Reclaiming the Chinese Revolution

Elizabeth J. Perry
2008 Journal of Asian Studies  
Focusing on the Chinese Communists' mobilizational efforts at the Anyuan coal mine in the early 1920s, the author argues for reconsidering a sometimes forgotten part of Chinese revolutionary history. At Anyuan, idealistic young Communist cadres led a highly successful non-violent strike and launched a major educational program for workers, peasants and their families. The result was a remarkable outpouring of popular support for the Communist revolutionary effort. Although the meaning of the
more » ... yuan revolutionary tradition" has been obscured and distorted over the years to serve a variety of personal, political and pecuniary agendas, the author seeks to recover from its early history the possibility of alternative revolutionary paths, driven less by class struggle and cults of personality than by the quest for human dignity through grassroots organization. Elizabeth J. Perry ( is Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute and Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government at Harvard University. Revolutionary Reversals Revolutions are unpopular these days, among Western politicians and scholars alike. We put our faith in liberal institutions such as markets and courts of law, looking to "democratic transitions" rather than to social revolutions as the path toward political progress. The view of revolution as a nasty and needless mistake was evident twenty years ago when celebrations surrounding the bicentennial of the French Revolution evoked debate and discomfort both inside and outside of France. Then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, after leaving Paris on Bastille Day of 1989, tapped into the
doi:10.1017/s0021911808001733 fatcat:6z6xlcymqbhzpel2zhz74dasj4