Date: March 1928
Published: Labour Monthly, pp. 163-170
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Mike B.
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On December 10, 1927, armed workers and peasants occupied Canton. A part of the regular troops joined the Workers' and Peasants' army. After two days' resistance the counter-revolutionary armies completely evacuated the city and concentrated themselves on the island of Honan, facing the city. This strategical move immediately exposed the relation between Chinese counter-revolution and foreign imperialism. The island was so situated that it could not be attacked by the revolutionary forces without, in course of the operation, touching the foreign settlement of Shameen and the foreign battleships of the river. In an island so situated the counter-revolutionary army found the base from which it could attack Canton practically under the protection of imperialist guns and battleships.
Even under such favourable conditions the counterrevolutionary generals would not willingly risk an attack, unless they were encouraged in that by the imperialists, for they were afraid that more troops would go over to the revolution. The soldiers are all poor peasants driven out of their land by landlords' and usurers' exactions, and the programme of the Workers' and Peasants' Government, set up in Canton, would have a strong appeal for them. On the other hand, it was necessary to drive them into a military operation before they had time to be aware of what the new Government of Canton stood for.
The required gesture of encouragement for the counter-revolutionary forces came from the Americans, who, on December 13, that is on the very day after the counter-revolutionary army had been completely driven out of the city, landed field-guns "to defend the Consulate." The American Consulate in Canton is so situated that guns mounted for its defence were at the same levelled against the city occupied by the workers and peasants. It was an obvious hint for the counter-revolutionary forces, if it was not indeed more than a hint. In all probability the object of the action had been explained beforehand to the counter-revolutionary generals roosting on the island of Honan. It was a broad hint to them that they could attack Canton under the cover of American guns. The presence of imperialist battleships, whose number was increased, on the river also served the same purpose. As a matter of fact, the counter-revolutionary troops crossed the river under the protection of those battleships. The revolutionary troops could not effectively hinder the crossing without running the risk of firing upon foreign boats lying on the river. Any such act would have provided the desired excuse for open intervention by the imperialist forces in order to overthrow the Workers' and Peasants' Government.
It was reported by imperialist news agencies, such as Reuter, that the presence of Chinese battleships on the river helped the counter-revolutionary general Li Fu-Lin's troops to cross, the river and that the troops landed under the cover of the bombardment carried on by the guns on those ships. There were no Chinese battleships at Canton which could perform such feats. It is known that practically all the serviceable units of the laughable Chinese Navy had been taken to Shanghai by Chiang Kai-Shek so that they might not fall into the hands of his untrustworthy subordinate Li Chin-Sin, the dictator of Canton. One or two Chinese war vessels present on the scene do not possess the "heavy guns" "which are reported to have been used in bombarding the city. It is obvious that, in order to help the landing of counter-revolutionary troops and the defeat of the revolutionary forces, Canton was bombarded with imperialist guns.
It is also reported that the counter-revolutionary general, Li Fu-Lin, used artillery to bombard Canton from the other side of the river. It is known to all acquainted with the conditions of the Chinese armies that no such artillery was previously in the possession of Li Fu-Lin. If he really used artillery in his attack upon Canton, he must have got it since his flight before the Workers' and Peasants' army four days before. And the only conceivable source from which he could be supplied so quickly was either the foreign settlement of Shameen, or the imperialist war vessels on the river, or Hong-Kong.
Thus it is clear that the Workers' and Peasants' Government of Canton was overthrown with the help of foreign imperialism. The generals, who call themselves "nationalists," became the hangmen of the imperialist robbers. The reign of terror they established to suppress the workers and peasants is unparalleled even in the bloody history of Chinese militarism. They were afraid of letting their troops come into close contact with the Workers' and Peasants' army. Therefore they began by making full use of the imperialist guns placed at their disposal and demolished a considerable section of the city before they entered it. In the face of overwhelmingly superior forces the revolutionary army withdrew, and the masses of Canton, which had enthusiastically supported the Workers' and Peasants' Government, became the victims of infuriated counter-revolution. In the first two days, December 14 and 15, no less than 5,000 workers were massacred. Those suspected of being Communists or of having Communist sympathy were shot, hanged or beheaded in the streets as soon as they were arrested. The massacre continued for days.
An extraordinary feature of the situation was the outrageous attack upon the Soviet Consulate and the arrest and murder of seven Soviet citizens, including the Vice-Consul and two women co-workers of the Consulate. This unprecedented act of violence against the U.S.S.R., which stood loyally by the Chinese people while it was the object of attack by the imperialist world, indicates how the feudal-bourgeois "nationalists" have become abject instruments of imperialism. This act and similar acts of violence committed against the Soviet Consulates in Hankow and Shanghai and the rupture of relations with the U.S.S.R. indicate, as Tchitcherin pointed out in his Note of protest, that the Chinese bourgeoisie desire to have relations only with those foreign governments who refuse to deal with the Chinese people on a basis of equality.
The Chinese bourgeoisie capitulated so completely to imperialism because their nationalism would not countenance the least change in the existing social relations of barbarous, primitive exploitation. The masses of the workers and peasants, whose enthusiastic and revolutionary actions made the nationalist movement such a tremendous force, enabling the Southern Nationalist armies to defeat the Northern feudal militarists and to strike terror in the camp of international imperialism, were demanding some concrete benefit as a result of the movement. This the nationalist bourgeoisie would not concede. Therefore they allied themselves with feudal reaction, bloody militarism and foreign imperialism against the workers and peasants, and met their demand for land and bread with a reign of terror.
It is well-known how heroically the workers and peasants of Kwangtung have fought for years to defend the nationalist base against imperialist aggression. But for their support the nationalist centre of Canton would have been destroyed long ago, thus obstructing seriously the development of the nationalist movement. The Kuo-Ming-Tang won the confidence and enthusiastic support of the masses only after it had included in its programme the revindication of the demands of the workers and peasants, only after it had promised land to the peasants and protection from the excesses of capitalist exploitation to the workers. This programme was adopted by the Kuo-Ming-Tang in 1924, when the Communist Party entered it. In the short period of two years, it was mainly by the untiring efforts of the Communists that hundreds of thousands of workers and millions of peasants rallied under the banner of the Kuo-Ming-Tang. The famous three principles of Sun-Yat-Sen and the three policies which he recommended to his followers as his political testament attracted the masses to the Kuo-Ming-Tang. The three principles were: Nationalism, Democracy and Socialism; and the three policies: to support the demands of the workers and peasants, to co-operate with the Communist Party, and to maintain the alliance with the U.S.S.R. The Kuo-Ming-Tang has completely violated the principles of its founder and has abandoned the policies recommended by him.
The workers and peasants and the Communist Party, under whose leadership they participated in the nationalist movement and supported the Kuo-Ming-Tang, did not insist upon the realisation of their demands until the Nationalist Government was in a position to grant them. They fought, suffered and sacrificed for more than three years so that the National Revolution could develop, so that the nationalist army could defeat its reactionary opponents and establish the Nationalist Government in Wuhan, in the heart of the country. The National Revolution having triumphed politically and militarily in all the south-eastern provinces of the country, the workers and peasants demanded their share in the victory. The peasants demanded land and liquidation of the feudal-patriarchal social relations in the country-side. The workers demanded limitation of the excesses of primitive capitalist exploitation that prevail in China. These demands were within the limits of Kuo-Ming-Tang programme, and had been repeatedly supported previously by its resolutions.
A social differentiation then took place in the nationalist ranks. The Kuo-Ming-Tang had to choose between the feudal landlords and the workers and peasants. On this issue it split. The right wing representing the feudal and big capitalist interests, under the leadership of the military dictator, Chiang Kai-Shek, openly refused to fulfil the demands of the workers and peasants and began repressing them on the pretext of fighting Communism. Nevertheless, the workers and peasants under the leadership of the Communist Party still stood firmly and loyally by the National Revolution. They supported the Left Wing of the Kuo-Ming-Tang which still professed loyalty to the principles and policies of Sun-Yat-Sen. The Nationalist Government of Wuhan could not exist one single day without the support of the revolutionary workers and peasants.
But the basic problem of social affiliation still remained before the Kuo-Ming-Tang. It was compelled to take sides. After four months of wavering the Left of the Kuo-Ming-Tang also gave in to the feudal and capitalist interests and turned fiercely upon the workers and peasants. It was again Communism that was declared the bogy. Why this hatred against the Communists? Because the Communists relentlessly defend the interests of the workers and peasants, leading them in the National Revolution to overthrow foreign imperialism and native reaction. When the Kuo-MingTang, Right and Left, betrayed the National Revolution, violated its own principles, refused to abide by its own resolutions, and sought an alliance with foreign imperialism to crush the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants, the Communist Party declared war upon it and led the workers and peasants against it. Otherwise it would have lost the confidence of the working class; any other policy would have been a betrayal of the interests of the working class. Class antagonism cut deeply across national antagonism. The exploiting classes united to defend the right of exploitation, and in this they found a basis of agreement with foreign imperialism. Under this condition of the grouping of class forces the National Revolution could no longer go on under the banner of Democracy. The nationalist bourgeoisie, who had hoisted this banner, tore it down and soaked it in the blood of the workers and peasants. The working class had to fight on its own programme. The revolution still remained a national revolution, as imperialist domination had still to be overthrown; but it was left for the workers and peasants alone to carry it on to the final victory.
The struggle for power begun by the workers and peasants in July, 1927, after the Kuo-Ming-Tang had completely turned against the revolution, developed in the face of great difficulties. The capture of Canton was one of the stages. The workers and peasants were defeated in Canton by the united efforts of foreign imperialism and native reaction; but that was only a local defeat. Millions and millions of workers and peasants are still engaged in the revolutionary struggle throughout the south-eastern provinces.
Rent by inner dissensions, personal jealousies and mutual suspicions among the various factions, the bourgeoisie are not able to cope with the powerful revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants. Without help from outside they are doomed. Therefore, every day they come closer to the imperialist powers against whom they fought for so many years. They can now save their class interests and the interests of their feudal ally only by selling China to the imperialists, and this they have decided to do.
The logical consequence of the violation by the Kuo-Ming-Tang of the principles of Sun Yat-Sen was the repudiation of the policies recommended by him. When the Kuo-Ming-Tang abandoned the principles of Nationalism, Democracy and Socialism by suspending the struggle against imperialism, by surrendering itself to feudal reaction and by launching upon the policy of persecution of the working class, it was a foregone conclusion as to what would happen to the policies it had inherited from its founder. It broke its friendly relations with the Communist Party, and finally betrayed the friendship with the U.S.S.R. The rupture of relations with the U.S.S.R. signifies the orientation towards the imperialist powers. While issuing the order .for the closure of Soviet Consulates in the nationalist territories, Chiang Kai-Shek admitted that "in the early stage of the revolution Soviet assistance was beneficial," but his position now is that as the nationalist bourgeoisie are now engaged in the task of massacring the workers and peasants, they need assistance from an entirely different quarter.
The rupture of relations with the U.S.S.R. coincided with the issue of the following statement by Kuo-Tai-Chi, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Nanking government. In a Shanghai gathering of Anglo-Americans and Chinese students educated in England and America, Kuo Tai-Chi discussed the comparative advantage to be derived by China from "Soviet or Anglo-American orientation" and said:--
Since Western-educated Chinese are convinced that the Anglo-Saxon road is best for China, they will exert this influence in support of the nationalist government to bring about a new orientation of Kuo-Ming-Tang policy.
This very significant statement was prefaced by the declaration that "China was determined to rid herself of communist influence." Of course, Kuo Tai-Chi meant the Chinese propertied classes. From this statement of the worthy spokesman of the Chinese bourgeoisie a very valuable lesson can be learnt by other oppressed peoples, namely, that fight against Communism delivers the nationalist movement to the protection of Anglo-Saxon (imperialist) capitalism.
Thus spoke the "enlightened" representative of the Chinese bourgeoisie on December 14. The day before, in New York, there took place a very important meeting attended, among others, by Sir Frederick Whyte, former president of the Indian Legislative Assembly, Rockefeller jnr., and Thomas Lamont. Both Whyte and Lamont had just returned from the East. The meeting discussed the relations in the Pacific. Whyte said:--
China having, at least temporarily, spurned Russian influence in her internal affairs, is now open to the help that America and Great Britain could give her, and would welcome it.
The Wall Street magnate, Lamont, also spoke optimistically about the situation in China and expressed his wish as follows:--
If only our friends the Chinese, realising how keen our sympathy and interests are, could compose their differences to the point of jointly inviting the amicable co-operation of foreign interests, I am certain that the American, British and Japanese would go a long way in sinking national interests in an earnest and sincere endeavour to serve the common cause.
When these speeches, delivered in New York, are read together with that made by Kuo Tai-Chi in Shanghai, the Chinese problem will be understood in its international relations. The debacle of the Kuo-Ming-Tang, the betrayal of the national revolution by the bourgeoisie, the rupture of relations with the U.S.S.R., are hailed by international imperialism with great relief. It is, fervently hoped that with the aid and encouragement of imperialism the Chinese bourgeoisie will defeat the revolution and make China once again the happy hunting-ground of finance capital. Kuo Tai-Chi's declaration as regards Anglo-Saxon orientation was objectively, if not deliberately, made as the invitation that Lamont asked from the Chinese. It still remains to be seen if the Chinese bourgeoisie will be able to compose their internal feuds sufficiently to deserve the full confidence of the Anglo-American bankers. This deficiency they are compensating for by the ferocious attacks upon the revolutionary movement and by their hostility to the U.S.S.R. And imperialism is satisfied with this. If the Chinese bourgeoisie can beat down the revolutionary movement of the workers and peasants, they will do such a great service to imperialism that it will reward them even with the revision of unequal treaties.
It is against a formidable block of imperialism and native reaction that the workers and peasants of China must fight. By themselves the native forces of counter-revolution are not strong enough to defeat them. Without the support of imperialism they would be swept away by the rising tide of revolution involving tens of millions of workers and peasants. But even the protection of Anglo-Saxon imperialism will not save the Chinese bourgeoisie. A movement of millions cannot be crushed. The Chinese revolution will yet be victorious in overthrowing imperialism and native reaction.