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Japan Widens Attack on North China

(February 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 13, 27 February 1933, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The hypocrisy of the imperialist League of Nations in its attitude towards China stands recorded in every speech of the “statesmen”. The League was founded for the maintenance of a robbers’ status quo and for the crushing of the Soviet Union, these two aims going necessarily hand in hand. It is worth recalling for a moment the historic antecedents of the present League.

Its prototype was the Holy Alliance initiated by Czar Alexander. The clearest expression of that alliance was given in the Protocol of Troppau in 1820. The advance of “democracy” had not yet made mandatory care in the wording of documents. That protocol stated, “If owing to such (revolutions), immediate danger threatens other states, the Powers bind themselves by peaceful means, or if need be by arms, to bring back the guilty state to the bosom of the Great Alliance.” With the necessary modification due to the march of history, this is still the doctrine of the League. It must be recalled further that the first Hague Peace Conference was initiated by another Czar, Nicholas II, in 1898; that finally, the League was constituted by the most reactionary imperialist diplomats after a robbers’ world war. China is still in the throes of revolution, halted but for a moment. The League and the Japanese call this intense and profound movement of the Chinese masses that is forcing the submerged workers and peasants on to the stage of history, nothing but “chaos” and “anarchy”. In reality this places China outside the pale of the League. And that is the complete tenor of Matsuoka’s speech of withdrawal from the League. That speech is the declaration, if it still needed any declaration, that it is “open season” for the robber imperialists in China. “That (lack of unity) is one reason why China – is unable to defend itself today, unable to rid itself as it desires, of foreign military forces stationed in and about the treaty ports and of foreign vessels that ply the Yangtse Kiver. These forces are not only Japanese. They are British, American, French, Italian and others ... Less than five years ago a portion of these forces, British and American, had to go into action at Nanking.” In short, says Japan, let us make no bones about the matter, we are doing precisely what you would like to do, but we are doing it first.

The attitude of British capitalism at this juncture is superbly stated by Winston Churchill who tells America that she will have to pull her own chestnuts out of the fire. “Even if foreign countries engaged in a war there is no reason why a wise, honorable foreign policy should not enable us to stand aside.” That is to say let the U.S. and Japan ruin each other while we keep the arena from becoming a free-for-all. Churchill goes on, after stating that the League cannot force England into a war: “The first duty of British statesmen is to make sure we are not drawn into any war, and it is only their second (!) duty to try to prevent others from fighting of to try to end their quarrels ... We do not want to throw away our old friendship with Japan.” Churchill tells Japan plainly that she has a perfectly free hand in China so far as England is concerned. In fact he compares directly what Japan is doing in China with what England herself is engaged in carrying out in India. And indeed the comparison is most apt!

Meantime the League begins a new tune on the arms embargo. Such an embargo would hardly be worth the paper to record it. No government that wished to do so (and the munitions makers of all countries are most eager to get going) would be prevented from winking at slight “irregularities” that meant good business. Right now both England and France are supplying munitions to Japan at top speed. Nor do or will the American Guggenheims hesitate for one moment in shipping vast quantities of nitrates from Chile – enough for a prolonged war with America if that war breaks out. An arms embargo would be merely another scrap of paper.

Opinions have been freely expressed that Japan will shortly find herself in dire financial straits. This is not true in the immediate, naive sense stated. So long as France has vast hoards of unused gold, Japan will secure all the financing it needs from the great money-lender of Europe. Particularly is this true because France fears as much as does Japan the unification of China which would mean the ultimate ousting of the reactionary French from Annam and South China. The rub will come for Japan when the debts fall due, when its internal shakiness becomes accentuated by desperate efforts at more intense exploitation of its workers and peasants. The cost of living rises to stupendous heights in Japan while real wages fall. The strict Japanese censorship screens out the news of peasant riots and workers’ strikes that are surface indications of the seething below. In the end it is the inescapable internal contradictions of Japanese economy that spell the doom of her imperialism.

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