The Proposal to the 15th World Congress of the Fourth International for the Rehabilitation of Comrade Chen Duxiu and for the Solidarity Greetings to Old Comrades in People's Republic of China

by Kei TAKAGI (International Commission, The National Council of Internationalist Workers in Japan)

Proposal approved by acclamation




Chen Duxiu (1879-1942), the founder of Chinese Communism and a leader of the Trotskyist movement in China, has been considered to have parted with the Trostkyist movement after having been released from a prison in Nanjing in August 1937. For example, in "Minutes of the Founding Conference of the Fourth International" read on September 3, 1938, Pierre Naville stated, "a number of members of of the bureau subsequently left the Fourth International: e. g., [...] Chen Tu-hsiu [i. e. Chen Duxiu] [...]"(1). But, this is not true. As documents recently opened show, Chen continued to support the Trotskyist movement and the Fourth International after its founding, although there certainly existed an internal conflict between Chen and some members of the "Chinese Section" of the Fourth International based in Shanghai, especially Peng Shuzhi (1896-1983).

The fact supported by recent documents is as follows: On June 25, 1938 from Mexico Trotsky sent a letter to Chen Duxiu via Frank Glass, alias Li Furen (1901-1987), a British-born journalist and a supporter of the Trotskyist movement in Shanghai, suggesting that Chen should leave China for the United States of America for his physical security. Asked by Glass for Trotsky to meet personally Chen Duxiu then in Sichuan Province, Chen Qichang (1901-1942), an activist in Shanghai, made a long trip to Sichuan and discussed Trotsky's suggestion in his aforementioned letter and the political position of Chen Duxiu with "the Old Man in China", i. e. Chen Duxiu. According to Glass's report dated on January 19, 1939 to Trotsky, "Comrade Chen very favorably received the proposal of Crux [i. e. Trotsky] to leave China and to go to the United States"(2), although Chen thought that the Guomindang government led by Tchan Kai-Shek would not permit him to leave China. And importantly, Chen Duxiu composed "Political Statement" to Trotsky on November 3, 1938 and asked Chen Qichang to bring it to Glass and then to send its English translation to Trotsky.(3) It contained Chen's political statement to call for "a national-democratic struggle" to form the united front in China against the invasion of Japanese imperialism and to criticize the "sectarian" position of the Trotskyist group in Shanghai. Glass also wrote to Trotsky that Chen's "Political Statement" "clears up all the doubts which existed as to the adherence of Chen to the Fourth International. Chen considers himself to be one of ours despite his poor opinion he holds on the Chinese section and he said this very clearly in his conversation with the comrade of Shanghai [i. e. Chen Qichang]."(4) Namely, even after the founding of the Fourth International Chen continued to support the Trotskyist movement openly. Chen seems to have retained essentially the same position till the very end of his life, as shown in his very last article "The Future of the Oppressed Nations" supporting "international socialism", drafted on May 13, 1942, fourteen days before his death. Chen Duxiu died on May 27, 1942.

Replying to Glass on March 11, 1939, furthermore, Trotsky stated that "the essence of his [i. e. Chen Duxiu's] statement seems to me to be correct," referring to Chen's "Political Statement" of November 3, 1938. And, Zheng Chaolin (1901-1998), a disciple of Chen Duxiu and once a rival of his, concluded his long essay of 1980 entitled "Chen Duxiu and the Trotskyists" that "Chen Duxiu remained a Trotskyist till his dying day, from both an organizational and a theoretical point of view."(5) I myself think Zheng's assertion to be correct.

In his personal letter to me, the old Trotskyist in Guangzhou Liu Pingmei (b. 1920), who had been in Mao Zedong's prison for 27 years from 1952 to 1979, wrote to me that it was Peng Shuzhi and Liu Jialiang (?-1950) because of their political rivalry who informed the internatinal bureau that Chen Duxiu had parted with the Trotskyist movement in jail in Nanjing.(6)

Therefore, the statement by Naville in 1938 wasn't correct and had been caused by an internal difference in our movement in China. Chen's later thought should be examined more carefully than before and can be regarded within the framework of Trotskyism, even so today's ideological situation of our movement emphasizing a democratic aspect of it. Chen Duxiu is now becoming a symbol of "socialist democracy" in China. I and comrades in People's Republic of China propose that Comrade Chen Duxiu should be rehabilited his appropriate position in the history of the Fourth International. More concretely, we present the following specific objectives:

{1} Correct the erroneous statement on Comrade Chen Duxiu in the minutes of the 1938 founding conference of the Fourth International

{2} Make an appeal to all the communists and all those scholars with conscience to clear all frame up charges againt Comrade Chen Duxiu, correct all related mistakes recorded in the official history, and restore his appropriate place in history.



As all the comrades must know, the Trotskyists in China and their sympathizers were in principle all arrested in December 1952 for the cause of "counter-revolutionary". Some members were in jail for 27 years, for example, Zheng Chaolin and Liu Pingmei, whom I mentioned above. Along with the political line of Deng Xiaoping adopted in December 1978, the Chen Duxiu Research Society was founded in People's Republic of China in 1989. Some old Trotskyists have been active for this research society. Its 6th symposium was held for the first time on Chen's later thought, namely on his Trotskyist period, in Wenzhou in May 2001 and the 7th symposium in Nanjing in May 2002 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of Comrade Chen Duxiu. The following members (in anonyms for security reason) working for the Chen Duxiu Research Society and retain their good opinion on the Fourth International

Mr. A (b. 1918) was arrested in 1951 and in jail for 6 years.

Mr. B (b. 1920) was arrested in 1952 and in jail for 27 years till his release in 1979.

Ms. C (b. 1924), a sympathizer, was arrested in 1952 and 1962 and in jail in relatively short periods.

Mr. D (b. 1930) was arrested in 1952 and in jail for 27 years.

Mr. E (b. 1930) was arrested in 1952 and in jail for 5 years.-

Mr. F (b. 1930) was arrested in 1952 and in jail in 5 years.

Mr. G (b. 1932) was in jail for about 5 years

  The Chinese government has been still keeping its oppressive policy against its oppositionists and we cannot have a too optimistic view on the old Trotskyists in China. But, in any case, the organization of the research society on Chen Duxiu is a good symptom. With the comrades of the 'Pioneer' group in Hong Kong, I present the following proposal to the World Congress:

{3}Adopt our solidarity greetings to encourage the old Trotskyists in People's Republic of China.



(1) Documents of the Fourth International: The Formative Years (1933-1940), ed. by Will Reisner, New York: Pathfinder Press, 1973, p. 286.

(2) Li Furen, "La position de Chen Duxiu, Papport 19 janvier 1939," CAHIERS LEON TROTSKY, No. 15 (septembre, 1983), p. 113.

(3) "Déclaration politique de Chen Duxiu (3 novembre 1938)," CAHIERS LEON TROTSKY, No. 15 (n. 2), pp. 108-112; "Letter to Trotsky," in Chen Duxiu's Last Articles and Letters, 1937-1942, ed. and tr. by Gregor Benton, Richmond: Curzon, 1998, pp. 44-49. See also, Peter Kuhfus, "Chen Duxiu and Leon Trotsky: New Lihgt on Their Relationship," China Quarterly, June 1985, No. 102, pp. 253-276.

(4) Li Furen, op. cit. (n. 1), p. 115.

(5) Zheng Chaolin, "Chen Duxiu and the Trotskyists," in Gregor Benton, China's Urban Revolutionaries: Exlarations in the History of Chinese Trotskyism, 1921-1952, Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1996, p. 201.

(6) Dated on January 9, 2002, from Guangzhou, China.



Fourth International