Liu Shifu

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Liu Shifu.

Liu Shifu (Chinese: 劉師復; Wade–Giles: Liu Shih-fu; 1884 – 27 March 1915) was an influential figure in the Chinese revolutionary movement in the early twentieth century, and in the Chinese Anarchist movement in particular. He was a key figure in the movement, particularly in Canton province, and one of the most important organizers in the Chinese Anarchist tradition.

He began his radical career as a member of the China Assassination Corps, an anti-colonial movement which was strongly influenced by the tactics of the Russian Nihilist movement and advocated revolutionary terrorism and the assassination of criminal elites. Upon conversion to Anarchism he denounced these tactics as counter-productive and switched his focus to grass-roots organizing among peasants and workers in order to build a revolutionary mass movement. He was one of the first Chinese Revolutionaries to seriously advocate Peasant organizing as a key element of his revolutionary strategy.

In 1912 Liu founded the Society of Cocks Crowing in the Dark (a.k.a. Cock-Crow Society), whose journal, People's Voice, was the leading organ of Chinese anarchism in the 1910s. Liu was a skilled expositor of anarchist doctrine and his polemical exchanges with the socialist leader Jiang Kanghu helped to popularize anarchism as a “pure socialism” and to distinguish it from other currents in socialist thought.

The Cock-Crow Society, also known as the "Guangzhou Group", is usually described as being “led” by Liu, and this is generally accurate insofar as we understand it as leadership by example since he was never granted any formal position or coercive authority by the group. Their most significant contributions at this stage were the foundation of “an alliance between intellectuals and workers” and their propaganda work which set out to differentiate anarchism from all the other socialisms that were gaining in popularity; and in so doing crystallized for the first time exactly what Anarchism was. The Guangzhou group used positive assertions of rights and workers, women, peasants, and other oppressed groups to outline their vision of an Anarchist society. Noticeably absent was any mention of Ethnic minorities, since a basic part of their platform was the elimination of Ethnic, Racial, and National identities in favor of an internationalist identity that placed primary importance on loyalty to humanity as a whole, instead of to ones ethnic or racial group.

It is important to recognize that this position was formulated in response to the primacy placed on ethnicity by the Anti-Manchu movement, which sought to assert the illegitimacy of the Qing dynasty based in part on the fact that its members were part of an ethnic minority out of touch with the Han majority, a position which Anarchists of all four major groups decried as racist and unbefitting a movement that claimed to be working for liberation. Their position, therefore, was that ethnicity-based organizing promoted Racism, and had no place in a Revolution that sought liberation for all of humanity.

He was very active in the movement for the international language Esperanto, in which he used the pseudonym Sifo.

Further reading[edit]

  • Chan, Pik-Chong Agnes Wong. Liu Shifu (1884–1915): A Chinese Anarchist and the Radicalization of Chinese Thought. Berkeley, Ph.D. 1979.
  • Krebs, Edward S. Shifu, Soul of Chinese Anarchism. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 1998. ISBN 0-8476-9015-6.
  • Dirlik, Arif. Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution. University of California Press, 1993. ISBN 0-520-08264-8

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