chapter  13
27 Pages

VANGUARD OF THE PROLETARIAT? COMMUNISTS AND UNIONS IN SHANGHAI AND BOMBAY, 1927–1929

WithRichard Newman

The crushing of the insurrection was a shattering blow to trade unionism in Shanghai and the political status of the Communist Party throughout China. Bombay and Shanghai were centres of communication by railway, river-boat or the printed word, and both drew a large part of their population from the country areas, so that an urban politician could speak through his immediate audience to a wider public in the surrounding provinces. Trade unions mushroomed in the wake of the victorious armies, especially in the heavy industries of cities like Hankow and in communications services like the post office, but also among a variety of non-industrial workers like hand-cart coolies. In March 1926 Chiang put Canton under martial law, arrested a number of Russian and Chinese communists and closed down some of the local trade unions. As the largest industrial centre in China Shanghai seemed to have the makings of a power base for the communists.