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Otto Braun's Curriculum VitaeTranslation and Commentary by Frederick S. Litten In 1934 the center of the Chinese Communist revolution, the Jiangxi Soviet , faced annihilation by Chiang Kai-shek's troops. Only by what was at first called a "strategic transfer" and later became known as the "Long March" were the Communists initially able to survive. When in early 1935 the .Communist leadership felt the need to look back and "explain" the debacle (resulting in the so-called Zunyi Resolution 1 ), they chose to put most of the blame not on the overwhelming military superiority of the Nationalists, nor on possible errors and deficiencies in their own performance, but on the German communist military advisor Otto Braun· (aliases Li De and Hua Fu), who was said to have practically taken over the military leadership of the Red Army during 1934.2 Since then, Chinese communists have usually blamed Braun and, above all, his tactic of duancu tuji ("short, swift strikes"-discussed below) for the military defeat of the Jiangxi Soviet, averring that, had Mao's strategy and tactics been used as before, neither the end of the Soviet nor the Long March would have happened then.3 More interesting than the hackneyed denunciations of Braun are the exceptions : In talks with Edgar Snow, Zhou Enlai, for example, did not blame Braun's tactics for the loss of the Jiangxi Soviet, but rather the Nationalists' superiority and the CCP's non-cooperation with the Fujian rebels (which he does partly blame on Braun).4 During the Cultural Revolution Braun seems to have become a lesser target, with Wang Ming suddenly being said to have behaved like a taishanghuang ("God of War") 5 and Lin Biao being criticized for the duancu tuji tactics, whereas at other times Braun has had this "honor."6 (Of course, since the Maoist rewriting of history-beginning in the second half of the 1930s and evident in the 1945 "Resolution on Certain Historical Questions"7 -Wang Ming has been held politically responsible for everything that went wrong in the first half of the 1930s, Bo Gu and Braun being regarded more or less as his political and military henchmen.) * I would like to express my thanks to Jon Halliday for giving me the decisive nudge to translate and comment upon Braun's c.v. Twentieth-Century China, 23.1 (November 1997): 31-62 32 Twentieth-Century China In the West-excluding studies from the former Soviet Union and German Democratic Republic (GDR), where for both political and personal reasons Braun had a decidedly better press8 -a tendency towards a negative appraisal of Braun's abilities can be found especially in recent more specialized studies which depend to a large degree on newly-available Chinese communist documents and scholarship .9 Surprisingly, none of these recent studies cite the contemporary articles by Braun in the journal Geming yu zhanzheng (Revolution and Waifare) (see below). However, even knowing these articles Chi-hsi Hu (an earlier scholar whose studies of 1970 and 1980 seem to have been quite influential on later scholarship) was able to misrepresent Braun's statements considerably in the process of constructing a simplistic dichotomy between Mao and Lin Biao (capable ) on the one hand and Braun (incapable) on the other.lO Other presentations, often covering more ground, mention Braun in a rather non-committal way, but argue that the various advantages held by the Nationalists were mostly responsible for the Communists' defeat.ll In recent decades, only two studies seem to have gone even further, explicitly arguing that the Nationalists' superiority was the main factor for the Communists' defeat, but that Braun's tactics were not unsuited to and did about as well as could have been expected under the dire circumstances, including a Chinese Red Army which was sometimes itself less than capable. 12 While most studies dealing with the CCP in the 1930s thus mention Otto Braun, some even assigning him an important role at one of the crucial moments of the Chinese revolution, and while his China memoirs serve as the only nonMaoist on-the-spot source for the time around the Long March,13 there still exists no reliable biographical sketch of him...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1940-5065
Print ISSN
1521-5385
Pages
pp. 31-61
Launched on MUSE
2021-05-25
Open Access
No
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