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Labor Action, 24 January 1949


Jack Brad

What Will Stalinist China Victory Mean?


From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 4, 24 January 1949, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Stalinist armies continued to mop up in North China with great strides this past week as Central Government troops pulled back to the Yangtze River as the next defense line. The biggest gains for the CP were in the easy and bloodless conquest of Tientsin and Tangku, its port. Only Peiping still stands, but it is only a matter of time before it too surrenders.

Tientsin is a city of two million people, the main port of North China, and contains one third of the textile industry of all China. Because for years it was the center of international concessions for the North, it is a relatively modern city with good port facilities and rail connections. Its fall is a great blow to the position of the government in international commerce, as well as militarily.

The most interesting aspect of these otherwise clearly foreshadowed military events is that the leadership of the “peace movements” in all of these Northern cities which are completely surrounded by Stalinist armies and have been for months – these movements which made possible the bloodless victories of the Stalinists – are completely under the leadership of bourgeois groups. As noted in Labor Action several weeks ago, the announcement of the Shanghai City Council, going over the head of Chiang, in a direct appeal to Mao Tse-tung for direct negotiations, was an attempt by the urban compradores to arrive at an understanding which would salvage their basic economic position.

It is now clear that THIS bourgeoisie, despised and enfeebled by the rulers of the Kuomintang, this class which has no political party of its own, not to speak of military power, is now the driving force for negotiations with the CP at all costs, using its City Councils as the instrument for this.

Workers Passive

The working class has played no role in the civil war so far and it is unlikely that it will in the immediate military events to come. The workers do not rise to greet the Stalinist armies, nor do they play a role in the “peace movements.”

The CP has been alienated from the cities for twenty years. In August, 1948, it held its first national labor conference in Harbin at which it launched a new Chinese Labor Federation under its own auspices in an attempt to gain control of the urban working class. However, at this conference the CP advised the workers that their main task was “to prepare themselves for the arrival of the liberation armies,” but not to organize independent action or even actions coordinated with these armies. The CP prepared for its military victories over the cities by urging the workers to remain passive and to take no part until the Stalinist regime was established in the cities. Only under the new regime were the workers instructed to submit themselves to Stalinist organizations and control, and then the proper role would be assigned to them.

That is why the workers today are silent and defenseless, caught between Kuomintang terror and Stalinist manipulation. This is one of the most ominous developments in the Chinese civil war.

Disintegrating Rule

KMT China is disintegrating politically as well as militarily. The rally of generals which Chiang attempted to call to implement his determination to continue the war has failed. Generals from North, West, South and coastal areas failed to come to Nanking – clearly indicating their intention not to leave their fortunes in Chiang’s hands. One of the major reasons for the ability of the local warlords to challenge implicitly Chiang’s power is that the major forces of the Central Government were committed in the disastrous struggle for North China and now no longer exist. The remaining armies in the KMT (Kuomintang) areas are largely local armies organized, officered and paid by local warlords.

Chiang is left with several tens of thousands of personal elite troops. With these he can continue indefinitely to maintain the legal fiction of his regime as against his political enemies inside the KMT. But these troops cannot successfully defend him against the CP armies. There is much rumor that Chiang intends to remove to Formosa. Since there remain several alternatives, this is not yet certain.

However, it should be noted that even Formosa is not a certain haven. For when in 1945 the KMT took over Formosa from the Japanese, the rapacity of its rule and its large-scale looting of the island’s wealth forced the people to open revolt. In 1946 the island was torn with rebellion which was suppressed with the bloody methods characteristic of this doomed regime. It is said that to this day the prisons of Formosa are filled and the hills give shelter to thousands of guerrillas. The CP has not controlled these revolting elements to date.

Bureaucratic Theory

Chinese Stalinism is now for the first time taking over large cities. This party, which has had no urban connections for two decades, whose leadership comes from the peasantry and is oriented toward it and which has developed the unique theory that only the peasantry can make the Chinese revolution, now must face the more complex modern problems of urban society. The theory of the CP, as expounded by Mao and his theoretician second-in-command, Liu, is that the peculiar conditions of Asia require the organization of national revolution within an agrarian framework, with the CP substituting itself for the working class as the cohesive and leadership factor which no insurrectionary group in history has been able to create for itself. This bureaucratic and manipulative theory has been successful for the countryside. It has sharp limits for a Stalinist organization of the entire country.

There are extremely narrow limits to any agrarian program within an agrarian framework. In modern times the problems of agriculture cannot be seriously dealt with except from the cities, from industry, from the viewpoint of modern urban classes. Only a modern mentality can revolutionize the superstitions, the family system, the illiteracy and raise production per man and per acre, because all these things can be effectuated only if they are organized under the leadership of the cities.

A small example will illustrate. It is possible to increase the production of cotton and silk within the village, and by its own primitive means, on the basis of a change in the social structure such as abolition of landlordism and distribution of land to peasants. However, these agricultural products cannot be processed by modern industry unless a measure of uniform quality enters into them. In other words, the needs of industry require standardization of agricultural product in order to be able to utilize them. If industry needs are not placed prior to and in a determining relationship to this production, then the simple increase in agricultural output will not be of national benefit.

This small example is meant to indicate that even in the simplest technical matters as well as in the larger ones of increased production the leadership of the city is essential. Present Stalinist policy in China denies this. It denies the leadership of both the working class and the capitalist class. When this policy begins to fall on the shoals of failure, the Stalinists will be forced to reorient and such a change can only be carried out at the price of widespread distress. All China will be made to pay for the failure of the working class to take over the revolution. Working class leadership and proletarian orientation would place an entirely different face on the nature of the social transformation in China.

Economic Disaster

Stalinists are amazingly silent on Manchuria. The Iron Curtain has dropped. They do not invite delegations of newspapermen to visit the cities of Mukden, Harbin, Dairen and Changchung, where they have ruled for years, as they used to invite them when they were in Yenan. The only reporter to have made public news from Manchuria is the Stalinist publicity agent, Anna Louise Strong. Like the rest of the handouts of the regime in Manchuria, she spoke glowingly about land distribution and the advances made by the petty bourgeoisie in tiny industries. She has not one word to say about the fate of the huge heavy industry which the Russians stripped in 1945. Are they producing? How much? What is the destination of their products? What is the extent of Russian control?

There are indications that the Russians have established tight control of Manchurian industry. This huge modern industrial complex, the greatest in Asia, was considered essential to Chinese recovery. Without it China must start from scratch. Fully 75 to 85 per cent of all industry in China was in Manchuria. The Chinese CP cannot fight the Russians on this crucial life and death question. The entire question of industrialization, then, assumes an extremely black aspect under the Stalinist victories, for which again all China will have to pay.

For the country as a whole, from the viewpoint of its potential as well as its need, the Stalinist victory is an economic disaster.

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