Freddy Litten

(Frederick S. Litten)


China and intelligence history

The Myth of the "Turning-Point" ‒ Towards a New Understanding of the Long March"; in: Bochumer Jahrbuch zur Ostasienforschung, Band 25, 2001, S. 3-44.
[full-text (ca. 2 MB)]

The Long March in 1934/35 has an iconic character, not just in Chinese Communist Party (CCP) history. However, many popular perceptions, e.g. that Mao Zedong led it or took power during the March, are wrong, and even scholars often seem to uncritically accept versions put out by hardly disinterested participants. In fact, much of what seems to be known about the March is probably just myth. One of its major components is the notion of the Long March as a "turning-point" in CCP history. This notion relies on a dichotomy between an incompetent ("leftist") leadership before the March, whose misguided efforts are held responsible for the near devastation of the CCP and Red Army in the Jiangxi Soviet, and a competent leadership under Mao afterwards, which saved the Communist movement in China.
However, this article tries to show that, at least in the military sphere, the leadership in the early 1930s was not really incompetent, but that to stay in Jiangxi became impossible when Chiang Kai-shek could concentrate on defeating the Communists. (This echoes the remarks allegedly made at the Zunyi Conference by the CCP's then "secretary-general" Qin Bangxian aka Bo Gu.) The article goes on to argue that we do hardly know anything substantial about decision-making on the March, even about some of the supposed main events, such as the battle at the Xiang River, and next to nothing about the internal dynamics of the CCP at that time. While it seems that Mao's role on the March usually has been overstated, there don't seem to be any reliable sources which would allow a clearer picture ‒ recent attempts to put Zhou Enlai in Mao's boots notwithstanding.
In conclusion, it is held that the Long March was just an extension of the Jiangxi Soviet era, not a "turning-point", which scarcely led to any changes in the military or political spheres. On the other hand, the "myth" of the Long March ‒ already beginning with the "Zunyi Resolution" and then blossoming in tales by Mao, Edgar Snow and numerous others ‒ may have been much more influential than the actual event. Yet this myth was again just one of several factors leading to changes in the CCP and in China, among which the Sino-Japanese war was probably the main one.
The article is based on a wide selection of Chinese and English publications and a few other sources.

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Otto Braun in Deutschland 1900-1928 [Otto Braun in Germany, 1900-1928]; in: Internationale wissenschaftliche Korrespondenz zur Geschichte der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung, 27. Jg., Heft 2, 1991, S. 171-182 (Volltext).

"Consider Your Verdict": Otto Braun in China; in: CCP Research Newsletter, nr. 10 & 11, Spring - Fall 1992, pp. 30-36.

Otto Braun's Curriculum Vitae ‒ Translation and Commentary; in: Twentieth-Century China, vol. 23, nr. 1, 1997, pp. 31-61 (full-text).

Otto Braun (1900-1974) led a highly varied and international life. Born in Ismaning near Munich, he grew up in an orphanage, although his mother was still alive. He went to a teachers training college in Pasing near Munich and, in June 1918, was drafted into the Bavarian army, although he did not see combat. He then finished the teachers' training college, but did not start work as a primary school teacher, instead travelling around, especially in Northern Germany, and participating in the activities of the young German Communist Party (KPD).
In 1921 he seems to have begun work in the central "Apparat" of the KPD. In July 1921 he was arrested in Berlin by German police for his participation in the theft of documents from a "White" Russian colonel Freyberg. Braun was tried but, because he was able to pass himself off as a right-winger, he was only leniently sentenced. Still, he did not go to jail, but underground. By then, he was very active in the intelligence and military-political work of the KPD, becoming head of its counter-intelligence service in 1924, as well as writing articles in the Communist press.
In September 1926 Braun was again arrested in Berlin. First he had to serve the 1922 sentence resulting from the Freyberg case, then he was in detention. In a daring move on 11 April 1928 he was freed from Moabit prison by a group of Communists, among them his girl-friend Olga Benario. Although the case made considerable headlines all over Europe, Braun was able to escape to Moscow with Benario. There he studied at the Frunze Military Academy and taught at the Comintern's Lenin School.
After graduating from Frunze Military Academy in 1932, Braun was sent by Soviet Military Intelligence (the 4th Directorate) to Harbin/China. He then moved to Shanghai, where he presumably became a member of the "military section" of the local Comintern bureau. His boss there was Manfred Stern (aka General Kleber), his political boss the German communist Arthur Ewert. In autumn 1933 Braun succeeded in getting to Ruijin, the capital of the Chinese Communists' "Central Soviet". There he operated as a military advisor in circumstances which are still difficult to elucidate. He was the only foreigner to participate in the Long March of the First Front Army of the Chinese Red Army (he probably even proposed what later became the Long March) together with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and his memoirs are an important, though dubious, source for the events of these years. After the Long March, Braun was mainly occupied with teaching tactics and doing some advisory work.
In 1939 he left China for the Soviet Union. There he seems to have had some political difficulties at first, but then became an editor and translator at Moscow Foreign Languages Press. Beginning in 1941, he was a "Polit-Instrukteur" in P.O.W. camps for German, later Japanese, officers. He became known to the Germans as "Kommissar Wagner", using an old nom de guerre of his from the 1920s. From 1946 to 1948 he was a lecturer at the antifascist central school at Krasnogorsk near Moscow, then he worked again for Moscow Foreign Languages Press.
Only after Stalin's death was he allowed to return to (East) Germany in 1954. As a fellow at the Institute for Marxism-Leninism at the Central Committee of the East German communist party (SED), he was mainly responsible for the German edition of Lenin's works. From 1961 to 1963 he was First Secretary of the German Writers' Association, but fell foul of a political shift in early 1963. For some years, he remained a pensioner and free-lance translator of Russian works, then he staged a come-back. Already in 1964, East Germany's party newspaper "Neues Deutschland" had revealed that the hitherto unidentified "Li De" had been Otto Braun. At the end of the 1960s, Braun became a fellow at the Institute for Social Sciences at the Central Committee of the SED and wrote his "Chinese Notes", which were published as a book in 1973 and translated into several languages, among them English and Chinese. On a holiday in Bulgaria, Braun died; he was buried in East Berlin. Obituaries appeared, for example, in "Pravda" and "The New York Times".
The article on "Braun in Germany" is based on documents in archives in Berlin, Potsdam and Munich, contemporary newspaper reports and publications. "Braun in China" is based on my paper "Otto Brauns frühes Wirken in China". "Braun's Curriculum Vitae" is based on some further unpublished documents (especially his privately-held cv), but mostly on a wide array of publications in German, English, Russian and Chinese.

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The Noulens Affair; in: The China Quarterly, No. 138, June 1994, pp. 492-512.

On 15 June 1931, a man best known as Hilaire Noulens (aka Paul Ruegg, M. Motte, ...) was arrested with his wife in the International Settlement in Shanghai. His became a cause célèbre, when Communist organizations started a world-wide campaign to free him, first from the Settlement's police, then from the Chinese to whom he was delivered. Although tried and sentenced to death by a Chinese court, his sentence was commuted to life and he was finally released in August 1937, because of Japanese bombardments on Nanjing. Only in July 1939 did the Noulens' leave for the Soviet Union.
In fact, although portrayed as an innocent trade union official, Noulens had been an important member of the Communist International's "apparat" in China. Noulens worked for the Comintern's intelligence service, the OMS, and he was thus central to the Comintern's communications and monetary networks in Shanghai and, by extension, the whole of East Asia. He had arrived in Shanghai already in 1928, but had had to leave in July 1929. When he returned in March 1930, he alone headed the OMS activities there. However, he was clearly overworked, having been promised help which never arrived, and when a Comintern courier, Joseph Ducroux, was arrested in Singapore, much of Noulens' network unravelled. On the other hand, none of the quite numerous Western associates of Noulens was uncovered in time by the police.
Also, his real identity remained unknown for decades. Only in 1991, Fritz N. Platten was able to give the real names of Hilaire Noulens and his wife, because he had met their son in Moscow: They were Yakov Rudnik (1894-1963) and Tatyana Moiseenko (1891-1964), both career intelligence officers with several years of experience in Europe, among other places in Vienna where they had had contact with Ephraim Goldenstein. As to their life after 1939, information on Rudnik is sparse, while Moiseenko worked for party organizations.
The article is based on documents in the Comintern Archives in Moscow, the US National Archives in Washington/DC, the archives of the foreign ministries of France, the Netherlands and Germany, and the Swiss Federal Archives, as well as numerous publications, mainly in Western languages.

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Die Goldštajn/Goldenstein-Verwechslung ‒ Eine biographische Notiz zur Komintern-Aktivität auf dem Balkan [The Goldštajn/Goldenstein mix-up ‒ A biographical note on the activity of the Comintern in the Balkans]; in:
Südost-Forschungen, Bd. 50, 1991, S. 245-250.

The Communist International's bureau in Vienna, responsible for the Balkans, in the 1920s has several times made an appearance in the literature. It is often connected with a man variously called Goldštajn oder Goldenstein. In fact, these are two different people, only the latter of whom can safely be connected with the Comintern's Vienna bureau. Solomon L. Goldštajn (1884-1968) was a well-known Bulgarian communist, who had been quite close to Lenin in Paris and Zurich, but later had problems with Stalin.
Ephraim Goldenstein (1882-1938) had been born in Kishinev, studied medicine in Berlin and Vienna, and received his doctorate (with a dissertation on gynaecology) from Munich University in 1911. In 1923 he reappears in Vienna, first as an envoy of the Russian Red Cross, then as second secretary of the Soviet Union's embassy. In 1925 he left Vienna and may have been in Constantinople for some time. He re-enters the picture in Berlin in 1927, again as second secretary of the Soviet Union's embassy there. Yet, his activities for the Comintern and, presumably, for the GPU came to the notice of several diplomats, so he left in early 1930, shortly before G. S. Agabekov's memoirs hit the bookstores: there, Goldenstein is described as GPU "resident" in Berlin, to whom the "resident" in Paris and the Soviet agents in Great Britain were subordinated and who still continued to concern himself with the Balkans and the Middle East. Nothing certain is known about Goldenstein's life after 1930.
The article is based on documents in archives in Vienna, Munich and Bonn, as well as mostly contemporary publications in various languages.

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F. Litten