Max Shachtman

China in the War

Continuing a Reply to Shamefaced Critics

(October 1942)

From The New International, Vol. VIII No. 9, October 1942, pp. 272–278.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

We dealt last month with the attempts of Felix Morrow, in the August Fourth International, to justify the Cannonite policy of defensism in China in the war today, and showed that he had no greater success with the method of ignoring Lenin’s teachings than his suppressed colleague, Wright, had had before him with the method of distorting those teachings. Drawing on the unequivocal revolutionary traditions of the modern Marxist movement, we pointed out that not all wars are reactionary; that, among others, the wars of the colonial countries for freedom from imperialist rule are progressive and just; but that Marxists cannot and do not always and under all circumstances support even those wars which they characterize as just. Marxists approach concretely the problem posed by each war – support or non-support, and if support, then in what manner and under what conditions – as well as the problem posed by each important change in a war. Marxian theory declares that once the more or less isolated war between a colony and an imperialist power becomes an integral part of a war between two imperialist camps, once the colonial country becomes an ally – and in the nature of the relationships between the two, a subordinate ally – of one imperialist camp in the war against another, the revolutionary socialists are obligated to alter their position of support to the colony in the interests of their opposition to the imperialist war in general, to both imperialist camps.

Hence, while we could and did support the struggle of China against Japan from the day it broke out, in spite of the fact that China was under the domination of its own bourgeoisie, in spite of the fact that it received some material aid (precious little!) from one imperialist country or another – we could not continue this support after the imperialist world war had extended to Asia and the Pacific and after China had become an ally, that is, an integral part of the Anglo-American imperialist camp.

As for the Cannonites, their support of China became stronger and more vehement, if anything, following the spread of the world war to the Orient. What has changed? they demanded with pugnacious bellicosity. Isn’t the Chinese bourgeoisie the same today as it was a year ago? Isn’t its struggle the same today as it was a year ago? Why is it any more the agent of imperialism today than it was in the past? And furthermore: What is this new, treacherous, anti-Leninist theory enunciated by Shachtman that from now on we can support only those colonial struggles that are led by the proletariat? Does that mean we not only abandon the struggle of China against Japan but also the newly broken-out struggle of India against England? In fact, in the September issue of the Fourth International, Morrow adds a positively vile supplement to his attack on us, in which he calls into question our position on India. Let us therefore try, by means of a popular example from modern history to illustrate the differences and similarities between the struggle in China and the struggle in India.

Ireland vs. Servia in 1914 and India vs. China in 1942

No better, simpler and clearer illustration can be found than to compare the Marxian attitude, as expressed by Lenin, toward Servia in the First World War and Ireland. None of the spurious evasions with which the Cannonites seek to duck other comparisons – “One is a workers’ state and the other isn’t”; “One is a great, big, decisive country, the other is an insignificant, little country,” etc. – will work here. Servia and Ireland stood on the same class plane in the last war; their political position was, to all intents and purposes, and certainly for the purpose of our comparison, the same; their “size” and specific weight, so to speak, were substantially the same. Yet Lenin adopted a radically different attitude toward the two countries. Why?

Lenin regarded the long struggle of Servia against Austria as a just national struggle which revolutionists should support even though Servia was ruled by the bourgeoisie under the “protection” of the Russian Czar. The struggle of Ireland against English imperial rule was regarded by Lenin in substantially the same way.

The national element in the present war is represented only by the war of Servia against Austria (which, by the way, was noted in the resolution of the Berne Conference of our party). Only in Servia and among the Serbs do we find a national movement for freedom, a movement of long standing embracing millions of “national masses,” and of which the present war of Servia against Austria is a “continuation.” Were this war isolated, i.e., not connected with the general European war, with the selfish and predatory aims of England, Russia, etc., then all socialists would be obliged to wish success to the Servian bourgeoisie – this is the only correct and absolutely necessary conclusion to be drawn from the national element in the present war. (Works, Vol. XVIII, p. 299.)

Like China, Servia was continuing a war of a “national movement for freedom”; it represented a “movement of long standing” which had been fighting even before the imperialist war broke out; it embraced millions. Had the war in Europe been confined to a duel between Servian nationalism and Austro-Hungarian imperialism, socialists would have been obligated to work for the victory of Servia. But in the war that is actually going on, said Lenin, we do not support Servia. Why? Because it is only one part of one of the two major, all-determining camps; because it is an ally and consequently a subordinate, a tool, of one of the imperialist camps. “A war between imperialist great powers ..., or war in alliance with them, is an imperialist war.” How categorical and unambiguous are these words of Lenin! So much so that, despite repeated efforts on our part, Morrow and Wright have not yet dared to deal with them, or even acknowledge that they exist.

Now contrast this view of Servia in the war with Lenin’s no less unmistakable view of Ireland in the war, specifically of the Easter 1916 rebellion in Ireland.

The Irish national-revolutionary movement, like the Servian, was bourgeois by virtue of the class that dominated it and the social and political objectives it set itself. It was, like the Servian, “a movement of long standing embracing millions of ‘national masses.’” As Lenin put it, “the century-old Irish national movement ... expressed itself, inter alia, in a mass Irish National Congress in America ... [and] in street fighting conducted by a section of the urban petty bourgeoisie and a section of the workers after a long period of mass agitation, demonstrations, suppression of papers, etc.” Like the Servian, furthermore, this movement was connected, at least in part, at least in its upper spheres, with imperialism, now American, now German. As the French did with the Czechs and the Russians did with the Servians, so the Germans sought to utilize the Irish nationalist movement for their own purposes. Who that has read Captain von Rintelen’s Dark Invader does not know how this chief of German espionage in the United States during the last war helped to finance and promote and stimulate the Irish nationalist movement in this country – to be sure, from the standpoint of the interests of German imperialism’s war against British imperialism? Who that has read the moving journal of Sir Roger Casement, the martyred leader of the Irish rebellion, does not know how he visited Germany during the war, negotiating for arms and munitions for the Irish rebels, which were later put ashore, as he himself was, by a German U-boat? The Irish nationalists did not hesitate to take money and rifles from one bandit, who had interests of his own, against another bandit who was despoiling their land and people as he had for seven centuries.

Lenin knew these facts, as did pretty nearly everyone politically alive at the time. “From their [the imperialists’] standpoint, they are acting quite properly. A serious war would not be treated seriously if advantage were not taken of the slightest weakness of the enemy.” Yet Lenin supported the Irish nationalist movement and violently assailed Radek, who wrote deprecatingly about the Easter uprising as a “putsch” conducted by a “purely urban petty bourgeois movement which, notwithstanding the sensation it caused, had not much social backing.”

Why did Lenin support the Irish and not the Serbs? Why did he distinguish between their national struggles when the two countries were seemingly so indistinguishable (nationalist mass movement, movement of long standing, bourgeois-national, i.e., bourgeois-democratic movement, anti-imperialist movement, etc.)?

Because in one case, you had a rebellion of a class seeking power and independence in an oppressed country; in the other case, you had a struggle that had become decisively subordinated to the struggle of one of the imperialist camps in the World War. Because in one case, you had an oppressed country, or the bourgeoisie of an oppressed country, merely taking material aid from one imperialism against another; in the other case you had the oppressed country as a subject-ally of one imperialism against another.

Ireland was not Germany’s ally, did not work for Germany’s victory, did not sit in Germany’s war councils, did not gear its struggle against England, either politically or militarily, with Germany’s struggle against England; Ireland’s “collaboration” with Germany was confined, at bottom, to taking rifles and cartridges from her with which to fight to free herself from English rule. Servia was Russia’s ally, did work for Russia’s victory, did sit in Russia’s war councils, did gear her war against Austria to mesh with Russia’s war.

How They Compare to India and China

Isn’t the difference between the two cases clear and simple? Lenin rejected war, even a “just war,” in alliance with one imperialist power against another; he was prepared to accept material aid – “potatoes and rifles,” as he one put it – from one imperialist in the fight against another. For an honest man to give a bandit whiskey in exchange for a pistol with which to shoot a tyrant is a perfectly legitimate affair, particularly when pistols are nowhere else to be obtained. That is how Lenin explained essentially the same problem in 1918. But there is nothing legitimate in joining one group of highwaymen to hi-jack another group of highwaymen. No matter how noble the purpose of the man who joins such a gang, it is not his aims that will mark the activities of the others, but the aims of the overwhelmingly superior forces of the highwaymen that will mark his activities.

In China today, as in Servia in 1914, the bourgeoisie is “in power,” and it is the ally of one imperialist camp at war with another. To support “the war in China” now is to support one imperialist alliance against the other, so long as the bourgeoisie heads the war in China, so long as the proletariat has not replaced the bourgeoisie as the leader of the national struggle for liberation. Why? Because the colonial bourgeoisie cannot lead a struggle against imperialism; it can only conduct a struggle against one imperialist power in order to get a “better deal” from another imperialist master. That is an ABC of Trotskyism, even if Morrow continues with liberalistic indignation to challenge us to “prove” that this holds true in China. Before the imperialist war extends to a country like China, and converts it into an area of battle between the two imperialist alliances, the proletariat can support the national struggle even when it is under bourgeois leadership. But after the imperialist war spreads over China, to support the war of the national bourgeoisie, which is now part of one imperialist camp and fight the other, is to support a sector of the imperialist front. What Lenin set down so categorically is verifiable in every concrete case.

In India today, however, as in Ireland in 1916, you have a rebellion of the masses against their rulers, the British imperialists. The native bourgeoisie, in order not to lose its leadership and authority over the no-longer-controllable masses, “goes along” with the uprising and even claims it as “its own” in order to prevent “excesses” and to prevent a real struggle against imperialism with which the Indian bourgeoisie has not broken and will not break its connections for a single moment. The Japanese would like to utilize this mass uprising for their own imperialist purposes, as they succeeded to a large extent in doing in Burma. The Indian bourgeoisie – we mean of course the real bourgeoisie which decides things, and not impotent petty bourgeois ideologists like Nehru – flirts with the idea of “playing” with Japanese imperialism (with which it wouldn’t hesitate a fraction of a second to unite in order to suppress a too exigent working class and peasantry, any more than it has hesitated in the past to unite similarly with British imperialism) and, in any case, holds the possibility of such a “game,” i.e., such a capitulation, in reserve for possible eventualities. But one would have to be blind, deaf and even incapable of reading Braille to put the Chinese and Indian situations into the same bag at the present time.

Neither the Indian bourgeoisie nor its political movement is allied to Japan as China is to England and the United States; it does not sit in the war councils of Japan or the Axis, as China does with its master-allies; its “troops” are not under the command of Japanese, as Chinese are under American, command; it “airfields” are not under the control or “at the service” of Japan, as China’s fields are “at the service” of the U.S.; it does not send “its troops” to fight for Japan in, let us say, Afghanistan, as Chiang sent his troops to fight for General Alexander in Burma. And so on and so forth. In the one case you have a big Servia, in the other case you have a correspondingly big Ireland. That is why, following Lenin, we distinguish between the two.

It would be interesting to learn from Morrow, or from his cruelly gagged predecessor, Wright (1) how he distinguishes between the present struggle of the Indian and the Chinese bourgeoisie, if he distinguishes at all. (2) Applying the criteria he employs for supporting China in the imperialist war today, to Servia in the First World War, why would it not have been correct to support that country in 1914 – not Russia or France, but Servia. (3) Why did Lenin consider it inadmissable to support the just war of Servia if she was allied with imperialism, whereas it is quite admissible in this world war to support China when she is allied with imperialism? Is it because the Servian bourgeoisie could not lay claim to independence in its alliance, whereas the Chinese bourgeoisie can make such a claim? (4) If Morrow considers this claim “legitimate,” will he explain by virtue of what historical, social, economic, political or any other reason is the Chinese bourgeoisie endowed with fundamentally different properties than was the Servian a quarter century ago? Interesting questions. What a pity that we shall never get answers to them. Slanderous abuse? Yes. Answer? No.

Concretely, Now, How Far Did China Capitulate??!!

Morrow is not so dull that he does not see the fatal results of Wright’s venture into a justification of the SWP position on the grounds of Marxian theory and tradition. So he skips that detail. After all, that’s for pedants and scholiasts; for a man of the masses, for a man of deeds, it is a luxury that can be dispensed with. What Morrow insists on is the “concrete.” Shachtman “does not venture beyond empty generalities about China’s ‘complete capitulation to Anglo-American imperialism’ – which is precisely what is incumbent upon him to prove.” Except, he grants, for one attempt, namely, our reference to the Chinese “already fighting on Burmese soil to maintain the imperialist rule of the British bourgeoisie.” Whereupon Morrow proceeds to apply “the test of events in Burma” in order to prove his thesis and disprove ours.

He opens up this chapter with a startling argument. “If it is correct to defend China at all,” writes Morrow, “then there is no reason why the Chinese army should not have defended the Burma Road, including the section of it in Burma and the port of entry for Chinese supplies, Rangoon.”

The whole problem, in the first place, is to decide whether or not “it is correct to defend China at all”! By the same fantastic manner of arguing, one could say: “If it is correct to defend England at all, then there is no reason why the English army should not ‘defend’ Iceland, and ‘defend’ Madagascar, and ‘defend’ Ireland.” But what needs proving is precisely whether or not British imperialism should be defended. One of the arguments made by Marxists is precisely this: England’s holding of Ireland, her seizure of Iceland, her seizure of Madagascar, these are the acts which show the imperialist nature of the war. In a word, Morrow assumes precisely that which has to be proved. It may be a very convenient way of arguing; it is not a convincing one.

In the second place, we cannot understand why Morrow has suddenly fallen into such narrow-minded provincialism, which sits badly on a man of such military-strategical parts. “If it is correct” to defend China, and there is “then” no reason why China should not defend Rangoon, the port of entry for her supplies, and the Burma Road, which is the last leg of the journey of these supplies, why would it not also be correct for China to defend the “Pacific Road” over which her supplies were brought in Anglo-American ships, with Anglo-American naval escort? “Shachtman has always had a queasy attitude toward frontiers,” says Morrow, with his uncanny knack for accuracy. But surely, he has no such queasiness. Where would he draw the line beyond which he would not “permit” China to fight side by side with the troops of Anglo-American imperialism (in fact, as auxiliaries of these troops)? “Shall China,” he asks, “a non-imperialist country, leave undefended a vital area extending beyond its borders, simply because some imperialist rival of Japan would also benefit by its defense? This is the logic of the madhouse of petty bourgeois radicalism.” Magnificently put. But is Rangoon the end of the “vital area extending beyond its borders?” Is the Burma Road the only extra-Chinese part of the supply line that China should not “leave undefended”? What about British Singapore and the British Federated Malay States, which covered British Burma to begin with? And the Dutch East Indies, upon which so much of the defense of Singapore depended? What good would Chinese control of the port of entry for her supplies, Rangoon, be (we can just picture Britain turning over the control to China!), if, for lack of Chinese cooperation, the rest of the supply line, to say nothing of the supplies themselves, were not “defended”?

Does not the reader see, from the very point cited by Morrow, how it lies in the very nature of an alliance between a colonial bourgeoisie and an imperialist coalition, at war with another imperialist coalition, that the colony enacts the rôle of integral but subordinate sector of the imperialist camp? That is what Lenin meant in the last war when he said, over and over again, that because of the “all-determining” character of the imperialist war, you cannot support even the “just wars” of the colonial countries or small nations without sinking into the service of imperialism! And that is what we mean when we say that there is a spreading social-patriotic tendency in the Socialist Workers Party.

Morrow, after his hollow “if – then” argument, proceeds with his proof by the test of “concrete” events. And what does his proof consist of? Of the very well known fact that in spite of its desperate plight during the Japanese invasion of Burma, the British military command hesitated up to the last minute to send into battle the “Chinese mechanized units” made available in Chinese Kunming for use in the Burmese campaign and, at the very end, allowed a small number to enter, with British agents standing at the border counting them as they passed by. When it was all over, the Chinese author, Lin Yutang, who is a sort of semi-official agent here of Chiang Kai-shek, revealed many of the details of the sordid affair in a letter to the New York Times.

How the Morrow-Marlen Theory Looks in Practice

What conclusions does Morrow draw from these incontestable facts? With shattering sarcasm he writes that “General Alexander, the British commander, appears to have been abysmally ignorant of the fact, so well known to Shachtman, that the Chinese wanted to enter Burma merely to serve British imperialism. [That “merely” is of course not our term, but a sly and dishonest insertion by Morrow.] On the contrary, Alexander refused to let Chinese troops into Burma except in token numbers.”

And further: “... the British preferred to lose Burma to Japan, with the hope of winning it back later, than to let China hold Burma against Japan. The line of demarcation is so clear that the backward peasant in India understands it as well as does General Alexander from the opposite side of the class line. But Shachtman does not understand the class line, as he already showed by his position on the Soviet-Finnish war. The events in Burma demonstrate that China, far from ‘complete capitulation to Anglo-America imperialism,’ is feared and thwarted by its imperialist ‘ally.’” (My emphasis – M.S.)

There it is and if you don’t believe it, you can read it for yourself in the original, on pages 247 and 248 of the August, 1942, issue of this organ of the Fourth International.

But that isn’t the only place you can read it. In the paper of the Master of Pseudo-Marxian Thaumaturgy and Obfuscation, G. Marlen, we read exactly the same story Morrow tells us, only better. Marlen scorns the halting, half-way conclusions drawn from the “concrete” facts by Morrow. When the latter stumbles, Marlen, product and embodiment of the law of combined development, leaps like a mountain-goat. Where Morrow complicates matters by the theory that there are two wars going on in the world today – the reactionary war between the two imperialist camps, and the progressive war between the Soviet Union and China, on the one hand, and imperialism on the other – with non-decisive connections between the two, Marlen simplifies it with an even more startling theory. According to him, there is but one war going on: the war between the allied imperialists (England, Germany, France, Italy, America, Japan) on one side, and Soviet Russia and China on the other side. Literally? Yes, literally! You don’t mean that? Yes, we do, or at least Marlen does. You mean that the battles between England and Germany, Germany and Poland, Italy and Greece, Greece and Germany, Germany and France, Belgium, Holland, Scandinavia, the United States and Japan, Japan and England – that all these battles are a fake? Yes, exactly and literally, at least according to Marlen. But surely you don’t mean – Excuse, please, but we do mean it, at least Marlen does. Then the whole thing – Yes, the whole thing is a fraud, a show, a facade, a trick, a bitter joke. The imperialists are not fighting among themselves at all. The fact is – Marlen has it on a reliable tip – that all the imperialists are secretly allied, and they have an agreement to help Germany crush Russia and Japan crush China, and then all will be well with the world. But this is dirty business! Yes, and to cover it up they are going through an elaborate pretense at fighting each other. But try as they will, they won’t fool Marlen. Shachtman? Yes! Marlen? No!

The Shachtmanites, flying in the face of the whole course of events before and after September 1939, hold that the imperialists are engaged in a real, life-and-death struggle amongst themselves, like in 1914–18. (The Bulletin, September 1942)

What, therefore, asks Marlen, is this business of the English refusing to permit more than a few Chinese into Burma? Marlen is ready to acknowledge that the cunning English can dupe God knows how many people, but not him. The alliance between Britain and China? The real truth is, there is no such thing in actuality.

The “alliance” of the British with China “against” the Japanese fascists is patently of a most “peculiar” character. Its “peculiarity” points to the factual existence of the inverse kind of alliance, with the paper British-Chinese “alliance” serving as a cover for that hidden inter-imperialist collaboration. (Ibid., my emphasis – M.S.)

In other words, what really exists in the East is an alliance between British and Japanese imperialism, by which the former agrees to keep withdrawing out of Asia in order that the latter may take it over, crushing China, India and at least the Eastern part of the Soviet Union. The attack on Pearl Harbor? The fighting in the South Pacific? Don’t take them seriously, they’re just smoke-screens. Why the Anglo-Japanese alliance does not provide instead for Japan retiring from Asia and taking up a position on, say, the Sverdrup Islands in the Prince Gustav Adolph Sea, leaving England to crush China, India and Russia, is not always very clear in Marlen’s fantasmagorias. Come to think of it, the same criticism might be made of everything else he deals with.

But, as the poet says, nunc amisso quaeramus seria ludo – now let us leave the ludicrous and attend to the serious.

Every time Morrow tries “concretely” to show that the war of China against Japan is “independent” of the Imperialist World War, he finds himself sliding to within an inch of Marlen’s “phony war” theory, and, what is worse, to painting up the colonial bourgeoisie and justifying its imperialist alliance, justifying its service in the imperialist camp. That is all Morrow shows by his reference to the “events in Burma,” because understand them he does not.

The Fundamental and Secondary Reasons

The very fact that virtually the entire imperialist press in the United States criticized (condemned would be more accurate, even if in language befitting “allies”) the policy of General Alexander toward the Chinese troops in the battle of Burma, that a goodly section of the British imperialist press did likewise, would suffice to blow the bottom out of Morrow’s shallow and essentially demagogic argumentation. There are any number of reasons why Alexander and his like waited till the last minute before allowing any sizeable number of Chinese to enter the Burma campaign, but they are reasons that relate primarily to the peculiarities of British imperialism’s development in the East, to the character and traditions of her representatives there, and have so serious relationship to the question of whether China is an integral part of the Anglo-American imperialist camp.

One is the contempt felt by Britain’s military and political whiskey-and-soda aristocracy for the “inferior Jap” and its inability to believe that the latter could whip the high-born Englishman.

Another, of the same order, was the need of “saving face” which the British white overlord felt when confronted by a situation in which everyone could see that his rule was saved not by troops of his own training but by “inferior” colored troops trained by their own officers. That’s why the British hesitated as much to call upon Chinese natives in Singapore as they did Chiang’s troops in the Burma fighting.

Still another is the inner-imperialist rivalry and jealousy between the British and Americans, and the not too well concealed irritation of the English at anything that smacks of “being saved” by Americans or those who, like “Stilwell’s Chinese,” are led by Americans.

Still another is sheer stupidity, typical British imperialist stupidity when dealing with colonial peoples, and an inability in the concrete case to utilize a colonial army, which offered itself “voluntarily,” in the best interests of the imperialists. Is this so rare in the history of British or other imperialism as to cause surprise when it manifests itself with unusual force?

Morrow uses the refusal of the British to work militarily with the Chinese in Burma to prove some sort of incompatibility between imperialism and the colonial bourgeoisie. We recall that Goldman once argued that Stalinist Russia and British imperialism were also fighting two different kinds of wars in spite of the flawlessness of their military cooperation in the seizure of Iraq. In both cases, the argument is altogether superficial. What is decisive is not the imperialist pig-headedness and Jim Crow mentality of some Colonel Blimp. The important thing is that Chiang offered his troops to fight for British imperialism in its war against Japanese imperialism in Burma. That only a few were allowed to fight is not due to Chiang or to the character of the Chinese alliance with imperialism.

Given a Stilwell instead of an Alexander, i.e., a less pig-headed imperialist, the Chinese would have fought in Burma. Under whose leadership? Anglo-American imperialism. Objectively, for what purpose, with what aim? To maintain the rule of British imperialism in Burma. That can be denied only if you believe that the defeat by the “Anglo-American allies” (the Chinese fight, the English direct the fight and have the victory) would have liberated Burma from British as well as Japanese imperialism, or at least would have put that country in the hands of China. But if the Chinese army, that is, the Chinese bourgeoisie, is thus really capable of fighting both imperialist camps, that is, of fighting imperialism, and triumphing over it, let it be said flatly and unambiguously. Then let us proceed to a revision of the fundamental position of Trotskyism on the role and character of the colonial bourgeoisie. That’s what the “test of the events in Burma” brings us to, even if Morrow does not realize it.

He does not realize it for one simple but fundamental reason: All that Trotsky taught in the struggle against Stalinism about the basic character of the colonial bourgeoisie, about the basic character of its relationship to imperialism, has left only the most superficial impression upon him. The most general and, if you will, most abstract formulation of the problem of the colonial struggle for freedom – namely, the war of a colony for liberation from imperialist rule is a just and progressive war – is usually accepted by most petty bourgeois liberals, by social democrats, by Stalinists. Morrow accepts it as though it were the essence, the most important feature of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s, especially the latter’s, contribution to the question. When he cites them as authorities (in actuality, he does not mention Lenin at all), he quotes only what is said in general about the colonial struggles being progressive. In other words, given the very concrete fact that the imperialist-democrats and liberals praise countries like China for being lined up with the “right side” in the imperialist war, Morrow is quoting, as Lenin used to say, “what is pleasing and acceptable to the liberals.”

Once Again – Lenin and Trotsky

What Lenin and Trotsky said about the alliance of the colonial or national bourgeoisie with imperialist coalitions during an imperialist war, that is, what they said concretely about the concrete problem before us, he deliberately ignores. We repeat, deliberately, for if at first he did not know what Lenin and Trotsky said, we called it to his attention. Deliberate evasion of these teachings, apart from the contempt for one’s readers that it shows, cannot but have a political purpose. In the present case the purpose is to cover up a social-patriotic line which would be more speedily revealed for what it is if it were confronted with the texts of Leninism.

Lenin said: A war in alliance with imperialism, is an imperialist war. Not so in China, says Morrow.

Lenin said: During the Imperialist World War, you cannot support the ally of imperialism, Poland, even though the cause of Polish independence is progressive, “without sinking into mean servility to one of the imperialist monarchies.” In China, it’s all right, says Morrow.

Lenin said: We reject in principle a victory attained in a formal or factual alliance with the “friendly” imperialism. The victory of China and English imperialism in Burma would be a wonderful thing, says Morrow.

Trotsky said: Chiang Kai-shek cannot oppose Japanese imperialism without becoming a servile tool of British imperialism. Trotsky wrote this, of course, before the World War came to China. Now, after the war has broken out there, Morrow writes that “we are separated from Shachtman by an unbridgeable gulf. We support the struggle [of China]; he brands it as ‘serving one imperialist camp against the other. That is today the course of the bourgeoisie in every colonial and semi-colonial country.’” You see, Shachtman “brands” it! No, Shachtman merely quoted Trotsky. The gulf that Morrow cannot bridge separately him not only from the former but also from the latter.

Did not Trotsky support China in the past? To be sure he did and so did we. Did not Trotsky say that if the World War broke out the colonies would and should exploit the conflicts between the imperialists? Yes, and we said and say the same thing. In what sense? In the sense clearly indicated by Lenin during the First World War. China’s war against Japan would continue to merit support in spite of Japan’s rivalry with the United States provided it remained a “war for national liberation in which imperialist rivalry is a contributory element of no great importance” (quoted last month. My emphasis. – M.S.) But the “rivalry” has led to a war which is being fought in the Pacific and on Chinese soil; instead of being a “contributory element of no great importance,” the war between the U.S. and Japan is obviously of decisive importance. That’s the difference. Therein lies the concreteness of the change in the situation.

China is now committed to the war aims of Anglo-American imperialism and that is what she is fighting for. Her struggle against Japan is now decisively subordinated to the Anglo-American struggle against Japan. She is part and parcel of the Anglo-American Pacific War Council in Washington (a subordinated and not very seriously consulted part, to be sure, but an integral part nevertheless) and her role in the war is dictated by this council. Her military forces are under the “symbolic” leadership of the American General Stilwell, and what that leadership symbolizes is precisely the dependence of China (given the continued rule of the bourgeoisie, it must be repeatedly emphasized) upon America in the war today. Her aerial forces are the American forces, and her aerial bases are nothing, literally nothing, but the bases of American imperialism. Her military activities are decided by the imperialist masters in the alliance. The refusal of the imperialists to allow the Chinese into Burma, and China’s acceptance of this order, is only a sensational example, not of Morrow’s claim of China’s independence in the war, but precisely of the opposite claim, namely, that China is completely subservient in the war to the commands, even the most stupid commands, of her imperialist master-allies. Morrow says it was to China’s interests to hold Burma (for whom?). Yet the Chinese did not go into Burma when the imperialist command said “No!” Why not? Because China is now an integral and minor part of the Anglo-American camp. That derives from the inherent nature of the relationships between a colonial bourgeoisie and modern imperialism. Lenin and Trotsky did not create this relationship; they only revealed it and explained it. Morrow’s contribution is to ignore it.

We would not be doing Morrow justice, however, if we did not add that he does admit the possibility of a “change.” “If China’s war effort collapses, or is so weakened that in the end the land front in China is dominated by Anglo-American troops, then victory over Japan would not be a victory for China.” You will admit that this sure is a delicate way of putting it. Morrow spends pages denouncing us for speaking of Chiang’s “complete capitulation to Anglo-American imperialism.” All the facts already available are not enough for him, and therefore he won’t say that. But if the “land front in China is dominated by Anglo-American troops,” he will say it, more or less. The military aspects of the relations between the colony and the imperialist power are of course very important. But what is even more important for us here is that Morrow establishes purely military considerations as decisive for his political conclusions. This utterly preposterous “tomorrow” point of view, calculated to serve “some day” as the opportunist’s way out of a jam, is a natural product of the false point of view of the Cannonites today. It leaves the door open for a purely arbitrary right-about-face which could be dictated by any number of motives except objective political considerations.

How will Morrow determine when the “complete capitulation to imperialism,” as we have already called it, will take place? Will he stand at the Chinese border counting the “Anglo-American troops” as they file in, as British bureaucrats stood at the Burmese border counting “Stilwell’s Chinese”? At what point – we’re not asking for exact figures down to a man, you know, Just for approximate figures – would he raise the sign: “No more imperialist troops wanted today. Leave name and address at the gate for future call”? Would 50,000 “Anglo-American troops” be enough to “dominate the land front in China”? A hundred thousand? Half a million? Would Morrow compare Anglo-American and Chinese troops man for man and “allow” the former only 49 per cent, maximum? Or would he take into account the differences between armored divisions and motorized and regular infantry divisions? between square and triangular divisions? between airborne and land troops? Will he give as many “points” to a Chinese division of infantry as to an American regiment equipped with half-tracks and sub-machine guns, or would he give more to which? Whom would he call in as military expert, as special consultant in weighing the variables, as technical people call them – Joe Hanson or Hanson Baldwin?

To leave himself a loophole through which to crawl tomorrow, in a moment of desperation, Morrow has found himself resorting to the preposterous criterion of purely military considerations. That is what comes of the abandonment of the dear-cut political criteria of Marxism. That is what comes of the abandonment of the concrete, even if under the smokescreen of insistence upon its importance.

Morrow talks not only about China but about India, too. He says it is “obviously the duty of every revolutionist to support India’s fight for freedom ... even if the Indian bourgeoisie leads the struggle at present, and no matter what imperialist powers find it expedient to aid India.” That is quite right.

BUT, suppose the situation in India changed a “little bit.” Suppose the various actors on the scene in India were playing the rôles they now play in China, with the situation and the uniforms changed a little. Let us put it this way:

Suppose Gandhi and the Indian bourgeoisie had risen a year ago and driven the British forces out of the eastern portion of India. Would we have supported them? Yes!

Suppose that Japan had provided the Indian forces with a little money and some rifles, because of her rivalry with imperialist Britain. Would we still have supported the Indians? Yes! We would still be, to use Morrow’s New Republic language, for “Free India.” [1]

So far, so good. Now, however, let us suppose that the war between Japan and Britain broke out (as it has) and extended to India. (Remember, in all that follows, that we are trying to draw the strictest possible comparison between this hypothetical Indian example and the real situation in China.)

Suppose that in what they consider the interests of the just cause of India against her imperialist oppressor, England, the Indian bourgeoisie and its political representatives, Gandhi & Co., made an alliance with Japan. That is how they “utilize the antagonisms of imperialism.” Suppose “Free India” proclaimed her solidarity with the war aims of Japanese imperialism – not the Atlantic Charter but the Asiatic Co-Prosperity Charter of Japan. Gandhi then sends his representatives to sit on the Pacific War Council in Tokyo, as Chiang’s agents sit in Washington. Together with the Japanese, these agents work out the military strategy and the tactics of the war against the “common foe,” British imperialism. To “defend” their “supply line” from Japan, the Gandhi regime joins with the Japanese in driving the British out of the Malay States and the Dutch out of the Java Sea. In addition, the “Free India” government makes General Yamamoto the “chief of staff,” as it is so delicately phrased in the East, of the “Free India” troops, and gets a “loan” from Japan of several million dollars with which to buy off Indian politicians and militarists who are flirting with the idea of capitulation to Britain. Furthermore, the Japanese send some of their military, aerial and naval forces into Gandhi’s India – oh, to be sure, not enough to “dominate the land front” in India! Also, Gandhi’s airfields are turned over to the Japanese air fleet as bases from which to carry on their aerial warfare against Britain. And so on and so forth, just the way it is in China now, except for the change in names.

Now, let us ask bluntly, though without any serious hope of getting a reply from Morrow: Under those circumstances, would Morrow continue to call for the defense, the support of “Free India”? In other words, if the only difference between the two cases was the fact that in one the imperialist “ally” was a good “democrat” and in the other he was not so “democratic,” would Morrow nevertheless put forward the same policy?

In our minds, there is not the slightest doubt of what Morrow would actually do in the hypothetical case of India allied with Japan against Britain. He would not call for the defense of India under the circumstances outlined above. And at bottom, the only reason why he would not apply to India the same policy he so belligerently demands for China today is that the one would be allied with a “bad imperialism” whereas the other is allied with a “democratic imperialism.” And therein is revealed again the social-patriotic tendency represented by Morrow.

We repeat: there is no doubt in our minds about what Morrow would do in the case cited. This certainly is not based upon some “intuitive feeling” or other, but upon what Morrow, elsewhere in his writings, indicates with enough clarity for the observant reader. In the September 1942 issue of his magazine, he comments with quivering indignation upon what Comrade Henry Judd wrote in these pages about the inclinations of the Indian bourgeoisie to shift from dependence upon British imperialism to dependence upon Japanese imperialism. The way Morrow splutters at this outrageous assault upon the integrity of the Indian bourgeoisie, the fierceness with which he condemns Judd for this elementary analysis of the dynamics of the Indian struggle, make you think of Miss Frieda Kirchwey or at least Mr. Louis Fischer when the genuineness of one of their democratic idols is questioned. You can read the original text of Morrow’s literary writings in Stalin’s Pravda, where appeared the denunciations of Trotsky in 1926 for his daring to say that Chiang and the Chinese bourgeoisie were the tools of one imperialist power – or another.

But what is important from the standpoint of the hypothetical question we asked above is Morrow’s violent reaction to the very idea of the Indian bourgeoisie passing into the service of Japan. Nobody can read his indignant sentences without coming to our conclusion: Morrow gives his blessings to China’s alliance with imperialism only because it is a “democratic” imperialism. In the language of our movement, this is known as social-patriotism.

* * *

In our concluding article next month, we will consider the significance of the SWP’s position on the struggle in India and on the national question in Europe, as related to the question of China with which we have already dealt. In the course of our considerations we shall learn, we hope, who is “slandering” the poor Indian bourgeoisie and what is the political meaning of the “slander.”


1. When Marcel Pivert once referred to the strikebreaker Blum as “Comrade,” Trotsky said that from this one word, from this title which Pivert conferred upon Blum, it was possible to estimate his whole political mentality – it didn’t contain a genuinely revolutionary-intransigent cell. By the same token, one can estimate the political mentality and outlook of Morrow when he characterizes Chiang Kai-shek’s political and social tyranny as “Free China.” – yes, “Free China,” says Morrow, and without quotation marks.

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Last updated on 12 January 2015