Provost and Dean of Faculty Patricia Stranahan had a book chapter published recently. Titled “The Chinese Communist Party during the Third Period, 1927-1934,” the chapter appeared “In Search of Revolution: International Communist Parties in the Third Period,” edited by Matthew Worley (London: I.B. Tauris, 2004). It is a collection of essays by a group of international scholars that focus on the development of communism worldwide during a pivotal period.
The collection of essays in the book are written by an international group of scholars on communism. It is a broad range of case studies of individual countries from which comparisons and information can be drawn to understand the complexity of a critical period.
Stranahan's chapter looks at China from 1928-1034. For China, this appears on the surface to be a disastrous period. Stalin's policies were not practical in a country with a small and repressed working class, a young, fragmented communist party, and an increasingly powerful national government. Nevertheless, the urban-based Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership implemented the line. In the late 1920s/early 1930s, the young CCP focused primarily on implementing a proletarian revolution in urban areas. As it did elsewhere, Stalin's policy failed in China and, as he did elsewhere, he blamed the Secretary-General of the CCP and replaced him with a group under his direct control. It was a period of terror for the urban CCP and by 1933 what was left of the urban party went underground. Party leaders retreated to the countryside where isolated CCP army units (the largest of which was under Mao Zedong) were expanding party-controlled territories and implementing social and economic reforms. It is from these rural bases that Mao Zedong built his power. During these years CCP leaders stopped blindly following Moscow's policies and began to adapt to local environments and embrace issues that mattered to local populations. The CCP began to develop the pragmatic ideology that served it well in the decade to come and eventually led to its takeover of China in 1949.
The “Third Period” (1928-1934) is a part of what the Communist International (the Moscow-based group under Stalin that directed communist parties around the world) recognized as periods of “historical phases of development” that the international labor movement passed through after WWI. Each phase represented a different stage in what was believed to be an ongoing crisis in the capitalist system. The “Third Period” was proclaimed in 1928 because the Communist International (based in Moscow under Stalin) believed that there were contradictions in capitalism that would lead to a world crisis. They foresaw giant class battles carried out by the working classes and led by young communist parties that were growing up in countries around the world. The policy was a disaster. It was supposed to herald the final crisis of capitalism and the rise of proletarian revolution but what the world saw instead was the rise of Nazism and a depression in capitalist countries that severely weakened the working classes. In addition, this was a period when Stalin consolidated the world communist movement forcing many nationalist communist parties to go underground.
Stranahan is also the author of “Underground: The Shanghai Communist Party and the Politics of Survival, 1927-1927” (Rowman and Littlefield, 1998).