Stalinist armies continued to mop up in North China with great strides this past week as Central Government troops pulled back to the Yangtze River as the next defence line.
The biggest gains for the CP were in the easy and bloodless conquest of Tientsin and Tangku, its port. Only Peiping still stands, but it is only a matter of time before it too surrenders.
The most interesting aspect of these otherwise clearly foreshadowed military events is that the leadership of the “peace movements” in all of these Northern cities which are completely surrounded by Stalinist armies and have been for months — these movements which made possible the bloodless victories of the Stalinists — are completely under the leadership of bourgeois groups. As noted in Labor Action several weeks ago, the announcement of the Shanghai City Council, going over the head of Chiang, in a direct appeal to Mao Tse-tung for direct negotiations, was an attempt by the urban compradores to arrive at an understanding which would salvage their basic economic position.
It is now clear that this bourgeoisie, despised and enfeebled by the rulers of the Kuomintang, this class which has no political party of its own, not to speak of military power, is now the driving force for negotiations with the CP at all costs, using its City Councils as the instrument for this.
The working class has played no role in the civil war so far and it is unlikely that it will in the immediate military events to come. The workers do not rise to greet the Stalinist armies, nor do they play a role in the “peace movements.”
The CP has been alienated from the cities for 20 years. In August 1948, it held its first national labour conference in Harbin, at which it launched a new Chinese Labour Federation under its own auspices in an attempt to gain control of the urban working class. However, at this conference the CP advised the workers that their main task was “to prepare themselves for the arrival of the liberation armies,” but not to organise independent action or even actions coordinated with these armies. The CP prepared for its military victories over the cities by urging the workers to remain passive and to take no part until the Stalinist regime was established in the cities. Only under the new regime were the workers instructed to submit themselves to Stalinist organisations and control, and then the proper role would he assigned to them.
That is why the workers today are silent and defenceless, caught between Kuomintang terror and Stalinist manipulation. This is one of the most ominous developments in the Chinese civil war. KMT China is disintegrating politically as well as militarily.
Chinese Stalinism is now for the first time taking over large cities. This party, which has had no urban connections for two decades, whose leadership comes from the peasantry and is oriented toward it and which has developed the unique theory that only the peasantry can make the Chinese revolution, now must face the more complex modern problems of urban society. The theory of the CP, as expounded by Mao and his theoretician second-in-command, Liu, is that the peculiar conditions of Asia require the organisation of national revolution within an agrarian framework with the CP substituting itself for the working class as the cohesive and leadership factor which no insurrectionary group in history has been able to create for itself. This bureaucratic and manipulative theory has been successful for the countryside. It has sharp limits for a Stalinist organisation of the entire country.
There are extremely narrow limits to any agrarian programme within an agrarian framework. In modern times the problems of agriculture cannot be seriously dealt with except from the cities, from industry, from the viewpoint of modern urban classes.
Only a modern mentality can revolutionise the superstitions, the family system, the illiteracy and raise production per man and per acre, because all these things can be effectuated only if they are organised under the leadership of the cities.
A small example will illustrate. It is possible to increase the production of cotton and silk within the village, and by its own primitive means, on the basis of a change in the social structure such as abolition of landlordism and distribution of land to peasants. However, these agricultural products cannot be processed by modern industry unless a measure of uniform quality enters into them. In other words, the needs of industry require standardisation of agricultural product in order to be able to utilise them. If industry needs are not placed prior to and in a determining relationship to this production, then the simple increase in agricultural output will not be of national benefit.
This small example is meant to indicate that even in the simplest technical matters as well as in the larger ones of increased production the leadership of the city is essential. Present Stalinist policy in China denies this. It denies the leadership of both the working class and the capitalist class. When this policy begins to fall on the shoals of failure, the Stalinists will be forced to reorient and such a change can only be carried out at the price of widespread distress. All China will be made to pay for the failure of the working class to take over the revolution.
Working class leadership and proletarian orientation would place an entirely different face on the nature of the social transformation of China.
January 24, 1949