Li Fu-jen

Chiang Kai-shek and the Stalinists

Chiang Oppresses Masses Regardless of Consequences to the War Against Japan

(February 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 8, 22 February 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(This is the second of two articles on Chiang Kai-shek’s slaughter of the New Fourth Army.)

The leaders of the Chinese Stalinists are least of all to blame for the renewed activity of the peasants in central China which led to the recent attack upon, and the disarming of, the Stalinist-controlled New Fourth Army.

They are as impotent to halt the class struggle in China as they are in any other country. The debt-laden, poverty-stricken peasants will seize the land wherever they see an opportunity of doing so. They still associate the Communist Party with the agrarian revolution and the expropriation of the landowners. Who can blame them now for disavowing in practice the desertion of the class struggle by their Stalinist leaders?

The Stalinist leaders, for their part, cannot lead the peasant struggle. The “united front” with Chiang Kai-shek comes before everything. And so they damp down the struggle and do their best to extinguish it. In this way, they cut themselves off from their mass base. No wonder Chiang experienced no difficulty in killing 4,000 New Fourth Army soldiers, disarming the rest, and arresting their commander!

Peasant activity to the rear of Shanghai is not the whole explanation for Chiang’s attack on the New Fourth Army. Chiang has always felt uneasy in the Stalinist embrace. When he made his pact with the C.P. in 1937, before war started with Japan, he realized that the Stalinist armies, free from attack, would be able to enlarge their territories and might grow into really formidable opponents. The Eighth Route Army, main Stalinist force, was virtually bottled up in the northwest and was not then considered a very serious menace. But when the New Fourth Army was established to the rear of Shanghai soon after the war started, Chiang realized that his position had been flanked.

Events Leading to the Clash

More than a year ago he demanded that this force should transfer to the northwest, there to amalgamate with the Eighth Route Army. Chiang wanted all the Stalinist forces centered in one region. His demand became all the more urgent

when talk arose of a pact between Russia and Japan. After battles had occurred between provincial Kuomintang troops and the Eighth Route Army, which has been continually enlarging its territory, Stalin cut off the stream of military supplies that had been flowing to Chiang, thereby serving notice on Chiang that he was displeased with the latter’s attitude toward the Chinese Stalinists. Chiang, as yet unready for a real showdown and hoping to continue getting Russian supplies until America should come through with more decisive aid, agreed to a compromise. No move was made against the New Fourth Army.

Matters finally came to a head when Washington advanced sizeable loans to China and intensified its diplomatic pressure against Japan, at the same time stepping up its war preparations in the Pacific. Feeling confident now that Moscow’s material aid in the war with Japan could be dispensed with if necessary, Chiang delivered his final ultimatum to the New Fourth Army and followed with swift action which took the Stalinists almost completely unawares. Rumors of a Soviet-Japanese pact had revived, Chiang was determined to get rid of the menace on his flank in case Stalin and his Chinese henchmen should execute a sudden flip-flop into the camp of Japanese imperialism. He has succeeded. As the Stalinists place their miserable “united front” with Chiang above the considerations of the class struggle, so Chiang places his interests, and those of the exploiting class which he represents, above the interests of the struggle with Japan. If Browder is to be believed – and it would seem that in this case he told the truth – the Kuomintang armies came into the area held by the New Fourth Army “in agreement and apparent collaboration with the Japanese forces. They had no collisions with the Japanese. When they had completed their first attack, they then stood aside and looked on while the Japanese took up the battle to smash, the Fourth Army. When the fighting was over, the Japanese and Wang Ching-wei (head of the puppet gov’t in Nanking) had regained the territory won by the valor and genius of Yeh Ting and his associates. And the national unity of China which had held back the Japanese invaders for more than four years had been given a shattering blow!”

When Browder speaks of “national unity,” he is referring, of course, to the unprincipled political bloc between the Chinese Communist Parly and Chiang Kai-shek. Stifling the initiative of the masses, this bloc, instead of holding back the Japanese invaders, has enormously facilitated their task, for it has served to fortify the Kuomintang regime against the masses and to keep the direction and leadership of the war against Japan in the hands of the reactionary ruling class which, as in the case of the Republican bourgeoisie of Spain, was bound to sabotage the struggle. A passive military strategy throughout (which reflected Chiang’s fear of the masses and of potential military challengers to his own clique rule), graft and corruption in all the ruling circles, an endless list of crimes against the army brought the war to the present stalemate.

On all these scores, the Chinese Stalinist leaders have maintained an unbroken silence. Only now does Browder find it possible to refer – and then without naming the criminals – to the “corruption and incapacity of the ruling generals,” as if this were a new and sudden development. A question is in order: If the ruling generals (and Chiang Kai-shek surely comes within this category) are corrupt and incapable, how can a bloc with them possibly serve the interests of China’s struggle against Japanese imperialism? We may be told that there are “good” generals and “bad” generals, just as he Stalinists once discovered “good” (democratic) imperialists and “bad” (fascist or nazi) imperialists. Then let Browder put one label or the other on Chiang in the light of recent developments. For there is no question but that Chiang himself attacked and destroyed the anti-Japanese New Fourth Army.

The Lie of “National Unity”

”National unity” is a fiction in all countries where there is a class society. There can be no unity between the exploited and the exploiters. If the party of the oppressed masses (which is what the Chinese Communist Party claims to be) enters into a “united front” with the party or parties of the ruling class and drops its own revolutionary program in order to do so, this means its subordination to the ruling class party and the subordination of the interests of the masses to those of their exploiters and oppressors. In the language of the revolutionary movement, such a policy is one of outright treachery to the masses, and, in the case of a backward semi-colonial country like China, treachery to the struggle for national liberation from imperialism. For the ruling class, as T.V. Soong’s explanation for the attack on the New Fourth Army shows with crystal clarity, places its class interests first. Chiang and his class backers will sabotage the struggle against Japan a thousand times before yielding an inch to the interests of the popular masses.

Although the attack on the New Fourth Army (using Browder’s own words) has been a “shattering blow” to China’s “national unity,” the Stalinists, as is their custom, have gone crawling on all fours before the hangman of the Chinese revolution, have knuckled under, determined to continue their fatal class-collaborationist policy to the very end. It is necessary to expose this miserable clique of political bankrupts before the broad masses, to reveal the fatal character of their alliance with Chiang Kai-shek, to urge forward the independent movement of the masses under the leadership of the Chinese section of the Fourth International. Only thus will it be possible to drive forward to victory against Japan and all the other imperialist freebooters, to the social liberation of the Chinese people.

Today Chiang attacks the Stalinist-led peasant armies, thereby aiding the Japanese imperialists. Tomorrow, when war breaks oat between Japan and the United States, Chiang will draw closer to his imperialist masters in Washington and will seek to subordinate China’s struggle against Japan to the interests and war aims of dollar imperialism. Will the Chinese Stalinists then maintain their unprincipled bloc with Chiang in the name of continued “national unity” against Japan, or will they openly break with him? A break is more than likely if Stalin remains subservient to the Nazi war bloc. Belatedly it will be “discovered” that Chiang is the tool of American imperialism. Will this signify return to an independent revolutionary policy by the Chinese Stalinist leaders? Not at all. They will remain agents of Stalin, serving his counter-revolutionary aims. They will continue to deceive and disorient the Chinese masses. They will continue to be the stranglers of the Chinese revolution.

Last updated on 2 October 2015