Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Labor Action, 4 April 1949


Jack Brad

China CP Set to Take Cities;
Peace Unlikely


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 14, 4 April 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


After a stalemate lasting almost four months, the Chinese Communist Party last week finally appointed a five-man commission to open “peace” negotiations with a similar committee of the Nanking government. This is the first break in the unacknowledged and tenuous truce.

The Nanking Kuomintang (KMT) had made overtures to the Stalinists as early as the middle of January. Its committee has been in existence for several months. It has even visited the northern headquarters of the CP in an effort to force the opening of discussion. The CP. on its part, stated on January 22: “We are willing to negotiate the question’ of a peaceful settlement with the reactionary Nanking government.” Yet, with all this surface willingness, the CP has held the Nanking group at arm’s length and only now has set April 1 as the specific date it would meet the nationalist representatives in its own new capital city of Peiping.

Basis for negotiation has also long been established by the victorious Stalinists as the now famous eight-point program of Mao Tze-tung. While Nanking has not indicated the slightest tendency to accept these points it has acknowledged them as the axes for discussion. Thus there appears on the surface to be some reason to expect a resolution of at least some aspects of the conflict. However, an examination of the CP “peace” proposals dashes all such expectations to smithereens.

In reality the eight points are not negotiable matters, but constitute a set of demands on Nanking. Heading the list is the demand for “punishment of war criminals.” The list of “war criminals” issued by the CP to date – and this is a flexible list constantly being enlarged – includes almost all the important members of what is left of the government and army from Chiang Kai-shek down. It also includes the present head of state, Li Tsung-jen, who is to organize, ratify and execute any decisions agreed to. It also includes General Ho, the new prime minister.

The other demands constitute a program for liquidation of the entire KMT regime. The “bogus constitution” is to be abrogated, the “legitimacy of traditional institutions is to be abolished,” “all reactionary armies [are to be remodeled] in accordance with democratic principles.” and “all treaties of national betrayal” are to be abrogated, that is, all treaties with the U.S.

As a capstone to this program, it proposes to “convoke a political consultative conference without the participation of reactionary elements, establish a democratic coalition government, take over all power from the Nanking KMT reactionary government and all its levels of government.” The “reactionary elements” referred to are constituted by the present regime and all its cliques, by the CP’s own definition. These groups are not to be allowed participation in the political conference which is to set up the new state. They cannot, therefore, call such a conference themselves. Only the CP can do this under the above stipulations. This is not so much a demand on Nanking, then, as a declaration of intent by the CP to outlaw Nanking from its future regime. Such a proposal obviously cannot be negotiated.

No Choice For Nanking

In addition to these political demands, Mao also calls for “reform of the agrarian system and confiscation of bureaucratic capital.” That is, he insists that the landlord class be driven from power in the countryside and that the “Four Families” who rule the KMT and the economy have their wealth confiscated. For the KMT to do this, it must wage civil war against itself.

The eight points are really. a declaration of policy by the CP, a statement of national reorganization of the state and social order in city and country of a character which specifically excludes the present Nanking regime and all the other old cliques of the former Chiang Kai-shek party and state. They are not meant to be proposals for peace; that is, there is no basis for compromise implicit in them. It is, therefore, unlikely that the coming Peiping conference will result in “peace” or even in a ceasefire.

Nanking is fully aware of this reality. However, it has no choice whatsoever. Its only thin ray of hope is for a breathing spell during which some positive force could emerge to re-establish the basis of resistance. Also, an irresistible tide of popular desire for peace is the ruling passion of all sections of the population in South China. The Stalinists do not have such a ferment in their conquered territories. Without substantial gestures toward negotiation, Vice-President Li would go the way of Chiang. Already the city councils of Shanghai, Nanking and a score of other cities in KMT hands have demanded peace in no uncertain terms. These councils, representatives of merchants, compradores and small and foreign bourgeoisies, have no overwhelming stake in the Nanking regime. Their first desire is for stability, which the CP offers. To prevent the complete defection of these cities, Li is forced to make serious approaches and offer concessions to the Stalinists.

It is interesting to note that no one in the Nanking government has offered any other program or expressed possible exceptions the KMT might take to Mao Tze-tung’s eight points. There could be no more damning announcement of the KMT’s bankruptcy than this silence, which stems from an inability to offer ANYTHING. Any program at all that Li and his Kwangsi clique might develop would probably be rejected by other groups in KMT. Any modification he might propose to the CP’s program would be the occasion for placing the onus on him for disrupting the hope for peace.

The outstanding political fact of Nationalist China is the continued disintegration of the entire governmental edifice. During these four months of halt in actual warfare there has been further deterioration, rather than reorganization of the government. Chiang remains the crucial figure with power. From his retreat in Fenghua, on the southern coast, he continues to control large sections of the bureaucracy and the army.

The economic situation has decayed even more rapidly. The gold yuan currency unit in Nationalist areas, fell in one month from 2,400 to the dollar to 13,000, a decline of over 300 per cent. So low has this currency fallen that many government units are refusing it for taxes. Trade is coming to a standstill. A merchant cannot predict prices more than a few hours ahead. The price of rice increased 400 per cent in January alone. Workers are refusing wages in money and demand rice because exchange is unfavorable and money worthless. There are continuous strikes in all the large cities as workers demand payment in kind. Soldiers’ mutinies are chronic occurrences because they too demand payment in silver, gold or rice.

New Split

All this makes it doubtful that Li could organize any resistance, even given a continued respite. There is a paradox in these circumstances. For as Li proves increasingly ineffectual the CP has less and less reason to negotiate with him. The CP needs a coalition but it must be a coalition of substance, that can bring some power to the CP. As one Stalinist dispatch put it: “Apart from his own Kwangsi group, he cannot represent anyone else.” CP propaganda constantly refers to Li as a front for Chiang, tool of America and “war criminal.” Thus Li cannot fulfill any bargain; he serves no purpose, even to the CP, which is seeking a coalition.

There is still another quality that Li lacks, from the Stalinist viewpoint. The CP favors a coalition, but one of its own creation and completely dependent upon it. But Li, while daily more powerless, is strongly tainted with American ties. It was U.S. Ambassador Stuart who championed his victory over Chiang. For the Stalinists this represents a. double danger. American policy is to foster “peace” negotiations in China today, and to try to rally a pro- American group on a “liberal” basis. If Li were really permitted to make peace, this U.S. protagonist would become the rallying center of any anti-Stalinist sentiments that developed. as it is bound to, in the future coalition. Many elements which are now supporting the CP coalition because there is no alternative would have such an alternative if Li could bring peace to China.

Recognition of Li’s basic inacceptability to the CP has already produced a new split in KMT circles. This split is not yet in the open but there is a rumor that a document is being secretly circulated which will demand of Li “a shift in the government’s foreign policy and that the time for toeing the U.S. line in international politics is now over.” It is not difficult to foresee a growing ascendancy for such sentiments, which will further undermine Li’s position and open more possibilities to the CP.

The biggest problem faced by the CP, with its agrarian base and lack of skilled personnel, is organization and administration of power in the cities. Their agrarian history and experience give them no guide, nor do they give them substantial support in the cities. Yet they cannot march forward another inch without taking the great metropoli on the Yangtze, Shanghai, Nanking and Hankow. There is considerable disagreement in the CP leadership on how to proceed.

For if the present situation has created great difficulties for KMT, it has also created enormous problems for the CP. Over the question of what to do next there have arisen at least two viewpoints, as near as one can discern, given the conspiratorial top-level nature of such differences in Stalinist parties. The disagreement seems to hinge on the question of local political settlements versus national military conquest. (Putting this into words gives more substance to the differences than is as yet certain.)

This appears to be the shadow of the conflict at present. The respective proponents appear to be Mao Tze-tung and the old Chinese leadership who favor the cautious “Peiping Formula” of local, political step-by-step conquest. The opposition appears to be led by General Lin Piao, generally considered a spokesman for Li Li-san, whose base is in the army and in the party among the younger, more recent recruits to the bureaucracy. Li Li-san also represents the more Russified section of the leadership. It is these political problems, although military and material considerations are also important, which have forced the protracted halt of the Stalinist armies on the northern bank of the Yangtze.

Several weeks ago the party’s central committee held a plenum at which it now appears Mao’s views carried. This is most clearly indicated by the composition of the CP “plan’’ negotiating committee of five which includes General Chu, who is Mao’s man, and two Hunanese. who are old-time CP bureaucrats of the Mao apparatus, and General Lin Piao. This plenum lasted eight days. After it a statement was issued declaring a new orientation toward the “rehabilitation and development” of industrial’ production. That is to say, the crucial axis of the party’s activities is to be shifted to the cities. This marks a major reorientation of enormous significance. It opens up all of Central China to Stalinist conquest. It makes more crucial than ever the coalition formula. It also will necessitate a reorganization of the party structure which has been more suitable to villages. Recently, the CP issued a call for 10,000 university students to join special party schools to learn urban administration. Thus the new emergent bureaucratic class is to draw to itself from the sons of the former cultured urban classes rather than from the sons of the “tukhao” (Chinese kulaks) as hitherto. The countryside will be made subservient to the city’s needs.

The party has had great difficulty already in its few cities. Shortages of raw materials and imports have limited industrial production in CP areas. Food supply has not been sufficient and it is rumored that inflation is making headway. There have even been strikes and certainly great confusion and discontent in Stalinist-held cities. A vast sweep forward into the countryside, as Lin Piao repeatedly proposed, would bypass these problems apparently, but in reality intensify them. In South China, agrarian problems are infinitely more complex than in the already conquered areas. Without the cities any program in the village would meet with disaster. Mao is trying to make a change before chaos ensues. This will not be simple.

The “Peiping Formula,” which is apparently Mao’s strategy, is, by definition of the CP news agency, “a movement headed for local and separate peace in the various cities held by the KMT.” It is a movement led by the merchant and capitalist classes, with the workers as passive elements. This is the basis for the new CP coalition on both national and local levels. Cities would be taken in disregard of national negotiations with Li and by-passing the Nanking regime. There will be many consequences from this new policy that should be followed closely. For the first time Chinese Stalinism is to meet the working class.

Top of page

Main LA Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 2 August 2019