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(en) Chinese anarchists in the 1920's USA - the Equality Society

Date Sat, 05 Nov 2005 11:32:49 +0200

Includes a report from 'The Equality Society'
In the period before the Chinese revolution Chinese anarchists were also
active in the USA - in particular the 'Equality society'. This article
includes complete transcriptions, including original errors, of two articles
from that time on The Equality Society. In America, Chinese anarchists were
few ("not more than100") but they were active in the struggle. Some were
workers, toiling in resturants and garment shops. Others were students.
I am unaware of there being much written, in english at least, about
Chinese-American anarchists.
Below you will find complete transcriptions, including original errors,
of two articles which I have on file on The Equality Society. Both
appeared in the American english-language monthly newspaper "The Road to

In her autobigraphy, Bread Upon the Waters", Rose Pesotta briefly
mentions a "group of Chinese students" in San Francisco who were known
by, presumingly an anarchist "friend" in New York in the mid-1930s. (P.71)

When Pesotta was on a union organization visit to San Fransico she met
with of these "students". In the tenament apartment, Pesotta writes,she
saw copies of Chinese "pamphlets with portraits of...Kroptokin,
Prodhoun.... and others.

Even though Pesotta was a known anarchist at the time she wrote this
book (1944) she also served as a Vice President of the AFL International
Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU)and never wrote about anarchism or
anarchists in her auotbiography. So we can only infer that the initial
people she met, Chih Ling and Yung Lee, were either active anarchists or
sympathetic to anarchism.

From a read of the below article by Joseph Spivak, and Pesotta's description

of her physical suroundings, it appears that both Pesotta and Spivak
were talking about the same people.

We do know there existed an anarchist organization named The Equality
Society. Mention of them appears in the english language anarchist paper
"The Road to Freedom".

Writing in his column, "Our Organized Movement: A Coast to Coast
Observation, Joseph Spviak, glowing reported that :

"The most encouraging group in San Francisco is the Chinese group, not
because they do much work--they are very few in number--but on account
of their enthusiasm. The members of the Chinese group have the same
enthusiasm as the early revolutionists in Russia.

"I went up to see Comrade Red Jones the secretary of the group. He lives
on a second floor of a very old fashioned building in the Chinese
section of San Francisco. He, as well as most of the Chinese there, is
very poor. He occupies a small room and according to the number of beds
in this room is occupied by three. Yet when I entered the room I felt I
was in an atmosphere of Ideal! The room was actually filled with
literature, every inch of space is made use f for this purpose. Comrade
Jones immediately began to show me one book after another in the Chinese
language which were received from China and which he spreads among the
Chinese population. I could not read the books, but from the pictures of
the authors, I could see they were translations from Kropotkin,
Bakunin,Berkman, Malatesta and almost every other anarchist writer. They
also issue in China two monthly publications which this group spreads in
San Francisco. In China, Comrade Jones told me, our comrades carry on a
fight agianst the Nationalist party [of Chaing ki-Shek, the KMT]who are
only a bunch of politicans: we do not want to make the same mistake as
the Anarchists made in Russia

[Apparently a referance to some anarchists alliances with the bolsheviks
and being soft on the bolshevkization of the revolution early on]

"This little group also issues their own publication in Chinese
language, "Equality", which they distribute free of charge. They also
have a class in Chinese every Sunday for those who are interested."

[Sorry, the page with the date when this article was written, does not
appear in my files. I am presuming it was in 1927 as there appears
references to the execution of Sacco-Vanzetti which took place in August

IThe Equality Society issued a report to the October 1928 Anarchist
Conference (held at the International Center, 149 E 23rd St., NYC). The
comrades reported:

"1. The Chinese in America:
Except for a few well to do class, most of the Chinese in America are
sweat earners. On account of their ignorance, even they feel their own
sufferings under the present economic order, they do not have class
consciousness and revolutionary spirit. However they are not to be
blamed, for they do not have any education at all. Even they do have,
they have only the education under the capitalistic regime. Naturally,
they object to all radical changes of the present order. Under this
situation, the Chinese comrades have a very hard task to convert these
poor Chinese workersto be revolutionists. However, they begin to realize
the solidarity of the labor class.
"As for the well to do class, they can nevr give up their selfisness.
What they do care is to build up a bourgeois government in China to
protect their interest.

"2. Chinese in America toward Anarchism:
"The Chinese in America who really believe anarchism are not more than
one hundred. The reason for that is they are followers of nationalism
and have confidence in politics and government .My note: Of the then
ruling KMT in China].

"3. A short history of the Equality Society:
"The Chinese in America who are interested anarchism in America are less
than one hundred. We realize that the organization and propaganda are
very important, so we had this society organized in 1925. In the course
of this short history, there were several troubles with those well to do
class, as they tried to make this organization a failure but in vain. A
few months ago, the imperialistic government of America threatened to
destroy this society by arresting comrade Jones and confiscating all our
literatures.However, this only made us more militant than ever before.

"4. Some of the work of the Equality Society:
"In spite of the fact that we do not have many comrades, we have made an
effort to publish a monthly in Chinese called "The Equality". Just a few
days ago, the Chinesegovernment notified the Chinese post office not to
circulate the same in China and send them abroad. This what they are
doing now and afraid of. besides, we have pubished and send free all
sorts of pamphlets to all who understand Chinese from time to time. We
also distribute literatures concerning anarchism in both English and
Chinese. Now, we are going to hold regular meetings even we have little
time to do so, as we are all long hour, poor working consitions and low
pay workers.

"5. The Anarchist movement in China:
"Comrades in China are very faithful to their work for anarchism. They
do it either by large combination or small organzations. The ones which
are worth to mention are 'the Young Anarchists Federation in China' and
the 'South China Anarchists Federation.
"Every organization has its publication. There is a bookstore in Shanghi
named the Freedom Bookstore, has made a great contribution in handling
our anarchist literatures

"Suggestions to the Conference:
"We suggest that:

1. The anarchists should pay more attention to the current situation of
all countries in the present day.
2. Anarchists should have a well organized organization to faciliate our
3. All local organizations, if possible, should hold regular meetings.
If possible, some kind of social gatherings should be held occasionally
for comrades of all nationalities in big cities.
4. All organizations better send their news in English to ROAD TO FREEDOM.
5. the ROAD TO FREEDOM better expands materials and pages. If possible,
cheap paper may be sued for achieving these purposes.

The Equality Society

Article originally appeared on anarkismo.net under

by Mitch
"Victor Chernov" <wsany@hotmail.com>
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