The Transformation of Progressive Ideologies: Reflections on the Anarchist Movement in the Chinese Revolution, 1911-1929

Chang Liu, The New School for Social Research

By reflecting on the anarchist movement in the Chinese Revolution, this paper attempts to demonstrate the general logic in the transformation of the Western progressive ideologies in a non-West social environment and provide more empirical evidence for the revision potential of previous theorization on the role of ideology in social revolutions. In this process, this paper will reexamine various conceptions of ideology and the role of ideology in the revolutions by reviewing the debate between Skocpol (1985) and Sewell (1985) triggered by the seminal work States and Social Revolutions (1979). Based on the reflections on the political failure of anarchist movement and the victory of the CCP in the Chinese Revolution, this paper argues that it is the distinct operational capacity of ideology rather than their doctrinal impact that determines the political outcomes of the ideological movement in the revolution. Although ideological acting groups could make adaptions strategically in response to the social circumstances, to its rivals, to reflect on its own actions, the revolutionary tactics and practice are ultimately constrained by the fundamental goals and premises embedded in the ideology.

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 Presented in Session 142. Political Economy in China