The Guardian • Issue #2104

Red Boat of History: CPC turns 103

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2104
18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Photo: Dong Fang – Wikimedia Commons (C00)

The founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on 1 July 1921, and its subsequent role in the unfolding of world history seems like a miracle. It remains one of the world’s staunchest guardians of the communist idea and of Marxism-Leninism. In fact it is no miracle at all: the Chinese People’s Republic was forged through blood and steel, sheer force and hard work. Its longevity is the result of over a century of class struggle, not to mention war.

One of the most moving places in China is the Site of the First CPC Congress, in Shanghai. I encourage any visitor to China to make this a priority stop. There, if you take a little turn down an alleyway, you will find a small room. At the centre of the room is a small table. It was around this table that 13 representatives, yes, 13 people, gathered for the First Congress meeting.

The Party is now almost 100 million strong.

These baby steps, however, were not easy. On 30 July 1921, the French Concession Police began harassing them, having learned of the Congress. So they escaped to a boat on South Lake in Jiaxing. There on a famous Red Boat they continued their Congress.

It was on the mists of this lake, running from authority, on a small Red Boat, that they came up with their first Communist Party Program.

As Xi Jinping once put it: “The Red Boat sparked the flame of the Chinese revolution and started the century-spanning voyage of the Communist Party of China.”

There are other twists and turns in this history that are spine-tingling for anyone who practices communism today. Looking back in history, one can see how the achievement of the CPC was based upon a special skill they began developing very early on; the ability to adapt Marxism-Leninism to  concrete conditions. It was a coming together of two forces:

1. Internal: the May Fourth Movement and New Culture Movement had led to an explosion of ideas amongst Chinese progressives, including intellectuals, nationalists, and feminists. It was out of this cultural explosion, happening as the imperial Qing was in decline, that the CPC arose. They later broadened their mobilisation to workers and peasants, reaching deep into Chinese society. This was the key to their success.

2. External: their apprenticeship with the Soviet Bolsheviks, the Far Eastern Bureau, gave them vital skills at this early stage. It was not only translations of Marx and Engels into Chinese, but also the geopolitical confluence of practical forces, that led to their internationalist outlook and ability to build a Leninist Party.

For Australian communists who seek to transform our society into a socialist one, the CPC is dear to our hearts. Their story is one of survival against all odds. Need we mention the martyrs of China’s long and brutal fight against Japanese imperialism?

Our Party, the CPA, was born one year before the CPC, in 1920. We have a long and difficult road ahead. We too emerge from the progressive parts of Australian society, from the more advanced parts of the working class.

We too seek to mobilise ever deeper into Australian society, and while staying close to the people, drive imperialism from our midst.

We too seek to maintain an internationalist outlook, seek truth from facts, and test theory in practice.

The CPC teaches us many things, among them all, to always adhere to Marx, Engels, and Lenin as our guides, and never let the flame of communism burn out.

Congratulations to the CPC on its anniversary!

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