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Peter Zarrow / 1930s Political Thought in China

Tuesday, October 18, 2016
4:00pm – 5:30pm

Storrs Campus
HBL 4th Floor Room 209

From Trotskyism to Proletarian Democracy: China, 1930s October 18 / 4-5:30 pm Homer Babbidge Library 4th Floor, Room 4/209

Presenter Peter Zarrow is professor of History and affiliated faculty of the Asian/Asian American Studies Institute at UConn. His research focuses on the intellectual and cultural history of modern China. Zarrow is currently writing a monograph on utopian thought in China in the twentieth century and has begun a project on the history of the Forbidden City. He is the author most recently of After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 1885-1924 (Stanford, 2012) and Educating China: Knowledge, Society, and Textbooks in a Modernizing World, 1902-1937 (Cambridge, 2015).

Abstract: This paper explores the trajectory of the political thought of Chen Duxiu (1879-1942) through the 1930s. Chen’s ideas changed dramatically over his lifetime but a utopian vision of true democracy was central to his thought. He is best known as a co-founder and first general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, and he dismissed democracy as regressive “bourgeois democracy” during the time of his membership in the Party from 1921 to 1929. However, Chen was a leading advocate of democracy both before the 1911 Revolution and especially in its wake in the 1910s. And again he returned to the theme of democracy in the 1930s. This paper focuses on how Chen “returned” to democratic thinking over the course of the 1930s. I argue that Chen’s conversion to Trotskyism allowed him to make sense of the CCP’s defeat (1927-1928) and stimulated him to rethink revolutionary goals as well as strategies. Though he eventually abandoned Trotskyism, he did not precisely return to either the liberal or communitarian democracy he had earlier advocated, but rather developed the notion of proletarian democracy. In Chen’s understanding, democracy was a kind of universal force unfolding through history and realized through class struggle.

CONTACT FRED.LEE@UCONN.EDU FOR A COPY OF THE PAPER This event is a UConn Political Theory Workshop / University of Connecticut Humanities Institute Working Group


Prof. Fred Lee at

Asian American Studies Institute (primary), Graduate School - Events, UConn Master Calendar

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