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Crimes of Stalin

Lydia Beidel

The Crimes of Stalin

III. Stalin Beheads the Chinese
Revolution, 1925–27

(22 November 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 47, 22 November 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In China: The struggle of the masses against feudal oppression and foreign imperialism took on a new form in 1923; the proletariat underwent a rapid independent development, organizationally and politically. Trade unions mushroomed and strikes grew in number and size, taking on a distinctly political quality. By 1925, union membership in China was higher than in Russia in October 1917. Tremendous general strikes shook the main industrial centers; the peasant masses and middle classes were in revolt; British, Japanese and American imperialism were on the defensive. Political leadership of China’s unrest lay in the Kuomintang, a party of national liberation formed by Sun Yat-Sen.

In the Comintern: Lenin’s last illness removed him from active leadership; Trotsky fought adamantly against the threatened mishandling of the Chinese situation, but was completely isolated by Stalin, well along in his anti-Trotskyism campaign. Trotsky presented his criticism in a brilliant series of articles entitled Lessons of the Chinese Revolution.

In the Theses of the Second Congress of the Communist International (1920), Lenin formulated Bolshevik policy on the Chinese revolution.

Oriental parties of the C.I. were urged to enter into united front movements with organized sections of non-proletarian oppressed classes (peasantry, urban middle class), always, however, “preserving the independent character of the proletarian movement, even though it be still in its embryonic state.”

Stalin’s Invention

Stalin in 1925 invented a new political concept: the “bloc of four classes” (proletariat, peasantry, petty bourgeoisie, and a section of the native big bourgeoisie).

Application of Stalin’s ideas could have but one practical result: to bind the revolutionary proletariat to the program of the native capitalist class. Such a concept springs from a gross and criminal misjudgment of the Chinese revolution as purely bourgeois- democratic in nature – the Menshevik error of 1917 repeated by Stalin in the case of China.

Lenin taught that the native capitalist class of a colonial country is torn between its desire to fight off foreign imperialist domination and its fear of the worker and peasant masses at home. Experience has proven that the fear of unleashing the masses for revolt against imperialism is greater in the last analysis than the desire for independence from foreign domination, and that the native capitalists of such countries try to betray the exploited classes.

The Revolution Begins

1925 opened two bloody years of Chinese struggle against native and foreign capitalist oppression, in which the membership of the C.P. took heroic part, though prevented from assuming political leadership by Stalin and his henchmen in China.

In January 1924, Stalin sent the entire membership of the Chinese C.P. (as individuals) into the Kuomintang, a “four-class party” ready-made for him. Borodin, Stalin’s agent, was sent to China to carry out the line. From then on, members of the C.P. were subservient to the discipline of the liberal bourgeoisie.

On March 20, 1926, General Chiang Kai-Shek, representative of the Chinese capitalist class, who had been flirting with the Stalinist C.I. since Sun Yat-Sen’s death, staged a coup d’etat and assumed leadership of the Kuomintang. He immediately laid down stringent rules paralyzing the activities of the C.P. members in his party; Borodin-Stalin agreed. Chiang outlawed the magnificent Canton strikes; Borodin-Stalin acceded. Chiang launched his Northern campaign, using C.I. propagandists as a front. Workers, under the C.I.’s misleadership, flocked to the warlord’s support. He thanked them by destroying their unions. Not a word of warning came from the Communist Party under Stalin that Chiang Kai-Shek, representative of the native capitalist class, would turn on the workers and peasants.

Still the fever of rebellion rose. The role of the C.P. of China was limited to fighting in the spirit of Chiang’s first slogan: “A 20% reduction in rent.” Trotsky persistently demanded that the C.P. withdraw from the Kuomintang and conduct an independent struggle for the formation of Soviets.

The crassest expression of the Stalinist policy appeared in a manifesto issued by the Chinese C.P., saying: “We must carry on a minimum of class struggle ...”

Defeat and Disaster

In February 1927, as he waited to enter Shanghai, General Chiang delivered a pogrom speech against the C.P. Reply came in the form of instructions from Mandalian, C.P. leader, ordering the party “not to provoke Chiang” and “in case of extreme necessity to bury their arms.” Stalin and Chiang exchanged autographed pictures. The C.P. and the Kuomintang issued a joint statement calling for unity behind Chiang.

Chiang entered Shanghai, welcomed by the masses who were misguided and lulled by C.P. policy. He quickly established connections with the imperialists, and on April 12, 1927, he struck, literally hacking the militant working class movement to pieces. All trade unions and the C.P. were driven underground.

In an attempt to save face, Stalin now at last announced that the Chinese revolution had really begun and influenced the Canton party in December 1927 to organize an ill-timed and poorly prepared uprising. But the workers’ organizations were now, thanks to Stalin, bewildered or smashed, and the Canton Soviet after three days was drowned in blood.

Effects on the Chinese C.P.

The Communist Party of China grew between 1925 and 1927 from 800 to over 60,000 members, most of whom were proletarians. It enjoyed the support of the great mass of the peasantry. On November 8, 1928, a circular issued by the Central Committee of the Chinese C.P. stated: “The party does not have a single healthy party nucleus among the industrial workers.” By 1930, less than 2% of the membership was proletarian. The unions were smashed. Capitalist terror against worker and peasant raged.

Stalin, organizer of proletarian defeats, had helped to behead the Chinese revolution and give new life to imperialism in the Orient.

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Last updated: 20 March 2016