SCALAPINO, R and G.T. YU. The Chinese Anarchist Movement -1-

PROUDHON, Pierre-Joseph (1809-1865)BAKUNIN, Mihail Aleksandrovič (1814-1876)RECLUS, Élisée (1830-1905)ChinaKROPOTKINE, Petr Alekseevitch (1842-1921) JapanFrance. 20th CenturyChina : history of anarchismSCALAPINO, RobertYU G. T.

Berkeley: Center for Chinese Studies, 1961


Chinese Anarchists were inspired by the ideas of Pierre Proudhon, Michael Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin and Elisee Reclus. Many were exposed to Anarchist ideas while they were students in Europe and Anarchist books were soon translated into Chinese and Esperanto, a popular language among Chinese students. They used the term "Anarchist Communist" interchangeable with the word "Anarchist." The Chinese words for Anarchist-Communist (Wu-Zheng-Fu Gong-Chan) literally meant "Without Government Common Production" and in no way implied Bolshevism or Maoism. On the contrary, theirs were the Libertarian Socialist ideas of the First International which reflected the traditional Chinese Anarchistic teachings of Lao Tzu while Maoism reflected the authoritarian bureaucracy of Confucianism.

Like the word "communism", the word "collectivism" also has a different literal meaning in Chinese than when it is commonly used in English: In Chinese, the word for a "collective enterprise" (Ji-ti Qi-ye) literally means an assembly of people in a bureaucracy (a "tree of people") - very different from our understanding of Michael Bakunin’s Collectivism or a workers’ collective - more like Bolshevism or Fabian Socialism - The Chinese Anarchist Shih Fu substantiated this translation by identifying Karl Marx as the father of "collectivism" in his writings [1].

Historically, Marxism was unable to make inroads into China until after the Russian Revolution of 1917 when Lenin’s followers, bankrolled by the Bolshevik government, began their attacks on Anarchists in Russia and neighboring countries. This book describes some of the early history of Chinese Anarchism up to the period after the Bolshevik counter-revolution when Russia began to send Marxist-Leninist missionaries like Chou En-lai to try to try to infiltrate and take over the student movements in Europe. It includes some of the ideological debates which ensued between Chinese Anarchists and their Marxist-Leninist adversaries.


In their memorable 1936 conversations, Mao Tse-tung remarked to Edgar Snow that he had once been strongly influenced by Anarchism. [2] Mao was referring to the period at the close of World War I, when he had come to Peking [Beijing] from Hunan province as a part of a student group who hoped to study in France. While some of his colleagues realized this goal, Mao remained in Peking and worked as a librarian in Peking University. But in Peking as in Paris, Anarchism was much in vogue with the intellectual avant garde of this era. Thus Mao had the opportunity to read Kropotkin in translation, Anarchist pamphlets derived from a variety of Western sources, and the contributions of the Chinese Anarchists themselves. Many discussions with student-friends flowed from the theories and themes contained in these materials.

Mao’s interest in Anarchism was by no means unique. On the contrary, it marked him as a part of the central radical stream of those times. Anarchism preceded Marxism in northeast Asia as the predominant radical expression of the Westernized intellectual. Between 1905 and 1920, Anarchist thought was a vital part of the intellectual protest movement in both Japan and China. Indeed, in many respects, it possessed the coveted symbol among intellectuals of being the most scientific, most "progressive," most futuristic of all political creeds.


The Origins of Chinese Anarchism Page 2

Chinese Students Sent Abroad Page 2

Influences upon the Paris Group Page 2

The New Century and its Message Page 3

Sun and the Paris Anarchists Page 4

The Mounting Struggle against the Government Page 5

Anarchism and the Nationalist Revolution Page 6

The Work Study Movement Page 7

The Anarchist Conflict with Marxism Page 8

Editor’s Footnote Page 9

[1"The Socialism of Sun Yat-sen and Chiang K’ang-hu," Min Sheng, No. 6, April 18, 1914, pp.1-7

[2Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China, London, 1937, p.149.