China's Red Army Marches

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China's Red Army Marches
China's Red Army Marches (book cover).jpg
Author Agnes Smedley
Country China
Language English
Genre War Journalism
Publisher Vanguard Press (1934)
Publication date
Media type Print (book)
Pages 311
ISBN 0-88355-390-2

China's Red Army Marches[1] (1934), by Agnes Smedley, also published in the USSR as Red Flood Over China.


This book gives a detailed account of the Chinese Soviet Republic in Jiangxi from 1928 to 1931, ending with the proclamation of the Soviet Republic of China in 1931. It has been described as pioneering "a new form of socially conscious art that considerably influenced leftist reportage in the 1930s", because "she spoke of individuals experiences, but she meant her readers to view the people about whom she wrote as representatives of a larger group who chose the mass actions linked to China's emerging Communist movement as an alternative to their despair.[2]

The book has many details including an account of the Anti-Bolshevik League. Neither Smedley nor any other Western reporter visited Chinese Soviet, but she had first-hand accounts from Chinese Communist fighters whom she covertly sheltered in Shanghai. Her main sources were two Red Army commanders, Zhou Jianping and Chen Geng.[3] It is strongly partisan for the Chinese Communists and hostile to the Guomindang (Kuomintang, K.M.T.).

The book does not deal with events past 1931, nor does it anticipate the destruction of the Jiangxi Soviet and the subsequent Long March. It does however have detailed accounts of the words and actions of Zhu De (Chu Teh), Peng Dehuai (Peng Teh-hewi) and Mao Zedong, whose name is inaccurately given as 'Mau Tse-tung'. It includes a full speech by Mao and some shorter remarks, perhaps the first time his words had appeared in English.

It also has some detailed accounts of early CCP policies, including land-reform policies that were more extreme than those followed after the Long March. And many accounts of battles, including the capture and subsequent loss of Changsha. And an emphasis on the importance given to educating the poor and giving rights to women.


A 1934 advertisement in The New Masses magazine has an illustration of the book cover by Pulitzer Prize-winning artist and cartoonist Jacob Burck.[4]


This is one of five books written by Smedley about her experiences in China:

  • Chinese Destinies (1933)
  • China's Red Army Marches (1934)
  • China Fights Back: An American Woman With the Eighth Route Army (1938)
  • Battle Hymn of China (1943)
  • The Great Road: The Life and Times of Chu The (1956)


In the review in The Outlook magazine, Robert Cantwell praised author Smedley for her "pioneering work." He recommended the book to readers of Man's Fate by Andre Malreaux, because "it continues the story of the Chinese Revolution where Malraux leaves off." He considered it "an important contribution to a subject about which very little has been known."[5]

In the review in The Saturday Review, Alfred H. Holt called the book "a spirited chronicle of what was happening in Soviet China during the years 1928-1931" and recommended it "to all who possess sufficient tolerance to read an informal history that makes no pretense at impartiality." Of particular interest, he felt was the great majority of Chinese communist revolutionists were "ignorant peasants from the interior."[6]

Other reviews of the book include Malcolm Cowley in The New Republic,[7] Thomas Steep in The American Mercury,[8] Gertrude Diamond in The Partisan Review,[9] Harold M. Vinacke in American Political Science Review,[10] T.A. Bisson in The Nation,[11] and Nathaniel Peffer in Pacific Affairs.[12]


This book and also Chinese Destinies were covertly circulated in Guomindang-ruled China, both in English and in Chinese translations.[13] It was one of only three foreign publications to be formally banned by the Guomindang (K.M.T.) government.[14] She had long been identified by them as a major foe, and they even made the bizarre claim that she had brought cases of whisky to the Jiangxi Soviet base and had stood nude before a mass rally, singing the Internationale.[15] (Claims of sexual laxity in Chinese Communist areas were common at the time. Edgar Snow in Red Star Over China mentions them as something he had heard but had correctly disbelieved.)


  1. ^ Smedley, Agnes. "China's Red Army Marches". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  2. ^ Price, Ruth. The Lives of Agnes Smedley. Oxford University Press 2005. Page 243
  3. ^ MacKinnon, Janice R. and MacKinnon, Stephen R. (1988) Agnes Smedley: The Life and Times of an American Radical University of California Press, Berkeley, page 157.
  4. ^ "The New Masses". The New Masses. 2 October 1934. p. 48. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  5. ^ Cantwell, Robert (September 1934). "Books and Reviews". The Outlook. pp. 57–58. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  6. ^ Holt, Alfred H. (30 March 1935). "Soviet China". The Saturday Review. p. 583. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  7. ^ Cowley, Malcolm (19 September 1934). "The Golden Legend of Li Ning". The New Republic. p. 163. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  8. ^ Steep, Thomas (January 1935). "China's Red Army Marches". The American Mercury. pp. 122–123. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  9. ^ Diamant, Gertrude (November 1934). "Chinese Epic". The Partisan Review. pp. 52–53. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  10. ^ Vinacke, Harold N. (February 1935). "Foreign and Comparative Government". American Political Science Review. p. 160. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  11. ^ Bisson, T. A. (12 September 1934). "Fifty Million Peasants". The Nation. p. 308. Retrieved 2 March 2016. 
  12. ^ Peffer, Nathaniel (June 1935). "Reviewed Works". Pacific Affairs. pp. 223–226. JSTOR 2751287. 
  13. ^ Price The Lives of Agnes Smedley, page 258
  14. ^ Price The Lives of Agnes Smedley, page 260
  15. ^ MacKinnon Agnes Smedley: The Life and Times of an American Radical, page 157.