Leon Trotsky

Problems of the Chinese Revolution

Is It Not Time to Understand?

May 28, 1928

Today’s Bulletin of Tass [1], Number 118, not for the press, contains a few telegrams of exclusively political importance. These telegrams are not kept concealed from public opinion because they may cause harm to the soviet state or the Chinese revolution, but because they prove the faultiness of the official course and the correctness of the line of the Opposition. We cite only the two especially striking telegrams:

Shanghai, May 24. TASS – The central political council in Nanking has decided to make Feng Yuxiang a member of the council.”

That Chiang Kai-shek has made Feng Yuxiang a member of the council (for the time being, perhaps, without the consent of the “cautious” Feng Yuxiang) is now known to the whole world. But it must remain a secret from the Soviet workers. Why? Because Feng Yuxiang has until recently been presented to us at home as a genuine “worker” or “peasant”, as a reliable revolutionist, and so forth, that is, all the mistakes that were previously made with Chiang Kai-shek, were again made with Feng Yuxiang. Now, for the last few week, all telegrams concerning the more than dubious conduct of Feng Yuxiang have been concealed. Why? To what end? Obviously, because some are waiting with the secret hope: perhaps he will not betray us after all! And if he does betray us, they will say: this completely verifies our prediction on the abandonment of the national revolution by the bourgeoisie. But now? Instead of warning the Chinese workers and the Party, instead of stirring the masses of workers, peasants and soldiers to adopt really revolutionary measures against the treason of the generals, we keep quiet, we conceal the telegrams in our pockets. That will not help. The class logic of the revolutionary struggle cannot be concealed in one’s pocket.

The second telegram:

The Situation in Hankow

“Hankow, May 23. TASS – The Central Committee of the Communist Party has proposed to the ‘Hupeh League for Strengthening the Revolutionary Front’ to set in order the relations between the workers and the petty-bourgeoisie. The Central Committee emphasized the necessity of increasing discipline among the workers and of obedience to the decrees of the National Government and declared that the trade unions have not the right to arrest anyone, and must always apply to the authorities when they consider the arrest of this or that person necessary.”

This telegram is even more important than the first. For every serious revolutionist, it illuminates the whole situation and shows the absolute faultiness of the official line, the downright disastrousness of this line, and the absolute correctness of the line of the Opposition.

Just think: the trade unions in the territory of the Hankow government are arresting the enemies of the revolution. This means that the trade unions, by the whole logic of the situation, are forced to assume the tasks of revolutionary soviets. Now what does the Central Committee of the Communist Party do? It recommends to the trade unions to refrain from non-legal actions, to submit to the “decrees” of the Wuhan authorities, and in case of emergency, when a counter-revolutionist, a traitor, or conspirator has to be arrested or shot, to apply respectfully to the authorities who, in all probability, are related or allied to the conspirator. Is this not a mockery of the revolution, of its needs and of its most elementary tasks? Instead of arousing the masses to settle with the enemy right on the spot, the Wuhan government forbids it. Still more, it forbids it not in its own name, but through the medium of the Communist Party. The Central Committee of the Communist Party, in this case, plays the role of a political clerk to cowardly bourgeois radicals and pseudo-radicals, who tremble before the revolutionary masses and believe together with Martynov that the revolution can be carried out through arbitration commissions but not through the liquidation of the enemy by the masses. Isn’t this monstrous? Isn’t this a mockery of the revolution?

It is noteworthy, besides, that the “Hupeh League for the Strengthening of the Revolutionary Front” is given a special commission, namely, to set in order “the relations between the workers and the petty-bourgeoisie”. These relations cannot be set in order by a special League and not by special instructions, but only by a correct policy. The soviets of workers and of semi-proletarian city poor must be the broad organs of such a daily revolutionary policy. If the trade unions are forced to assume the functions of soviets, they will in certain cases almost inevitably leave out of consideration or injure the legitimate interests of the city petty-bourgeois. Thus, the absence of soviets also hits the petty-bourgeoisie and undermines its alliance with the proletariat.

Such is the situation in reality. The trade unions, driven forward by the masses, seek to correct the errors of the Chinese and Moscow leadership, and are proceeding to the immediate liquidation of the enemy. The Central Committee of the Communist Party, however, which ought to be the inspirer and leader of this summary liquidation, holds back the workers, and calls upon them to increase their “discipline” (towards the bourgeoisie), and to bow mutely before the connivance of the Hankow Kerenskys and Tseretelis with the agents of imperialism, of the bourgeoisie and of Chiang Kai-shek.

There is the Martinovist policy for you, not in words but in deeds!

A whole series of telegrams, especially from Tokyo, speaks of the “crumbling” of the Hankow government, of its impending downfall, and so forth. Of course such telegrams must be taken with the greatest caution. These are telegrams from an enemy, who awaits the downfall of the revolution, hopes for it, is on the watch for it, and thinks up all kinds of things and lies. But the two above-mentioned telegrams, like many others of a similar kind which arrive almost every day, compel us to recognize the fact that the position of the Hankow government can become hopeless. If it prevents the workers and peasants from putting an end to the counter-revolutionists, it will collapse. By its false policy, the Central Committee of the Communist Party is accelerating its collapse. Should the Hankow government crash under the assault of the workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ soviets, we will surely not regret it. And it will collapse because it opposes the creation of soviets. If the Hankow government is supported in this ruinous policy, if the Chinese workers and peasants are restrained from immediately eliminating the enemy, and from building soviets, then the Chinese Communist Party is helping the Hankow government to collapse in the shortest time, and to die an inglorious death, not at the hands of the worker and peasant masses, but at the hands of bourgeois reaction. What is more, with such a policy the Hankow government, before it “collapses”, will most probably unite with Chiang Kai-shek – against the workers and peasants.

Is it not really time to understand this?


1. TASS, the Soviet Telegraphic Agency, was the official Soviet news agency.

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Last updated on: 26.1.2007