From New International, Vol. I No. 4, November 1934, pp. 127–128.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
by André Malraux
translated by Haakon M. Chevalier
360 pp. New York. Harrison Smith and Robert Haas. $2.50.
Aside from being one of the outstanding books of the present generation, Man’s Fate serves as a forceful indictment of the treacherous Stalinist policy pursued in the Chinese revolution. It is but another document, in fiction form, which bears out the correctness of the theories of the Left Opposition on China.
Malraux’s approach is that of an individualist and pessimist. For him, as for Hardy, Fate is always cruel. And Marxism is a “fatality”, although it may also play the part of “will”. His extreme individualism takes on an exaggerated form and at times bears an unreal aspect. Men who are in the midst of a great historical conflict, who must bend their entire energy to act objectively, stop with Malraux to analyze their innermost egos and search long and deeply into their recondite souls. The truism that revolutionists cannot be introverts is dispelled by Malraux’s characterization of his actors. His men, during the whole rapid drama, never forget themselves for a moment; they never lose themselves. The conflict of souls must go on.
All characters are extreme individualists. Each is quite different from the others and each seeks to give life a meaning. There is Chen, the terrorist, who attempts to resurrect the ancient and outmoded idea of individual terroristic acts. Kyo, the communist organizer, who seeks to give life dignity. Old Gisors who reaches the stage of the Buddhist Nirvana and wishes to deny both life and death. Katov, the Russian revolutionist, whose last supreme act of heroism is to give cyanide to his two frightened companions, carries out his idea of self-sacrifice to the last. And Ferral, the head of the French Consortium, who strives to do with his senses what be cannot do with his intellect. All must justify their lives because all think.
As we read on we see the revolution beginning to take shape and grow – the formation of the revolutionary cadres, the arming of the workers, the planning of the insurrection proper. We see the vivid attacks of the revolutionists and the disarming of the police of Shanghai. Shanghai falls arid the communists are in complete control.
The formation of Soviets is on the order of the day. Throughout all China the peasants are seizing the lands of the wealthy landlords. The workers are organizing into revolutionary syndicates and are forming nuclei for the future Red army. The masses are flocking to communism by the thousands, because communism is their own idea; it is the expression of their own needs and demands.
But the communists? Are they intensifying their propaganda? Are they forming Soviets? Are they organizing the Red army among the 200,000 unemployed of industrial Hankow? Not a bit. To do so would mean to break with the Kuo Min Tang, the organization of the Chinese petty and large bourgeoisie. It would mean that they must break with Chiang Kai-Shek, the military leader of the Kuo Min Tang. And that precisely is what the Stalintern will not allow. That is exactly what the Moscow Synod refuses to do. The Kuo Min Tang, according to the Stalinists, is the ally of the communists. Was it not solemnly admitted, against Trotsky’s lone vote, into the International, as a “sympathizing” party?
Let Kyo speak:
“First extend the Revolution, and then deepen it ... The line of the International seems to be to leave the power here to the bourgeoisie. Provisionally ... we shall be robbed. I have seen couriers from the front: all workers’ movements are prohibited behind the lines. Chiang Kai-Shek has had strikers fired on – after taking a few precautions ...”
“Before a fortnight the Kuo Min Tang will prohibit our assault sections. I have just seen some Blue officers, sent from the front to feel us out; they slyly insinuate that the firearms would be better off with them than with us. They want to disarm the workers’ guard; they will have the police, the Committee, the Prefect, the army, and the arms. And we shall have made the insurrection for that. We must leave the Kuo Min Tang, isolate the communist party, and if possible give it the power. In this whole matter it’s not a question of playing chess, but of thinking seriously of the proletariat.”
That exactly expresses the will of the masses. The workers know it would be suicide to give up the arms to Chiang Kai-Shek; yet Vologin, the agent of Moscow, directs them to do so – directs with his ecclesiastical hands (Malraux’s characterization is quite adequate). But not only does the International urge that the Chinese Communist party disarm the workers – it prohibits the seizure of land by the peasants. And all because the Kuo Min Tang wills it so. Truly, the ways of the ecclesiastics pass all understanding!
“And if the Military Committee, on the one hand, insisted on being given arms, no matter what happened, the Central Committee, knowing that the Trotskyist theses were attacking the union with the Kuo Min Tang, was terrified by any attitude that might, rightly or wrongly, seem to be linked up to that of the Russian Opposition.”
This is from Malraux, not from a Trotskyist. Rather lose the revolution, betray the masses, than follow the correct line, the line which reason dictates. Rather betray than have the “stigma” of Trotskyism cast on the Central Committee.
The results are inevitable. Chiang Kai-Shek, having disarmed the workers’ guard, proceeds to slaughter the Shanghai proletariat. The heroism of the workers is unbounded. Against tremendous odds, the handful of revolutionists who had disregarded the orders of the International, proceed to hold out against the murderous bands Chiang sends against them. Captured at last, all die like heroes.
So ended the experience of “Menshevism transferred to the soil of China”. It is interesting to note that Isadore Schneider, reviewing Man’s Fate in the Daily Worker, declares that the union with the Kuo Min Tang was necessary, that through it was developed the Chinese Communist Party and “smashed the spirit of compromise, the bargaining psychology.” He concludes:
“The Chinese people today realize how dangerous it is to go into partnership with capitalism. They have learned a lesson in political realism which their customs and institutions had blinded them to, until the Kuo Min Tang betrayal.”
A fine conclusion! The Chinese people were not blind. They did not lack political realism. The leaders, the directing heads of Moscow under Stalin were blind. The idea of communism spread, it is true, not because of the policies pursued by the Stalinists, but in spite of them. It grew in spite of the barriers erected by the ecclesiastics of Moscow, and it will triumph in spite of them. New Kyos will arise. New Katovs will come to lead the masses. But these Kyos and Katovs of the future Chinese Revolution will not be fooled again. They will smash not only the reaction from without, the Kuo Min Tang, but also the reaction from within, the Stalinists and their ecclesiastical decrees. All will be swept into the dust bin of history. Until then, let us wait patiently for the Kyos and Katovs of the future.
Last updated on 25 February 2016