Li Fu-jen

Chiang Kai-shek and the Stalinists

Meaning of His Slaughter of the New Fourth Army Is Deliberately Hidden by Browder

(February 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 7, 15 February 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

No matter what infamous crimes he commits against the Chinese masses, no matter how brutally and viciously he acts against the rank-and-file followers of the Chinese Communist Party, and notwithstanding his most treacherous sabotage of’ China’s struggle against Japan – Chiang Kai-shek can continue to count upon the slavish support of the Chinese Stalinist leaders.

That is the meaning of the statement made this week by T.V. Soong, brother-in-law of Gen. Chiang Kai-shek, former finance minister of China, and currently the head of a Chinese financial mission in Washington, in an interview with Edgar Ansel Mowrer of the New York Post and Chicago Daily News. Said Soong: “So long as the war against Japan goes on – which means until China has won – there is no chance of the friction between Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communists developing into civil war – current American opinion to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Soong’s opinions were being sought with regard to the recent battle between the Stalinist-controlled New Fourth Army and Kuomintang troops in central China, which resulted in the disarming of the Stalinist force after it had suffered thousands of casualties, and the arrest of its commander, Yen Ting. The incident itself was “civil war” on a local scale. What Soong meant, of course, was that it would not be permitted to spread, that it would be settled by “compromise,” that is, by Stalinist submission to Chiang’s orders.

A Year of Local Civil Wars

News of the battle in central China came as something of a shock to Stalin’s rank-and-file followers in America. They did not know that this was the culminating incident in a series of local civil wars between the Kuomintang and the Stalinist-led armies during 1940. Large-scale battles took place last year in northern China between the Stalinist-led Eighth Route Army and provincial Kuomintang troops, in which the casualties sustained by the Eighth Route Army far exceeded those in the recent central China battle. The Stalinists in China and in this country did everything possible to conceal the fact that clashes had taken place, so that the fiction of the “People’s Anti-Japanese United Front” might be preserved. Where news of the clashes did leak out, they whitewashed Chiang Kai-shek and attributed his atrocious deeds to sinister advisers. They did the same tiling in 1927 when Chiang beheaded the Chinese revolution.

If not for the fact that foreign correspondents in China secured news of the central China clash (similar occurrences in the more remote north were not known about until months later and then only vaguely), the Stalinists might have been spared the task of thinking up alibis for the latest conduct of the hangman of the Chinese revolution. As it was, Earl Browder was obliged to come out with a statement in the Sunday Worker on Feb. 2.

The leader of the American Stalinists pretends to have arrived at the conclusion that Chiang Kai-shek attacked the New Fourth Army because he had been “given to understand that American help (the recent loans) required him to deal with Chinese Communists as the Roosevelt Administration deals with American Communists, that American help required him to draw away from the Soviet Union and approximate Roosevelt’s hostility toward that country. It is utter nonsense to speak as if this break originated in China, or with Chiang. It was pressed upon the Kuomintang from without as well as from within, and from without the pressure came from Japan, Germany, England and the United States. The ruling circles of all four powers, despite their quarrels, agreed to press upon Chiang the demand for military liquidation of the Chinese Communists.”

This crude attempt to divorce Chiang’s action” from the class politics of the Kuomintang regime, and to depict it as the exclusive product of foreign machination will deceive none but dull-wits. Let us recall that when Chiang beheaded the Chinese revolution in 1927, and let loose a reign of terror against the workers and peasants, he acted as the agent of imperialism and its subordinate native partners, the Chinese bourgeoisie and the landlords. This was no plot cooked up in foreign chancelleries, but the end result of a polarization of class forces which Stalin’s infamous policy of the “bloc of four classes” had only thinly veiled.

Had the Chinese Communist Party recognized in Chiang – as Trotsky and the Left Opposition did – the political representative of the Chinese exploiters and their imperialist mentors, had it maintained its political independence and taught the masses to distrust Chiang, it could have led the Chinese revolution to victory instead of to the slaughter-pen. But it clung to Chiang’s coat-tails, strangled the revolutionary initiative of the masses. “Chiang will not betray us,” said Stalin.

This miserable line was necessary in order to conceal – not the fictitious “betrayal” by Chiang Kai-shek, who served the imperialists and their native allies well, but the very real betrayal of which Stalin and his Chinese followers were guilty, the utter treachery of their policy which led to the massacre of the revolutionary forces. Today it is also necessary for them to cover up the bankruptcy of the “People’s Anti-Japanese United Front,” counterpart of the 1925–27 “bloc of four classes,” which has produced the hopeless impasse into which the war against Japan has been led.

Browder’s Alibi Examined

Browder, while trying to cover up all the tracks and to avoid laying bare the class basis of Chiang’s attack on the New Fourth Army, nevertheless makes some damning admissions.

“What the high generals of the Kuomintang could not forgive the Chinese Communists,” he declares, “was precisely the victories won (by the New Fourth Army againat the Japanese), which exposed their own consistent defeats; what above all they could not forgive was the qualities and virtues which made those victories possible, exposing the corruption and incapacity of the ruling generals ... In China, to win victories against the Japanese invaders is being interpreted as treason! That is because the capitulators, the Chinese bourgeoisie and generals, have seized control again, with the understanding that Washington and London, as well as Berlin and Tokyo, will back them up in delivering China again to the flames of civil war, and thus to the mercy of the Japanese invaders.”

Who are the “high generals” of the Koumintang? As a matter of fact, there is only one “high general” – Chiang Kai-shek himself. Why isn’t he named? For the same reason that he wasn’t named, in time, in 1927: it would still further strain the fiction of national unity.

Moreover, what possible interest could the American imperialists (or the British, for that matter) have in fomenting civil war in China, and thus aiding Japan at a time when Washington is actively preparing for war against the Island Empire? The reactions of the big imperialist press in America, which has expressed the greatest concern over Chiang’s attack on the New Fourth Army and the possibility that it may lead to widespread civil war, gives the lie complete to Browder’s nonsensical assertion. The American imperialists, of course, have no love for the Stalinist forces in China, but their immediate concern is to see that Chiang Kai-shek expends his efforts against Japan and not against his internal foes.

Browder’s most astonishing assertion is that “the capitulators, the Chinese bourgeoisie and generals, have seized control again.” This implies that the bourgeoisie and the generals have been out of power up to now. Perhaps Browder can be induced to explain when and by whom they were replaced and how it all came about. Was the recent attack on the New Fourth Army perchance a revolution which restored lost power to the generals, the bourgeoisie – to Chiang Kai-shek? Perhaps Browder has secret information as to when and how the Chinese bourgeoisie lost power.

Bourgeoisie Admits the Truth

T.V. Soong had a much more intelligible, and accurate, explanation for Chiang Kai-shek’s attack on the New Fourth Army. Said he: “The Fourth Army was disarmed for insubordination, not for being Communist. But admittedly the situation around Shanghai had become acute, for, naturally, the Communists were trying to increase their strength and spread their doctrines and it is equally natural that the government should oppose it.” He also revealed that the New Fourth Army “lack the proper arms. They get none from the Russians. And the government has no interest in keeping them too well armed. You understand, after fighting them for ten years ...”

Here is an open admission that the bourgeois-Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek has deliberately starved the New Fourth Army of the means of warfare, despite the fact that, that army has fought exclusively against the marauding armies of Japanese imperialism. Why has this been done? Because the situation around Shanghai has become “acute” due to the Communists trying to increase their strength and spread their doctrines.

Reduced to concrete terms this means that the presence of the New Fourth Army, in spite of its class collaborationist policy in the “People’s Anti-Japanese United Front” with Chiang Kai-shek, has stimulated peasant activity in the area near Shanghai where it has been operating. Of this fact there is plenty of evidence. Peasants have seized landlords’ estates despite frantic efforts by the Stalinists to squelch the movement in the interests of the “united front.”

(A second article on Chiang Kai-Shek and the Stalinists will appear next week.)

Last updated on 2 October 2015