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August 1920 and, very loosely it functioned as the provisional Party Center until the First Congress was convened the following year. The Shanghai group was instrumental in the establishment of groups in Wuhan (September 1920), Jinan (November/December 1920), and Guangzhou (Canton, January 1921). In addition, there were groups that called themselves communist in Beijing (October 1920), Changsha (end 1920/early 1921), Tianjin (before May 1921), Hong Kong (before May 1921), and Chongqing (March 1920). While they called themselves communist, this did not meant that they operated with communist organizational principles or even that the majority viewpoint within tehm was communist. For example, the group in Guangzhou before Chen Duxiu’s arrival had nine members of whom seven were under the influence of anarchism. The only two who were not anarchists were the two members of the Rosta News Agency, Stoyanovich and Perlin. In January 1921 when Chen arrived in Guangzhou his first task was to reorganize the group and challenge the influence of the anarchists. Similar problems were confronted in Beijing where the communist group also had very strong anarchists tendencies about which early communists Li Dazhao and Zhang Guotao complained bitterly.

Although the precise structure and names varied from place to place, by the time of the First Party Congress the communist organizations functioned in a three-fold structure. Operating illegally at the core were the communist small groups; then there were units of the Socialist Youth Corps operating semi-openly and providing a recruitment pool for the party; and finally the marxist study societies presented a public face, trying to reach the widest possible audience.

Before the First Party Congress, the work of the groups varied from place to place as did its intensity. However, in general, with varying degrees of success, the nascent groups involved themselves in the labor movement and propaganda work. For example, to facilitate this work, the Shanghai organization was divided into two sections: one for propaganda and one for labor work. Work was patchy at best, and even in Shanghai during the first half of 1921 work began to fold. This was a result of the lack of funding, the lack of personnel to carry out the workload, as well as emerging disagreements over how activist the nascent party should be. This environment formed the back-drop to the First Congress that opened in Shanghai on 23 July 1921. It was attended by 13 Chinese delegates representing 53 members and by Maring on behalf of the Comintern, and Nikolsky representing the Irkutsk Bureau of the Comintern.

Despite the policy of the Comintern and the presence of its representatives, the First Party Congress adopted a sectarian, pro-proletarian line and was extremely hostile to any notion of cooperation with the bourgeoisie. The views of those who felt that the proletariat was too immature and that the party should concentrate on education and study alternatives such as social democracy was rejected. The "Program" passed by the Congress called for the "revolutionary army of the proletariat to overthrow the capitalistic classes" and for the adoption of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The "Program" and the "Resolution" are uncompromising in their hostility to collaboration with other parties, groups or the "yellow intellectual class." The workers’ movement was confirmed as the core of party work with the chief aim being the creation of industrial unions.

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