Li Fu-jen, The Kuomintang Faces its Doom, Fourth International, Vol.10 No.2, February 1949, pp.35-40.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Twenty-two years ago Chiang Kai-shek seized power through the sanguinary smashing of the Chinese revolution. Today he stands face to face with his political doom. Amid vast economic chaos, social upheaval and military defeats by the Stalinist “Red” armies the Kuomintang regime totters on the brink of destruction. It is now totally on the defensive, weakly trying to stave off the final catastrophe.
This situation, developing at an accelerated pace over a period of three years, signifies a tremendous change in the relationship of forces as between the Kuomintang regime and its capitalist-landlord backers, on the one hand, and the Stalinist party, leading the rural masses, on the other. As a necessary preliminary to an understanding of what has happened, and why, let us establish the broad sequence of events leading up to the present situation.
In the last days of the Second World War Stalin moved Red Army troops into Manchuria. These disarmed the Japanese army of some 750,000 men and prepared the way for the Chinese Stalinist, to take over when they withdrew. Under the Japanese occupation there were already sizable formations of Chinese peasant guerrillas under Stalinist leadership which engaged Japan’s Manchurian army in partisan warfare. When the Soviet troops entered the country, more of these peasant guerrillas swept in from the Mongolian borderlands. The surrender of the Japanese army in North China gate renewed mobility to additional large numbers of these fighters who had been isolated in the north-west hinterland of China proper. These began moving north-eastward, swarming across the Great Wall to reinforce their comrades in Manchuria. There is no doubt that but for the intervention of American imperialism the whole of Manchuria would immediately have come under the domination of the Chinese Stalinists
At Yalta, Stalin had agreed to turn over Manchuria, with the exception of Dairen and Port Arthur, to the “legal government” of China after the Japanese had been disarmed Chiang, however, did not possess the means of occupying the country with the necessary rapidity. The American imperialists obligingly placed at his disposal a large number of transport planes. With these Chiang was able to fly in troops to the principal cities - Harbin, Changchun, Mukden, etc. - and also take over the connecting railroads. But the surrounding countryside, was in the hands of the Chinese Stalinists and the cities became isolated pockets of Kuomintang rule.
Equipped with weapons such as they had never possessed before - virtually all the military equipment surrendered by the Japanese - the Stalinists made short work of the isolated Kuomintang garrisons, whom Chiang found it increasingly difficult to supply. Manchurian city dwellers, who had welcomed Chiang’s troops were quickly disillusioned in their “liberators” and transferred their sympathies to the “Reds” - all, that is, but the capitalists and big landlords who fled south of the Great Wall as the Stalinist forces tightened their encirclement of the cities.
It soon became obvious that the Kuomintang possessed not even the shadow of a social base for its rule in Manchuria. Chiang’s troops were bombarded with “Red” propaganda The Stalinist slogan of “ Land to the Peasants” had a strong appeal for soldiers who were also peasants. They haled the Kuomintang regime. They hated their officers. In large numbers they went over to the other side, taking their American weapons with them. Chiang lost 300,000 of his Manchurian troops, three-fifths of the total. The remaining 200,000 were withdrawn inside the Great Wall.
Now, with all Manchuria as a solid bastion at their backs, and after time out for regroupment, assault troops of the “Red” armies wheeled southward and in the space of a few months, operating among people friendly to their cause, conquered practically all of North China except for isolated enclaves, represented by such cities as Peiping and Tientsin, and the Shantung port of Tsingtao which is held by the American imperialists as a naval base. At this writing, Peiping and Tientsin are under siege and the tide of battle has flowed to within less than 100 miles of Nanking, Chiang’s capital on the south hank of the Yangtse. The decimated Kuomintang armies are falling back on the river for a “final stand.”
As with all reactionary regimes upon which history has pronounced the sentence of death, the Kuomintang finds itself in the hour of mortal peril without reliable props or supports. Discord and treachery invade even the top levels of government. The armed forces dissolve. In the great battles around Suchow on the North China plain, and again in the battles at the Hwai River, Kuomintang troops again deserted in droves to the “Red” armies. The Stalinist land program proves more potent than military discipline. In many instances Kuomintang commanders were killed by their men when they refused to surrender with their units. Chiang’s officers in the field seeing the hand-writing on the wall, are less and less inclined to carry out operational commands which commit them in the eyes of their men to a last-ditch defense of the Kuomintang regime. They withdraw from battle if they can. If withdrawal is too risky, they stay put and await the opportunity to surrender. Chiang’s armies are literally melting away.
In Nanking, the frightened coterie of politicians and generals which comprises the government has split into two factions, those favoring an attempt to negotiate peace with the Stalinists, and those favoring a fight to the finish. There is talk of jettisoning Chiang Kai-shek and replacing him with a more “liberal” figure. The Kuomintang clique and the nervous bourgeoisie view the Generalissimo in a dual role - as the source of all their troubles and at the some time their only possible sheet-anchor in the angry storm now swirling around them. Frantic appeals to U.S. imperialism to come to the rescue have produced no results.
There are proposals for moving the government south - to Changsha, to Hangchow, to Foochow, to Canton. But these cities, like the Manchurian cities before them, are isolated in a surging sea of rebellion. Stalinist guerrillas surround all the key points. There is also talk of moving the government to the island of Formosa. But here, too, there is seething hatred for the Kuomintang regime. Just little more than a year ago the garrison there carried out a savage campaign of repression in putting down a rebellion brought on by the corruption and oppression of Chiang’s deputies. There is no safety here either. Thus, 22 years after its ascent to power, the party of the Chinese landlords and capitalists finds itself isolated without a sure point of support anywhere. Floundering impotently, exuding decay from every pore, it can now scarcely fight back.
What is the meaning of the dramatic events now unfolding on the Chinese scene? Are we confronted here with just a pure and simple case of Stalinist expansionism, or, as the imperialists would phrase it, “Soviet imperialism”? We can readily admit, as one press commentator put it, that Mao tse-tung and his leading henchmen are “stooges” of Moscow. With scrupulous fidelity they have geared their policies to every twist and turn of the Kremlin line for twenty years and more. In doing so, they have not hesitated to violate and betray the most elementary interests of the Chinese workers and peasants, not to speak of the fundamental interests of the Chinese revolution.
But when you have designated these dyed-in-the-wool Stalinists as stooges of the Kremlin. you have disclosed only a part of their politial physiognomy, and not the most important part at that. In addition to being Stalin’s agents, Mao and his cohorts are the leaders of a mighty, indigenous mass movement, the rebellious peasantry which constitutes more than 80 percent of the Chinese nation. This movement is no concoction of secretive plotters. It springs from the social soil of the country. It is this gigantic mass of rural toilers which is the source of the impressive power which the Stalinists have been translating into massive military victories.
The changed relationship of class forces which characterise the present situation is marked in the political sphere by the fact that in the space of three years the Stalinists have passed from the policy of a People’s Fronts with the Kuomintang, and class collaboration with the exploiters, to a policy which calls for the overthrow of the Kuomintang and the expropriation of the landlords. If we probe into the reasons - both internal and international -for this political about-face, we shall be able to discover the basic causes for the present developments.
The wartime People’s Front was forged by the Stalinists in 1936, on the eve of Japan’s all-out attack on China. Chiang Kai-shek had up to then been pursuing a policy of “appeasement” toward the Japanese imperialists and this had alarmed the Kremlin. If Japan could extricate herself from the “China incident” by an agreement with Chiang, then her hands would be freed for an attack on the USSR. The Chinese Stalinists, then pursuing their program of agrarian revolution, were ordered to make an abrupt political turn - to abandon land expropriations and their aim of overthrowing the Kuomintang, and on that basis to seek an agreement with Chiang for China’s defense against any further attacks by Japanese imperialism. Stalin wanted China to fight Japan, so that Japan would be tied down and unable to make war on the USSR.
In a programmatic statement, the Chinese Communise Party declared resistance to Japan to be the primary task to which everything else must be subordinated. They did not, at course, mean revolutionary resistance, but resistance based on the People’s Front type of class collaboration. They asserted that ‘‘only Chiang Kai-shek’’ could lead a successful war of resistance. Chiang, under growing popular pressure because of his attitude toward Japan (also pressure exerted by his bourgeois supporters who had become fearful that Japan would swallow the whole country), had every reason to accept the Stalinists’ proposals - in reality their political surrender.
And so the “People’s Anti-Japanese United Front was born. Chiang did not share power with the Stalinists. All they got was a few seats in the impotent People’s Political Council. The developing movement of opposition to the Kuomintang was canalised into a patriotic war movement. Thus the “bloc of four classes” which led to the destruction of the Chinese revolution ten years earlier was revived in the form of a new bloc of all “patriotic elements” for the “sacred war of resistance.”
How effectively Chiang led the war against Japan is now a matter of historical record. One military disaster followed upon another until almost all of eastern Chin was under Japan’s domination. It is true that Japan did not succeed in conquering China. But neither did Chiang succeed in expelling the Japanese invaders. China’s ultimate “victory” was won by the armed might of American imperialism. In this fact alone is revealed the enormity of the crime which the Stalinists committed against the Chinese masses when they made this - their second - compact with the hangman of the Chinese revolution.
What the Chinese agents of the Kremlin actually did to slow down the disintegration of the Kuomintang regime and rescue it from the wrath of the people at a time when the conditions for its overthrow were rapidly maturing. This was at crime, not only against the Chinese masses and the Chinese revolution, but against the world proletariat and the world socialist revolution. How different would have been the course of world events these past few yews if China’s defense against Japan had been revolutionary defense in the authentic tradition of Bolshevism, a defense resting on the revolutionary initiative and lighting courage of the exploited masses, in alliance with the Japanese and world proletariat!
The wartime class-collaborationist program of the Stalinists cut sharply across the objective realities of class. social and political relationships. Mao Tse-tung could and did proclaim the end of land seizure, but the rural toilers did not because of that cease hating the landlords. Mao could and did make the Communist Parts the guardian of capitalist private property. But workers did not because of that become reconciled to capitalist exploitation. Mao could and did make a “united front” with the murderous Chiang. But that in no stay lessened the gulf which separated the masses from the Kuomintang regime. Mao and Chiang could and did enter into a compact whose aim was to exorcise the class struggle in the alleged interests of the war against Japan, but the class struggle, even though muted, continued nevertheless.
During the war years peasant uprisings, accompanied by land seizures, flared in hundreds of villages. Kuomintang officers, trying impress the peasant youth into the army, encountered fierce resistance everywhere. Savage repressions ensued, only to be followed by more rebellious outbreaks. In the cities workers went on strike. All the conditions of daily life were going from bad to worse as far as the masses were concerned, feeding ever fresh fuel to the fire of the class struggle.
As the War drew to a close, the tide of class struggle flowed more and more strongly against the political dikes of class collaboration. The sharpening of class antagonism and the growing movement of opposition to the Kuomintang compelled the Stalinists to make a show of opposition to Chiang and his government in the form of cautious criticism. But they continued in the “united front” and their representatives remained in Chiang’s fake parliament, the People’s Political Council. Chiang, for his part, accused the Stalinists of fomenting peasant revolt, thereby violating the “united front.” It was plain that the wartime policy of class collaboration must be shipwrecked on the jagged rocks of the class struggle. Chiang virtually ceased fighting the Japanese and began making troop dispositions in preparation for future battle against the Stalinists. Stalin’s agents responded by expanding their territorial hold wherever possible. Actual battles between Chiang’s troops and the Stalinist guerrilla forces were taking place with increasing frequency as Imperial Japan went down in defeat.
The internal dynamics of Chinese political life, on the morrow of Japan’s surrender drew together with developments in the sphere of international relationships The outstanding new fact in these relationships was the confrontation of the Soviet Union by the arrogant might of a victorious American imperialism, in a world where international rivalries had been narrowed down, in the main, to the antagonism between these two powers. The third world war was already on the agenda. Little effort has been made by the American imperialists to conceal the fact that they are converting the Japanese bourgeoisie into a future war alley, and Japan itself, together with southern Korea and the Philippines, into a base for war against the Soviet Union.
Stalin responded in characteristic fashion. Having long since abandoned Lenin’s concept of the defense of the Soviet Union through the extension of the socialist revolution, Stalin is replying to the American threat in kind. Between America’s Far Eastern bases and the Soviet borders he plans to interpose a Stalinist-dominated China. The conjuncture of the Kremlin’s strategic plans and the internal dynamics of Chinese political development furnishes the basic explanation for the current Stalinist policy in China, for the shift of the people’s Frontism to renewed class struggle.
What does Stalin need in China? A limited, “controlled” revolution which, while making China a bulwark against American imperialism, will not develop into a prairie fire of socialist revolution and thus endanger the rule of the Soviet bureaucracy. After a long-drawn-out series of negotiations between Chiang and the Stalinists which followed the war - negotiations which found Chiang unyielding to Stalinist demands - efforts to end the growing civil war and establish a Stalinist-Kuomintang coalition were abandoned. Chiang would not and could not agree to those concessions which for the Stalinists were the irreducible minimum without which their own influence must inevitably wane – namely, “democracy” (meaning full legality for themselves) and extensive land reforms. Chiang demanded what he had always demanded before - the political and military surrender of his adversaries. Even the U.S. mediator in these negotiations, General Marshall, thought it unrealistic to demand that the Chinese Stalinists commit political suicide at a time when their power was growing.
Mao Tse-tung and company formalised the rupture in a series of policy declarations. Explicitly, or implicitly these meant: Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang must go. The Communist Party would proceed to overthrow this regime by military means. It would bring “democracy” to China, founded upon a coalition of anti-Kuomintang elements. “Feudalism” must be destroyed and the land transferred to the peasants. Since China is backward and poverty-stricken, all talk of socialism is “unrealistic.”  Hence there would be no attempt to upset capitalist property relations. The peasants would get the land, but the workers must be content with their lot as wage-slaves, though they may have a few bones of reform thrown to them.
On October l0 1947 the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party promulgated its “Basic Program on Chinese Agrarian Law.” thus bringing formally to an end the policy of class collaboration in the village which it had instituted eleven years earlier. It is necessary to quote this law at some length in order to make clear the basis for the support which the Stalinists now enjoy in rural China.
Article 1: The agrarian system of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation is abolished and the agrarian system of “Land to the Tiller” is to be realized.
Article 2: Land ownership rights of all landlords are abolished.
Article 3. Land ownership of all ancestral shrines, temples, monasteries, schools, institutions and organizations are abolished.
Article 4: All debts incurred prior to the reform of the agrarian system are cancelled.
Article 6: Except as provided in Article 9, Section B (referring to forests, mines, lakes; etc. - LFJ) all land in villages owned by landlords, and all public land, shall be taken over by the village peasants’ unions, and together with all other village land, in accordance with the total population of the village irrespective of sex or age, shall be unified and equally distributed; with regard to quantity, surplus land shall her taken to relieve dearths, and with regard to quality, fertile land shall be taken to supplement infertile, so that all village inhabitants shall equally share the land, and it shall be the individual property of each person.
Article 10: Section D. Landlords and their families shall be given land and properties equivalent to that of the peasants. Section E: All families of Kuomintang military officers and soldiers, government officials and personnel, party members and other enemy personnel, whose homes are in rural areas, shall be given land and properties equivalent to that of the peasant.
Article 11: The government shall issue to the people deeds of ownership of the land, end moreover, recognize their rights to free management, trading, and under specially determined conditions, to renting their land. All land deeds and all notes on debts contracted prior to the reform of the agrarian system shall be turned in and shall be declared null and void.
Article 12: The property and legal operation of industrial and commercial elements shall be protected from encroachment.
The attractive power of this program scarcely needs emphasis. To the rural toilers it is a veritable Magna Carta. Millions of landless peasants and tenant farmers have the prospect of planting their feet firmly in the soil. Debt-burdened peasants see in it liberation from their oppressive woes. For all this vast mass of humanity it seems to hold promise of a better life The plight of these teeming multitudes under the rule of the Kuomintang is revealed, in part, by pre-war figures of land ownership. These show that the bigger landlords, representing only 4 percent of the total population, own about 50 percent of the land. Rich peasants who form 6 percent of the population, hold 26 percent of the land. The remaining 90 percent of the population possess only 24 percent of the land. The great bulk of the land population carries on what is known as “subsistence farming” on tiny plots that more and more become uneconomic units. These plots can be made to produce no surplus over and above bare living requirements. In years of poor harvest they are worked at a deficit which increases the ever-growing burden of peasant debt.
As it concerns the land problem, the Stalinist program is clearly revolutionary. It represents an abrupt break with an outworn past and will effect a sharp change in class relationships. The transfer of the land to those who till it is an indispensable preliminary to the thorough-going reorganization of agriculture on higher levels and the revolutionary transformation of Chinese society. Bin viewed in the context of the Chinese social and political scene as a whole, it is conservative, one-sided, opportunistic and illusory. Despite the huge preponderance of the peasantry in the population, and the great weight of agriculture in the economy, the agrarian problem is not an independent problem that can he solved separately and apart from the country’s economic problems as a whole. The small plot of land continues to be a small plot, an uneconomic unit, even when it is firmly in the hands of the peasant. The expropriation of the landlords will furnish land for the landless, but the plots must remain small. As long as there is subsistence farming there will be a function for the village usurer. Landlordism could easily be reborn.
It will be impossible to raise the level of agriculture with a continuance of small-scale ownership and primitive farming methods. For that large-scale farming, possible only with machinery, is necessary. This implies a great industrial development. Moreover, there are too many people on the land. The surplus population can be drawn away from the land only when alternative means of livelihood are available. This will become possible only through all-sided development of the economy - industry, transportation, communications, etc. The feeble, historically belated bourgeoisie can contribute nothing to such a development. It can only hinder it. Yet the Stalinists propose to leave bourgeois property intact, as witness Article 2 of their Agrarian Law which proclaims that “the property and legal operation of industrial and commercial elements shall be protected from encroachment.”
What the Stalinists aim to do is to establish their political rule on the social base of peasantry freed from “feudal and semi-feudal exploitation” (Article I of the agrarian Law). They direct their attack at “feudalism” - not capitalism - as if the feudal remnants possessed an independent social and political significance. According to the theory behind this programmatic aim, the destruction of “feudalism” will clear a path for capitalist development. When a sturdy capitalism has grown up, that will be the time to talk of the socialist revolution. In this classic Menshevik conception the historical process is chopped up into arbitrary, predetermined stages which ignore actual class relations and the laws of social development. If the world market extended its sway over the Chinese economy, then the Chinese bourgeoisie unquestionably established its hegemony in that economy. Property relations in China, in the countryside as in the city, are bourgeois property relations. This is true despite the weighty feudal remains. To tilt at “feudalism” as the main object of revolutionary attack is to throw the whole picture of class relations out of focus and the revolutionary struggle off its true axis.
It is necessary to pursue this subject a little further in order to make crystal-clear the falsity and opportunism of the Stalinist program. In France, in the 18th century, the bourgeoisie moved to destroy the mighty remains of feudalism which blocked its advance as a rising revolutionary class. The revolution of 1789, freeing the peasantry from the burdensome encrustations of the. feudal past, created a great internal market on the basis of which capitalist industry and commerce could develop. The French Revolution cleared the road for capitalist development, not only in France but all Western Europe. The Stalinists seem to be intent on repeating on the soil of China the essential developments of the French Revolution, with comparable economic and social results.
But the Chinese bourgeoisie of the 20th century bears little resemblance to the French bourgeoisie of the 18th century. It appeared on the scene in the era of the twilight of world capitalism, not as an independent social formation with a progressive historic mission, but as the handmaiden of imperialism. It did not and could not proceed to smash the powerful remains of feudalism as did its revolutionary forerunners in France. That required a mighty social upheava1 which would have doomed the bourgeoisie and all class rule and exploitation. The ferocity with which the Chinese bourgeoisie slew the revolution of 1923-27 is ample proof that they understood this well, In the “feudal remnants,” the Chinese bourgeoisie saw useful props for its own class rule and its own class interests. It embraced them, adapted them to its own special needs, intertwined its interests with them, became their ardent defenders. The regime of Chiang Kai-shek expresses in the sphere of politics this fact of the fusion of the `”feudal remnants” with the system of capitalist exploitation. The reorganization of Chinese society requires the destruction of the whole existing pattern of class relationships.
What was revolutionary in France 160 years ago, is in essence reformist in China today. This political definition of the Stalinist land program is not invalidated by the huge scale of the agrarian reform, the area and the number of people affected. The methods of the Stalinists are naturally tailored to the character of their programmatic am. They are accomplishing their agrarian reform by military-bureaucratic means. If it is permissible at all to use the term “revolution” to describe the current events in China, we would have to designate it as a “cold” revolution, one in which the broad masses play a minor and passive role assigned to them in advance by their leaders. The Stalinists undoubtedly enjoy the support of huge masses of the peasantry. However, they not only do not encourage, but actively discourage the peasants from taking any revolutionary initiative. There are no flaming appeals to the peasants to rise against the landlords. Instead, the Stalinists enjoin the peasants to await the arrival of the “Red” army.
It is evident that Stalin and his Chinese henchmen want the “revolution” kept within safe limits. This is apparent, again, in their contemptuous indifference toward the proletariat. The Stalinist program offers the workers nothing but a continuation of their wage-slavery. The Chinese proletariat is small. It would be hard to call a roll of three millions in a population of more than 450 millions. Yet the cities in which these workers live and toil are the strategic centers of Chiang Kai-shek’s rule and the nerve centers of the whole system of landlord-capitalist exploitation. If the proletariat were armed with a revolutionary program and given its rightful place in the current developments as leader of all the exploited and oppressed, it would give short shrift to the bourgeoisie. What is left of Kuomintang power would quickly be destroyed and the civil war immeasurably shortened. But the Stalinists fear the proletariat - and with good reason - much more than they do the tottering Kuomintang regime. They are determined to keep their “cold” revolution cold.
Why is it possible for the Stalinists to pursue a conservative, half-way, reformist policy in a situation pregnant wilt the greatest revolutionary possibilities? The explanation is not hard to find. For twenty years and more, since the defeat of the Chinese revolution, the Stalinists have based their program and their activity almost exclusively on the peasantry. In part this was deliberate (in keeping with their theory that the problem is the fight against feudalism), in part due to the relative passivity of the proletariat. The peasant, for all his revolutionary hatred of the landlords, represents a conservative social formation. As Trotsky once wrote, the worker wants to socialize industry, but the peasant merely wants to possess the land. The conservatism of the peasant is nourished by economic backwardness, by the persistence of medieval social traditions and customs, by the isolation of rural communities, by the almost universal illiteracy. The social and political horizon of the peasant hardly extends beyond the boundaries of his own village. With this conservative mass at their backs, the Stalinists think they can afford to be contemptuous of the workers and their needs. And if the proletariat should become a threat to Stalinism, it is not at all inconceivable that the peasants could be pitted against the proletariat.
Having characterized the Stalinist program as in essence conservative and reformist, it is now necessary to add that the social change it will bring about, the transformation of social relations which it will effect, can become the starting point of new developments of a revolutionary character. The proletariat has not yet been heard from. Viewing the vast shake-up of land relations, the workers, we may be sure, will not be satisfied with just a few crumbs of reform.
The economic situation, which even a Stalinist regime will not be able quickly to improve, will provide spurs to revolutionary action. The workers, finding their path blocked by the Stalinist misleaders, will turn to a new revolutionary leadership. They will find it in the Trotskyists and nowhere else. Meanwhile, the civil war is by no means ended. If the proletariat is kept passive and the Kuomintang with or without Chiang Kai-shek decides on a last-ditch resistance, the civil war could drag on for another year or two. To speed the end it is not inconceivable that the Stalinists might take the risk of summoning the workers to action, although their first move would he an attempt to behead the most conscious and revolutionary elements, as recent events have so grimly demonstrated.
The victory of the Stalinists, whenever it is achieved, will at once raise questions of international relations. Whether the Stalinists will rule openly in their own name, or form some sort of coalition regime with “anti-Kuomintang” bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements, remains to be seen. Certain it is that on the morrow of military triumph Mao Tse-tung, like Tito, will be confronted with the need for economic relations with the outside capitalist world. A coalition with the Chinese bourgeoisie, or a section of it, would undoubtedly facilitate contact with the world market. If this variant should develop, Stalin is going to have greater trouble with Mao than he is having with Tito. The incompatibility of the Kremlin’s interests and demands with the needs of Chinese economy can provoke greater resistance from the Chinese Stalinists who are conquering power by force of arms in their own right with little outside assistance.
The American imperialists have already emitted cautious hints that they might be ready to do business with a Stalinist-bourgeois coalition in China. For them this would yield both economic and political advantages - trade, and perhaps profitable investments for the contracting American economy, a weakening of the Soviet Union on the international field. On the other hand, the social forces they have set in motion and the further needs of the still unconcluded struggle against the Kuomintang, may compel the Chinese Stalinists to go beyond their present program and move against the property of the bourgeoisie. This variant could be stimulated by a hostile American imperialism.
The American imperialists are impaled on the horns of a dilemma. Having fed lush financial and military aid to Chiang Kai-shek for more than three years, they have watched with dismay the passage of this aid to the Chinese Stalinists. If additional help is now refused the Generalissimo, it is because of this fact. Military intervention on the fullest scale - and nothing short of that could possibly save Chiang Kai-shek - is clearly out of the question. For one thing, American troops could not be relied upon in such a clearly counter-revolutionary undertaking. For another, full-scale intervention in China would cut across the main strategy of American imperialism in the international field, which is to prepare the third world war against the Soviet Union, first of all upon the staging ground of Europe, by means of such vehicles as the Marshall Plan. The grand strategy is to slay the Stalinist octopus by striking at its heart and nerve center - the Soviet Union - not to fritter away strength by attacking the separate tentacles. Even the attempt to “contain” the tentacles and prevent them from extending further has been costly and largely ineffectual, as Truman admitted when he said that his program of “aid to Greece” had proved a sorry flop.
The American imperialists would like to “contain” Stalinism in China - better still, destroy it utterly now - but even the resources of this richest of capitalist powers are not sufficient to effectuate its reactionary purposes everywhere. It must select its courses of action carefully, with an eye always on the main strategic goal. Military intervention in China is strategically impossible. That, and not any lessening of desire for the perpetuation of the Kuomintang regime, is the explanation for Washington’s reported “coolness” to the frantic cry for help brought here by Chiang’s wife.
What should be the attitude of revolutionary Marxists toward the present developments in China? Where the genuine movements of the masses are concerned, Marxists are never abstentionists. There is no question but that the upheaval in China, despite the limits bureaucratically imposed upon it by the Stalinists, is a genuine mass movement containing great revolutionary potentialities. The tremendous military and political effort required to reach even the limited objectives set by the Stalinists will surely, even if with some delay, set in motion forces of a revolutionary character which Stalin’s Chinese agents will find it impossible to control and which will open up avenues for the building of a genuinely revolutionary mass party which will carry to completion all the great tasks of the Chinese revolution.
The first cadres of this party have already been assembled and are playing their part as revolutionary participants in the struggle to end the foul rule of the Kuomintang. The destruction of this regime is an essential and progressive task to which Marxists will give their unconditional support. To the Stalinist leaders of the Chinese masses, however, we give not an ounce of political support or confidence. This is a leadership of perfidy and betrayal. Our place is with the masses - against the Kuomintang and against the Stalinist traitors and misleaders.
1. This is a revealing commentary on Stalin’s theory of “Socialism in One Country.” According to Stalin it was entirely possible to construct a socialist society in backward Russia. According to Mao it is entirely impossible to construct socialism in backward China. In reality, it is not a question of the compatibility of backwardness with socialism - an obvious absurdity: In China today, as in the Russia of 1917, the continuance of capitalist property relations dooms the country to backwardness and decay. The proletariat must take power and must destroy bourgeois property relations if China is to strike out along a new path, which can only be the path of socialism. Underlying the stupidity of Stalin and Mao alike is their criminal opposition to Trotsky’s conception of the permanent and international character of all revolutionary struggles in the contemporary world.
Last updated on 11 April 2009