THE Chinese Revolution is, next to the Russian Revolution, the greatest achievement of the toiling masses of the world. For the first time in history, world imperialism was shaken in one of its strongholds—in a backward country which was ruthlessly robbed by British, French, Japanese and American capital. The Chinese Revolution is excellent proof of the correctness of Marxism-Leninism, which sees two fundamental forces of world revolution: the proletarian movement in the capitalist countries and the national-liberation movement in the colonies, and which insists that these two major forces be united in one common front against the common enemy, imperialism.
The theses on the colonial and national problem presented by Lenin to the Second Congress of the Communist International (1920) say:
“European capitalism draws its power mainly, not from the industrial European countries, but from its colonial domains. For its existence, control over vast colonial markets and a broad field of exploitation are necessary. . . .
“The superprofits received from the colonies are the chief source of means of modern capitalism. The European working class will succeed in overthrowing the capitalist system only when this source will dry up.
“The separation of the colonies [from their “motherlands”], and the proletarian revolution at home, will overthrow the capitalist system in Europe. Consequently, the Communist International must keep in the closest contact with those revolutionary forces which at present are engaged in the work of overthrowing imperialism in the politically and economically oppressed countries. For the complete success of the world revolution, common action of both these forces is necessary.” [Our emphasis.—M. J. O.]
The Chinese Revolution has been, in the last decade, the greatest force that was shaking capitalism in its colonial aspect —by attempting, and partly succeeding, in taking away from it the control over a vast semi-colonial market and a broad field of exploitation.
Witness the spectacle of the Chinese Soviets today. The Red Flag with the hammer and sickle is waving over a territory embracing a population of some ninety million—about one-fifth of the total population of China. There is a Central Region, all under Soviet rule, and there are outlying other regions in which scattered Soviet districts are located. The Soviets have a Central Government and local governments consisting of workers and peasants and led by the Communist Party of China, which early in 1935 counted over 400,000 members.
New life is stirring in this oasis of peasants’ and workers’ rule in the midst of an imperialism-bound, impoverished, and down-trodden country! Free people, masters of their own destinies. Free toilers marching under the leadership of the Communist Party and the Communist International toward the socialist system. The system is not socialism yet. There can be no nationalization of the land until the major part of China is in the hands of the revolution and until the Soviet territories are fully consolidated; and there can be no confiscation of the factories and shops—which are not large in the Soviet area—until Soviet Power is spread towards the more industrialized sections of the country. What has been achieved under the Soviets, however, lays the foundation for the future socialist system, which will be the next stage of the Revolution. Power, State and local, is in the hands of the toilers and is controlled by the Communist Party. The armed forces of the State are in the hands of the toilers. The workers are occupying a leading place. They have the strongest representation in the Soviets. There is real revolutionary unity between workers and peasants.
The Red Army of the Chinese Soviets has become the wonder of the world. The Soviet armed forces count in the neighborhood of one million men, of whom at least 400,000 are in the regular Red Army while the others form irregular detachments. The Red Army is the real army of the people. In case of need more and more workers and peasants join both the regular and the irregular forces, also the Red Guards who carry military duty in the rear. The Red Army of the Chinese Soviets, like that of the U.S.S.R., is not only a military but also a cultural force. Political education is conducted in the ranks, and Chinese Soviet victories are explained not only by the superior organization of the armed forces but also in the main by the fact that the fighters are defending what is dear to them—their own Soviet fatherland.
A letter from a Chinese Soviet Republic, written in the spring of 1930, describes how a Soviet is organized.
“At the present time Sovietized western Fukien is an entirely different world from the rest of the provinces where the Kuomintang is still in control. After the victorious revolt the peasants divided the land among themselves and the wages of the workers were raised. The standard of living of the toiling masses has been changed drastically. Deeds on land, promissory notes, mortgages and the like all were burned. The slogan ‘no rent to the landlord, no taxes to the Kuomintang authorities, no payments to the usurers’, now became realized. The old collecting agencies are gone, the tax collectors are shot. Now we are doing our best to help other countries to get rid of the reactionaries, and to start construction work; to increase production, to improve the irrigation system of the rice fields, to repair the roads, to open schools, etc.
“In every county of western Fukien there are Soviets. . . . Everybody of 16 years of age or over, of both sexes, can vote and be elected. Only those who belong to the exploiter class are disfranchised. . . . At this moment all the deputies are from the poor peasants, workers, soldiers, revolutionary students and tradesmen.
“The Soviet government has started reclamation work. Every peasant now receives enough water for the irrigation of his fields. . . . We have cooperative societies . . . . credit associations where we, the peasants, can borrow money without being robbed by the money lenders. . . . Night courses for adults are organized. . . . Among the delegates elected to the Soviets there are women; women have become equal with men in every respect. Their revolutionary zeal is not inferior either . . . you may see them even in the Red Army.
“We have no thieves, no beggars in our territory. Everybody can work. . . . Those who are disabled are taken care of by the Soviets . . . . we opened hospitals and pharmacies with no charge for their services; if previously the peasants had no place to turn to when ill, except to Pusa, the Buddhist god, now they come to the Soviet institutions. . . . Every community has its own club, which serves not for recreation alone but for enlightenment as well.” (Victor A. Yakhontoff, The Chinese Soviets, pp. 88-90.)
Six wars have been waged by the Nanking government, against the Chinese Soviets in the last five years, and all of them have failed. The sixth war (they call it “Expedition” in China) started about September, 1933, and lasted till the end of 1934. The plan of attack was elaborated by an old servant of the Kaiser, the German General Von Seeckt, now chief-of-staff of the Nanking armies. Chiang Kai-shek concentrated between 65 and 70 divisions against the Soviets, each division numbering 7,000 to 10,000 men. He had field artillery, tanks, and 300 airplanes, partly purchased in the U.S.A. on money borrowed under the guise of a “wheat and cotton loan”. His plan was to surround the Soviet district from all sides and drive the Red Army out of its territory step by step.
What was the outcome? He lost, in the central Soviet district alone, over 100,000 men, among them 40,000 to 45,000 killed, 12,000 to 15,000 prisoners and 40,000 to 45,000, wounded. All the troops of the Szechuan militarists, numbering about 30 to 35 divisions, were defeated and lost, about 70,000 killed. At the same time the Red Army kept on growing; in various districts its strength increased from 50 to 1,000 per cent. The Fourth Red Army alone grew in one year from 15,000 to 140,000-150,000. During this campaign the Soviets lost some territory but the Red Army occupied new territories in various districts twice the size of the one lost. This is nothing new in the history of the Chinese Soviets. They may be forced temporarily to evacuate one place—they occupy others. Even the enemy is forced to admit that they have come to stay.
Consider their strategic situation on the battle front between capitalism and Socialism. Here is the Soviet Union, stronghold of the world proletariat and of all the oppressed. Here is Japanese imperialism, which has swallowed Manchuria, has occupied Jehol province, is making attacks on the Mongolian People’s Republic—all in preparation for the ultimate attack against the Soviet Union. Here is Chiang Kai-shek, the head of the Nanking government, a servant of Japanese imperialism, carrying out all the dictates of the Japanese war-lords and allowing them to strengthen themselves at the expense of China in order to be able to advance against the U.S.S.R. Here are the imperialists of England, the United States, and others, who are jealous of Japanese imperialism and who would like to take a share of the loot of China but allow Japan to proceed because she is the spearhead of world imperialism against the Soviet Union in the Far East. And here, in the very path of Japanese and world imperialism, in one of the most fertile and densely populated sections of China, occupying a large territory in the Southeast and stretching towards the central provinces, stands the Soviet Republic of China—a bulwark against world imperialism, and the reactionary government of the landlords and capitalists of China itself. Outside of the U.S.S.R., no greater rôle has ever been played by any country in the world in the great historical conflict between the dictatorship of capitalism and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
In a document presented by the Japanese government late in 1932 to the League of Nations Commission of Inquiry, the so-called Lytton Commission, we read:
“The future of the Chinese Communist movement is a matter of serious concern and difficult to deal with. On the surface, the movement may appear like a casual phenomenon, begun in 1920 with the formation of the Chinese Communist Party and through Comintern machinations. But, as a matter of fact, its origin lies deep in the peculiar social, economic and political conditions of China; and unless these are removed, the movement will not end but in all likelihood will expand. The Nanking government in its present state of impotency cannot be expected to accomplish the task of clearing China of Red Armies and Soviet areas. Fortunately, the latter are yet geographically separated from Russia. In the event they should establish direct geographic contact along the borders of Siberia, Outer Mongolia, or Turkestan, a situation might arise that no Chinese government could ever cope with alone. [Our emphasis—M. J. O.]. The Sovietization of entire China is not an absolute impossibility. And what the combination of a Red China with 400,000,000 people and immeasurable natural resources and the Soviet Russia possessing one-sixth of the earth’s surface might mean to the world—to say nothing of their neighbor states, such as Japan—is a question that should be borne in mind in following the trends of the Communist movement in China.”
Assuming even that the Japanese government overstated somewhat, it must be said that the picture as a whole is correct. The strongest enemy of Communism in the Far East sees clearly the danger of the Chinese Soviets for Japanese imperialism and world imperialism.
The Chinese Soviets and the Red Army are the strongest anti-imperialist power in China offering resistance to the exploitation of China by foreign capital. They are a beacon light for the toiling masses of the other Chinese territories. They show how, when the Nanking régime is overthrown, the life of the masses immediately improves and the agents of imperialism are destroyed. They rally the sympathies of every Chinese patriot who earnestly wishes to see the foreign yoke overthrown. This is why the Chinese Soviets are now in a position to win over to their side not only rank-and-file soldiers from the Nanking army but whole armies, including the lower commanding staffs. And this is why the Soviets of China are invincible and their territories are growing.
In an interview given to the correspondent of the Japanese monthly, Chun Yan Gun Lien, in June, 1933, Chiang Kai-shek, commander-in-chief of the Nanking armies, gave the following explanation of the mortal blow dealt his armed forces by the Red Army:
“It is very difficult to find out who in the local population is a good and who a bad element. Besides the regular units of the Red Army there are also partisan detachments, that is, so-called peasant partisans. . . . These partisans together with the masses wage partisan warfare as objective conditions may require, aiming to throw the rear of the expeditionary forces into confusion or to make surprise attacks on units which attend to the supply of the expeditionary forces.
“They also do reconnoitering, stir up discontent among our troops and camouflage the places where the regular Red Army troops are situated. In short, they do everything in their power to frustrate our plans. . . . When they are not fighting they work in the fields, but whenever they are needed they all arm themselves and come to the aid of the Communist army. . . . Precisely because it is impossible to draw any line between a good citizen and a Red partisan, our troops cannot but feel that ‘the enemy is lurking everywhere’. Even in districts where the population has not yet been contaminated by Communist activities, the troops also feel that there will be no rest until the whole population has been wiped out.
“This difficulty gives rise to the hardships encountered by the expeditionary forces which I will summarize as follows: (1) It has proved absolutely impossible to get food supplies or any personal services performed for the troops; (2) The population of the districts bordering on or only near the bandit districts turn Red more and more frequently for fear of being massacred without exception by the expeditionary forces.” (Quoted by Wan Ming, Revolutionary China Today, pp. 39-40.)
What is Trotsky’s stand in relation to this great center of world revolution?
We will appreciate Trotsky when we recall that in 1929 and 1930, the period of the formation and extension of the Chinese Soviets, Trotsky called the Red Army “bandits” and that after the temporary retreat of the revolution at the end of 1927 and early 1928 he kept on shouting “defeat, defeat and defeat”, “decline, decline and decline”, declaring the attempts of the first leaders of the Red Army, Ho Lung and Yeh Tin, to be “adventures”, proclaiming the Soviets to be a malicious Stalin invention, and continually harping about the “strangled revolution”, about the Communist Party of China being “defunct”, about Stalin having “disarmed the Chinese revolution” and “stabbed it in the back”. At the time when Congresses of Soviets had already been organized in numerous districts of Kiangsi, Hupeh, Fukien, Hunan, Kwangtung, Kiangsu, Anhwei, Chekiang, Honan and plans were made for the first All-China Congress of Soviets, Trotsky kept on lamenting that Stalin,
“. . . . subordinated the Chinese workers to the bourgeoisie, put the brakes on the agrarian movement, supported the reactionary generals, disarmed the workers, prevented the appearance of Soviets and liquidated those that did appear.” (Leon Trotsky, Stalin and the Chinese Revolution, written in August, 1930. Included in Trotsky’s book, Problems of the Chinese Revolution, pp. 307-308.)
Like many of Trotsky’s “attitudes”, this negation of the Chinese Revolution and this blaming on Stalin of imaginary evils which are just the reverse of historic facts, may seem crazy to the uninitiated. As a matter of fact it has logic, counter-revolutionary logic. It springs from his basic Menshevik conceptions. It is in absolute harmony with his counter-revolutionary attitude toward revolution, the Soviet Union, and the Communist International.
The man denies the building of socialism in the Soviet Union,—why should he not deny the existence of Soviets in China? The man asserts that Stalin has destroyed the Russian Revolution—why should he not say that Stalin has destroyed the Chinese Revolution? That the facts which are glaring in the face give the lie to all his assertions has never bothered him in the least.
In his attitude toward the Chinese Revolution, in his “advice”, “recommendations”, “theses”, and “memoranda” dealing with the policy of the Comintern in China, his line of counter-revolution, always decorated with “ultra-revolutionary” phrases, reveals itself even more than in his attitude toward the Russian Revolution. Here we have Trotskyism in a concentrated form,—so to speak, the quintessence of Trotskyism.
To begin with, he assumed a Menshevik position as regards the very nature of the Chinese Revolution. He failed to see that it was a revolution for national liberation in a semi-colonial country, where the basic driving force was the agrarian revolution against remnants of feudalism. To him their was no basic difference between China and any imperialist country.
One need not adduce much proof to the effect that China is a semi-colonial country on the one hand, a semi-feudal country on the other. By the beginning of the second Chinese Revolution in 1925 (the first took place in 1911 and liberated China from the monarchy), China was enslaved by foreign imperialists both economically and politically. About 80 per cent of the Chinese railways and 78 per cent of ocean and river navigation were in the hands of foreign capital. A network of foreign-controlled banks pumped the life blood out of the Chinese population. Foreign trade and customs revenues were in the hands of foreign imperialists headed by Great Britain. The imperialists established low tariffs on goods imported from their countries—to the detriment of local Chinese manufacture. The foreign capitalists had a monopoly of taxes on salt, wine and tobacco which, in 1931, yielded 245,000,000 Chinese dollars. The best coal mines, oil wells, docks and machine shops, electric stations, chemical plants, flour mills, cotton, sugar, tobacco, paper, match mills were in the hands of foreign capitalists. Foreign capital did everything possible to thwart the independent development of the productive forces of China.
To secure absolute freedom for economic exploitation, the foreign imperialist governments secured for themselves political privileges which robbed the country of sovereignty. They had the so-called treaty ports in China where they kept their own army detachments, police and gendarmerie for the protection of their industrial and financial establishments. They secured for the foreigners freedom from taxation and freedom from local regulations. Foreign merchant vessels plied the rivers of China freely, without any control by local authorities. There are about fifty cities in China where foreign capitalists are the actual rulers. They possess leased territories where their privileges are still greater. They have so-called concessions and settlements which are like a state within a state in China. The International Settlement in Shanghai is governed by a foreign municipality. Besides this, all foreign residents enjoyed the privilege of extra-territoriality, which means that a foreigner in China can be tried only by a foreign court.
This is how a Chinese patriot described the situation:
“First a man in black clothes (missionary) comes to me and says, ‘Love me like thy brother, else I will send you to roast in a big furnace in the beyond’. Then a man in bright clothes comes to me with goods and says, ‘Buy this trash for a high price, else I will complain to the man in white clothes with the big gun’. Finally the man in white clothes comes and says, ‘You do not want to love the man in black clothes as your brother, you do not want to buy the goods for a good price from the man in bright clothes. That being the case, get out and leave your house and your field to the man in black clothes and to the man in bright clothes, or else I’ll kill you’. But before I succeed in opening my mouth he kills me anyway, and all three of them are lording it over me: the one sprinkles me with water, the other empties my pockets, the third throws my body to the dogs. Then they all take away my house, my land, my wife, my children and the holy images of my ancestors.” (Quoted by P. Mif, Chinese Revolution, p. 21.)
Foreign domination, which sapped China and stunted its growth, was one of the main sources of the Chinese Revolution.
Foreign domination was inextricably linked up with warlord and landlord rule in China. The war-lord with his mercenary army was carrying out the will of the imperialists inside of China—as reward for their assistance rendered him in keeping the Chinese people under his iron heel. The war-lord—several of them ruled over China, the most powerful being Chang Tso-lin, the dictator of the North—was something like a Tsar, i.e., a semi-feudal despot. His power was based on the power of the local landlords who combined, in true feudal fashion, economic, administrative and judicial power over the peasants. The landlord lived on the sweat and blood of the peasants.
In the early ’twenties of this century statistics showed that 2,800,000 landlords held over one-half of the total tillable area of a typical section of China, whereas 31,000,000 peasants (the lower two groups) held together less than all the landlords. As a result the peasants could not conduct an “economy” on their own small pieces of land and had to rent land from the landlords, paying for it between 60 and 90 per cent of the crop. The tenant had to supply the landlord with a certain number of chickens and ducks and with a certain amount of wine free. Besides, he had to work a certain number of days for the landlord. Out of every hundred peasants in central and southern China, 40 were tenants, 28 semi-tenants, and only 32 owned their farms. All peasants paid exorbitant taxes. Besides the main tax, there existed a number of special taxes: for the army, the militia, the garrisons, the guards, etc.—all in all about 30 kinds. The peasants were often forced to pay their taxes in advance. Cases are known where a tax was collected from the peasants for 90 years ahead. All this went to the landlords and war-lords.
Working with unbelievable assiduity unbelievably lank hours on unbelievably tiny parcels of land, the Chinese peasants could not make a living, try as they might. Famines, pestilence and floods were the usual lot of millions upon millions of the toilers of the land.
The peasant masses, hundreds of millions of them, were the chief source of the Chinese Revolution.
The workers (there were 2,000,000 workers in large scale city industry out of a total of 5,000,000 workers in all of China) were suffering the kind of exploitation that was known in Europe only at the beginning of the nineteenth century. A twelve-hour workday was the rule, with some workers forced to work sixteen and eighteen hours a day. No restrictions for child labor; children at the age of seven or eight working twelve hours a day. The usual wage of the skilled workers is around 20 cents a day. The lower wages are sometimes as low as 4 cents a day. Cases were known where boys between the ages of 9 and 15 worked in match factories in a poisoned atmosphere from 4 in the morning till 8:30 in the evening, with only one intermission for dinner, receiving 3 to 6 cents a day. This barbarous exploitation made it possible for the capitalists to garner profits of 100 per cent and more. The life of the workers was such that 40 per cent were forced to live below even the standard of living of the Chinese coolie. Thus the workers were suffering at the hands of the imperialists both as natives of an oppressed country and as workers.
The workers were one of the great forces of the Chinese Revolution. Being less numerous in comparison with the total population than the workers of Russia, they could not immediately assume in the Chinese Revolution the rôle played by the Russian workers; they could not immediately establish the dictatorship of the proletariat as was done in Russia in November, 1917. But their rôle in the revolution was nevertheless that of a leading force. It is the general strike of May-June, 1925, that is considered the beginning of the Great Chinese Revolution. Strikes in other cities followed. In all [he revolutionary movements after 1925 the working class, headed by the Communist Party, occupied the front ranks. In the present Chinese Soviets the workers are recognized as leaders. However, in substance the Chinese Revolution has been an agrarian and anti-imperialist revolution, and not a Socialist revolution.
This was recognized by the Communist International very early. In its instructions to the Third Congress of the Communist Party oŁ China, in 1923, the Communist International said:
“The national revolution in China and the creation of an anti-imperialist front will inevitably be accompanied by an agrarian revolution of the peasantry against the remnants of feudalism. Only then will the revolution be victorious when it will succeed in drawing in the fundamental mass of the Chinese population, the small-parcel peasantry.
“Thus the central question of the entire policy is the peasant question. . . . That is why the Communist Party as the party of the working class must strive toward an alliance of the workers and the peasants. This can be achieved only through the incessant propaganda and the realization in practice of the slogans of the agrarian revolution, such as the confiscation of the landlords’ lands, confiscation of the lands of the monasteries and churches and turning them over to the peasantry without compensation, abolition of the hunger rents, abolition of the present tax system, abolition of the leasing of taxes, abolition of customs duties between provinces, abolition of the mandarinate, creation of organs of peasant self-government into whose hands the confiscated land shall pass.
“Proceeding from these fundamental demands it is necessary to bring the entire mass of peasant poor to the realization of the necessity of struggle against foreign imperialism. . . . Only when the agrarian foundation is placed under the slogans of the anti-imperialist front can we hope for a real success.
“It goes without saying that the leadership must belong to the party of the working class. The last events from the realm of the labor movement (tremendous strikes) have clearly shown all the importance of the labor movement in China.
The Communist Party is obliged constantly to push the party of the Kuomintang toward the agrarian revolution.”
The character of the Chinese Revolution as combining the anti-imperialist and the agrarian revolution, and the rôle of the workers and their party, the Communist Party, could not be more adequately defined than was done in this document even before the real beginning of the revolution in 1925. The Communist International, then still headed by Lenin, never underestimated the rôle of the proletariat in the revolution. It saw, however, that the revolution was that of an oppressed country rising against the yoke of imperialism and that its main driving force was the bulk of the population consisting of peasants.
What about Trotsky? True to his disregard of the peasantry, he simply failed to see the millions of impoverished and oppressed peasants who were then beginning to form local committees to fight against the landlords. To him the peasantry did not exist to him, therefore, the main force of the revolutionary struggles in this semi-feudal country did not exist.
As late as 1920, after three years of heroic peasant fighting, he had the following to say about the peasantry and the revolution:
“Numerically, the Chinese peasantry constitutes an even more overwhelming mass than the Russian peasants; but crushed in the vice of world contradictions upon the solution of which in one way or another its fate depends, the Chinese peasantry is even less capable than the Russian of playing a leading role. It is no longer at present a theoretical forecast; it is a fact tested through and through and from all sides.” (Leon Trotsky, Problems of the Chinese Revolution, p. 133.)
Note the expression: “vice of world contradictions”. It appears that the contradiction between the interests of the millions of peasants and the interests of the landlords and warlords in China do not belong to the world contradictions; it appears that the contradiction between the interests of the peasants and the interests of the imperialist oppressors and exploiters also does not belong to the world contradictions. It appears that the peasants have to wait for some other forces to solve their problems.
Nor did Trotsky realize the anti-imperialist character of the Chinese Revolution. If his disregard of the peasantry as a revolutionary force was an old trait revealed in his attitude toward the Russian Revolution, here he revealed himself from a new angle. He failed to see that liberation from the yoke of foreign power was a question of life and death for the overwhelming majority of the population of China. What he saw in the revolution was not revolution at all: he conceived the whole movement to be an attempt by the Chinese manufacturers to do away with foreign control of the customs, to establish “customs autonomy”.
With such an approach he could make only blunders, one more ludicrous than the other, and advance proposals which, if carried out, would have spelled disaster for the revolution.
The Kuomintang which is mentioned above in the instructions of the Communist International was, up to the middle of 1927, a party of the national revolution. Formed in 1912 by Sun Yat Sen, it gained great influence and power in the early ’twenties. By 1925 it held the City of Canton in the south of China and surrounding territory, it had an army of its own, and its influence grew. First a party of intellectuals and the petty bourgeoisie, it soon attracted great numbers of peasants and workers. In the middle of 1926 its armies, led by Chiang Kai-shek, then still a revolutionist, began the famous March to the North (the Northern Expedition).
This was the greatest revolutionary sweep the world has ever seen outside of Russia. In a short time the armies of the revolution conquered the most important provinces of China: Hunan, Hupeh, Kiangsi, Honan, Kiangsu, Chekiang, etc. The march proceeded from the less industrialized to the most industrialized and most developed sections of China. Wherever the armies arrived, a revolutionary government was set up, foreign rule was abolished, foreign privileges curtailed. The March to the North was accompanied by a tremendous upswing of the labor movement. Wherever the revolutionary government established itself, the working class came out from the underground into which it had been driven by the war-lords, and began to function in the open. It organized trade unions; it used the weapon of strikes to improve its conditions. It increased its Communist Party tremendously. It organized large working-class demonstrations with tens of thousands participating. More than that, the workers armed themselves here and there in the liberated provinces. At the same time there was a tremendous development of the peasant movement. Literally millions of peasants rose against their landlords, organizing committees of the poor, refusing to pay rent, establishing their own local governments in the villages, often attacking the landlords’ estates, often taking over the land.
It was a broad revolutionary stream engulfing the major portions of China, driving out the war-lords and the imperialists, releasing the creative revolutionary energy of the workers and peasants.
What should have been the attitude of the Communist International and of the Communist Party of China towards this national revolution? In 1923 the Communist International advised the Communist Party of China to “push the Kuomintang Leftward”. In November, 1926, it declared, in the resolution of the Seventh Plenum of the Comintern:
“If the proletariat will not advance an agrarian program it will not be able to draw the peasantry into a revolutionary struggle and will lose the hegemony in the national liberation movement.”
The Comintern repeatedly insisted on developing the revolutionary labor movement against the capitalists and the agrarian movement against the landlords. The instructions of the Comintern to the Communist Party of China, issued December, 1926, say:
“The general policy of retreat in the city and of curtailing the struggle of the workers for the improvement of their conditions is incorrect. In the villages the struggle must be developed, but at the same time it is necessary to use the favorable moment to improve the material and legal position of the workers, striving in every way to give the struggle of the workers an organized character which excludes excesses and rash precipitancy. It is particularly necessary to strive that the struggle in the cities should be directed against the strata of the large-scale bourgeoisie and first of all against the imperialists in order that the petty and middle Chinese bourgeoisie be retained as far as possible within the framework of the united front against the common enemy. . . . We deem it necessary to warn that decrees against the freedom of strikes, of workers’ meetings, etc., are absolutely inadmissible.”
Early in 1927 the Comintern in its instructions said:
“It is necessary to head toward the arming of the workers and peasants, toward transforming the peasant committees locally into actual organs of power with armed self-defense, etc.
“It is necessary that the Communist Party should everywhere appear as such; the policy of voluntary semi-legality is inadmissible; the Communist Party must not appear as a brake on the mass movement; the Communist Party must not conceal the traitorous and reactionary policy of the Right Kuomintangites; but their demasking must mobilize the masses around the Kuomintang and the Communist Party.”
From this it is obvious that while the Communist International was striving to achieve the maximum possible development of the revolution against world imperialism, it was striving to achieve the maximum possible gains for the workers and peasants within that revolution and through the revolution.
A man like Trotsky, failing to understand both the anti-feudal peasant and the anti-imperialist national stream of the revolution, was bound to advance counter-revolutionary proposals.
He proposed that the Communist Party withdraw from the Kuomintang and form Soviets. He contended that the anti imperialist bloc between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie during the March to the North was against Leninism. He insisted that the immediate formation of the Soviets was the only Leninist way.
“If, at the beginning of the northern campaign [says Trotsky] we had begun to organize Soviets in the ‘liberated’ districts (and the masses were instinctively fighting for that) we would have rallied to our side the agrarian uprisings, we would have built our own army; we would have undermined the opposing armies and—notwithstanding the youthfulness of the Communist Party of China—it would have been able, with a judicious Comintern guidance, to mature in these years of stress and to come to power, if not in the whole of China at once, then at least in a considerable part of it. And above all, we would have had a party.” (Leon Trotsky, Problems of the Chinese Revolution, p. 134.)
Let us not forget that Soviets are organs of power. Trotsky did not conceive them as organs of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry. He wanted to skip the historically necessary stage of the revolution and proceed forthwith to Soviets as the dictatorship of the proletariat.
What would have been the task of such organs? They would have been a government directed against the national government. They would have aroused the peasants against them, because the peasants would have seen in the attempt to disrupt the revolutionary Kuomintang which they still trusted, an attempt to interfere with the agrarian revolution. They would not have been able to build a Soviet army because the overwhelming majority of the peasants and a large section of the workers believed in Chiang Kai-shek who at that time was a revolutionary. They would not have been able to undermine Chiang Kai-shek’s army because that army was engaged in a victorious revolution. They would not have strengthened the Communist Party because the Communist Party would have isolated itself from the revolutionary masses. As to the Communists coming into power in a considerable part of China, they succeeded in doing so just because they did not pose in the eyes of the masses as disrupters of the national revolution, but showed to the masses from their own experiences that Chiang Kai-shek was a traitor.
The slogan of Soviets sounds revolutionary, but under given conditions its use when impossible to realize would have been an act of counter-revolution. It would have crippled the revolution.
Summing up the experiences of the Chinese Revolution, at the Sixth Congress of the Communist International, Kuusinen, one of the leaders of the Comintern, said:
“Well, comrades, is this just ultra-revolutionary high-voltage subjectivism of a petty-bourgeois gone wild—or what? I do not know what it is subjectively, but I know perfectly well what would have been the objective meaning of such action in practice. If such a thing were to be tried, it would have been the surest method of bringing about the immediate collapse of the revolution or at least of the . . . . agrarian movement. On the present stage in China the advancing of such a slogan could only have the effect of a provocation.” (Minutes of the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, German edition, Vol. III, p. 24.)
The fact that in March, 1927, Chiang Kai-shek betrayed the revolution and became a tool of world imperialism, is grasped by Trotsky to prove his own acumen. Didn’t he know beforehand that one could not rely on the bourgeoisie? Didn’t he propose Soviets? He pretends not to know that it is one thing when the bourgeoisie betrays the revolution and another thing when the Communist Party should attempt to disrupt the revolution. He “forgets”—that what he proposed would have amounted to a war of the workers against the peasants. He kept on repeating, ad nauseum, that the Communist Party could not be “an appendage to a bourgeois party”. He misrepresented the Comintern as saying that “millions of workers and peasants can be set in motion and led if only the ‘banner’ of the Kuomintang is waved around in the air a little”. (Leon Trotsky, The Chinese Revolution and the Theses of Comrade Stalin, May, 1927.) He just “forgot” to see one little thing—that those millions of peasants were actually engaged in an actual agrarian revolution simultaneously with the anti-imperialist united-front struggle. He never understood the various stages of the revolution and its passing from one to the other.
Was the Communist International aware of the fact that the revolution could not rely on the bourgeoisie for very long? All its instructions stressed the point that although there was a united front, a bloc of the masses with the bourgeoisie, the fate of the revolution depended upon the workers and peasants. The Comintern advised the workers and peasants to arm; if need be in defiance of the Kuomintang leaders. It advised them to form peasant committees, to fight the Right wing of the Kuomintang, to push the Kuomintang to the Left, to bring forward, boldly, the Communist Party. It warned the Communists that it was necessary to develop the mass movement which alone would save the revolution. “Otherwise,” said the December, 1926, instructions of the C.I., “the revolution is threatened with a tremendous danger.”
The Communist Party of China, young, militant, ardent, but inexperienced, committed mistakes. There were some Communist leaders who failed to realize the necessity of an independent revolutionary movement of the workers. There were Communist leaders who said, “We must not embarrass the united anti-imperialist front by too much agrarian revolution”. There were Communists who said, “We must not have too many strikes because that would alienate the bourgeoisie from the revolution”. There were Communists who, for the same reason, shrank from arming the workers. Many such mistakes were made; some were inevitable due to the complexity and novelty of the situation. The Communist leadership at that time was, due to historic conditions, petty-bourgeois (from the cities) and intellectualist. It was not yet steeled in struggle. It had not yet absorbed fully the Leninist principles of Communist discipline. But that by no means signifies that the line of the Communist International or of Stalin was wrong.
At the Sixth Congress of the Communist International the errors of the Communist Party were characterized as follows:
“The Communist Party of China suffered a series of great defeats which are connected in the past with a series of grave opportunist errors: the absence of independence and freedom of criticism in relation to the Kuomintang; the lack of understanding of the transition from one stage of the revolution to another and the necessity to prepare in time for resistance; finally the hindering of the agrarian revolution.” (Minutes of the Sixth Congress, German Edition, Vol. IV, p. 40.)
The line of the Comintern, however, was in accordance with the teachings of Lenin and with the interests of the revolution.
This is what Lenin said about supporting the national bourgeoisie in a revolution:
“The Communist International must go hand in hand in a temporary alliance with the bourgeois democracy of the colonies and backward countries, but not merge with it and by all means retain the independence of the proletarian movement even in its most rudimentary form.” (V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. XXV, p. 290.)
“We as Communists will support the bourgeois-liberationist movements in the colonial countries only in such cases where these movements are really revolutionary, when their representatives will not hinder us from educating and organizing the peasantry and the broad exploited masses in the revolutionary spirit.” (Ibid., p. 353.)
The Kuomintang movement of 1926 and up to March, 1927, was really revolutionary and its representatives not only did not hinder the Communists from educating and organizing the masses of peasants and workers in the revolutionary spirit but they even paid lip service to Communism. Thus, at the Seventh Plenum of the Comintern (November, 1926) a representative of Chiang Kai-shek declared: “What the Kuomintang strives for is that there should not be created a bourgeois domination after the nationalist revolution in China, as happened in the West and as we see it now in all the countries except the U.S.S.R. . . . We are all convinced that under the leadership of the Communist Party and the Comintern the Kuomintang will fulfill its historic task.” (Minutes of the Seventh Plenum, German Edition, p. 404.)
The Communist International never had any illusions about a lasting bloc of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie. What it insisted upon was to use the bourgeois revolutionists as far as possible in order to achieve the maximum results.
Chiang Kai-shek did betray. When the imperialists began to bombard Nanking in March, 1927, Chiang Kai-shek joined hands with them against the revolution. Why? Because the bourgeoisie became frightened by the spectre of the peasants and workers gaining too much power. Faced with the alternative of either suffering at the hands of foreign imperialists or being crushed by the rising wave of workers’ and peasants’ revolts, the bourgeoisie chose the former. Chiang Kai-shek did the bidding of his masters. He split away from the Kuomintang.
There begins the second stage of the revolution, the Wuhan stage. “The national bourgeoisie moved away from the revolution while the agrarian movement grew into a powerful revolution of tens of millions of the peasantry” (Stalin). The Left Wing of the Kuomintang formed the Wuhan Government. The Communists participated in it. Trotsky, who never understands the passing of the revolution from one stage to another, now makes a round-about-face and “advises” the Communists to participate in the Kuomintang. “We are in favor of the Communists working in the Kuomintang and patiently drawing the workers and peasants over to their side” he declares in his tract, The Chinese Revolution and the Theses of Comrade Stalin, (May, 1927). Why now? The Wuhan forces were not different in principle from the Chiang Kai-shek forces prior to March, 1927. But here we have one of the many gyrations which are so characteristic of Trotsky.
What was the Wuhan period? With surpassing clarity Stalin explained this in his speech before the Plenary Session of the Central Committee and Central Control Commission of the U.S.S.R., August 1, 1927:
“If the first stage was distinguished by the fact that the edge of the revolution was directed mainly against foreign imperialism, the characteristic trait of the second period is the fact that the revolution directs its edge primarily against the internal enemies, in the first place against the feudalists, against the feudal regime. Has the first stage solved the problem of overthrowing foreign imperialism? No, it has not solved that. It passed on the realization of this task, as its inheritance, to the second stage of the Chinese Revolution. It just gave the revolutionary masses the first impetus against imperialism in order to terminate its run, to pass the cause on to the future. Neither will the second stage of the revolution succeed fully to solve the task of driving out the imperialists, we may assume. It will give the broad masses of Chinese workers and peasants further impetus against imperialism, but it will do it in order to pass on the completion of this cause to the following stage of the Chinese Revolution, the Soviet stage.” (Joseph Stalin, Marxism and the National-Colonial Question, Russian edition, pp. 182-183.)
Stalin, the Leninist, understood and explained what is in comprehensible to Trotsky: the transition from one stage of the revolution to another. He foresaw that the next stage of the revolution would be the Soviet stage. He knew that the bloc with the bourgeoisie in the Wuhan government was not of long duration. However, he could not counsel the Communist Party to try and set itself against the Wuhan régime. That would have been harmful to the revolution which now had arrayed against it, in addition to the war-lords and imperialists, also a large section of the bourgeoisie headed by Chiang Kai-shek—the so-called Nanking régime.
Why was it necessary for the Communists to stay within the Wuhan government? Their task, according to Stalin, was:
“To utilize fully the possibility of openly organizing the Party, the proletariat (labor unions), the peasantry (peasant unions), the revolution generally. To push the Wuhan Kuomintangites Leftward, in the direction of the agrarian revolution. To turn the Wuhan Kuomintang into a center of struggle against the counter-revolution and into a nucleus of the future revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.” (Ibid., p. 183.)
In reply to the demand of the Trotskyites regarding the immediate formation of Soviets Stalin explained that that would have been “adventurism”, an “adventurous skipping of stages” since it would have meant skipping over the Left Kuomintang phase of development. “The Kuomintang in Wuhan did not yet discredit and expose itself in the eyes of the broad masses of workers and peasants; it did not exhaust itself as a bourgeois-revolutionary organization.”
Revolutions move rapidly. The second stage of the revolution was succeeded by the third, at the end of 1927. The bourgeoisie did become thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the workers and peasants. Large sections of the territory conquered by the March to the North were now in the hands of the Nanking régime which rallied to its side also the bourgeoisie from the Wuhan régime. The Communist Party now alone headed the workers’ and peasants’ movement. Class differentiations took their place. The bourgeoisie ran back to the foreign imperialists to seek safety, albeit dearly paid for, against the Red wave of the agrarian and workers’ revolution. The next step of the revolution was, inevitably, Soviets. The bourgeois-democratic revolution passed into the phase of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.
The first Soviet was organized in Canton after the armed uprising of December 11, 1927. The Canton Commune lasted for only three days. It was drowned in the blood of the heroic fighters by the united forces of the Chinese bourgeoisie, landlords and international imperialists. But this was not the end of the Revolution. It was only one of its reverses. True, in the Nanking territory the Communist Party was forced into illegality. Great masses of workers and peasants were executed by the hangman, Chiang Kai-shek. But the Revolution kept marching on. Even before the defeat of the Canton Commune, Chinese Communists under Generals Yeh Tin, Ro Lung and Chu Teh carried out a successful revolt among the best army corps of the Kuomintang in Nanchang, Kiangsi province. They succeeded in winning over to the Communist Party an armed force of about 15,000 men, which served as the nucleus of the future Red Armies. For a while the Red Armies retreated into mountainous regions, but already in February, 1928, we have a Soviet régime established in Yungtin, Fukien province. In May, there is a Congress of workers, peasants and Red soldiers in eastern Kiangsi. In September-October, we have a Soviet régime established in Wunan, Kiangsi. From then on the Chinese Soviets kept on growing until they have reached their present stage of power and consolidation.
One cannot overestimate the importance of this development in the face of overwhelming difficulties. The Soviets were, and still are to a large extent, cut off from great centers with masses of modern proletariat. They have suffered intervention and blockade. Numerous drives were organized against them, not only of a military but also of a propagandist nature. The new Soviet Republic had to create its own Red Army and to arm itself in a country which is not highly industrialized. Its arms were mainly taken from the Chiang Kai-shek armies in victorious battles. And yet—what marvelous progress!
What was the Canton Commune? The Communist International, in the theses of the Sixth Congress (1928), said:
“The Canton uprising, being the heroic rearguard battle of the Chinese proletariat in the past period of the Chinese Revolution, remains, notwithstanding gross errors of the leadership, the banner of the new Soviet phase of the revolution.”
About the same time when the Communist International was framing the thesis about the Canton Soviet having formed the banner of the new phase of the Revolution, Trotsky declared:
“The [Canton] Soviet which was created in a hurry, only so as to observe the ritual, was merely a camouflage for an adventurist putsch. That is why we found out, after it was all over, that the Canton Soviet was just one of those old Chinese dragons—it was simply drawn on paper.” (Leon Trotsky, The Canton Insurrection, written July, 1928; included in his volume, Problems of the Chinese Revolution, p. 157.)
Stalin, don’t you see, simply staged a “ritual” to prove that he was a good revolutionist. He made a putsch to show that he was no worse than Trotsky! But Trotsky will not be deceived. “We were for the creation of Soviets in China in 1926. We were against carnival Soviets in Canton in December, 1927.” (Ibid.) He was for industrialization and collectivization in 1925 in Russia. He sees camouflage industrialization and “carnival” collectivization in 1935. “There are no contradictions there”, he says. No, there are no contradictions. Trotsky’s policy is always counter-revolutionary; either he advocates the splitting of revolutionary forces or he represents a major revolutionary battle as a “carnival”. That Canton “carnival Soviet”, be it remembered, was one of the most heroic uprisings of the workers and peasants. Over 7,000 fighters were shot in Canton alone after the crushing of the uprising.
In the years following 1927 Trotsky refuses to recognize the spread of the revolution in China and the establishment of Soviets. What in reality is the transition to a higher stage of the revolution, to him is the end of it all—darkness and defeat. The wish is father to the thought. In this, his viciousness borders on the grotesque. “Ho Lung and Yeh Tin, even leaving aside their opportunist policy, could not fail to be an isolated adventure, a pseudo-Communist Machno feat [Machno was half bandit, half revolutionary during the civil war in Russia]; it could not but clash against its own isolation, and it has clashed.” (Problems of the Chinese Revolution, pp. 149-150.) This is how he greeted the formation of the nucleus of the future Red Army. The report of the Communist Party of China to the Sixth Congress (Summer, 1928) about the growth of the number of Party members, a report that showed that the revolution was not defeated, was greeted by Trotsky as “monstrous information” which deserved “indignant refutation”. (Ibid., p. 160). He could not really refute the figures, but then he found another fault: The majority of the new Party members, he said, were peasants, and thus the Communist Party of China “ceases to be in conformity with its historical destination” (Ibid., p. 161), i.e., in conformity with Trotsky’s contention that the peasants cannot play a revolutionary rôle. The revolution, in his opinion, is lost. “The revolution is at the present time laid over into an indefinite future. And moreover, the consequences of the defeat of the revolution have not yet been completely exhausted.” (Ibid., p. 177, October, 1928.)
The formation of Soviets during 1929 was treated by him as a joke. “Perhaps the Chinese Communists have risen in rebellion because they have received the latest comments of Molotov on the resolution on the ‘Third Period’. . . . Does this insurrection spring from the situation in China or rather from the instructions concerning the ‘Third Period’?” (Ibid., p. 233, November, 1929.)
While the workers and peasants of China under Communist leadership were fighting heroically and sacrificing their lives on the battlefields establishing Soviet rule, Trotsky, safe in Alma-Ata, gave vent to his venomous hatred against Stalin and the Communists. Oh, he finally discovered the secret of the Ho Lung and Yeh Tin and the Canton uprisings of 1927, also the sinister meaning of the formation of Soviets in 1929. “The adventurous campaigns of Ho Lung and Yeh Tin in 1927 and the Canton uprising [were] timed for the moment of the expulsion of the opposition from the Russian Communist Party,” (Ibid., pp. 233-234)—they were organized, that is to say, to divert the attention of the workers; in themselves they were nothing. As to the formation of Soviets in certain sections of China in 1929—here is the secret, and its exposure makes Trotsky “alarmed”, indeed:
“Have the Chinese Communists risen in rebellion because of Chiang Kai-shek’s seizure of the Chinese Eastern Railway? Has this insurrection, wholly partisan in character, as its aim to cause Chiang Kai-shek uneasiness at his rear? If that is what it is, we ask who has given such counsel to the Chinese Communists? Who bears the political responsibility for their passing over to guerilla warfare?” (Ibid., p. 235.)
Note the double malice: the disregard of one of the greatest achievements of the world revolution, and the disdain for the security of the Soviet Union. Trotsky is against the workers and peasants of China defending the security of the Soviet frontiers (wouldn’t he rather be glad if Chiang Kai-shek’s forces succeeded in dealing the Soviet Union a blow?). He declares:
“The proletariat of the U.S.S.R., which has the power and the army in its hands, cannot demand that the vanguard of the Chinese proletariat begin a war at once against Chiang Kai-shek, that is, that it apply the means which the Soviet government itself does not find it possible, and correctly so, to apply.” (Ibid., p. 234.)
This speaks volumes about the attitude of Trotsky toward the Soviet Union. Incidentally, the attack of the imperialists on the Chinese Eastern Railway was stopped by swift and decisive action of the Red Army of the U.S.S.R.,—the army of workers and peasants.
As usual, Trotsky predicts—and his predictions are stupid. Thus he sees by the end of 1929 “the perspective of a terrific debacle and of an adventurist degeneration of the remnants of the Communist Party”. That the reverse happened is no fault of Trotsky’s.
Enough of this dastardliness of a counter-revolutionary gone mad. We could recite more and more samples to show that the man is a bitter enemy of the Chinese Revolution, that he fails to see in the Chinese Soviets a revolutionary achievement, that as late as August, 1930, he declares that “the peasantry is incapable of creating its Soviet government independently”, that the leadership of the Chinese Soviets, in his judgment, is not in the hands of the Communist Party but “is delivered to some other political party”, etc. But the gems so far quoted will suffice to give a picture of this enemy of the world revolution.
One instance, however, must be cited to complete the picture. After 1928, Trotsky suddenly begins to predict the economic stabilization of China under the Nanking régime, the increase in its productive forces, a veritable “economic recovery” and, correspondingly, a “relative bourgeois (political) stabilization” which is “radically distinguished from a revolutionary situation”, We need not dwell on the fact that China today is in a deeper crisis and that the revolutionary forces in the Nanking area are growing very fast. What interests us is Trotsky’s slogan: For a Constituent Assembly:
“The Communist Party can and should formulate the slogan of the Constituent Assembly with full powers, elected by universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage.” (Ibid., p. 189, written October, 1928.)
No more revolution. No more Soviets. No more arming of the workers and peasants. The Communist Party should begin, says Trotsky, “from the beginning”—and that means to help the bourgeoisie consolidate its State power, to help the bourgeoisie unite all of China under one Constituent Assembly, to form an opposition, legal in its very nature, within the bourgeois parliament.
A defeated counter-revolutionist exposed by the course of the revolution and foaming at his mouth because of his weakness—this is what Trotsky has become in relation to the Chinese Revolution. To his hatred of the U.S.S.R. was added his acrid hatred for Soviet China. When he sees those two coming together, when he sees the Chinese Communists issuing the slogan of a national-revolutionary war against Japanese imperialism, he stirs to “warn” in the very same way as he “warned” against the defense of the Chinese-Eastern Railway.
He was trying to profit by the mistakes of the Chinese Communist Party but he tries to hide its world-historic successes. He carefully avoids mentioning one thing, however, that the Chinese Communist leader more than all others responsible for the opportunist errors of the Chinese Party was a man by the name of Chen-Du-Hsiu, who was later expelled and became the leader of the counter-revolutionary Trotskyites in China.
Next: 10. The Third Period