Deng Zhongxia, (Chinese:邓中夏) an early member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), is an important Marxist intellectual and labor movement leader. Having led many strikes and uprisings against Chiang Kai-shek’s autocratic regime (1927-1949), he became one of the most wanted CPC members by Kuomintang, the ruling party from 1911 to 1949 in China.
Born in October 1894 in Yizhang, Hunan Province, Deng was a philosophy graduate from Peking University. He joined theMay 4th Movement in 1919 and was the initiator of the Marxist Research Group founded in the university. In 1920, the group set up a communist organization in which Li Dazhao was elected as the party secretary and Deng became a communist member.
Inspired by the communism, Deng became involved in the labor movement in Beijing during the same year. He set up the workers’ unions and provided education to the workers. In 1922, he was elected as the director of a nation-wide labor organization at the First Chinese Labor Meeting held inGuangzhou. In July the same year, he was elected as the member of central committee of the CPC at the second party congress. In 1923, under Li’s recommendation, he received an administrative job from Shanghai University, which was co-founded by the CPC and the Kuomintang during their short-term cooperation. During Deng’s tenure, he invited a number of communists, including Cai Hesen, Qu Qiubai andLi Da, to teach at the school. In 1925, after the establishment of the All-China Federation of Labor, Deng was designated as the publicity minister in Guangzhou and organized the famous Canton-Hong Kong Strike.
When the Kuomintang and the CPC split, Deng proposed an uprising in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, to fight against Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek’s purge of CPC members. In the CPC’s critical August 7th Meeting in 1927, Deng was a supporter of the policies of Land Revolution and Armed Struggle. He was also elected as an alternate member of the provisional Political Bureau of the Central Committee of CPC. After the meeting, he was sent to Shanghai to organize the surviving party members after Chiang had initiated a massacre of CPC members earlier in the year. In 1928, he was appointed to Guangzhou and Hong Kong to rebuild the destroyed CPC organizations. In 1930, he joined the Armed Struggle in Hunan and the Western Hubei Communist Base as the political commissar of the No. 2 Red Army with He Long and Zhou Yiqun. In 1932, he secretly returned to Shanghai to continue the underground struggle in the Kuomintang controlled economic hub. Unfortunately, after his identity was discovered, he was arrested in Shanghai in May, 1933.
As an important CPC leader, Deng’s capture drew Chiang’s attention. The generalissimo ordered Deng sent to Nanjing’s prison camp and offered him a high position within the Kuomintang and a good pay. But Deng refused the offer, and thus was severely tortured before being shot and killed on Sept. 21, 1933. He was 39. Before his death, he said, “Even as my bones burn into ash, I am still a CPC member.”