It is known that Comintern played an important role in elaborating the programmes of the colonial communist parties in their formative years. The Second Congress of Comintern in 1920 drew the attention of the international communist movement to the national and colonial question. And in 1928 the Sixth Congress of Comintern extensively discussed the social-democratic theory of ‘decolonisation’, propagated by Trotsky, Bukharin and M.N. Roy, by which it was considered that imperialism played a progressive role in the colonial world by furthering industrialisation, dissolving feudalism and impelling progress toward independence even in the absence of a democratic revolution. Varga played a signal role in defeating these notions in the run-up to the Sixth Congress of Comintern. The same Congress further draw the necessary political conclusions from the counter-revolutionary coup d’état of Chiang Kai-shek in China of March 1926.
The Chinese path has exerted a profound influence on the Indian communist movement since the 1940s. This is understandable as the Chinese revolution has been the major exemplar of democratic revolution in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country. At the same time Marxist-Leninist analysts have cautioned against the mechanical reproduction of the Chinese experience to India. This was apparent at the November 1951 scientific discussion on the specific features of the people’s democracies in the countries the East. In his opening speech the Soviet orientalist E.M. Zhukov while noting the great significance of the Chinese revolution stated that one should remember the first principle of Leninism was the taking into consideration of the national peculiarities and the specific in every country so that it would be risky to treat the Chinese revolution as a kind of ‘model’ for the people’s democratic revolution in other Asian Countries as it was hard to imagine that they would have the great advantage of the Chinese revolution embodied by their revolutionary army. V.N. Nikiforov thought differently from E.M. Zhukov and argued that the revolutionary army and revolutionary war were a result of the domination exerted by imperialism and feudal relations which created the form of revolutionary war and also the unevenness of its length and the inevitability of the fact that the war could be won first in some regions and later in others. The Indian specialist Balabushevich differed from V.N. Nikiforov regarding the question of the revolutionary army and agreeing with E.M. Zhukov argued that it would be very risky to approach the Chinese revolution and its forms of development as an obligatory point of reference for popular democratic revolutions in other countries of Asia. In the concrete example of India he showed the incorrectness of the mechanical extrapolation of the experience of the Chinese revolution. (‘The Character and Specific Features of People’s Democracy in the Countries of the East’, ‘Revolutionary Democracy’, Vol. V, No. 2, September 1999, pp. 90-106).
Evgeny Varga took a special interest in Chinese questions over decades in the course of his theoretical work. The analysis of the character of Chinese society prior to the revolution of 1949 has been a matter of great attention for the Indian communists. It is to be hoped that this document will be a valuable addition to the existing literature on this question.
Moscow, 7th April 1928.
The Chinese Communist Party is carrying on a struggle, along with the other communist parties of the world, with a common goal: the overthrow of the exploiters and the construction of socialism. However, to conduct the struggle to a successful end, a note should be made of the specific conditions in which the struggle is conducted.
The revolutionary character of the present period
China is going though a period of revolutionary transformation from a system of simple reproduction with strong vestiges of feudalism and pre-capitalist social order – through a stage of incomplete semi-colonial capitalism – to the democratic-revolutionary dictatorship of the workers and peasants, which in China is a stage in the march towards socialism. A specific feature of this period is the fact that foreign capitalism has made inroads into the pre-capitalist social order of China at a time when the capitalist social formation is in a state of decay. This opens the possibility of completely bypassing the stage of full capitalism after the success of the national liberation struggle with the support of the peoples that have already overthrown capitalism.
Pre-capitalist social structure of China
Before the imperialist intervention the Chinese society preserved its pre-capitalist semi-feudal nature. The bureaucracy – landowners from the aristocracy, the trade and the usury capital divided amongst themselves the surplus product produced by the peasants who were themselves driven to the levels of subsistence. The fortune amassed while in the government service through trade and usury was invested in ownership of land. The aristocracy, bureaucrats, traders and usurers – all of them exploited the peasants in their capacity as landowners. Chinese capital could not accomplish the transition from the primitive form of capitalism to industrial capitalism on its own. The previous social structure based on simple reproduction, in spite of the ruthless exploitation, at least, satisfied the basic necessities of the working people (except in case of a natural calamity).
Destruction of pre-capitalist structures by imperialism
Imperialism destroyed the traditions of Chinese economy. The natural economy is squeezed out by the commodity economy. The import of foreign industrial goods destroyed both the cottage industry of the peasant, that acted as an indispensable supplement to the meagre income of the peasants and the handicrafts of the old city. The export of the peasants’ products only intensifies their exploitation and, at the same time, gives rise to differentiation within the peasant economy.
The subjugation of the ruling class by imperialism
The foreign capital, having captured the commanding heights in the economy: the mines, factories, railroads, bridges and river navigation, external trade and banks, has turned the country into a semi-colony, has subordinated all sections of the ruling classes and has made them into its compradors. The trading bourgeoisie disseminates foreign goods all over the country, collects raw material for export for foreign capital. The usury capital becomes dependent on large foreign banks. The bureaucrats from the aristocracy – landowners support this enterprise of the foreign capital using their traditional authority and in return receive a fixed share in the amassed wealth.
Imperialist rivalry splits the ruling classes
Along with their subordination, the ruling classes are breaking into rival groups depending upon their allegiance to the competing imperialist powers – Great Britain, Japan, United States or France. The conflict between the imperialist powers is being conducted in a veiled form within the ruling classes of China creating division among them.
Imperialism destroys the pre-capitalist unity of the empire
The imperialist intervention brings about the collapse of the Central government which has exhibited its inability to fight against imperialism. The independent development of capitalism in Europe united the fragmented feudal states, but the foreign imperialist intervention is fracturing the pre-capitalist unity of the Chinese empire. The country is breaking into areas of dominance of individual warlords fighting among themselves for extension of their sphere of exploitation. But at the same time this fight is a veiled struggle between imperialists; it is a reflection of the fragmentation of the Chinese ruling classes in dependence with their links with one or the other imperialist power.
Transformation of the Chinese capital into industrial capital ‘National’ bourgeoisie as the vanguard of the anti-imperialist struggle’
A certain section of the Chinese commercial and usury capital is being transformed into industrial capital as a consequence of inroads made by imperialism and thus comes into intense contradiction with imperialism, which by using its privileges and absence of custom autonomy, inhibits its development. The political statement of this contradiction is the creation of the national bourgeoisie which, it is true, is itself poor and weak, but as a representative of progressive forms of capitalism temporarily becomes the centre of the national-revolutionary movement of all the working masses oppressed by imperialism.
Impossibility of the independent dominance of the bourgeoisie in China
A successful struggle against imperialism with all its colossal might is possible only by involving millions of Chinese peasants. This demands raising the agrarian question in all its complexity. But the Chinese national bourgeoisie is not like the industrial bourgeoisie of Europe. It is intimately linked to the class of landowners, merchants and usurers. Land, above all, constitutes its wealth and its income comes from money-lending based on land rent, and therefore it is not capable of leading the agrarian struggle, while on the contrary, at a certain stage it will turn against the demands of the peasants. A bourgeois agrarian revolution is not possible in China and, consequently, a bourgeois revolution too which could have enforced the dictatorship of the national bourgeoisie (like in Japan and Turkey).
Contradictions between the national bourgeoisie and the proletariat
The Chinese bourgeoisie as the NATIONAL bourgeoisie has interests in common with all the working people in their struggle against imperialism. But in its capacity as bourgeoisie, whose competitiveness in relation to the foreign commodities is based on a limitless exploitation of the Chinese workers, it, along with the foreign capital, is interested in the domination over the working class. Anti-imperialist liberation struggle requires the participation of the entire Chinese proletariat, which is not possible under the leadership of the bourgeoisie because of the inevitable class war between them.
The national bourgeoisie betrays the anti-imperialist struggle
The anti-imperialist struggle, as it develops, acquires a distinct agrarian revolutionary and anti-capitalist character. This forces the bourgeoisie, under the pressure of class interests, to betray the national revolution and ingratiate itself with the imperialists so as to, with their support, overpower the peasants and the workers. The role of the national bourgeoisie as the leader of the anti-imperialist liberation struggle is defunct as its party, the Guomindang, has become irrelevant. Its anti-imperialist vocabulary and deceptive struggle against imperialism is just a formality to deceive the masses.
The hegemony shifts to the proletariat.
After the removal of the bourgeoisie, the hegemony in the anti-imperialist struggle shifts to the vanguard of the proletariat – the Communist Party of China. The historical objectives of the bourgeois-democratic revolution – the abolition of servitude and bonded labour relations, destruction of the vestiges of feudal exploitation, re-establishment of the unity of the country and freedom from the yoke of imperialism must now be accomplished in the struggle against the bourgeoisie that has now crossed over to the camp of the counter revolution. From this premises follow the possibility and the objectives of non-capitalist development; the possibility of bypassing the stage of full capitalism and, bypassing the bourgeois revolution, to directly establish the dictatorship of the peasants and workers as the preliminary stage towards socialism. The struggle of ALL the workers, peasant, petty bourgeois, proletarian students and the intelligentsia (including a part of the millions of the so-called lumpen proletariat, thrown out of the process of production by the capitalists, hired soldiers and the unemployed) under the leadership of the Communist Party of China against all the sections of the ruling classes of China and the imperialists. The polarisation of the revolutionary and the counter-revolutionary forces has already reached an advanced stage. The periodical infighting in the camp of the enemy – attempts of the national bourgeoisie to gain its independence in conditions of intensifying contradictions – facilitates our struggle if we make appropriate use of these.
Disintegration of the economic base: basis for further revolutionising the immediate producer
The collapse of the unity of the empire and the ever-shifting balance of power between the warlords fighting each other, under the conditions of large scale expansion of capitalist elements and intensification of the control of the imperialists, lead to the erosion of the economic base. Water works (dams for protection against flooding, waterways and artificial irrigation), absolutely indispensable for the peasants’ economy and built over thousand of years by hard labour, is falling into decay as a result of the absence of the central government. The balance of nutrients in areas under cultivation, providing the possibility of feeding an immensely dense population through intensive farming, has been disturbed as a consequence of the export of agricultural products and disarray in the administration of fertilizers. The ruthless plunder of the peasants by the landowners, usurers and, above all, by the warlords deprives them of the, as it is, very meagre means of production that are just adequate to survive at the level of simple reproduction. Millions of toiling peasants are thrown out of the productive process each year increasing the supply of labour, and they become soldiers, bandits and emigrants or starve to death. With the exception of the upper crust of the kulaks that has prospered at the expense of the masses, the entire mass of the peasantry is getting poorer, is in ruins and can be saved only by the revolution. The urban petty bourgeoisie has been subservient to capital (sales network, usury and inflation) and now fills the ranks of the proletariat and is being ruined en masse. The destruction of the pre-capitalist productive forces – as a consequence of the semi-colonial position of China – is not being compensated for by the development of capitalist forces in the country itself. This creates the economic foundation for drawing wide peasant and petty bourgeois masses into the revolutionary struggle. The intelligentsia and the students are being drawn along with them as the traditional school education, earlier allowing them to join government service, has now become unattractive, as the these positions are now being held by the ring leaders of the gangsters.
Specific features of the Chinese proletariat
The weakness of the Chinese proletariat is its relatively insignificant numerical strength; its yet to be developed character as a class of wage labourers (high migration between industry and agriculture); the high percentage of women and child labour (light industry) and the absence of strong and mass trade union organisation.
Its strengths are the strong links with the peasants, absence of a workers’ aristocracy, absence of a reformist party with its anti-revolutionary ideology, its heroic selflessness and its revolutionary experience of the last few years. The Chinese proletariat is, relatively, stronger than the Chinese bourgeoisie as the major section of the latter is in the service of the foreign bourgeoisie.
Overall objectives of the Chinese Communist Party
The overall objective of the Chinese Communist Party, the only revolutionary party in China today, is to occupy the leadership position in the bourgeois revolution in its own hands and give its course a new direction. It must bring under its leadership all the toiling masses suffering due to the collapse of the Chinese social order or those thrown out of the production process, organise them and inculcate class consciousness and fight against the traditional anti-revolutionary ideology as also against the early shoots of reformist ideology. The immediate aim of the struggle must be to take the lead in the struggle of the masses to overthrow the rule of the landowners, bourgeoisie and the imperialists and establish the democratic-revolutionary dictatorship of the workers and peasants. THE MEANS of accomplishing this goal must be the wide armed uprisings with the support of the workers movement. The SOVIETS OF WORKERS AND PEASANTS should be the most important organisational form. Final aim – socialist social order.
The demands of the Communist Party
To bring the masses under its leadership the CP puts forward the following demands:
General political demands:
(1) Abolition of all the privileges of the imperialists, particularly unequal agreements, rejection of all concessions, the return of territories taken away by the imperialists – Formosa, Indo-China, and Manchuria, etc.
(2) Restoration of the unity of the State.
(3) Alliance with the Soviet Union with the aim of joint defence against intervention by the imperialist powers.
(4) Abolition of all privileges of the bureaucracy, gentry and so on.
(5) Abolition of all remnants of servitude.
(6) Complete freedom to the worker-peasants organisations, clubs, parties and unions.
(7) Complete freedom for the workers’ and peasants’ press.
(8) Freedom to hold workers’ and peasants’ meetings.
(9) Freedom to hold street demonstrations.
(10) Freedom to strike.
(11) Disband and disarm mercenary armies, armed organisations of the landlords (the mintuan), outlawing of all war lords, division and confiscation of the landlords’ lands and distribution of these amongst the landless peasants.
(12) Arming of the workers and the poor peasants.
General Economic Demands
(1) The expropriation and confiscation of the commanding heights of the economy: rail roads, ships, mines, etc., belonging to the foreigners.
(2) Introduction of a uniform hard currency for the whole country, closure of all private mints in possession of the warlords and capitalists.
(3) Introduction of state monopoly on foreign trade.
(4) Reintroduction of customs autonomy.
(5) Regular supply of cheap rice to the working population.
(6) Introduction of a progressive income tax and exemption of income tax for all persons with an income of less than $500.
(7) High rate of tax on luxury items.
Economic demands of the proletariat
(1) Legalising class trade unions and recognising them as the official bodies of the working class by the capitalists and the government and dissolution of yellow trade unions.
(2) 8 hours working day.
(3) Social security (for illnesses, accidents, unemployment, etc.).
(4) Provision of adequate salary: regulation of salaries in accordance with the rise in the price index (inflation).
(5) Factory Committee control of production.
(6) Dismantling of the contract system.
Economic demands of the peasantry
(1) Expropriation without compensation and nationalisation of all land belonging to the landlords, capitalists and monasteries. Division of expropriated land amongst the landless and the small peasants for free use (revocation of all intermediate forms of land lease) first of all for the small tenant farmer actually working the land and the demobilised peasant – the soldier.
(2) Reworking and expansion of the irrigation and flood protection construction.
(3) Revocation of the all private rights on water: free supply of water to the peasants for irrigation.
* * *
Putting forward these is not all that that needs to be done. In order to give these demands political weight, the Chinese Communists must participate in all the mass movements, throw up the corresponding demands in the form of slogans thereby taking over the leadership of the movement and putting it on a revolutionary course. They must systematically expose and paralyse all the attempts of the bourgeoisie to turn the mass movement away onto a reformist course by forming an anti-revolutionary ‘workers’ party (social democrats, ‘genuine communists’ and anarchists). Whether the Communist Party of China remains illegal or legal it should take into account all the specificities of the local circumstances and conduct the policies determined by the centre and reject all unprincipled compromises with this or the other camp of the enemy. All communists should in a disciplined manner follow the instructions of the Central Committee. The Chinese Communist Party, in this manner, will be able to, in cooperation with the communist parties of the other countries and the Comintern, accomplish their historical objective – overthrowing the rule of the wealthy classes in China and impart a strong impetus to the world revolution.
Headline of the document 7th April 1928. The document was sent by E. Varga to I.V. Stalin, N.I. Bukharin and P.A. Mif. In an accompanying letter, E. Varga requested that his note be seen as a preliminary outline. ‘The advantage of the draft’, he wrote, ‘is in the integral view on the totality of the internal structure, but it is certainly possible that, because of lack of knowledge some important facets may have been missed.’
Courtesy: (Ed.) M.L. Titarenko et al: ‘VKP(B), Komintern: Kitai’, Dokumenty, Vol. III, Part 1, Moscow, 1999, pp. 364-371.
Translated from the Russian by Shubhra Nagalia.
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