most unlikely that a sufficient base of support could have been developed. Building up an independent armed force was also out of the question, not only because of the lack of numbers and financial resources, but also because it would have inevitably speeded up the clash with the GMD, especially the powerful GMD right.
The failure of the "First Revolution" was not caused directly by either rigid implementation of a misguided Comintern policy or the "capitulationism" and "opportunism" of Chen Duxiu vis-à-vis the GMD. It was more closely related to the CCP’s inability to develop genuine support in urban and rural China and to develop a military force with which to defend itself. The CCP tended to follow behind events in China, interpreting positive signs as the next revolutionary wave that would cause history to flow in the right direction. When the waves came, the party was unable to channel the flow to its own benefit.
B) 1927 – 1937: From Urban Revolution to the Construction of Rural Bases
This period is marked by two diverging tendencies. The first is the failure of continued attempts at urban-based revolution. In these attempts, the Comintern was able to exert a tighter grip over the central party apparatus in Shanghai. The second is the increasing autonomy of the CCP leaders in the base areas that were set up in the late-twenties and early thirties in parts of central and south China. Comintern control of the Party Center was a two-edged sword. On the one hand it enabled the organization to appoint leaders sympathetic to its policies while on the other hand it had to extricate itself from the blame each time policy failed. This resulted in a stream of missives from the Comintern blaming individual CCP leaders for incorrectly applying or even betraying its correct policy line. Life in the base areas offered a learning experience independent of Comintern agendas. The lessons from these experiences informed the policies of Mao Zedong and the other survivors after they arrived in Northwest China after the Long March.
Remarkably, initial policy after Chen Duxiu’s dismissal was a radicalization of policy towards the peasantry. In July 1927, the CCP announced that the revolution had entered another new phase and that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the revolutionary tide was rising. This tendency to ignore reality and to see the revolutionary tide as turning in the CCP’s favor was a constant refrain throughout the remainder of the twenties.
The 7 August Emergency Conference of 1927 resulted in a tightening of the Comintern’s grip over the CCP’s central leadership. It convened in Hankou to evaluate past policy, devise a new strategy, and elect a new party leadership. The Conference marked the formal transition from a strategy of cooperation with the GMD to one of opposition. Mistakes were blamed on the previous leadership of the CCP. This is clearly to be seen in "The Circular Letter" sent to party members after the meeting and in the comments of Lominadze to the Conference itself. The letter denounced the "opportunist" mistakes made in attitude towards to GMD and the mass movement, particularly stressing the failure to support fully the rural revolution. It had little to say about future strategy, emphasizing the sole leadership of the CCP yet still calling for collaboration with GMD leftists. It is worth pointing out that this appeal for continued cooperation derived not