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Rural Mobilization in Times of Political Adversity: The Autumn Harvest Uprising in Southern Henan By Odoric Y.K. Wou and Wang Quanying In late 1927 and early 1928, a series of so-called Autumn Harvest Uprisings was mounted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in a move to regain power in the countryside after the debacle the party had suffered when Chiang Kaishek, in alliance with Feng Yuxiang, had moved against them in mid-1927. At the time the CCP regarded the uprisings as failures, and Qu Qiubai, the party leader responsible for them, was purged and accused of being a "putschist" (mengdong zhuyi), that is, of acting blindly in defiance of objective conditions. Western scholars have studied the uprisings, but have mostly focused on Mao's activities in Hunan.1 However, the Autumn Harvest Uprisings were wider phenomena, covering several provinces . This paper examines a lesser (or supportive) movement in southern Henan to look at the uprisings in an area other than Hunan. Our standard impression of these uprisings is that they were · failed "adventurist" undertakings that were hastily launched without proper resources and planning, by a leadership that was often not in touch with harsh local realities. But we have little knowledge of how policy was debated at various levels of party organizations. For instance, low-level party cadres, who had knowledge of the limited resources and adverse political conditions in the localities, must have realized that launching insurrections at this time would spell disaster for the party. But did they challenge the policy, and if they did, what was the reaction from above? A step-by-step reconstruction of the CCP' s internal arguments and negotiations regarding the uprisings will add much to our knowledge of the party's decision- and policymaking processes. Moreover, Communist insurgency was essentially a challenge to local power. In the beginning, Communists relied on winning over or subverting existing local armed forces in order to build military bases in the localities. In such endeavors, they frequently encountered obstacles, especially when they had little to offer to win over local powerholders. Study of the bargaining process between CCP cadres and local powerholders can provide valuable insights into the party's early efforts to adapt to and survive in rural society. This paper therefore examines both the debate within the CCP which culminated in the decision to launch armed insurrections, and also the bargaining process that took place between the CCP and local powerholders in the course of implementing that decision. Through this examination, I hope to reveal more about the manner in which the party attempted to foster rural mobilization in an adversarial political environment. THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ASSESSMENT In late September 1927, the Henan Provincial Committee received instructions from the Central Executive Committee of the CCP (party Central) to mount insurrections in the harvest season. At an emergency conference in Hankou on 7 August 1927, Party Central (then led by Qu Qiubai) had announced new party policy in the famous 7 August Directive, which specifically called for a militant land policy and rural insurrections (P:dashiji: 34; Harrison: 123-129). Party Central ordered Henan to launch an uprising on 10 September as a move "to shield and safeguard the success of the insurrection in its neighboring province of Hubei."2 When the Henan CCP received the instruction, the date fixed for the insurrection had already passed. The Provincial Committee immediately held an enlarged meeting, reorganized the party, and hastily adopted several resolutions in accord with the new party line. It then dispatched Ren Zuomin to Wuhan to learn the insurrection plans ofHubei and Hunan party organs, so that Henan could effectively coordinate its uprisings with theirs. In preparation for the forthcoming insurrection, the provincial leadership under Zhou Yili also evaluated the current political situation. Even as early as July 1927, apparently in response to the shifting political situation, Zhou had independently changed provincial party policy to "Oppose Feng Yuxiang and the Fengtian Clique" from "Welcome Feng Yuxiang and Oppose the Fengtian Clique," a conciliatory policy then still endorsed by Party Central. In an August 1927 letter to Party Central assessing the current Henan situation, Zhou (writing on behalf of the Provincial...


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