7. Revolution in a straitjacket

Submitted by cathy n on 8 October, 2009 - 3:04 Author: Jack Brad

The great metropolises of China, its modern centres of Shanghai, Nanking and Hankow, are about to fall to Stalinist armies.

It is now clear that there will be no real, genuine, stable peace until the Stalinists have completed the conquest of all China north of the Yangtse from its estuary on the China Sea to the great Szchechuan plain in the west, one of the most fertile and richest areas.

The problem of the CP is how to achieve hegemony over the rest of China from this continental boundary in the most economical, speedy and politically satisfactory fashion. For this objective, military victories by themselves will not be sufficient. The primary strategy must be political.

Economic dislocation, especially in the great coastal cities, is inevitable. The CP without an urban base could not commence to establish any more than a shadow power by itself. As a result of the flight of capital, collapse of transport, and bifurcation of city-country economic ties, shortage of raw materials, there will be unemployment, hunger and discontent in the great cities. Decline in foreign trade will immobilise the ports.

These elements of distress will be accentuated by certain specific consequences of the Stalinist victory as such. First, since its victory is a conservative bureaucratic one, achieved by military means, it has not roused the vast energies of the people and the working class. No new cadres of leadership are springing out of the great heart of the people because they remain inarticulate. That unique social phenomenon which is characteristic of every true social revolution which sees millions of yesterday’s silent, oppressed, anonymous coolies [an archaic racist term for Chinese workers, obviously used here ironically] come to life, learn with a rapidity beyond wildest imagining and grasp the subtlest social and political conceptions, taking to themselves the destiny of great nations, teaching the leaders, giving birth to hosts of new leaders and engaging in all those multi-form activities of power which were but yesterday the exclusive prerogative of the master class — this mighty charge of the people to the helm or history is not present in China today. This is at once the condition of Stalinist victories and is also deliberately fostered by them.

One example will indicate the bureaucratic character of the Stalinist reforms, precisely in that field from which it draws its main strength — agriculture. Mao Tze-tung says:

“...do not attempt to eliminate the whole feudal system of exploitation overnight .... It is necessary further to differentiate between the: various regions and stages ...while in those regions which it is still temporarily difficult firmly to occupy, do not be in too much of a hurry to carry on agrarian reform but rather do some practicable work beneficial to the masses in accordance with existing conditions, pending a change in conditions. Differentiating between stages means that in areas which the people’s liberation army has just occupied the tactics of neutralising the rich peasants and small and middle landlords should be set forth and carried out, reducing the sphere to be struck to only eliminating the KMT’s reactionary armed forces, hitting at big feudal tyrannical elements .... Afterwards, ...step by step develop to the stage of eliminating the whole feudal system.”

In old areas under CP control he advocates that “...neither the liberal bourgeoisie nor the industry and commerce operated by landlords and rich peasants can be infringed upon: special attention must be given to non-encroachment on middle peasants, independent labourers, professional people and new-type rich peasants.... ” (China Digest, June 1, 1948.)

Thus are the “stages” of land reform carefully designed. Where the CP, armies have not yet firmly established their power, the peasants are not to be in a hurry “to eliminate the whole system of exploitation over night...” Self-activity is denied in favour of CP conquest. If there is to be “liberation,” only the CP will do it, not the peasants themselves. After conquest, the CP seeks allies among all classes of the village so there too the reforms are carefully organised according to advance directives. And, finally, in old areas, a new class of kulak, the “new-type rich peasant,” who owes his new wealth and prestige to the CP becomes its chief economic and social ally. Class division, far from being abolished, is placed under the CP’s protection, provided only that the party retains decisive political power and a position above all the classes in the village so that it can arrange the balance between them to suit its own needs.

The consequence is a paralysed peasantry, not a popular national revolutionary movement in the villages. Instead of revolution in the village, in which feudal remains could be drastically uprooted by a people who would invest their new organs of power with their own authority to defend their self-won rights, the heavy hand of the CP manipulates social relations by stages, only as its own power is established and according to its own bureaucratic political needs. The peasantry become political dependents.

These peasants do not always appreciate the niceties of CP manoeuvre. A very recent report by one of the US agencies for the Chinese CP writes: “When a landlord also has industrial and commercial holdings, the problem is more complicated. It is not easy for the poor peasant to distinguish between wealth derived from two different sources. When the peasants take possession of the land in the country it seems perfectly natural for them to move on to the town and confiscate the landlord’s inn, his shop, or his factory. Such mistakes have been made in the past.” (Letters from China. January 1949.)

During and immediately after the war, when peasants attempted revolution in the countryside, the CP deliberately repressed them on at least three separate occasions.

In the cities. the situation is not different. Stalinist directives to the working class call upon it to wait for the army of liberation and not to act on their own. At the Harbin labour conference last summer the instructions were as follows: “The immediate... tasks of workers in Kuomintang areas were considered to be (1) the consolidation of their own strength; and expansion of their fighting ranks so as to prepare for the arrival of the liberation army, (2) cooperation with the national industrialists in their common fight against the bureaucratic capitalists.”

In no case are workers to rise up against their decades of coolie existence to create their own power. In decrees regarding the government of newly conquered cities. disobedience to CP military directives by any class or group is to be severely punished; the administrative machinery is to be left intact until the party apparatus takes over.

Stalinism is not an urban movement in China. It could not hope to administer cities, let alone organise trade and industry without allies. While it will try to organise the workers into organs which it can control and manipulate, it must seek political alliances with other classes. The nature of the bureaucratic revolution requires it at this stage. It is the only way this agrarian-based, bureaucratic party can extend its rule. Yet another disability presents itself as part of Stalinist rule. A socialist revolution would not accept Russian domination over Manchuria, but would rescue the 75 per cent to 85 per cent of the entire nation’s industry which is in Manchuria for Chinese use. Stalinism cannot do this because of its subordination to Russian needs.

Stalinism alienates China from the rest of Asia, particularly from the rising nation states of Southeast Asia. It cuts China off from vast physical and political resources in this area. Because of its Russian relations a Stalinist China would be cut off from its great political potential for a coordination, democratic socialist regional economy. These difficulties and problems make coalition indispensable for Chinese Stalinism at this stage. Some KMT groups are necessary for such a coalition. In addition, available as the ace in the hole is Marshal Li’s anti-government “revolutionary KMT.” His value to the Stalinists is not alone that of a well-known personage who could be a useful front, but also as a power in the southern provinces of Yunnan and Kwangsi, which he can possibly bring over to the coalition, thus diminishing the cost of extended and prolonged military struggle.

The necessity to shorten the war to conserve military power and begin economic reconstruction also forces Stalinism to search for coalition rule. As Mao has indicated in the above quotation, it may be possible to moderate the “stages” of land reform to suit the needs of local warlords.

won’t share power

What has been described above are the means which Stalinism is at this moment utilising in order to achieve its objective of a bureaucratic collectivist society in China.

The Socialist Workers Party [“orthodox” Trotskyists] makes the error of confusing these expedients with the end product and thus comes up with the fantastic conclusion that the Chinese CP is preparing to capitulate — to Chiang! Or perhaps to the Chinese bourgeoisie. Nothing could be more fanciful. Or are they preparing to become the servitors of the new kulak class? — a dubious honour at best!

Mao makes clear the Stalinist economic objectives: “After the nationwide victory of the revolution, the new democratic state will have in its hands enormous state capital which controls the economic pulse of the entire country, taken over from the bureaucratic bourgeoisie. It will have also the agricultural economy emancipated from the feudal system. Although for quite a long time the agricultural economy will still be basically scattered and individual, it will be guided step by step in the direction of co-operatives in the future. Under these conditions the existence and development of small and middle capitalist elements are not at all dangerous.”

In typical jargon he then repeats these simple objectives in an unmistakable summary: “the economic structure of new China is: 1. State economy — that is its leading element; 2. An agricultural economy developing step by step from individual toward collective farming; 3. The economy of independent, small industrial and commercial businessmen and the economy of small and middle private capital. These are the entire economy of the new democracy.” (“Turning Point in China”, by Mao Tze-tung, December 25, 1947.)

The blueprint or goal is clearly established as Stalinist rule in a bureaucratised society. The means which is what current struggles in China are centring on are those most suitable to this end, that is, those which create the least political friction. The CP would rather deal with a powerless capitalist or kulak class and make all manner of circumlocutious compromises with them rather than face the need of coping with an aroused people in city and village. That is why their means are as bureaucratic as their objectives. It is, for them, more economical this way.

However, some of their methods may even bear an outward similarity to those of revolutionary socialism because they share in common with it anti-feudal and anti-capitalist objectives. It is just as fallacious to accept such acts as good coin as to emphasise the compromises. The anti-feudalism of Chinese Stalinism has the same relationship to historic developments as the anti-capitalism of Eastern European Stalinism.

The summation of these objectives is embodied in the central political slogan of the CP today — for a new Political Consultative Conference (PCC). This would be a meeting of the leaders of various political factions to organise the division of power in the new state. The people would not be consulted until the central questions were disposed of. Only then would there be elections to provide the usual facade of Stalinist democracy. This entire programme is sharply counterposed to the demand for an immediate election to a democratic constituent assembly.

January 31, 1949