From Fourth International, Vol.6 No.10, October 1945, pp.295-300.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).
The imperialist war in the Far East has ended amidst the thunderous roar and the blinding glare of atomic bombs, the screams of agonized humanity, the armed occupation of all major cities, and the rising fires of civil war.
Japan lies utterly crushed. She arrived too late on the scene as an imperial power. Her economic base proved far too weak for the grandiose ambitions of her ruling class.
After many years of maneuvering, scheming and marauding, including the snatching and exploitation of new vast territories, backward semi-feudal Japan, beset by inner contradictions and hemmed in by its lack of raw materials and resources, decided to strike out and stake everything on establishing herself as the supreme imperial ruler of the Far East. Seizing the favorable moment when the western powers were locked in combat with Germany, Japan struck out with determination and audacity.
Her initial military successes were enormous. With surprising ease and rapidity she dealt the Allies one catastrophic blow after another until the whole Far East lay at her feet. At Pearl Harbor a major part of the United States Pacific fleet was destroyed, thus breaking at the time, American offensive power in the Pacific. In rapid fire order the Americans were hurled out of the Philippines, the British out of Burma, the French out of Indo-China. Singapore, the Gibraltar of the East, fell like a rotten apple; its millions of dollars of armament investment proved even more useless than France’s Maginot Line in holding back the foe. With the elimination of the Anglo-American Far Eastern military establishment, Japan pushed out the Dutch, seized the fabulously rich South Sea Islands, and was even menacing Australia. In less than six months, Japan had carved out an empire vaster and potentially far wealthier than all of Hitler’s conquests.
Dazzled by these stupendous military achievements the bourgeois penny-a-line scribblers – and in their wake a number of pseudo-Marxists – began beating the drums about Western underestimation of Japan’s strength. The journalists who write for the New International, edited by Max Shachtman, and who mistake impressionism for Marxist sociology, even proposed that we throw overboard our whole previous estimate of Japan, based upon a thorough-going scientific analysis of the fundamental sociological and economic factors involved. 
But again Marxian prognosis proved a better and more reliable guide to political action than journalistic impressionism.
In general, of course, it is impossible to predict with certainty the outcome of a military struggle. Too many imponderables exist; there are too many unknown and unknowable factors. Indeed, if the outcome of war could be definitively predicted ahead of time, the loser would never take up arms in the first place, except under very special circumstances. But Marxists base themselves on the fact that modern wars are total wars; the whole strength of the nations, technological, economic and human, is thrown into the balance. Thus war becomes a bloody contest of a more or less drawn-out character affecting the life of every single individual, whose outcome seals the very fate of the nation. Under these conditions, incidental and secondary factors, such as the initial advantage, surprise, the skill of this or that general, etc., tend to play a subordinate role in the inter-imperialist conflict, where the morale of both sides is roughly equivalent. More and more, as the conflict wears on, and all the resources and revenues of the nation are thrown into the fray the country with the strongest economic base emerges triumphant.
And so it was in the war between the United States and Japan. Japan was cruelly and decisively crushed, despite its initial successes, despite its strong geographical advantage, despite the catastrophic blow it dealt the US fleet at Pearl Harbor, despite the fact that the United States with England was concentrating its main strength in Europe. In the end the all-around superiority of the United States in wealth, technique, scientific advancement, productivity of labor, natural resources, and manpower, asserted themselves with pulverizing force. America, after initial defeats, quickly rebuilt its forces, and in one swift blow after another, at Saipan, at Guam, at Midway and finally at Okinawa, wiped out the Japanese navy and air fleet and stood poised for the final invasion of the Japanese mainland. America’s military achievement is all the more sensational as it was carried through in the period when the greater part of the US military establishment was concentrated in Europe. If it can be stated that Germany was crushed by a coalition of powers, first and foremost the USSR, plus the United States and England, then it must be admitted that Japan was overwhelmed single-handedly by the military might of the United States.
The United States emerges out of the second world war as the strongest military power on earth. Its fleet and air force are incomparably superior in quality as well as numbers to that of both Britain and the USSR. Its armaments and wealth are also beyond compare. And to this already terrifying arsenal has now been added the dread atomic bomb. It is not for nothing that the American plutocracy is girding its loins for what it pleases to designate as “The American Century.”
And who are the architects of this projected American Century? Who are the people that possess this fearsome might, who hold this vast array of power in the palm of their hands? And what are their purposes and plans? This incalculable power is in the grip of a small clique of bankers and monopoly industrialists who have amassed and control wealth and productive capacity before which the wealth of all previous ruling classes in history pales into insignificance. These Wall Street masters have been conditioned by their whole past to be a ruthless, pugnacious, arrogant gang of freebooters and pirates. The Bourbon rulers of Europe will appear as yielding and modest people compared with this Wall Street crew. The perfidious and snobbish conquerors who carved out the British Empire will loom as representatives of civilization and culture beside the bloodthirsty ignoramuses, the Pattons and Halseys, which the Wall Street money-changers are letting loose on a tortured world.
This fraternity of robber barons is now completely drunk with power and vision of world empire. It already sees in its mind’s eye argosies plying the seven seas, bringing their tribute to the Wall Street princes. It aims to bend ruined and prostrate Europe to its needs. It aims to convert the vast expanses of Eastern Asia with its teeming millions of humanity into colonial fiefs. It plans to unlock the gates of the British Empire and penetrate into its innermost recesses, not excluding the imperial crown jewel, India. Its engineers are already tapping the undreamt-of oil riches of the Near East and preparing to displace Britain as the master of its affairs. No spot on this globe is escaping its eager and ardent attention. American imperialism is embarking on the biggest architectural job ever undertaken by man – the building of a world empire, an undertaking so gargantuan, so ambitious, so fraught with danger and uncertainty that even the aging, thoroughly cynical British imperialists are staring at Wall Street with disbelief and dismay. Humanity now stands face to face with the unleashed power of American imperialism. We can say that we are now officially in Year I of Pax Americana.
* * *
The fabulous riches and cheap labor of the Far East have long made it the crowning prize of imperialist greed. China, with its huge population of over 400 million, its enormous natural resources, and its virtually unlimited supply of cheap labor, has long been the sought-after green pasture of imperial adventurers and speculators. Hegemony over China provides the key to control of the whole Far East and the Pacific. From the early days of the Nineteenth Century, when it was “opened up” by the Western powers, China became the victim of imperialist rapacity, the happy hunting ground for the western plunderers.
All the imperialist powers, England, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, swooped down on backward, feudalistic, helpless China and began voraciously gobbling up everything in sight. In a series of wars launched against the decadent Manchu dynasty, they wrested concession after concession and reduced China to the status of a semi-colonial country. The United States joined this imperialists’ cabal only toward the end of the nineteenth century. It began its struggle for imperial power and pelf under the slogans of fair play: the “Open Door” policy. This meant: “Shove over. Give me some elbow room, too. I want a share of the plunder.”
The United States, as we see, began its imperialist career in China on a very modest basis. It simply wanted a place at the feeding trough, on equal terms with the other pigs. But the latecomer who started his imperialist career with such modesty and reasonableness soon adopted a more menacing and peremptory tone. His ambitions grew; his demands became more stringent, his manner more threatening. Hardly had Uncle Sam emerged from the first world war as the world’s creditor nation than he summoned together all the leading pirates in solemn conclave at Washington, D.C. Now he no longer pleaded. He laid down conditions. Japan was to get out of Shantung and the maritime provinces of Siberia. England was to limit its fleet on a par with the United States; and Japan to three-fifths of that size. Uncle Sam had become the arbiter of the destinies of the Far East.
But today Wall Street is no longer merely the arbiter. Today it enters the Far East as the supreme ruler, the imperialist overlord, the world conqueror. Holland, France and even England crawl back into their old imperial domains by the grace of Wall Street and behind its coattails, or more correctly, its sea and air armadas. Holland and France, imperialist powers though they were and remain, are now reduced to the status of clerks and underlings of the Wall Street bosses. All roads, the ancient world used to say, lead to Rome. All roads now lead to Washington. Nothing decisive can be done until Washington has spoken its word. And even Britain, who so long ruled the seven seas; even Britain, with its $2 billion of investments in China, possessor of Hong Kong and Singapore, with its huge concessions at Shanghai, overlord of India and Burma, Ceylon and Siam, even Britain returns now to the Far East only by the grace and with the assent of Wall Street. From the foremost power in the Far East, it is now reduced to the position of the very junior partner, the beggared partner of the firm of Anglo-American imperialism.
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The western imperialists in the nineteenth century invaded China like an army of locusts and ravaged the land. They exploited, they lorded it over and humiliated the native population. But that is not all they did. They also brought into backward China the methods, the advanced technique of western industry and commerce. They erected modern factories, docks and warehouses. Thus we see superimposed on the backwardness, the ignorance and the squalor of feudal China, factories and business establishments more modern and efficient than could be found even in Paris or London. China provides a classic example of the law of combined development.
The introduction of capitalist relations in China led to the creation of a native Chinese capitalist class. But this belated capitalist class, nurtured and brought forth by foreign imperialism, never attained sufficient strength to stand on its own feet. The first Chinese capitalists were the direct agents of the imperialists and were recruited by the latter from among the landlords and the old Manchu officialdom. It was from the ranks of these imperialist agents that the native capitalist class emerged.
Together with the imperialists they exploited the working class and peasantry. Their interests were closely interlocked with the landlords with whom they were connected by a countrywide banking system. Its weakness, its very origin, its belated appearance and its dependence on western capital linked the Chinese capitalist class by thousands of threads to the imperialists. Another decisive factor made the Chinese capitalists, as a class, the dependable allies of one or another group of imperialists and robbed them of the progressive role played by the European capitalists at the dawn of capitalist development. Capitalism did not arise in China as in Western Europe, but was forcibly introduced from the outside. Concomitantly, with the development of a feeble Chinese capitalist class arose the Chinese working class, employed almost from the first in large scale modern industries.
This proletariat, horribly exploited and oppressed, immediately displayed the most revolutionary tendencies, the greatest will to struggle. Fabianism and gradualism could find no soil to take root in poverty-stricken, semi-colonial China. After the war, inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Chinese workers in the principal cities quickly turned to communism and began leading vast masses of peasants in their struggles for emancipation. The Chinese proletariat cut through all intermediary paths and strove to emulate the Russian workers and peasants, to take the road of Lenin and Trotsky. It is significant that the Social-Democracy never struck any roots in China.
The stormy growth and revolutionary character of the Chinese working class explains why the Chinese capitalist class turned so savagely reactionary. It could not lead a struggle to drive out all the imperialists and fight for complete national independence, because such a struggle presupposed the unleashing of the mass movement of workers and peasants. And the workers and peasants would not stop half-way. They would combine the fight for national liberation with their struggles for social liberation. While engaged in driving out the foreign imperialist bloodsuckers, they would proceed to crush the native exploiters. They would take over the factories in the cities and seize the land in the villages. That is why the Chinese capitalist class rushed so precipitately into the arms of the imperialists for protection against their own insurgent population. That is why the Chinese capitalists gave up and sold out the struggle for national liberation and became an “anti-national” class. That is why the struggle for genuine, full national freedom can be led only by the working class in alliance with the lower middle class, and the peasantry. That is why the Chinese struggle for national freedom is linked inseparably with the struggle for socialist emancipation.
In 1925 the anti-imperialist mass movement took on stormy proportions. The workers in the principal cities were ready for a seizure of power and the agrarian revolution in the countryside was growing apace. The masses began pouring into the young Communist party, which became the indisputable leader of the mass movement, both in the cities and rural areas. Everything appeared propitious for the success of the Chinese revolution, the destruction of the power of the imperialists and their Chinese allies, and the inauguration of the Chinese Soviet Republic. Why then did this revolution go down in bloody defeat? Because of the criminal policy of Stalin and Bukharin, the two men who led the Comintern in the years 1925-27.
It was in China that Stalin in the name of “the bloc of the four-classes” first practiced on a grand scale the infamous policy of the People’s Front, that is, the subordination of the working masses to the capitalists and their aims. It was Stalin who forced the young, inexperienced Chinese Communist party into a bloc with the Kuomintang, the party of the Chinese capitalists and landlords. It was Stalin who ordered the Communists to stop the seizure of land in order not to antagonize the landlords, and to halt strike activities and the seizure of factories in the cities in order not to frighten the capitalists. Thus did Stalin cement the “unity” between capital and labor by disarming the masses.
At the decisive moment, the Chinese capitalists and landlords, who feared the Chinese masses more than they did the foreign imperialists, turned on their working-class allies and abandoned the struggle for genuine independence. Chiang Kai-Shek, the leader of the Kuomintang military forces, launched the white terror against the masses who had been disarmed both morally and physically by Stalin’s People’s Front treacheries. Forty thousand of the flower of the proletariat were slaughtered in Shanghai alone. The Chinese revolution which started with such tremendous promise, whose red glare, for a brief moment, gave renewed hope and inspiration to the down-trodden masses of the whole colonial world, was snuffed out. Chiang Kai-Shek became the Gallifet or, to cite his modern counterpart, the Franco of the Chinese revolution.
On the ruins of the Chinese revolution arose the counterrevolutionary Kuomintang regime. The workers returned to a slavery intensified by the new military dictatorship of Chiang Kai-Shek. Militarist wars, evidence of the complete disunity of the country, revived on an unprecedented scale as Chiang Kai-Shek sought to extend his sway over all of China. The peasantry scourged by landlordism, usury and military requisitioning, fell into deeper ruin. Imperialism, against which Stalin’s People’s Front bloc had been specifically directed, was able to strengthen all its commanding positions. The road was prepared for the subsequent invasion by Japan. Such were the real fruits of the Stalin-Bukharin policies in China.
But the Kuomintang’s betrayal of the national struggle and the crushing of the insurgent proletarian and peasant movements made the Chinese capitalist and landlord rulers ever more dependent on foreign imperialism, and the continued prey of one imperialist power after another. In 1931, as we know, Japan embarked on an active policy of despoliation in China with its invasion of Manchuria. Chiang Kai-Shek at this time, however, was taken up with his own affairs. He was busy waging a war of extermination against the revolting peasants. The helpless Kuomintang government proclaimed therefore a policy of “non-resistance” to Japanese imperialism. The cowardly Chinese capitalists and landlords were more interested in crushing the peasants and keeping the labor movement prostrate than in fighting the Japanese invader. They preferred exercising their arbitrary rule in at least part of China rather than risking war with Japan.
But Japan continued its encroachments until in 1937 it proceeded to seize North China and launched its attack on the Yangtze Valley. The Chinese capitalist rulers could procrastinate and maneuver no longer. They were face to face with the decision to resist or perish. They decided to strictly limit themselves to a defensive military campaign, a sort of large-scale guerrilla struggle. At the same time they proceeded to embrace Great Britain and the United States from whom they received financial aid. Thus again the Chinese capitalists demonstrated their incapacity of fighting against all imperialism and of truly leading the struggle for national independence.
In 1937-38 Chiang Kai-Shek’s armies were expelled from China’s coastal provinces and driven into the interior by the Japanese invader. The authority of the Kuomintang regime was banished from all the great cities, ports and industrial areas. During the ensuing seven years, Chiang proved totally incapable of driving out the Japanese invaders from any of the occupied territory. Corrupted to the core, fearful of mobilizing the masses for a war to the death against the imperialist violators, the Kuomintang clique watched helplessly while the dismembered country plunged ever deeper into ruin.
All this time, despite the Japanese menace, Chiang continued to employ his forces to suppress the Chinese masses, the genuine opponents of Japanese imperialism. He silenced every voice of criticism and stamped ruthlessly on every opposition movement to his totalitarian regime. The prisons of Kuomintang China are filled to overflowing with genuine fighters against imperialism, with true champions of China’s freedom.
Under the combined blows of the Japanese military and the peasant insurgents, however, Chiang’s regime grew moribund. Devastating economic crisis brought on by the ravages of war loosened the tie-rods of landlord-capitalist rule. In the course of the war years the movement of peasant insurgency finally crystallized into the Yenan Government, a dual government to that of the Kuomintang. Arising originally out of the agrarian revolutionary movement of 1927, peasant revolts continued to sweep the countryside even after the revolution had been annihilated in the cities. The Stalinist leaders, after the workers’ organizations had been extirpated, transferred their activities to the countryside and took the leadership of the peasant movement.
This movement of agrarian reform, misnamed by the Stalinists in the early days as the Chinese Soviets, gained widespread support among the peasantry because it mitigated to some extent landlord parasitism, reduced the burden of taxation, inaugurated farm cooperatives and generally raised the standard of the peasants compared to farm conditions under Kuomintang control. The Stalinist-led peasant movement which fought numerous guerrilla wars against the Kuomintang was forced in 1934 to execute a mass migration into the deep interior of China. The Stalinists consolidated their position in the course of the Sino-Japanese war and today the Yenan regime rules over a vast territory containing a population estimated at 80,000,000 people. It disposes of at least half a million men under arms and in addition controls large guerrilla forces in other parts of the country. This movement in the northwest province of Shensi represented from the first a possible rallying point for the popular revolt against the Kuomintang. That is why ever since the formation of the dual Yenan government, Chiang Kai-Shek has tried to strangle it by military action and blockade. But while he succeeded in keeping it bottled up in the deep interior, he was unable to erase it.
For the whole past year it has been quite clear that the class struggle would violently flare again with the collapse of Japanese imperialism – the major “stabilizing” force in the Far East for the past 8 years. Chiang Kai-Shek was in mortal fear that the great mass movement of 1927 would again revive and sweep his rotted and corrupt regime into the discard. While it is true that Yenan represents only a peasant movement, it nevertheless commands a large army with a heroic tradition. And even more decisive, the mass movement in the cities is likely to pass again under Stalinist leadership in the initial phases. The workers’ organizations in turn will unquestionably seek to establish links with Yenan.
The Kuomintang, constantly haunted by the specter of Communism, was busy preparing day and night in every possible way and with every resource at its command to settle accounts with Yenan once the Japanese menace was removed. The antagonism between Yenan and the Kuomintang is the political reflection of the irreconcilability of the needs and aspirations of the Chinese masses, on the one hand, with the Chiang Kai-Shek regime of capitalist-landlord exploitation on the other.
The Chinese capitalists soon enlisted the support of their Anglo-American patrons in their plans designed to ward off the Red menace. (And with the precipitous decline of British power, they turned more and more to the United States.) They must be bolstered, the Chinese capitalists argued, against the coming danger. They must have plenty of help. American imperialism was more than sympathetic. The preservation of the rotted Kuomintang clique is indispensable for its plans of super-exploitation of China. With the dispatch of Hurley as ambassador to Chungking, all ambiguity was eliminated from United States policy. American imperialism threw its full weight behind Chiang Kai-Shek.
It is clear that both the Kuomintang and American imperialism adjudged the situation correctly. No sooner did Japan collapse than the fires of civil war began to burn once again in agonized China. Reports trickled through of peasant uprisings in the countryside and for the first time since the terrible debacle of 1927, the industrial proletariat was again on the move. A Yenan communique asserted that 50,000 Chinese workers had occupied Japanese-operated factories in Shanghai and had placarded the streets with slogans welcoming the Yenan armies.
Immediately a race began between the armies of Chiang Kai-Shek and those of Yenan to seize the key industrial cities and effect the surrender of the Japanese armies. Both the Kuomintang and Yenan armies are poorly armed. Whoever captured the war booty from the Japanese would thus gain incalculable benefit. But Chiang Kai-Shek had all the advantages in this race and appears to have easily outdistanced his Yenan rivals. First, American imperialism stepped into the breach. It supplied Chiang Kai-Shek with transport planes and other vehicles to rapidly move his troops into the major industrial centers. American troops likewise moved into Shanghai and other centers, prepared to bolster his control. Then, the puppet troops numbering some 800,000, under the command of former Kuomintang generals who had gone over to the Japanese, cooperated with Chiang Kai-Shek in blockading the Yenan troops and preserving “law and order” for the Kuomintang. Furthermore even the Japanese general staff, in its hour of supreme humiliation, never for one moment forgot its class instinct. General Okamura, Japanese commanding officer in China, announced that he would only surrender to Chiang Kai-Shek’s officers.
In view of the array of forces on the opposing side, it might appear that the initial setback to Yenan and therefore to the worker-peasant mass movement was inevitable. The Kuomintang had the unstinted aid of American imperialism, the support of the Chinese Quisling armies and even the backing of the defeated Japanese general staff. In contrast Yenan’s “patron,” the Kremlin bureaucracy, left it “holding the bag” at the crucial moment by its pact with Chiang. What could Yenan do? But the revolutionary movement of the masses fighting for their emancipation can never count on rich patrons from outside to help it in its struggles. The rich patrons always have a habit of going over to the side of reaction and counter-revolution. Is the battle therefore hopeless? But we know the masses of Russia in 1917, without any powerful patrons on the outside, conquered power and succeeded in holding the imperialists of the whole world at bay. In general, the strong point of the revolution does not lie in its technical or material superiority over the counterrevolution. On the contrary, such superiority generally lies with the other side. The invincibility of the revolution consists in its ideas, its program, its ability to arouse out of their lethargy the downtrodden millions of humanity and to inspire them with the greatest idea of all, the greatest crusade of history, the overthrow of the slaveholders, the exploiters, the tyrants and the emancipation of mankind. That was the “secret weapon” and the only “secret weapon” of Lenin and Trotsky in 1917. This same weapon can again sweep the slate clean in China today.
Unfortunately, the Yenan armies are not under the leadership of genuine working class militants but Stalinist scoundrels; not mistaken or misled revolutionists, but conscious deceivers. In 1927 the young Chinese Communist leaders were merely duped and misled by Stalin into the blind alley of People’s Frontism. But today the Yenan leaders are battle-scarred veterans of the Stalinist school of betrayal, treachery, sell-outs and crimes. They aim to head the coming mass movement only to behead it. Despite the fact that Chiang Kai-Shek revealed himself in 1927 to be the butcher of the Chinese Revolution, despite the fact that he heads an arch-reactionary, bloodthirsty regime, the Stalinists again proposed to him in 1937 the formation of a governmental bloc in order to fight against Japan. They even went so far as to call off all criticism of his infamous government and gave up their program of mild agrarian reform. But the Kuomintang is so rotted, is so hated by the people, is so dependent on terror to preserve its rule that Chiang Kai-Shek could not preserve an alliance with the Stalinists even on those terms. Civil war broke out again as the war with Japan progressed.
And today, on the eve of new unfolding struggles in the Far East, the Stalinists are attempting to repeat their crimes of 18 years ago; their treachery of Spain in 1936-37. But this time their cynicism exceeds all bounds. They are proposing to fight for bourgeois democracy in China in 1945 arm in arm with the Chinese Franco! The Stalinists, at the present juncture, are continuing to demand a “democratization” of the totalitarian Kuomintang regime through the formation of a coalition government with Chiang Kai-Shek. But this represents the sheerest Utopia, the worst deception. Bourgeois democracy is least of all possible in war-ravaged, poverty-stricken China. The Chinese capitalists and landlords allied with the American imperialists can continue their monstrous enslavement of the masses only by the exercise of the most brutal means, only by the use of terror and violence against the people. Bourgeois democracy represents a chimera, an empty dream for the thrice-exploited colonial world. Only a thoroughgoing radical program similar to Lenin’s program of 1917 can inspire the masses to struggle to the very death and remove the dead hand of reaction which condemns the country to ruin, decay, chaos and famine. Only the program of the Socialist revolution can wipe out the parasitism of the capitalists, landlords and imperialists and provide the necessary economic groundwork for the growth of a genuine democracy.
Even if Chiang Kai-Shek, because of his present weakness, is compelled to agree to legalize the Communist Party and include a number of Yenan functionaries in the Kuomintang Government it would by no means signalize the dawn of bourgeois democracy in China. Such a coalition would simply represent an interlude, a transition stage which Chiang Kai-Shek would utilize to strengthen the forces of the counter-revolution and at the propitious moment move to effect a new bloody settlement with the rebellious masses.
But probably the Yenan Stalinists are not concerned with democracy at all. Probably they are concerned solely with the legalization of their organizations and the securing of influential posts in a coalition government. If so, they are merely attempting to utilize the resurgent mass movement for bargaining purposes with Chiang Kai-Shek and in order to counter the fast-growing influence of American imperialism. Even on this plane of power politics Stalin is due for cruel disappointment. Even if a coalition People’s Front government is temporarily set up in China, it settles nothing fundamental in the irrepressible conflict between the Chinese workers and peasants on the one hand and the Chinese capitalists and landlords allied with the imperialists, on the other. It merely postpones the decisive conflict while weakening, confusing, disorienting, disarming and lulling the proletariat to sleep. The Stalinists will no more succeed in weaning the Chinese capitalists and landlords away from the influence of the imperialists and pressuring them into adopting a friendly orientation toward the USSR in 1945 than they did in 1927. We said that the resurgent Chinese workers’ movement in the cities will most likely unfold in the initial period under the influence of the Stalinists. The experience of the resurgence of the Social Democracy in Germany after the last world war is now being repeated in the case of the Stalinists on a world scale. The workers are everywhere surging forward. Revolutionary moods are world-wide. And in this first period, the Stalinists, despite all their betrayals, are lifted up on the shoulders of the masses and everywhere stand at the head of millions.
How is this to be explained? Because only a small section of the workers’ vanguard follows political events closely and has fully gauged the treachery of the Stalinists. The masses first entering the political arena follow that movement which in their minds still represents the 1917 Russian Revolution, the struggle for Communism.
Of course it is idle to expect that the Chinese Stalinist leaders will act any differently than the Greek Stalinists, the French Stalinists or any other Stalinists. These utterly corrupt bureaucrats are beyond redemption. They will betray once again as they have betrayed so many times before. The mass movement will never reach its goal until it succeeds in burning out all Stalinist influence from its ranks.
The resurgence of the workers’ movements in the cities holds great promise for the Chinese class struggle. As we explained many times, this is the only class which is capable of providing the necessary leadership to the millions of poverty-stricken peasants, and bringing the struggle against the capitalists and landlords to a decisive conclusion. The workers will unquestionably assume their proper place as leader of all the downtrodden and oppressed. It well may be that the Chinese workers, who have skipped over the stage of Social Democracy, who have displayed such incalculable sacrifice, bravery, self-abnegation and will to struggle, will also be in the van of the movement of the Fourth International, will before others free themselves from the infection of Stalinism and under the banner of Trotsky resume the march again which was halted in so terrible a manner in 1927. The source of the unheard-of super-profits for the imperialists may also become for them the source of new calamities and catastrophes.
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Despite our fundamental analysis of the “anti-national” character of the colonial bourgeoisie, we Trotskyists, as is known, support every actual struggle of this same bourgeoisie when it is forced into action against the imperialists. We support such struggles despite the bourgeoisie’s half-measures, despite its half-heartedness and treachery, and despite our knowledge that they cannot carry the struggle through to the end. First, because every blow struck by the colonies against imperialism weakens the latter and thus aids the working class in the metropolitan centers in their struggle for socialism, thus improves their chances of success. Secondly, only by supporting such progressive struggles, despite their inadequacy; only by fighting side by side with the masses and sharing common experiences can we, step by step, expose the true character and role of the bourgeois leaders, explain the necessity for a revolutionary program and win the leadership of the mass movement. That is why we supported completely and unconditionally the Chinese war against the Japanese invaders from its very beginning in 1937, even though it was under the leadership of the hangman, Chiang Kai-Shek. Following the same logic, we supported the struggle of the Indian bourgeoisie under the Indian Congress in 1942 against British imperialism despite the cowardly and treacherous policies of Ghandi.
And we insisted on unambiguously demarcating ourselves from all varieties of literary radicalism, some of whom decided to abandon the Leninist policy on colonial struggles, of all times – in the very midst of the Second World War; and of all places – in China and India! Such literary tendencies invariably compensate for their political impotence in life by “super-revolutionary” phrase-mongering on paper, always designed to justify in the end a policy of abstentionism from the struggle.
What did we achieve in practice by following the Leninist colonial policy? How did this policy prove its correctness against the “policies” of defeatist phrase-mongering? Naturally in the period of gigantic working class defeats and unparalleled reaction not even the most flawless policy can produce immediate large scale results. But still we are not without proof. In the very midst of the Second World War, a new section of the Fourth International was created in India. The leadership of this party, it is clear, has fully grasped the fundamentals of our program and has applied them to its country. In the 1942 upheaval it correctly supported the mass struggle which took place under formal Congress leadership, while mercilessly exposing the treacherous policies of this same leadership. Today we learn it is beginning to grow and register gains. And significantly enough its greatest gains come from the forces in the Congress left wing!
In our opinion this example is of enormous symptomatic significance and provides an illustration of the correctness of our policy. We are sure that the Trotskyists of China will have similar experiences to record. Only by not separating ourselves from the masses, only by supporting and joining with them in their struggles, will we earn the opportunity of teaching them the great truths of Marxism. A policy of abstentionism and defeatism will only result in isolation and disintegration of the revolutionary vanguard.
* * *
Today the situation has sharply changed. Japanese imperialism, the marauder of China, now lies prostrate. And the new and far more powerful overlord, US imperialism, has entered and is preparing to subjugate China. And the native bourgeoisie, already trembling before the rebellious masses, has flung itself into the arms of this new imperialist overlord. The main enemy today of the Chinese masses is US imperialism and its Kuomintang ally. That is why in the unfolding class struggle in China we take our stand on the side of the workers and peasants, even though they are now under the false leadership and program of the Stalinists, and against US imperialism and the Kuomintang.
Our whole record – from the very first – on the Chinese question, is clean. Our banner is spotless. Let us hope that in the great class struggles which will rock the Far East on the morrow, Trotskyism will succeed in exposing the perfidy of the Stalinist misleaders and will step forth as the acknowledged leader of masses in action.
1. The resolution of the 1938 Founding Conference of the Fourth International, The War in the Far East and the Revolutionary Perspectives states:
“Insular Japan, in the era of the twilight of capitalism, proceeding from a weak economic base, is debarred historically from achieving the imperial destiny of which her ruling classes dream ... Weakened by what will turn out to be pyrrhic victories in China, Japanese imperialism will go down to defeat in the coming world war if its career is not brought to a speedier end by the proletarian revolution.”
Last updated: 3.12.2005