Founding Conference of the
The War In the Far East and The Revolutionary Perspectives
The conflict in the Far East between China and Japan lays bare some of the principal symptoms of the crisis of world capitalism its final, most highly developed, imperialist stage, and opens up perspectives of great revolutionary development in a decisive part of the globe. On the one hand, Japan, weakest link in the chain of world imperialism, is seeking to overcome the maladies of its decline by a war of colonial conquest. On the other hand by their invasion of China, the Japanese imperialists have provoked a defensive campaign which, despite its weakness and inadequacy under the leadership of the Kuomintang, assumes the character of a war of national liberation. At the same time, by the pursuit of their predatory aims in China, the Japanese imperialists have accentuated the inter-imperialist antagonisms which are forcing mankind to the brink of a new world war.
Japan, belatedly rising to the stature of an imperialist power toward the end of the nineteenth century, was confronted by a world already substantially divided among its imperialist rivals. The Japanese imperialists, moreover, were obliged to proceed from an exceedingly weak economic base in their plans of empire. Lacking such vital raw materials as coal and iron, copper, oil and cotton, they were driven from the outset to seek these supplies beyond the natural frontiers of Japan. Acquisition of sources of these raw materials was a condition, not only of expansion, but even of survival in the competitive world of imperialist rivalry. The career of Japanese imperialism opened with the Sino Japanese War of 1894-5, when Japan defeated China and seized Korea and Formosa. Ten years later, Japan vanquished Czarist Russia and took over the sphere of influence held by the latter in South Manchuria. During the world war of 1914-18, Japan seized the Chinese province of Shantung and presented China with the notorious “Twenty one Demands”, which were designed to bring all China under Japanese Control.
The destruction caused in Europe by the World War, creating an ever increasing demand for products of all kinds, gave a mighty impetus to the development of Japanese industry. The growth of Japan’s productive forces during that period, however, intensified all the contradictions of Japanese economy. As the Versailles “peace” conference, Japan, as a junior partner of the Allied Powers, received only a paltry share of the booty of war. After ceding to Japan a few Pacific islands formerly held by Germany, the Allied imperialists, at the Washington Conference in 1922, forced Japan to evacuate Shantung. They also compelled Japan to withdraw her troops from the Maritime provinces of Siberia, where they had formed part of the inter Allied interventionist forces employed against the first workers’ state which had emerged from the October Revolution in Russia. These developments coincided with the erection of tariffs and quota barriers—measures of extreme protection designed to overcome the post war economic crisis in the countries of the West—which dealt Japan double blows on the economic front. Protectionism not only curtained Japan’s trade, but also threatened her supply of raw materials, for Japan depended on the proceeds of her export trade to finance raw material purchases abroad. The blows at Japan’s export trade consequently led to a drainage of the country’s gold reserves. A sharp currency crisis reflected the entire insecurity of the Japanese economic structure, which was damaged still further by the disastrous earthquake in 1933. Japanese capitalism was doomed to suffocate within its own national boundaries unless it could find a way out by means of colonial conquests.
The growth of Japan’s productive forces and the development of capitalist economic relations did not result, as in the capitalist countries of the West, in the emergence of a corresponding social and political superstructure. The transition from feudal to capitalist society was accomplished without revolution and the bourgeosie was therefore not faced with the necessity of razing the old institutions of social rule and replacing them by new. Emerging from the ranks of the feudal nobility and the warrior caste of Samurai, the bourgeosie adapted the old institutions, with some modifications, to the requirements of the new systems of capitalist exploitation. Thus ancient feudal institutions, including a “divine” monarchy, a semi-independent military caste, and semi feudal types of exploitation exist side by side with a “democratic” parliament and powerful industrial and financial trusts. From the presence of these “feudal survivals,” powerful as they appear to be, it would, however, he false to deduce that the next stage in the social progress of Japan must he a “democratic” revolution. This is the shallow opportunist reasoning of the Stalinists. Bourgeois property relations and the capitalist system of exploitation, extending over both the proletariat and the peasantry, decree the revolutionary overthrow of the ruling class and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the only reed of salvation for both workers and peasants. If in the high tide of the Japanese revolution, the revolutionary party of the masses should seek to discover an intermediate, “democratic” solution for the great social tasks, the inevitable result will be the disorientation and destruction of the revolutionary forces and the restoration of power to the bankrupt ruling class.
The feudal military caste of generals and officers, superficially united by the monarchy, is not a homogeneous body. While the lower ranks of officers are drawn largely from rural areas, from the upper layers of the peasantry, the tops fuse with the industrial and financial bourgeosie. As a whole, the military caste strives to maintain for itself the traditional privileges and semi-independent position which it occupied in the feudal era. For this purpose it is organized in such typically feudal institutions as the secret Black Dragon society. The strivings of the military caste to keel intact its privileges and powers tend to complicate the main problem of the Japanese ruling class as a whole, which is to maintain over both the proletariat and the peasantry the present crushing system of exploitation with all the oppression which accompanies it. Periodically, this caste comes into conflict with industry and finance capital, which seek to stem the drain on economy caused by the parasitic needs of the military caste. Army revolts and the assassination of leading political representatives of the industrial and financial bourgeosie are the sharpest expressions of this conflict. These revolts also express, insofar as they are led by the younger officers of lower rank, the rebellion of the peasantry against finance capital. But since all sections of the ruling class realize the perils of class disunity, conflicts are finally settled on the basis of mutual concessions, by loading additional burdens onto the backs of the Japanese masses and by common agreement to embark on predatory military campaigns to enslave neighboring peoples, thereby cementing the cracks in the structure of ruling class domination as a whole.
China, geographically close to Japan, with a population of some 430,000,000 people spread over a vast expanse of territory rich in minerals and other basic raw materials, was the logical scene for Japanese imperialist expansion. In China, the Japanese imperialists saw the prospect of a “fundamental solution” of their most pressing economic difficulties. Contemplation of this prospect, moreover, opened up visions of imperial power and grandeur. China came to he viewed not only as the answer to economic problems, but as a jumping off point for campaigns which would plant the banner of the Rising Sun in Siberia, at least as far as Lake Baikal, in India, and Malaysia, in Indonesia, in Hawaii and the Philippines, in the Antipodes, to say nothing of Latin America and the western portion of the United States. That the Japanese imperialists did not earlier seek to bring all China under their control by means of war was due largely to fear of their powerful rivals in the West whose interests in China they, would inevitably have to assail. The Chinese revolution of 1925-27 dictated to Japan a policy of watchful waiting, especially since the anti-imperialist wave in China during that period was being directed exclusively against Britain. The world economic crisis which, following the post war reconstruction period, afflicted the capitalist world, gave Japan both her opportunity and an added spur to action. Taking advantage of the preoccupation of the Western powers with their own acute domestic problems, the Japanese imperialists seized Manchuria in 1931 and in the following year established there their Manchukuo “protectorate.” In 1933, they seized the province of Jehol, annexed it to Manchukuo, and then proceeded to establish a foothold in North China. The military frightfulness with which Japan is now scourging China represents a further stage in the Japanese plans of colonial conquest.
As a “backward’ country, China has been the victim of imperialist rapacity for more than a century. Imperialist guns, in the early nineteenth century, ended China’s age old seclusion and isolation and introduced modern industry and capitalist forms of exploitation into the country. The imperialists came to China first as traders. But with the rapid advance of industry in the West, and the growing accumulation of surplus value as a result of ever more intense labor exploitation, it was only a matter of time before China came to be regarded not only as a commodity market, but as a lucrative field for the investment of capital as well. China’s inexhaustible supply of cheap labor proved a magnetic attraction for foreign capital. In a series of wars against which the decadent Manchu Dynasty proved completely impotent, the imperialist powers grabbed Chinese territory, established “concessions” in China’s principal cities, and wrested from China a series of “privileges” designed to protect their trade and investments. By limiting Chinese import duties to five per cent ad la/Gram, they assured the competitive position of their products in the China market. By controlling the collection and disbursement of Chinese Customs revenues, they insured the payment of China’s rapidly mounting foreign debts. By establishing the principle of “extraterritoriality” (capitulations) , they gained exemption of their business enterprise from Chinese taxation and their nationals from the operation of Chinese law. The unequal treaties in which these “privileges” were embodied were the signs of China’s reduction to the status of a semi-colonial country.
Imperialist economic penetration shook China’s semi-feudal economy, based on agriculture and handicrafts, to its very foundations. Cheap commodities, manufactured in foreign owned plants both in China and the countries of the West, penetrated the country along railroads built by the imperialists. The most important section of the old ruling class, especially the Manchu officialdom, were converted into brokers for foreign capital (compradores). The special “privileges“ which the imperialists exacted from China militated against the all sided development of an independent Chinese capitalist economy and kept the country’s productive forces in a political straight jacket. During the World War, however, Chinese industry, like the industry of Japan, received a great stimulus. The preoccupation of the major imperialist powers in the Western hemisphere, although giving rain to Japan’s colonial ambitions in China, nevertheless relieved the total imperialist pressure on the country. Native industry advanced rapidly.
It was during this period that the so called “national” bourgeoisie, seeking to establish its own economic base in competition with the imperialists, began to emerge. The Chinese proletariat, drawn from the pauperized population of the villages, gained vastly in numerical strength, and as the result of groupment in large factories and enterprises, in class consciousness and fighting spirit. When British imperialism, having overcome the post war crisis, began to reassert itself in China, it was obliged to direct its guns against striking Chinese workers. Bloody massacres by British imperialist troops and police in 1925-26, in which workers and their student allies were the principal victims, stirred an anti-imperialist wave which threatened to engulf the whole structure of imperialist domination in China. The Chinese national bourgeoisie, irritated by the humiliations visited on them by the imperialists and seeing a chance to strike blows at their principal foreign trade competitors, supported the anti-imperialist movement by means of judicious financial aid to workers on strike in imperialist enterprises. But when the strike movement spread or threatened to spread to native plants, and when, moreover, it deepened into social revolution, the national exploiters bared their class fangs and solidarized themselves with the imperialists against the workers.
Historic belatedness and the subjection of China by the imperialists deprived the Chinese bourgeoisie of that progressive role which had been played by its European forerunners in the bourgeois revolutions of the West. It could neither establish independent class roots in Chinese society nor assert itself as a sovereign master class. The compradores, direct agents of the imperialists recruited from among the landlords and merchants and the old Manchu officialdom, were the first representatives of Chinese capitalism. From the ranks of the compradores emerged the “national” bourgeoisie. A thousand threads of interpenetration, interdependence and mutual interest linked the national bourgeoisie to the compradores. Together they participated in the exploitation, not only of the proletariat, but also of the peasantry, since their interests were closely interlocked with those of the village exploiters, to whom they were connected by the countrywide banking system. In this complex of relationships lies the explanation for the utter inability of the Chinese bourgeoisie to conduct a consistent struggle against imperialism, to erect a modern unified state, or to solve the agrarian problem.
The petty bourgeoisie occupies an intermediate position between the big bourgeoisie and the proletariat. An overwhelming majority of the class consists of small peasant proprietors and tenant farmers. In the cities, in addition, is the numerous army of small shopkeepers, handicraft manufacturers, professionals such as teachers, doctors and lawyers, and petty government officials, all of whom are subjected to the oppression of the big bourgeoisie and the imperialists. The peasantry, by reason of its intermediate and dependent social position, its dispersal over vast spaces, its stratified diversification, its individualistic and proprietary characteristics, its cultural backwardness, is unable, despite its numerical preponderance, to play any leading independent political role in Chinese society. It cannot solve even its most pressing problems by regaining possession of the land and relieving itself of the burdens of landlord usurer parasitism. Much less is it capable of reorganizing the entire agricultural economy on a new and higher level by establishing large scale collectivized farming. The degeneration and disappearance of the so called Chinese Soviet Republic, the explicit abandonment of the agrarian revolution by the Stalinist leaders of the peasantry, who have led the remnants of a grandiose agrarian movement back into the fold of the bourgeoisie landlord Kuomintang, is a fresh historic demonstration of the political feebleness of the peasantry. As a class, the peasantry can be led, but they cannot lead. In all their movements they come under the leadership either of the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. The petty bourgeoisie of the cities is similarly weak and dependent and can play no leading political role. The collapse of the great student movements directed in recent years against the Kuomintang and imperialism was a direct result of the fact that these movements found no firm base in an active proletariat.
Because of the reactionary, weak and dependent character of the bourgeoisie, and the political feebleness of the petty bourgeoisie, the national or democratic tasks (independence from imperialism, creation of a unified state, the agrarian revolution) became the tasks of the proletariat, a class which, alone of all the classes in society, has independent and progressive class goals and is devoid of any ties of mutual interest either with the imperialists or the native exploiters—a class which, moreover, despite its numerical inferiority, possesses a concentrated power to raise it to the summits of society. Placed upon the shoulders of the proletariat were the twin tasks of achieving solution of the national problems and of clearing a road for the socialist reconstruction of society by raising itself to the position of ruling class in alliance with all the exploited masses of the towns and villages. In 1925-27, when the wave of the revolution was rising, revolutionary policy demanded the orientation of the Chinese proletariat in accordance with this perspective. What the proletariat lacked in numerical strength had been supplied by the peasants and the city poor, who represent a mighty reservoir of revolutionary power. Progressive leadership of the peasantry was guaranteed by the proletariat. Together, these classes represented an invincible force against which all the weapons of imperialism and bourgeois-landlord reaction would have proved unavailing—provided this force had been given a clear revolutionary direction.
But the Stalin-Bukharin leadership of the Communist international, turning their backs on all previous revolutionary experience including the still fresh experience of Russia, resorted in China to the Menshevik policies which they had been prevented from carrying out in Russia in 1917, Counterposing the national tasks of the Chinese revolution to the emancipator struggle of the workers and peasants, arbitrarily separating the two in accordance with a lifeless theory of “stages’, they declared the immediate tasks in China to be national unification and the expulsion of the imperialists. In line, moreover, with the narrow nationalist conceptions which were already dominating Soviet policy, the Stalinist bureaucracy viewed the Chinese bourgeoisie as a possible ally against Great Britain, then the leader of the anti-Soviet Capitalist front. Stalin-Bukharin therefore assigned to the Chinese bourgeoisie the leading role in the national struggle. They subordinated the Communist Party to the Kuomintang and the proletariat and peasantry to the bourgeoisie. The political formula for this subordination was the “bloc of four classes”, wherein the proletariat and the peasantry were supposed to be united with the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie for the “common” struggle against imperialism. The Chinese Communists were ordered by Stalin-Bukharin to hold the strike movement and the activities of the peasants within limits acceptable to the bourgeoisie, in order not to disturb the “national united front,” This opportunist betrayal of the revolution was passed off as Bolshevism on the youthful and inexperienced Chinese proletariat and the still more youthful and inexperienced Chinese Communist Party. At the height of the revolutionary wave, the bourgeoisie, under Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership, made its peace with imperialism at the price of a few paltry concessions to its “national” sentiments and turned savagely on the unsuspecting workers and peasants who had been taught by the Communists to look upon the bourgeoisie as their leaders and saviors. The bourgeoisie sealed its alliance with imperialism in the blood of he insurgent masses.
On the ruins of the Chinese revolution of 1925-27 arose the counter revolutionary Kuomintang regime. The workers returned to a slavery intensified by the new military dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek, who intensified a reign of terror and wiped out all the workers’ organizations. Militarist wars, evidence of the complete disunity of the country, revived on an unprecedented scale as Chiang Kai-shek sought to extend his sway over all of China. The peasantry, scourged by landlordism, usury and military requisitioning, fell into deeper ruin. Imperialism, against which the “bloc of four classes” had been specifically directed, was able to strengthen all its commanding positions. The road was prepared for the subsequent invasion by Japan, with its obvious threat to the Soviet Union. These were the real fruits of the Stalin-Bukharin police’s in China.
The Kuomintang government which arose from the events of 1925-27 represented the triumph of the bourgeois counterrevolution over the popular movement of the masses. Chiang Kai shek, head of the Kuomintang’s military forces, clamped down an iron dictatorship. While stamping out the remaining embers of the revolution, lie at the same time “expropriated the bourgeoisie politically in order to save them economically.” The petty bourgeois masses who constituted the driving force of the Kuomintang against the regional military satraps in the high tide of the revolution, fell into political passivity with the exception of some of the peasantry, who, goaded by intensified exploitation, took to the path of open civil war against the old and new oppressors. Thus the Kuomintang became a full fledged party of the bourgeosie. The new rulers justified their vicious suppression of the masses by appealing to the petty bourgeois doctrines of Sun Yat-sen, the program of the Kuomintang—especially the so called “principle of democracy” with its prescription of a period of “political tutelage” for the masses. The military dictatorship, carried forward under the single rule of the Kuomintang, with all other political tendencies driven underground, was represented as a preparation of the masses for “democratic” government. But democracy is no nearer realization today than it was eleven years ago. This fact constitutes the living proof that between the military dictatorship of the Kuomintang and the realization of the dictatorship of the proletariat, there cannot be any intermediate, transitional, “democratic” stage. Those who, like the Stalinists, contend that such a stage is possible—even inevitable!—deceive and disorient the masses and thereby prepare the betrayal and defeat of the Chinese revolution.
From the fatal opportunist policies which they pursued in 1925-27 during the upsurge of the revolutionary wave, the Chinese Communists veered to the opposite extreme of adventurism in the period of the Kuomintang counter-revolution. After precipitating disastrous and utterly futile uprisings which culminated in the tragic Canton putsch, and thereby cutting themselves away from their working class base, they transferred their activities to the rural interior. Deserting the prostrate proletariat in the cities, they placed themselves at the head of peasant armies which emerged as spearheads of the agrarian revolts during the ebb of the revolutionary tide, setting as their goal the establishment of a “democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry”—precisely that intermediate “democratic” stage which for China and all other colonial and semi-colonial countries is historically excluded. Although proceeding under the slogan of Soviets, which the Communists had rejected during the high tide of the revolution, but which were later to be sanctified in “Third Period” policies, the peasant war did not succeed in evoking responses among the workers. Held down by Chiang Kai-shek’s military dictatorship and a devastating economic crisis, disorganized further by the “Red Trade Union” tactics of the Communists, held in passivity by the refusal of the Communists to unfold a program of democratic demands corresponding to their vital needs in the new counter revolutionary stage, the workers drifted away from political life. Chiang Kai-shek, unhindered by the proletariat, was finally able, at the end of 1934, to crush the isolated peasant Soviets despite the many heroic battles fought by the peasant Red armies.
The Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 found the Kuomintang government waging a war of extermination against the revolting peasants and at the same time strengthening its reactionary dictatorship over the workers. Announcing a policy of “non resistance“ to Japanese imperialism Chiang Kai-shek proclaimed as his supreme tasks the wiping out of the insurgent peasant movement and the unification of the country—meaning thereby the establishment of Chiang’s own power over that of his provincial adversaries. The reverse side of the coin of non-resistance was a vigorous stamping out of the rising anti-Japanese movement. Revealing anew the fundamental unity of interests between imperialists and the national bourgeoisie, the non- resistance policy of the Kuomintang facilitates Japan’s invasion of China. The imperialists, on their part, were more than generous in aiding the Kuomintang to crush the peasants and keep the labor movement in a state of prostration.
While holding down the oppressed masses and retreating step after step before the Japanese invaders, the Kuomintang drew closer to British and American imperialism in the hope that these powers, fearful for their own interests in China, would be obliged to halt Japan’s onward march. There also existed the hope that China would regain at least a breathing space through Japan becoming embroiled with the U.S.S.R. But the devastating world economic crisis which coincided with Japan’s colonial drive together with their own military unpreparedness, compelled Britain and America to adopt a policy of watchful waiting in the Far East while encouraging the Kuomintang to resist Japan as far as it dared. The Stalinist bureaucracy, temporarily wedded to the policy of status quo, was prepared to make numerous concessions to Japan in order to insure the uninterrupted building of “socialism” with in the borders of the U.S.S.R. When aggravated internal difficulties and the immobilization of its principal rivals spurred Japan to military campaigns of increasing scope in 1937—to the seizure of North China and the attack on the Yangtze valley—the Kuomintang was faced with the alternative of either abdicating before Japan or resisting with the help of such material aid as it could secure abroad. Unlike the earlier Japanese drives, the newest campaign threatened the Kuomintang regime in its own strongholds and the bourgeoisie in the very center of its pelf and power, thus making it clear that the limits of the non-resistance policy had been reached. The Kuomintang decided upon a purely military defensive campaign against Japan, which is far different from consistent, principled struggle against imperialism as a whole for China’s national independence. Other factors entered into the Kuomintang’s decision to resist. Bolstered by British and American financial aid and a rising economic conjuncture, encouraged, too, by its victory over the Chinese Soviets, the regime has grown firmer and more self-confident. Moreover, the policy of non resistance, coupled with the growth of anti-Japanese sentiment throughout the country, was being exploited against Chiang Kai-shek with increasing success by his provincial rivals.
The newest phase of Japan’s colonial drive has coincided with the final degeneration of the Communist International. From instruments of the revolutionary class struggle, the Communist parties have been converted into instruments of Stalinist diplomacy. Searching for “allies” among the democratic capitalist powers in face of the growing war threat, the Stalinist bureaucracy ordered these parties to abandon their revolutionary program and support the bourgeoisie of their respective countries. Just as Stalin needed the bourgeois democracies of the west as “allies” against Hitler’s Germany, so in the Far East, in line with his Anglo-French American orientation, he sought once more an alliance with the bourgeois Kuomintang—this time against imperialist Japan. What remained of the Chinese Communist party after Chiang Kai-shek’s forceful liquidation of the peasant Soviets, has publicly surrendered the last remnants of its revolutionary policy in order to enter a “People’s Anti-Japanese Front” with the hangman of the Chinese revolution. The Chinese Stalinists have formally liquidated “Soviet China,” handed over to Chiang Kai-shek the remnants of the peasant Red armies, openly renounced the agrarian struggle, explicitly abandoned the class interests of the workers. Publicly embracing the petty bourgeois doctrines of Sun Yat-sen, they have proclaimed themselves the gendarmes private property and, in conformity with Stalinist practice everywhere, the enemies of the revolution.
It is the bounden duty of the international proletariat and above all of the revolutionary vanguard, to support the struggle of China against Japan. The crime of the Stalinists consists, not in supporting and participating in China’s struggle, even while it remains under the leadership of the Kuomintang—but in surrendering their class struggle policy, in abandoning the interests of the exploited masses, in capitulating politically to the Kuomintang, in abdicating the right of independent mobilization of the masses against Japanese invaders, in renouncing revolutionary criticism of the Kuomintang’s conduct of the war, in fortifying Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership, in supporting and spreading the illusion that the Kuomintang and the national bourgeoisie can lead the war consistently and to a successful conclusion. By these traitorous actions they mislead, confuse and disorient the masses of China and obstruct a revolutionary mobilization. The Stalinists in other countries, impotent to arouse the workers to solidarity with China’s cause, “make empty appeals to the 11 democratic, peaceful” imperialist governments to save China from Japan. They base these appeals, not on any revolutionary grounds (there are none), but on the imperialists’ own need to preserve their robber interests in China and the Far East. They urge the workers to support their “own” imperialist governments in “collective security” action against Japan—in reality the action of one set of imperialist robbers against another. Thus the Stalinists, following in the footsteps of the politically bankrupt Second International, stand forth as the social patriotic betrayers of the working class and the oppressed generally—not only in the “democratic” countries of the vest, but in the East as well,
British imperialism, with vast trade interests and a two-billion dollar investment stake in China, is becoming more and more perturbed by Japan’s advance. The threat to its China interests, however, is but one aspect of British imperialism’s fear for its empire in the coming war for redivision of the world, of which Japan’s attack on China, following Italy’s seizure of Ethiopia and Italo-German intervention in Spain, is but a beginning. Britain strives desperately to build up a war machine that will he adequate to defend her scattered possessions, while pursuing a temporary strategy calculated to delay the inevitable denouncement. Unable at present to challenge Japan at arms, particularly in view of her Mediterranean difficulties, Britain seeks to hinder Japan by placing all possible obstacles in that country’s path in particular by extending material aid to the Kuomintang regime and by parallel diplomatic action with the United States calculated to frighten the Japanese imperialists with the specter of an Anglo-American bloc. Britain hopes Japan will become exhausted in long drawn out war with China. She also banks on the possibility that Japan may become embroiled in war with the U.S.S.R., thus staving off the Japanese threat to British possessions and interests in the Far East. A similar hope animates the British imperialists with regard to the Italo-German-Japanese bloc as a whole which is now the foremost challenger of Britain’s world interests. Meanwhile, fearing that revolts of its millions of colonial slaves will create a dangerous rear in the coming war, British imperialist bribes the national bourgeoisie of its colonies (India Constitution, Anglo-Egyptian Treaty) in order to secure their allegiance. The “dominions” of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, due to the development of their own economy, have acquired interests separate from and contradictory to the interests of the British Empire as a whole. These interests represent a centrifugal force within the Empire. Australia and New Zealand in particular, because of their nearness to the Far Eastern cauldron, want freedom to remain outside of Empire struggles with Japan if it should prove advantageous to do so. Canada is in a like position with regard to the United States. Britain seeks to check those factors disintegrating the Empire by such means as trade preferences (Ottawa agreements) and periodical Imperial Conferences, which are designed to strengthen the ties between the dominions, on the one hand, and the metropolis on the other. In the present struggle in the Far East, British imperialism is concerned with the fate of China only insofar as the fate of China affects the interests of British imperialism.
American imperialism, although having fewer and smaller actual interests in China than Great Britain has, is alarmed at the prospect of Japanese domination of the Pacific. Repeated breakdowns in American Economy, occurring at shorter intervals, serve warning that if American capitalism is to survive and expand, it must soon play a more commanding role, not only in the Pacific area, but on the entire world arena. Roosevelt’s speech at Chicago in October, 1937, directed against “aggressor powers”, furnished the key to the future politics of American imperialism. Unable now to challenge Japan, the Washington government tacks along devious diplomatic courses such as the Brussels Conference. Such ostensibly disinterested enterprises are useful for sowing pacifist illusions and thereby preparing the American workers to fight for the interests of American imperialism in the coming wars. At the same time, while according a sham independence to the Philippines in order to enlist the Filipino bourgeoisie to its side, the Washington government builds up a mighty army, navy and air force, and consolidates its empire in the Americas by means of the Pan American Union, preparatory to challenging all its rivals for world supremacy. While regarding war with Japan as inevitable, the American imperialists hope to be able to enter upon such a war as late as possible, believing that Britain will be forced into war with Japan and that both will emerge exhausted from the struggle. For some time, too, the American imperialists have banked on the prospect of a Soviet-Japanese war will destroy their Pacific rival, but the internal crisis raging in the Soviet Union, testifying to the entire instability of the Stalin regime, causes this prospect to recede more and more into the background. In their efforts to veil their war plans, the American imperialists are given the unstinting aid of the Stalinists, who, paralleling the betrayal by their China confreres, proclaim the “peaceful” role of American imperialism, call upon the Washington government to save China from Japan, and offer their services as war recruiting sergeants.
France, with a large empire of colonial slaves, is interested in the maintenance of the status-quo in Europe, Africa and the Far East. French interests in China, though smallest and less diffused, are analogous to those of Great Britain. Being concentrated mainly in the colony of French Indo-China, they do not come within the orbit of immediate Japanese ambitions. Hence France’s policy of diplomatic conciliation toward Japan, coupled with surreptitious material aid to China, following in all cases the leadership of Great Britain. This policy, however, finds its counterpart in the most cruel exploitation and oppression of the masses of Indo China (as in all the other colonies of French imperialism) and a campaign of violent persecution of the revolutionists in that territory. As partners in, or supporters of, French imperialist government of the now defunct Popular Front, the Stalinists and “Socialists“ of the Second International bear a full share of the responsibility for all the bestial crimes of French imperialism in Indo-China.
The European fascist states, in contrast to Great Britain, the U.S.A. and France, have a very small economic stake in China. Their diplomatic intervention in the Sino-Japanese struggle is designed, in the main, to exploit imperialist antagonisms in the Far East in the interest of furthering their primary European aims. Hitler, too, is maneuvering for recovery of Germany’s former colonial possessions in the Far East, now held by Japan. But not wishing to antagonize Japan, whom he needs as an ally against the U.S.S.R., he refrains from pressing these colonial “claims.” Fascist Italy seeks to play Japan off against Great Britain in the interest of Italy’s Mediterranean ambitions. Germany and Italy together seek to play off Japan against Great Britain and France as a part of their maneuvers for the alignment of camps in the coming world war. Japan, on the other hand, dailies with the Rome-Berlin axis for the purpose of blackmailing Great Britain and France and in order to ensure a front against the USSR in the West.
The U.S.S.R., as a workers’ state, has no imperialist interests or aims in China. On the contrary, it is in the interests of the U.S.S.R. to help smash imperialism in all its colonial and semi-colonial strongholds by rendering the fullest possible aid to the oppressed peoples in their struggle against imperialism. When Stalinist opportunism brought the great Chinese revolution to ruin in 1927, a mighty bulwark of the U.S.S.R., not only against imperialist Japan, but against the whole world front of imperialism, was destroyed. When Japan subsequently seized Manchuria, Stalin had no alternative but to surrender to Japan the Chinese Eastern Railway, greatest single strategic asset of the U.S.S.R. in the Far East, and to embark on a course of steady retreat before the Japanese imperialists. In Germany, Stalinist policies facilitated Hitler’s triumph and increased the war menace on the Western frontiers of the U.S.S.R. Within the Soviet Union, the system of bureaucratic absolutism engendered a profound crisis, which, threatening the very foundation of the worker’s state, has paralyzed Soviet foreign policy and deprived it of any independent character. Thinking to meet and counter the fascist danger in Europe, Stalin has traded away the independence and revolutionary policies of the Communist parties in exchange for pacts with democratic” bourgeois states. Desiring to pit China against Japan not in the interests of China’s liberation from imperialism, but solely in order to delay the attack of Japanese imperialism on the Soviet Union—he has traded away to the Kuomintang what remained of the Chinese Communist Party and the Peasant Red armies. Soviet policy in China is dictated exclusively by the conservative and reactionary interests of he Soviet bureaucracy, and lacks any principled revolutionary foundation. Having lined up with the Kuomintang and the “democratic” imperialist powers, Stalin does not hesitate to become the accomplice of imperialism against the new beginnings of the Chinese Revolution.
It is in the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy that the war between China and Japan should be prolonged, especially in view of the open threat of the Japanese imperialists to attack the U.S.S.R. as soon as their aims in China are realized and the danger that a defeated China may become, even if only passively, an ally of Japan and the European fascist states against the U.S.S.R. For these reasons, after letting tour precious mounts pass by the Stalinist government began extending material aid to China, not on the principle basis of aiding an oppressed country against the imperialist oppressor (such revolutionary motivations long ago ceased to be the guiding star of the Stalin government), but purely as a matter of military-strategic necessity. To hasten the extension of this aid, the Kuomintang government entered into a “non-aggression pact” with Moscow after withholding its signature there for four years. This delay reflected the hope of the Kuomintang that it would he able to arrive at a peaceful agreement with Japan. Soviet material aid to China has been mainly to the Kuomintang and not to the former Red army. The aid commenced, moreover, at a time when capitulatory moods in the party of the Chinese bourgeoisie had already begun to weaken the defensive campaign against Japan. It is precisely the lack of any principled revolutionary basis for Soviet policy which deprives this aid of full effectiveness in China’s struggle. Quantitatively, the aid is seriously limited by the sharp internal crisis which the bureaucracy has brought on by the Soviet Union, by Stalinist dependence on Anglo-French imperialism in all spheres of foreign policy, and by Stalin’s need to avoid any premature military embroilment with Japan.
Driven against its inclination into resistance to Japan, the Kuomintang has confined itself to a purely military defensive campaign, which, while proving totally inadequate, has resulted in the wanton sacrifice of living forces. From the very beginning of the struggle, by refusing to abrogate Japan’s imperialist privileges in China, the Kuomintang has kept the door open to negotiations with the enemy. Compelled to restore a certain amount of freedom to the masses, it has at the same time suppressed and driven underground those popular organizations which it was unable to circumscribe and control. The revolutionary vanguard of the Chinese masses, the organization of the Fourth Internationalists, is compelled to live in illegality. All the political opponents of the Kuomintang regime, including heroic battlers for China’s independence, are branded as traitors and treated as such. Afraid to make good the deficiencies of China’s defense by arming the masses and summoning them on the widest scale to participate in the struggle, the Kuomintang makes known its willingness to treat with Japan through the intermediation of “friendly powers”. Unbridled speculation corruption and treachery pervade the circles of the government and reach into the army. The burdens of the war are loaded onto the backs of the masses, while the fortunes of the bourgeoisie are left untouched. In the face of all the crimes of the Kuomintang and the ruling class, the Stalinists, having renounced their political independence and their revolutionary program, maintain a shamefaced silence. Thereby they become party to these crimes and the betrayal which the Kuomintang has been preparing. In the hounding of the Chinese revolutionists, the Stalinists, as in Spain and the Soviet Union, stand in the van of the reaction.
The course of the Sino-Japanese war has demonstrated that a backward, semi-colonial country, with a feeble industry, poor in heavy armament, cannot long prevail in a purely military defensive war against a much more powerful adversary. The technical deficiencies of China’s defense can be made good only by the development of an all sided political campaign, which, combined with military operations, will draw the million headed masses into the struggle, disrupt the forces of the invader, fan the embers of revolution in the enemy country, and inspire the world working class to actions of international solidarity. But the masses can be drawn into the struggle only on the basis of a revolutionary program corresponding to their most urgent needs. The invading forces can be disrupted only by revolutionary appeals. Revolutionary example alone can help stir revolution in the enemy country. Appeals for international working class solidarity can be effective only on a revolutionary basis. Action along these lines cannot be taken by the bourgeois government of the exploiters, which fears the masses and the revolution more than it does the imperialists. That is why, despite the heroic self-sacrifice of the Chinese soldiers, China’s struggle has displayed, in its first stage, under the leadership of the Kuomintang, such pitiful bankruptcy and impotence.
The Chinese masses have not yet been able to intervene in the war struggle through their own independent organizations. On the contrary, they have been compelled by all the circumstances to play the role of more or less passive spectators and victims of events. Held prostrate for years under the military dictatorship of the Kuomintang and the economic crisis, the workers finally renewed their activity on the basis of the new conjunctural turn of 1935-36. The war, resulting in the outright physical destruction of much of the important industrial concentration area at Shanghai, and the Japanese military occupation of similar areas in North China, has halted the process of economic recovery and militants against any uninterrupted revival of the workers’ movement. Added to this, the renegacy of the Communist party, crowning development of years of opportunism and adventurism, has deepened the confusion and disorientation of the masses. A new turn of events, enabling a new revolutionary party to take shape on the foundations created by the Bolshevik-Leninists of the Fourth International, will be required before the Chinese masses will be able to take to the revolutionary road.
Despite the bankruptcy of the Kuomintang regime and the delay in the independent entry of the Chinese masses into the war, the Japanese imperialists will find it impossible to conquer China. Insular Britain, in the heyday of world capitalism, could build an empire of millions of colonial slaves in Africa and Asia, proceeding from a powerful economic base at home. Today, the British imperialists are faced with Empire doom. Insular Japan, in the era of the twilight of capitalism, proceeding from a weak economic base, is debarred historically from achieving the imperial destiny of which her ruling classes dream. Underlying the imposing facade of Japanese imperialism are fatal organic weaknesses which have already been aggravated by the military conquest of Manchuria. The resources of Japanese capitalism have been proved inadequate for the task of empire building. The economic fabric of the country is being strained to breaking point by the new military campaigns. Japanese capitalism survives by means of the intensest exploitation of the Japanese proletariat, while the peasants, forming the major part of Japan’s population, are victims of growing impoverishment and distress. The burdens of both workers and peasants are being increased unbearably by the war. More than 30,000,000 Chinese in Manchuria await the opportunity to liberate themselves from the Japanese yoke. Another 21,000,000 Koreans and 5,000,000 Formosans strive for their independence from Japan. All these factors constitute the Achilles heel of Japanese imperialism and fordoom it to destruction. Such military victories as the Japanese army is able to win in China have only an episodic importance. The first serious reverses, which are inevitable if the war is protracted, will become the starting point of social and political explosions in Japan and in the territories of Manchuria, Korea and Formosa. Regardless of the immediate outcome of the war in China, Japanese imperialism is doomed. The military machine of the Japanese imperialists has never yet been flung against a first class power. Weakened by what will turn out to be Pyrrhic victories in China, Japanese imperialism will go down to defeat in the coming world war if its career is not brought to a speedier end by the proletarian revolution. In the final analysis, the cause of the revolution in the Far East will be advanced to the extent that the masses in both China and Japan, and in the Japanese colonies, are successful in preventing the ruling classes from saddling them with the cost of the present military campaigns.
Should Japan’s military victories in the present campaigns cause the downfall of the Kuomintang regime, this will not signify the end of Chinese resistance to Japan, but merely the end of a single phase of the struggle. In the new phase, the pro-Japanese policies of the Kuomintang’s successors, combined with the intolerable oppression of the Japanese imperialists, will inevitably engender even if with some delay a widespread civil war, which, being directed against both the Japanese imperialists and the Chinese bourgeois government, is bound to assume the character of a social revolution. Having discovered in experience the utter bankruptcy and impotence of the Kuomintang, the national bourgeoisie and their Stalinist allies, the Chinese masses will more and more incline to rely on their own organizations and their own arms. They will look to the Bolshevik-Leninists for leadership and rally under the revolutionary standard of the Fourth International. The revolutionary resurgence in China will encourage revival of the liberation movements in Manchuria, Korea and Formosa. Social tension in Japan will be sharpened to the point of revolution. The reciprocal inter-relationship of these developments will furnish the objective premises for the proletarian and national revolution in China, and the proletarian revolution in Japan. It is the task of revolutionists to prepare for these events. In China, in particular, the Bolshevik Leninists must participate bravely in the anti Japanese struggle and raise thereby slogans corresponding to the needs of the struggle and the interests of the masses at each new stage. By these means they will win the confidence of the masses and be able to mobilize them in their own independent organizations for revolutionary action.
The perspectives outlined above obligate the workers in all countries, and especially the revolutionary vanguard, to support China’s struggle against Japan by all possible means. The defeat of Japanese imperialism will not only open roads to the revolution in China and Japan, but will encourage fresh waves of revolt in all the colonies of the imperialist powers. It will, moreover, remove a grave menace to the Soviet Union and stimulate the Soviet proletariat to struggle against the counter-revolutionary Stalin regime. Revolutionary support for China’s struggle does not, however, mean that revolutionists must furnish cover for the bankrupt Kuomintang regime and the Chinese bourgeoisie. Nor does it mean calling upon the “democratic” imperialist governments to intervene against Japan and save China, or support of these governments if and when they do intervene against Japan. This is the line of the Stalinist traitors. The imperialists of the West will intervene against Japan only to preserve their own robber interests in the Far East. If Japanese imperialism should be defeated in China by its imperialist rivals, and not by the revolutionary masses, this would signify the enslavement of China by Anglo American capital. China’s national liberation, and the emancipation of the Chinese masses from all exploitation, can be achieved only by the Chinese masses themselves, in alliance with the proletariat and oppressed peoples of all the world. The international revolutionary campaign for aid to China must proceed under the banner of workers’ sanctions against Japan and find its full expression in the promotion of the class struggle and the proletarian revolution.
Last updated on 11.5.2005