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James M. Fenwick

Off Limits

The Wrangle Over China

Part V

(24 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 12, 24 March 1947, p. 4..
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

“On January 31,” recounts Lauwrence K. Rosinger, “after three weeks of deliberation, a Political Consultative Conference, representing the government, Communists, Democratic League and non-partisans, completed a series of far-reaching accords. A transitional coalition government was to be established and replaced later by a constitutional administration; China’s political armies were to be reorganized and nationalized; and civil liberties were to be guaranteed. Plans for agrarian, educational and industrial reforms were announced, and other clauses provided for democratic revision of the Kuomintang-proposed Draft Constitution.”

A month later an accord was reached unifying the armies on the basis of fifty Kuomintang and ten Stalinist divisions.

These agreements were undermined with dispatch. In March the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang proposed serious changes in the agreements, calling for the restoration of the old 1936 undemocratic draft constitution. “Rightwing” demonstrations were organized. A “liberal” mass meeting in Shungking celebrating the Political Consultative Conference was broken up. Sporadic warfare broke out again on the fronts. By August the farce had been played out.

“... after Chiang Kai-shek’s six-point program of August 14,” says Hugh Deane, writing in The Nation, “which was virtually a demand for surrender cloaked in the threadbare promise of ‘constitutional’ government, the Communist press and radio became more militant, saying that civil war was an actuality and demanding with new sharpness that the United States close its intervention.”

Marshall’s strictures against the Stalinists for their role in sabotaging a coalition regime were never very honest. His bias in favor of the Kuomintang has hardly been disguised. The constitution was heavily weighted in favor of the Kuomintang. The Stalinists had reason to be dubious of their career in a coalition. In addition, it is likewise in Stalin’s interest to maintain a large peasant army in China.

The U.S. Applies the Squeeze

The policy of the Stalinists is based upon the hope of a Kuomintang economic and political debacle. It tacks carefully in regard to the U.S. avoiding sharp diplomatic encounters, and hoping for a worsening economic situation in the United States and other international commitments by the United States to minimize the aid which the U.S. will extend the Kuomintang. In China the Stalinists are posing as the genuine anti-imperialists, a pose which it is possible to make seem credible because of Chiang Kai-shek’s ties with the U.S. They also are the loudest proponents of peace, hoping thereby, of course, to impose their own particular imperialist peace upon China.

Russia herself is playing an extremely cagey game in China. She gives no overt support to the Stalinists. Even during the war, in fact, she did not send aid to them, though she did send considerable aid to Chiang Kai-shek via the Sinkiang road. Russia wants no real showdown with the U.S. on the China question. That she does furnish political and organizational guidance to the Chinese Stalinists goes without saying.

When Chiang Kai-shek refused to toe the mark, the United States immediately applied the economic squeeze. Credits and raw materials were withheld. A threat to permit UNRRA to lapse was made. U.S. troops were withdrawn. The Stalinists became more active. Along with the currency and commercial stability generally, confidence in the nationalist régime blew up. Economic controls were hastily imposed by the nationalist government but with nobody seriously believing in their efficacy.

At the same time Chiang Kai-shek improvised a few harmless concessions calculated to pacify the United States, the Chinese “liberals,” and the peasant masses. Disaffection had been pronounced in the army. Composed of conscripts taken almost exclusively from the poorest peasant families, they live and die under the most pitiable conditions and have proved susceptible to Stalinist propaganda. In carefully measured doses room was made for the Social Democrats and the pro-Kuomintang Youth Party in the government. With the Democratic League and the Stalinists not in the government the Kuomintang will have slight difficulty in retaining control.

Further bureaucratically created constitutional reforms have been made, but all are so hobbled that if and when the amended constitution is installed at the end of this year the Kuomintang position will hardly be menaced. Chinese “liberals,” that is to say, elements of the capitalist class, were placated by orders restoring certain nationalized enterprises to private ownership.

The War Continues

Simultaneously, arrests of all suspected Stalinists in the nationalist zone were made, as a prelude, it was widely interpreted, to a renewal of the war drive. Chiang Kai-shek is counting on the U.S. antagonism to Russia to bail him out if his internal situation gets out of control. This is obvious in his propaganda, whose fire is concentrated on the Stalinists.

In the exhausting civil war which is in prospect, the U.S. is hoping for reverses to the Kuomintang which will force it to accede to U.S. demands. This has its dangers in terms of an increase in Stalinist strength. But total occupation by the U.S. being ruled out, it is inevitable that at some point the U.S. will give Chiang Kai-shek all that he needs.

Thus today the Chinese worker and peasant is concretely confronted with the choice of two evils: a repressive Chiang Kai-shek regime, dominated by the landlords, bankers, and merchants and backed by U.S. capital, which meets none of the needs of the Chinese masses and is prepared to sacrifice them in a war against Russia, or a Stalinist regime, which, despite whatever minor land reforms it is prepared to make, cannot solve the problems of the Chinese people, but prepares for them the bureaucratic collectivist yoke and their subordination to the economic political, and military necessities of Russia.

Next to India, China is the largest agrarian country in the world. Its key problem – land reform – can be resolved only under the leadership of the urban proletariat, in whose direct interest lies the expropriation of the landlord class by the peasantry. Given the imperialist structure of the world today, this action must be supplemented by the revolutionary, socialist activity of the world proletariat, and of the United States working class in particular.

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