The central strategy of the Chinese CP armies is clearly not geographic. While their march below the Yangtze has brought huge territorial acquisitions, the main military objective is the destruction of Kuomintang armies rather than conquest of specific objectives.
This kind of piecemeal strategy is an essential characteristic of the Stalinist conquest. It is based on military advance strictly planned and regulated by the top leadership. The great masses of the village and city are deliberately kept quiescent. Their support is solicited, but only as benevolent neutrals. On the day of launching the present offensive the CP military leadership issued an eight-point proclamation, the first point reading in part: “It is hoped that all people regardless of their class, faith or profession will maintain order and adopt a cooperative attitude toward the People’s Liberation Army.”
Nowhere in the countryside have CP armies been met by self-liberated peasants who have risen against their oppressors and taken the power. Reporters on the scene write that the peasants continue their daily round of toil while the armies manoeuvre and battle around them. This also is a consequence of the bureaucratic character of the revolution.
Point 7 of the above proclamation indicates the policy that keeps the peasant in his place until the CP gets ready to liberate him. “The feudal land-ownership system in rural areas is to be abolished. but it must be eliminated only after adequate preparations and step by step. The land problem can only be solved after the Peoples Liberation Army has arrived and work has been carried on for a considerable period for its solution.” This is a far cry from the great popular revolutions of other times or of China in 1925–27, when the armies of the then revolutionary KMT were, greeted everywhere by local peasants’ militia and general popular soviets.
The tiredness of the people is evident. They do not take their own destiny in hand but permit the CP to do it for them. Thus the CP is coming to power on the backs or a passive populace rather than on a great insurgent wave. That is why it has been able so successfully to canalise the movement. That there is no alternative leadership in existence to offer another road, to rouse the people, to challenge the CP monopoly — these are conditions which give the CP an unprecedented advantage.
In every other modern revolution a rainbow variety of ideologies has had to struggle for support and positions of hegemony. Every philosophy, in attempting to give answers to the fundamental questions raised by the revolution itself, contended for power. The revolutionary dynamic brought the marketplace of ideas into the remotest villages and demanded that each man make his choice. This was the source of the enormous release of energy and the dramatically democratic nature of the revolutionary process. Millions, emerging on the stage of history, became politically literate overnight, developed unforeseen talents, assumed new roles and carved out a new historic path.
But while this has been the nature of revolution in modern history, this has not been true in China today. The CP is marching to victory over a road which is a political desert. No contenders are in the field against it and no other political movement allied with it. The military character of its conquest is a consequence of this reality. We are witnessing the classical form of bureaucratic-collectivist revolution, the precondition for which is the prostration of the great urban social classes which have been the prime movers of history since the Renaissance.
If the above is true of the Chinese peasantry, it is even more valid for the capitalists and working class. Neither of these have political organs to express their interests. In contrast to 1927, the “compradore” bourgeoisie does not have its KMT rallying center. The workers are not in a political revolt and general strike as in 1927. Typical of the scene is Shanghai today, where the greatest unrest is caused by the inflation and where economic strikes are common. But with CP armies at the gate and KMT power at an ebb, the workers remain non-political, not even organised as a class grouping.
The CP seeks an alliance with the compradores in order to ease its take over. “All privately operated factories, stores, banks, warehouses, vessels, wharves, farms; pastures, etc., will be protected.” The compradores have only to remain at their posts.
To the workers the proclamation gives the following instructions: “It is hoped that workers and employees in all trades will continue work and that businesses will operate as usual.” From the other viewpoint, the CP is directed, in another statement by Li Li-san, as follows: “The trade unions as the principal mass organisations of the workers must be established and coordinated. All workers with hand and brain should be systematically organised by industries.” CP rule is based on the closest organisation of every section of the population. Now that it is coming into cities it will apply these techniques to the workers as well. This is a far cry indeed from the release of enormous mass-organisational energies which the revolution of 1927 generated.
Not only the military character of the revolution is determined by its bureaucratic origin but even the very tactics of the military advance. In terms of a mass popular movement it would not be possible to proceed with piecemeal conquest, reform by stages, conquest of one city at a time and only when the army gets there and the administrative apparatus has been prepared (the so-called “Peiping Formula”), the lengthy negotiations with discredited classes and governments. The economy of this bureaucratic revolution is one of its most attractive aspects to many of its American liberal supporters. For the revolution unfolds under the conditions and directives of law and order.
Control of Shanghai will present the CP with its largest single problem to date. Assuring the food supply of its six millions alone will challenge its greatest efforts. The maintenance of services, control of sky-rocketing inflation, supply of raw material for industry and, above all, foreign commerce and foreign relations, will become the new axis of CP politics. With Shanghai, the CP will bid farewell to its agrarian days.
It will have to administer a sizeable working class. As the new masters, Stalinism will intensify exploitation of labour to raise production. In cities already in CP hands, the workers have invariably been the first victims.
The conquest of all China by Stalinism is an event in world history whose full significance will unfold in time. If Stalinism can organise effectively this continent of half a billion people and begin its industrialisation, it may very well be one of the great turning points of history. A powerful social force, albeit the force of counter-revolutionary Stalinism, is sweeping aside the three-millennia-old incubus of decay and stagnation. China is being torn from her antiquated roots and thrust into the modern world maelstrom. The tragedy of the Stalinist victory lies in this: that this gigantic event takes place under the aegis of a totalitarian rather than a liberating leadership, one which will tie China to the Russian despotism in world politics as well as in domestic economic construction.
Whatever Stalinism can manage to do in that ancient land, China is certain never again to live simply in its ancestral decadence. China’s emergence into the world arena will alter the world balance of forces. It has already begun to have the sharpest repercussions on the politics of all Asia.
For capitalism, this irrevocable removal of China from the imperialist arena is a fateful blow. Just about 100 years ago European and American imperialism began the dismemberment and exploitation of China. Unlike the case of India, no one power achieved dominance. Cut into many “spheres of influence,” China was the melting pot of imperialism. Because of their inability to overcome their own antagonisms, no one of the capitalist masters ever reaped the full fruits of exploitation there. Latest to aspire to this prize was the US. One of its post-war objectives was control of all China, south of the Russian sphere in Manchuria, through domination of a powerful centralised regime under Chiang Kai-shek. This dream is now dust. The US is left without even a “policy” in China. A huge potential market has been permanently removed from the arena of American capitalism.
The Chinese CP has made these conquests on its own. It is the only CP to have achieved power in a major country through internal political and military victory. With extension of its power beyond the Yangtze, the Chinese leadership is increasingly faced with problems which cannot be solved by Russian dictation. No Chinese party could hold power long simply by following Moscow’s orders. The power and prestige of the native leadership has been increased enormously by these recent events.
However, Russia’s relations to China are not the same as to East Europe. Strategically, there is no Western power the other side of China. Economically, Russia is on a higher level in relation to China by contrast with her European borders. Russia’s aims are not, therefore, the same in Asia as in Europe. That a conflict between Chinese and Russian Stalinism — both nationalistic — is inevitable, may very likely be true. This conflict will center firstly on the question of who is the real power in Manchuria and its industries.
But this conflict need not take a Titoist form. Nor is it in the immediate offing. It is more likely that we are about to witness something new under the sun: the development of an all-Asiatic form of Stalinist society. Many preconceptions will fall before this development.
May 23, 1949