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Labor Action, 2 September 1946


The Imperialist and Class Forces at Work

An Analysis of China’s “Civil War”


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 35, 2 September 1946, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


America’s two top representatives in China, General Marshal, special Presidential emissary, and Dr. Stuart, newly appointed ambassador to Chiang Kai-shek’s government, have announced the present impossibility of reaching any compromise between the contending forces of the Kuomintang government and the Chinese Hunan-Communist government. The situation deteriorates rapidly, as China moves toward nationwide civil war between the Chinese capitalist class, and the Chinese supporters of Stalinism and its aspirations to create a Stalinist, Russian-controlled China.

Behind Chiang stands America, with its flow of war materials and supplies into the hands of Dictator Chiang. Planes, newly built airfields, 25,000 Marines in North China, boats and naval craft for transporting Chinese government troops, loans and a continued flow of war munitions – these are the substantial and growing contributions of American imperialism into the war coffers of Chiang Kai-shek. America wants China for its value as a market and a general arena for colonial exploitation. The United States will not withdraw from China, nor lessen its political and material support to the reactionary Chiang regime. At the same time, America’s political leaders are not prepared to support a full-scale civil war, knowing full-well the dangers of such a struggle can be transformed into open war, on a world scale, between America and Russia. For this, Truman, as well as Stalin, is not yet prepared. Thus, he still hopes and works for a compromise in China.

Labor’s Interest

Behind Chou En-lai and his Hunan-Stalinist government stands America’s great world rival, Russia. Russia helps its Stalinist agents in China by material means, by turning over to them captured Japanese equipment, not to mention the looted areas of Manchuria, and the provinces bordering on Mongolia. Stalin is just as interested in advancing the cause of his agents in China as Truman is interested in the cause of his representatives. While the civil war between the two forces has been rapidly spreading, it must be understood that Stalin too is aware that its extension might lead to a premature war with America. It is therefore questionable how far he will permit his Hunan supporters to go. Despite sensational reports, the basis for a compromise deal between Chiang Kai-shek and Chou En-lai undoubtedly still exists.

Labor Action has previously made clear its position with respect to the alleged civil war in China. In pointing out that, despite their sharp differences in motivation and origins, BOTH camps are guided by the equally reactionary objective of securing power OVER the Chinese people in their own interests and that of their respective foreign masters, we have made it unambiguously clear that our cause, that of popular socialist democracy for China’s people, lies with neither side in this struggle. From the viewpoint of the Chinese workers and peasants, neither Nanking nor Hunan have anything hopeful or progressive to offer. Our position is that of opposition to both camps, and for the building of China’s independent labor and revolutionary movement, directed toward national independence from American capital, Russian control, or any foreign influence.

The revival of the Chinese labor movement in the great cities of China (Canton, Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc.) is the first realistic step toward this regaining of freedom of action on the part of the Chinese nationalist and labor movement. It is the most hopeful sign in many long years of tragic Chinese history.

To say that both camps, the Chiang government and the Stalinist regime of the Mao Tse-tung, are reactionary is not to say that they are the same thing. In order to properly understand the Chinese situation, it is necessary to understand where these two forces differ as well as where they meet. Where the native compradores, capitalists, landowners, merchants, bankers and speculators, rule through the Chiang government which seeks national unification for the purpose of national exploitation, the Stalinist regime rests on a foreign as well as national base. The peculiarities of Stalinism as an anti-capitalist force complicates the situation and only requires more careful analysis, but it does not negate its reactionary, anti-socialist, anti-working class character. It only emphasizes that when and if necessary, for the purposes of securing a mass base, Stalinism is capable of issuing and does issue “radical” slogans, and propose radical solutions, to the problems of the masses. Once it gains strength and achieves a measure of power, however, Stalinism proceeds to apply its “radical” measures, that is to say, anti-capitalist, pro-Stalinist measures, at the expense of the workers and peasant masses who were beguiled into its support.

Thus, it plays with the slogan of land reform in China. It institutes a measure of rationing, etc. But it has never pursued a revolutionary, socialist program in China. Whatever nationalization had long ago been initiated was on a restricted basis and as in Eastern Europe was a Stalinist, GPU nationalization, bureaucratically conceived and executed against the real interests of the Chinese peasants.

A Political Evasion

Such, in essence, is the position of Labor Action and the Workers Party. What of our political opponents, the orthodox Trotskyists of the Socialist Workers Party, who invariably have the classic, properly orthodox answer to all political problems? How do they analyze this question in their press? We can only say that, as in virtually every other instance where a similar or new problem has arisen requiring fresh political analysis, they have ignored or evaded the issue. But. this time, they have done so in a peculiarly cowardly and shameful fashion.

A lengthy article by Li Fu-jen on China, China After the Second World War, has appeared in the July 1946 issue of Fourth International, the theoretical publication of the Socialist Workers Party. Li Fu-jen is undoubtedly an authoritative writer about China, and knows his subject well. He gives us an excellent description of the revival of China’s labor movement, the character of the Chiang regime, American and Russian intervention, the program of the Chinese Stalinists, etc. One can learn much valuable information from this article. But the reader cannot learn in a thousand Sundays just where its author, or the party for whom he speaks, stands with respect to THE issue of the day, the existing and expanding civil war in China! Against both sides, as we are? Or, for support – with all the reservations and criticisms to be sure – to the Stalinist-Hunan movement? We are not given a hint on this. This evasion, we believe, represents a neck-and-neck race between downright political cowardice and ridiculousness.

The Answer Is Clear

Yet why should Li Fu-jen hesitate? He is able to describe, in detail, the reactionary conduct of Stalinists in China. Where he fails is in his fundamental judgment of Stalinism not as a new imperialist, force in the world based upon bureaucratic collectivist rule in Russia. He is caught up by the fatal theory which I will summarize. Thus he writes: “Stalin seeks to use the Chinese mass movement as a diplomatic pawn in his game of power politics, with the aim of ‘neutralizing’ American imperialism.”

Yet, the outstanding fact is that Stalin does not merely “seek to use”; but is using the “Chinese mass movement.” The Chinese Stalinists are not an independent force in China any more than the Stalinist parties in other countries. They are far less independent than Chiang who, after all, is a Chinese nationalist. Mao Tse-tung is a Russian agent, as is his military commander, General Chou. Their policies are decided first and foremost in Moscow. Does Li Fu-jen know this? Undoubtedly, as I shall point out. But being a victim of false theory and political judgment he cannot correctly assess the Chinese situation.

Furthermore, he describes in detail the political and social program of the Chinese Stalinists where they hold power, underscoring its general similarity to the peasant reform program of Chiang. A bloc with small landlords, rich peasants and merchants exists in the Stalinist areas; reforms in the form of lower rents and interest rates, less corruption and more order in the villages – this is the essence of Chinese Stalinism. “... Stalinists have no real political base in the urban centers.” “... unable and unwilling to rally decisive masses for an all-out war against the reactionary regime of Chiang Kai-shek.” “... guaranteeing and enforcing payment of the lowered rents to the parasitic landlords and the reduced interest to the village usurers.”

In example after example, the writer shows us (a) the reactionary political content and empty social content of the Stalinist program, and (b) the subservience, dependence and subordination of Stalinist deeds to Russian policy. Then, why the hesitation about a political stand? Obviously, it is due to the SWP position on defense of Russia. Since that party’s political practice subordinates everything to its critical defense of the so-called Workers’ Fatherland, and since the best defense doesn’t begin at home, the door must always be left ajar – even in the most clearcut and blatant examples of Russian imperialism – for a position of support and defense, where the interests of Russia clash with those of America, chief rival of the Workers’ Fatherland. Will the evasion and hesitation of today be followed by support tomorrow, if Russian interests become more involved (that is, if Stalin intervenes more and more, to keep pace with Truman)? According to SWP policy, the answer must be yes. But demands for unambiguous answer from Li Fu-jen, and his fellow-SWP political leaders, are largely wasted words.

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