RE: Mark Selden and "The Yenan Way"

From Alex Day <>
Date Wed, 20 Oct 2004 11:57:08 -0700 (PDT)
In-reply-to <33047bb3305b9a.3305b9a33047bb@Princeton.EDU>

  Here are some notes I once wrote up that touch on
your question.  I think that Chuck is right that
studies became more and more locally based though most
people still seem to try to make some sort of
totalizing conclusion.  note it has been a while since
I wrote this or looked over the stuff, but I hope it
helps some.  


Within the Cold War environment, early arguments about
the Chinese revolution tended to stress the Leninist
and Soviet nature of the Chinese revolution.  The
revolution was seen as an export of the Soviet Union
with Leninist organization as its main weapon (North
1953).  It was not until Chalmers Johnson’s Peasant
Nationalism and Communist Power (1962), an early
attempt to understand peasant rebellion and its
appropriation by the CCP, that anyone looked at the
revolution from a sociological or bottom-up
perspective.  Johnson’s argument that it was primarily
nationalism that allowed the CCP to mobilize peasant
unrest set the stage for many later debates.    
	Mark Selden (1971) and Donald Gillin (1964) produced
interesting local studies to critique Johnson, arguing
that it was the socio-economic policies of the CCP
that brought peasants to their side.  Roy Hofheinz
(1969, 1977) argues that it was the CCP’s ability to
impose superior organization that allowed them to
mobilize the peasantry.  Tetsuya Kataoka (1974) built
on Hofheinz’s work, arguing that the peasantry was
only a potential power and was not able to organize
itself.  The organizational strength of the CCP was
the key to turning peasant dissatisfaction and
traditional forms of rebellion into a nationally
significant political and military force.  Edward
Friedman (1974) argues that CCP and peasant
understandings of the world were at odds, but that
their aims came together, allowing peasant rebellions
to be organized by the CCP.  It is notable that so
many different answers were offered in order to
explain the revolution.  In part, this was because of
differing political viewpoints, but also because most
of these studies involved extracting a totalizing
answer for the revolution from a regional study.
Elizabeth Perry (1980) sees peasant rebellion as a
conservative and protective activity to either defend
or acquire resources.  CCP organizing was always at
odds with the conservative nature of peasant
rebellion.  Robert Marks (1984) argues against
Hofheinz, suggesting that it was peasant reaction to a
disruption of the “moral economy” that led to support
for the CCP.  Ralph Thaxton (1983) argues that Western
economic imperialism disrupted the traditional
relationship between landlord and tenant, which in the
Republican period led to greater exploitation of the
peasantry.  The CCP gained legitimacy by mobilizing
peasant dissatisfaction against the landlords.  Ch’en
Yung-fa (1986) shows how party members both mobilized
peasants through revolutionary programs and attempted
to reduce threats to the rural elites.  Kamal Sheel
(1989) employs James Scott’s idea of the peasant
“moral economy” to help explain the development of the
rural revolutionary movement in Jiangxi.  He shows
that the traditional relationship between the peasant
and the local elite was broken when the elite took
over state institutions from a weakened Republican
government for personal profit.  Within this context
Communist intellectuals mobilized the peasants, but
only when they worked with the moral economy within
which peasant understood the world.  Thaxton (1997)
continued his earlier work in a local study of CCP
peasant support, showing that it was only by molding
their organizational policies to local forms of
resistance that the CCP was able to build their

Chen, Yung-fa.  1986. Making Revolution: The Communist
Movement in Eastern and Central China, 1937-1945.
Berkeley: University of California Press. 

Friedman, Edward.  1974. Backward toward Revolution:
The Chinese Revolutionary Party. Berkeley: University
of California Press. 

Gillin, Donald.  1964. “Peasant Nationalism and
Communist Power,” in The Journal of Asian Studies.
XXIII: 269-89.

Hofheinz, Roy.  1977. The Broken Wave: The Chinese
Communist Peasant Movement, 1922-1928. Cambridge,
Mass.: Harvard University Press. 

-----.  1969. “The Ecology of Chinese Communist
Success: Rural Influence Patterns, 1923-1943,” In
Chinese Communist Politics in Action. A. Doak Barnett
ed., Seattle: University of Washington Press, 3-77.

Johnson, Chalmers. 1962. Peasant Nationalism and
Communist Power: The Emergence of Revolutionary China,
1937-1945. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Kataoka, Tetsuya. 1974. Resistance and Revolution in
China: The Communists and the Second United Front.
Berkeley: University of California Press.

Marks, Robert.  1984. Rural Revolution in South China
: Peasants and the Making of History in Haifeng
County, 1570-1930. Madison: University of Wisconsin

Myers, Ramon. 1970. The Chinese Peasant Economy:
Agricultural Development, 1840-1949. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press.

North, Robert C. 1953. Moscow and the Chinese
Communists. Stanford: Stanford University Press.  

Perry, Elizabeth.  1980. Rebels and Revolutionaries in
North China, 1845-1945. Stanford: Stanford University

Sheel, Kamal.  1989. Peasant Society and Marxist
Intellectuals in China : Fang Zhimin and the Origin of
a Revolutionary Movement in the Xinjiang Region.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 

Thaxton, Ralph.  1983. China Turned Rightside Up :
Revolutionary Legitimacy in the Peasant World. New
Haven: Yale University Press. 

-----.  1997. Salt of the Earth : The Political
Origins of Peasant Protest and Communist Revolution in
China. Berkeley: University of California Press. 

--- "William C. Wooldridge" <woldrdge@Princeton.EDU>



My (limited) understanding of post-Seldon scholarship
is that there has been a major shift in the field from
looking at CCP ideology to looking at individual
bargains the CCP drove in different places.  I vaguely
remember a book called Making Revolution by somebody
Chen, and lots of case studies since.  Where did I see
a review article ... Journal of Asian Studies?

This is all horribly vague.  But my sense of the
current state of the field is that it has moved toward
viewing the CCP as making use of different methods in
different places, and that expediency was more
relevant than ideology.  People point to things like
the Communists selling opium to raise money or cutting
bargains with local warlords.  Seems like it is about
time for the pendulum to swing back toward Seldon.  

But I'm a nineteenth-century guy, a bit out of the
loop.  If you find an answer to your question, I'd
appreciate it if you let me know.



----- Original Message -----

From: brian turner <>

Date: Tuesday, October 19, 2004 0:53 am

Subject: RE: Mark Selden and "The Yenan Way"

> >From: Saul Thomas <> 
> >To: 
> >Subject: Mark Selden and "The Yenan Way" 
> >Date: Sun, 17 Oct 2004 07:30:58 -0500 
> > 
> > 
> >Does anyone here have any opinion of Mark Selden
and "The Yenan 
> Way" (or 
> >the 
> >later revision, "The Yenan Way Revisited")? I am
curious as to 
> how he and 
> >that 
> >work are regarded now by left and mainstream China
> > 
> >Thanks, 
> > 
> >Saul 
> The new chapter (I think the same as "Yan'an
> Reconsidered" an 
> article in 'Modern China' around 1995) acknowledges
that he 
> overlooked 
> Leninist/Despotic elements that were present even
then, but argues 
> that by 
> in large the view of a populist party creating a
more (not fully) 
> democratic 
> culture is right. 
> A cynic would simply declare that new evidence about
CCP crimes in 
> the war 
> period proves they were always evil bastards, but a
> interesting 
> question, rejecting the simplistic cynical view, is
why they went 
> from 
> genuine populists constructing something quite
different from 
> Soviet 
> "socialism" to Soviet despotic bureaucrats. Is it
inevitable (the 
> iron law 
> of bureaucracy)? Influenced by particular
circumstances? Chinese 
> culture? 
> Or was there a betrayal by those with power? 

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