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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

The Wrangle Over China

Part II

(3 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 9, 3 March 1947, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

During the war political necessity made mandatory the portrayal of the Kuomintang as a model democratic institution and invested its leader Chiang Kai-shek with an almost apostolic purity.

The new turn in Far Eastern events is causing the press to reveal a little of the real, and not ideological, Chiang Kai-shek and Kuomintang.

Actually, the Kuomintang, which forms the political base of the Chinese government, was never a democratic body. It was established in 1928, following the beheading of the revolutionary working class by Chiang Kai-shek, which brought to a close the period of revolutionary upsurge of the mid-’twenties.

The Kuomintang is a highly bureaucratized party of some 3,400,000 members – who represent the interests of the Chinese landlords, industrial capitalists, bankers and militarists. The influence of each of these groups within the government has varied according to the political situation. The whole Kuomintang, for instance, had a “left” caste during the period of the shaky alliance with the Communist Party in 1927 when the anti-imperialist struggle was at its height. During World War II the landlords were in the ascendant over the industrial capitalists and the bankers because of the loss of the latters’ base in the urban areas in eastern China. But the overall character of the Kuomintang has remained constant for two decades insofar as the workers and peasants of China are concerned.

Beneath the Piety

The London Economist, that acute organ of English capitalism, recently pointed out:

“Washington would quite sincerely prefer a real democratic parliamentary system in which the Communists would have equal political rights with, other parties. But there is no Parliament, there is no electorate; there is not even a reliable estimate of China’s population, let alone such a thing as an electoral register. There are only armies and generals, politicians, and party organizations, and beyond them the vast amorphous masses, millions of whom are at the moment suffering from famine.”

Protecting this structure is a secret police recruited from the underworld, exercising the familiar and amply used powers of censorship, arrest, coercion, detention, and assassination. The Kuomintang is wormeaten with corruption: graft (there was trading with the Japanese across the lines during the war) careerism (General Ho Peng-chu, recently reported captured and executed by the Stalinists, successfully served the Japanese during the war, the Kuomintang after the war, then the Stalinists, and lastly – once again the Kuomintang), bribery, close relations with gangsterdom, black marketing, etc.

Chiang himself is well qualified for the role of dictator-arbiter which he plays in China’s internal and external relations.

“His family,” says Lattimore in his book Solution in Asia, “came from that upper stratum of the farming class which is familiar with the outlook both of tfie landlord and of the tenant, and with business transactions as they are carried on by village merchants and money lenders.”

He was for a time himself a broker and businessman in Shanghai. He graduated from Paotingfu, the first modern military academy in China. He later studied in Japan. In 1923 he was sent to Russia for political and military training. Upon his return he headed the Whampoa Military Academy, where officers of the new nationalist army were trained. Through his marriage he gained access to western capitalist circles.

His knowledge of the landlord-peasant question, the confidence he enjoyed among the military cliques within the Kuomintang, his experience in Japan, Russia and with the western capitalist powers permitted him to play a unique role of mediation and coercion which has over a long period of years succeeded in holding together the desperate elements of the Kuomintang.

Dual Nature of Kuomintang

The Kuomintang is anti-imperialist only to a quite limited degree. Chinese capital is anti-imperialist only to the extent that it can wrest concessions from foreign capital and not rouse its own working class in doing so. “It rests heavily,” the scholar Suehsdorf points out, “on foreign recognition and support, which it gets from every interested nation, including Russia.”

This dependence, which is based, in actuality, almost solely upon the United States, has increased tremendously within the past decade. The dual character of the Kuomintang was very baldly revealed in a speech by Ching Kai-shek on July 7, 1939:

“Japan’s invasión of China now otters its third year and becomes more vicious every day. It now assumes the added form of an anti-foreign movement calculated to drive all Occidental rights and interests from Asia. The Powers, if only in defense of their own rights, should take more positive action.”

There are no serious forces opposing the policy of the Kuomintang within nationalist China. Despite heroic efforts by a handful of Trotskyists the revolutionary movement has been effectively crushed. Such opposition as exists is grouped within the Democratic League. It is composed of professors, students, and urban businessmen. Its line is determined in good part by sections of the capitalist class who are opposed to Chiang Kai-shek because of his close dependence upon the U.S., which inhibits the development of the native bourgeoisie; to the inflation, which has hindered the export trade; and to the governmental commercial monopolies, which exclude the capitalists from sure sources of profit.

To their criticisms Chiang Kai-shek has replied by winning over the conservative elements and by using threats and violence against the liberal wing. The very nature of their program precludes their winning over any substantial portion of the population.

The same applies especially to the Kuomintang.

“Lacking a program that could enlist genuine popular support and fearing demands by the people for reform,” states Lawrence K. Rosinger, the right-wing leaders find it impossible, except as a matter of temporary maneuvering, to abandon the policy of civil war.”

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