘The Red Army Distributing Rice’ by Jacob Burch from ‘Days in the Chinese Red Army’ by Agnes Smedley. The New Masses. Vol. 11 No. 8. May 22, 1934.

FOLLOWING the tragic defeat of the 4th drive, Chiang resolved to train new cadres, placing emphasis on the tactics of mountain climbing, searching, reconnoitering, defending, etc. The forts as a defense against the Red Army were also stressed. The new cadres are more clever and cautious than the old, who always suffered successive crushing defeats. The primitive forts afforded a certain measure of protection to the Kuomintang troops. Menaced by a defeat from the Red Army, the Kuomintang troops may withdraw into the forts immediately. In spite of these improvements, however, the Kuomintang will suffer inevitable reverses during the 6th drive.

Chiang also obtained financial aid from the forces of imperialism (e.g., the $50,000,000 cotton and wheat loan from the U. S.) as well as from Chinese bankers, who bought Chiang’s bonds or gave him ready cash whenever he called for it. Besides buying large quantities of arms and ammunitions from imperialist countries, Chiang ordered the arsenals at Kankow and Hangchow to work day and night for supplies to the Kiangsi front against the Soviets.

Chiang put the vast army of 100,000 men in a tiny place, but he cannot secure enough food with which to feed it. The blockade enforced by the Red Army is quite effective in cutting off the rice supply. Chiang must import rice from abroad. The coolies used by Chiang for carrying rice always eat up one-third of what they carry on their shoulders. And here is another disadvantage for Chiang-he is forced to organize a large number of carriers for the regular army, to carry things for the soldiers. One-fifth of the army is composed of carriers. Out of 15,000 men of a full division, 3,000 are carriers. Another weak point is the lack of road facilities. A rice carrier from Shaowan, Kwangtung, may finish the rice at the end of his journey in Tayu, Kiangsi. Hence the construction of more roads which, as a rule, are built up by the peasants without pay and provision of food. The soldiers must take part in road construction in addition to fighting.

The enemy makes use of both old-fashioned and modern tactics. Chen Chen, one of Chiang’s lieutenants, has summarized the tactics of the enemy in one word. Hesaid that fish cannot be caught unless the pond is drained and dry. The enemy wants to starve us by blockade. He also organizes counterrevolutionary activities in Soviet territory.

Red Army on the march.

The above are the preparations of the Kuomintang for a prolonged war under the direction of imperialism.

Relying on the economic blockade to strangle us, on the mines and arsenals to turn out more arms and ammunitions, on the control of the transportation system, on the domination of sea ports, on the use of imperialism to isolate us from the world revolutionary movement, on a news blockade to shut off all victories of the Red Army and isolate us from the national revolutionary movement in China, the Kuomintang has made preparations to carry on a protracted war. While recognizing, to a certain extent, the harmful effects of these factors upon us, we should not forget that the mighty force of the people and the powerful Red Army have grown up out of the anti-imperialist land revolution. They are, indeed, so powerful that we believe they will break through the restrictions imposed by imperialism and the Kuomintang sooner or later. They will link with the world and the Chinese revolutionary forces. Here is a factor beyond the vague and meagre perceptions of the enemy. Our workers and peasants are imbued with the supreme militancy and creative power of the new classes, in sharp contrast to the landlords and the bourgeoisie, who, feeble and corrupted, are sinking down every day. Depending on the mighty strength of the masses and the Red Army, we will win the protracted war. Under this condition, our enemy will suffer his final defeat. What successes have we scored in the past five arid a half· months of sustained struggle?

In the first place, to the surprise of the Kuomintang, our Red Army, though fighting at the front all the time, has never weakened as the enemy expected. On the contrary, the Red Army has grown stronger and expanded tremendously, to the Kuomintang’s great disappointment. The Red Army refrained from the usual practice of sending a part of its forces to the rear for rest after a victory. The discontinuance is rendered desirable by the ceaseless · onslaught of the enemy. Besides, the Red Army has improved its military training and political level.

As to the expansion of the Red Army, it may be stated that the army is now one and a half times larger than it was last May. The extension does not include the reserves, training corps and independent regiments which have also increased in numbers. The Red Army has reached the greatest numbers ever recorded in the central Soviet territory. The shock movement for the expansion of the Red Army has been crowned with startling success. The quota of new red recruits for February has exceeded the original plan in Kiangsi. The Red Army in Kang Tung Pei has doubled while that in North Fukien has been enlarged by 50 percent. All the neighboring Soviet districts have shown expansion of the Red Army at greater or lesser speed.

The recruits enlisted from the village do not need much time in learning the art of fighting, for in the process they prove as efficient as the old fighters. This rapidity is made possible through the political class condition. After less than one month, the newly formed Young Communist division has wiped out the units of Chow Tse-chun, by walking 80 Ii a day. The glorious 45th regiment has for two months successfully resisted the attack of an enemy three times greater than itself. The Juikin division, composed of new recruits, bravely fought against five divisions of the enemy at Lichuau. Even with such conditions, the Red Army has always won the stubborn fight.

For training and educating the Red Armies, four military schools were added to the sole one already in existence, with the attendance of the students doubled. The cadets, mostly of the worker and peasant class, are candidates for the positions of higher and middle officers. Some of the cadets have been promoted to high positions for the formation of new divisions. The cadres for artillery, engineering, air defense, chemical warfare, etc., have also increased. The wireless sets have been quadrupled, compared with the 4th drive, while there are sufficient wireless students to do the necessary work. Doctors are now more numerous than before. At present we have two doctors for each improvised hospital.

The overwhelming majority of such cadres comes from the worker and peasant class.

They master in one year that which takes five or six years for those who come from the landlord-bourgeois class. These cadres are a sufficient reply to the imperialist-Kuomintang offensive, as well as to the opportunists among our ranks who pin no faith in the promotion of new cadres.

While admitting of difficulties in connection with military supplies on our part, we have been fighting persistently and successfully in surmounting these obstacles. Our finances are placed on a sound footing, capable of raising military funds for the Red Army, which in former times shouldered the main responsibility of filling the red war chest. Now the Red Army takes only a secondary part in the collecting of money for military purposes. From last September to January, 1934, our military expenditure for each month has increased by 40 to 45 percent, and is raised by the masses, who pay the land tax, buy the bonds, or increase production.

‘On November 7, 1931, the Communist Party of China held the first Soviet Congress in Ruijin, Jiangxi Province. At the opening of the congress, the main leaders of the Communist Party of China took a group photo.’

As to the question of uniforms and blankets, we may say that we have succeeded in procuring enough for our red fighters. Formerly this question could not be solved until after the victory of the Red Army. Now we have overcome this difficulty. Last December, new red fighters increased by 25 percent and thus upset the original plan, but we handled it all right. Spring and summer uniforms will be secured with an 80 percent certainty. The Red Army is assured of a six month’s rice supply and does not have to worry about the spring famine. Owing to the fact that the masses have brought rice to the Red Army in large quantities, we do not have to be anxious about the rice supply for the red fighters. One red regiment in the vicinity of Chienning collected 20,000 catty of rice in one day, the original plans having been for 10,000 only.

Despite the enemy forts, which are used to obstruct us from seizing its arms, our guns and rifles· have increased ceaselessly. Compared with last July, the rifles in the Red Army’s principal units have been increased by 30 percent. The ammunition output is considerably enlarged, especially since February. We turned out 100 percent more ammunition (for rifles) in February than in January, but the increase will be 150 percent in March. The production of hand grenades increased 100 percent as compared with January, but the increase in March will be 1,000 percent and in April 1,200 percent.

Our manufactured medicines are even better than the imported foreign products.

Mao in 1936.

All such facts signalize the achievements we have made in adding to our war supplies. They will dispel the pessimistic view on the question of supplies.

During the 6th drive of the Kuomintang, we have succeeded in securing a better coordination of the fighting units of the Red Army. We continue to fight the enemy on the main front, but we never give up fighting on minor fronts. The Red forces in west Kiangsi repulsed the enemy from the west route. The Red Army in the east and north Kiangsi holds six divisions of the enemy in check. Even the Soviets in north Fukien have held up three Kuomintang divisions. Red partisans have shown increasing activities in the rear of the enemy. Not only that, but we have built up strong defense areas and forts to cope with the protracted campaign of imperialism and the Kuomintang. The Red units fighting at various fronts have, during hostilities, been better coordinated.

Step by step we have consolidated· the organs in the rear. During the 1st, 2nd and 3rd drives of imperialism and the Kuomintang we had, strictly speaking, no stable base in the rear. But now we have a secure base for the storage of war supplies, for the transportation of sick and wounded soldiers, and for the transshipment of war booties. Now we have reserve regiments and a Red Youth Guard, much larger than before. It has been contemplated that during April over 6o percent of the able-bodied youths shall join the Red Youth Guards. We have set up offices for the training of enemy prisoners. We have more hospitals than before. In sanitation the Kuomintang is far behind us. Our success at Sahsien last year enabled us to extend our war industries considerably.

Finally, the transport system both at the front and rear has become quite efficient. We rely on our feet for transportation, but our success in this regard is startling. The couriers set a new record in walking. They cover the distance from Juikin to Sintien (300 li-100 miles) within 40 hours. They walk fast because they know what their tasks mean in relation to the shattering of the 6th campaign.

These enumerated achievements, together with the growing militancy of the workers and peasants, the expansion of the Red Army, the improved education of the cadres the sufficiency of war supplies, the coordination of the fighting units, etc., will assure our decisive victory in the prolonged war. On the basis of these fundamental factors, our Red Army, fighting all the time and on all fronts, has never shown any signs of weakness, as has been expected by the enemy. It has rather strengthened itself and enlarged itself during the hand to hand struggle with the enemy. It has set at naught the plan of the enemy in the first phase of the war, and has successfully defended the Soviets in Kiangsi. This triumph tells the toilers of the whole world and of all China that the Red Army of the Soviets together with the workers and peasants will certainly smash the 6th campaign, and achieve the victory of the Chinese Soviets on a national scale.

Chou at the end of the Long March.

On the other hand, the enemy has suffered many casualties. The 4th division of the Kuomintang has, for example, decreased by 6,000 men; the 10th and 83rd divisions by 1,000 each; the 87th division by 3,000; the 14th division by 3,000; the 59th by 1,6oo. Thus the crack units of Chiang Kai-shek have received heavy blows. The Red Army has annihilated whole regiments one after the other. In addition the enemy has consumed large quantities of ammunition and money.

The New Masses was the continuation of Workers Monthly which began publishing in 1924 as a merger of the ‘Liberator’, the Trade Union Educational League magazine ‘Labor Herald’, and Friends of Soviet Russia’s monthly ‘Soviet Russia Pictorial’ as an explicitly Communist Party publication, but drawing in a wide range of contributors and sympathizers. In 1927 Workers Monthly ceased and The New Masses began. A major left cultural magazine of the late 1920s and early 1940s, the early editors of The New Masses included Hugo Gellert, John F. Sloan, Max Eastman, Mike Gold, and Joseph Freeman. Writers included William Carlos Williams, Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Day, John Breecher, Langston Hughes, Eugene O’Neill, Rex Stout and Ernest Hemingway. Artists included Hugo Gellert, Stuart Davis, Boardman Robinson, Wanda Gag, William Gropper and Otto Soglow. Over time, the New Masses became narrower politically and the articles more commentary than comment. However, particularly in it first years, New Masses was the epitome of the era’s finest revolutionary cultural and artistic traditions.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/new-masses/1934/v12n03-jul-17-1934-NM.pdf

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