Chinese History: Mao, The Red Army, and the Long March Part 1

About the long march of the Red Army of China, Mao Tse-Tung, then a soldier, his biography and part in the event.


WHEN: 1934

HOW: The war between Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang and the peasant Red Army had been going on in China since 1928. The Red Army was an army of volunteers with strict discipline yet egalitarian brotherhood between the men and officers. Foremost among its leaders were Chang Kuo-t'ao and Mao Tse-tung, old friends since student days in Peking and co-founders of the Chinese Communist party at Shanghai. Their goals were extreme: to confiscate landlords' estates and distribute the land among the poor peasants, to establish socialist leadership over the means of production, and to correct the inequality then existing in China. Chinese soldiers before them had had a reputation for cruelty. There was even a proverb about it: "Good iron doesn't become a nail, nor does a good man become a solider." Mao changed that. His soldiers, unlike those before, treated the people well. There was even a song about it:

1. Replace doors when you leave a house. 2. Return and roll up the straw matting. 3. Be courteous and polite to the people and help them. 4. Return all borrowed articles. 5. Replace all damaged articles. 6. Be honest in all transactions with the peasants. 7. Pay for all articles purchased. 8. Be sanitary; establish latrines at a safe distance from people's houses.

Beginning in 1930, concerned about the burgeoning Red Army, Chiang Kai-shek went into all-out war, but kept losing battles. The Red Army was winning by practicing its tactical slogans: "When the enemy advances, we retreat. When the enemy halts and encamps, we trouble him. When the enemy seeks to avoid battle, we attack. Whenever the enemy retreats, we pursue."

Then Chiang began to use new methods suggested by his Prussian advisers. He built a series of forts, extended highways, and began to encircle the Red Army. The Red Army was getting German advice, too--theirs from Gen. Li Teh ("Otto") who had been smuggled in by the Comintern, the Soviet-dominated Communist International. Mao and other Red leaders had been winning battles by operating from the countryside and avoiding the cities. Against the advice of Mao and his men, Li Teh committed about 180,000 men to great battles planned to hold towns and cities. They were badly defeated. After 7 years of fighting and winning, the Red Army found itself encircled; the only choices were surrender or withdrawal. In a bold stroke, Mao decided to withdraw the 90,000 men that were left to his command.

On October 16, 1934, Mao and his army began what later became known as Liang Wan Wu-Ch'ien-Li Ch'ang Ch'eng--the Long March of 25,000 li. It began in Fukien and ended at the end of the road near the Gobi Desert--a distance of about 6,000 mi. Not since Xenophon was there such a magnificent and morally triumphant retreat. It was a road marked by battle, privation, death, and faith. Thousands died.

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