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SCALAPINO, R and G.T. YU. The Chinese Anarchist Movement -5-
Article published on 8 September 2004
last modification on 27 April 2015

by r-c.
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The Mounting Struggle Against the Government

In addition to defending Sun, Hsin Shih-chi kept up a running battle against government surveillance of overseas students. In early 1907, the Chinese government announced it would send a super visor to France "to assist" the students in their various activities. On June 18, 1907, the very eve of the first issue of Hsin Shih-chi, a meeting was convened by the Chinese students in France, and the matter was discussed. What percentage of the students came is unclear, but the attitude of those present toward this new proposal was very clear indeed. They recommended that any supervisor meet the following conditions:

1. He should know three languages well.

2. He should be well versed in at least one science.

3. He should not be allowed to bring his family.

4. His salary should not be more than the amount paid to three students. [1]

If these qualifications could have been applied, the students would not have had to worry about the supervisor’s imminent arrival! And there is good reason to believe that the Anarchist group had a considerable role in framing these suggestions. In the course of the meeting, some amendments were proposed. It was suggested that only those members of the official’s family with bound feet be prohibited from coming, so as not to disgrace the students. The question of queues was also raised.

The Hsin Shih-chi report of the meeting was written in a satirical vein. [2] If there were a need for someone to make payments to overseas students, then an accountant should be brought, not a supervisor. Of course, the government really wanted to investigate revolutionary activities. To help the government in this respect, the writer stated that he could announce immediately that the general student sentiment was favorable to revolution; the only opposition came from those who wanted to become officials and acquire wealth. These were already serving as informers, so why waste money on a supervisor who would know so little in any case that he would have to depend upon them after his arrival. The writer made one additional offer to help. Henceforth, he said, we will print more news about revolutionary activities and send the paper free of charge to the supervisor. Then he can stay home and still be well informed. Despite this final offer, the supervisor did arrive. Hsin Shih- chi reported his first speech, an address given on May 31, 1908. [3] It was a conciliatory talk delivered before some 60-70 students, but Wu took strong exception to it and sought to read amply between the lines. Meanwhile, pressure upon the revolutionary movement was everywhere on the increase. By the latter part of 1908, Chinese authorities had finally prevailed upon the Japanese government to stop the publication of Min-pao and two Anarchist journals, T’ieni Pao (Natural Principles) and Heng Pao (Measurement). Nevertheless, the 25th issue of Min-pao was printed secretly, and at one point, Hsin Shih-chi announced that it was serving as publisher. [4] There were later indications, however, that this issue which came out late in 1909, was not printed in Paris; it was probably printed "underground" in Tokyo. [5]

The editor of the secret Min-pao was Wang Ching-wei, an ardent supporter of Sun and one definitely influenced by the Anarchist writings of this period. Chang Ping-lin, now excluded from authority, complained bitterly that this was a false Min-pao, but Hsin Shih-chi, helping to distribute it, asserted "party members in the East are paying no attention to Chang’s charges." [6] And Wang was to be the final hero of the Paris journal. Its last issue, published on May 21, 1910, might well have been called the Wang Ching-wei special edition, since it was devoted almost entirely to praise of Wang for his attempted assassination of the Manchu Prince Regent. [7]

On the eve of the Nationalist Revolution, the Chinese Anarchists had considerable reason for optimism. The revolutionary movement seemed to be adopting their tactics. Assassination and other forms of "direct action" had become the order of the day. Anarchist writings had had an impact upon a number of nationalists, and the leaders of the Paris group had close personal ties with Sun and his supporters. The pro-Sun element, moreover, was now clearly ascendant within the revolutionary camp of China. This element had successfully weathered the Chang Ping-lin storm, and it was moving left, partly as a result of that storm. Finally, the international climate for Anarchism seemed generally good. Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism were much in vogue in European radical circles. Even in the United States, the IWW had created a considerable stir, and American Socialism had to conjure with names like Emma Goldman and William Haywood. In Japan, the Anarchists had captured the commanding heights of the Socialist Movement. Was there not reason to believe that Anarchism represented the wave of the future?

The Chinese Anarchist Movement in Tokyo

Before looking at that future, however, we must turn back to the past. A Chinese Anarchist group had emerged in Tokyo at almost precisely the same time that the Paris group was being organized. The central figures in Tokyo were Chang Chi, Liu Shih-p’ei, and Liu’s wife, Ho Chen. Chang Chi, who became associated with the Paris group as well as with the Anarchist movement in Japan, was one of the earliest Chinese students studying in Japan. [8] From a scholarly-gentry family of Hupei, Chang first arrived in Japan in 1899. He soon became active in the nationalist movement and joined Sun’s T’ung Meng Hui upon its establishment in 1905. Chang studied political science and economics at Waseda University. In Japan, he became acquainted with Japanese Anarchists, including Kotoku Sh-usui and Osugi Sakae, and later translated Errico Malatesta’s work on Anarchism into Chinese. [9] Liu came from a long line of scholars, had received a thorough classical education, and had demonstrated remarkable ability as a youth. [10] He was already teaching at the age of eighteen, and passed his chi-jen degree the following year, in 1903. His conversion to the anti-Manchu cause seems to have been mainly the product of a friendship developed with Chang Ping-lin’ whose background and interests were very similar to those of Liuo. In 1904, Liu became a member of the patriotic society, Kuang-fu Hui, "Restoration Society, " in Shanghai, having been introduced by Ts’ai Yuan-p’ei. During this period, Liu gradually became active in revolutionary undertakings, participating in various publications, helping to plan an unsuccessful assassination, and supporting himself by doing some middle school teaching.

In 1907, Liu and his wife went to Japan. He had changed his name by this time to Kuang-han (Restore the Han), and his wife also had adopted a new appellation. At first, they lived with Chang Ping-lin. [11] Within a few months, they had made contact with Japanese Anarchists, and were obviously much influenced by them. Kotoku Shosui and some of his young disciples did a great deal to convert Liu to the Anarchist cause. In June, Liu and Chang Chi decided to establish a Society for the Study of Socialism. The fifteenth issue of Min-pao which was published in July, 1907, carried a brief news item about this study group, with the request for the names and addresses of those interested, and a promise to notify all who responded as to the time and place of the first meeting. [12] Meanwhile, Liu and his wife had begun the publication of an Anarchist journal, T’ien-i Pao. The first issue came out in June. [13]

A detailed report of the first meeting of the Society for the Study of Socialism is available. [14] It was held on August 30, 1907. About ninety people attended, and the two major speeches were made by Liu and Kotoku. Liu began by announcing that the purpose of the society was not merely the study of Socialism, but the practice of Anarchism. He then proceeded to advance arguments on behalf of this creed. Like his comrades in Paris, Liu had been strongly influenced by the composite forces of Chinese classicism, Darwinism, and radical libertarianism. The realization of Anarchism in China, he stated, should not be too difficult, because for thousands of years, the Chinese political foundation had rested upon Confucian and Taoist principles of "indifference" and "non-interference. " In practice, moreover, traditional Chinese government had not been close to the people and had not been trusted by them. Laws had been merely formal documents and officials had held only empty positions. No individual had truly possessed power. The government had looked down upon the people, treating them as plants and animals; and the people had viewed the government as repulsive and evil. This historic situation of "indifference" to government could easily be turned into a victory for Anarchism, Liu remarked. Indeed, he argued, China should be the first country in the world to realize Anarchism due to this unique background.

Liu also dealt with Darwinism. To the extent that it represented science, it represented the new truth that should provide the basis for human relations. But Liu challenged the Darwinian thesis that progress came through competition, asserting that that was "the old theory." The new theory was that of Kropotkin: progress through Mutual Aid. This was an idea that had firm foundations in nature and thus represented a superior scientific truth. And throughout his speech, Liu cited the Western libertarians from Rousseau to Bakunin and Kropotkin. Primitive man had been free until he was enslaved by government. Political authority could have no legitimate basis, either in morality or in need. All forms of authority were types of oppression. Human freedom in the most complete possible form had to be- the supreme desideratum of civilized man. Liu sought to build a popular front between "anti-Manchuism" and Anarchism, while at the same time clearly distinguishing between them, and asserting the superiority of the latter. The bond between anti-Manchuism and Anarchism lay in the fact that both were against absolutism and in favor of revolution. Thus they should be able to cooperate. But there were three reasons why Anarchism was superior, according to Liu First, nationalism-the worship of one’s own race and the casting off of others - could easily be turned into national imperialism. Second, revolution should not have such a private, selfish motive as that of seizing power for oneself or one’s group; it should be dedicated to freedom of all, as was anarchism. Finally, revolution had to have a broad base. The anti-Manchu movement was primarily a movement of students and secret society members, whereas the Anarchist revolution would be supported and underwritten by the whole people, the peasants and workers of the nation. To enjoy lasting success, revolutions had to have a mass basis.

After Liu, Chang Chi made a few remarks, and then a lengthy speech by Kotoku, the Japanese Anarchist, followed. Kotoku’s influence upon his Chinese comrades must have been very great. He was probably the most brilliant Japanese radical of his generation. Moreover, his contacts with Western Socialism were extensive, both in terms of the literature and in terms of personal contacts. Kotoku had returned from the United States in mid-1906 with books and the latest ideas. His translations helped to introduce Kropotkin and other Western Anarchists to all students living in Japan. In this respect, as in many others, Japan served as a transmission belt conveying Westernism in all its facets to young Chinese intellectuals.

We need not devote much attention to Kotoku’s speech since its main themes have been set forth earlier. He began with an apology for having to speak in Japanese, a language foreign to his audience, but promised that the day of an international language was not far distant. Then he proceeded to give a general historical survey of the European socialist movement, taking his position with the most "advanced" element, that element pioneered by Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin. [15] Like Liu, Kotoku cited the classics in defense of anarchist doctrine and morality, referring to Christianity as well as Confucianism, although he was a strong anti-Christian.

The first meeting of the Society for the Study of Socialism was concluded by the short talk of Ho Chen, Liu’s wife and the editor of T’ien-i Pao . [16] She suggested that among the anarchist movements, that of Russia was the strongest and in its three stages of development offered a guide for China: the first stage was that of speech and discussion, followed by a state of political activity, and climaxed by a period of assassination. Many of the Chinese and Japanese present at this meeting were to have their lives profoundly affected by the attempt to follow these words. In a few years, Kotoku and a number of his students would be dead, executed by the Japanese government on charges of responsibility for a plot against the Emperor Meiji. In Chinese revolutionary circles, also, the trend was toward more extremism. Ho Chen herself, as we shall note, evidently became involved in an assassination attempt.

The Liu magazine, T’ien-i Pao, emphasized familiar Anarchist themes including Freedom and equality were made primary goals. Religion was bitterly attacked. Special privileges to rulers and nobility were denounced, as was government in any form. All analysis and argument were cast in a "scientific" mold, and yet values were much discussed and defended. Liu, for example, in one article, defined man’s three basic feelings as those of self-interest, hatred and goodness. [17]In a manner completely compatible with Confucian thought, he argued that man had the capacity for goodness, and asserted that goodness exceeded even equality as a value. He related it to the concept of Confucian jen, Kantian love, and the theme of mutual aid in Kropotkin’s writings. Liu might define goodness in Confucian terms but he did not seek to develop it through Confucian methods. In place of the educative state, he wished to advance the stateless, classless society.

In another article, Liu explored socialism in ancient China, with special reference to the land equalization policies of Wang Mang. [18] He paid tribute to Wang, but asserted that his policies failed because he could not eliminate classes nor abolish government, and with an obvious glance in the direction of Sun Yat-sen, he asserted:

"Those who today seek to found governments and further deceive the people with a policy of the equalization of land are all of the same sort as Wang Mang.’’ [19]

In 1908, Liu split with Chang Ping-lin, and in that same year, the Anarchist journals were ordered to cease publication. Liu and his wife returned to Shanghai. Soon it became known that they were serving as informers for the police, and had entered the service of the Manchu official, Tuan-fang. [20] Liu told the Shanghai International Settlement police of a secret T’ung Meng Hui meeting, with the result that one member was imprisoned. The precise pressures or circumstances that produced this shift in position are not clear. According to rumor, Ho Chen was involved in an assassination plot (Wang Kung-ch’a) and perhaps a deal was made to save her. In any case, this ended their Anarchist careers. In later years, Liu supported Yuan Shih-ktai. Despite these transgressions, however, Ts’ai Yuan-p’ei, when he became president of Peking University, gave Liu a professorship Both their old personalities and the fact that Liu was an excellent classical scholar probably entered into this appointment But Liu died very shortly thereafter, on November 20, 1919, at the young age of thirty-six.

Probably Liu was always closer to Chinese traditionalism than most of his comrades. We have noted his extensive use of traditionalist thought to justify Anarchism. And this illustrates again a most important point. As long as Chinese traditionalism was enlisted, selectively, in the service of Western radicalism, as long as that radicalism could be buttressed by reference to the Chinese past, the political pendulum for some radicals could always swing back under certain conditions, causing them to revert to orthodoxy. The considerable staying powers of Chinese traditionalism were never more clearly illustrated than under such circumstances.

As for Chang Chi, the other participant in the Tokyo anarchist movement, with the increasing police pressure upon the socialists late in 1907, he left Japan for France. Between 1908 and 1911, Chang associated himself with Li Shih-tseng, Wu Chih-hui and the Paris Anarchist Group. His interest in Anarchism continued and he spent the summer of 1908 in a communal village (communisme experimental) in Northern France. [21] Upon the success of the 1911 Revolution, Chang returned to China and became a leading member of the Kuomintang. [22]

The initial impact of the Chinese Anarchist movements in Paris and Tokyo was almost wholly upon the overseas students. Very few copies of the Hsin Shih-chi or T’ien-i Pao could be smuggled into China. In this era, the average Chinese intellectual at home remained completely oblivious to Western radicalism. In many respects, the general circumstances of this period contributed to an enormous gulf between the "old" and "new" intelligentsia. The "old" intelligentsia stayed at home, with the windows of their studies firmly closed to the winds of change from the outer world. The "new" intelligentsia were in that outer world, being swept along by its winds. Their ideas were being formed in a foreign environment, and while they did not need to desert their heritage completely, generally that heritage had to be interpreted and reconciled with Western progress and "truth."

It is most significant that the Chinese intellectuals had so short a time in which to adjust to the political currents of the modern world. For the great majority, "liberation" came only with the 1911 Revolution. Then in less than a decade—and a decade filled with extraordinary political chaos—they were forced to cope with an unending variety of new, often conflicting ideas. Scarcely had liberalism begun to make its impact when the Bolshevik Revolution brought the doctrines of Marxist-Leninism into the land. But even before this, democracy, Socialism, and Anarchism were more or less simultaneously released into the Chinese intellectual stream. Compared to China, the introduction of Japan to Westernism was almost leisurely. The Japanese intellectual had had some four decades of Mill, Locke, Burke and Rousseau before he got the Fabians, Kropotkin, or Marx. Modern China paid very heavy penalties for her tenacious institutions, her self-satisfied intelligentsia, her basic xenophobia — and hence her delayed, kaleidoscopic revolution in which there was no time to undergo an intellectual evolution, to meet ideas in sequence, to separate the past from the present or future. or to develop one’s own syncretic political philosophy. But despite the multiple confusions, to be Anarchist in this period was to be truly avant garde, to leap ahead of the West, as it were, and capture the future. It is not surprising that Anarchism made a deep impression upon some of the young Chinese intellectuals who were in search of modernity.

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Notes :

[1"Meeting of the Overseas Students to Oppose a Supervisor," Hsin Shih-chi, No. 1, June 22, 1907, pp. 3-4.

[2Ibid., p 4.

[3"Record of the Supervisor’s Speech at the Association of Overseas Students in France," Ibid., No. 50, June 6, 1908, pp. 2-3.

[4See the advertisement on page one of Hsin Shih-chi, No. 114, October 16, 1909.

[5See Ibid., No. 116, December 18, 1909, p. 1. In this advertisement, it says "We have received our copy; three hundred more are on the way here." There is also other evidence to indicate secret publication in Tokyo.

[6Ibid., p. 1

[7Ibid., No. 121, May 21, 1910.

[8Chang Chi, Chang P’u-ch’an hsien-sheng ch’an-chi (Collective Works of Mr. Chang P’u-ch’an). Taipei, 1951, pp. 220-235.

[9Ibid., p. 236. Fang Chao-ving has informed us that the first mention of Anarchism in Chinese literature was probably through the translation of two Japanese works, Shakaito (the Socialist Party), by Nishikawa Kojiro and Shakaishugi gaikyo by Shimada Saburo, both published in Chinese in 1903, thus introducing Anarchist concepts.

[10For two brief accounts of Liu and his wife, see Ts’ai Yuan-p’ei, "A Brief Account of the Activities of Liu Shen-shu," in Liu Shenshu i-shu (Posthumous Writings of Liu Shen-shu), 1936, pp. 1-3, and Wu Chih-hui, "Titbits," Hsin Shih-chi, No. 109, August 21, 1909, pp. 13-14.

[11Liu contributed a number of articles to Min-pao during Chang Ping-lin’s editorship of that journal. He used the pen name of Wei I. See Min-pao, No.13, May 5, 1907, pp.1-16; No.14, June 8, 1907, pp. 23-28 and pp.39-111; No.15, July 5, 1907, pp.19-34 and pp.35-62; and No.18, December 25, 1907, pp.1-26. See also Chang T’ai-yen (Ping-lin), "A Preface to Anarchism," Min-pao, No. 20, April, 1908, pp.129-130, in which Chang makes some generally favorable remarks in connection with Chang Chi’s translation of Errico Malatesta.

[12Ibid., No.15, July, 1907.

[13Certain articles from the T’ien-i Pao are reprinted in the Hsin Shih-chi. The Kuomintang Archives near T’aichung Taiwan contain issues 4 and 5 (July 25, August 10, 1907), and the authors have had the important articles copied from these two issues. No issues have yet been discovered in Japan.

[14Hsin Shih-chi No. 22, November 16, 1907, p.4, No. 25, December 7, 1907, pp.3-4, and No. 26, December 14, 1907, p.4 carry the events and major speeches of this first meeting as recorded in T’ien-i Pao.

[15Ibid., No. 25, p.3.

[16Ibid., No. 22, p.4

[17Liu Kuang-han, "Views on the Equality of Anarchism," T’ien-i Pao, No.4, July 25, 1907, pp.7-20.

[18Liu Kuang-han, "An Examination of the Development of Socialism in the Western Han Period," op. cit., pp. 20-29. and No. 5, August 10, 1907, pp. 27-30.

[19Ibid., No. 5, p.30.

[20Ts’ai Yuan-p’ei, op. cit.

[21Ibid., pp. 236-237.

[22Shortly after his return to China, he attempted to secure from the revolutionary government Ch’ung-ming Island at the mouth of the Yangtze River "as an experimental area for world Anarchism." Min-li Pao (The People’s Independent), Shanghai, China, January 26, 1912, p. 2.


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