Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution

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(1940 - 2017)
Arif Dirlik (1940 – December 1, 2017) was a US historian of Turkish origin who published extensively on historiography and political ideology in modern China, as well as issues in modernity, globalization, and post-colonial criticism. Born in Mersin, Turkey, Dirlik received a BSc in Electrical Engineering at Robert College, Istanbul in 1964 and a PhD in History at the University of Rochester in 1973. (From :


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Back Matter Arif Dirlik’s latest offering is a revisionist perspective on Chinese radicalism in the twentieth century. He argues that the history of anarchism is indispensable to understanding crucial themes in Chinese radicalism. And anarchism is particularly significant now as a source of democratic ideals within the history of the socialist movement in China. Dirlik draws on the most recent scholarship and on materials available only in the last decade to compile the first comprehensive history of his subject available in a Western language. He emphasizes the anarchist contribution to revolutionary discourse and elucidates this theme through detailed analysis of both anarchist polemics and social practice. The changing circumstances of the Chinese revolution provide the immediate context, but throughout his writing the author views Chinese anarchism in relation to anarchism worldwide. Arif Dirlik is Professor of History at Duke... (From :

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Bibliography Albert, Michael, Leslie Cagan, Noam Chomsky, Robin Hahnel, Mel King, Lydia Sargent, Holly Sklar. Liberating Theory. Boston: South End Press, 1986. Anarchism and Anarcho-syndicalism: Selected Writings by Marx-Engels-Lenin. New York: International Publishers, 1974. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1983. Arblaster, Anthony. The Relevance of Anarchism. Socialist Register. Annual. 1971. Aronowitz, Stanley. Science as Power: Discourse and Ideology in Modern Society. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988. Avrich, Paul. The Russian Anarchists. New York: Norton, 1978. Ba Jin. The Family. Translated by S. Shapiro. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1964. . Gemingde xianqu (Vanguards of r... (From :

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Chapter One Introduction: Anarchism and Revolutionary Discourse Anarchism is not the easiest subject to think, speak, or write about within a cultural context that takes hegemony for granted as a principle of social and political integration. The most consistent and thoroughgoing of all modern radical social philosophies in its repudiation of this principle, anarchism has also for that reason suffered the greatest marginalization. Other radicalisms, too, have invoked fear and ridicule, but they have acquired respectability to the extent that they have come to share in the premises of organized power. The fear of anarchism, in contrast, is built into the word itself, whose meaning (no rule) has been suppressed in everyday language by its identification with disorder. To take a pertinent recent example, in the television coverage of the tragic events in China in 1989, what Chinese leaders spoke of as great disorder (daluan) was consistentl... (From :

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Chapter Two Nationalism, Utopianism, and Revolutionary Politics: Anarchist Themes in the Early Chinese Revolutionary Movement. Anarchism appeared in China at a moment of national crisis. In 19067 Chinese intellectuals abroad established two societies, within months of each other, devoted to the propagation of anarchism, one in Paris, the other in Tokyo. At a time when a revolutionary discourse was taking shape, with origins in a new national consciousness, the anarchism these societies promoted introduced into the discourse dissonant themes that would have a lasting effect. In spite of their basic conflict with nationalist goals, these themes would display a remarkable staying power in the revolutionary discourse fueled by the pursuit of political forms to give coherence to a nation in the making. Their echoes are audible to this day as the pursuit continues. The receptivity to anarchism at a moment of nascent national consciousness s... (From :

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Chapter Three Science, Morality, and Revolution: Anarchism and the Origins of Social Revolutionary Thought in China Anarchism emerged as a distinctive current in Chinese revolutionary thought when, in 19067, Chinese intellectuals studying abroad launched, almost simultaneously, two openly anarchist societies in Paris and in Tokyo. Before 1907 Chinese intellectuals had little appreciation of anarchism as an integral social philosophy. Rather, anarchist themes had been assimilated to the orientation of revolutionary thinking by intellectual dispositions that had originated in the revolutionary situation created by a new national consciousness. These dispositions were to persist in anarchist thinking. With the founding of these societies, however, they were rephrased within an anarchist language of revolution. Fundamental to this language was the idea of social revolution. Anarchist advocacy of social revolution was to open up new channels of lasting... (From :

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Chapter Four Anarchists against Socialists in Early Republican China Anarchism germinated in Chinese thought in the radical culture of Chinese students studying abroad. Like other currents in Chinese radicalism, it was a product of Chinese intellectuals’ confrontation with other societies that already showed the strains of modernity and struggled with alternatives to the dominant capitalist ideology of development. Chinese students’ experiences abroad had a liberating effect on their thinking; the same experiences made them wary of what they found. It was not until after the Revolution of 1911 that anarchism appeared within China. The literature that anarchists produced abroad found its way into the mainland before 1911, and the already visible movement of Chinese intellectuals between China and the outside world had introduced anarchism to intellectuals at home; but it was in the period of relative political freedom that followed the... (From :

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Chapter Five Radical Culture and Cultural Revolution: Anarchism in the May Fourth Movement In the early afternoon of May 4, 1919, three thousand students from three Beijing universities gathered at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to demonstrate against the Versailles Peace Conference decision in favor of Japan on the Shandong Question. The students had originally intended to continue their demonstration in the foreign legation quarters in Beijing, but finding their way blocked by the legation police, they proceeded instead to the house of Cao Rulin, a Foreign Ministry official who had drawn the ire of the patriotic students for his pro-Japanese sentiments. The students were stymied momentarily by the police who had cordoned off the house, and by the imposing wooden gates that shut them off. Suddenly, a fourth-year Beijing Higher Normal College student from Hunan, Kuang Husheng, rushed to the house, smashed the thick wooden shutters of the gate win... (From :

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Chapter Six The Anarchist Alternative in Chinese Socialism, 1921–1927 The appearance and rapid ascendancy of Marxian communism (or Bolshevism) in the 1920s has long overshadowed in historians’ consciousness the role anarchism played in nourishing social revolutionary thinking and activity for the previous decade and a half, which contributed directly to the founding of the Communist party of China in 1921. Well past the establishment of communism, anarchism continued to serve as a fecund source of social revolutionary ideals that kept alive a radical alternative to Bolshevism. Anarchist thinking and activity during this period overlapped with the Communist party’s conception of revolution, but also sharply differed with it on questions of strategy and the ultimate premises of revolution. Communist party spokesmen (then and now) have charged that anarchism was a petit-bourgeois ideology that offered no viable strategy of revolutio... (From :

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Chapter Seven The Revolution That Never Was: Anarchism in the Guomindang Anarchists made an attempt in 1927 to acquire a voice in the Guomindang, perhaps even to shape its future. Their goal was not to take over the Guomindang politically, as some opponents charged, since they rejected politics, but rather to use the possibilities the party offered to channel the Chinese revolution in a direction consistent with anarchist goals. In hindsight, the attempt was futile, a last desperate, and somewhat opportunistic, act in anarchists’ efforts to recapture the revolutionary ground they had lost over the previous three years to successful Communist inroads among the masses. Following this attempt, anarchism for all practical purposes would disappear as a significant force in Chinese radicalism. In the attempt, no less than in the suppression it invited, was inscribed the complex legacy of the history of anarchism in China. In historica... (From :

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Chapter Eight Aftermath and Afterthoughts For more than two decades in the early part of this century, anarchism nourished Chinese radicalism. Before the May Fourth Movement in 1919, anarchists virtually monopolized the social revolutionary Left. Having reached the apogee of its popularity in the early May Fourth period, anarchism in the twenties declined before its new competitor on the Left, Marxian communism. Following the attempt to reassert an anarchist presence in the revolution through the Guomindang in the late 1920s, anarchists once again dispersed to their regional bases, and anarchism ceased to exert any significant influence on the course of the revolution. Anarchists did not vanish, but they no longer exhibited the vitality that had opened up new directions for the revolution earlier. Indeed, they had become irrelevant. Whether anarchism became irrelevant to an understanding of the course the Chinese revolution would take in later years is another... (From :

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Eric Hobsbawm, Revolutionaries (New York: New American Library, 1973), 61. Arif Dirlik, The Origins of Chinese Communism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), esp. chapters 3 and 8. Ge Maochun, Jiang Jun, and Li Xingzhi, eds., Wuzhengfu zhuyi sixiang ziliao xuan (Selection of materials on anarchist thought [hereafter WZFZYSX]), 2 vols. (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 1984); Gao Jun et al., eds., Wuzhengfu zhuyi zai Zhongguo (Anarchism in China) (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1984); Lu Zhe, Zhongguo wuzhengfu zhuyi shi (History of Chinese anarchism) (Fujian: Renmin chubanshe); Xu Shanguang and Liu Liuping, Zhongguo wuzhengfu zhuyi shi (History of Chinese anarchism) (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1989); Makesi Engesi lun Bakuning zhuyi (Marx and Engels on Bakuninism) (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1980); Li Xianjong, Bakuning pingzhuan... (From :


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