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Henry Judd

World Politics

China’s Future
(Part 2)

(3 January 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 1, 3 January 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In last week’s column we outlined briefly the course by which China’s Stalinist movement, thanks to the unhampered aid indirectly given it by the reactionary regime of Chiang Kai-shek, has grown to gigantic proportions so that today it is ready to assume power over the nation as a whole. This fact confronts the political world with such an unbalancing of present forces that all political tendencies – governmental, democratic, radical, revolutionary – must readjust their outlook and analyses accordingly.

We cannot, of course, accept the popular view among journalists that what is happening is simply a shift of direction by Stalin and Moscow in their campaign against the United States. Blocked in the West (that is, Europe), so runs this viewpoint, Stalin has turned his field of action toward the East (that is, Asia). Undoubtedly, Stalin benefits considerably by the victories of the Chinese Stalinist movement and certainly takes it into account in planning his future actions and strategy. But not only is it simply not an all-sided victory from his viewpoint, in that it creates the danger of a new Titoistic tendency to disturb him; it must also be borne in mind that we are witnessing a veritable social overturn and not merely a battle between America and Russia in China. This last factor, at the moment, is of little importance and far outweighed by what is occurring within and to China itself.

Complications Multiply as Forces Advance

Within the past few weeks it is clear that the leadership of Chinese Stalinism itself must be freshly evaluating the situation and analyzing the meaning of its remarkable victories. The closer it approaches the vital areas of China – particularly the seaboard cities where both foreign imperialism and a large city population and working class await it – the more carefully must Stalinism itself inspect its future and lay its plans. Caution seems to he increasingly the word, and the immediate objective seems to be a coalition government with Chinese politicians and elements not too much tarred by the Kuomintang brush. Above all, power must be assumed with reasonable calmness and orderliness in the great cities and a violent transition is to be avoided.

The overturning of the ancient feudal land relationships has built up a tidal wave which is now flowing on and which has – in backward, agrarian China – sufficient momentum to engulf the cities where a passive and beaten proletariat lives. Chinese Stalinism is depending upon a peaceful and orderly future in which it can consolidate its power, build up its own administrations and bureaucracy, prepare the day when, with one stroke, it can liquidate today’s apparently unavoidable coalition government, trade with the Western powers and accumulate capital and goods for some kind of an industrialization program, and keep Stalin’s hot and suspicious breath from blowing down the neck of Mao- tze, the potential Tito of China. This is a program of accumulated headaches, and explains why Stalinism does not yet administer the final coup to Chiang.

Simultaneously, all world powers are busily reconsidering their relations with the China of the future. The Dutch attack upon Indonesia has further complicated the problem of this reconsideration since it has given the Stalinists not only a new departure point for invigorated campaigns against imperialism, but has aroused Asiatic nationalism as nothing before. The possibility of an Asiatic bloc, no matter how feeble it might be at first, would be unwelcome to American imperialism at present and largely explains the exasperation with which America has reacted to the Dutch invasion. With such blundering, how can American imperialism plan its business with Stalinist China and develop a Marshall Plan for Asia as a whole? Yet this is the real perspective that America now has. Since the ultimate issue of Russia versus America is to be decided by war, reason the leading American imperialists, while we have suffered a serious reverse in China it is not disastrous. In Europe we have had a partial success in our program, and momentarily halted Stalinism. With time we can perhaps even partly make up for the defeat in China, but in any case the Third World War will ultimately decide everything, and China represents only backwardness and ignorant masses.

This is an analysis of rationalization and consolation, and probably the only one that can be drawn from the defeat. Its value cannot be determined today, but only when we shall see more clearly how far Chinese Stalinism can go with its program and what – in practice – it can accomplish toward the industrialization and modernization of China.

Interpretations of China Events

Other political tendencies have tentatively attempted to pass judgment on the events in China, with a minimum of success and even disaster in some cases. Most of the conservative labor movement, of course, has little or no interest in such matters and pays no attention to them. Certain isolated labor leaders of the Mathew Woll stripe have made isolated remarks critical of the American government for not backing up Chiang Kai-shek! This contribution to political thought, based upon the remarks of Max Eastman at the recent AFL convention, have been ignored by the State Department, which knows a lost cause when it sees it. Eastman’s wisdom is not available to the State Department. The rest of the press has been sucking whatever meager comfort it could out of the situation and mumbling about “we can still do business.”

Of particular interest has been the New York Evening Post, a newspaper of traditional liberalism, which has championed the cause of the Chinese Stalinists! Since the organized liberal movement in America has maintained an embarrassed silence on the whole matter, it is curious that the one loud liberal political voice should be behind that of Chinese Stalinism under the total misconception that their cause represents a “democratic people’s movement” which shall bring the traditional American liberal precepts of peace, prosperity and freedom to 450 millions of people. The editorials of the Post exhibit a vigorous example of liberalism aiding a noble cause, “in our nation’s finest traditions” which is outmatched only by the writer’s utter incomprehension of what is going on.

Stalinism in China, to him, is a democratic movement of the masses to end “corruption” and bring the modern world into being; it is the fulfillment of Sun Yat-sen’s people’s program, etc. One would never dream in reading these remarks that Stalinism, with a tradition and program of its own, exists! This is indeed making the best out of a situation, in the best American traditions of optimism and progress, but what relation has it to reality? In an event of such scope we see our famous liberals either maintaining a blanket silence or so twisting their conceptions as to pervert all their treasured “values” beyond recognition and make the victory of a reactionary, bureaucratic and totalitarian force something that even if no longer pretends to be! Many years have passed since Chinese Stalinism claimed to be a gentle, harmless ewe, offspring of the lamb of democracy.

In the radical movement, with the exception of the Workers Party, only the SWP has had anything to say on China. It naturally supports the Stalinist movement – with its monotonously repeated criticism and stale “qualifications” – and is sure that the hopelessly isolated Trotskyist sect in Shanghai will be able to “survive.” The Militant “Far East expert,” Li Fu-jen, writes a letter to the editor from Los Angeles in which he slaps down a not so expert comrade who had suggested that “the Chinese Stalinists continue to score successes not because of their own policies but despite them.” It seems, according to Li Fu-jen, that the Stalinists’ agrarian program, which he quotes at great length, is “... drastic, radical – yes, revolutionary. I doubt if a Trotskyist government would proceed very differently in tackling the land program in the initial stages.” Not only does he show his incomprehension of a revolutionary agrarian program, but Li Fu-jen joins with the Post in proclaiming a “democratic” revolution as taking place in China. The Post, at any rate, has the decency to stop at this point, but not our Far Eastern expert.

He must criticize the Stalinists to prove he is still a Trotskyist. The Stalinists, he says, “offer nothing to the city proletariat except a continuation of wage-slavery in industries owned by capitalists, with whom they hope to force a coalition government ... The Stalinists hope to rule China, in coalition with the bourgeoisie, with a satisfied peasantry as their base.” This, of course, is the familiar SWP version of events according to which Stalinism operates as an “agent of capitalism” (in this instance, Chinese capitalism) and desires only to keep capitalism alive. Of course, to be consistent, Li Fu-jen must really insist that Chinese capitalism is really undergoing a rebirth and has a wonderful future ahead of it since every Marxist knows that “democracy” symbolizes the highest flowering and flourishing of capitalism. If he could only persuade the Kuomintang leaders and bankers, along with the industrialists and landlords, that such is their future, he could replace both Confucius, the Chinese Buddha and even the opium pipe as a course of cheerful consolation!

Narrowness, one-sidedness, half-blindness and, above all, a lack of the proper imaginative vision to see the sweep and scope of China’s Stalinist revolution – these characterize to date the suggested evaluations of the event.

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