Max Shachtman

Browder on the Chinese Revolution

The Arrest of Chen Du-Hsiu and the Apologist of Stalin

(October 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 44, 29 October 1932, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Now that the Daily Worker has “corrected its mistake” in appealing to the workers to protest against the arrest and possible execution of comrade Chen Du-Hsiu in Shanghai, the leader of the party, Earl Browder, endeavors in the issue of October 21 to explain to his readers that comrade Chen betrayed the Chinese revolution and that the arrest of this “Trotskyist” is no concern of the working class. At the same time, Browder, smarting under the Opposition’s criticisms of his leadership of the party and our exposure of his role in China during the 1927 events, takes occasion to defend himself in particular and Stalinism in general in the question of the great tragedy of the Chinese revolution of 1925–1927.

“During a part of the crucial period of 1927,” writes Browder, “the writer of this article was in Hankow – when the decisive issues of armament or disarmament of the workers and peasants first became a sharp issue within the Communist party. In view of the fact that the Trotskyites in America have systematically spread slanders about myself in relation to that period, attempting with all their power to create the legend that the Chinese party and the Communist International, including ‘the American Stalinist, Browder’, failed to carry on a resolute struggle against Chiang Kai-Shek, it may not be out of place to take this occasion to call attention to the records.”

And what are the “records” which disprove the “legend” that the Communist International (i.e., the Browders of all shapes and magnitudes) failed to carry on a resolute struggle against Chiang Kai-Shek? We read on:

Browder’s Records

“These show that in April, in the period when Chen Tuh-siu was actively and bitterly fighting for the disarmament of the workers and peasants, I wrote a statement for the All-China Federation of Labor energetically calling for the further armament of the workers and peasants and the development of seizure of. the land. This statement was printed in English in the magazine Chinese Correspondence, published at that time in Hankow.”

First, what Browder wrote in his statement at that time, we do not know. It would be interesting to read it, of that we have no doubt. But it is not needed for an estimation of Browder’s position in China during that period, for we have at our disposal fairly adequate material on that score. More important than that, is the even more damning record of the whole official policy of the Stalin-Bucharin faction in the Chinese revolution, which Browder’s latest indiscretion in even speaking of himself in this connection permits us to review once more.

Second, as to comrade Chen Du-Hsiu, the principal founder of the Chinese Communist movement and one of the leaders of the Chinese Left Opposition, there is this to be said: With a spirit of revolutionary responsibility and candor of which Browder is totally incapable, comrade Chen, some three years ago, issued an open letter to the Chinese Communists in which he took his full share of the responsibility for the catastrophic course followed by the Comintern in China. What puts him forever beyond the pale of forgiveness of the Stalinists is the fact that he revealed with indisputable facts that the source of the great defeat was to be found in the policy imposed upon the Chinese Communists by Stalin and Co., that his own mistake consisted in following it out to the letter. The structures now directed at him by the apparatus scribblers are simply part of the notorious Stalinist system of manufacturing scapegoats.

And now, back to Browder and his “resolute struggle” of the Comintern. For the moment, we shall quote from a responsible source, the Daily Worker of the time, which merely echoed faithfully the official policy of the international leadership (all emphasis is ours).

Daily Worker and Chiang Kai-Shek

On April 4, 1927, with the whole bourgeois press talking about Chiang’s preparations for counter-revolution, the Daily Worker lulled its readers to sleep, put them off their guard, and assured all and sundry that there was no danger from Chiang Kai-Shek or of a crisis breaking out in the Kuo Min Tang. In its front page dispatch from Hankow, it announced: “Now that the crisis is past the Nationalist revolutionary movement is in a position to move on unhampered by the slightest suspicion of inner conflict.”

And in its penetrating editorial comment in the same issue:

There is going to be no split hi the Kuo Min Tang, Chiang Kai-Shek remains in command of the drive on Peking, he accepts the authority of the Political Committee of the party, and the cleavage between the Left and Right wings of the party upon which the imperialists have been building great hopes will not materialize at present. The Chinese liberation movement is a unit against imperialism.”

Isn’t it clear how “resolute” was Stalin’s struggle against Chiang Kai-Shek? For, we repeat, the Daily Worker merely echoed the rest of the official press. When Chiang “pledged” himself to be “loyal”, in order to gain time for his coup d’état, Pravda hailed him in these terms:

“Chiang Kai-Shek’s declarations relative to his faithfulness toward the revolution, toward Sun-Yat-Senism and loyalty to the Kuo Min Tang, are distinguished from his former statements and testify to the pressure of the revolutionary rank and file.” (March 16, 1927)

No more than eleven days after our first quotation which guarantees not “the slightest suspicion, of inner conflict”, the Daily Worker announced on page two, April 15, 1927, under a Moscow date line that “grave fears are felt here that General Chiang Kai-Shek, the Chinese Nationalist Commander, may turn counter-revolutionary and join forces with Chang Tso Lin and the Northerners”, while on page one, the editors who, as we see, foresaw and warned and fought resolutely, printed a belated Shanghai report that “General Chiang Kai-Shek has gone over to the side of the imperialist powers conspiring to crush the revolutionary Nationalist movement.”

“We” and Feng Yu-Hsiang

Chiang’s “defection” was promptly explained away as a mere episode: “We” still had ... Hankow and ... Feng Yu-Hsiang. Bucharin, Browder’s boss of yesterday, declared according to a Moscow dispatch in the Daily Worker of April 21, 1927: “We must remember that we (Ahem!!) have the army of Feng Yu-Hsiang, which, as yet, has not been brought into the fight. It is necessary to avoid forms and organizations that will give the imperialists cause to yell about ‘the Sovietization of China’ (read: that will mobilize the workers and peasants for a real struggle against the traitors and vacillators! – M.S.). The Communists must not leave the Kuo Min Tang, but must push out the Right wing elements instead. Workers must enter the K.M.T. and bore from within, never forgetting for a moment that Hankow is a Left government and a considerable part of the national army favors it and that Hankow will become more and more the center for the workers and the masses.”

Thus Browder’s boss of yesterday concerning the Wuhan government and Feng, the successors to Chiang Kai-Shek in the bureaucrats’ list of white hopes! And here is what was said by Browder’s boss of today, Stalin, the renowned “best disciple of Lenin”:

“The revolutionary Kuo Min Tang in Wuhan will be transformed into an organ of the revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry by a decisive struggle against imperialism.” (Daily Worker, May 13, 1927)

Following this guidance with exemplary fidelity, the Daily Worker editorial of May 19, 1927 told its readers that “the Hankow government, the genuine expression of the Chinese liberation movement, is growing stronger each day”.

Browder’s Greetings in Hankow

And Browder? Did he, on the spit, “knowing” the situation – did he perhaps express some skepticism about Hankow, about Wang Chin Wei and Co., did he give some warning to the Chinese masses? Here, if you please, is the record, taken from Browder’s pamphlet of 1927, Civil War in Nationalist China, on page 32, which quotes an authentic report of his speech in Hankow on April 2: “Earl Browder, delegate from America, spoke next ... greeting the gathering as the highest organ of the Chinese revolution”. What gathering? The Enlarged Political Council of the Kuo Min Tang Central Executive Committee – the, at that time, still combined treacherous cliques of Wang Chin Wei and Chiang Kai-Shek!

Let us resume the thread: On July 7. 1927, a week after Feng Yu-Hsiang’s open treachery, the Daily Worker editorial blandly observed that ‘’the defection of Feng Yu-Hsiang (was) an eventuality easily to have been perceived”. Let us see how easily our Stalinists “perceived” it. While Feng was already negotiating the terms of the betrayal with Chiang Kai-Shek, the D.W. editors again “fought resolutely” by reassuring their readers that “it is unlikely that after having been sent to conclude a military alliance with Chiang Kai-Shek against the northern militarists, under the instructions of the K.M.T. Central Committee; that Feng has done anything else than carry out his instructions”. This was in the issue of June 29, 1927, TWO DAYS LATER, the Daily Worker, which perceived, which warned, which fought resolutely, announced in a Moscow dispatch: “Branding Feng’s alliance with Chiang Kai-Shek as a betrayal of the Chinese revolution, N. Bucharin in an article in Pravda points out ... Feng Yu-Hsiang has passed into the camp of the enemies of the people’s revolution” (July 1, 1927). This is the same Bucharin who smugly boasted a few weeks before that “we must remember that we have the army of Feng Yu-Hsiang”!

The Stalinist Defense of Wuhan

But Wuhan! Oh, yes, there was still something for the sinking Stalinists to grab hold of! “Wuhan, has not yet fallen”, “in spite of the predictions of the imperialists ... the present crisis of the liberation movement is not decisive.”

The rest can really be guessed. A brief eleven days later, the Daily Worker of July 16, 1927 bore a headline: “Denounce Wuhan Government as Workers’ Enemy. Third International Demands Action.” But action is difficult to get from workers and peasants bleeding to death under the ax of every bourgeois nationalist scoundrel in whom the Comintern leaders taught the Chinese masses to put their trust.

This horrible record could be prolonged indefinitely. But enough has been printed to show what the “resolute struggle” looked like in reality, and precisely who it is that, trusting to the short memories of his readers, is creating legends about the Chinese revolution.

A final word. Browder pretends to an honest indignation which the calloused bureaucrat is really incapable of experiencing. Let us therefore reprint the glowing letter of introduction, signed on June 3, 1927 in Hankow by Pang Chek-min, head of the Oversea Department of the C.E.C. of the Hankow Kuo Min Tang, and addressed to the “Dear Comrades” of the reactionary Kuo Min Tang gang in Oakland, Calif.:

“I have the honor to introduce to you Mr. Browder, the American delegation of Pan-Pacific Labor Conference. He now returns to America from China where he has given a great deal of help to the Kuo Min Tang and the Nationalist Government. I hope you and all of the branches welcome him and introduce him to the branches of Kuo Min Tang in America.”

Browder Earns His Praise

We do not know the exact nature of the “great deal of help” which the Chinese bourgeoisie appreciated so warmly in Hankow. But we have not the slightest doubt that Browder richly earned the hearty introduction and appreciation of Messrs. Wang Chin Wei and Co. In any case, such a letter, if it was written because of what Browder calls his “resolute struggle”, was obtained from the Hankow bourgeoisie under false pretences.

Browder now loftily informs his readers that our comrade Chen Du-Hsiu’s arrest is nothing for workers to worry over, that “he is much closer to the group of Wang Chin Wei, with which he has worked for many years.” The man who slanders the Chinese revolutionist and winks to the Chinese counter-revolution that the Stalinists will not interfere with the execution of the prisoner, has hidden in his trunk the letter of Wang Chin Wei and Co., which forever stigmatizes the role Browder played in China in his time. If his latest intervention in the Chinese situation is loss pernicious in its effects, it is no less reactionary and base. Every man to his part.

As for us, we shall fight to prevent the assassination of comrade Chen and the other Oppositionists, for it is a fight for the victory of what the Stalinists did their utmost to destroy in its infancy, the victory of Chinese Bolshevism.

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Last updated on 7 December 2014