thought to influence China’s intellectuals during the movement, indeed it was not even the most important. However, a number of key intellectuals were sympathetic to its ideas. The best known are the two founding fathers of the CCP Li Dazhao and Chen Duxiu, but there were others such as Li Da, who played a key role in promoting the study of Marxism. The prestige these intellectuals enjoyed among the young people of China, especially those at the universities, meant that marxism was able to gain a sympathetic hearing earlier than would have been the case otherwise. One point worth emphasizing is that most of these intellectuals were primarily nationalists, and ironic as it may seem in the internationalist credo of marxism, and its subsequent Leninist variant, they saw the possibility of China’s national salvation. This is important for understanding subsequent developments and the ultimate form that Marxism-Leninism took in China.
The key magazine in the May Fourth Movement was New Youth (Xin qingnian), which later became the organ of the CCP. It was set up in 1915 and edited by Chen Duxiu and contained regular contributions not only from those who were moving closer to marxism such as Chen himself and Li Dazhao but also from liberals such as Hu Shi. All writers shared a desire to replace the principles of Confucianism with political and social practices to bring China into line with the modern world. The crux of the difference between the liberals and the marxists was the question of political power. Response to the October Revolution drove a deeper wedge between them. Hu Shi and the liberals rejected its value for China but Chen and Li were sympathetic and wished to know more. As Meisner has shown the fundamental difference revolved around whether China’s problems should be resolved by political revolution or by slow, evolutionary change.
A growing interest in labor also helped promote sympathy towards Marxism. During the May Fourth Movement, a more politically conscious urban proletariat began its emergence onto the political stage. Although the workforce remained small, its members were increasing dramatically, primarily as a result of the First World War. China’s tardy industrialization had been propelled forward as many foreign imports disappeared as a result of the war. A number of radical students such as Zhang Guotao and Luo Zhanglong became interested in the workers’ movement and its further development. Both began organization work among the railway workers around Beijing and were among the earliest members of the CCP. The power of labor in Shanghai during the May Fourth Movement greatly impressed later CCP leader and labor activist Li Lisan. Chesneaux and a number of writers have interpreted the development of the labor movement in terms of its fit with the interests of the CCP and viewed the movement as having followed the CCP’s lead. However, especially in Shanghai the labor movement did not begin with the arrival of communist organizers and the CCP had to struggle to adapt to this reality. As Perry has noted, Shanghai labor was the heir "to a tradition of collective action that did not always fit easily with plans of outside organizers." Her detailed study shows how workers’ reactions to CCP and GMD overtures and response to their policies varied "along lines that long predated" the two parties and their respective political regimes.
The pre-cursors to the communist oriented organizations were the marxist study societies that were established in a number of urban centers during the May Fourth movement. The group in Shanghai was the first communist organization to be set up, most probably in