Ccp Victory In The Chinese Civil War Essay
The Chinese Revolution and Chinese Communism
to 1949. *
(Note: The new Pinyin (P) transliteration of Chinese names into English is used for most key leaders and place names; in cases where the "P" system has not become established usage in the West, the old Wade-Giles (W-G) transliteration is either used, or given in brackets).
The People's Republic of China (PRC) was established on October 1, 1949. However, an assessment of Chinese communism cannot begin there. It must begin about 30 years earlier, because the preceding years shaped the PRC as a communist state.
Chinese communism has had a remarkable continuity of leadership. Mao Zedong (W-G: Mao tse-Tung, 1893-1976) and his colleagues were party members in the 1920s. Mao was instrumental in establishing an early form of Chinese communism in the years 1928-34. He helped to develop it and create the military and political strategy in the Yenan years of 1935-45 that won the civil war in 1949. He then went on to mold communist China and ruled it - in his last years at least in name - until his death in September 1976.
However, we should also bear in mind that while most veteran communists followed Mao from the late 1950s on, some came to oppose his more extreme policies. Here we should mention the long-time Premier and Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai (W-G: Chu En-lai, 1898-1976), and the leader of the PRC after Mao's death, Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-p'ing, b. 1904), who was to set the country on the path of economic reform in 1978. However, Deng was also determined to preserve the party's monopoly of power, and crushed the massive student democracy movement by force in June 1989.
To understand the rise of communism in China, we must see it within the context of Chinese history.
* I would like to thank Professor Dan Bays for his help in writing the original version of this chapter, and Professor Terry Weidner for helping me revise it in fall 1996.
I. Conditions in China in 1917.
China has a 4,000 year history, and was a unified state under several imperial dynasties. The last dynasty, the Qing, was founded by the Manchus in 1644, after their conquest of China. It ruled for almost three hundred years, until it finally collapsed in 1912. By that time the imperial system had fallen into decay and was totally discredited.
Most historians attribute the decline of China at least in part to the inability of its rulers to understand and adapt modern technology. While this is true, another key factor was the quadrupling of the population under the Qing, which put enormous pressure on government resources. In fact, by the early 20th century, Japan was the only Asian country to achieve achieve modernisation and cope with a rapid population increase. We should note, however, that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were some outstanding Chinese thinkers who wanted to modernize China. Some hoped for a constitutional framework, i.e., parliamentary monarchy, while others worked for a democratic republic. Most wanted the abolition of the feudal-Confucian system; all wanted the abolition of foreign privilege and the unification of their vast country.
The man who came to lead the strongest movement for reform and unity was Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925). Sun was born near Canton; he was raised by his elder brother in Hawaii and graduated as a medical doctor in Hongkong in 1892. Two years later, however, he began to devote himself to political work for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty His goal was to create a strong, unified, modern, Chinese republic. Between 1905 and 1912, Sun developed a political movement called the Revolutionary Alliance, which was funded by donations from Chinese businessmen living outside of China.
Sun's main backer was Charlie Soong (d. 1927). He came to the United States around 1880, converted to Christianity, and found generous Americans to pay for his education in the U.S. Later, he became a successful businessman in Shanghai. He began by printing and selling bibles, but made his fortune on noodle factories. We should note that Soong's children went on to play important political roles. His two daughters received an American education, after which Ch'ingling married Sun Yat-sen, while May'ling married Chiang Kai-shek. Soong's son, Teseven (T.V.) studied at Harvard and Columbia Universities and became Chiang's Finance Minister.
In 1911, a military revolt led to revolution and the fall of the Qing dynasty. Although the revolution aroused great hope for democracy, the Republic established in 1912 proved a miserable failure. The Guomindang (Kuomintang, KMT) or Nationalist Party developed by Sun Yat-sen after the revolution on the base of the old Revolutionary Alliance, was still very weak, and the country was in the grip of war lords, who created their own satrapies and had their own armies. Meanwhile, the central government came under the rule of Gen. Yuan Shikai, who died in June 1916 before he could consolidate his power as Emperor. He was succeeded by Li Yuanghong, who had been Vice-President. There followed an insurrection in spring 1917, led by Gen. Zhang Xun, who tried to restore the Qing dynasty in the person of its last male heir, the boy emperor Puyi (1906-1967), but the insurrection collapsed. In August 1918, a new Chinese parliament elected Hsu Shih-ch'ang (W-G) as President, and he retained this post until 1922. However, the central government was weak and faced a rival government in Guangzhou (Canton).
In the meanwhile, China had lined up with the entente powers and Japan against Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I. Although the Chinese authorities did not send soldiers, they did send some 100,000 laborers who were used by the allied armies in France and Belgium, while others worked for the Allies in Mesopotamia and Africa. However, in January 1917, Japan obtained special rights in the former Chinese provinces of Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, extending them in 1918. Finally, the Versailles Treaty of June 28, 1919 (peace treaty with Germany worked out by the victor powers) did not return the former German concession at Shantung to China, but gave it to Japan. This caused strong anti-Japanese and anti-western feelings in China.
B. The Semi-Colonial Status of China.
In the course of the 19th century, foreign powers had firmly established their separate enclaves (concessions) in the major coastal cities. They had extensive economic-political privileges, including extra-territorial status, the best example of which was the foreign enclave in the great port city of Shanghai. These concessions were won by force and spelled out in the unequal treaties.
Along with the power of local warlords, these foreign privileges were a major obstacle to any Chinese political movement aiming to unify the country.
C. The Need for Social Reform and Change.
The social structure of China was obsolete. In particular, the gentry class (landlords who sometimes were also local officials) was an obstacle to modernization. They dominated the peasants, who made up the vast majority of the population. Almost all of them lived in abject poverty, dying like flies in the recurrent famines. At the same time, most of the merchants in the coastal cities lacked capital and vision, while those who tried to develop more modern methods were checked by foreign privilege. The urban workers - about 2 million out of an estimated population of some 300 million in 1918 - were mostly unskilled and also lived in dire poverty. Thus, social reform was a third priority, coming behind national unity and independence, because reformers saw them as the basic prerequisites for the modernization of China.
D. Intellectual Ferment.
Many members of China's small educated class were deeply worried by the situation; they were desperate for change and looked for answers. The constitutional monarchists were led by Kang Youwei (1858-1927), who hoped that the Qing emperor Guangxu would achieve this aim. However, the Emperor died in 1908 and the reins of government were taken over by the old dowager empress Cixi, who acted as regent for the boy-emperor, Puyi. Another reformist thinker was Liang Qichao, a disciple of Kang. Liang rejected violent revolution, but worked for an informed citizenry and political discipline. Like Kang, he also argued for the liberation of women and their participation in political life. Marxism began to gain adherents in China with the translation of Marx's Communist Manifesto in 1906, but some thinkers were more attracted to anarchism. Finally, there was Sun Yat-sen and his Revolutionary Alliance (see above).
The yearning of educated Chinese for a reformed, united, China, free of foreign privilege, was clearly expressed in the May 4th Movement of 1919. This student-led movement protested against the unfair treatment of China in the peace treaties following World War I, whereby Japan took over the German concession in Shantung and expanded its control over Manchuria.The May 4th Movement also attacked the privileges of the foreign powers, and made radical and democratic demands for changing the social and political system. The students, encouraged by radically inclined professors, especially at Beijing University (Beida), were soon joined by businessmen and workers. Thus, there was considerable potential for mobilizing a national movement.
II. The Impact of the Russian Revolution and of Marxism-Leninism on China.
A. The Beginnings of Chinese Communism.
Many Chinese intellectuals were attracted by Marxism. Those active in the in May 4th Movement, as well as others outside it, saw socialism as a means of preventing the conflicts caused by capitalism - particularly because at a time of great ambivalence toward the West, Marxism could be seen as as a western "ism" that could be used against the West. Finally, many
Chinese socialists were attracted to anarchism.
In June 1918, the head librarian at Beijing University, Li Dazhao, saluted Lenin. Li saw the revolution in backward Russia as a model for China. He established a Marxist study group at the university, which Mao Zedong joined in 1919. Mao had moved to Beijing and worked as a clerk in the university library. Chen Duxiu, a dean at Beijing University and editor of the progressive journal, New Youth, decided to devote a special issue to Marxism; it was published on May 1, 1919, under the editorship of Li Dazhao. Li's article analyzed Marxist concepts, introducing them to the journal's readers all over China.
As with Russian Marxists, the main problem facing the Chinese Marxists was the fact that the vast majority of the population was made up not of workers, but of peasants. Li Dazhao circumvented this obstacle by claiming that foreign exploitation of China made all its people an exploited proletariat. Moreover, he claimed that China could not be liberated without the liberation of the peasants. He urged young Marxists to go into the countryside, and they began to do so in 1920.
A member of Li's Marxist study group, Qu Qiubai, was one of the most successful organizers of China's peasants. He even visited Moscow that same year - 1920 - and wrote an enthusiastic report in the Beijing Morning News. He wrote that he was happy he had seen "the lighthouse of the mind's sea." Two years later, he was still in Moscow and became a member of the communist party.
B. Early Sino-Soviet Relations.
Chinese Communists benefited greatly from the fact that Sun Yat-sen obtained no support from the Western powers who were, after all, attached to their special privileges in China. (In fact, to begin with, he was seen as too close to the West and had to take a harder line anyway). It is not surprising, therefore, that he turned to Moscow. In January 1918, he congratulated Lenin on the successful Bolshevik revolution (November 1917).
There was little reliable information about the Bolshevik revolution in China before 1920. We know that study groups were organized to study Marxist thought but it was not until spring 1920, that a Comintern agent, Grigorii Voytinskii, arrived in China with information and political writings. Many of these were translated into Chinese at this time. It was also Voytinskii who worked successfully to transform the existing Marxist study groups into communist groups and then into the Communist Party of China. Here we should note that Voytinskii was assisted in this organizational work by the Soviet government's proclamation that it would give up the old Russian privileges in China. In particular, the Soviet government promised to return the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER, a branch of the Trans-Siberian railway) to China. Though this promise was not implemented, it made Chinese authorities more friendly to Moscow and allowed some travel between China and Soviet Russia.
Thus, it was in the period between spring and winter 1920, and with the active help of Voytinskii, that the Chinese Communist Party began to take shape. It was based on the Marxist study groups previously organized in Beijing and Shanghai. The party was secretly constituted in that city in July 1921, formalizing the organization formed the previous year. The General Secretary was Chen Duxiu, while Zhang Guotao was made head of the organization section, and Li Dazhao was head of propaganda. Communist nuclei around the country were transformed into party branches with local secretaries in Hunan (Mao Zedong), Guangzhou, Wuhan, Beijing, and Jinan. Shanghai had its own branch. The party program closely followed the Bolshevik program in Soviet Russia. However, some radical Chinese intellectuals rejected the Bolshevik model; they were either supporters of democratic socialism, or joined the Guomindang (Kuomingtang). Voytinskii was succeeded by Maring (alias of Hendricus Sneevliet), who continued to guide the fledgling communist movement in China.
Here it is appropriate to give a brief biographical sketch of Mao Zedong. He was born into a prosperous farming family in Hunan Province in 1893. He rebelled against his father and refused to accept an arranged marriage. He read much on his own and majored in ethics at the First Normal School (Teachers' College) in Changsha. He resented the superior airs of Chinese scholars, and it is then that he probably acquired the anti-intellectual attitudes, strengthened later at Beijing University, that he manifested as a leader. In his essay on physical education, published in the progressive journal, New Youth, in April 1917, he attacked the "passive" Confucian thinking and way of life; he called for physical education to strengthen the body, for violence, and anger. Soon, he was advocating the equal rights of women, and attacking the practice of arranged marriages. Above all, he expressed a determination to fight for his beliefs. He was to implement all these early thoughts when he became the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and then of China. (1)
III. The Comintern and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to 1927.
Lenin was convinced that the Russian Revolution could not survive unless successful revolutions took place in other countries, which would then become socialist allies of Soviet Russia. But he knew from his own experience that in economically backward countries -- and Russia was a backward country in 1917 -- the revolutionary leaders were not workers or peasants, but bourgeois, i.e., middle class intellectuals. Therefore, he developed the policy of supporting "bourgeois nationalism" in Western-ruled colonial areas, seeing it as the primary instrument of anti-imperialist revolution. This was, in turn, to lead to the fall of "imperialism" which he saw as the highest stage of capitalism. This explains Lenin's primary interest in the nationalist Guomindang (Kuomintang [KMT]) movement.
Thus, in the early 1920s, the Soviet Union supported Sun Yat-Sen's KMT. The Soviets agreed to give Sun military, political, and organizational help. The latter consisted of building a party cell structure in the country which strengthened it greatly. Official diplomatic relations were established in 1924. In May of that year, the Soviet government fulfilled some of its earlier promises by giving up formally the old Russian concessions in Tianjin (Tientsin) and Hankow, as well as paying the outstanding part of the indemnity for Chinese losses incurred by Russian action in the great power intervention during the Boxer Rebellion (1900-1901). These Soviet moves cost Moscow very little, while increasing Chinese goodwill toward the USSR.
Sun Yat-Sen had his base in Guangzhou (Canton). His primary goal was the reunification of the country. To do this, he had to accomplish two key objectives: defeat the Chinese warlords and force out the foreign powers. But first, he had to make the KMT an effective, political and military force, and to do this, he needed outside help. Since he received no help from any of the foreign powers, he welcomed that of the Comintern.
After Voytinskii and Maring, the foremost agent of the Comintern in China was Michael Borodin (real name: Gruzenberg), whom Sun Yat-Sen invited to China in 1923. He acted as Comintern adviser to the Central Committee of the KMT until 1927. (He was later a victim of the Stalin purges). Borodin acted as Comintern agent to the KMT Central Committee until 1927. He helped Sun reorganize the KMT along Bolshevik lines, i.e., to give it a Bolshevik party structure. At the same time, Soviet military advisers led by General Vasily K. Blyukher, (known in China as Galen), helped establish a military force under KMT control. (Blyukher was also to be a victim of the Stalin purges). The establishment of this military force saw the rise of Chiang Kai-shek (P: Chieh-shih, 1887-1975). After studying in Moscow, he began his career as the Commander of the Whampoa Military Academy in May 1924, with the communist Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai) as his second in command.
We should note that Lenin, and later Stalin, ordered the CCP to join the KMT and many leading communists did so, including Mao and Zhou Enlai. The goal was to strengthen and, at the same time, infiltrate the KMT. Nevertheless, though Soviet advisers gave the KMT ideology an anti-imperialist slant, the bulk of the movement remained distinctly non-communist. Ironically, the CCP's major contribution to the KMT was to organize worker support for it in the coastal cities. The peak of CCP-KMT cooperation came in the years of the Nationalist Revolution, in 1925-27. This was crowned by the great campaign launched against the warlords of central China by Chiang Kai-shek in 1926. It was known as the Northern Expedition because he started from the south.. Chiang won a series of impressive victories and unified about half of the country by 1927.
Chiang's triumph signalled the end of cooperation between the KMT and the CCP. The generally accepted view is that the split was precipitated by CCP radicalism. This targeted not only foreign privileges and symbols, but also rich Chinese. Wealthy Shangai industrialists were alarmed and offered to bankroll Chiang if he freed himself from dependence on Moscow. This suited Chiang and in March 1925 he arrested the political commissars in his army and placed the Soviet advisers under house arrest. In April 1927, when the Northern Expedition forces approached Shanghai, the communist-led labor unions rose to take the city from the inside. When Chiang entered the city, he ordered a massacre of the communists. This became known as the "Shanghai massacre" or more commonly "the White Terror." Also in April 1927, KMT leaders met in Nanjing (Nanking), proclaimed the establishment of a National Government and outlawed the CCP.
Stalin did not want to admit the defeat of his China policy, so he ordered the CCP to continue cooperation with the KMT. It is not clear whether he sanctioned an unofficial test of strength, or whether the CCP -- perhaps encouraged by Borodin -- disobeyed his orders. In any case, it carried out an uprising in the city of Nanchang in August 1927. Although the communists held the city for only a few days, the rising is notable for the participation of future leaders of the Chinese Red Army. The communist rising in Guangzhou in December 1927 also failed. We should note that Leon Trotsky openly criticized Stalin for the failure of his policy in China. This criticism, together with his opposition to Stalin in the debate on industrialization (1926-27), led to his internal exile to Alma Ata, Kazkhastan, in 1928, and then his exile from Russia in 1929.
There was, in fact, no way that the CCP could have seized control of the KMT in the 1920s or 1930s, because at that time the KMT embodied the dominant drive toward unification and symbolized Chinese national goals. But we can at least wonder whether a different Soviet policy toward the CCP might not have averted its annihilation. For example, it is intriguing to speculate what would have happened if Moscow had ordered the CCP to split off from the KMT in March 1926, and/or supported Mao's later policy of concentrating the party's efforts on the peasants - as the CCP frantically requested (?) However, such a policy seems most unlikely for while Trotsky opposed CCP cooperation with the KMT, neither he nor Stalin ever sanctioned Mao's strategy to build Chinese communism with the support of the teeming millions of Chinese peasants.
Still, though the Stalin-Comintern Chinese policy had exposed the CCP to brutal repression, at the time it seemed to achieve the primary Soviet goal of aiding a strong national movement to victory, thus loosening the hold of the imperialist powers on China and thereby benefiting the Soviet Union. But this was a theoretical benefit at best. In fact, Great Britain, which of all the imperialist powers had the greatest investments in China, made its peace with the KMT. Furthermore, Germany gained a foothold in China by extending help to Chiang -- including military advisers -- to fight the communists in Jiangxi (Kiangsi). However, Chiang's chances of consolidating his power over China were ended by the Japanese attack on the country in 1937. This was to drive him to Chungking (Ch'ung-Ch'ing, southwest China), where he waged only limited military action against Japan until the end of the war.
IV. The Development of a Unique and Ultimately Successful CCP Revolutionary Strategy, 1928-1945.
A. The Jiangxi (Kiangsi) Period, 1928-1935.
At this time, the KMT led by Chiang continued the struggle to unify China up to the Yangtze River and beyond. However, the Japanese overran Manchuria in 1931, made it a puppet state, and called it Manchukuo. Marshal Zhang Xueliang (Chang Hsueh-liang, son of the Manuchrian warlord, Marshal Zhang Zuolin, assassinated by the Japanese in 1928), moved his troops south of the Great Wall on Chiang's orders. Meanwhile, the Japanese made the last Emperor of China, Puyi, their puppet ruler in Manchuria. Still, in 1936, the KMT exerted at least a loose form of control over two-thirds of the population of China.
However, the peasants soon found that nothing changed much except for the national flag. Warlords loosely allied with Chiang still ruled large parts of China and there was no land reform. Many intellectuals became alienated from Chiang by the end of this period because he did not introduce democratic reforms. On the contrary, he seemed to favor his own dictatorship, and to see fascism as a desirable model of government.
At this time the communist movement was rebuilt by Mao and Zhu De (Chu Teh) -- one of the leaders of the Nanchang rising -- in the southern part of the province of Jiangxi. Meanwhile, the official party leaders, who remained loyal to Moscow, went into hiding in Shanghai, where they stayed until 1930.
It was during this period that Mao redirected Chinese communism from the workers to the peasants who, after all, made up the vast majority of the population. Thus Mao changed the communist goal in China from a workers' revolution to a peasant revolution, which he saw as the first step toward a socialist revolution.
Furthermore, in cooperation with Zhu De, Mao evolved the strategy of operating from a stable base area, and of harassing government troops by guerrilla tactics. These tactics were not new; they were rooted in traditional Chinese military strategy which Mao knew very well from hisr reading. They were to play a central role in the ultimate victory of Mao's forces over Chiang.
Equally important was the fact that in the area under their control in southern Jiangxi, the communists carried out land reform. This really meant distributing the land equally, except that landlords and richer peasants were to get less than the others. This did not always work out that way because some landlords and rich peasants kept more land in return for supporting the communists. But overall, the communists obtained solid support from the peasants, for whom land reform was the most important issue. The key to such success as the communists achieved at this time was the moderate nature of their reforms. This moderation was, in fact, mandated not by communist dogma but by the existing production shortages which were exacerbated by the ruthless KMT blockade of CCP-held areas.
Mao emerged as the leading spokesman for these policies. They were embodied in the Chinese Soviet Republic, known also as the Jiangxi Soviet, which existed from 1931-34. This was the model which mainstream Chinese communism was to follow from then on. These developments took place independently of Moscow. However, the CCP went on to impose a very radical regime when other Chinese communists, called "Bolsheviks," returned to Jiangxi from Moscow and replaced Mao sometime around 1933. This regime had disastrous results. Mao resumed power at the beginning of the "Long March" at the Cun Yi conference in 1934. The Jiangxi Soviet came to an end in late 1934-35, when KMT military pressure became too great. At that time, the communists had to break out and move elsewhere to survive. This resulted in the Long March, an event of enormous significance in the history of Chinese communism. (2)
The Long March.
In October 1934, about 100,000 people broke through the KMT armies in south Jiangxi and trekked some 6,000 miles by a round about route to the northwest province of Shaanxi (Shensi), which some 20,000 survivors reached in 1935. Yenan became Mao's main base there in 1937. This was a terrible ordeal, and a defeat in the sense that it was the consequence of the KMT's military victory over the communists. However, the Long March and the arrival of its survivors in Shaanxi signified the survival of Mao's brand of communism in a secure base. Here, it could gather its forces and, by waging a guerrilla war against Japan, lay the groundwork for its later conquest of China.
Also, the Long March provided a heroic myth for Chinese communists in the future, much as Valley Forge had done for Americans. It deepened the communists' sense of destiny. Finally, it provided the leaders of future communist China. Of the few hundred top PRC leaders that still lived in the 1980s and those still alive early 1990s, some 90% were/are veterans of that odyssey. (3)
B. The Sino-Japanese War and The Yenan Period, 1937-1945.
In September 1936, the Japanese government presented secret demands to the government of Chiang Kai-Shek. Disguised as proposals for a common war against the communists, their acceptance would have meant Japanese domination over China.
In December 1936, Chiang went north to coordinate a campaign against the Yenan communists with Marshal Zhang Xueliang. The Marshal, angered by the Japanese assassination of his father had supported Chiang, but he became angry at the latter's preference to fight the communists rather than the Japanese. Zhang was in touch with the communists and when Chiang began to move against him, he invited the KMT leader to a meeting - - and kidnapped him . At a meeting with communist leaders and Zhang, Chiang was "persuaded" to give up his anti-communist campaign and agree to wage a common fight against Japan. Chiang agreed, and flew back to his capital with Zhang. However, while he proclaimed a common war against the Japanese, he never forgave Zhang. He kept the marshal under house arrest all through the war, after which he took him along to Taiwan, and kept him under guard for decades. (Chiang died in 1975; Zhang was reported to have left Taiwan in the late 1980s, to visit relatives in the U.S.).
On July 7, 1937, an accidental fire fight between Chinese and Japanese troops at Lukouchiao, near Beijing, gave Tokyo the long desired pretext for attacking China. Japanese armies seized Beijing and Tientsin; then they proceeded to occupy most of eastern China. Many historians suspect that this fight was precipitated by the Japanese. Whatever the case might be, the Japanese invasion of China had a dual effect on the country: (a) it swept northeast China clear of the old authorities, whom the KMT had never been able to control effectively anyway; and (b) it bogged down the Japanese in a large area of China which they could not control either. This situation provided the ideal opportunity for guerrilla war, or as the communists called it -- "The People's War of Resistance."
The communist guerrillas, who were led by "The 8th Route Army", were able to establish links and contacts throughout northern China. These forces did so by harassing the Japanese, while at the same time fighting hard - not always successfully - to protect the peasants in the villages.
The 8th Route Army gave the CCP a very strong claim to represent Chinese nationalism, especially since the KMT, after putting up a hard fight at the beginning, reduced its resistance to the minimum when the government settled in far away Chungking.
But this was only part of the CCP achievement. The other was its use of wartime resistance to effect a permanent penetration of the villages. Here the communists generally treated the peasants well by paying for what they needed, and also implemented popular social-economic policies. Of these, the most important were rent and interest controls and an end to abuses in tax collection, both very popular with the peasants. These measures were accompanied by education, i.e., teaching the peasants to read and write a basic form of Chinese. These policies, which followed precedents set in Jiangxi, gave the CCP a mass base, which no Chinese government had ever had, including the KMT. (Some new studies show, however, that the CCP was not always as good as this in treating the peasants).
By the end of the war, the results were dramatic. The CCP controlled 19 base areas with a population of about 100 million and had an army of about half a million. The Party itself had about 1 million members. Thus, the CCP was all set for a test of strength with the KMT. From hindsight, the factors outlined above were bound to result in a communist victory. At the time, however, the KMT had such superiority in troops and weapons that the CCP doubted it could win.
We should also note some key developments within the CCP during this period. It evolved a self-image stressing egalitarianism, self-sufficiency, and dedication. At the same time, Mao implemented the process of rectification or systematic thought control, i.e., the use of mass pressure to make everyone accept the party line. This presaged Mao's mass campaigns to promote "correct thinking," after the CCP came to power. Furthermore, the party, i.e., Mao, exercised control over literature and the arts on the premise that they "must serve the revolution"; this followed established Soviet practice and, like thought control, led to the repression of dissent.
Although the above-mentioned thought and cultural control were related to Soviet models, it is a mistake to assume that the Yenan CCP was under the control of Moscow. In fact, from June 22 1941, Stalin was too busy fighting the Germans to bother with Mao and he continued to recognize Chiang's government in Chungking as the government of China. Thus the Yenan model was Mao's work, reflecting his anti-intellectual and dictatorial character. He was to apply these policies on a massive scale after coming to power.
In conclusion, we should note that by the end of the war in 1945, Chinese communism under Mao's leadership had both a significant social-revolutionary content and had become the embodiment of Chinese nationalism. The CCP had accomplished all this on its own by developing a distinctly Chinese revolutionary strategy which drew on Chinese traditions and tapped directly into the two great goals of modern Chinese reformers, communist and non-communist alike, i.e., (a) effective national unity, and (b) real independence, or freedom from foreign domination. What is more, the CCP led the way to the third goal, which most Chinese reformers agreed should follow the first two: social-economic reform, especially the abolition of the feudal system in the countryside.
V. The Civil War.
A. The Background.
The roots of the conflict between the CCP and the KMT go back to the late 1920s, and to the Jiangxi period in particular. It is true that their basic differences were papered over by the formal 1937 agreement to cooperate in the war against Japan -- an agreement extracted by force from a reluctant Chiang Kai-Shek during his kidnapping by young marshal Zhang Xueliang in December 1936. But, in fact, the 8th Route Army fought the Japanese on its own, while Chiang waited for U.S. victory over Japan and used American aid mostly to build up his strength for the war he planned to wage against the communists for control of China.
Chiang's passive stance toward Japan was strongly criticized by the U.S. military adviser in Chungking, General Joseph W. Stilwell (1883-1946). Hi s relations with Chiang soon developed into mutual hostility. (He called Chiang, "the Peanut"). However, the U.S. media, with the aid of the popular, American-educated, Mme. Chiang, had built up Chiang and the KMT into the embodiment of free China. Therefore, President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not believe it politically wise to abandon Chiang in favor of the more active communist army.
The President did, however, send Gen. Patrick Hurley (1883-1963) to try and patch things up between Chiang and Mao. He also sanctioned the sending of a U.S. mission to Yenan. This was called "The U.S. Observer Mission." In the U.S., it was informally known as "The Dixie Mission," because it went into "rebel" territory. The mission was led by Colonel David Barrett and established itself in Yenan in July 1944, where it stayed until 1946. Its members were very favorably impressed by Mao and his movement. Indeed, if the war with Japan had not ended with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japanese troops had remained in mainland China, the United States might have given military aid to the communists because they represented a significant anti-Japanese fighting force there. (4)
B. The Civil War.
The Japanese surrender, forced by the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, caught everyone by surprise and created a conundrum for the American government. The problem was which Chinese forces were to take over Manchuria and north China, and how could a civil war be prevented?
President Harry S. Truman sent General George C. Marshall (1880-1959) as special ambassador to China in December 1945, with the task of mediating an agreement between the communists and the KMT. However, the U.S. government was, at the same time, helping Chiang by airlifting his troops to north China. Officially this was done because the Japanese were ordered tosurrender only to the KMT or to American troops, but it obviously favored Chiang..
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan on August 8th and sent its troops into Manchuria, occupying it without encountering much resistance. The Soviets allowed Chinese communist troops to take over the region as well as the weapons of the defeated Japanese. At the same time, however, they looted the industrial equipment and sent it to Russia, just as they did in their occupation zone in Germany and in the former German territories allocated to Poland.
But Stalin did not want a confrontation with the U.S. so he signed aTreaty of Friendship and Alliance with Chiang on August 14, 1945. In accordance with this treaty, Chiang ceded Port Arthur and control of Dalian (in Russian, Dairen), in southern Manchuria to Russia, thus implementing the promises Roosevelt had made to Stalin at Yalta. The Russians agreed to give up some key cities to the KMT, but this did not happen until they pulled out in early May 1946. In the meanwhile, Gen. Marshall managed to arrange a truce between the KMT and the communists, which was signed in Chungking on January 16, 1946. While neither side intended to observe it for long, the communists seemed more willing to abide by it than Chiang.
War broke out in summer 1946. Although on paper the KMT army was three times the size of the communist army, the men were demoralized and badly led. Above all, most of them were peasants, so they were naturally attracted to the CCP program of land reform, which was implemented in all regions that came under the control of The People's Liberation Army (PLA). We should note here that, just as they had done in Jiangxi in 1931-34 and in north China in 1938-45, so now the communists distributed the land to poor and landless farmers, but also left some land to the landlords and rich farmers. They did not want to alienate them, but make them allies of the CCP. However, this did not apply to those perceived as "exploiters," or others seen as enemies. Many of them were killed.
Chiang fought the communists in his old way, i.e., by garrisoning fortified places. However, they were soon surrounded by Mao's troops. Masses of KMT peasant soldiers deserted to the PLA, perceiving they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The PLA captured their equipment and soon overpowered the KMT. Even the mainstay of the KMT, the merchants and civil servants, had become alienated from Chiang because of the terrible inflation that followed the end of the war with Japan. They looked all the more hopefully to Mao, because he carefully avoided proclaiming any radical measures, such as the abolition of private property.
Newly declassified Russian documents show that in January 1949, after Chiang asked for great power mediation, Stalin advised Mao to accept - but Mao refused. It is clear from the Russian record that Stalin was anxious to avoid a clash between the United States and Mao in China, which might invovle the USSR. Mao, however, pursued his own policy. (5)
The PLA crossed the Yangtze river in April and reached Guangzhou (Canton) in October 1948. Chiang resigned as President of the Republic of China on January 21, 1949, although he kept power in his own hands. On October 1, 1949, the The People's Republic of China (PRC) was proclaimed in Beijing (Peking), the old capital of China. The remnants of the KMT fled to Formosa, i.e., Taiwan, where they set up the government of "Free China."
The communist victory in China was a great shock to U.S. opinion. Wartime propaganda had portrayed Chiang Kai-shek as the heroic leader of China. At the same time, the imposition of Soviet domination over Eastern Europe, the Greek civil war and the Berlin Blockade (1948-1949) marked the beginning of the Cold War. (See ch.6). Therefore, it was natural for U.S. opinion to see the establishment of communism in China as directed from Moscow, and to seek an explanation for the defeat of America's ally, Chiang, in some kind of communist "plot."
This perception was so widespread that it allowed Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (1908-1957, R. Wisconsin) to launch his campaign against "spies" in the U.S. State Department in 1950, and to expand it into a general witch hunt against American communists and sympathizers. McCarthy had so much support among millions of Americans that President Truman and, for a certain time, President Eisenhower, did not dare oppose him, even in defense of the State Department's China experts, who were fired. It was not until McCarthy attacked the Army -- by which time U.S. opinion was becoming disgusted with his methods -- that Eisenhower put his foot down and the McCarthy era came to an end.
As it turned out, there were, in fact, some Soviet "moles" in the State Department, but the Chinese communists did not owe their victory either to them or to the Soviets. In fact, Stalin was so anxious to avoid a confrontation with the U.S. until he was ready for it, that at one point he had advised Mao to accept a demarcation line with the KMT on the Yangtze River, thus leaving south China to Chiang. As mentioned above, he also advised Mao not to reject great power mediation in in January1949. Finally, he continued to recognize Chiang's government as the government of China until Chiang fled to Taiwan.
Stalin's careful policy was probably dictated by two factors: (a) he wanted to consolidate the growing Soviet hold on Eastern Europe.Therefore, he had to avoid a confrontation with the United States until he felt he had a good chance of consolidating his gains. As we know, he risked a confrontation over Berlin in 1948-49 and lost his bid for Germany. He was not about to seek another confrontation over China, particularly since (b) the U.S. had the monopoly over the atomic bomb until the Soviets successfully exploded theirs in 1949. But, even then, they had to wait a few years to produce a stockpile and to develop a delivery system, while the U.S. had both the bombs and the long-range planes to deliver them. (We should note, however, that U.S. policy was to use these bombs only in self-defense and possibly in defense of Western Europe).
Finally, Stalin probably did not trust Mao, who had developed his own brand of communism and his own power base without Soviet input and control. As with Tito in Yugoslavia, with whom he had split in 1948, this presaged tensions and an eventual split between the two communist regimes. But that was to happen many years later. Furthermore, he probably did not want a strong, united, China on the Russian border in Asia. China had lost much territory there to Imperial Russia and the Chinese communists kept these losses very much in mind.
1. For the best general survey of Chinese reformers during the last years of the Chinese Empire, the revolution of 1911 and Sun Yat Sen, see Jonathan D. Spence, In Search for Modern China, New York and London, 1990, chaps. 9-13.
On early Chinese communism, see Arif Dirlik, The Origins of Chinese Communism, New York and Oxford, 1989. Dirlik's study is pathbreaking, in stressing the key role of Comintern agents Grigorii Voytinskii and Maring in helping to organize the Chinese Communist Party in the early 1920s. He also provides a new analysis of the various types of socialist thought existing among leftwing Chinese intellectuals up to 1920, particularly the prevalence of anarchist thought, a factor that was later ignored by Chinese communist historians. See also Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After. A History of the People's Republic, revised and expanded edition, New York and London, 1986, Part I; for documents, see R. V. Daniels, A Documentary History of Communism, vol.. II,1984, 3rd. ed. 1994, v. II, The Rise of Communism in China..
2. For the Jiangxi period, see Spence, In Search for Modern China, ch. 15; for more detail, see Stuart Schram, Mao Tse-Tung, ch. 6, Penguin Books, Great Britain, 1966, and later editions; for more detailed works, see "Further Reading"; for documents, see Daniels, v. II, pp. 74-79, 87-95.
3. The classic account of the "Long March" is to be found in Edgar Snow, Red Star over China, London, 1937, and Grove Press, United States, 1968. Snow was an American journalist, who visited Shaanxi. His book contains Mao's autobiography, as told to Snow in 1936. He remained a steadfast admirer of Red China until his death in Switzerland in 1972. See also "Further Reading."
4. See David Barrett, Dixie Mission: The United States Army Observer Group in Yenan, 1944, Berkeley, California, China Research Group Monographs, 1970; see also Lost Chance in China. The World War II Despatches of John S. Service, edited by Joseph W. Esherick, New York, 1974, "Part II, The Communist Areas"; also E. J. Kahn, Jr. The China Hands. America's Foreign Service Experts and What Befell Them, New York, 1972, 1975.
5. For the Stalin-Mao exchange of letters on great power mediation, see: "Rivals and Allies; Stalin, Mao, and the Chinese Civil War, January 1949;" introduction by Odd Arne Westead, in: "The Cold War in Asia," Cold War International History Project, Bulletin, issues 6-7, Woodrow International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C., Winter 1995/1996, pp. 7, 27-29.
1. Chinese Revolutions and Chinese Communism.
Arif Dirlik, The Origins of Chinese Communism, New York and Oxford, 1989.
Maurice Meisner, Mao's China and After. A History of the People's Republic, revised and expanded edition, New York and London, 1986.
Roger Pelissier ed., The Awakening of China, 1793-1949, New York, 1967 (excellent selection of excerpts from memoirs and documents illustrating key events in Chinese history for this period).
Witold Rodzinski, The People's Republic of China. A Concise Political History, New York, 1988 (incisive survey and interesting insights by a former Polish diplomat and Sinologist who served in China in the 1950s and 1960s).
Jonathan D. Spence, The Gate of Heavenly Peace. The Chinese and Their Revolution, 1895-1980, New York, 1981, London, 1982 (a beautifully written account by a well-known Western historian of China, showing the continuity of Chinese intellectuals' struggle for modernization and their fate under various regimes, chaps. 1 through 11 deal with the period 1895-1950).
Jonathan D. Spence, In Search for Modern China, New York and London, 1990 (a brilliant survey of Chinese history from 1644 through June 1989; illustrated, with bibliographies for each chapter).
Stephen Uhalley, Jr., A History of the Chinese Comunist Party, Stanford, California, Hoover Institution, 1988 (see chaps. 1-6, up to 1949).
B. Biographies, Autobiographies, Monographs, Articles.
Percy Chen, China Called Me. My Life Inside the Chinese Revolution, Boston, 1979 (memoirs of a Chinese nationalist and socialist, who played an active part in the years 1925-49).
Chow Tse-tung, The May Fourth Movement. Intellectual Revolution in Modern China, Harvard University Press, 1960; Stanford, California, 1967.
Charles Fitzgerald, The Birth of Communist China, Baltimore, 1964.
Jerome B. Grieder, Hu Shih and the Chinese Renaissance. Liberalism in the Chinese Revolution, 1911-1937, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971 (about a Chinese liberal, disciple of John Dewey, and his efforts to bring liberalism to China).
Same , Chinese Intellectuals and the State, New York, 1983.
Jacques Guillermaz, The History of the Chinese Communist Party, 1921-1949, New York, 1972 (the author was a French diplomat who served in China in the 1930s and 1940s).
J. P. Harrison, The Long March to Power, 1921-1972, New York, 1972.
Same, The Politics of Chinese Communism: Kiangsi under the Soviets, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973.
Li-Yu-ning, The Introduction of Socialism to China, New York, 1971.
Robert B. Marks, Rural Revolution in South China, Madison, Wisconsin, 1984.
Maurice Meisner, Li Ta-chao and the Origins of Chinese Marxism, Cambridge, Mass.s, 1967 (note new intepretation by Dirlik).
William Morwood, Duel for the Middle Kingdom. The Struggle Between Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Tse Tung for Control of China, New York, 1980 (written by a former U.S.intelligence officer, who was present at the meeting between Chiang kai-Shek and Mao tse-Tung at Chungking, 1945).
Pu Yi, From Emperor to Citizen. The Autobiography of Asin-Gioro Pu Yi, translated with new general and chapter introductions by W. J. F. Jenner, New York and Oxford, 1987 (lst published, Peking, 1964, 1965; basis for film about Pu Yi)..
Mary B. Rankin, Early Chinese Revolutionaries, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971.
Edward E. Rice, Mao's Way, Berkeley, California, 1972, 1974, (chaps. 1-7).
Harrison Salisbury, The Long March. The Untold Story, New York, 1985 (how the author retraced the route in 1984, and what he learned from survivors).
Robert Scalapino, "The Evolution of a Young Revolutionary: Mao Zedong in 1919-1920," Journal of Asian Studies, 42, November 1982, pp. 29-61.
Lynda Schaffer, Mao and the Workers: The Hunan Labor Movement, 1920-1923, Armonk, New York, A. E. Sharpe, 1982.
Herbert Fr. Schurmann and Orvill Schell, eds., Republican China: Nationalism, War, and the Rise of Communism, 1911-1949, New York, 1967.
Benjamin I. Schwartz, Chinese Communism and the Rise of Mao, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1951 (but see Dirlik).
Mark Selden, The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971.
Edgar Snow, Red Star over China, (lst published 1938, revised and enlarged ed., New York, 1968).
Edgar Snow, The Long Revolution, New York, 1971, 1972.
Helen Foster Snow, Inside Red China, New York, 1939, 1979. (N.B. Edgar and Helen F. Snow were U.S. journalists who observed Mao and the CCP at close quarters; they generally expressed uncritical admiration).
Richard C. Thornton, China. The Struggle for Power, 1917-1972, Bloomington, Indiana, 1973 (Parts I and II).
C. The Civil War.
John F. Melby, The Mandate of Heaven: Record of a Civil War. China, 1945-49, Toronto, 1968 (notes by an officer of the U.S. Embassy in Chungking during and after Gen. Marshall's mission of mediation between Chiang and Mao).
Suzanne Pepper, Civil War in China: The Political Struggle, 1945-49, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1978.
Trevor Nevitt Dupuy, Col. U.S. Army Ret., The Military History of the Chinese Civil War, New York, 1969.
Dan N. Jacobs and Hans H. Baerwald, eds., Chinese Communism. Selected Documents, New York, Harper & Row, (the first 3 selections deal with the period up to 1940).
2. The U.S. and China.
Stanley D. Bachrack, The Committee of One Million. "China Lobby" Politics, 1953-1971, New York, 1976, "Part I: Background."
Dorothy Borg and Waldo Heinrichs, eds., Uncertain Years. Chinese-American Relations, 1947-1950, New York, 1980.
Russell D. Buhite, Patrick J.Hurley and American Foreign Policy, Ithaca, New York, 1973.
John King Fairbank, The United States and China, 4th edition, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1979, chaps. 8-13 ( until his death, he was the foremost U.S. historian of China).
John King Fairbank, Chinabound. A Fifty-Year Memoir, New York, 1982 (fascinating memoirs on his study of China, including visits in the 1930s and during World War II; his development of China studies in the United States, the McCarthy Era and after).
Charles F. Romanus and Riley Sunderland, eds., United States Army in World War II: China-Burma-India Theater, vol. I, Stillwell's Mission to China, Washington, D.C., Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1953.
Kenneth E. Shewmaker, Americans and Chinese Communists, 1927-1945. A Persuading Encounter, Ithaca, New York, 1971.
Barbara W. Tuchman, Stillwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945, New York, 1972.
Tang Tsou, America's Failure in China, 1941-1950, vol. I, Chicago, 1963.
The China White Paper. August 1949, Stanford, California, 1967 (reprint of the original document of 1949 on U.S. policy toward China until the fall of Chiang in 1949); reprinted as United States Relations with China, New York, Greenwood Press, 1968.
Ernest R. May, The Truman Administration and China, 1945-1949, Philadelphia, 1975 (discussion and 50 documents).
Lyman Van Slyke, ed., Marshall's Mission to China, December 1945 - January 1947; The Report and Appended Documents, 2 vols., Arlington, Virginia, 1976.
3. Russian and Soviet-Chinese Relations.
C. Brandt, Stalin's Failure in Russia, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1958.
Same, Leon Trotsky on China, Monad Press, 1976.
Chiang Kai-shek, Soviet Russia and China: A Summing Up at Seventy, New York, 1975.
Stephen Levine, "Soviet-American Rivalry in Manchuria and the Cold War," in Hsueh Chun-tu, ed., Dimensions of China's Foreign Relations, New York, 1977.
Robert North, Moscow and the Chinese Communists, Stanford, California, 1967.
J. Rearden-Anderson, Yenan and the Great Powers: The Origins of Communist China's Foreign Policy, 1944-46, New York, 1980.
R. C. Thornton, The Comintern and the Chinese Communists, 1928-31, Seattle, Washington, 1969.
R. K. I. Quested, Sino-Russian Relations. A Short History, London, Sydney,and Boston, 1984 (a brief survey from 1200 to 1978).
Allen Whiting, Soviet Policies in China, 1917-1924, Stanford, California, 1953.
A. I. Cherepanov, As Military Adviser in China, Moscow, Progress Publisher, 1982 (covers the years 1924-38).
Andrei Ledovsky, The USSR, the USA, and The People's Revolution in China, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1982 (written by a retired Soviet diplomat who served in China from 1942 to 1953 and is described as a Sinologist, the book covers the period 1945-early 1950).
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The Causes of the Victory of the Chinese Communist Party over Chiang Kai-Shek, and the CCP’s Perspectives
Report on the Chinese Situation to the Third Congress of the Fourth International
From International Information Bulletin, Socialist Workers Party, February, 1952, from Tamiment Library microfilm archives
Transcribed & marked up by Andrew Pollack.
[Report given to the Third World Congress of the Fourth International, August-September 1951.]
The victory of the Chinese Communist Party over the reactionary power of Chiang Kai-shek, its occupation of the entire Chinese mainland, and the establishment of the “People’s Republic” (or the “People’s Democratic Dictatorship”) has marked a great and even a monumental change in modern Chinese history, and has also caused profound changes in the Far East and in international relations.
These events were unexpected both among bourgeois ruling circles and the petty-bourgeois politicians, the former being stunned and panic-stricken; the latter, perplexed or dazzled. But these events were likewise far from being anticipated by us Trotskyists (including Trotsky himself), owing to the fact that the CCP came to its current victory through its extremely reactionary Menshevik program of “revolution by stages,” coupled with the fact that the peasant armed forces were completely isolated from the urban working class.
As a result, a considerable amount of confusion has been raised in our ranks regarding Mao’s victory, and serious differences of opinion have occurred over its causes and significance, the nature of the new power and its perspectives. A few comrades have even begun to doubt the correctness of the theory of permanent revolution. If these differences are not clarified and resolved in time, the most serious consequences would ensue, especially in our Chinese section. Some of the comrades would proceed from doubting the permanent revolution to capitulating to Stalinism (some comrades in Shanghai have already shown signs of this tendency). Others would arrive at ultrasectarianism and complete demoralization in their revulsion against Mao Tse-tung’s opportunist victory, which is the result of a complete violation of the permanent revolution. (The Chinese minority has already clearly demonstrated this tendency.) We must, therefore, very prudently and seriously examine Mao’s victory and the extraordinary situation emerging from it.
First of all, we should not overlook the reactionary role of Stalinism independently of the CCP victory, and not reconcile ourselves or, even worse, surrender to it. We must still insist on the basic position of the permanent revolution, which is the only compass to guide China and all backward countries to genuine liberation; we must judge any further events from this position. But, in proceeding with the discussion, it is necessary not only to discard all subjective prejudices, desires, or mechanical analogies, but to free ourselves from traditional formulas (not, of course, principles). We must face the concrete living facts, whether desirable or undesirable, particularly the decisive influence of the situation created after the Second World War on the Chinese events. We must also take note of the specific function Stalinism played in these events, the distortion or deformation imposed by its rule on the events and their consequences. In a word, we should seriously and flexibly apply the dialectic method of Marxism to observe the facts, analyze the facts, and by analysis of the causes and effects of the realities, obtain a correct understanding, and thus form a correct appraisal of possible developments.
In other words, on the Chinese problem we must adopt the same spirit and method as our International has done in the study of the Yugoslav events and the question of Eastern Europe. Only in this way can we extricate ourselves from perplexity and extremely dangerous deviations to reach a decision on what the fundamental attitude and orientation of our party should be in respect to the CCP leadership. Thus this report is not aimed at supplying a great deal of data; it intends to provide necessary and essential facts in the course of the logical development of the events, and to explain certain opinions which have already caused serious disputes, as references for the International so that it can achieve a correct solution of the Chinese question.
The diverse causes of the CCP victory over the Kuomintang
One of the traditional concepts that Trotsky repeatedly put forward, and that the Chinese Trotskyists upheld for the past twenty years, was a strategy that ran counter to the Stalinist strategy of conquering the cities through the peasant armed forces alone. The Trotskyists maintained that the overthrow of the bourgeois Kuomintang regime was possible only if the urban working class stood up and led all the oppressed and exploited in the country, especially the peasant masses, carried forward a persistent struggle, and eventually brought about an armed insurrection. It was not possible to overthrow the bourgeois regime by relying exclusively on the peasant armed forces because, under the present conditions of society, the countryside is subordinated to the cities and the peasants can play a decisive role only under the leadership of the working class. But the fact now confronting us is exactly the contrary: it was a Stalinist party relying exclusively on the peasant armed forces that destroyed the old regime and seized power.
This extreme contradiction between the “facts” and the “traditional conception” first of all led to confusion and disputes among the Chinese comrades. Meanwhile, some comrades in the International, because of their inadequate understanding of Trotsky’s traditional conception of the Chinese question and the specific causes of Mao’s victory, emphasize the factor of “mass pressure” to account for this victory. So I think that an accurate and detailed explanation of the causes of this victory is necessary, not only in order to overcome the differences of opinion among the Chinese comrades, but also in order to correct the deviations of some comrades in the International. Moreover, the most important thing is this: Only from a correct answer to this question will we be able to go one step further and comprehend the objective significance of Mao’s victory, as well as the twists and turns of all the measures taken by his regime, and the regime’s possible perspectives. In order to best answer this question, I shall start from several aspects of the facts.
A. The complete rottenness and collapse of Chiang’s regime
It is known to everyone that Chiang Kai-shek’s regime was born amid the bloodshed of the defeat of the second Chinese revolution. Naturally it was extremely afraid of and hostile to the people. It oppressed the people and sustained itself on the exploitation of the masses (especially the peasant masses) by the most barbaric Asiatic methods. At the same time, since by its very nature this regime represented the bourgeoisie of the Orient (characterized in the saying that “the farther East the bourgeoisie goes, the more cowardly and the more incompetent it becomes”), Chiang’s regime could only support itself on the imperialist powers (one of them, at least).
It united all reactionary influences, including the feudal survivals, to resist the masses and to suppress them. It was consequently unable to fulfill any of the bourgeois-democratic tasks, not even such a slight reform as a 25 percent reduction in rents. It was mainly characterized by consummate Asiatic despotism, corruption, and inefficiency. These characteristics were completely disclosed during the Resistance War. On one hand, after its policy of “nondefensism” failed and the long period of concessions to the Japanese imperialists ended with the Chiang government forced to fight, it revealed its complete incompetence by losing one city after another. On the other hand, it clamped an iron grip over any spontaneous activity by the masses, while its bureaucrats and warlords, profiting from this rare opportunity, exploited and plundered the blood and flesh of the people by hoarding and smuggling goods and other extortions, and thus enriched themselves through the national disaster. These deeds stirred up great dissatisfaction and bitterness among the common people—which was reflected in the student demonstrations and the peasant unrest in certain regions during the closing period of the war.
After the surrender of Japanese imperialism, Chiang Kai-shek’s tyranny, corruption, and inefficiency reached a climax. First, in the name of taking over the “properties of the enemy and the traitors,” the militarists and bureaucrats stole almost all the public property to fill their own purses, and indulged themselves in extravagant luxury and dissipation. At the same time, using the pretext of proceeding with the civil war, they extracted food from the peasants and imposed conscription upon them, did their best to squeeze and to oppress. (As some enlisted peasants could be exempted from duty by subscribing a sum of money, this became another of the sources of extortion on the part of the bureaucrats.) This further inflamed the fury of the masses, and provoked the eruption of several large-scale protest demonstrations (in which the students played a central part). But the only answer from Chiang Kai-shek to these bitter feelings, protests, and demonstrations was suppression, massacres, and even assassinations and kidnappings by gendarmes, police, and secret agents.
The financial base of Chiang’s government had already been exhausted in the course of the war. Besides compulsory extortions, it could only resort to issuing paper currency to maintain itself. Consequently the rate of inflation climbed in geometric progression. After peace was announced, the pace of inflation advanced from geometric progression to lightning speed, terminating in the collapse of the “gold yuan” and the unprecedented economic chaos at the end of 1948.
All commerce and industry halted and disintegrated, and the living conditions of the various layers among the middle and lower classes (including all the middle and lower functionaries in the government institutions) cast them into the pit of despair. Driven by starvation, the workers rose up in a universal strike wave (there were 200,000 workers on strike in Shanghai alone). Plundering of rice took place everywhere. At that time, the United Press gave a brief description of the situation as follows: “The people below the middle class are not able to go on living; discontent and resentment against the status quo prevail. Everyone wants a change.” Chiang Kai-shek’s regime was tottering. If the CCP had called upon the workers and the masses in the big cities to rise in rebellion and overthrow the regime, it would have been as easy as knocking down rotten wood. But Mao’s party merely gave orders to the people to quietly wait for their “liberation” by the “People’s Liberation Army.”
Chiang’s sole prop was his military force and so he continued the fight to the end and would never compromise with Mao Tse-tung. He hoped to exterminate the CCP’s peasant armed forces through his superior military equipment and prevent his doomed regime from being swept away. In fact, Chiang Kai-shek’s army far surpassed the CCP’s, not only in numbers but also in equipment. A considerable part of his army (about six to seven hundred thousand soldiers) was armed with the most modern American weapons. But this army had two fatal defects: First, most of the soldiers were recruited from the countryside by compulsory conscription, some of them even by kidnapping, so they naturally more or less reflected the dissatisfaction and hatred of the peasants. Second, all the generals and officers of high rank were rotten to the core; they mistreated the soldiers and steadily reduced rations. This oppression inflicted much suffering upon the soldiers and deepened their discontent and hatred. Once this hatred found a suitable outlet, it would be transformed into a deluge of flight and surrender. Mao Tse-tung’s “general counteroffensive” furnished this outlet.
All the above-stated facts demonstrate that Chiang’s government was not only isolated from the people, who were hostile to it, but was also deserted by the majority of the bourgeoisie. Even those who formerly supported it turned bitter against it and were ready to sacrifice it in exchange for their own lives. This situation resulted in the appearance of various kinds of anti-Chiang factions and cliques within the Kuomintang itself, which was thus involved in complete decomposition. One of these factions crystallized into the so-called Kuomintang Revolutionary Committee (led by Li Chi-shen). In view of the inevitability of Chiang Kai-shek’s fall, it anxiously sought an “understanding and reconciliation” with Mao Tse-tung.
Another group prepared to respond to the CCP’s offensive by rebelling against Chiang (such as Ch’eng Ch’ien, the governor of Hunan province, and Lu Han, the governor of Yunnan), while still others were ready to capitulate, as in the case of Fu Tso-yi in Peiping and Liu Hsiang in Szechuan.
The third group—the Kwangsi clique, represented by Li Tsung-jen and Pai Ch’ung-hsi—attempted to replace Chiang Kai-shek. The bourgeois elements outside the Kuomintang gathered more and more around the “Democratic League,” trying to find their way out through this organization. In a word, the structures of the Kuomintang regime were corroded from top to bottom and it could no longer stand up. The only remaining hope for Chiang Kai-shek was imperative aid from Washington. (He had sent Soong Ch’ing-ling on this special mission to bid for a last favor.)
B. Chiang finally deserted by American imperialism
Prior to the Second World War, the most powerful and decisive influences in Chinese economy and politics were the Japanese, British, and American imperialists. With the end of the war, the influence of Japanese imperialism vanished. British imperialism, because of its extreme decline, although still maintaining its rule in Hong Kong, has since completely left the political stage in China. The last one to attempt to control the country was American imperialism. It intended at the beginning to uphold Chiang’s government with all its might in order to monopolize the Chinese market and use this country as a bastion against the Soviet Union. Acting from this motive, it had dispatched a tremendous amount of materiel and military equipment to Chiang’s government at the close of the war. But it soon opened its eyes to the extreme corruption of this government’s administrative and military apparatus and the crisis that created. (For example, most of the materiel given by the U.S. was swallowed by the bureaucrats, and American-made arms often found their way into the CCP’s hands through the lack of combativeness of the Kuomintang officers.)
On the one hand, Washington still tried to “prevail upon” Chiang Kai-shek to make some “reforms,” such as eliminating a few of the most corrupt and incompetent officials and generals, inviting some more able “democratic” figures into the administration, and curtailing some of the more excessive forms of despotic oppression and exploitation. On the other hand, the U.S. maneuvered for a temporary compromise between Chiang and Mao, in order to gain time to destroy Mao. This was the purpose of Gen. Marshall’s special mission in China.
But Chiang not only refused to make any “reforms”; he also obstinately balked at any compromise with Mao’s party. Ultimately, the Marshall mission was a complete failure. The only alternative left for American imperialism was to engage in a direct military offensive against the CCP in Chiang’s place (as one group of Republicans demanded at that time), and to extend its direct control over the administrative and military power of the government. It was very clear, however, that the situation emerging from the Second World War would never permit this headstrong action. Had American imperialism pursued such a course, not only would all of its resources and energy have been drawn into the vast China quagmire, but a new world war would have been precipitated. American imperialism was completely unprepared for such a course of action, and, in face of the expected vehement opposition from its own allies, was not bold enough to run the risk.
The result was that the U.S. was finally compelled to abandon its aid to Chiang’s government and adopt a wait-and-see attitude toward the CCP, pending a more favorable opportunity. This final decision by American imperialism came as a death blow to Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, which was fully expressed in the atmosphere of dejection and despair hovering around Chiang’s group when the news reached China of Truman’s victory in the 1948 election and his refusal of aid to Chiang.
C. The CCP’s subjective strength
The CCP’s basic strength lies in its peasant armed forces. These originated in the successive peasant revolts that exploded in China’s southern provinces after the defeat of the second revolution. While these revolts had no real hope of victory, the armed forces they assembled were able to maintain their existence, develop, and carry on a durable peasant war. This was possible because of the CCP’s deep involvement in organizing and training the peasants, as well as the economic backwardness and other specific geographic conditions (the vastness of the country and the extreme lack of means of communication). Other factors included the utter despair of the peasants and the incompetence of the bourgeois government.
Later, when Chiang Kai-shek obtained enormous quantities of military aid from imperialism, the CCP’s peasant army was forced to flee from South to North China, and even capitulated to Chiang’s government by canceling its agrarian policy and dissolving the “Red Army” and the Soviets.
However, as a result of the outbreak of the war against Japanese imperialism this armed force secured the opportunity for an unusual development. In particular, at the end of the war and right after it, the army made great progress in both numbers and in quality, becoming far stronger than in the Kiangsi period. This army thus grew into a strong military force.
Politically, the CCP always oscillated between adventurism and opportunism: it canceled its agrarian revolution and dissolved the “Red Army” and the Soviets on the eve of the Resistance War; it collaborated servilely with the Kuomintang and supported Chiang Kai-shek’s leadership during the war. But despite all these things, it also carried on a long period of resistance against Chiang’s government. It made certain criticisms of the political, economic, and military measures of the latter during the war, and had put forward a number of demands for democratic reform. It carried out agrarian reform, particularly in some regions of North China. Furthermore it was backed by the prestige of the tradition of the October revolution in the USSR, as well as by the amazing record of the Soviet Union in the recent world war and the powerful position it has held since the war’s end.
On the other hand, the common people had become desperate and deeply resentful under the intolerable oppression and exploitation of Chiang’s utterly despotic, rotten, and inefficient regime. The petty-bourgeois intellectuals and peasant masses in particular, in the absence of a powerful and really revolutionary party to lead them, lodged all their hopes in the CCP. This was the source of the CCP’s political capital. This political capital, plus the peasant armed forces, constituted the party’s subjective strength. But without aid from the Soviet Union, this victory would still not have been assured.
D. The aid from the Soviet Union
Despite the Soviet bureaucracy’s fear of the victory of a genuine revolution of the working class at the head of the peasant masses in China, and despite its foreign policy of seeking a compromise with American imperialism, in order to preserve its own privileges and resist the threat of American imperialism it would not refuse to give the CCP a certain amount of help, within the confines of its attempt to preserve control over the CCP. Therefore, in addition to its support in political agitation, the Soviet Union actually gave the CCP decisive material aid. The Soviet occupation of Manchuria (one of the greatest centers of heavy industry in China, built up during the several decades of Japanese occupation, and the area of the highest rural production), with its population of thirty million, objectively dealt a mortal blow to Chiang’s government.
Despite the fact that the Soviet Union had recognized Chiang’s regime as the official government, and had handed over to it the majority of the cities and mines in Manchuria, the Soviet bureaucracy had destroyed almost all the most important factories and mining machinery. (It also took away a part of them.) Thus industry was brought almost to a complete halt. Meanwhile, through its control over the two ports—Dairen and Port Arthur— it blocked the Chiang government’s main lines of sea communication with Manchuria and barred its trade and commerce, especially its transportation of supplies to the army stationed in Manchuria.
On the other hand, it armed the CCP’s troops with huge amounts of light and heavy weapons taken from the Japanese soldiers. (It is estimated that these weapons could be used to rearm a million soldiers.) This enabled the CCP to occupy the villages, smaller cities, and towns, and to besiege the great cities and mining districts where Chiang’s army was stationed. Thus the cities and mines restored to Chiang Kai-shek did not benefit him, but on the contrary, became an insupportable burden, and finally turned into a trap. To begin with, Chiang had to send a huge army (around a half-million soldiers) with the best equipment, i.e., armed with American weapons, to stand guard. At the same time, the KMT had to provide for the enormous expenditures in the big cities and in the mines. Consequently, this greatly limited and scattered Chiang Kai-shek’s military force and accelerated the financial bankruptcy of his regime.
The weapons taken from the Japanese captives by the Soviet Union served to build up the CCP’s army and produced a decisive effect upon Mao Tse-tung’s military apparatus and strategy. (For example, Lin Piao’s well-known and powerful Fourth Division was armed entirely with these weapons.) We must understand that the CCP’s original peasant army, despite its preponderant size, was not only very backward but also had extremely scanty equipment, especially in heavy weapons. Having obtained this gigantic quantity of light and heavy weapons through the medium of the Soviet Union (in addition to numerous Soviet and Japanese military technicians), part of the originally very backward peasant troops were modernized overnight.
The bravery of the peasants and the military adroitness of the Communist generals, together with these modern weapons, then enabled the Communist army to transform guerrilla warfare into positional warfare. This was fully manifested in the battles where the Communist troops gained complete victory in conquering the great cities and mines in Manchuria during the changing season between autumn and winter of 1948. (These included Changchun, Mukden, Chinchou, and the big mining districts, Tiehling, Fushun, Bencbi, and Anshan.) This victory won for the Communist army an ample economic base. Moreover, in the military field, since the best-equipped of Chiang’s troops (about 80 percent of those with American equipment) were destroyed, that meant that the greatest part of this American equipment was no longer effective.
Since the Communist army had taken possession of modern weapons and technicians, together with the Japanese arms handed over by the Soviet Union, that made it possible for the CCP to transform the former unfavorable relationship of forces toward Chiang’s troops in the sphere of military equipment and technique into an overwhelming superiority. Henceforth the strategic attitude of the Communist army fundamentally changed, shifting over from guerrilla warfare to positional warfare and an offensive toward the big cities. This change was undoubtedly a decisive factor in the victory of the CCP inasmuch as it depended on the peasant army alone to conquer the cities.
From the above facts we can draw a .clear picture as follows: Chiang Kai-shek’s bourgeois-landlord regime collapsed in toto, both on the economic and political planes and in its military organization. Its only supporter, American imperialism, deserted it in the end. The CCP’s peasant army, having won the support of the peasants and the petty bourgeoisie in general, and especially having obtained military aid from the Soviet Union, had become a colossal and more or less modernized army. The combination of all these objective and subjective factors paved the way for this extraordinary victory.
If we give a brief description of the development of this military victory, the truth of these factors as stated above can be made more explicit. Beginning with the “all-out counteroffensive” launched by the Communist army in the autumn of 1948, in the successive battles occurring in the Northeast, except for a violent fight in Chinchou, the other big cities, such as Changchun, Mukden, etc., were occupied without a fight as a result of the capitulation or disintegration of Chiang’s army in their defensive positions. As for the great cities and important military bases north of the Yangtze River, except for an encounter in Chuchao and Paotow, the others, such as Tsinan, Tientsin, Peiping, Kaifeng, Chengshou, Sian, etc., were handed over either because of the rebellion of the army stationed there (Tsinan), or surrender (Peiping), or desertion as in Tientsin, Kaifeng, Chengchou, and Sian. In the Northwest, in the provinces of Kansu and Sinkiang, there was only surrender. In the city of Taiyuan, there was a comparatively longer struggle, but this had no weight at all in the situation as a whole. As for the great cities south of the river, except for token resistance in Shanghai, the others were either given up in advance (Nanking, Hangchow, Hangkow, Nanchang, Fuchow, Kweilin, and Canton), or surrendered upon the arrival of the Communist army (as in the provinces of Hunan, Szechuan, and Yunnan).
Thereupon, after crossing the Yangtze River, Mao Tse-tung’s army marched headlong down to Canton as though through “no man’s land,” while the remnants of Chiang’s troops either surrendered or withdrew and fled. Hence the peculiar situation whereby the “Liberation Army” did not conquer but rather took over the cities. From this concrete military process, one can get a clearer view of the amazing extent of the Chiang Kai-shek regime’s disintegration and the exceptional conditions under which the victory of the CCP’s peasant army unfolded.
Now we can comprehend that it was under the specific conditions of a definite historical stage that the CCP, relying on a peasant army isolated from the urban working class, could win power from the bourgeois-landlord rule of Chiang Kai-shek. This was a combination of various intricate and exceptional conditions emerging from the Second World War. The essential features of this set of circumstances are as follows:
The whole capitalist world—of which China is the weakest link—tended to an unparalleled decline and decay. The internal disintegration of the bourgeois Chiang Kai-shek regime was only the most consummate manifestation of the deterioration of the whole capitalist system. On the other hand, the Soviet bureaucracy, resting on the socialized property relations of the October revolution and exploiting the contradictions among the imperialist powers, was able to achieve an unprecedented expansion of its influence during the Second World War. This expansion greatly attracted the masses, especially of the backward Asian countries, who were deprived of hope under the extreme decline and decomposition of the capitalist system. This facilitated the explosive growth of the Stalinist parties in these countries. The CCP is precisely a perfected model of these Stalinist parties.
Meanwhile, placed in an unfavorable position in the international situation created by the Second World War, American imperialism was obliged to abandon its aid to Chiang and its interference with Mao. At the same time, the Soviet Union, which had secured a superior position in Manchuria at the end of the war, inflicted serious damage to Chiang’s government and offered direct aid to the CCP. This enabled the latter to modernize its backward peasant army. Without this combination of circumstances, the victory of a party like the CCP, which relied purely on peasant forces, would be inconceivable.
For example, if Manchuria had not been occupied by the Soviet Union but had fallen entirely under Chiang’s control, Chiang Kai-shek would have utilized the economic resources and the Japanese arms in Manchuria to cut off direct connection between the CCP and the Soviet Union. This would have blocked the USSR’s armed support to the CCP. Similarly, the situation would have been quite different if direct intervention against the CCP by American imperialism had been possible. Under either of these two circumstances the victory of Mao Tse-tung would have been very doubtful.
To approach this from another direction, we could recall the defeat of the CCP’s peasant army in the Kiangsi period, 1930-35, when the bourgeois KMT’s power was considerably stabilized as a result of continual aid from imperialism, while the CCP was isolated from the Soviet Union. From this we can also derive sufficient reason to justify the conclusion that today’s victory of the CCP is entirely the result of the specific conditions created by the Second World War.
Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists insisted that the overturn of the Kuomintang regime could not be achieved by relying solely on the peasant armed forces, but could only be accomplished by the urban working class leading the peasant masses in a series of revolts. Even today, this conception is still entirely valid. It is derived from the fundamental Marxist theory that under the modern capitalist system—including that in the backward countries—it is the urban class that leads the rural masses. This is also the conclusion drawn from numerous experiences, especially that of the October revolution. This is precisely one of the fundamental conceptions of the permanent revolution, which we must firmly hold onto despite the present CCP victory.
Let us take India, for example. There we should insist on the perspective that the Indian working class lead the peasant masses in the overthrow of the bourgeois power dominated by the Congress Party. Only this process can guarantee that this backward country will take the direction of genuine emancipation and development, i.e., the permanent transformation from the democratic revolution to the socialist revolution.
We were unable to foresee the current victory of the CCP for the same reason that Trotsky and we Trotskyists were unable to predict in advance the unusual expansion that Stalinism underwent after the Second World War. In both cases our mistake was not one of principle. Rather, because we concentrated so much on principle, we more or less ignored the specific conditions involved in the unfolding of events and were unable to modify our tactics in time. Of course there is a lesson in this, a lesson we should assimilate and apply to the analysis of future developments in those Asian countries where the Stalinist parties maintain strong influence (such as Vietnam, Burma, etc.). That should help us to formulate a correct strategy in advance.
At the same time, we must understand that the victory gained by a party such as the CCP, which detached itself from the working class and relied entirely on the peasant armed forces, is not only abnormal in itself. It has also laid down many obstacles in the path of the future development of the Chinese revolutionary movement. To understand this is, in my opinion, of great importance in our judgment and estimation of the whole movement led by the CCP as well as in determining our strategy and tactics.
Is the CCP’s seizure of power the result of “mass pressure,” and in opposition to the Kremlin’s objectives?
Some comrades of the International, not being very familiar with the concrete process and specific conditions of the events in China, have particularly stressed the factor of “mass pressure,” or interpreted the victory of the CCP by making an analogy with the Yugoslav events. For example, Comrade Germain says:
Our movement has traditionally conceived the outstripping of Stalinism by the masses as involving profound splits inside the Communist parties. The Yugoslav and Chinese examples have demonstrated that, placed in certain exceptional conditions, entire Communist parties can modify their political line and lead the struggle of the masses up to the conquest of power, while passing beyond the objectives of the Kremlin. Under such conditions, these parties cease being Stalinist parties in the classical sense of the word.
The ideas contained in this passage are obviously as follows: The CCP succeeded in conquering power, like the Yugoslav CP, under pressure from the masses, and in conflict with the objectives of the Kremlin. Unfortunately, this “traditionally conceived” analogy can hardly be justified by the facts of the Chinese events. Let us first of all begin with these facts.
Regarding the relationship between the CCP and the masses—including its relationship to “mass pressure”—I am not going to trace the facts prior to and during the war against Japan. To do so would, however, also fully demonstrate how often the CCP violated the aspirations of the masses and ignored “mass pressure.” I shall start with the period at the end of the war.
The first period immediately after the war, from September 1945 to the end of 1946, marked a considerable revival and growth of the mass movement in China. In this period the working masses in all the great cities, with Shanghai in the forefront, first brought forward their demands for a sliding-scale increase in wages, for the right to organize trade unions, against freezing of wages, etc. They universally and continuously engaged in strikes and demonstrations. This struggle in the main did not pass beyond the economic framework, or reach a nationwide level. But it did at least prove that after the war the workers had raised their heads and were waging a resolute fight to improve their living conditions and general position against the bourgeoisie and its reactionary government. This movement actually won considerable successes. Undoubtedly this was the expression of a new awakening of the Chinese workers’ movement.
Meanwhile, among the peasant masses, under the unbearable weight of compulsory contributions, taxes in kind, conscription, and the threat of starvation, the ferment of resentment was boiling. Some disturbances had already occurred in the regions controlled by Chiang’s government.
The students played a notable role, representing the petty bourgeoisie in general, in large-scale protests, strikes, and demonstrations in the big cities. These took place in Chungking, Kunming, Nanking, Shanghai, Canton, Peiping, etc., under banners and slogans demanding democracy and peace, against the Kuomintang dictatorship, against mobilization for the civil war, and against the persecutions conducted by the KMT agents.
On the other hand, when Chiang’s government returned to the “recovered areas,” it revealed its own extreme corruption and inefficiency in administration and stirred up strong resentment among the people. It already appeared to be tottering. Its power did not extend into North China for a certain period of time, especially Manchuria. (It was not until the beginning of March 1946 that the Soviet Union began gradually to transfer such great cities as Mukden and Changchun and the important mines to Chiang’s government.)
During this same period the CCP’s military strength and its political influence among the masses were growing rapidly. The workers’ struggles, the ferment of resentment and rebellion among the peasants, and widespread demonstrations by the students, accompanied by the corruption and insecurity of Chiang’s regime and the strengthening of the CCP, plainly created a prerevolutionary situation.
If the CCP had then been able to stay in step with the situation, that is, to accept the “pressure of the masses,” it would have raised slogans for the overthrow of the Chiang Kai-shek government (i.e., the slogan for the seizure of power). It would have joined this slogan to other demands for democratic reforms, especially the demand for agrarian revolution. And it would have been able to swiftly transform this prerevolutionary situation, to carry through the insurrection, and thereby arrive at the conquest of power in the most propitious way.
Unfortunately, however, the fundamental political line adopted by the CCP in this period was quite different. Contrary to what it should have done—mobilize the masses in the struggle for power under the slogans of overthrowing Chiang’s government and agrarian reform—it kowtowed to Chiang Kai-shek and pleaded for the establishment of a “coalition government.” (For this purpose Mao flew to Chungking to negotiate directly with Chiang, and even openly expressed his support to the latter in mass meetings.) The CCP tried its best to pull together the politicians of the upper layers of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie in order to proceed with peace talks under the sponsorship of American imperialism.
As for the workers’ economic struggles, not only did the CCP not offer any positive lead to transform them into political struggles, which was quite possible at that time, but on the contrary, in order to effect a “.united front” with the “national bourgeoisie,” it persuaded the working masses not to go to “extremes” in their conflicts. Moreover, it dealt obsequiously with the leaders of the “yellow trade unions” in order to check the “excessive” demands of the workers.
The CCP’s activities in the countryside were limited solely to organizing the guerrillas, while it avoided by all means broad mass movements which would have encouraged and unified the peasant masses. The great student movement in the cities was handled as a simple instrument for exerting pressure on the Kuomintang government to accept peace talks. It was never linked with the workers’ strikes in a common struggle against Chiang Kai-shek’s rule.
However, in May 1946, in response to the KMT’s continuing military offensive, the CCP announced that it had begun agrarian reform in certain areas under its control. This served to strengthen the CCP’s military position. Even then, this land reform was by no means thoroughgoing. It consisted largely of a compromise with the landlords and rich peasants, preserving all of their “industrial and commercial properties” and allowing them to get the best and most of the land. It was also quite limited in its scope. No land reform was allowed, for example, in the CCP-controlled areas of the provinces of Shantung, Kiangsu, Hopeh, and Honan.
Moreover, in its anxiety to accomplish its reconciliation with Chiang Kai-shek, the CCP dissolved the peasant army in Kwangtung and Shekiang, and removed only a part of it to North China. This caused great dissatisfaction among rank-and-file members within the party itself.
These facts should show that the CCP’s policy not only did not bow to “mass pressure,” but proceeded arbitrarily in direct opposition to the will and demands of the masses.
Chiang Kai-shek, for his part, made full use of the time during the peace conference to transport his army, with the aid of American planes and warships, from the interior to the great cities and the strategic bases in the “recovered areas.” He solidified his position and prepared for armed attack on the CCP. In the meantime, he suppressed all the newly arising mass movements, especially the student movement. At the end of 1946; when all preparations were completed, Chiang’s government openly barred all doors to compromise and peace talks by holding its own “national assembly” and organizing its own “constituent government,” which showed its determination to reject the establishment of any coalition government with the CCP.
Following these steps, the KMT mobilized a great military offensive—such as the seizure of Chang-chia-k’ou [in Hopeh] and some small cities and towns in north Kiangsu. Yet up to this moment the CCP had not given up its efforts at conciliation. Its delegates to the peace conference still lingered in Shanghai and Nanking, trying to reopen peace talks with the KMT through the mediation of the so-called third force—the Democratic League.
Not until later, when Chiang Kai-shek drove away the CCP’s peace delegation (March 1947) and succeeded in occupying Yenan, its capital and stronghold (April 1947), did the CCP begin to realize the hopelessness of this attempt and only then did it muster its forces to engage in a military defense. But even at that time, it still did not dare to raise the slogan of the overthrow of the Kuomintang government. Nor did it offer a program of agrarian reform to mobilize the masses.
Even when Chiang’s government published its “warrant” for Mao Tse-tung’s arrest (June 25, 1947) and promulgated its “mobilization decree for suppressing revolts” (July 4), the CCP responded with several months of hesitation (during which it seemed to be waiting for instructions from Moscow). Finally on October 10, it published its manifesto in the name of the “People’s Liberation Army” that openly called for Chiang Kai-shek’s overthrow and the building of a “New China.” It was also at this time that it once again revived its “agrarian law,” ordering the expropriation of the land of landlords and rich peasants and its redistribution to peasants with no land or whose land was inadequate. (“Industrial and commercial enterprises,” however, remained untouched.)
This was a remarkable change in the CCP’s policy from the whole period since it declared its support to Chiang’s regime and abandoned land reform in 1937. This policy shift marked a fundamental change in the CCP’s relations with Chiang’s government.
Was this change, then, the result of mass pressure? No, obviously not. The mass movement had already been brutally trampled by Chiang’s regime and was actually at a very low ebb. With KMT agents active everywhere, thousands of young students were arrested, tortured, and even assassinated, and worker militants were constantly being arrested or hunted. The indisputable facts indicate that the CCP was compelled to make this change solely because Chiang had burned all bridges leading toward compromise and because it was confronted with the mortal threat of a violent attack designed to annihilate its influence once and for all. So we might rather say that this shift was the result of Chiang’s pressure than of mass pressure.
In order to arm itself for a counteroffensive; the CCP began to make a “left turn” on the political plane. Only then did it begin to make concessions to the demands of the masses, or to bend before “mass pressure.” In particular it gave in to the demands of the peasant masses in areas it controlled, with the aim of regaining and strengthening its military power.
Hence, from November 1947 to the next spring, it initiated a universal struggle to “correct the Right deviation” in areas where land reform was set into motion. In the course of this struggle, the CCP liquidated all the privileges previously granted to the landlords and kulaks, and reexpropriated and distributed the land among the poor peasants. It also deprived the landlords and kulaks of the posts they held in the local administration, the party, and the army. (As a result of the previous compromising policy, a great number of landlords and kulaks had joined the party and its army, and even occupied certain important positions.)
“Poor Peasants’ Committees” were created and given a few democratic rights, to allow them to directly fight the landlords and kulaks. They were even permitted to criticize lower-ranking party cadres, some of whom were removed from their posts and punished. These actions as a whole were quite successful in winning considerable support from the peasant masses and greatly strengthened the CCP’s anti-Chiang military forces. But we should not forget that all these “leftward” policies were taken in reaction to pressure from Chiang.
As regards the CCP’s relations with the Kremlin, I can only offer as illustrations some important historical turns. After the disastrous defeat of the second Chinese revolution, when the Kremlin switched its policy from ultraright opportunism to ultraleft adventurism (the so-called third period in its general international line), the CCP leadership followed at the Kremlin’s heels without hesitation. Closing their eyes to the most grave injuries the party suffered because of this turn, and deaf to the unremitting and sharp criticisms from Trotsky and the Chinese Left Opposition, the leading bodies carried out these adventurist policies and engaged in a desperate struggle to “build up Soviets and the Red Army” in the desolate and isolated villages. This was done without any connection with the urban workers’ movement, and in the general counterrevolutionary climate of bourgeois victory and relative stability.
At the time the “Red Army” in China was driven out of the South and fled to Yenan in the North, the Kremlin, threatened by Hitler’s triumph, turned away from the “third period” and back toward ultraright opportunism. This opened the period of building up the so-called Democratic Front and the Peace Front. Just as before, adjusting itself to this turn of the Kremlin, the CCP likewise unreservedly advocated the People’s Front or the Front of National Defense, and renewed its appeal to the Kuomintang for collaboration.
A case in point was the CCP’s reaction when Chang Hsueh-liang, commander in chief of the Kuomintang expedition at the time, detained Chiang Kai-shek in Sian under “pressure of the masses,” particularly pressure from his own soldiers and lower officers, all of whom were Manchurians who nourished a bitter hatred against Chiang because his “nondefensism” during the Japanese attack on Manchuria had rendered them homeless.7 This incident aroused delight and hope in the whole country, especially among the members of the CCP. As the news spread the whole nation was at a peak of excitement and passion, thinking that this counterrevolutionary butcher was doomed at last and that a new era was dawning.
But to everyone’s astonishment, without resistance the CCP complied with the Kremlin’s directives, calling on and compelling Chang Hsueh-liang to release Chiang Kai-shek, the chief butcher of the second revolution and Mao’s mortal enemy during eight years of civil war. This was the price paid to get from Chiang his agreement for a new collaboration in order to “fight together against Japan”! (And this was on the condition that the CCP cancel the agrarian reform and dissolve the “soviets” and the “Red Army.”)
This amazing servile obedience of the Communist leadership toward the Kremlin not only stirred up discontent among the people in general, but also caused great disappointment and disturbances among its own members and followers. After the war, the CCP’s desperate efforts to submissively follow the policy of compromise and peace with Chiang, in complete disregard of the aspirations of the masses, was the latest fact to show that it was entirely under the direction of the Kremlin. Its policy was completely subordinated to Moscow’s foreign policy, which was aimed at seeking compromise with American imperialism.
Later, the “big turn” in the CCP’s policy, from compromise with Chiang to urging his overthrow, was also in line with the turn in the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Having failed in its attempt to achieve a compromise with American imperialism, Moscow turned to a defensive strategy as a result of the cold war. The timing of the CCP’s “big turn” in October 1947 followed immediately the formation of the Cominform at the Kremlin’s orders in September of that year. This was not merely a coincidence and should suffice to prove that the CCP’s turn, far from violating the Kremlin’s objectives, was completed precisely under Moscow’s direction.
Some comrades of the International have cited certain facts regarding the isolation of the CCP from Moscow during the Resistance War, in order to justify the theory that the latest turn in CCP policy was a result of violating the Kremlin’s objectives. But these “facts” are just the opposite of the real facts. Before the war, the Kremlin’s agents stayed permanently at Yenan (not openly), and there was regular radio communication between Yenan and Moscow. After the war, the Soviet Union sent its ambassador to Chungking, accompanied by its secret agents, so that it could openly and legally establish regular contact with the Chinese Communist delegation and its special agents in Chung-king, to dispatch news and instructions. Therefore we have sufficient reason to say that during the war the relations between the CCP and the Kremlin not only were not cut off, but on the contrary became closer than ever. This fact is clearly revealed in all CCP newspapers and documents of that period, which quickly echoed all of Moscow’s propaganda and strategic positions. As for the postwar period, since the Soviet occupation of Manchuria, and with so many Soviet representatives working in the CCP and the army, the intimacy between Moscow and the CCP has been too evident to need further clarification.
In view of the above-mentioned facts, it is perfectly clear that to place the Chinese and Yugoslav parties on the same plane and to consider the former’s conquest of power as the result of similar “mass pressure” and as overstepping the Kremlin’s objectives is both mechanical and misleading. If we make a comparison of the policies and measures adopted by the YCP and those of the CCP in the course of the events, the distance between them would be even more apparent.
In the course of the anti-imperialist national liberation movement during 1941-45, the YCP already destroyed the bourgeois-landlord regime, step by step, and consummated its proletarian dictatorship in the first period after the war (October 1945), despite its somewhat abnormal character. Simultaneous with or a little later than the creation of the proletarian dictatorship (1945-46), it succeeded in carrying out agrarian reform and the statization of industry and banking, and expropriated private property by law. Meanwhile, on many important problems, the YCP had already formulated its own views, which were different from and independent of the Kremlin. It pursued its course according to its own experiences, that is, it submitted empirically to mass pressure against the Kremlin’s objectives.
But the CCP not only closely followed the Kremlin’s foreign policy during the national liberation movement against Japanese imperialism, and devoted itself to seeking a compromise with the bourgeois-landlord regime regardless of mass pressure; but even after it conquered full power, it persisted in forming a “coalition government” with the national bourgeoisie and guaranteed them protection of their properties. It even tried to postpone carrying out the land reform to the latest possible date. Here we must note that the differences in attitude expressed by the YCP and the CCP in the course of the events are not quantitative, but qualitative. To assume therefore that the CCP has completed the same process of development as the YCP and ceased to be a Stalinist party in the classical sense of the word is to go entirely beyond the facts.
But what explanation should be given for these differences? First, since the CCP withdrew from the cities to the countryside in 1928, it established a quite solid apparatus and army (the peasant army). For these twenty years it used this army and power to rule over the peasant masses—as we know, the backward and scattered peasants are the easiest to control—and hence a stubborn and self-willed bureaucracy took shape, especially in its manner of treating the masses. Even toward the workers and students in the KMT areas, it employed either ultimatistic or deceitful methods instead of persuasion.
Second, in ideology the CCP has further fortified and deepened the theory of Stalinism through its treatment of a series of important events: the defeat of the second revolution, the peasant wars, and the Resistance War against Japan, etc. This was especially true in its rejection of the criticism of its concepts and policies by Trotsky and the Chinese Trotskyists. (I should call the comrades’ attention to the fact that Trotsky’s critique of Stalinism was more extensive on the Chinese question than for any other country except the Soviet Union.)
Mao Tse-tung’s “systematic” and dogmatic “New Democracy” is nothing but an ideologically and politically deepened and crystallized expression of Stalinism; i.e., it is the expression of obstinately holding onto the “revolution by stages” in direct challenge to the permanent revolution.
Third, over these two decades the CCP has received special attention from the Kremlin, and it follows that its relations with the latter are particularly intimate. After the Soviet Union occupied Manchuria and rearmed the CCP with weapons taken from the Japanese captives, the Kremlin’s control over the CCP became more rigorous than ever.
Because of these three characteristics, the CCP has neither been able to yield to mass pressure and modify its own political line, nor has it been easy for this party to overstep the Kremlin’s objectives and go its own way. The YCP on the other hand has traversed an entirely different course. This party was almost created out of the national anti-imperialist mass movement, and in a comparatively short span of time. It was not able to form a bureaucracy and Stalinist ideology as tenacious as that of the CCP. Since it was actually quite isolated from the Kremlin during its resistance war, it was more disposed to empirically bend to mass pressure. It gradually modified its own political line in accord with the development of events until it finally went against the Kremlin’s objectives. Therefore, we must say that the conquest of power in these two cases has only an apparent resemblance. In respect to the motivating causes (in terms of “pressure”), the manner adopted in taking power, and in the content of the power, the differences are quite great.
From this judgment and explanation, should we deduce a further inference, that the CCP will at all times and under any conditions resist mass pressure and never come into conflict with the Kremlin? No. What we have demonstrated above is that the most important turns the CCP underwent in the past were entirely the result of pressure from the Kremlin, and in violation of the will of the masses. Even the present “turn” toward the seizure of power was not a product of its yielding to mass pressure and going against the Kremlin’s objectives, but, on the contrary, resulted from the mortal pressure of Chiang Kai-shek, and was taken in complete agreement with the Kremlin. However, .in ordinary circumstances, in order to maintain its own existence and continue its development, the CCP is obliged to seek support from certain layers of the masses and to establish a base among them. Accordingly, it would more or less concede to demands of the masses within certain limits and within the possibilities permitted by its own control; i.e., bend to mass pressure.
In the past, the CCP’s policy passed through not a few “leftward” oscillations, such as the limited agrarian reform policy offered in May 1947, the “liquidation of the Right deviation in the land reform” in the period from the end of 1947 to the spring of 1948, and some comparatively leftward measures taken after its conquest of power. These are the solid facts of its yielding to mass pressure. It is possible that this kind of leftward turn will appear more often and to a greater extent in the future. Also, for the same reasons we can believe that in the past certain differences or conflicts must have occurred between the CCP and the Kremlin. But these conflicts have not yet burst to the surface. For example, the dispute between Mao and Li discussed above may be a significant reflection of this existing conflict, which is not only unavoidable in the period ahead but will be further intensified. So I must say that the error made by Comrade Germain, taken up earlier, is not one of principle, but of fact.
Yet I must also point out that the mistake made on such an important question may not only give rise to a series of other mistakes—such as underestimation of the bureaucratism of the CCP, its Stalinist ideology and methods, and overoptimism on perspectives concerning the CCP, etc.—but may also lead to errors in principle. For example, some comrades in our International have already asserted that the CCP regime is a “proletarian dictatorship,” because they consider that events in China are in the same category as the Yugoslav events, and because the YCP regime has already become a proletarian dictatorship. Proceeding by abstract deduction according to formal logic, the CCP regime is doubtlessly also a “proletarian dictatorship.” (There will be further discussion of this question later in this report.)
Because this way of transposing facts to suit certain formulas carries with it the danger of committing mistakes in principle, we should be very cautious in applying “principles,” and especially formulas deduced from principles. We cannot group events which are similar only in appearance under the same principle or the same formula, or force events into accommodation with a given principle or formula.
First of all, we must examine and analyze the concrete facts of the events themselves, particularly taking account of whatever exceptional circumstances have played a decisive role in the events, and judge whether this event conforms to a certain principle or formula, whether it actually is the true expression of this principle or formula. As Lenin said, the facts are forever alive, while formulas often tend to become rigid.
Our movement has assumed and stressed that it is possible for the masses to pass beyond the boundaries of Stalinism, and that hidden, profound contradictions exist between various Communist parties and the Kremlin. Under certain specific conditions an entire Communist party may modify its political line, go beyond the Kremlin’s objectives, and lead the masses to the seizure of power. This principle and this formula is correct in its basic theoretical premise, and has already been justified by the Yugoslav events (or to be more exact, it is rather derived from them). But here we must particularly note one thing, and that is precisely the “certain specific conditions.” Although under certain specific conditions a Communist party could be pushed by mass pressure to seize power in violation of the Kremlin’s aims (as in the case of the, YCP), under certain other specific conditions a Communist party could come to power not necessarily through mass pressure, meanwhile receiving instructions from the Kremlin (or at least not violating its objectives). This is exactly what has happened in China.
We believe that similar events may possibly be repeated in other Asian countries (Vietnam, Burma, etc.). What the Kremlin fears is the victory of a genuine revolutionary movement of the workers, especially in the advanced countries, simply because it will not be able to control this victorious revolution, which will in turn threaten its very existence. If it does not face this kind of threat, and if its action will not involve immediate direct intervention by imperialism, the Kremlin would not give up an opportunity to extend its sphere of influence and would naturally permit a Communist party under its control to take power. This is the lesson that can be drawn from the Chinese events and that we must accept. While this still falls under the heading of the conquest of power by a Communist party, we should at least see it as something supplementary to the lesson of the Yugoslav events. Only in this manner can we avoid falling into the mistake of transforming a principle into a rigid formula, of imposing this formula on every apparently similar event, and thereby producing a series of erroneous conclusions.
We Marxists react toward events by analyzing the concrete facts of their development with our methods and principles, testing and enriching our principles through this analysis, or if necessary, modifying our principles and formulas, for the truth is always concrete.
Is the CCP’s victory the beginning of the third Chinese revolution?
The resolution on the Chinese question of the Seventh Plenum of the International Executive Committee stated, “The victory of Mao Tse-tung over Chiang Kai-shek is the beginning of the third Chinese revolution.” When this resolution first arrived in China (autumn 1949), the leading body of our party—the Political Bureau—agreed with it in general. But because of the Political Bureau’s urgent need to move, it was not able to discuss the resolution in detail and express its opinions in written form. Then doubts arose among some comrades regarding the International’s resolution, and the most acute controversy of recent years began.
Some of the responsible comrades are in complete agreement with the views of the International (comrades Chiao and Ma, who formerly expressed their disagreement are now becoming the major supporters of the International’s position), while other responsible comrades are in strong opposition. We have selected four of the most representative articles in this controversy and translated them into English for reference. So in this report it is not necessary to recount in detail the points of divergence in their discussion. I am simply going to give my personal criticism and explanation of the essential arguments, particularly those of the comrades with oppositional views.
On the question of the revolutionary situation
The major argument of the comrades in opposition is that the CCP’s ascent to power is not based on the revolutionary actions^ of the masses, especially the workers (i.e., from general strikes to armed insurrection), but has relied entirely on the peasant armed forces and purely military actions. On the basis of our traditional conception of revolution and the experiences of revolutions in modern times—especially the Russian October revolution—they conceive of the revolution only in the sense that huge masses, especially the working class, are mobilized from bottom to top, go beyond the domain of the general democratic struggle to armed rebellion, directly destroy the state apparatus of the ruling class, and proceed to build up a new regime. That we can call the beginning of the victory of a real revolution.
Now, this movement under the CCP’s leadership not only did not at all mobilize the working masses, but even refrained from appealing to the peasant masses to organize, to rise for action, and engage in a revolutionary struggle (ousting the landlords, distributing the land, etc.). As the facts stand, the CCP relied solely on the military action of the peasant army instead of the revolutionary action of the worker and peasant masses. From this, these comrades asserted that this victory is only the victory of a peasant war, and not the beginning of the third Chinese revolution.
We must admit that the traditional conception of revolution held by these comrades is completely correct, and the facts they enumerate are irrefutable. But they have forgotten a small matter. That is, that the epoch in which we live is not that of the victory of the October revolution, the time of Lenin and Trotsky. It is the epoch in which the heritage of the October revolution— the Soviet socialist workers’ state—has been usurped by the bureaucracy of Stalin and has reached the point of extreme degeneration. These are the main features of this epoch:
On the one hand, the capitalist world, having experienced two world wars, is in utter decay, while the objective revolutionary conditions have gone from ripe to overripe. On the other hand, the Stalin bureaucracy, by dint of the prestige inherited from the October revolution and the material resources of the Soviet Union, has done everything it can to retain its grip on the Communist parties of the world, and through them it attempts to subordinate the revolutionary movements of different countries to its own diplomatic interests. These exceptional circumstances have not led universally to the frustration and defeat of revolutionary movements in various countries; in some countries the revolutionary movements have only been deformed. The victory of the movement led by the CCP is a prominent example of this deformation of its revolution.
As we have said, viewed from the aspect of the CCP’s attempt to avoid the mobilization of the masses, particularly the worker masses, and its conquering of power on the basis of peasant armed forces, this event is indeed far from conforming to a classic or normal revolution. But considered from the standpoint of its overthrow of the bourgeois-landlord regime of Chiang Kai-shek, its widespread practice of land reform, and its political resistance against imperialism and its struggle for national independence, it is undeniably not only “progressive,” but revolutionary. Further, it marks a great dividing line in modern Chinese history. The destruction of the bloody twenty-year rule of Chiang Kai-shek and the blow dealt to the imperialist powers who have trodden on the Chinese people for centuries are quite sufficient to prove that this event can stack up with the first Chinese revolution (1911). Inasmuch as a sizable general land reform has been carried out (no matter how incomplete), the feudal remnants that have persisted for thousands of years are for the first time being shoveled away on a wide scale. And since this work is still being carried on, should we still insist that it is not an epoch-making revolutionary movement?
The comrades in opposition contend that they have completely acknowledged the progressive aspects of this movement, but nevertheless, they are by no means identical with the initial triumph of a real revolution, or the beginning of the third revolution, since they have been achieved by military and bureaucratic means.
Though we admit this fact, our conclusion cannot simply be a condemnation of the process and its outcome as “not revolutionary.” The only correct view is to say that this is not a typical or normal revolution, but a distorted, damaged, and hence a deformed revolutionary movement. In order to obtain a more precise understanding of this question of deformed revolution, let us recall the discussions on the nature of the states in the buffer countries of Eastern Europe.
In these buffer countries, with the exception of Yugoslavia, the dispossession of the bourgeoisie from power, the land reform procedures, and the nationalizations of industry, banks, and means of transport and exchange were either not at all or only to a small degree carried out through the revolutionary action of the worker and peasant masses. The statized properties and enterprises of the new regime have never been placed under the supervision and control of the masses, but are, under occupation by the Soviet army, operated and monopolized by the Communist bureaucrats of the Kremlin order. Concentrating on this fact, various minorities among the sections of the International— which are in fact elements already outside of or on the way to quitting our movement if they insist on their views—dogmatize about the nature of these states as “state capitalist” or “bureaucratic collectivist.”
However, the International Secretariat of our International, using the traditional method employed by Trotsky in studying and characterizing the nature of the Soviet state under the rule of the Stalin bureaucracy as a degenerated workers’ state, has held that these buffer states have already become deformed workers’ states assimilated into the Soviet Union. As the property relations in these countries have been fundamentally changed, i.e., statized, and since this statization is an indispensable material premise for the transformation from capitalism to socialism, on the basis of this fundamental change in property relations we can then assert the change in the nature of the state.
But while maintaining this assertion, the International has not overlooked the detestable way the bureaucrats of the Soviet Union and the Communist parties of these countries are monopolizing all economic and administrative power and the way the police and the GPU are strangling the freedom and initiative of the masses. It is precisely in view of these facts that our International calls these states deformed or abnormal workers’ states. This is the only correct way to dialectically comprehend the events, the only way to “call things by their right names.” If our oppositional Chinese comrades would adopt the method used by the International in deciding the character of the state in the buffer countries—the traditional method of Trotskyism—to evaluate the victory of the CCP, it would be very plain that no matter how the CCP succeeded in seizing power, even though it was by purely military or bureaucratic means, the things it has accomplished are revolutionary. The overthrow of Chiang’s regime, the land reform, and the relative political independence now won are goals that have to be achieved in the permanent process going from the democratic revolution to the socialist revolution.
But the CCP has not mobilized the worker masses. It has not pushed the revolution forward through the agency of the working class leading the peasant masses. In other words, because it substituted the military-bureaucratic methods of Stalinism for the Bolshevik revolutionary methods of mobilizing the masses, this revolution has been gravely distorted and injured, and its features are misshapen to such an extent that they are hardly recognizable. However, we Marxists judge all things and events not by their appearance, but by the essence concealed under the appearance. Therefore, no matter how ugly and abhorrent the appearance of the Soviet Union is under the rule of Stalin’s bureaucracy, since it preserves the nationalized property created by the October revolution we still recognize it as a workers’ state—a degenerated workers’ state. And although from their very birth the buffer states in Eastern Europe were already seriously disfigured by Stalin’s bureaucratism, and have revealed such monstrous deformity, we must nevertheless call them workers’ states, although deformed workers’ states.
In the same way, no matter how the movement led by the CCP is distorted and damaged by its bureaucratic methods, because it has overthrown Chiang’s regime, has secured considerable independence, and carried out a certain degree of land reform, we must recognize it as a revolution, although an abnormal revolution.
We must understand that our epoch is a transitional one, lying between capitalism and socialism, the most consequential and complex epoch in the history of humanity. Hence, many of the events and movements, under the influence of diverse factors, develop out of accord with the normal procedures of our logical thinking that are derived from historical experience or principles. Moreover, the extraordinary expansion and interference of Stalinism following the degeneration of the first workers’ state— which in the last analysis is also one of the products of this complex and convulsive epoch—has further pulled these events and movements out of their normal orbit and served to distort them. In this epoch, anyone who demands that all events and movements conform to one’s own ideal or norm, and who would only recognize and participate in those that are considered normal and that conform to one’s ideals, is a perfect Utopian, who either hurls meaningless curses—or “criticisms”—at events and movements, or wages a desperate fight against history. These people have nothing in common with Marxists.
We Trotskyists must bear the responsibility for the coming revolution. We should not only maintain “our own ideal” and understand the “normal development of the movement,” but should particularly understand the abnormal events and imperfect movements produced under exceptional conditions. In other words, we must recognize the situation already coming into existence, acknowledge its reality even though it may be inconsistent with our “norm” or unpleasant. And we must carry on an untiring fight in face of this situation to alter it in the course of the struggle and turn it toward our goal.
The entire Chinese mainland has now fallen into the CCP’s hands. The whole movement has been placed under its .control or leadership. This is an absolute reality, although distorted and contrary to our ideals. But unless we accept the reality of this movement, penetrate it, and actively join in all mass struggles, all our criticisms will be futile as well as harmful. We must seek to influence the masses with our Trotskyist revolutionary program, try patiently to convince and to win the confidence of the masses in the course of the struggle, help them step by step to disentangle themselves, through their own experiences, from the illusions and control of Mao Tse-tung’s opportunism and bureaucratism, and eventually change the orientation of this movement. This task is, of course, extremely difficult and it will not necessarily proceed in tune with our efforts. But at least by participating in this movement we can lay down a basis for future work. Then, when we are faced with a more favorable situation, we shall be able to intervene and even to lead the movement.
If we refuse to recognize the CCP’s victory as the beginning of a deformed revolution, if we do not participate in the movement positively in order to rescue it from deformation, or if we only express some passive criticisms of the CCP, we shall surely fall into the bog of sectarianism—as our Chinese minority has done. We would then quit the movement and the masses and finally, inevitably withdraw from all practical political struggles and be swept away by the historical current.
I must also point out that our oppositional comrades have committed another mechanical error by maintaining that the CCP-led movement was purely a peasant war and for that reason denying the significance of its mass character. The CCP’s peasant army is itself a mass movement—the peasant in uniform—embracing the most active sectors of the rural toilers. But even more, behind it stands the great mass of the peasantry.
Historical experience has shown us that once the peasant movement erupts, it is often involved in armed struggle. In the second Chinese revolution, when the peasant masses in Kwangtung and Hunan were organized into peasants’ associations, their armed forces appeared almost immediately, since it was quite impossible for them to fight the landlords and the country gentry without a substantial force. This has become almost a law of the peasant movement. We must also note that the present army differs greatly from any former peasant army. It has been systematically organized and trained by the Stalinist party, . which is more or less equipped with modern knowledge and techniques. It has been endowed with a nationwide and up-to-date program of democratic reform as the general direction of the struggle, no matter how opportunist this program has been. It is for this reason that we cannot call this movement simply a peasant war but an abnormal revolutionary movement, and only this designation is true to the facts and to dialectic logic.
On the other hand, the Chinese comrades who support the International’s resolution have gone to the opposite extreme in their attempt to demonstrate that the CCP’s victory is the beginning of the third Chinese revolution, that the movement led by the CCP is a mass movement, and that the change in its policy is the result of mass pressure. They exaggerate or even misinterpret the facts. This is just as harmful. For example, Comrade Chiao and Comrade Ma arrive at the conclusion that the CCP’s change in policy was the result of mass pressure and represented a mass movement by means of misdating the “beginning of the third Chinese revolution” from October 1947, when the CCP formally called for the overthrow of Chiang’s regime. This is not only mechanical, but is entirely contradictory to the actual facts, as I have indicated above. Moreover, Comrade Ma says:
From the point of view of the number of masses mobilized, the present revolution is even more normal than the second revolution, because the masses organized in the latter numbered only about ten millions, while even before the “Liberation Army” crossed the Yangtze River, there were already more than one hundred million farmers rising to distribute the land.
This kind of exposition is exaggerated and also fundamentally wrong in its conception of the mass movement. Comrade Chung Yuan has refuted and criticized it fully in his article “The Problem of the So-called ’Revolutionary Situation.’” I think that his refutation is correct and consistent with the historical facts. Here I would like to emphasize one point. In the second Chinese revolution, the majority of the working class was organized in such groups as the Canton-Hong Kong Strike Committee and the Shanghai General Labor Union (which were then functioning practically as Soviets). The workers were mobilized, and occupied the leading position in the nationwide movement, launching a number of general strikes and giant demonstrations. In addition, the working class engaged in several victorious armed revolts, such as the case of the worker masses in Hangkow and Chiuchiang, who seized the British settlements, and in Shanghai where they occupied the entire city with the exception of the foreign concessions.
But in this movement of the CCP, from its beginning to the conquest of power, there has neither been the rising of the working masses in any city to the point of general strikes or insurrections, nor even a small-scale strike or demonstration. Most of the workers were passive and inert, or at most showed a certain hopeful, attitude toward this movement. This is an indisputable fact. How can we compare this present movement with the revolutionary movement of the second Chinese revolution? The International’s resolution has clearly asserted: “The victory of Mao Tse-tung over Chiang Kai-shek is the military victory of a peasant revolt over a thoroughly collapsed regime.” That is to say, this victory of the CCP is not the political victory of a real revolutionary movement of the worker and peasant masses over the bourgeois power. So this only helps to prove that Comrade Ma, who ardently supports the International’s resolution, has gone too far, has idealized the Communist-led movement. This idealization of events will not only foster illusions but will objectively lead to wrong judgments. Both will be dangerous, because illusions are always the origin of disappointment or discouragement, while wrong judgments will inevitably become the root of erroneous policies.
We should never overlook the extremely serious dangers implicit in the deformation of the third Chinese revolution fostered by the CCP: the tenacious opportunism, the imperious bureaucracy, the severe control over the masses, the hostility toward revolutionary ideas, and the brutal persecution of the revolutionary elements, especially the Trotskyists. (Our organization has been disrupted in many places on/the mainland; many comrades have been arrested, imprisoned, forced to “repent,” and a few of our most responsible comrades have already been executed.)
All these dangerous factors combined preclude any overoptimism in regard to the development and perspective of the third Chinese revolution that is now underway. They will make it extremely difficult for Trotskyists to work in this movement.
Despite all these circumstances we should never adopt a sectarian or pessimistic attitude, nor give up our efforts and our revolutionary responsibility to try to push this movement forward or transform it.
At the same time we must also reject all naive ultraoptimism, which always tends to disregard the difficulties in the movement and the hardships in our work. At the beginning, ultraoptimists might throw themselves into the movement with great zeal. But when they encounter the severe difficulties in the course of their work, they will become disheartened and shrink back. However, with the entire perspective of our movement in sight, we Trotskyists always hold firm to our unbending faith and revolutionary optimism. In other words, we profoundly believe that the victory of the proletarian revolution in the whole world and the reconstruction of human society can be accomplished only under the banner and the program of Trotskyism, the most enriched and deepened Marxism-Leninism of modern times. Yet we should not overlook the formidable roadblocks on the way from the present period to the eventual victory, particularly the obstacles laid down by Stalinism.
We must first of all bring to light these obstacles, then overcome them with the most precise program, correct methods, and utmost patience and perseverance.
The sectarians find their excuses in the fact that the movement does not conform to their preconceived norms and they attempt to flee from it in advance. The naive optimists idealize the movement. But as soon as they discover that the movement does not follow the track of their idealization, they leave it. Revolutionary optimists have nothing in common with these two sorts of people. Since we have the strongest faith in the victory of the revolution, since we understand the enormous difficulties lying on the road to this victory, we cut our path through the thorniest thickets only with revolutionary methods and absolute persistence to reach the ultimate goal.
Confronted with Mao’s victory, serious controversies have been raised in the Chinese organization through the discussion of the party’s past policy. These controversies have produced certain unhealthy effects on the party. Though it is not possible for me to dwell in detail on a description and criticism of these controversial opinions, I should express my fundamental attitude toward this discussion (especially since many Chinese comrades have asked me to do so).
It is altogether reasonable that a political organization, on the morrow of a great event, should examine and discuss its past policy carefully in order to readjust its political line. Therefore I do not agree with some comrades who object to this discussion. But I should also insist that we must proceed with the discussion in a fully responsible way, both for the revolutionary tasks and for our party, and in a circumspect, exact, and precise manner. It is absolutely wrong to criticize at will the party’s past policy with giddy and bombastic gestures which create confusion and centrifugal tendencies in the party. The experience of history has already taught us that a political party is most susceptible to centrifugal tendencies under the pressure of a great event, especially in face of growing difficulties in its conditions of work.
If at this moment criticism of the party’s past policy assumes an indiscreet, exaggerated, or unjust attitude, it will be most apt to cause the rank and file of the party to falter in their convictions, encourage the development of centrifugal tendencies, and finally lead to a terrible split.
Unfortunately, some of our comrades are not prudent enough in their criticisms of the policy we adopted in the past period. The article written by Comrade Chiao, “Thesis on the Ideological Rearmament,” is a notable example. Though this article is aimed at correcting the “sectarian tendency,” its criticism of the party’s past policy is not only exaggerated but misleading. In his view, or at least according to his way of writing, it seems that the party’s whole past political line was fundamentally wrong and therefore, following the example of Lenin in posing the April Theses, “the party must be ideologically rearmed.”
However, as a result, this attitude only stimulated strong protests and criticisms from another group of comrades. These criticisms found their first expression in “Rearmament or Revisionism?” written by Comrade Ming.
In reality, our party has maintained and struggled over long years for the traditional line of Trotskyism, the line of the permanent revolution. The great events—the Sino-Japanese War and China’s involvement in the Second World War, as well as the party’s internal struggles during the critical periods of these two events, first the struggle against Ch’en Tu-hsiu’s right opportunism and then the fight against the ultraleft sectarianism of the minority group led by Cheng Chao-lin—have justified the political line we upheld in the past.
During the civil war between the Kuomintang and the CCP, our basic line and our position toward the CCP have also been correct and coincide with the fundamental attitude of the International’s resolution on the Chinese civil war.
After the CCP set out toward the seizure of power, the program put forward by our party—contained in “An Open Letter to the Members of the CCP” adopted by the plenum of the Central Executive Committee of our party—corresponded almost entirely to the program adopted by the Seventh Plenum of the International. Comrade Chiao’s appeal for an “ideological rearmament of our party” is tantamount to saying that the party in the past, or at least in the course of the CCP’s conquest of power, “deserted Trotskyist ideology” and needs to be “rearmed” by returning to Trotskyist ideas. This presentation is not only exaggerated and a distortion of the facts, but it is actually an insult to the party. Therefore it naturally has stirred up vehement indignation, outrage, and protests, and even, to a certain extent, confusion and vacillations among the comrades. It was with the premonition of such consequences that I forewarned our comrades not to be too hasty in making a 180-degree turn.
Nevertheless, I do not mean to say that our party has never made any mistakes in the past, especially in the recent events of the CCP’s conquest of power. I have already pointed out that our party did not envisage the victorious conquest of power by the CCP. From this major error in estimating the whole event flows a series of mistakes on the evaluation of events in the course of their development, and certain tactical errors in our propaganda to the outside world. These errors in estimation have affected our attitude to the entire event, which more or less tended to passive criticism and an underestimation of its objective revolutionary significance. This is what we seriously admit and must correct. But, as I have said above, these are mistakes in estimating the events rather than mistakes of principles, and therefore can be easily redressed.
As we know, the best Marxists—Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, etc.—were able to maintain correctness in principle and in method, but could not guarantee accuracy in every estimate of the development of events. Marxism is the most effective scientific method of predicting social phenomena. But it has not yet reached such exactness as meteorology in foretelling the weather or astronomy in astral phenomena, since social phenomena are far more complicated than those of nature. So Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky also made mistakes in their evaluation of events. Examples of this sort include the estimation made by Marx and Engels on the development of the situation after the failure of the 1848 revolution; Lenin and Trotsky’s optimistic anticipation of revolutionary possibilities in Europe after the October revolution; and Trotsky’s appraisal of the prospects for Stalinism during the Second World War. What distinguished them was not infallibility in estimating any and all events, but their constant, cautious, and exact observation of the objective process of events. And once they realized that the development of events did not conform to their original estimates or that their estimates were wrong, they immediately readjusted or reestimated them. This is the attitude of a real Marxist, and is the example we should try to follow.
The class nature of the CCP and the new regime
Though there has not been much discussion among the Chinese comrades on this question, some opinions exist among the comrades of the International that tend to deviate from the Marxist line. I therefore consider it necessary to raise this question for serious discussion and to make a definite appraisal that can serve as the premise in determining our position in relation to the CCP and its new regime.
About the nature of the CCP, virtually all the Chinese comrades have declared it to be a petty-bourgeois party based on the peasantry. This has been a traditional conception of the Chinese Trotskyists for the past twenty years, and is one defined by Trotsky himself.
Beginning with 1930, Trotsky repeatedly pointed out that the CCP had gradually degenerated from a workers’ party into a peasant party. Once in a letter to the Chinese comrades he even said that the CCP was following the same path as the Social Revolutionary Party in Russia. The main reason for this judgment was as follows: After the defeat of the second revolution, the CCP gave up the urban workers’ movement, left the urban proletariat, and turned entirely toward the countryside. It threw its whole strength into village guerrilla fighting and therefore absorbed into the party a great number of peasants. As a result, the party’s composition became purely peasant. Despite the participation of some worker elements who retreated from the cities, the tiny number of these workers was not enough to determine the party’s composition. Furthermore during the prolonged period of living in the countryside they also assimilated the peasant outlook into their ideology, little by little.
As we know, Trotsky’s assessment of the nature of the CCP was never revised up to his death. The composition of the CCP and its nature as described in the last part of Isaacs’s The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution clearly reflected this conception because his book was read and corrected by Trotsky himself before publication.
Has there been any alteration in the CCP’s composition in the direction of the working class since Trotsky’s death? Not only has there been no fundamental change, but the petty-bourgeois composition represented by peasants and intellectuals has, on the contrary, been strengthened. The unprecedented growth of the CCP during and after the Resistance War was almost completely due to an influx of peasants and petty-bourgeois intellectuals. Before its conquest of power, the party claimed about 3.5 million members. Of this total number, the worker element was very weak and at most was not more than 5 percent (including manual laborers). We can therefore confirm that up to the time it came to power the CCP still remained petty bourgeois in composition.
Despite all this, some of our International comrades consider that the CCP has already become a workers’ party. Comrade Germain, for example, is of this opinion. When we referred to Trotsky’s characterization of the CCP as a petty-bourgeois peasant party, he replied: “I know, I admit that was true before. But since the CCP seized power and came into the cities, it has become transformed into a workers’ party.”
This assertion is based on the argument that the nature of a party is not determined simply by the criterion of composition, but also by the role it plays. From the fact that the CCP has overthrown the Kuomintang bourgeois system and set up its own power, it is quite evident that the nature of the party has changed. Unfortunately, this kind of reasoning leads to only a superficial resemblance to the truth, because the CCP overthrew the Chiang Kai-shek regime not through the revolutionary action of the working class leading the peasant masses, but by relying exclusively on the peasant armed forces. Therefore the newly established regime still remains bourgeois. (We will return to the characterization of this regime.) So how can this fact be used as a criterion to judge the change in the nature of the party? On the contrary, we could say that the very fact that the CCP did not mobilize the working masses and depended solely on the peasant armed forces to conquer power reveals the petty-bourgeois nature of this party.
Has the nature of the party changed, then, after it came into the cities? The answer must again be in the negative. A political party can never change its composition in twenty-four hours, especially in the case of the CCP, which has an unusually large peasant base. We can be assured that up to now the CCP is still a party in which peasant members are predominant, and hence is still largely petty bourgeois in nature. But .this does not mean that the peasant character of the party is now fixed and invariable. In fact, since this party has seized power and occupied the great cities, in its eagerness to seek support among the working class it has empirically stressed recruiting its members from the workers. At the same time, it has temporarily ceased to recruit peasants into the party. Following this bent, it is possible in the future for the CCP to gradually change its composition from a petty-bourgeois peasant party into a more or less workers’ party. However, this is a future possibility and cannot replace the reality for today.
The resolution of the Seventh Plenum of the IS has pointed out: “Socially, the Chinese Communist Party is ... a bi-partite party which even to this day has only an insignificant base in the urban proletariat.”
This is really a very cautious characterization of the nature of the party. If this appraisal is considered as a summary formula for this transitional period in which the CCP is attempting to transform itself from a peasant party into a workers’ party (purely from the viewpoint of social composition), it is quite acceptable. But we must not forget the serious lesson disclosed in Trotsky’s criticism of the “worker-peasant party”: Any attempt to organize a worker-peasant party under the conditions of present-day society (including in the backward countries) is reactionary, petty-bourgeois, and extremely dangerous to the proletarian revolution. Because in a “worker-peasant party” it is not the proletarian elements who assimilate the peasant but quite the reverse, the peasant members overwhelm the former. Therefore, from the revolutionary point of view, it is never possible for two classes to establish an equal weight in a common party. Accordingly, a so-called two-class “worker-peasant party” is always a reactionary tool of petty-bourgeois politicians to deceive the working class.
In the documents on China, the International has not yet specifically clarified the class nature of the new regime (the so-called People’s Democratic Dictatorship). Despite some differences in interpretation among the Chinese comrades, the general opinion is that this regime rests on a petty-bourgeois social foundation with the peasantry as its main element, and is a Bonapartist military dictatorship. (The Chinese minority is an exception, since it has already asserted that the CCP regime represents “state capitalism” or “bureaucratic collectivism.”)
In the last analysis, therefore, in view of its fundamental stand on property relations, it is a bourgeois regime. Here, however, some of our comrades hold a completely opposite view. I was told by one comrade that the CCP regime is a proletarian dictatorship. Though he did not offer any reasons, I surmise that he very likely deduced this conclusion from the formula given for the YCP regime in Yugoslavia. We can find another view in the formal document which regards the CCP regime as one characterized by “dual power.”