The collapse of the great Chinese revolutionary movement of 1925–27 is a standing historical condemnation of the Communist International. Clothed in the formal authority of the Russian Revolution and the Comintern, Stalin and Bucharin prohibited the Chinese proletariat from struggling for power. They used the prestige of the Russian Revolution to destroy the Chinese Revolution and they employed the Soviets of Russia to prevent the formation of the Soviets of China. They made history both repeat and parody itself; for they played exactly the same part during the Chinese struggle as they had played in the Bolshevik discussions from April to May 1917, when they objected to the very insurrection that made possible finally Stalin’s rise to power. They translated Menshevism into the language of Chinese politics. Napoleon III, as Marx said, was the nephew burlesquing the uncle and his coup d’etat was history repeating itself ; once a tragedy, and then a farce. Stalin and Bucharin presented the farce first and the tragedy afterwards. Napoleon III had abdicated before the Commune; but the Russian “Napoleon The Little’s” sought prestige from the capitalist butchery, whilst claiming to be the Communards perpetuating the Commune.
Sun Yat Sen flourished 1866 to 1925. He was the father of the Chinese Nationalist movement and founded the Kou Min Tang. In 1911, he became Provisional President of the Chinese Republic and was head of the Canton Nationalist Government until his death.
Kou Min Tang means, literally, the People’s Party. It was founded and organized under that name by Sun Yat Sen in 1911–12. It had a petty bourgeois, nationalist, semi-Socialist, and very semi-Socialist foundation. Under Sun Yat Sen its platform consisted of three planks : Nationalism, Democracy, and Socialism. Its successors forgot the second and third planks and defined the first as Imperialism, Militarism, and Power. The Communists entered the Kou Min Tang in 1922, when it was reorganized, and admitted into the Communist International as a sympathetic party.
As early as 1923, Trotsky was opposed resolutely to the rising Communist Party of China joining the Kou Min Tang, and he was against the acceptance of the Kou Min Tang into the Comintern. Radek and Zinoviev opposed him in this attitude and Rakovsky was in Paris and unacquainted with the facts and incapable of exercising any influence. In 1925, Trotsky again proposed formally that the Communist Party leave the Kou Min Tang. This was rejected unanimously by the other members of the Political Bureau. Up to 1926, Trotsky voted independently and against all others in the Political Bureau on this question. During this year and 1927, he had uninterrupted conflicts with Zinoviev and his supporters on the matter; but in April 1927 Zinoviev embraced the Opposition viewpoint, and presented his thesis on the Chinese Revolution to the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. on the 15th of that month. By way of reward, he was removed from his position in the Communist International and the party’s Political Bureau and expelled from the party. He capitulated and was given a minor administrative post. Obviously, the Chinese question, i.e., the support of the Kou min Tang, was the acid test of Bolshevism at this time.
The American Daily Worker, in its issue for April 23, 1925, published the death-bed message of Sun Yat Sen, under the heading:
“SUN YATSEN IN LAST MESSAGE GREETED SOVIET.”
“ LENIN SHOWED THE WAY TO FREEDOM.”
The communication was dated Pekin, April 22, and stated that, “ feeling the approach of his death, Dr. Sun Yat Sen called the members of the Central Committee of the Kou Min Tang” together and had a “ message drafted to the Central Executive of the U.S.S.R.,” which he signed with his own hand. This message proved that Sun Yat Sen’s outlook was similar to that of Mazzini. Like Mazzini he expounded sincere sentiments, but their very sincerity condemned his understanding and revealed his idealistic inability to visualize the social conflict. Sun Yat Sen simply did not realize the meaning of Socialism and possessed no grasp of the Class Struggle. He is not to be condemned for his failure to understand the real issue and he may be worthy of praise for his allegiance to principles that took him into exile and made him the subject of possible assassination for many years. The loftiness of his idealism did not make him the propagandist of the poor and it was absurd for any advocate of proletarian emancipation to place his faith in Sun Yat Sen’s program. It is not Sen that should be condemned for entertaining and proclaiming his ideas but the Comintern for deeming him an ally. That gesture of welcome to the Chinese leader established the futility and impotence of the Russian leaders. But Sen was succeeded by leaders who were unworthy of being ranked with him for idealism. With him they proceeded from the standpoint that China was a semi-colonial country, subjected to the yoke of an alien imperialism. They played their part in the struggle not as prophets but as adventurers. To honor these successors of the founder of the Kou Min Tang was to identify the Comintern with a program of action that was a long way removed even from the ideals of Sun Yat Sen. The compromise was not only fatal, but it represented a mortal degeneracy.
The text of Sun Yat Sen’s message was as follows :
“ My Dear Comrades:
As I lie here, with a malady that is beyond men’s skill my thoughts turn to you and to the future of my party and my country.
You are the head of a union of free republics which is the real heritage that the immortal Lenin has left to the world of the oppressed peoples. Through this heritage, the victims of imperialism are destined to secure their freedom and deliverance from an international system whose foundations lie in ancient slaveries and wars and injustices.
I am leaving behind me a party which I hoped would be associated with you in the historic work of completely liberating China and other exploited countries from this imperialist system. Fate decrees that I must leave the task unfinished and pass it on to those who, by remaining true to the principles and teachings of the party, will constitute my real followers.
I have, therefore, enjoined the Kuomintang to carry on the work of the national revolutionary movement in order that China may be freed from the semi-colonial status which imperialism has imposed upon her. To this end I have charged the party to keep in constant touch with you, and I look with confidence to the continuance of the support that your government has heretofore extended to my country.
In bidding farewell to you, dear comrades, I wish to express the fervent hope that the day may soon dawn when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will greet, as a friend and ally, a strong and independent China and the two allies may together advance to victory in the great struggle for the liberation of the oppressed peoples of the world.
With fraternal greetings,
(Signed) Sun Yat Sen.”
If Lenin showed the way to freedom in the sense that Sun Yat Sen understood, it must be clear that Leninism was a departure from Marxism and certainly the antithesis of the proletarian revolution. The Comintern was pleased at Sen’s tribute and was quite willing to deserve it by wholesale departure from the principles of proletarian struggle. It accepted the party of Sun Yat Sen and declared that it was the embodiment of the bloc of four classes in the Chinese nation; the workers, the peasants, the petty bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie itself. Stalin declared that the alien oppression was felt by all classes in the Chinese nation with equal severity, and that the Chinese bourgeoisie must be supported by the masses of workers and peasants in the revolt and war against foreign Imperialism. This revolt necessitated a revolutionary anti-Imperialist United Front centered around the Kou Min Tang. The Chinese Communists were ordered to accept the decisions of the Nationalist Government which established compulsory arbitration, and they were warned by Moscow not to organize Soviets because that would menace the “ revolutionary center “ in China.
This Moscow policy led directly to the massacre of the vanguard of the Chinese proletariat and the destruction of the Chinese Communist Party. The party was permitted to possess no independent class outlook. It was denied the right to criticize and it issued a joint manifesto with the Kou Min Tang in which it was announced that the difference between the two sections was only “ in some details.” Chiang Kai Shek conquered large sections of territory with the aid of the Communist Party and its gullible proletarian followers. Wherever he triumphed, the Communist Party and the Trade Unions remained illegal. Under his flag the rich peasants continued to own the land and the Chinese Communist Party continued to restrain the workers from protest whilst it urged the poor peasants not to rise in revolt. Moscow had willed that the function of the Chinese Party was to betray the proletarian and peasant masses and to remain impotent in the real revolutionary struggle. In opposition to Stalin’s attitude, the Trotskyist Opposition declared that the Nationalist armies were not the armies of proletarian revolution and that the Kou Min Tang was not the party of the proletariat.
Aided and abetted by Stalin and the Chinese Communist Party, Chiang Kai Shek and the Kou Min Tang executed over one hundred thousand Chinese Communists in 1927–28. Only a short time before these massacres commenced, Stalin had sent Chiang Kai Shek his picture with an expression of regards and solidarity. The ink was hardly dry on the report of Stalin’s Moscow Speech praising Chiang Kai Shek as a revolutionary fighter, when the latter wiped out the very flower of the Chinese Revolution. The catastrophe that over took the Chinese Revolution in 1927 was due to the policy of the Communist International. As the Kou Miin Tang swept northwards and became more and more powerful, the Chiang Kai Sheks found it more and more necessary to turn their guns against the poor workers and peasants who were forming their own organizations and throwing up Soviets. The Kou Min Tang was not able to make its real gesture against the poor until it won Shanghai. Persuaded by the Communists that the Kou Min Tang was the party of the workers, the workers of Shanghai declared a general strike in April 1927, overthrew the reactionaries and established a Socialist People’s Government. The Communists were represented in this government and urged that word be sent to Chiang Kai Shek that it was now safe for him to enter the city. He took possession of the city, abolished the government and then proceeded to slaughter thousands of Communists and workers. The people recoiled in horror from the Kou Min Tang of Chiang Kai Shek, but the Communist International appealed to them not to lose faith in the Kou Min Tang but to support the Kou Min Tang of the left as opposed to the Kou Min Tang of the right. The Chinese workers were told to put their faith in the Christian General, Feng, and in the Kou Min Tang left-wing leader, Wang Chin Wein. A month later these generals had played the same game as Chiang Kai Shek, and further massacres of Communists and workers were reported from Nanking and Hankow. The Communist Party of China was not merely beheaded. It was literally disembowled.
When Chiang Kai Stick entered Shanghai to consecrate in proletarian blood the victory of the counter-revolution, the French Communist Party telegraphed its congratulations on the formation of the “ Shanghai Commune.” After the massacre, the Stalinists lauded the bourgeois generals, Feng Yu-hsiang and Wang Chin Wein in the Communist Party press of the world as “ our own.” It was not for nothing that at a later date the same Communist Party press conducted an infamous campaign of slander against the solitary Dutchman hero of the Reichstag trial, Van Der Lubbe. To be condemned by such hirelings is to be immortalized.
Down to August 1927, Trotsky’s demand for an independent Communist Party in China was denounced by Stalin and Bucharin. The opposition adopted the same attitude towards the Wuhan government which was established by the so-called Lefts as it had adopted towards Chiang Kai Shek. But the Stalinists denounced the call of the Trotsky faction to the Chinese proletariat and peasants, to continue their instinctive fight for Soviets. At last the Communist International changed its course and tried desperately to save the situation by commanding the Chinese Party to prepare for an armed uprising. This uprising actually occurred in December 1927, in Canton, and Soviets were organized hastily and mysteriously from above. The masses actually played no part in these Soviets, which were formed artificially long after the revolution had been betrayed. The Stalinist organizers understood revolution so little that they did not realize that Soviets, to be Soviets, must rise spontaneously with the surging forward of the revolutionary movement itself. All that resulted from the desperate appeal of the Comintern to the Communists of China was a massacre of the workers in Canton that crushed the last remnants of the revolution.
The activity of the Communist International in China in 1927 was far worse than the conduct of the Mensheviks during the 1905 Russian Revolution. The Mensheviks never opposed the strikes of workmen or the formation of Soviets. They never opposed the formation of revolutionary grouping of the workers, independent of and critical of the capitalist class parties, and they never argued that the revolution was a democratic revolution against Czarism, and that therefore there must be a bloc of four classes. They never advised the workers not to build up their own press, and they never pretended that workers could take power through any other than the Marxist party. It may be that what the Mensheviks term the Marxist Party was not the party of genuine proletarian strength, but at least the idea was that there was a social war, and that the proletariat must throw up its own political organization. Compare this attitude with that of the Communist International in China twenty-two years later, and then attempt to gauge to what depths the degeneration of Bolshevism has sunk.
The explanation of this degeneration is to be found in the interest as well as the ignorance of the Stalin bureaucracy. The strategy of proletarian struggle in China as in Russia, was to have the revolution begin as a democratic revolution, and to let it end up as a socialist one. This was the theory of Marx, and although it may not be in accordance with the NEP policy of Lenin, at least he did not deny that it was his purpose. Lenin declared that only the proletariat could lead the struggle for democracy to victory, only the proletariat could lead the colonial struggle for independence, and only through Sovietism could freedom be established. Lenin’s conception of the function of the Soviets as organs of post revolutionary industrial administration may have been hazy and unsound. Social administration is the true purpose of the Soviets, but Lenin erred in regarding the Soviets merely as organs of insurrection and civil war, which they are, and not as organs of administration, which is their final and higher function if democracy is to be established. The Soviets are the expression of democracy victorious as well as the instruments of achieving democracy. To recognize this fact is to liquidate the political party in the course of the struggle, and to conceive of the party as being subsidiary to the working class. Lenin lacked the ability to realize this simple truth, and to him the party was more important than the workers. The church was above the congregation and the priest was greater than God. Leninism led to Stalinism, but it did not involve that terrible abandonment of principles that characterized the conduct of the Russian leaders in their attitude towards the Chinese Revolution. That degeneracy came from the fact that the Russian leaders had abandoned the world revolution, and that the Communist International was organized, not to advance, but to arrest, the class struggle.
If the Chinese workers had overthrown the Kou Min Tang and destroyed Chiang Kai Shek and the other adventurers whom Stalin described as Red Generals, a real war against Western capitalism would have commenced. The Russian workers would have been called upon to have united themselves with the Chinese workers; the Russian Red Flag would have become the real Red Flag ; the Communist International would have become a genuine proletarian international; and Moscow would at last have become Red Moscow.
The bureaucrats, eager for diplomatic honors and foreign treaties, did not want anything so real to take place in the East. They only wanted “ Socialism in One Country.” They wanted recognition, peace, and power. Their motto was : “ We have ours; why should we worry.” They abandoned the Chinese proletariat as they abandoned the British proletariat in 1926, and the German proletariat in 1923, and as they were to abandon the German proletariat in 1933. They abandoned proletarian Internationalism for a yellow opportunist nationalism, whilst pretending to be the dictators of communist thought, action and struggle.