Why Did 2 Foreigners Attend 1st CPC Congress in 1921?

July 1, 2016
Editor: Amanda Wu

Henk Sneevliet (L) and Vladimir Nikolsky (R) [baike.baidu.com]

The 1st National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Congress opened in Shanghai's French Concession district in July 1921, and was later moved on board a boat on Lake Nanhu of Jiaxing County, east China's Zhejiang Province, due to hindrance from a search crew.

Among the over 50 CPC members present, 13 members joined from CPC affiliates across the country as well as the Japan-based CPC group, which consisted of CPC members who studied in Japan. Surprisingly, two foreigners were also involved in the major event.

From the 1840 Opium War onwards, China had suffered much colonialist aggression by foreign forces. Accordingly, foreigners at the time were generally deemed to be "bad people". 

However, two "good foreigners" — who landed in China in June 1921 — helped sympathetic Chinese intellectuals organize the epoch-making meeting. They guided the members of the CPC to hold its first congress and officially establish the unified national CPC organization.

Who were these two foreigners? They were Henk Sneevliet (1883-1942) — a Dutch Communist known by the pseudonym "Maring" — and Vladimir Nikolsky (1889-1938), a Soviet communist from Russia.

Maring was a representative from the Communist International (1919-1943). Born into a poverty-stricken family in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, he cherished a great sympathy for people from colonial and semi-colonial countries. 

In the Dutch colony of Indonesia, Maring, who witnessed colonial oppression first hand, joined the Indonesians in the fight against the occupying power and took active part in the founding of the Communist Party of Indonesia.

In 1920, Maring attended the Second Congress of the Communist International in Moscow.

As he had gained rich experience from participating in Indonesia's revolutionary movement, the Communist International sent him to help advance the Chinese revolution.

Nikolsky arrived in Shanghai almost at the same time as Maring. He was sent by the Secretariat of the Far East Branch of the Communist International. As he was not as famous as Maring, his membership credentials and life experience remained unknown to the Chinese until the 80s.

Born in 1898, Nikolsky joined the Bolsheviks, a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP), in 1921 and soon became engaged in the administrative work of the Communist International.

Shortly afterward, he was appointed to take part in the founding of the CPC in Shanghai and attended a meeting of Korean Marxists who were visiting China at the time.

In addition, Nikolsky functioned as a representative from the Red International of Trade Unions, an international organization of revolutionary trade unions that existed from 1921-1937. 

After the two foreign communists made contact, they met with Chinese revolutionists Li Da (1890-1966) and Li Hanjun (1890-1927) who took charge of the CPC organization work in Shanghai.

Through rounds of communication, the two international representatives absorbed the preparations for the founding of the CPC. Based on their information, the Communist International suggested holding the 1st CPC National Congress at an early date to announce the founding of the CPC.

In collaboration with the 20th anniversary of the founding of the CPC in 1941, the CPC Central Committee issued a notice, stipulating July 1st as the "birth" of the CPC.

(Source: china.com.cn/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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