Xiang Zhongfa : biography
Xiang Zhongfa () (1880 - June 24, 1931) was one of the early senior leaders of the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Xiang was born in 1880 to a poor family living in Hanchuan Hubei. He dropped out of elementary school to move with his parents to their ancestral home in Hubei. When he was 14 years old, he became an apprentice in a weapons factory in Hanyang, a county of Wuhan.
When the factory closed, Xiang found work as a servant in Jiangxi. Three years later, he was recommended by his employer to work for a liner company in Wuhan. He received a promotion to Second Mate four months later and became Chief Mate after two years.
After several years, Xiang transferred to a ship of the major liner company Han Zhiping. There, he was elected as a labor union leader because of his literacy and activity in worker movements. In 1921, Xiang became the Vice Chairman of Han Zhiping's labor union and joined the Communist Party of China.
As the only General Secretary to defect from the CCP and be executed by KMT, Xiang was regarded as a disgrace in CCP history. The CCP sought to erase any memory of him. It was said he had been already dead, only his body was still alive at the time of his execution; he used to be an ambitious and active revolutionist, but the power struggle made him desperate.
During the early years of the CCP, Xiang was not alone as a representative of the proletariat. In the 6th National Congress, the Central Committee elected 22 members from workers, 14 of which defected to the KMT later. It was no surprise that after Xiang’s arrest and execution, another member of politburo, Lu Futan (Chinese: 卢福坦) who also came from the working class, expressed his wish to succeed Xiang as General Secretary. The Comintern rejected the proposal and chose students such as Wang Ming and Bo Gu, who had studied in the Soviet Union. They were seen as more trustworthy to take the leadership of the CCP, although they had no experience compared to the worker activists.
Rise to power
During the Northern Expedition, the army of Kuomintang (KMT) took over some parts of Hubei and marched towards Wuhan. Xiang and Xu Baihao mobilized workers for strikes against local warlords and set up the labor union of the Hubei province, greatly assisting the KMT army. After the CCP headquarters moved to Wuhan, Xiang was elected a member of the Central Committee of CCP for his contributions. Xiang was then among the most prominent worker activists, along with Su Zhaozheng, Wang Hebo and Deng Pei.
The CCP-KMT alliance was facing uncertainty with occasional conflicts arising between these two parties. Xiang expressed his discontent directly, as compared to the more compromising attitude of Chen Duxiu, who didn't attach much importance to worker leaders. The resolute standpoint of Xiang made a great impression on the Comintern, which issued a telegram on July 14, 1927 to denounce the central organs of the CCP, saying there were signs of opportunism in its compromise policy in relation to the KMT, and decreeing that all CCP members should fight against this opportunism. The basic task of reform "should make leaders of workers and peasants have decisive influence in the CCP", according to the Comintern. This view was more in line with Xiang's hard stance.
As a result, at the August 7, 1927 Conference of the CCP, the CCP fired Chen Duxiu and selected Su and Xiang as interim members of the politburo of the CCP. Even so, the CCC's new leadership of Qu Qiubai and Li Weihan was still dominated by intellectuals, contrary to the Comintern's ideals.
In October 1927, the Comintern asked the CCP to organize a delegation to Moscow to attend the celebration ceremony of 10th anniversary of the October Revolution. Many CCP leaders had taken refuge in Guangdong and Hong Kong after the failure of the Nanchang Uprising, and were still there. Su and Li Weihan were still on their way from Wuhan to Shanghai. This left the CCP central organization in disarray, and Xiang was elected to be the director of the delegation to the Soviet Union.
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