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New International, October 1947


Colonial Questions Today

Resolution of the Chinese Trotskyists


From The New International, Vol. XIII No. 8, October 1947, pp. 253–254.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The following draft resolution was presented for discussion in the Fourth Internationalist movement by the Communist League of China (Internationalist). So far as we know it has not yet been published anywhere else. The resolution, while extremely short so that there is little elaboration of its views, is important for the way in which it considers the role of China in the 2nd World Imperialist War. Adherents of China’s war against Japan in the years preceding the World War, the Communist League withdrew its critical and independent support to the Chiang Kai-shek regime when the war against Japan lost its character as an anti-imperialist struggle and became part of and subordinated to the interests of the big imperialist power bloc.

The Communist League of China, we learn, had a vigorous dispute over this question. A minority, which advocated continued support to Chiang after China had become the junior partner and captive of the Big Three, split from the League, while the official organization pursued the political course contained in the following resolution.

Interestingly enough, though the Communist League of China and the Workers Party were separated by thousands of miles and had no contact whatever with each other, both arrived at the same point of view on China’s war with Japan through the two stages of its development. In this respect, we differed sharply from the position of other Fourth Internationalist organizations, and in particular, the Socialist Workers Party, which continued to proclaim their support to Kuomintang China after it had long ceased to carry on an independent, anti-imperialist struggle against Japan.

A language difficulty arose in the publication of this resolution. Our Chinese comrades, not thoroughly familiar with our language, nevertheless wrote their resolution in English, knowing the difficulties involved in obtaining Chinese translations. We have made some minor language changes to make the resolution more readable without changing a single thought of the document. – Editors.

1. Basing itself on the experiences of the national movements in various colonial and semi-colonial countries during the past twenty years, and especially that of the 1925-27 revolution in China and China’s anti-Japanese war from 1937 to 1945, the World Congress of the Fourth International considers the following special decision should be made on the colonial emancipation struggle and the colonial anti-imperialist war.

2. The national emancipation movements, led by the “national” bourgeoisie of colonial countries, can assume a genuine progressive character only when the masses participate in it, and only when the participating masses enjoy full freedom in propaganda, organization and action. These movements can become “a part of the world revolution,” assume a revolutionary character and guarantee a victory only when the leadership of these movements is transferred into the hands of the working class.

Without these above-mentioned conditions, the bourgeoisie “emancipation movements” of colonial countries, when not reactionary, are, at least, devoid of progressive meaning. The Fourth Internationalists of the respective countries should not take an attitude of unconditional support toward these movements. On the contrary, they should mercilessly expose the falseness and uncover the reactionary motives (to “fight” external foes only to keep the internal enemies, the toiling masses, in servitude) of these movements and at the same time appeal independently to the masses, calling upon them to arise, in order to carry on by their own means a genuine movement of emancipation against imperialists and native oppressors.

The Fourth International, therefore, not only discards the Stalinist policy of helping the “national bourgeoisie” to take the lead of the “movement of emancipation” but also discards the lifeless formula of rendering unconditional support to all national movements led by the bourgeoisie.

The Fourth International is in duty bound to remind all revolutionists of the following fact, that the slogans, “national independence” and “national emancipation,” had been utilized more than once by Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese bourgeoisie as the best pretext and the most powerful weapon in suppressing and butchering the Chinese workers and peasants.

The formula of “unconditional” support to all national emancipation movements, therefore, must be abandoned. The Chinese workers and peasants have paid a very dear price for this lesson.

3. The anti-imperialist wars (the continuation of national movements) led by the colonial bourgeoisie, in like manner, have not been and will not invariably be progressive under any condition and at any time. Their character should always be decided by internal and international factors. Internal: if the war were waged with the price of terrible oppression of native workers and peasants, then, although it seems to play an objectively progressive role in fighting against an imperialist power, but is in fact impotent, then in essence, in the sense of the emancipation of workers and peasants from enslavement, it is still reactionary. International: if the war were carried on as a war between a colonial country on the one side, and an imperialist power on the other, then it is progressive; but if the war were, or finally became interlocked with, a war between two imperialist powers, and became thereby a part of the imperialist war, as “the interference of a slave in the fight of his masters” (see the History of the Russian Revolution, by Leon Trotsky, English edition, p. 38), then it has lost the progressive meaning which it had originally.

The Fourth International, while giving support to the colonial war which is progressive, should, at the same time, declare that it would withdraw its sup port to these colonial wars which had become reactionary, that is, degenerated into a part of the world imperialist war.

Needless to say, the above position is first of all concerned with parties of the Fourth International in colonial countries. So far as the Fourth International parties in the imperialist countries are concerned, the correct position they should take is to fight unconditionally against any war waged by their “own” country against colonies, regardless of who and how the war on the part of the colony is directed, and with what imperialist rival it is interlocked.

4. Toward the bourgeois-led anti-imperialist war of a colony, especially, semi-colonial countries, the correct attitude which should be taken by the Fourth Internationalists must be in strict accordance with the direction made by Comrade Trotsky during the Sino-Japanese war: to participate in the war, but maintain complete independence of action and policy; continue to prosecute the class struggle during the war, so that in time, when strength and circumstances permit, to transform the political opposition to military opposition in order to overthrow the ruling bourgeoisie and establish the proletarian dictatorship (L.T.’s letter to Diego Rivera).

This policy is applicable to all stages – whether progressive or reactionary – in the development of an anti-imperialist war in colonial or semi-colonial countries. But in different stages, the way in which our policy is applied, is, of course, different: when the war is objectively progressive, the basis for our policy is that the ruling class is not qualified to lead the war; when the war becomes reactionary, then our policy is based on the ruling class conducting a reactionary war.

Thus, in colonial or semi-colonial countries taking part in an anti-imperialist war, the Fourth Internationalists should impose upon themselves the revolutionary task of conquering power, just as in imperialist countries during an imperialist war.

May 1947

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