In Memory of Marshall Chu Teh

chu teh

On July 6th this year, we commemorated the 45th death anniversary of Marshall Chu Teh.,Few Comrades ever  so creatively applied the military line of chairman Mao or illustrated the spiritual metamorphosis within a revolutionary as Chu.. His name will be permanently enshrined amongst the heroes of the Chinese Revolution. and great military or Communists in world history. Today his spirit still illuminates in the heart of many a revolutionary, like an inextinguishable flame.

Few military commanders ever displayed such mastery in tackling an enemy at it’s hardest point, analyzing contradictions and prescribing tactics in accordance to the situation, as Marshall Chu Teh. Chu Teh displayed skill and creativity of magical proportion sin undertaking offensives against the enemy, as commander of the Red army and Eighth Route army

After Chairman Mao and Premier Zhou En Lai .no one made a greater or more contribution towards shaping the Chinese Revolution. The revolutionary war of China be it in the Long March,Anti-Japanese War or Civil war, escalated revolutionary endeavour on an paralleled scale.Chu Teh  was the equivalent of heart to a body in that era. Without Chu Chairman Mao would have been unable to formulate his theory of protracted peoples war. He testified that the Chinese Revolution was not only about Chairman Mao but about team work. Mao’s elevation to such a height would have virtually been impossible or his model of peasant based revolution, without the relentless loyalty and self effacing support of Chu Teh.No Comrade was so frequently found besides Chairman Mao. It is praiseworthy how Chu persisted with spirit of collective discipline, even when in minority, Mao’s elevation to such a height would have virtually been impossible or his model of peasant based revolution, without the relentless loyalty and self effacing support of Chu Teh.No Comrade was so frequently found besides Chairman Mao. Ironically, for one year he was detained by Chang Kuo-Ta.

Chu Teh was simplicity personified posessing physical endurance of incredible volumes. At the ripe old age of 80 he played basketball.Even Egdar Snow’s ‘Red Star over China’ portrays the monumental role and outstanding character of this revolutionary icon.

Born poor on December 1st, 1886 in Sichuan, Chu Teh   was adopted by a wealthy uncle at age nine. His wealthy uncle provided him a superior early education that led to his admission into a military academy. After the academy, he joined a rebel army and soon became a warlord. It was after this period that he adopted communism. He joined the CCP in 1922,in Berlin, under the guidance of Zhou En Lai. I

n 1927, he participated with Zhou en Lai, Li Lisan and other early CCP-leaders in the abortive Nanchang Uprising. After this failed, he led the remnants of his troops eventually to Chinkangshan, where he joined forces with Mao Zedong. There, the 4th Red Army was formed, with Zhu as commander and Mao as political commissar. In the Kiangsi Soviet , Zhu also started his career as a CCP-leader by joining the Central Committee. After the Long March and the arrival of the revolutionary forces in Yenan, Zhu was made commander of the 8th Route Army. Subsequently, he became Commander-in-Chief of Peoples Liberation Army in 1945. In 1955, Zhu was made a Marshall of the PLA together with such famous commanders as Ye Jianying, Peng Te Huai, HoLung ,Liu Bocheng  and Lin Biao.

Mao’s elevation to such a height would have virtually been impossible or his model of peasant based revolution, without the relentless loyalty and self effacing support of Chu Teh.No Comrade was so frequently found besides Chairman Mao. Ironically, for one year he was detained by Chang Kuo-Ta.

From 1950-56 he was appointed vice -chairman of the CPG of the CPR.For many years he retained the position of the top ranking Marshall. Till 1966 he was a member of the Politburo standing Commitee.

Sadly he was denounced by Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution, with his compatriot Ho Lung. Fortunately he was rehabilitated in 1967, playing principal part in the October 1967 celebrations, appearing besides Mao on the rostrum. In 1969 he was re-elected to the Central Commitee.


Without fail every progressive must read ‘The Great Road.’, written by Agnes Smedley,which  is a biography of Marshall Chu Teh .Without doubt it is one of the finest biographies of a Marxist revolutionary, with literary prowess and depth of magical proportions. Rarely has any novel form of a revolutionary touched the core of the soul of even non marxists or draw a reader towards a revolution. This classic illustrates the spiritual dimension of a Revolutionary and the various events that crystallize it’s transformation. It illustrates how traversing the most hazardous obstacles turns the life of man. The book brings to the fore how Marxism and class struggle creates a complete transformation in a man’s life and at the very root reflected the opressive conditions that precipitated the Chinese Revolution. The author brings to light that Chu Teh was the son of an impoverished peasant and did not originate from a rich landlord family, as was originally told. It is also reveals how Chu was amongst the best loved men in his land, who reflected the very soul of the masses. No book better illustrates how Chu Teh traversed regions not penetrated by a Marxist revolutionary in the Long March. It portrays how the Chinese revolution changed the shape of Chu’s life and how in turn this veteran comrade shaped the course of the Chinese Revolution. The life of Chu Teh reflects the mysterious aspects of a Marxist Revolutionary.

Quoting Agnes Smedley” Chu Teh, as a supreme commanding general, he was probably unique; surely there has never been another commander in chief who, during his years of service, spun, wove, set type, grew and cooked his own food, wrote poetry and lectured not only to his troops on military strategy and tactics but to women’s classes on how to preserve vegetables. Evans Carlson wrote that “Chu Teh has the kindness of a Robert E. Lee, the tenacity of a Grant, and the humility of a Lincoln.”

Quoting Monthly Review “More than a biography, this work by a great American woman journalist, who took the account from Chu Teh himself, is a social and historical document of the highest value. In tracing her subject’s life from his early peasant days, Agnes Smedley provides both a sociological classic on rural China and a narrative of the Revolution, with few gaps from start to finish, as it appeared to its leading military figure.”

There are gaps in the story. But it included Zhu’s own account of the Battle of Luding Bridge. This differs slightly from that told in Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China. It seems that the earlier failure of a Taiping army at this same bridge had been told to Zhu when he was a child:

“On dark nights, when there is no moon, you can still hear the spirits of our Taiping dead wailing at the Ta Tu River crossing and over the town where they were slaughtered. They will wail until they are avenged. Then their spirits will rest.”

The river is Tatu River in Red Star Over China and Dadu River in current transliteration. Zhu as translitterated by Smedley also speaks of “Lutinchiao” rather than Luding Bridge. And he mentions the man who led the attack and was first to die:

“For about two hundred yards there was nothing but iron chains swaying over the roaring torrent five hundred feel below

“Whole units volunteered, but first honors went to a platoon commanded by Ma-Ta-chiu. Then a second platoon was chosen. The men of both platoons strapped their guns, swords, and hand grenades on their backs, and Platoon Commander Ma-Ta-chiu stepped out, grasped one of the chains, and began swinging, hand over hand, towards the north bank. The platoon political director followed, and after him the men. As they swung along, Red army machine guns laid down a protecting screen of fire and the Engineering Corps began bringing up tree trunks and laying the bridge flooring.

“The army watched breathlessly as the men swung along the bridge chains. Ma-Ta-chiu was the first to be shot into the wild torrent below. Then another man and another. The others pushed along, but just before they reached the flooring at the north bridgehead they saw enemy soldiers dumping cans of kerosene on the planks and setting them on fire. Watching the sheet of flame spread, some men hesitated, but the platoon political leader at last sprang down on the flooring before the flames reached his feet, calling on the others to follow. They came and crouches on the planks releasing their hand grenades and unbuckling their swords.

“They ran through the flames and threw their hand grenades in the midst of the enemy. More and more men followed, the flames lapping at their clothing… The bridge became a mass of running men with rifles ready, tramping out the flames as they ran. The enemy retreated to their second line of defences, but Lin Piao’s division [which had previously crossed by boat] appeared suddenly in their rear and the battle ended.

“The battle of Lutinchiao lasted just one hour. Seventeen men were killed, many scorched and wounded, and a few severely burned.”


I also suggest cadres read the military writings of Chu Teh,which most dialectically analyze the methodology of people war ,and the ebb and flow in the revolutionary war making it imperative to vary tactics. They brilliantly analyze how contradictions could be exploited amongst the enemies and the blending of attack and defence by the Red Army. The works are also an excellent manual for cadre to imbibe lessons in massline.method of work. One must credit Zhu for creating such depths of democracy within the Red Army. Above all it most dialectically illustrated the methods of confronting left adventurism and Right opportunism. Few writings are more insightful on revolutionary strategy.

A Letter from the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army to Our Brothers the Soldiers of the White Army on the Subject of the Forced Occupation of Manchuria by Japanese Imperialism (Co-signed with Mao Zedong and others) (September 25, 1931) is also a must read for a cadre as well as The October Revolution and the Chinese People (November 16, 1950)

I complement the Red Flag publications in India of the erstwhile UCCRI (ML) Muktigami faction in the 1980’s for republishing the writings of Chu Teh and his biography. I recommend that the task of republishing his writings by revolutionary bookhouses be taken seriously, worldwide. Sadly Zhu De’s writings were sidelined during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China, particularly with Lin Biao at the helm. Indian comrades like late DV Rao or Chandra Pulla Reddy deeply delved into the writings and experiences of Chu Teh.Today in my view; his contribution is hardly highlighted in the Communist or Maoist camp worldwide.

I would love a Chu Teh  re-born being ressurected in another form today with opression of humanity reaching untranscended proportions today.Ofcourse it would have to come in other forms, with such radical changes in the mode of production and mechanization.Neverthless the time is ripe for the seeds to be sown.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist.Toured India,particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and

[email protected]

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