As East and Southeast Asia’s communist parties, founded between 1920 and 1930, strove to promote communism regionally from the 1920s to the 1930s, they were linked in an international network of communist movements formed under the aegis of the Third International (Comintern). This essay focuses on the activities of the Comintern’s regional headquarters in Shanghai after the Comintern had established the Far Eastern Bureau in Shanghai in 1926 and the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat in 1927. These two organizations, charged with supervising local communist movements in East and Southeast Asia, allocated funds, dispatched couriers and agents, and received local communists who wanted to go to Moscow. Thus, the Comintern built and maintained a complex East and Southeast Asian liaison network of agents and couriers who developed critical links with the Shanghai regional headquarters staff, and liaison officers in the local communist movements who acted as the nodes of the network. Intriguingly for the operation of the vast liaison network, among those who played crucial roles were regional facilitators who could speak European and local languages, were familiar with regional situations, and knew their contact persons. By carefully charting the structure of the network, tracing its links, which could be forged or snapped, and identifying its nodes, which could emerge or vanish, this essay provides an original account of how the Comintern network emerged in the late 1920s and how it collapsed in 1931.
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