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Labor Action, 10 January 1949


Jack Brad

Stalinists Gain Political Initiative
in China as Desertions Hit Chiang


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 2, 10 January 1949, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The last few weeks have seen the political initiative in China fall to the Communists, on the heels of their military victories. Many groups which waited, before committing themselves, to hear Chiang Kai-shek’s New Year’s Day message now feel released from any loyalty to his disintegrating state and have gone Over to defeatism or are making overtures to the Stalinists. The death-throes of the Kuomintang will find few sympathizers as all who possibly can do so with safety are joining the scramble to disassociate themselves from the regime and jump on the new bandwagon.

The most startling disaffection is that of the Shanghai City Council, which speaks for the largest industrial, financial and maritime center in KMT (Kuomintang) China. The direct appeal of the council to the CP over the heads of Nanking and its appeal to oilier cities to join with it in what, under other circumstances, would be treated as a rebellion, is the final step in the cleavage between the bourgeoisie – merchants, bankers, small industrialists, compradores and foreign businessmen – and the state. The Nanking regime is socially and politically isolated by these events from what was, in the days of its rise to power, its primary support.

For several weeks now all manner of clandestine negotiations have been conducted between Shanghai’s merchants, the CP and various KMT groups looking toward a guarantee of the city’s safety and the free functioning of its port and economy regardless of military exigency. Shanghai’s ruling class sought, in effect, the benefits of neutrality or of an open city from both sides. At the same time it supported defeatist “peace” groups in the KMT. It is significant that Sun Fo spent several weeks in the city, after his appointment as premier, before forming his government.

With Chiang’s New Year declaration, however, it became clear that the “peace” groups would stew in their own juice while Chiang and his clique of militarist supporters retained all real power of decision and continued the war at all costs. The ineffably flexible merchants of Shanghai, seeking to save their fortunes and businesses, have now deserted Chiang’s suicidal war policy. In every seacoast and merchant city such tendencies will now take hold. There is no reason to believe that the Stalinists will not come to terms if the proper approach is made.

CP Forming Coalition

The Stalinists are forming alliances in several directions. While military actions were stalled by 20 inches of snow and by the need for regroupment for assault across the Yangtse, they began to consolidate their political coalition. Negotiations with General Fu Tso-yi were under way for the easy surrender of Peiping and Tientsin, two ripe plums whose fall is now only a matter of time. The Stalinists are anxious to obtain both cities intact. Peiping is the probable initial capital of the Stalinist national coalition if Nanking’s fall is delayed.

Having rejected as “war criminals” the entire Nanking regime, including all its wings and groups, the CP received embassies from war lords and merchant groups which were not on the list of the condemned. Marshall Li, head of the “Revolutionary Committee-KMT,” an anti-Nanking group, went north to join the maneuvers preceding formation of the new government.

The Yunnan war-lord, General Lung Yun, announced his adherence to Marshal Li’s group and his readiness to hand over the rich Yunnan province to the CP armies. Yunnan borders Indo-China in the deep South. The entire “Southern bastion,” which a few months ago was a possible refuge for the Chiang regime, was falling away and, local war lords, who had retained a measure of independence, were seeking deals with the CP. Mme. Sun Yat-sen was also scheduled to join the new coalition forming around CP headquarters.

The probability is that after most of the present negotiations, which aim at neutralizing opposition and facilitating national conquest, the CP will call a new Political Consultative Conference (PCC) of leaders of all its supporting groups and out of this conference it will form its long projected all-national coalition. Since these leaders have no power of their own, no armies, programs or parties, they will be captives in every sense, albeit willing ones. Only then, with its regime securely in the saddle and its armies in control will the CP call for elections to a constituent assembly since an election under such conditions would only be a plebiscite.

Engaging in fiercest political warfare the CP deepened the isolation of Chiang’s government with the issuance of its “war criminals list.” This list did not differentiate among the different Nanking cliques; it did not give a clean bill of health to the “peace” groups or to the so-called liberals. It became clear, even before the rejection of Chiang’s New Year message that the CP, flushed with victory, would make no peace with Nanking. It is determined to establish a new legality in China based on its own power. No KMT continuity will be accepted. With this made doubly clear by the rejection of Chiang’s and Sun Fo’s appeals since the first of January, the present government is doomed because it can now in no way develop a peace program. That is why the desertion of the state is now assuming the appearance of people escaping an infected leper colony.

Stymies U.S.

Chiang’s New Year “peace program,” contained such conditions as were bound to assure its rejection. For example, the CP is committed to overthrow of the KMT-manufactured constitution, but Chiang demands as. a condition that “the constitution is not violated.” Sun Fo’s proposal for “peace with honor” is more conciliatory but less significant since Sun has no power to effectuate any program.

These moves have put the U.S. in an embarrassing position since its policy, in continuation of General Marshall’s statement of January 1947, is still for a coalition on the basis of the present constitution. The maneuvers of the last week by both sides have liquidated this policy completely.

The CP “war criminals list,” by including all Nanking groups also destroyed the U.S. hope that some of the elements in KMT who are pro-American and are now among the “peace groups” would be able to join the new CP-led coalition and there serve as levers of U.S. policy. For example, the CP list includes Vice-President Li Tsung-jen, a hope of Ambassador Stuart. U.S. is anxious for an organized group of its supporters to initiate peace moves but the CP’s decisive rejection to date of Nanking feelers may force these groups to bypass Chiang if they are to save their hides. The CP inclusion of men like Li and others on their list evoked the first angry blast against the Chinese Stalinists by the State Department since January 1947.

The abandonment of Tsingtao by U.S. Marines is part of the pro-peace policy being pursued by the State Department. Pressure on Chiang was increased in Washington as President Truman let it be known that no new allocations to Nanking would be considered before April. But when the CP turned thumbs down on Vice-President Li and Chang Chi-chun, who are in Ambassador Stuart’s confidence, the U.S. lost this line of approach. It will now be forced to make even bigger concessions to the CP.

Meanwhile Chiang has called in his generals from outlying provinces in order to consolidate his power against the defeatist factions which grow daily. The fact that several of these generals have not turned up indicates the military disintegration of Chiang’s power. Nevertheless he still holds the power. With his consolidation of the loyal military around himself and his issuance of the New Year “peace program” he took the initiative away from Sun and the new government.

The next development will have to seek to unseat Chiang, but if he proves immovable he will be by-passed by desperate people and he will be left with the shred of legality but nothing more. His end is in sight.

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