How far was the Long March a success?
The Long March began in October 1934 and saw the Communist forces travel on a circular route over some 12500 kilometres. The Communist leaders chose to retreat towards the North and West to prevent their army being overrun by the Nationalist forces. At the end of the Long March Communist troops stationed themselves in Shaanxi Province where they began regrouping under the leadership of Mao Zedung.
Ways in which the Long March can be considered a success:
Put simply, the Communist army survived. The Communists now had a strong base from which they could consolidate their position and were able to continue the civil war against the Nationalists. Mao had now emerged as the leader of the army and his tactics proved to be successful in both the short and long term.
Ways in which the Long march can be considered a failure:
The communists suffered between 150000 and 170000 casualties and defections during the Long March. Of the 200000 men estimated to have participated in the Long March only 8000 made it to the final destination, these were joined by another 32000 men from surrounding areas. In simple military terms this is a major defeat.
Without the Long March it is quite likely that the nationalists would have won the Chinese Civil War. The Communists were surrounded and looked as though they were on the brink of defeat. Relocating, even at huge cost, allowed them to regroup. Mao emerged as the leader of the military during this maneuver. New tactics for attacking the Nationalists were adopted and training could take place in the new bases that were established. The Civil War could be taken to the Nationalists once more.
Source: Poem, The Long March, Mao, September 1935.
The Long March
The Red Army fears not the trials of the Long March
And thinks nothing of a thousand mountains and rivers.
The Wuling Ridges spread out like ripples;
The Wumeng Ranges roll like balls of clay.
Warmly are the cliffs wrapped in clouds washed by the Gold Sand;
Chilly are the iron chains lying across the width of the Great Ferry.
A thousand acres of snow on the Min Mountain delight
My troops who have just left them behind.
Source: Edgar Snow’s Account of “The Long March”
During the march through Kiangsi, Kwangtung, Kwangsi, and Hunan, the Reds suffered very heavy losses. Their numbers were reduced by about one-third by the time they reached the border of Kweichow province. This was due, first, to the impediment of a vast amount of transport, 5,000 men being engaged in that task alone. The vanguard was very much retarded, and in many cases the enemy was given time to prepare elaborate obstructions in the line of march. Second, from Kiangsi an undeviating northwesterly route was maintained, which enabled Nanking to anticipate most of the Red Army’s movements.
Serious losses as a result of these errors caused the Reds to adopt new tactics in Kweichow. Instead of an arrowlike advance, they began a series of distracting maneuvers, so that it became more and more difficult for Nanking planes to identify the day-by-day objective of the main forces. Two columns, and sometimes as many as four columns, engaged in a baffling series of maneuvers on the flanks of the central column, and the vanguard developed a pincerlike front. Only the barest and lightest essentials of equipment were retained, and night marches for the greatly reduced transport corps — a daily target for the air bombing — became routine.
Yahoo Answers – What did the Long March accomplish? Short response to this question.
Contemporary Literature – a detailed review of a book about the Long March that explores the level of success of the Long March.
PaulKnoll.com – a series of articles about actions during the Long March.
The Free Dictionary – good overview of the Long March and its consequences.