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The Kwangtung peasant movement, 1922-1928 Gruetter, Robert James

Abstract

The peasant movement that swept China in the mid 1920's originated in Kwangtung Province in 1922 when P'eng P'ai organized peasant unions in Haifeng hsien. The unions spread into neighboring hsien, but not until 1924, following the reorganization of the Kuomintang and its alliance with the Chinese Communist Party and the subsequent creation of the Peasant Bureau and Peasant Institute, did the peasant movement spread throughout the province. The peasant unions grew rapidly and by June 1927 they had enrolled perhaps 700,000 members. The very explosiveness of the movement's development and the increasingly violent tactics used by peasant organizers to mobilize the peasants aggravated a growing rift between factions within the Kuomintang. This rift led to the collapse of the United Front of the KMT and CCP and destroyed the peasant movement. Beginning in June 1926 counter-revolutionary forces attacked the unions. Peasant forces that survived these first onslaughts were crushed by regular Kuomintang troops in 1927 and 1928. This thesis is an examination of the peasant movement in Kwangtung from 1922 to 1928, and it seeks to explain why the movement ended in failure. To answer this question various characteristics of seven regions within the province are discussed, providing the material for an analysis (that appears in Chapter III) of why some regions organized peasant unions more successfully than others. The second chapter traces where and when unions developed and how strong they became. The third and concluding chapter of the thesis compares and contrasts the material presented in the preceding chapters, and it concludes that not only the breakdown of the United Front doomed the Kwangtung peasant movement to failure, but that the strength of the local, traditional society determined how successful the unions would be.

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