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Henry Judd

World Politics

China’s Future

(17 December 1948)


From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 52, 27 December 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


A little over twenty years ago, a handful of Chinese Communist Party members and leaders, in a state of utter dejection and demoralization and entirely without influence, fled hastily from Hankow to the southwest of China. The last act of their series of criminal adventures – the Hankow “Soviet” – had just been played out with the crushing of the Hankow proletariat. The new master of Kuomintang China, the dictator Chiang Kai-shek, had established his indisputable authority. In remote Hunan province, this same handful of Stalinist political adventurers began their struggle anew, but on a different political and social basis. This time, they organized peasants into roving bands, loosely knit into a so-called Red Army, and vowed to continue their struggle.

Twenty-odd years later, the historic circle is about to be completed, even in the literal sense of the word! This band of several thousand guerrilla fighters – many of whom were originally pressed into service, and who constituted a unique combination of peasants and tough Stalinist leaders with a savage determination – has now grown to a mass organized army of perhaps 3,000,000 soldiers, organized and led by a political movement which itself numbers perhaps 3,000,000: the Chinese Communist Party. Pursued by Chiang’s original Nationalist armies, then harassed by local warlords in Chiang’s pay, the original Hunan and Kiangsi peasant forces staggered 6,000 miles over mountains to the deepest and remotest hinterland of China, Shensi province, far in the northwest. There, over a period of years, Stalinism worked out its program for China, adapted to their view of the nation’s special needs and circumstances.

During the course of the struggle against Japanese invasion and the war itself, Chinese Stalinism finally took root and found other means of solving its basic problems – lack of contact with the industrial centers of the Chinese seaboard and Yangtze valley areas; lack of arms and munitions; lack of a worked-out program for conquering the peasant mass without entirely alienating the middle layers of the backward areas over which they ruled. It cannot be denied that the Stalinist leaders – Mao-tze-tung; Chou En-lai and Chu Teh – proved far more successful in manipulating broad masses of backward peasants than in handling the problems of the proletariat and its relations with China’s capitalist class and imperialism. Trained in the Stalin school, they have the necessary lack of principle and the required suppleness to execute whatever turns and twists the Stalin “general line” demanded in the past.
 

The Failure of Chinese Capitalism

But, at this moment when power over all of China and its 450 million people apparently lies within their grasp, it must be recognized, even by them, that they had a most helpful – in fact, essential – ally who did everything possible to smooth and virtually guarantee their path to victory. We refer, of course, to the assassin, Chiang Kai-shek, his cut-throat wife, “Madame,” currently sulking in Washington, and the despicable crew of Kuomintang landlords, bankers and warlords who surround this loving couple. Is it conceivable that Stalinism could today stand at the threshold of social and political power if the murderous Chiang regime had not consistently conducted itself in such a way as to lose every shred of popular support in China? The failure to institute a democratic regime, to solve the eternal land problem, to build up China’s industries, to settle accounts with the foreign imperialists – all this made it inevitable that a new force arise and confront these unavoidable issues. Stalinism has proved to be that force and this is the whole of the disaster and tragedy that China faces today.

Put in a more theoretical way, Chinese capitalism, represented by Chiang and his corrupt Kuomintang Party, has proved incapable of handling the simplest and most basic needs of the country, the historic tasks of the democratic revolution. Chinese capitalism thus takes its place unreservedly in the ranks of world capitalism as a national segment of an international social order that can no longer live and breathe. But backward, chaotic China, whose masses have gone through more hell in the past ten years than any other nation in the world, must be organized, unified and dragged out of its backwardness if it is to survive. If the Chinese bourgeoisie has proved incapable of this, and if the proletariat has likewise been unable to perform this task (and this is the case in China since the defeat of the revolution in 1927), then the conditions have been created for the successful intervention of another force, neither capitalist nor socialist, in the proletarian sense. This, obviously, is the role of Chinese Stalinism.

But just as the return of Mao-tze and his Stalinist clique to the seaboard areas of China from which they fled 20 years ago marks the completing of a geographic circuit, so does it mark the completion of an ideological circuit. Politically and socially, this is not the same Stalinist leadership which left once before. At that time, even if in an incorrect and erroneous manner, it represented the working class and had its roots and origin in it. This is no longer true. These men will re-enter the Yangtze valley cities, Shanghai, Hankow, Nanking, etc., as conquerors over an apathetic and indifferent proletariat, upon whom they will seek to impose their preconceived plan for the totalitarian organization of a Stalinist China. They come at the head of a vast conglomeration of peasant irregulars, partly impressed and partly motivated by Stalinist land reform and bound together by a staunch layer of Stalinist soldier-regulars. Their basic aim is to assume control peacefully over a submissive proletariat.
 

The Course of Chinese Stalinism

How else can we explain why this clique fails to cal! upon the seaboard proletariat to rise up and administer the coup de grace to Chiang? The more easily the armies of Mao-tze slice through the territories still “held” by Chiang, the closer they approach the industrial cities, the more apprehensive Chinese Stalinism becomes and the more it reveals its true social nature. Yes, Chinese Stalinism is destroying feudalism and its remnants as it marches; just as it will destroy whatever remains of advanced Chinese capitalism and foreign investments. In this sense, the victory of Chinese Stalinism may be describes as a “social revolution.” That is, it is fundamentally overturning the existing social relations of ancient China. But in its place, what is to be substituted, providing Stalinism has its way? It offers only the social order of Stalinism, at present drawing its support from the land-hungry peasant mass and later holding its power on the basis of the now- familiar technique and pattern of Stalinism. Broadly speaking, the future image of a Stalinist China can today be seen in the land of Jugoslavia. This means, of course, the enslavement of the passive seaboard proletariat under the gigantic and bureaucratic apparatus of the future.

Chiang Kai-shekism is finished and it remains only as to how it shall be buried. It is of little relevance whether a “coalition” peace government is formed (with the Stalinists running the show), or whether Chiang clings to life over another few months. The final blow to his regime has been administered by the announcement of ECA Administrator Hoffman to the effect that America was fully prepared (even anxious!) to do business with the new China in the making. No loss, this. But the creation of the new China is another problem and, indeed, poses innumerable questions not only for the imperialist world but for revolutionary socialists.

America, obviously, is counting upon the development of a Titoist tendency in Chinese Stalinism. Once Chiang has been disposed of and the civil war ended, the problem of reconstruction will face the new ruling group in all its force. Above all, this requires capital, in enormous quantities. Can Stalinist Russia supply the capital goods and equipment essential for the construction of a productive China which is, in turn, essential for the Stalinists if they are to build up their totalitarian state?

To ask the question is to give the answer. Only American imperialism is in a position to supply masses of capital and this knowledge has tended to lull the State Department in estimating the real nature of the disastrous defeat they are suffering. Precisely how this will work out cannot yet be seen, but there is little doubt that the U.S. will “do business” with the new China, and thus hope – temporarily at least – to neutralize the effect of this Stalinist victory by weaning the new Chinese ruling class away from Russia and encouraging whatever Titoistic trends it may develop.

The consequences of this Stalinist victory will reverberate not only throughout the world of capitalism, but within the ranks of the labor and socialist movement itself. If the bourgeois press is still so dazed and partly oblivious to what is happening in China that it seeks consolation in the thought that, after all, what happens in China is not decisive for the world, then it is also true that the labor movement has only begun to reflect on the meaning of these events. Yet these preliminary estimates are worth consideration and we shall do this in the concluding part of this article in next week’s issue.


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