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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(21 November 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 89, 21 November 1939, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Twelve years ago the first Kuomintang-Communist united front was shattered when Chiang Kai-shek made a deal with the imperialists and sealed it in the blood of thousands of workers and peasants.

Today it begins to look as though the second “united front” is going to end as a result of a deal between Stalin and the Japanese.

Although the Moscow-Tokyo negotiations are still only in a preliminary stage, they have already resulted in a widening of the fissure between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Stalinists. Matters have on several occasions apparently already reached the stage of actual armed conflict between them.

Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese Stalinist chieftain, is quoted now as accusing Chiang Kai-shek of not establishing a democratic government. But what a fraud this is! When it suited the needs of their master in the Kremlin, the Chinese Stalinists came to terms with Chiang Kai-shek nearly three years ago. Although they also spoke then about “democratic government” it remained a hypocritical phrase, for the Kuomintang dictator naturally never took any steps to carry out that part of the bargain. Instead the Stalinists participated like docile lackeys in the farcical “People’s Council” which Chiang set up to simulate the appearance of popular support.

Throughout the course of the war under Chiang’s leadership the workers and peasants have been bled while the big capitalists and bankers rode high, wide, and handsome in the treaty ports held by the Japanese. Against all the venality, half-heartedness, and outright treachery that has marked the Kuomintang fight against Japan, the Stalinists never breathed a word publicly – until now, when their master in the Kremlin bids them prepare to cut loose from the anti-Japanese struggle in the interests of a deal between the Soviet bureaucracy and the Japanese imperialists!

Into what new muddy waters will the Kremlin now lead what is left of the Chinese Communist Party? As a workers’ party, it long ago ceased to exist. It's strength has rested exclusively upon the military force it has controlled, the former peasant Red Army. Today that Red Army has nothing in common with the heroic force of peasant' fighters who resisted six Kuomintang offensives in Central China from 1930 to 1934. As long ago as 1937, Stalinist leaders admitted only a handful of the Kiangsi veterans remained.

Today the “Red” army is scarcely distinguishable from the mercenary forces of the Kuomintang generals. Nevertheless, it is a force recruited, trained, and tried in the struggle against Japanese imperialism. How it will react, if Stalin orders abandonment of the fight against the invaders and converts it instead, into an instrument for Soviet penetration in the west, remains to be seen.

In any case, the division takes place over the trampled and disregarded body of the Chinese nationalist cause. In 1927 thousands of Communists paid with their lives in a needless sacrifice to the misleadership of the Kremlin. But they did fighting for Chinese liberation while Chiang Kai-shek became a spoke in the wheel of the imperialist chariot.

In his subsequent development, Chiang Kai-shek merely continued to reflect the pressure of Anglo-American imperialism. When they entered into a pact with him, the Stalinists were wooing the same master. But now the order is to switch camps. And that is all the Stalinist turn amounts to, in China, as elsewhere.

The struggle for Chinese liberation must and will go on, despite and against both camps of its betrayers and enemies. Its standard bearer is the small, heroic organization of the Fourth International which in many parts of China continues in the forefront of the struggle.

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Last updated on 15 April 2018