From Peiping last week the Chinese CP news agency announced completion of preparations for a definitive conference to be held late summer to form a new national government.
One of the aspects of the bureaucratic revolution is the Stalinist emphasis on continuation in office of the old functionaries of lower rank wherever possible. The CP seeks to win to itself whole sections of the old administration whom they desperately need to operate their governmental structure. Recently new schools were established where “ex-Kuomintang officials learn to serve the people.”
Beside the smaller fry CP, strategy is concerned with recapturing whole sections of the remaining KMT as splits in that dying organism increase and deepen. Li Chi-sen himself represents such a split. So does Chu Hseuh-fan, former head of the KMT-sponsored All-China Labour Federation and now in the same post under the new regime. It is rumoured that Chu is in negotiations with Tu Yuen-san, former underworld boss of the Shanghai labour unions and a candidate for a list of the top ten most corrupt KMT leaders. General Li supposedly has good connections with the Kwangsi clique as well as the warlords of Yunnan, in the deep South.
Perhaps more important than these opportunist considerations is that the presence of Li in the CP-controlled coalition is a means of gaining the support of the urban bourgeoisie. For the commercial and industrial classes do not have political parties to speak for them. In an indirect and ambiguous fashion Li Chi-sen acts as a symbol of coalition, that is, the representation of other interests than those of the CP, thereby making a claim for the confidence of the bourgeoisie. So long as the bourgeoisie is necessary to the Stalinists, General Li will have a place.
The Democratic League is the other major participant. This organisation had real strength among ,students, teachers and liberals throughout the country in the early post-war days. Even now it has many adherents among Chinese students abroad. Raising the banner of political peace and national unity above partisan interest, the Democratic League engaged in sharp criticism of Chiang Kai-shek as well as of the Stalinists. It gave fullest support to the Marshall Mission and the first abortive PCC. It was the last attempt to form a political buffer between the extremes which were plunging toward civil war. General Marshall saw in the handful of liberals who formed the league the best hope for effective American policy.
In March 1947 the Chinese National Student Federation issued a New Year’s manifesto recording its equal opposition to the Stalinists and the Nationalists. It declared itself for “the Party of the Middle Way” and organised popular demonstrations against the civil war. Naturally, all these actions occurred in Nationalist areas; the Stalinists had succeeded in thrusting the onus for civil war on the KMT.
In retaliation Chiang Kai-shek illegalised the Democratic League and began police suppression of the students. KMT thugs murdered several league professors, who became political martyrs for the students, while the CP came to the political support of the students. Caught between blandishments on the one side and active terroristic hostility on the other, the League and the most politically alert students turned northward for salvation.
However, the Democratic League was never quite a political party. It never succeeded in becoming more than collection of what the Stalinists call “democratic personages.” With KMT suppression these people came to accept the CP as bringer of peace and democracy. The League retains formal existence but its leading intellectuals increasingly tend toward political surrender of initiative and independence.
In recent months these groups have acquired a new significance. As the CP began to occupy cities it called upon students and intelligentsia to march behind the armies to form the administrative corps of the new governments. On one occasion a call went out for 10,000 students, which was oversubscribed.
One reporter indicates the changed situation: “In the last few weeks a steady stream of students has been quitting the various nationalist universities and middle schools to enter Communist territory. A significant example is the University of Honan. The writer knew some of the students there: they were a timid, on the whole conservative, ‘provincial’ community. This summer, when the Communists temporarily occupied Kaifeng, the capital of Hanan, they appealed for teachers and technicians. Two large groups from the university professors as well as students threw up everything they had and left for Communist territory.” (Eastern World, January 1948)
While there are some idealistic motivations involved, the great magnet for the Chinese intelligentsia is the place they can occupy in the newly created hierarchy. With deft use of flattery, the Stalinists make places of honour for the intellectuals. In the creation of the new bureaucratic class that is emerging to rule China the intellectuals and technicians will form a large stratum.
This development has further reduced the independence of the Democratic League. Its members and those who would otherwise support it find it increasingly difficult to discover any distinction between their own desires and those of the CP.
July 4, 1949