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Labor Action, 6 September 1948


Jack Brad

The Shambles in Kuomintang China

Dollars Can’t Cure Chaos Under Chiang Kai-shek


From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 36, 6 September 1948, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


A new government was recently formed in China. It is supposed to be the first constitutional regime and to mark the close of the “period of tutelage” under sole Kuomintang rule which Sun Yat-sen wrote about.

The new constitution and the first National Assembly illustrate the width of the gap between words and reality in China today. For the beginning of constitutional government is synonymous with one of the most despotic periods in Chinese history.

The Herald Tribune noted editorially:

“... a president with dictatorial ambitions might make himself an absolute ruler without serious infringement of the constitution if he could control a few key officials.

That is the essence of the new constitution.

The National Assembly, which has been described as “the Nanking Force,” was unable to resolve the conflicts between the four or five major cliques in the Kuomintang. It failed also, because of internal Kuomintang struggle for power, to provide enough seats for minority parties, so that it remains a one-party regime.

Failure of National Assembly

The Assembly engaged in a protracted struggle over the vice-presidency. The chief candidates were Sun Fo, for the insidious CC clique, and General Li, representing northern banking and military circles and supported by the U.S. embassy. The struggle over the vice-presidency became the focus of all the most vital issues of the nation. Open purchase of delegates – prices were in the neighborhood of 100 million dollars Chinese National Currency (CNC); visits by the secret police; every kind of pressure was thrown into the fight. The issue was control of the Kuomintang governmental apparatus and of military policy.

The Northern delegates, receiving daily messages about the Stalinist military advances, broke all restraints in their violent denunciation of the Chen brothers (CC clique) and ended with the slogan: “Down with Dictator Chiang Kai-shek.” Even for the corrupt Kuomintang the venality of the National Assembly was extreme. The military victories of the Stalinist armies and the unmitigated economic paralysis cast long shadows over the Assembly, Under these pressures Chiang and the CC clique yielded and General Li was elected.

Li’s election was the first defeat which Chiang and his group had suffered during their rule of two decades In the Kuomintang. The Chen brothers clique suffered a genuine setback. The American embassy, taking the leadership of the unhappy and dispossessed Northern and Manchurian delegates, was able to beat the old machine, the Kuomintang as a whole suffered an ever deepening split. For Li’s election did not in any way decisively shift the balance of power. It rather added to the confusion and division in the party. Many of the political events since Li’s election, such as the riots in Shanghai and the continuous wave of arrests of liberals have been expressions of the internal conflict, In the process of which Li’s power has been considerably reduced.

The governmental crisis is unresolved. The Kuomintang remains the dictatorial ruler of Nationalist China. Its armies, its secret police, its bureaucracy, its gangster-run labor front, its economic enterprises are the state structure. It has been unable to spread its support to include other groups. It remains a corrupt police regime, exploiting all classes, employing terror and, vampire-like, sucking the maximum loot out of the people and the economy.

What Is the Kuomintang?

Its base is its military and police power. It does not enjoy the confidence of the banking, industrial or commercial groups. The Kuomintang has a rapacious relationship toward all productive social groupings in the country. It supports the landlord class against the peasantry and that is its primary social connection.

Through its state power the Kuomintang is actively in control of the preponderance of industry and commerce. All the state monopolies and the multitudinous enterprises, which far outweigh private business, are subject to its corruption.

This ruling patty and its support do not represent a rising bourgeois class such as organized the nationalist movement in the Twenties. This is not only two decades later, but also 17 years of war later – years in which defeat, Japanese occupation, rise of Stalinist power, shrinkage of the economy and unabated misery of the people have reduced the compradore bourgeoisie to a secondary place and a harassed existence.

The Chinese state is a feudo-bureaucratic bourgeois dictatorial state. This State cannot unify China because if bases itself on the least cohesive element, the landlord class, whose tendency is a centrifugal one. It is alienated from the 400 millions of suffering masses and, therefore, cannot arouse the support necessary to defeat Stalinism.

Its military helplessness is an expression of its inability to introduce even the simplest reforms against landlordism. This ruling class will be forced to put all its hopes in a Third World War, in which, by offering China to the U.S., it will expect American military power to accomplish the tasks it cannot perform.

The military crisis reflects this situation. The Stalinists now control all of Manchuria except Mukden, the nine most important Northern provinces (which have just been, organized into the North China Liberated Area) and areas well below the Yellow River and inside the Great Wall. The Stalinists have proven their ability to penetrate to the Southern Yangtze River as well.

Military and Economic Crisis

General Ho, national defense minister, gave the following graphic report of relative strength of the armies: In 1945 the Kuomintang armies had 3,750,000 men, 1,600,000 rifles and 6,000 artillery pieces. The CP forces had 820,000 men, 160,000 rifles arid 600 artillery pieces. In 1948 the Kuomintang army has 2,180,000 men; 980,000 rifles and 21,000 artillery; the CP troops – 2,600,000 with 970,000 rifles, 22,800 artillery. The relationship of forces has been reversed.

At the National Assembly sessions one delegate stated:

“The troops don’t know what they are fighting for – the government carries out no reforms that could gain the support of the people.”

The Herald Tribune’s excellent correspondent Christopher Rand writes (June 7):

“The army’s state of mind is regarded by many as the chief reason for the Communists’ success in China. Critics, both foreign and domestic, have said the army’s leadership is confused from top to bottom, that there is little idea of any common purpose and almost no fighting spirit in most units.”

The tendency now is for local landlord defense units to develop since the Kuomintang armies are so undependable. The result is the strengthening of warlordism and disintegration of the national administration.

The economic paralysis is demonstrated by an inflation which makes the German inflation of the early Twenties look like normalcy. In December 1945 there were 1,030 billion dollars CNC in circulation: at the end of 1946 it was 7,000 billions; at the end of 1947 it was 70,000 billions and in June 1948 it was 360,000 billions. This currency was issued against a blackening economic picture – declining production and imports and fewer commodities available.

In March 1948 prices were 330,000 times the level of 1936; in June they were 1.8 million times 1936 prices. In the single week of June 26, prices rose 80 per cent. One U.S. dollar could buy five million CNC dollars. With the disintegration of the national currency, local currencies and precious metals are becoming the only measures of value. In Southeast China silver is used.

(Continued next week)

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