Grace Lee Boggs 1944
Source: New International Volume X, Number 2 (Whole No. 83), February 1944 pp. 47-50, signed Lee Ria Stone;
Transcribed: by Damon Maxwell.
For the last seven years, substantial sections of the American bourgeoisie have taken upon themselves the job of spokesmen for “heroic China.” By so doing they have created among the American people an unprecedented interest in the future of the people of China.
After the First World War the American bourgeoisie took the lead in furthering imperialist exploitation of China. They will do so again after World War II unless the American workers are alert to the aims of American capital and assert their class solidarity with the Chinese masses.
Modern China has never known a state of normalcy. For over half a century the constant miseries of her close to half a billion people have been punctuated and deepened by foreign wars, civil wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions. These political upheavals have occurred against a background of changing economic conditions, bringing into play new popular forces and ideas.
Ancient China was invaded innumerable times, but the invaders never brought with them a revolutionizing culture. For two thousand years before the British bombardment of Chinese ports in the early nineteenth century, the old static economy was constantly reproduced. Dynastic heads were cut off, but the peasants invariably found the new dynasty but another surname for the old social order. Warlords, landlords and emperors joined hands to exploit the peasant masses or, in rivalry among themselves, rode to and fell from power on the strength of the peasant revolts. In the middle of the seventeenth century the peasant rebels achieved such strength that the foreign enemy had to be invited in from Manchuria by the bankrupt Mings to suppress them. For the next two hundred and fifty years the Manchus ruled the country as foreign conquerors, unable to alter the pattern of Chinese culture or stabilize the conflicts between the Chinese masses and their exploiters.
The entry of Western imperialism in the nineteenth century disrupted the old economic structure, introducing new classes, new chaos, new struggles. In the West, the invaders themselves were undergoing revolutionary economic and political changes, forcing them into conflict with one another. As the decades passed, China more and more became the battlefield for these conflicts which were put aside only when the Chinese masses became a serious threat to all imperialism.
China’s handicraft industry declined almost to zero as she became a market for the cheaper machine-made goods of the West. Merchants and officials in the coastal areas became compradores for foreign trade and capital and with their accumulated profits bought up more land and expropriated the peasants. The unemployed artisans and uprooted peasants formed the mass base for the Taiping or Great Peace Rebellion of 1850-65. Wherever this rebellion succeeded (and at one time the rebels held sixteen of China’s eighteen provinces), there were instituted not only agrarian reforms, such as destruction of land titles, but also bourgeois and national reforms, such as stimulation of the internal market, abolition of slavery, and suppression of the British-sponsored opium trade. The ultimate failure of this embryonic bourgeois and national revolution was dictated by British and American imperialism, acting directly through their soldiers and indirectly through their compradors. The Manchus who had, in the first place, been called in to suppress the peasant masses, now found themselves forced to call upon more powerful foreign forces to protect their rule. The strength of the revolutionary masses had reached new heights. But just as the primitive agriculture and handicraft of China had been unable to compete against Western manufactures and industry, the Chinese peasants and artisans were unable to win out against foreign guns and steel bullets. Kept “peaceful” by two hundred years of Manchu occupation, they had only their religious fanaticism and occult practices to arm them against modern weapons.
Nevertheless, for several decades, the Chinese masses kept China in turmoil, battering down the Manchu dynasty, already spent from its efforts to limit the inroads of Western capitalism. Every sign of weakness on the part of the Manchus was a signal for an uprising against the privileged classes. Every sign of strength among the masses was a signal for the Western powers to come to the defense of the decadent Manchus. This triangular pattern will be reproduced in every great crisis of modern China.
In the first few decades of Western imperialism, the Chinese ruling class had played a comprador ro1e for the imperialist merchants and exploiters of China’s natural resources. As imperialism took on the character of capital export after the Sino-Japanese war, industry began to develop in the treaty ports. The defeat of the Manchus by the rising Japanese bourgeoisie exposed once and for all the weakness of the old ruling class. It thus both stimulated more wanton aggression by the imperialists and called forth a Chinese bourgeoisie to take over the reins of the nation. In the inviting security of foreign-controlled coastal China, the Chinese landlords and commercial capitalists became industrial capitalists, building cotton and weaving mills, match factories and silk filatures. Banks were established and a Chinese bourgeoisie with its fingers in commerce, industry and finance was born. This new class required progressive political reforms for its new economic role, but it was too weak to exact these from the old feudal regime. The imprisonment in 1898 of the young emperor, enlightened by bourgeois pressure, demonstrated the futility of the bourgeois intellectuals as the political instrument of
China’s need for an agrarian and industrial revolution, however, did not rest in the bourgeois intellectuals. The increasingly pauperized masses in the countryside had begun to recuperate from their exhaustion after the unsuccessful Tai-ping rebellion. Famine, the incessant plague of a country without modern transport, added to the unrest. At the turn of the century, the masses rose again. This time their accumulated grievances against the Manchus could be deflected against a new enemy – the foreign invaders whose railways and missionaries had penetrated beyond the coast. These revolts, known as the Boxer Rebellion, were again doomed to failure. Perverted by the decadent Manchu bureaucracy, again organized only with primitive and esoteric practices against modern weapons in the hands of strong imperialist forces, with no key position in the new Chinese economy, the rebellious masses went down to defeat by the Powers. These carried out the counter-revolution with a brutality and a ruthlessness not exceeded by Hitler’s crimes in Europe today. The Allied forces occupied Peking, where Britain and Germany, supported by the United States, became the dominant powers.
Nevertheless, the masses had tasted some fruits of their growing power. It was the unwillingness of the Manchu soldiers to fire upon the peasants which had forced the Empress Dowager to turn the revolt into a struggle for national liberation. Moreover, the Boxer soldiers had joined in battle with the combined armies of European, Russian, American and Japanese imperialism, and acquitted themselves creditably. Foreigners in the interior had been compelled to flee to the ports or leave the country entirely. What the ruling class had been too weak to achieve had been accomplished by the peasant masses. Only the revolutionary activity of the Chinese masses had saved China from being divided up, like Africa, among the Powers.
During the next ten years hardly a year passed without riots and insurrections. The Empress Dowager was compelled to make all sorts of promises of popular government and reform. The scene of the popular movement had begun to shift from the countryside to the coast, and even beyond that, to the overseas areas where Cantonese emigrants had become workers and shopkeepers, and Chinese students had come to learn about the West. The 1905 revolution in Russia is the contribution of this decade to the history of mass struggle. From this time on, the sections of the Chinese population most intimate with the modern world will play the decisive role. Modern forms of struggle, the boycott, mass demonstrations, strikes and cooperation between the civilians and soldiery will replace simple violence reinforced by charms and other occult weapons.
By 1911 these methods, utilized by petty capitalists, merchants, intellectuals and workers, had enabled the petty bourgeoisie to overthrow the Manchu dynasty, which had become a complete slave to foreign imperialism. Again, famine is the scourge which drives the masses to action, while the stimulus for the Chinese capitalists is a Manchu railway sell-out to German, British, French and American bankers.
Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the republican movement, stood half way between the old China and the new. In his early youth he had close association with the Taipings. In his later years he fraternized with Western missionaries, bankers and overseas Chinese. Sun Yat-sen was a petty bourgeois humanitarian with the limitations of his class and of his time. His methods for achieving the “Three People’s Principles” (San Min Chu I) of nationalism, democracy and livelihood, reflected his lack of contact with the developing mass movement, his confidence in the Western imperialists and his semi-conspiratorial leanings. Instead of calling upon the masses to oust the imperialist exploiters, he bowed before the Powers and asked them for benevolent cooperation. Instead of calling upon the masses to achieve self-government through exercise of political liberties, he asked them to accept preliminary periods of military rule and political tutelage by the enlightened intelligentsia. Instead of agrarian revolution and wide-spread economic reorganization, he advocated gradual equalization of rights in the land and restriction of capital. With no economic base in Chinese society. Sun Yat-sen and his followers utilized the method of playing one military clique against another. Thus, a few months after his election to the presidency of the young republic, Sun Yat-set voluntarily resigned in favor of Yuan Shih-kai, a warlord notorious for his betrayal of the enlightened emperor in 1898 and for his sup-port of the foreigners against the Boxer revolutionists in 1900. With the aid of the Powers, Yuan then proceeded to suppress all efforts to introduce reform into China. With the aid of American capital, he attempted in 1915 to restore the monarchy, only to be frustrated by the pressure of Great Britain, Japan, Russia and France.
The Powers, which were as one when social revolution threatened in China, were at loggerheads as soon as this threat was removed. The death of Yuan Shih-kai in 1915 and the inter-imperialist war in Europe threw China into a civil war between the feudal warlords, each backed by a rival imperialist but united in their determination to maintain the feudal system of exploitation. The Powers were more generous overlords of the Chinese ruling class than the Manchus had been. They did not require civil service examinations for the right to exploit the masses, and they provided comfortable and safe foreign settlements where the landlords could escape from the rebellious peasants.
Up to and during the First World War, regional armies, made up of the ever-increasing floating population, were to aggravate the misery of the Chinese masses by banditry, battles and military requisitions. Lacking modern communications and divided by dialects, the mass movement was forced into local channels and dominated by local warlords. Throughout, the rival imperialist powers continued the economic invasion which drove the peasants to banditry, and the political and financial maneuvers which kept the provincial armies at each other’s throats. Every progressive Chinese movement was refused recognition by the Powers. Every sign of reaction was encouraged. British assistance to the warlords in 1922 enabled them to oust Sun Yat-sen from Canton, where he had set up a relatively democratic government. The American government took the initiative in refusing to permit China to recognize the Soviet government. The Washington Conference in 1921 marked America’s assertion of dominance in the Far East. At this conference, Japan’s rape of A China in the “Twenty-one Demands” was confirmed by America as a blow to Germany, Britain and Russia. At this conference, also, the Americans provided the formula whereby maintenance of foreign troops in China was legalized.
China’s participation in the First World War had merely provided the front behind which the rival imperialists could work out their schemes for repartitioning the country. Nevertheless, the war gave Chinese industry a chance to expand, comparatively unhandicapped by competition with foreign production and the world market. Out of this development of the productive forces grew a bolder Chinese bourgeoisie intent on ousting the foreign imperialists. The development of the bourgeoisie as a class, however, was inevitably accompanied by the development of an industrial proletariat, locked in conflict with both foreign and Chinese employers within the process of production. The concentration and organization of the mass struggle accompanied the concentration and growth of industry. For the first time in modern history, China had given birth to a class strong and united enough to oust the imperialists. Leading the agrarian movement which was organized rapidly into peasant leagues, the workers in the major industrial areas of China carried out a revolution from 1926 to 1927. The success of this revolution depended on the masses pursuing a clear-cut policy of class struggle against their native exploiters at the same time that they raised the slogan of national liberation. Even the sketchiest acquaintance with China’s previous history demonstrated without a doubt that “only the deepening of the revolution could save it” from the Allied forces. These, as always, stood , ready to intervene the moment the Chinese ruling class needed their aid against the Chinese masses. This time it was the weakness in policy rather than the weakness in arms which doomed the rebellious masses to failure. The misleadership of the Third International, deluding the masses into a reliance on the Chinese bourgeoisie and landlords, brought about the betrayal of the revolution. The native exploiting elements, an inseparable amalgam of landlords, industrialists and bankers, led the Kuomintang. Confronted with a proletarian revolution, these elements now compromised with the foreign imperialists, who had learned to exploit class differences in the nationalist movement as they had exploited regional differences a decade before.
True to its traditions, the Chinese ruling class bowed to the foreign enemy to save itself from the native proletariat and peasantry. With the aid of foreign gunboats and money,
Chiang Kai-shek beheaded the mass movement and brought the Chinese bourgeoisie to power. In the main industrial areas of China, there was instituted a naked anti-labor dictatorship. Now the bourgeoisie came to power on the wave of mass revolt as once the feudal dynasties had triumphed.
From the petty bourgeois radicalism of Sun Yat-sen, the Kuomintang had developed into a full-fledged bourgeois party with many of the political instruments of a- fascist government. Blue Shirts, C. C. Corps and other terroristic agencies were organized to stamp out every sign of struggle among the masses.
The power and position of the new regime is symbolized by the appellation “Soong Dynasty.” Chiang Kai-shek derives political prestige as the successor to Sun Yat-sen. His wife is Mei-Ling Soong, the sister of Madame Sun Yat-sen. The Minister of Finance is T. V. Soong, Mei-Ling’s brother. And still another Soong is married to H. H. Kung, the Minister of Industry, Labor and Commerce. Three of the four members of the Joint Bank Board are members of the Soong Dynasty; the Generalissimo is chairman. China’s traditional nepotism has taken on modern bourgeois dress.
After the success of the counter-revolution, the remnants of the mass movement retreated to the interior where, under the leadership of Chinese Communists, local peasant uprisings and wars against the Kuomintang armies brought scattered successes and failures. For a period, the agrarian movement, less subject to the “direct operations of the hangmen of the counter-revolution,” rode high. Poorly armed and fed, these peasant forces fought innumerable heroic battles with the armies of Chiang Kai-shek, whom the imperialists supplied with the most modern weapons. After a defeat in 1934, they were finally forced to withdraw to the Northwest. Even then despite the series of disasters which they had undergone, the desperate peasants within the Communist-led armies showed their courage and discipline under the rigors of the “Long March,” one of the most remarkable mass expeditions in all history.
Since the defeat of the 1927 revolution, Chiang Kai-shek’s claim to hegemony over China has rested entirely upon his support by the imperialist powers, jointly or severally. As one who could be trusted to preserve the treaty privileges of the powers in China, the Generalissimo has never ceased to be the recipient of political support, money and arms. The Powers have encouraged by every possible means every expedition of Chiang’s which would keep alive the flame of internecine war and prevent national defense of China from imperialist aggression. Without their support the devastation of the country and the massacres of millions of Chinese by Chiang’s armies could never have occurred. Whenever any opponent of the Generalissimo’s has shown signs of strength, the Powers have not hesitated to intervene with troops to wipe him out, as at Shantung in 1928 against Chang Tso-lin, or at Shanghai in 1932 against the Nineteenth Route Army under Tsai Ting-kai In both cases, Japanese troops played the hand, but the Powers, especially the United States, dealt the cards. American officers built up the Chiang Kai-shek air forces during the ‘Thirties for bombing expeditions against Communist and other opponents of the Generalissimo, including hundreds of thousands of civilians. Only the mutiny of some of Chiang’s troops in 1936 and their flight to join the rebel forces of the South prevented another bloody massacre by American-sent airplanes. Long before Pearl Harbor American silver purchases in China made the Chiang Kai-shek government at Nanking a financial dependency of the United States.
Throughout, the Powers have drawn the line at aiding the Chiang Kai-shek government when it has been a question of resistance to imperialist aggression.
It is for this reason that the mass movement in China during the last ten years has tended to assume nationalistic form, i.e., of resistance to Japan as the most overt aggressor. Not only for underlying class reasons, but also because of Chiang’s patent subservience to American imperialism, the mass movement was also bound to be anti-Chiang Kai-shek. The national and class struggles in China have hence been inextricably intertwined. The nation could be defended only by combining the struggle against Chiang Kai-shek with the struggle against imperialism. The policy of the Chinese Communists before 1935, which called for struggle against Japan and against Chiang Kai-shek, aroused popular support throughout China. The heroic defense of Shanghai against the Japanese by the Nineteenth Route Army in 1932, over the active opposition of Chiang, symbolized to the Chinese masses their potential power and the treachery of Chiang. The kidnapping of the Generalissimo at Sian in 1936 by the troops of the Young Marshall was further evidence that the peasants in the North were willing to carry on a combined struggle against Japan and against Chiang Kai-shek. Again, it was the disastrous policy of the Kremlin and the treachery of the warlord leaders in the North which misled the masses into a popular front with Chiang Kai-shek. Even Agnes Smedley, notorious as a Stalinist fellow-traveler, reports that a “wave of cynical resentment against the Soviet Union swept through Sian” when the Kremlin instructed the Chinese Communists to see to the Generalissimo’s release (Battle Hymn of China, New York, 1943).
Not only China’s whole past but all subsequent events have demonstrated that the Chinese ruling class is unable to conduct the national defense. In their own interests and in the interests of their imperialist sponsors, the Chinese exploiters have never abandoned the struggle against the Chinese masses nor hesitated to accede to imperialist demands for dividing up China in return for support against mass rebellion. Only the revolutionary activity of the masses has prevented the partitioning of China among the Powers.
Up to the Lukouchiao incident of July 7, 1937, and even after it, Chiang was unable to decide whether his main enemy was at home or in Tokyo. The revival of industry in China after the world depression had strengthened the Chinese bourgeoisie and emboldened it against the Japanese aggressor. But with more than the usual hesitation of the bourgeoisie to institute a national war for liberation, it continued to hope that Japan could be deflected by threats and appeals to the other Powers.
The war against Japan has been going on for more than six and a half years. During these years, however, it has not been one China but several Chinas that have been fighting. Roughly, these China’s may be classified as Chiang Kai-shek’s China in the Southwest, the China controlled by the Communists in the North, and the China of the East under Japanese domination.* [*Approximately eighty per cent of China’s territory is “free” and about sixty per cent of her population. The exact size and population of the different areas are impossible to determine. Military retreats and victories and mass migrations shift the picture constantly. Natural disasters, like famines, droughts and floods, and man-made disasters, like war and expropriation, have made millions of Chinese a migratory population.] In the first, the bourgeoisie is linked inextricably with Anglo-American imperialism; in the second, the leadership has ties with Russia. In the third, the proletariat is locked in class as well as national opposition to the Japanese and is beyond the direct control of the Chinese bourgeoisie. Analysis of these three Chinas will repay the revolutionist well. For as Japanese imperialism crumbles in the Far East, the conflicts between these Chinas will sooner or later break out in civil war and social revolution. (To be continued.)
New International Volume X, Number 3 (Whole No. 84), March 1944 pp. 79-84, Continued from Last Issue.
From the very first years of imperialist aggression against China in the nineteenth century to the present day, the Chinese ruling class has proved itself incompetent to defend the nation. In 1895 the Manchu government of China fought the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese war. The masses saw no reason to take any interest in the conflict and China rapidly went down to ignominious defeat. Five years later the masses of North China took the initiative in struggling to drive the foreigners out of China. The Powers, comprising eight nations, were forced to take extraordinary measures before they finally defeated the Boxer rebels. The Chinese masses had taken the first steps on the road of proving that they alone could defend the nation.
Between 1915 and 1922, the Powers, with Japan and America in the lead, were proceeding apace with the partitioning of China among the imperialists. The Chinese landlords and bourgeoisie were powerless to prevent the process. In 1925 the proletariat took the initiative in organizing the struggle against the imperialists. When the movement reached the heights of proletarian revolution, the Chinese bourgeoisie allied itself with the imperialists to suppress the masses. In the tradition of the Mings in 1644 and the Manchus in 1860, the Chinese ruling class preferred foreign intervention and occupation to national leadership by the Chinese masses.
From 1931 to the present day, the Japanese, striving for imperialist hegemony in Asia, have occupied one section after another of the Eastern coast of China. The Chinese ruling class has again proved itself unable to resist the invaders. The years since 1937 have proved conclusively that the struggle against imperialism in China can be conducted only through the independent struggle of the Chinese masses. The Chinese ruling class, true to its traditions, can only carry the ball for one or another of the imperialist teams.
At the beginning of the war with Japan in 1937, the Chinese bourgeoisie was concentrated in the coastal areas of Eastern China. It was reluctant to risk the property destruction which was entailed in war with Japan and conscious of the hostility of the Chinese proletariat. When resistance was finally forced upon it both by popular pressure and by the imminence of total absorption of Chinese industry by the Japanese, the bourgeoisie continued to hope that the Western Powers would be drawn in without much delay on its side. Within a few months, however, it became apparent that the West was too engrossed in its own pressing problems to give immediate aid. Moreover, the foreign capitalists, loyal to imperialism as a whole, tended to regard the entrance of Japan as a force which could keep law and order in China. The property of the Chinese bourgeoisie was either completely destroyed or absorbed by the Japanese imperialists.
Even then a good section of the bourgeoisie was reluctant to pursue the scorched earth policy and transport capital and machinery to the interior for reconstruction. Instead they flew to the areas under Anglo-American protection with their liquid funds, there to sit out the war in luxury and comfort.
However, the more politically-conscious elements among the bourgeoisie realized that if they all fled abroad or to safety in the International Settlement, the interior would be left to the communists to mobilize the masses in a national resistance movement.
The retreat to the interior was gradual and accompanied by frontal resistance to the Japanese. During 1938 the national government was practically located in Hankow. Popular pressure resulted in the formation of a People’s Political Council by Chiang Kai-shek and the official recognition of the new Fourth Army in the Yangtze region, composed of various elements under the leadership of communists.
The end of the Hankow period was heralded by the fall of Canton and completed by the loss of Hankow in October, 1938. With the retreat of the National Government to Chung-king in Szechuan Province, the differences between Chiang Kai-shek’s China in the Southwest and those of the communists in the North and the proletariat in the East were accentuated both geographically and politically. Wang Chin-wei fled to become a Quisling for Japanese-occupied China. Tension between the New Fourth Army and Chiang’s forces increased, and the New Fourth was finally officially abolished in January, 1941, after refusing to obey government orders to move North.
Chiang’s speech at the inaugural session of the People’s Political Council on July 6, 1938, had revealed the pressure exerted on him to “rally the nation’s political strength and to mobilize all the people for direct participation in the war.” The political consciousness of the people became indispensable to the Chinese government.*[*See the “Program for National Assistance and Reconstruction” adopted by the Kuomintang Party Congress, emergency session at Hankow, March 29, 1938, reprinted in Amerasia, April 25. 1943, pages 118-120.] While still in partially industrialized Hankow, Chiang was forced to admit that the period of military rule had given way to that of political tutelage.
By 1939, however, Chiang is again placing his reliance in the Western “democracies.” Moreover, he asserts that “judging by present conditions not only has our program for the period of political tutelage received a serious setback but much of the work of the period of military rule has to be done all over again.” (Speech of February 2, 1939.) The old story of the Chinese ruling class abandoning the masses for the sake of imperialist alliances was resumed. With Chiang’s return to the Anglo-American camp and Wang Chin-wei’s flight to the Japanese there was initiated in Asia the pattern which has since marked the European scene. The native bourgeoisie is divided into satellites of the two rival imperialist camps. Like the European bourgeoisie, the Chinese bourgeoisie has its government in exile at Chungking, completely dependent upon the Allied imperialists and psychologically remote from the fighting front.
The war of resistance has been mapped out by Chiang into three stages: retreat, stalemate and counter-offensive. Unable to fight aggressive battles without giving greater concessions to the people, the Generalissimo has been content to withdraw and carry on harrying actions against the Japanese during the stalemate period. The counter-offensive begins when Anglo-American imperialism underwrites it.
In the early years Chiang was forced to appeal to the Japanese masses. On July 7, 1938, he addressed the Japanese people as “My friends. ... From the very beginning of the conflict, we have regarded as our enemy only your militarists but not the people of Japan, people like ourselves....” A year later, Chiang said: “Our people in the war zones should try by all possible means to make the enemy soldiers who have been deceived by their militarists and forced to come to China understand that aggression is the way to self-destruction and death, while opposition to war is the way to salvation and life.”
These appeals to the Japanese masses were dictated by the pressure of the appeasers at home. Chiang urged these to hold out, promising that the Japanese would soon collapse from internal dissension. Today, however. Sun Fo, president of the legislative Yuan, is more confident. Says he: “Whereas the Chinese revolution started as a spontaneous movement of the Chinese people led by the Revolutionary Party as their vanguard, the proposed Japanese revolution will have to be initiated and introduced by the victorious United Nations after defeating the Japanese military power.” (New York Times, October 10, 1943.)
Two months after Pearl Harbor, the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang traveled to India to act as Asiatic spokesmen for the Anglo-American imperialists.*[ *This Is not to gainsay Chiang’s desires to create a Chungking-Delhi axis against Western imperialism. He has denied it often enough to show that Britain and America are telling him to abandon the Idea – or else. ...] To the Indian masses, determined to fight for independence from Britain, Chiang addressed these insolent words: “The anti-aggression nations now expect that in this new era the people of India will voluntarily bear their full share of responsibility in the present struggle for the survival of that free world in which India must play her part.”
American and British imperialism were willing to pay Chiang well for his counter-revolutionary role in the Far East. From 1938 to 1940 America had made three loans to the Chungking government, all politically timed to offset Axis moves and economically secured in Chinese tin and tungsten: a loan of $25,000,000 in 1938 after Wang Chin-wei’s capitulation to the Japanese; a loan of $20,000,000 when Japan decided in 1939 to “recognize” Wang’s regime as the national government of China; and a loan of $25,000,000 in 1940 after Vichy had agreed to Japan’s occupation of French Indo-China.
In the summer of 1941, when war between American and Japanese imperialism was only a matter of time, a loan of $100,000,000 was made. The attack on Pearl Harbor sent Chiang Kai-shek to India, and brought Lieut.-Col. Stilwell and a $500,000,000 loan from the United States to China. It also meant the loss of Burma and the closing of all doors into China from the South. As a result, this comparatively large credit could not be used for foreign goods. The Chinese government has therefore used it as security for a large internal loan to which the bourgeoisie is forced to subscribe. Thus, an almost direct relationship of interdependence between the Chinese bourgeoisie and the American government has been established. From 1928 to 1937 America was the patron of the Nanking government. Today, the Chungking dollar is linked to and completely dependent on the United States Treasury.
During the first eighteen months of war the government’s main industrial role was providing aid for the transportation of private industry from the coast and lending capital to en-able it to resume production. By 1939, however, the government had begun to play a more decisive role in industrial development. Besides guaranteeing profits to stimulate production, the state found it necessary to establish government enterprises in basic industries. On January 24, 1940, the Ministry of Economic Affairs announced the nationalization of iron and steel. (China After Five Years of War, Chinese News Service, 1942, page 94.)
This trend toward a state-controlled capitalism has been partly necessitated by the large capital requirements for basic industry. But government monopoly exists also in salt, sugar, tobacco, matches, tea and wine. The reasons for state intervention in production are political as well as economic. Many members of the bourgeoisie have been reluctant to develop the West, the years from 1925-27 having revealed to them the social and political dangers of breeding a proletariat. Speculation and profiteering bring more immediate gains with less risk.* [*In September, 1940, Chiang rebuked these profiteers: “Billions of dollars of unproductive capital are available in the interior; but instead of being diverted to regular channels, they are employed for personal gains and such illegitimate transactions as hoarding and manipulation. Some private individuals simply sort away their money.” Free China’s New Deal, by Hubert Freyn, MacMillan, 1943, pages 43f.]
The role of the government in economic life was formally recognized in the National General Mobilization Act of 1042.*[ *For a copy of this act, see Freyn, pages 250-258. The act empowers the government, whenever necessary, to “restrict the people’s freedom of speech. publication, writing, correspondence, assembly and organization."] This act gave the government almost unlimited power in civil and economic life for the duration.
Government control of industry has been accompanied by government regulation of the trade union movement. Since 1940 the trade unions of “Free China” have been under the control of the Ministry of Social Welfare in Chungking. All union officials are appointed by the government. Under war-time regulations, all workers must join unions, and strikes are prohibited. The Chinese Association of Labor, the only official federation, claims a grand total of 422,652 workers throughout “Free China.” (Allied Labor News, April 15, 1943.)
In the spring of 1943 the Chinese executive Yuan passed a set of eighteen regulations to freeze workers in industrial and mining fields. Workers in these industries must register with their respective authorities and are not allowed to leave their occupations unless dismissed by their employers. Employers may not dismiss workers unless the latter have violated specific regulations under the present law. Workers incapable of their jobs may be dismissed; those over fifty are allowed to leave if physically unfit. Factory or mine owners, if forced to suspend business for over a month, may dismiss workers. Workers and employers are treated as individuals not only in their relations with each other but also with the authorities. There is no mention of unions in any of the negotiations. (Ibidem, May, 1943.)
Virtually nothing is known about the activity of the proletariat in Chiang Kai-shek’s China. According to Freyn, who betrays no sympathy for labor, “in its sixth war year, China can look back on a record free from strikes, lockouts and other signs of unrest which elsewhere accompany a deterioration in the standard of living.” (Op. cit., page 130.) Mass resentment appears to be directed primarily at the profiteers on the market and at the government for being liberal with these elements.
In Chiang Kai-shek’s China the landed gentry and the merchants control the retail market. Nowhere in the world have there been such fantastic increases in retail prices. From an index of 100 in 1937, retail price level in Chungking had climbed to 1722.9 in 1941. In March, 1942, the general price index was 3799. Today the increase ranges from 7000 to 10,000, depending on the area.
Appeals for rice donations have been made to the general public. One appeal brought 30,000 piculs from ten Szechuan counties. The average donation was twenty to thirty piculs; the favorite concubine of the former Szechuan governor was credited with hoarding 70,000,000 piculs.
Finally, the government was forced to take increasingly drastic measures against the hoarders. For example, the former Mayor of Chengtu was paraded through the streets of
Chungking and shot in public. The price of rice thereupon . dropped from $180 a picul to $90. But the landed gentry soon recovered, and a few months later the price per picul was $160. (Freyn, page 123.) In January, 1943, Chungking put price ceilings on 656 commodities. By spring the prices were rising again and had reached sixty-seven times their pre-war levels. (Freyn, page 130.)
The rise in prices is especially hard on the urban population and the soldiers. The workers, whose labor is essential to production, have been able to force some wage increases despite the forbidding of strikes. After protest parades by Government workers of the white collar class, the government was forced to institute a system of partial payment in rice to these workers. The armed forces, with no recourse, continue to suffer.
In some villages, farming and home industry enable the people to maintain a bare subsistence level when crops are good. But in many areas millions face starvation because of general devastation and famine. Toisan, for example, in the South, formerly depended for its rice on Siam, Burma and French Indo-China, all now in Japanese hands. Moreover, it has been hit by famine after occupation and reoccupation by the Japanese. The Toisan peasants are forced to sell their children in neighboring cities.
The white collar workers and petty bourgeois intellectuals, who constitute only three to four per cent of the population, can only plead for political .democracy, petty reforms, increased government supervision, and a place in the bureaucracy for themselves.*[*See Amerasia, April 25, 1943, for an analysis of little parties in Kuomintang China.] Among the masses of the people, the unrest does not take overt form, so far as we know.** [**The American government maintains a strict censorship on all news emanating from Chungking, and nothing unfavorable to the Chiang Kai-shek regime is permitted to emerge.] But every measure taken by the government against the profiteers, however ineffective, reveals the pressure of the masses. Every failure of these measures points out more clearly the need to overthrow completely the wealthy classes against whom the government is admittedly so “liberal.”
Throughout Chiang Kai-shek’s China the land hunger of the masses and unproductive land ownership by the gentry are the most obvious features of the landscape. [See Agrarian China, “Selected Source Materials from Chinese Authors,” published in Chinese periodicals during the 1930’s. Compiled and translated by the research staff of the Institute of Pacific Relations, 1938. As in feudal Europe, churches and other “educational institutions” are large and owners. It took the 1927 revolution to sweep many nuns and monks from their temples. “Change in Land Ownership and the Fate of Permanent Tenancy.” Agrarian China, page 22] The average Chinese family farms nineteen mow, or a little over three acres, the smallest acreage in the world except for Japan. Eighty per cent of China’s farmers are tenants or part tenants. Tenant farmers tilling one acre must pay as much as fifty per cent of their crop to their landlords. Such high rates makes it much more profitable for landlords to lease their land rather than manage it on a large-scale productive basis. The inevitable result is the prevalence of small farms, lack of technical improvements and a disproportion between industry in the cities and agriculture in the country. ["The Present Land Problem in China,” Agrarian China, page 60.]
In Szechuan, seven per cent of the landlords own but do not till seventy per cent of the land. They spend their time in trade, banking, usury and the social and political duties of the gentry – namely, squeezing taxes, rent and interest from the laboring peasants. Funds loaned to the farmers at comparatively low interest by the government, e.g., for cooperatives, are tunneled through this gentry, and by the time they reach the farmer the customary usurer’s rate has been approximated. ["The Experiences of a District Director of Co-operatives,” Agrarian China, pages 211-216.]
The war, with its scarcities and fluctuations of currency, has increased the polarizing tendency toward wealthy land-owners, on the one hand, and the landless peasantry on the other. The landlords receiving rents in kind and paying taxes in cash, [More often than not the landlord’s control of the local administration enables him to pass the land taxes on to the peasants directly.] were able to hoard and take advantage of favorable price rises and currency changes for profiteering. With their profits they bought up new land. The middle peasants, who paid taxes in cash but received no rents in kind, have been almost swept away.
Land that was worth C$100 in 1931 is now worth more than C$70,000 in Chungking. This increase is due not only to overcrowding. As the China Information Bulletin puts it: “Land is indestructible. The hoarding of land is therefore highly profitable, thus resulting in the gradual concentration of ownership in the hands of a small portion of the people.” (New York Times, July 23, 1943.)
This acceleration by the war of the progressive impoverishment of the peasantry had to be checked by the government if it was to be able to demand additional sacrifices for the war. Hence in 1941 the land tax was revised. Provision was made for taxes in kind and for compulsory purchases of food-stuffs by the government. This was aimed to reduce hoarding and force the landlords to accept a larger share of the tax burden.
But laws against the gentry are useless when the administration of the laws remains in the hands of the gentry. In the past, government measures ostensibly aimed to effect rent reduction and resale of land to the tenants have been success-fully frustrated by this political power of the landlords. (“The Latest Agrarian Policy of Kuomintang,” Agrarian China, page 155.)
In China is has always been as difficult to distinguish the rents from the taxes as it has been distinguish the landlords from the government, both nationally and locally. The bureaucracy is a “communal landlordism” which by its juridical role is able to mobilize greater political and military power for the suppression of mass discontent. Rents, taxes and interest are literally forced from the peasants at the point of a gun by special guards. These guards, known as the Min-Tuan or “pacification” forces, are estimated at two million in Free China and are using one million of China’s scanty supply of rifles for the protection of property rights. (Edgar Snow, The Battle for Asia.)
The agricultural proletariat in China is relatively small compared to that in the advanced countries, not only because of the absence of large-scale farming but also because of the prevalence of feudal relations. Tenants are forced to repay their loans of equipment and grain in labor on the land of the rich peasants. Rich peasant families take in concubines instead of hiring wage-earning laborers. The system of early marriage in China also owes its continuance to the economic reality that it is far more advantageous to acquire a daughter-in-law than to hire a laborer by the year. The poor peasants in turn must marry off their daughters early because it saves food for other mouths. In certain sections of China slaves are maintained for house and field work. (“Agrarian Laborers in Kwangsi,” Agrarian China, page 80.)
China’s whole past history proves that the Chinese peasants do not accept their hardships passively. The recourse to banditry and the kidnapping of the rich is a form of social protest. In some places the wealthy gentry supply these bandits with food rather than undergo the formality of being kidnapped and ransomed. They know that it is useless to kill off the bandits because more will spring up where others are destroyed. (Changing China, by G. E. Taylor, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1942.)
Peasant riots and organized refusals to pay rent reached their height during the 1925-27 revolution and the ensuing years of agrarian revolution. The attitude among many peasants is: “If there is no rebellion, how can the poor continue to live?” [This remark was made by a group of embittered women to a government field worker. This worker reports that the peasants have no faith in government measures and that their most urgent demand is “not the remeasurement of land for tax consolidation but rather something which would give them a chance to breathe beneath the heavy pressure of their landlords.” – “Experiences of an Official in the Land Tax Consolidation Bureau,” Agrarian China, page 153.]
In 1936, when the government conscripted poor peasants for work on the Szechuan-Hunan highway, the laborers organized many riots, in some cases disarming the local militia, killing their foremen and destroying the local engineering offices. (“Labor Tax in the Building of the Szechuan-Hunan Highway,” Agrarian China, page 110.)
We do not possess facts and data on the activity of the peasants in Chiang’s China today. But we are familiar with their revolutionary temper in the past, and we know that they are being organized by the government itself in labor battalions and in the army. At the end of the war they will be in a position to utilize this training to eradicate the private-property relations in land, the condition which has been for so long the curse of the Chinese peasants. As in the Russian Revolution, the men from the front will introduce “into the business the heavy determination of people accustomed to handle their fellow men with rifles and bayonets.”
The well educated classes, who have always been a vested interest in Chinese society, are exempted from fighting in the Chinese army. The army is a coolie army of nearly ten million men. The only exception to this is the cadre group of 300,000 men (thirty division) who are the “Generalissimo’s Own,” militarily trained by German army officers. The officers of the regular army are provincial leaders with no professional military training and with the social background of the local gentry.
In his ragged cotton uniform, with hand-made and often mended straw sandals and hat, carrying a rifle, a rice bowl and a pair of chopsticks, the Chinese soldier marches endlessly from one front to another, living in deserted temples and stables. He may have volunteered to get the rice allotment which is the only food provided the soldier by the government. More likely, he was conscripted on the village system, which enables the local gentry to buy off military service for its sons. On his way to the training depot, he was probably roped together with other conscripts to make sure they all got there. His officers force him to perform labor service for the large landowners, for which the commander, and not the men, receives the compensation. In many cases he is locked in at night by his officers. (Amerasia, September, 1943, page 276.) His pay check is about one American dollar a month.
Such an army can continue to fight as well as it has only because of its belief that it is fighting for national liberation and because of the lack of any clear alternative method of struggle. The effectiveness of this army against the Japanese has declined during the years 1937-42. An analysis of casual-ties inflicted by the regular Chinese army indicates a drop to 32 in 1943 from the 1937 base of 100. (Ibidem, July, 1943, page 229.) The causes of this decline are partly the changes in China’s foreign supply position. But the change is also rooted in the declining morale of the army. The realization that despite enormous casualties (estimated at five million) their battles “cannot be expected to have an determining effect on the war as whole” (this was stated by a Chinese government spokesman, New York Times, July 24, 1943), must raise serious doubts in the minds of these ragged heroes.
The government of Chiang Kai-shek has too little to offer the peasant millions who make up the regular Chinese army. To the peasants, the Kuomintang promises land reform, but to the landlords it promises compensation for all land redistributed. Few people know better than the Chinese peasant that the landlord is his implacable enemy who must be deprived of all wealth before rural reform can be undertaken.
In most cases the people do not look upon the armed forces as their liberators (The Chinese Army, by E. F. Carlson, pages 30-34). Because of the meagerness of supplies to the army from the government, it is necessary for the soldiers to live off the land. As a result it is often difficult to distinguish the regular armed forces from the bandit irregulars who for centuries have lived by military requisitions and looting of the masses.
Chiang’s plans for economic reconstruction after the war provide for a state-controlled capitalism with the aid of foreign capital. This is clearly outlined in the resolution passed by the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang in September, 1943 (New York Times, September 26, 1943). State supervision is taken for granted as the general rule and only such “industry which may be entrusted to individuals or industries which will be less suitable for the state to operate shall be privately operated. The government in some cases shall give such industry the encouragement and protection of the law. ... Industries which assume the nature of a monopoly shall be state-operated. The government shall stipulate specifically what constitutes state-wide industries and what constitutes private industries.” According to the Twentieth Century Fund report of 1943, Chinese “industrial development will proceed under state guidance and to a large extent under state ownership and direction. The shortage of private industrial capital in China, the absence of a vigorous industrial class and the large financial problems involved are presumed to necessitate state control.”
Within recent months the Chinese bourgeoisie has accompanied its pleas to America for more guns with cordial invitations for investment of capital. Under old Chinese regulations it was required that fifty-one per cent of stock interest in joint capital arrangements must be Chinese, and a majority of the board of directors, as well as the chairman and general manager, must be native. The new resolution passed by the Kuomintang asserts that “hereafter no fixed restriction shall be placed on the ratio of foreign capital investment in joint enterprises. In the organization of a Chinese-foreign joint enterprise, except for the chairman of the board of directors, the general manager need not necessarily be a Chinese.”
An American was recently appointed acting inspector-general of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service. In the past the imperialist power controlling China’s customs revenue has been able to dictate which clique should rule in China. Before the war Britain was strong in the administration of the Chinese customs service. The United States, Britain and Japan played approximately equal roles in the foreign trade of China. Japan and Britain did not hesitate to collaborate against America, nor America and Japan against Britain.*[*Britain’s dominance In China depended on her alliance with Japan and on the French fleet. America’s policy in Manchuria In 1931 won Japan to her side sufficiently to doom the British. The tall of France In 1940 ended Britain’s chances for falling back on French support.
Pearl Buck’s Incessant pleas for more aid to China betray both her realism and her hypocrisy. Familiar with the Chinese ruling class from long residence In China, she was well aware that they might turn to Japan It American Imperialism neglected them. Knowing the hatred of the Chinese for the British Imperialists, she Is also anxious that America free herself from the suspicion that she Is united with the British Empire. What this “friend of China” tears most of all la a strong Asia united against the West. As she herself says: “I shudder to think what the future will be with Russia established, as indeed she already has been, as the world’s greatest military force; When China establishes herself, as she will undoubtedly do, as another great military force; when the people of India, freed by their own efforts, as they are determined to be tree, will be a great potential power.” Invoking the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, Mrs. Buck appeals to the American bourgeoisie not to Industrialize Asia, but keep these people what they “have hitherto been, to our great good fortune, peaceful agricultural peoples,” Asia, November, 1943] Today, Chiang is completely committed to string alone with American imperialism. His participation in the Cairo Conference is ample proof that Chiang Kai-shek’s China will never play an independent role in the fight against Japan.
The pro-fascist leanings of the Kuomintang government are revealed in Chiang’s plans to maintain national government troops in a good number of provinces and employ army officers as local administrators. The demobilization of China’s army of eight to ten million men would only reinstate in an aggravated form the situation of latent unemployment that existed in China before the war. Employment must also be sought for the increasing number of army officers. The sharpness of the class struggle will demand even more severe repression than existed before the war. The promises of constitutional government given by the recent Kuomintang plenum are more empty than they have ever been. [See Amerasia, October 1, 1943, for a devastating analysis of the emptiness of these promises In the past.]
Finally, the reactionary character of Chiang’s plans for the future are unmistakably revealed in his Spiritual Mobilization and New Life movements. These movements, loudly acclaimed by Western as wiping out old Chinese habits of spitting and opium smoking, are in reality aimed at perpetuating the old feudal social relations and substituting spiritual food where material food is needed. On an intimate local scale, Chiang is attempting to reinstate the pao-chia system whereby households are the units of responsibility under government supervision. ["This system with every ten families as the unit, was originally used as a measure for common defense but has long been utilized by the authorities as a means of demanding community responsibility and as an additional instrument for the maintenance of peace and order.” Agrarian China, page 212. The Generalissimo’s Western-educated wife is apparently more aware of the general need for material reform. However, she wholeheartedly endorses the Generalissimo’s spiritual path as an Immediate substitute. See her book, China Shall Rise Again, Harper’s, 1940. The Generalissimo’s Russian-educated son, Chiang Ching-kuo, is magistrate of Kanhsien. “His methods and Ideology are called communistic or fascist by people who object to his authoritarian ad-ministration. His system is called state socialism by people who dislike regimentation.” (New York Times, November 13 1943.)]
But the Chinese people have been uprooted by forty years of wars and revolutions. The family system has been broken up by the entry of nearly ten million men into the armed forces. Provincial barriers have been broken down by the melange of dialects within the army. The national outlook of the Chinese masses has been broadened by the propaganda that their struggle is part of a world struggle against fascism and reaction. The planes flying overhead, the use of medicines and surgery, and the demands made up the population to care for the wounded have gone far to emancipate the Chinese from old superstitions, ancestor worship and the old religion. In the huts of the most backward areas, placards with political slogans have replaced the ancestral tablets with their Confucian proverbs. After the 1911 revolution, the queues and bound feet which symbolized servitude to the Manchus began to disappear. In the 1925-27 revolution the bobbed hair of the women was a sign of popular emancipation. To-day, the Chinese soldier in a uniform of shorts, shirt and tie and the emancipated Chinese woman in slacks and blouse symbolize a new freedom.
For centuries the Chinese people have borne the heavy load of taxation for a bureaucratic landlordism and an expanding military, civil and party bureaucracy. The taxation envisaged for a bureaucratic capitalism will only increase this load. The Chinese people have been actively engaged in a struggle for national liberation from Western as well as Japanese imperialism for half a century. They have reached the stage where further concessions to “friendly capital” strikes both at their pride and their stomachs. Japanese conquest of British colonies in Asia has reduced the white man’s prestige in China and increased the Chinese sense of their own potential power.
Everywhere the struggle is for the creation of a new world to supplant the old. Even Chiang must speak constantly in terms of revolution and pose as the revolutionary leader.
Today the conflict between Chiang Kai-shek’s old world and the new world vaguely present to the masses takes the amorphous forms of resentment and passivity. In the flux of the post-war struggles this contrast will be sharpened into vigorous conflict. For nearly half a century the Chinese ruling class has been able to deflect the rebellion of the Chinese masses to a struggle against the foreign invaders. Today the foreign enemy is Japan; yesterday it was the Western powers. Tomorrow the Chinese people will have engaged the forces of every imperialist power. No people can capture the admiration of the whole modern world and not demand the opportunities commensurate with its sacrifices. (To be continued.)
New International Volume X, Number 4 (Whole No. 85), April 1944 pp. 126-128 Continued from last issue.
Ever since the great Russian Revolution of 1917 the Chinese masses have been inspired by the example of the Russian workers and peasants. From 1920 to 1927 they flocked to the banner of the Communist Party so that it grew almost overnight into a mass party. Even after the betrayal by the Stalinists in the 1926-27 revolution, the Red Armies in the interior were able to attract millions of peasants by driving out the landlords and sponsoring the division of the land.
Compromises with rich peasants and isolation from urban workers finally made it impossible for the Soviet districts to resist Chiang Kai-shek’s armies, and the Communists migrated to the Northwest. The “Long March” to the Northwest is itself a testimony to the strength of the Chinese masses in their desperation and to the great symbolic hold of the. Russian Revolution over their aspirations.
Today there are three main areas either completely or partially under Communist control or influence. These are:
1. The frontier area, made up of the Northwest provinces of Shensi, Kansu and Ningshia.
This area, west of the Yellow River and South of the Great Wall, is bounded on the north and west by Mongolia and Tibet. It has been one of the most backward sections of China and has a population of only approximately two million. The government of this area is a direct continuation of the Chinese Soviet Republic, formally liquidated when the anti-Japanese United Front was formed, but maintaining complete autonomy from the Chinese National Government.
2. The “Border Region,” made up of the Northeastern provinces of Hopei-Chahar and Shansi.
This region is completely within Japanese lines, and within it the Communist-influenced governments compete with the Japanese provisional government militarily, economically and politically. The old provincial governments are negligible, functioning only in unoccupied corners of their provinces or in exile. On a smaller scale than Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, they are but another variant of that modern phenomenon – the government in exile.
3. The New Fourth Army zone in the Yangtze Valley, made up of sections of the East Central provinces of Anhwei, Kiangsu, Kiangsi, Fukian and Chekiang.
In this area the Chinese Soviet Republic functioned before the “Long March” to the Northwest. Although officially abolished by Chiang in January, 1941, the main forces of the New Fourth Army probably continue to function within the Japanese-occupied zones, where Chiang’s armies cannot reach them.
While differences exist between these areas in the degree Communist influence, autonomy, etc., they all exhibit the pattern of peasant revolt. The most informative and complete study of this pattern in China has been made by E. Taylor in his book, The Struggle for North China, with the Border Region. The latter will therefore be used as an example of the three areas.
The outstanding characteristics of peasant revolts are their local, dispersed and temporary character. Their possibilities and limitations have been classically described by Engels in his study, The Peasant War in Germany. The successes and failures of the Chinese Soviets from 1928 to 1934 are a modern instance of the inability of peasant armies to achieve the agrarian revolution on a national and permanent scale without the leadership and cooperation of the proletariat. Today, in occupied China, the temporary character of the successes of the guerrillas against the Japanese may be summarized in the statement that the Japanese rule by day and the Chinese guerrillas by night.
The unsuccessful national revolution of 1900, known as the Boxer Rebellion, had been a Northern movement. The republican revolution of 1911 had developed out of a Southern movement. Northern China, unlike Central and Southern China, barely experienced the revolution of 1926-27. The last orderly government in the experience of the population was the Manchu dynasty. The Kuomintang had never made serious inroads.
The cities of the North had remained picturesque souvenirs of ancient feudal China. Peking, for example, had been from 1900 on little more than a garrison for foreign troops and a center for imperialist intrigue. Industrialization in the North had been confined to the communications required by the imperialists to exploit the natural resources of the country. The areas lying between the railroads and roads were a hinterland, partially if not completely self-sufficient. However, relative to Southern and Central China, there is in the North a larger agricultural proletariat because the poor productivity of the land requires farming on a larger scale.*[* “Forms of Farm Labor In China,” Agrarian China, page 69.]
This economic and political background dictated the possibilities and necessities of Japanese expansion. With very little difficulty they were able to overrun the chief cities and railroads. For the rest, they were compelled and had the opportunity to introduce a new order for the people. The peasants at first put up no resistance “because the invasion directly ; and immediately threatened the security of the landlords. ... When the poor peasants witnessed how the landlords were forced to become refugees overnight and to run for their lives, they were not sorry to see their rich oppressors suffer for a change.” [The Organization of a Typical Guerrilla Area In South Shantung,” by Wang Yu-chuan, appendix to The Chinese Army, by E. F. Carlson.]
The principles of the Japanese New Order were eradication of the evils of the Kuomintang, eradication of Communism, and the pan-racial unity of Asia. For the San Min Chu I, or Three People’s Principles of the Kuomintang, the Japanese substituted the Hsin Min Chu I, or New People’s Principles. In reality, the New People’s Principles meant that l there would be no reduction of land rents, no revision of land taxation, no regularization of land tenure and no revision of village usury. Hence a fair proportion of the gentry were willing to become allies of the Japanese.
All over the world today, popular sensitivity to collaboration with the invader exists on an unprecedented scale. However, in Asia even more than in Europe, the war brought to a head the social uselessness of the local gentry. In China, where the landlords could not claim any social function as managers, the Japanese found no social force of any consequence to collaborate with them in funding their New Order. If the Quislings stayed in the villages, the guerrillas branded them as traitors and meted out suitable corporal punishment. If they fled to the Japanese-occupied cities, their property at home was confiscated. In the cities, only a few were needed for fronts. The rest actually were competitors of the Japanese second “army” of merchants, officials and administrators. Many of the gentry therefore found it more expedient to re-main in or return to the villages and join in the anti-Japanese
United Front. This shuttling back and forth did not help the “face” of the would-be Quislings. In some places, to restore their prestige, the landlords called themselves guerrilla commanders whenever they could gather five or ten people together. The landlord forces, in reality, permitted the activities of traitors in their areas, never attacked the Japanese and, instead, harassed the real popular guerrilla forces.
The Japanese occupation was also in the dilemma of encouraging the old classical education for political purposes, although the economic development of occupied China required vocational training of the masses. Without giving this technical training they could neither repair the economic damage they have caused nor promote large-scale development.
The inability of the Japanese to give political, economic and social stability to the occupation tremendously facilitated the tasks of the Communists in rallying the people for resistance. Functioning virtually within a vacuum, the Communists had the opportunity to create a new form of government. Their limitations have been self-imposed in accordance with the Stalintern’s policy of a united front against Japan.
The population had been accustomed by many decades of brigand armies to taxes without public services, and forced labor to landlord and warlord. To gain their support in the resistance it was necessary to point out a new road of cooperation between the military and the civilian. As in the days of civil war with Chiang Kai-shek, the Communists have had to depend upon guerrilla tactics; surprise and mobile warfare in small groups, self-reliance of lower officers, and capture of ammunition from the enemy. In the end, however, the basis of guerrilla tactics is the willingness of the population to cooperate.
The ignorant, illiterate and impoverished people had to be given something to fight for at the same time that they were shown an enemy to fight against. This has been achieved by direct but moderate economic reforms, such as suspensions or reduction of rents to landlords and interest to usurers, regulation of share-cropping and lowering of taxes. The property of traitors (comprising ten to twenty per cent of the land in this region) has been confiscated and redistributed, pending the “repentance” of the traitors. Army auxiliaries have been created to assist the peasantry in farming their land and to minimize the burden of supplying the military.
As in some areas of Chiang Kai-shek’s China, industrial cooperatives have been organized to produce the essentials for consumers and for the army. [It is generally agreed by everyone except the enthusiastic sponsors of the Indusco movement that even the very moderate success of the movement is only a temporary phenomenon, possible only because of wartime isolation of various areas from the world and national market. Out of a proposed 30,000 corps, only 2,800 have been established with 80,000 workers. For an uncritical appraisal of Indusco, see “China Shall Rise Again,” by Madame Chiang Kai-shek. For more critical accounts, see Snow, “Battle for Asia,” and Mitchell, “Industrialization in the Western Pacific"] Throughout there has been an emphasis on economic self-sufficiency and hence an employment of all hands in productive labor. Since no external trade with the Japanese is permitted, there has been a limitation on such crops as cotton. Production of essentials by simple handicraft has been restored to supply the population and keep labor from migrating to the cities. But economic penetration knows no borders, and despite border government control of trade, smuggling has been widespread.
Politically, the population of the guerrilla areas has been given a new sense of human dignity by its participation in village mobilization committees and county political councils. The principles of universal suffrage and political democracy have been instituted. For this role the people have been given education which, while limited mainly to political agitation, has opened up to the masses a whole new world. These are peasants who have depended entirely upon one man in a whole village to read and write their letters, and who have sold their daughters to repay a twenty-dollar debt. Today they grasp at even token recognition of their humanity.
In some places the villagers are so well organized in the anti-Japanese movement that they will evacuate their homes when the Japanese approach, bury food, remove all animals and utensils and retire into the hills.
The Communists, in line with their appeasement of Chiang Kai-shek, have persistently discouraged the increasing class tensions arising between the peasants and the landlords. In the tradition of peasant wars, the victories of the masses are nullified by compromise with the middle class. The Communist Party is pledged not to accept more than one-third of the elected positions in any local or hsien government. In the border region there is a farmers’ union in which the landlords are not permitted membership. The efforts of this union to gain economic advantages for the class it represents are discouraged by the United Fronters.
The party itself has admitted that it had difficulties in convincing the ranks of the Eighth Route Army to accept the United Front policy. “... The men do not fully understand the reasons for such actions, some men actually accusing their leaders of ‘counter-revolutionary orders.’”
The Communists have sought to remove all obstacles in the way of those gentry who may wish to return from the occupied areas. The border government actually collects rents for absent landlords and holds them in reserve for the prodigals’ return. Mao The-tung, the Communist leader, has summarized the compromise policy of the Communists beyond any misunderstanding: “Regarding agrarian problems, on the one hand, we advocate a policy of reducing rents and interests so that the peasants can have clothing and food; on the other hand, we are also carrying out a policy of recognizing the payment of rents and interest as obligatory so that the landlords can also have clothing and food. Regarding the relation between labor and capital, on the one hand, we are realizing the policy of helping the workers so that they may have food and clothing; while on the other hand we are also carrying out a policy of industrial development which will provide the capitalists with profit.” There can be no clearer statement of anti-revolutionary policy.
The compromise policy of the Stalinists against the Chinese bourgeoisie in 1925-27 brought death, imprisonment and disillusionment to hundreds of thousands of workers in Industrialized China. Their compromise policy against the rich peasants in 1933 brought pessimism, mass desertions, and eventually defeat of the agrarian revolutions following in the wake of the proletarian revolution. Their pressure for the release of Chiang from Sian in 1926 produced cynicism and confusion among the soldiers in the Northern armies. Today the threat of the foreign enemy holds the people together in the United Front. As the end of the war approaches, the class tensions will emerge more openly. After the war, the Chinese Communist Party will have more difficulty in imposing the Kremlin’s will on masses who have fought, and died by the thousands, in a supposedly revolutionary cause.
Today the peasants are being given invaluable training for the social revolution. They have learned that bona fide national defense depends on them and that there is political meaning to their instinctive rebellion. They have learned that rights must accompany responsibilities and they are learning to enjoy popular government. They are acquiring a modicum of literacy and tools for self-expression and they are also receiving some industrial training through the Indusco movement. They have learned how to deal with the treacherous gentry by assassination and by confiscation of property. They have seen a popular army in the process of development and become part of it, acquiring the consciousness that the sword belongs to the community. Into the backward North there have migrated thousands of peasants and intellectuals from the South, where they have lived in closer contact with the modern world.
Moreover, the Chinese masses in Communist-controlled China have been indoctrinated with an international outlook. The Soviet districts regarded themselves as part of the world proletariat. The course of the civil war and the conquest of Abyssinia were followed with intense interest. In view of this background, it is possible to credit the report of a split in the Chinese Communist Party over the dissolution of the Comintern.
The border region has also stressed solidarity between the Japanese and the Chinese masses against their common enemy, the Japanese militarists and capitalists. The Eighth Route Army especially employs the technique of indoctrinating Japanese prisoners and sending them back to educate their comrades-in-arms.
This training in the techniques of social revolution is constantly on the verge of overflowing into practice. No modern revolution has been able to linger for long at the bourgeois democratic stage. It has either moved forward under the impulsion of the masses or succumbed to bourgeois dictatorship. Hence the intense mutual hostility of the China of Chiang Kai-shek and the China that is Communist-led.*[* The New York Times of September 8, 1943, reports that Communists numbering 10,000 made two unprovoked attacks against the pacification corps in Southwestern Shantung on July 20 and August 6. In the summer of 1943, five divisions of Chiang’s best armed and fed troops were moved Into the Northwest area away from the Japanese front. At the Plenum of the Kuomintang In September 1943, a resolution was adopted accusing the Chinese Communist Party of subversive activities and calling upon it to fulfill its promise to abandon the Communist movement, dissolve the Soviet government and disband the Red Army. Only one of seven Communist delegates attended the subsequent session of the People’s Political Council. See Amerasia, October 1, 1943.] Ideas and techniques cannot be limited by geographical boundaries, nor hemmed in by mass armies made up of peasants.
As Trotsky said in 1928: “... With a new rising wave of the proletarian movement... one will be able to speak seriously about the perspective of an agrarian revolution.”
New International Volume X, Number 5 (Whole No. 86), May 1944 pp. 154-156
Japanese control extends over all the areas of China which had been industrialized to any degree before the war.
All Chinese factories which were not destroyed were either seized outright or reorganized under joint Sino-Japanese management. “Cooperating” Chinese, in North China at least, usually continued to get half of the profits from their own enterprises. ["America’s Hole in Asia,” by Harry Paxton Howard, New York, 1943; page 255.] To Northern China, where little industry had been developed before the invasion, Tokyo sent heavy and light machinery to extract profits from Chinese labor. ["Japan Fights for Asia,” by John Goette, New York, 1943; page 154.] Mineral deposits were developed and communications built to transport needed raw materials to Japan. Japanese manufacture became the source of supply for Chinese workers and peasants.
The Chinese bourgeoisie met this economic aggression either by “cooperation,” flight or reorganization of their firms under Western control (until Pearl Harbor). Many of the Western capitalists welcomed the Japanese as protectors of foreign “rights” in China.
Politically, the Japanese tried to gain the favor of the Chinese bourgeoisie and the Western capitalists by their program for the eradication of communism. At Peking they set up a regime, now known as the Political Council of North China, under Wang Keh-min, erstwhile president of the Bank of China. At Nanking they set up Wan Ching-wei as president of the “National Government of China” and as “true” leader of the Kuomintang.
To the Chinese the Japanese posed as the liberators of Asia from Western imperialism. [Before Pearl Harbor the Germans offered Britain a plan to save the International Settlement from Japanese hands. The price was German representation on the Municipal Council of the Settlement. Fear of popular indignation at home kept the British from accepting the offer. Goette, op. cit., page 224.] To meet this political offensive, Britain and America, on October 10, 1942, announced the relinquishment of extraterritoriality. In a counter-offensive, on January 10, 1943, Japan signed a treaty with the Wang Ching-wei government, relinquishing extraterritoriality and promising to restore to the Nanking regime all rights in Japanese concessions as well as in those which her army seized from Britain. The native bourgeoisie had desired this for years but had been unable to wrest it from Western imperialism. The puppet regime at Peking expressed “sincere thanks to the Japanese authorities for their kindness and this impartial step, which selfish Britain and America had never even dreamed of.”
Very few reports have come through from the Japanese-occupied cities of China and the data on the proletariat is therefore extremely limited. The most complete study has been made of Shanghai, ["Economic Shanghai: Hostage to Politics,” by Robert W. Barnett, Institute of Pacific Relations] and this key city has thus been chosen as the chief subject of the present section.
Shanghai has been for more than half a century the crucible in which conflicting imperialist and class forces could be seen in struggle. At Shanghai was concentrated the majority of foreign and native mills and factories, banks and motor vehicles. It was at Shanghai before the war that the Japanese had their largest industrial investments. It was at Shanghai that the workers carried out an insurrection in February, 1927, and it was at Shanghai that Chiang Kai-shek found sufficient bourgeois and imperialist support to dare his open betrayal of the Chinese revolution.
At Shanghai, from 1927 to 1937, the workers were most hostile to the Chiang Kai-shek government, which in cooperation with the Japanese and Western employers had clamped down on the right of Chinese workers to organize and strike, destroyed their unions and killed or imprisoned their leaders.
Before the outbreak of hostilities, industry in the Inter-national Settlement was employing 200,000 to 250,000 workers. The outbreak of the war brought a sharp decline to an industrial payroll of only 27,000 in December, 1937. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of refugees flocked in from war-torn China, seeking employment in foreign industry and safety beneath Anglo-American guns. The cessation of industry, combined with the tremendous influx of refugees, reduced the Shanghai workers to living in camps, scooping ref-use from garbage pails for food, and finally in large numbers finding their last resting place in the huge piles of exposed corpses that littered the streets.
By December, 1938, however, Shanghai industry had staged a remarkable recovery. The number of employed workers had again jumped to 237,000. This phenomenal gain was possible and necessary principally because of the huge mass of cheap labor that was available and which, unemployed, constituted a threatening political force to both Japanese and Western capitalists.
The Japanese invaders needed rice for their populations at home and took it. Wealthy Chinese saw the enormous profits in rice speculation and hoarded. Living costs for the workers soared. By 1940 the real wages of the Shanghai workers had fallen to 55.43 from the 1936 index of 100.
The administrators of the International Settlement re-fused to control prices on the ground that it “was better for Shanghai to have rice at a high price than no rice at all.” This was all very well for those gentry and capitalists who could pay the high price. The masses in the streets rioted seventy times in December, 1939, and in June, 1940, staged another epidemic of rice riots.
In the eight months of 1937, preceding the declaration of war, 80,820 workers had been involved in 213 strikes. When war came, the worker was thrown out of his job and his main thought was simple survival. Gradually as the war moved away from Shanghai and industry recovered, the proletariat began to revive its pre-war militancy.
In 1938 there were thirty-four strikes and in 1939, ninety-six. By October, 1940, the number had jumped to 247 for the first ten months alone. These strikes involved 110,642 workers. The strike movement of 1940 indicated that the proletariat, although competing hard even for the chance at employment, was no longer demoralized.
From the beginning of the war to May, 1939, the Shanghai labor unions had maintained continuous relations with the Chinese national government. During this period, strikes were discouraged by the Kuomintang because they might embarrass the Anglo-American employers, whose aid Chiang wanted against Japan. From May to November, 1939, labor activity was stimulated by the Japanese against Western employers. The Japanese formed a Chinese Republic Workers League as a means toward this end but dropped it like a hot .potato when they found it impossible to control. Next the Japanese organized the Chinese Workers Welfare Organization. This organization was disbanded when the Western employers refused to bargain with it. In the fall of 1940 there was a large-scale transport strike, partly political but basically grounded in the miserable working conditions of the strikers. All ruling elements recognized this strike as a danger to the peace and order of Shanghai and combined to break it. In December, 1940, there occurred a police strike.
Thus, when last heard of, the Shanghai proletariat was proving itself unmanageable by the Japanese and a danger to the combined dueling forces of Shanghai.
The destruction of so much Chinese property and industry in the early months of the war diffused the Chinese bourgeoisie. After Pearl Harbor the Western capitalists were forced to flee. The Shanghai proletariat found its old native and Western enemies displaced as social powers. Chiang Kai-shek, that deadly foe of the Shanghai proletariat, was there-tore forced to appeal to it to undermine the Japanese occupation. As early as 1939, Chiang was speaking to the workers in the following vein: “As your spirit is the most revolutionary, so your faith in the ideology of resistance must be firmer and firmer as time goes on. ... You must realize that your strength is as great as that of our soldiers at the front. ... Strengthen your organizations. ... Those of you who work in factories, if only you would refuse to work, then our enemy would not be able to make any profits.”
Against the Japanese and the Chinese Quislings, no serious force exists in Shanghai except the Shanghai proletariat – a proletariat which has no reason to love the Chinese ruling class and which has seen itself sacrificed time and again to rival national and international armies. In Asia, as in Europe, it is the proletariat which has been left to bear the bur-dens of living under the invaders and on whom therefore the bourgeoisie must rely for the national resistance.
We still know very little about the activity of the Shanghai proletariat today. Compared to the magnitude of its task, it is very small. But it has exhibited its revolutionary temper and capacity before, and it will not stand alone.
Not only will the Shanghai workers find allies among the peasants throughout China. In backward Southwestern China, industrialization by the Chiang Kai-shek government is creating a proletariat, still small in numbers but being organized by the government itself in large-scale production and into unions. In the North the Japanese imperialists are bringing an industrial development hitherto unknown in this region.
In Southern China, for forty years the breeding place of revolutionary sentiments, significant changes have also taken place. From Hong Kong and Canton, thousands of workers have fled to their homes in the interior, bringing with them their training in the class struggles of capitalist production and their revolutionary experiences.
After the First World War, returned workers from the West played an important role in the organization of Chinese trade unions. Before the Second World War, overseas Chinese were, for the most part, petty bourgeois merchants and proprietors or employees in small shops, owned by their relatives. Today Chinese workers in the United States, for example, are for the first time employed in any numbers in the basic industries or conscripted into the modern American army.
The overseas Chinese workers have experienced the harsh discrimination of Western society and have no illusions about Anglo-American friendship for the Chinese. Generally known is the refusal of Chiang Kai-shek, under British pressure, to permit Chinese soldiers under Tsai Ting-kai to participate in the defense of Hong Kong. The British preferred to let Hong Kong fall into Japanese hands rather than risk its defense by a large Chinese army.
The virtual peonage in which Chinese merchant seamen have been held in British ships and the refusal of the American government to permit them on shore have already resulted in riots and violence.
Finally the foundations are being laid in Eastern China for international class solidarity between the Chinese and the Japanese masses. The Japanese policy of developing North China industrially has brought the largest influx of Japanese settlers, peasants and workers. The Chinese have discovered a new kind of foreigner, an invader who has coolies as well as gentlemen. As many as 25,000 Japanese army “engineers” have labored alongside 63,000 Chinese coolies to build bridges. Japan’s imperialist policy has created a situation in which class solidarity can be forged on the basis of common misery in the process of capitalist production.
Already Chinese soldiers and seamen in Japanese-officered troops and ships have mutinied and brought their arms and ships over to the Chinese.*[*New York Times, June 30, 1943, and September 15, 1943.] Every action of this kind brings closer the inevitable demoralization in the ranks of the Japanese invasion forces.
After the First World War, the revolutionary upsurge passed to Asia only after it had spent itself in the West. The war had been fought primarily on European soil. Japan had taken advantage of the European war to begin her assertion of independent imperialist action in China. China during the war and for years thereafter was at the nadir of her political power. Nevertheless, China had developed industrially during the war. And the revolution which had precipitated the end of the war had been a semi-Asiatic revolution. It was therefore inevitable that the workers and peasants of China should assert themselves, as they so heroically did, in the 1925-27 revolution. [In Japan itself, from 1918 to 1923, hardly a year passed without virtual civil war between Japanese workers and peasants, and Japanese government forces. (Howard, op. cit., pages 85-86.)]
The Second World War in reality began in China and is an Asiatic as well as a European war. The war, in Asia as well as in Europe proper, brought to a head the incompetence of the bourgeoisie to carry through the defense of the nation. As a result, soon after the beginning of the war, and in China even before, the process of differentiation between the masses of the people and the old ruling classes was taking place on a geographical basis.
At the end of the war, revolutions will occur all over Europe. These events cannot fail to produce effects at a very early date both on the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and peasantry of Asia. The collapse of Mussolini, brought about by the Italian workers, shook the whole Axis camp. The effects of the collapse of Germany will be immeasurably more drastic on the sole remaining Axis partner. Whether the proletariat and peasants of Japan or China or India will be first to move into action, it is impossible to say. But from the pre-ceding analysis, we may safely anticipate that the Chinese masses will play a dramatic and decisive role in the world revolutionary upsurge after the Second World War.