Book Review

Roy Repudiates His Past

Source: The Labour Monthly, Vol. 14, February 1932, No. 2, pp. 123-124, (822 words)
Transcriptionp: Ted Crawford
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M. N. Roy, Revolution and Konterrevolution in China.
Soziologische Verlagsanstalt
Berlin, 1930.

Roy did not visit China as a prominent member of the social-fascist International, but, in 1927, as a delegate from the Comintern. As such he had the opportunity of observing a movement from within which Vandervelde could watch—if at all—only from afar and after the events. Unfortunately Roy did not write his China book as a Communist, but as an opponent of the Communist movement, after he had been expelled from it. Roy has recently declared that the Sixth Congress of the Comintern, the congress which was the first body to forecast the coming world economic crisis and a whole series of other events that have since occurred, did not pass a single correct resolution.

It is this spirit of blind animosity against all that is Communist, against all that the former Communist, Roy, once stood for himself, which gives its character to this book. Roy repudiates, sometimes openly, always implicitly, the method and the social point of view of Marx in so far as it was applied to China. (Thus if one reads what Roy writes about the “character” of feudalism or about the causes that have conditioned the special development of China, one finds it difficult not to think that he is writing with his tongue in his cheek, ridiculing, both his readers and Marxism as a whole). He further repudiates Lenin’s dialectical method and his interpretation of the Sun-Yat-Sen phase of the Chinese Revolution. (Lenin demanded a critical utilisation of the material supplied by the bourgeois specialists for an investigation on Marxist lines, since this was the only material which was available. Roy completely disregards this material of the experts and attempts to provide his own scheme in a most dilettante manner—with results which are scientifically catastrophic. Lenin regarded the young Chinese bourgeoisie as having up to a certain point a genuinely revolutionary spirit, while Roy always looks upon the Kuo Min Tang as composed of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois elements that can never be really revolutionary.) This pseudo-radicalism straightaway leads Roy to attack the Comintern from—the right! In 1920 Roy had written in his supplementary thesis on the National and Colonial question to the Second Congress of the Comintern: “It would be a mistake to attempt to solve the agrarian problem in many of the eastern countries according to pure Communist principles. In its early stages the revolution must be carried on with a programme including many petty-bourgeois reform demands such as the division of the land, &c. But from this it does not follow at all that the leadership of the revolution will have to be surrendered to the bourgeois democrats. On the contrary, the proletarian parties must carry on vigorous and systematic propaganda for the Soviet idea and organise peasants’ and workers’ Soviets as soon as possible.” (Protocol of the Second Congress of the Comintern). Thus Roy in 1920, thus for many years afterwards. But in 1930 the same Roy, though he is compelled to admit that the present agrarian movement in China is under Communist leadership, can write that this leadership is merely “purely formal” (p. 465), and that “really it is not possible to speak of Red Armies and Soviets. A true Red Army and real Soviets can only be the creations of the proletarian class. The revolting peasants of China are not fighting for Communism and the local executive organs they have set up are in no way organs of the proletarian dictatorship” (p.464).

All this although he is aware of the fact that there are proletarian and plebian elements in the Red Armies and Soviets, and that the Communists are leading the armies and the agrarian movement (p.464). In 1920 Roy realised that a peasant movement with a “programme of petty-bourgeois, reformist demands,” these are his own words, which under Communist leadership should proceed to form Soviets “as soon as possible,” is an organic and necessary preliminary of the movement of colonial liberation. In 1930 he opposes this interpretation on the ground that they cannot be regarded as “organs of the proletarian dictatorship.” That sounds immensely radical, but implies the very opposite in actual fact. From whence does Roy expect the revolution to develop? From a bourgeois-parliamentarian national assembly! “If the bourgeoisie would seriously fight for convening a national assembly of the type proposed by Wang Tschin-wei, it (!) could greatly influence the democratic mass movement”(p. 461). One can see Roy has in fact completely abandoned all that he learned both as regards theory and practice when he was a follower of Lenin and the Comintern. No wonder, therefore, that he not only does not understand the earlier history and the heroic phase of the Kuo Min Tang in a Marxian way, but that he is unable to have the slightest understanding of the present Chinese Soviet Movement.

K. A. W.