Isaacs Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

George Stern

Behind the Lines

(29 September 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 74, 29 September 1939, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

It hasn’t taken long for Sino-Japanese peace rumors to begin circulating as a direct sequel to the Soviet-Japanese truce. These rumors may be nothing more than a smokescreen barrage accompanying the resumption of large-scale hostilities by the Japanese on Kiangsi, Honan, and Shansi fronts. Nevertheless, such rumors seldom arise out of a vacuum.

The fact is that the proclamation of the new central puppet Chinese government to be headed by Wang Ching-wei has been again postponed. This latest bit of Japanese midwifery was supposed to be scheduled for Oct. 10, the anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Republic. Postponement of the blessed event is being attributed in Shanghai to the opening of secret negotiations involving the Japanese, the would-be puppets and Kuomintang leaders at Chungking, with Russia in the role of mentor.

Out of Chungking come sharp denials that such negotiations are under way or even contemplated. At the same time Chinese leaders are clearly digesting the effect upon them of the spectacular turn of events in Europe. Should a Moscow-Berlin-Tokyo axis become a reality – and it is far from that as yet – we may be sure that Chiang Kai-shek will ponder deeply the ultimate value of friendship with Britain before decisively rejecting any peace overtures that come from Japan. For Chiang Kai-shek yields to no one, not even to Stalin, in his capacity to make 180-degree turns in policy and his ability to make such turns effective by ruthlessly crushing all who oppose it.

But the war will have to proceed to a further stage and the tempo of Roosevelt’s drive to bring the U.S. into it will have to be measured before the Kuomintang chieftains would care to take any such decisive step. For the time being, however, they are confronted with the (act that they face a Japan untrammeled by any serious deterrents. Japan is freed – even if only temporarily – of the need for counting on a clash with Russia. Of this the Tokyo militarists are determined to take the fullest possible advantage by hastening conclusion of their grab in China. Reading the news from Poland, the Tokyo generals doubtless figure they had better take while the taking is good before Stalin commits another of his acts of “peace and liberation” on the Far Eastern front.

This leaves the Chungking government suspended in a position of uncertainty that is likely to become agonizing before long. Judging from the news dispatches there are mixed, feelings in the Chinese capital on the effects of the Soviet-Japanese truce upon the Sino-Japanese war. Certainly by no stretch of any imagination do they believe the Chinese position to be improved by that truce – as Harry Gannes of the Daily Worker would like his readers to believe. The thin trickle of arms from Russia has not been much help to the Chinese, but if this trickle ceases and along with it the supplies secured from the Western powers, the resultant disadvantage may outweigh the geographical factors which for the present constitute their principal military asset against the new Japanese drives.

Top of page

Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 4 March 2016