Report on Anarchism in China in 1925

Anarchism in age-old China is still young, However, there are a number of philosophers who have come pretty close to anarchism. The philsopher Lao-Tze in his famous work Morality took the line that there could only be peace once government authority had been abolished. But the book contained too much metaphysics and the upshot was that the Chinese were advocates of “doing nothing” and “laissez-faire”. A mistake.

Later, it was Min-Tze’s turn to expound upon Fraternity.

Finally, in 1911-1912, a Chinese version of New Times (Les Temps nouveaux) was launched by comrades living in Paris. They translated pamphlets of Kropotkin’s such as To Decent Folk and Law and Authority and so on.

By the way, let us pay tribute to the founders of New Times who did pioneering work in anarchism, but, alas! these erstwhile anarchists have turned into politicians. One of them, Lyinging, is a reformist official loyal to the Peking [Beijing] government; another, Won-Tze-Hoei, is a republican loyal to the Canton government, the government that started the war in China. The comrades from the Liberulo group in Canton, among others, attacked Won-Tze-Hoei, who is an old man now, and even brought out special issues denouncing his anti-revolutionary conduct and criticising his politicking.

After New Times, the first anarchist group established on Chinese soil is the group of Sifo (Shih Fu) who publishes a weekly newspaper, The People’s Voice, under the group’s aegis. The People’s Voice was banned by the government and even by the Dutch colonial authorities in China. However, the paper published lots of articles by Kropotkin, followed by the famous declarations in favour of or against the war in 1914: the declarations by Kropotkin and J. Grave and company, followed by the one from Malatesta, Bertoni, etc. All with Chinese commentary by Sifo.

In the wake of an attempt of the life of the dictator, comrade Sifo was wounded and his bomb destroyed his arm. He was thrown into jail. After release he set up a small press where, along with a few comrades, he drafted and personally type-set the newspaper. Up until he breathed his last, this brave comrade churned out propaganda material. He wrote a book, The Beaten Tiger. After he died, his comrades published his correspondence and articles as Studies of Anarchism. The People’s Voice was written in two languages: Chinese and Esperanto. A large number of pamphlets was published by the group, but, after Sifo’s death his comrades were unable to sustain the venture, which is a pity.

Bakunin’s God and the State was translated into Chinese by another Peking [Beijing] anarchist group, but the translation was poor.

The People’s Voice was replaced by Evolution. It was this new group that interpreted the Russian revolution of 1917. One of the group’s members translated Arthur Ransome’s Six Weeks in Russia. But these days the pro-Moscow communists and the anarcho-communists are at daggers drawn.

Evolution was a monthly review distrubuted in student circles.

Chinese editions have been published of Anarchist Morality, Modern Science and Anarchy, The State, Anarchy, Its Philosophy, Its Ideal and so on.

The comrade who handles the administration of the review, Pei-kang [better known as Ba Jin], was jailed by the British police and Japanese police in China and a very hefty fine was slapped on him, which annoyed us greatly. In one last effort, the comrades decided to publish an anthology of Kropotkin entitled Kropotkin’s Thought. It proved a successs and by 1920 was into its fourth edition.

But Evolution went under.

There were a few groups in the provinces too, but they counted for little.

At present in China the situation of the anarchist movement is as follows:

1. In Peking [Beijing] a daily newspaper has been launched by politicians, one of whom signs himself M.U. or Lao-Men. This character is a member of the Chamber of Deputies but at the same time purports to be an anarchist. The source of funding for this paper, Kouo-Fong, is a secret. But it is a platform for politicians and informers, even though a supplement inserted in it is forever throwing the word ‘anarchy’ about.

At one point the students from the various universities in Peking [Beijing] had a weekly anarchist bulletin, but today their numbers have shrunk and they print only an occasional circular. There were several tendencies in their ranks, but at one point, their shared attitude was: “Go to the people, be part of the people.”

2. In Shanghai the Liberulo group is currently publishing a monthly review, La Liberulo, which has taken over from Evolution and The People’s Voice. This review represents the real face of anarchism in China. Sound anarcho-communist comrades near Shanghai have joined this group, but the numbers of sound comrades remain small. For the moment, certain members of the group work hand in glove with the young trade unionists.

3. In Canton the Sonorilo de la Popolo group publishes a review. There is a South China Anarchist Federation. At one point this federation was collapsed by a leading member who turned republican but the local anarchists have refloated it.

The third anniversary of Kropotkin’s death was marked in Peking [Beijing] and the speeches made were published in Sonorilo de la Popolo. Comrade Bao-Pu has written about the Russian revolution and his articles have been published by the Canton group. Unfortunately for that group, its members are often too close to the republicans.

4. Western China. In Szechuan province there is a little anarchist newspaper by the name of Szechuan Youth.

In short, the anarchist movement in China is not very strong. Communications difficulties are a big factor. Then again, militarism is rampant over there. The imperialists have tried everything to bring the population to heel. Most 30 year old peasants still cannot read or write. And it is from their ranks that the soldiers ae recruited. So anarchists have to overcome countless difficulties if their propaganda is to work.

There is a huge number of Chinese emigrants scattered around the globe and subscribing to different views. Chinese anarchists living in France, of whom there are not many, publish a review called La Laboro. In America there is a monthly anarcho-syndicalist review called Kun-Sin, run by comrades from the “Kon-y Association”.

From: La Revue Internationale Anarchiste (Paris) 15 May 1925, pp. 166-167. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.