‘The Death of Sun Yat Sen’ by Grigory Zinoviev from Workers Monthly. Vol. 4 No. 7. May, 1925.
THE death of the leader of the Chinese revolution compels every class-conscious proletarian once again to ponder over the fate of the great national revolutionary movements-which are growing and spreading before our eyes.
“Four hundred million backward Asiatics have attained freedom and awakened to political life. A fourth of the population of the globe has, so to speak, awakened from its torpor and is going forward to the light, to movement and to struggle.” So wrote Lenin in November 1912. Nevertheless, these four hundred million Asiatics have had, and still have, to do not a little fighting for their freedom and independence which is threatened in an increasingly brutal manner by western imperialism.
Sun Yat Sen will go down to history as the greatest figure of a leader of the national revolutionary movements of the East in the first Quarter of the twentieth century. He was neither a Communist nor a Marxist. His program—”nationalism, democracy, socialism”—bore all the signs of the backwardness of the social conditions of China. He tentatively sought his way, but he hated with a righteous hate the imperialists who had subjugated his native country. He devoted his life fully and entirely to his people, and what is more important, in the last years of his life he perceived more and more clearly that the suppressed peoples can only emancipate themselves and create the pre-conditions for a new life in close alliance with the world proletariat.
Sun Yat Sen was not a Ghandi, the leader of the moderate wing of the nationalists of India. Ghandi, during the last few years, has developed more and more along a descending line. To the brutalities of the English imperialists, Ghandi replied with—a thirty days fast. The incapacity of those groups which are led by Ghandi will unavoidably lead to their coming to an understanding with the imperialist suppressors, which is tantamount to a surrender.
Not so Sun Yat Sen. During the last years of his life in particular he developed along an ascending line. A few months ago the Kuomintang Party, which was led by Sun Yat Sen, found itself at the cross roads, in connection with the new attack against Southern China. Sun Yat Sen showed sufficient strength to break decisively and ruthlessly with the counter-revolutionary fascist groups (the so-called tigers). He succeeded in encouraging his followers to take up a decisive defensive struggle against the hirelings of imperialism and against the hesitating elements in their own ranks. He thereby saved the honor of the Kuomintang Party and showed to what heights the national revolutionary movement in China had already risen.
“In Asia a powerful democratic movement is growing and spreading. There the bourgeoisie still sides with the people against reaction. Hundreds of millions of men are awakening to life, to light, and to freedom. What joy this world movement awakes in the hearts of all class-conscious workers … And “advanced” Europe? It is plundering China and helping the enemies of democracy, the enemies of freedom in China.”
So wrote Lenin in an article in May, 1913, entitled: “Backward Europe and Advanced Asia.”
This title of the article by Comrade Lenin is highly characteristic. In advanced Europe there appears as the advanced class only the proletariat, said Comrade Lenin, but the bourgeoisie is prepared for all cruelties, crimes and bestialities in order to maintain declining capitalist slavery.
A few week ago there died Frederich Ebert, the President of the German Republic, a former worker and a leader of German social democracy. Involuntary, one is led to draw a comparison between Sun Yat Sen and Ebert. Ebert was characteristic of that upper section of the European working class which has come completely under the influence of the bourgeoisie. To compare the names of Sun Yat Sen and Ebert is to confirm the words of Comrade Lenin regarding the backwardness of Europe and the advanced state of Asia at the present time. In our time, throughout the whole of Europe, there is not only the bourgeoisie which is the most reactionary force, but also the upper section of the aristocracy of labor which runs in harness with the bourgeoisie. Ebert came from the party which was at one time the most advanced party of the advanced working class of Europe. He claimed to be a social democrat and even a Marxist. He was a disciple of and afterwards succeeded August Bebel, the really great tribune of the German working class. This did not prevent him from becoming a counter-revolutionary and the mouthpiece of the bourgeoisie in the working class.
At the same time the social development in such a backward country as China, where the working class is only just arising and where Marxism has yet to make its first conquests, resulted in Sun Yat Sen gradually developing from pacifism to nationalism to the role of the real leader of the national revolutionary movement, which allied itself with the international proletarian movement which is marching under the banner of the Communist International.
The Russian Revolution can be proud of the great influence it has had upon the national liberation movement of the peoples of the East. “World capitalism and the Russian movement of 1905 have finally awakened Asia. Hundreds of millions of the intimidated peoples living under mediaeval conditions, are awakening to new life. . . The awakening of Asia and the commencement of the struggle for power characterizes the period of world history opening at the commencement of the twentieth century.” These are the words of Comrade Lenin. If our revolution of 1905, which did not even immediately vanquish Tsarism and not by any means the bourgeoisie, exercised such a powerful influence upon the awakening of the East, what a far greater influence the great victorious October Revolution of 1917 must have exercised! And this it did in fact! If our Revolution had succeeded in doing nothing else than fulfilling the task of awakening hundreds of millions of peoples in the East, it would thereby alone have fulfilled a world-historical mission.
The views of Bolshevism regarding the great significance of the national revolutionary movement of the suppressed peoples as one of the most important constituent parts of the proletarian world revolution, are one of the most important contributions of Leninism to the total teachings of Marx. The life and activity of such people as Sun Yat Sen are a brilliant illustration of the correctness of the views of Leninism on this question.
The advanced workers of the whole world, who are organized under the banner of the Communist International, are perfectly clear as to of what great importance such men as Sun Yat Sen are for the world revolution and what a great future awaits the movement which has been created by Sun Yat Sen.
The Communist International does not hide from itself or from others the weak sides, the vagueness of the program, the deviations, the tendency to compromise which exist in the camp of even the most revolutionary representatives of the national liberation movements of the East. But at the same time it is clear to the Communist International that the national liberation movement of the East is a desirable and powerful ally of the advance-guard of the world proletariat.
The advanced workers of all countries who belong to the Communist International will revere the memory of Sun Yat Sen as one of the greatest representatives of that movement of the suppressed nationalities which is matching side by side with the advanced sections of the world proletariat to the fight against imperialism. “The place of the bourgeoisie, which is decomposing while it still lives, will be taken by the proletariat of the European countries and by the young democracy of the Asiatic countries which is filled with belief in its owns powers and trust in the masses.” These words which Lenin wrote a year before the outbreak of the imperialist world war are of special import at the present time, when the proletarian dictatorship in the Soviet Union is now in its eight year and when the great national liberation movement throughout the whole East is ripening so rapidly. The difference between Chamberlain and Ebert is considerably less than the difference between Ebert and Sun Yat Sen. The Eberts are the allies of the world bourgeoisie, the Sun Yat Sens the allies of the world proletariat. There can be no doubt that the final victory belongs to the world proletariat and to the armies of the national revolutionary movements of the East which are marching forward to unite with it. This victory is no longer distant.
Workers Monthly 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 Party publication. In 1927 Workers Monthly ceased and the Communist Party began publishing The Communist as its theoretical magazine. Editors included Earl Browder and Max Bedacht as the magazine continued the Liberator’s use of graphics and art.
PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/culture/pubs/wm/1925/v4n07-may-1925.pdf