Book Review from the May 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard
"What’s What in China.” Price 1d. L.R.D., 162, Buckingham Palace Road.
This 16 page booklet is "A description of the forces involved in the struggle in China, and of the interests they represent.” It serves a useful purpose in shedding a little light on the confusion in the Chinese struggles, but it suffers from the stupid and inexcusable vice of assuming that Chinese nationalism is for some reason, never to my knowledge stated, different in kind from Irish, German, British and other brands of patriotism. All forms of nationalism are in origin and effect anti-socialist and anti-working-class. Barely was this booklet off the press when events—as we foretold they would—proved how unsound is the view that the working-class movement should support Chinese nationalism, or any nationalism. On page 7 the author writes of the Cantonese movement that the class conflict within its ranks "has for the time being been softened by the formation of the united front,” and that "Chiang-Kai-Shek (Commander-in- Chief), has not hitherto shown himself any more tender towards the interests of the foreign capitalists than have the Communists or any other section of trade unionists of China” (Page 9), and lastly that “The single control of the Southerners is exercised by a civilian government to which the military are strictly subject ” (Page 7).
There is, of course, every reason why Chinese capitalists should be opposed to foreign capitalists, since they both wish to exploit the Chinese workers, but what we want to emphasise is that the Chinese capitalist nationalist movement is anti-working-class. At the moment Chiang-Kai-Shek is demanding the dismissal of certain civil ministers of the Cantonese Government (Daily News, 16th April), and has, during the past week or so, been busily engaged in dissolving trade unions by military force and in shooting Communists and others who were misguided enough to think that workers who offer themselves up for sacrifice as cannon-fodder in nationalist wars, thereby obtain the right to a voice in the policies of their capitalist masters.
Mr. Arthur Ransome recently interviewed Borodin, the Russian adviser to the Cantonese, on the aims of the Chinese movement. Borodin is quite frank :—"At present and for years to come Communists and Capitalists alike in China must have the same ideal of a prosperous and much more highly developed industrial China and a general rise in Chinese standards of living . . . The Chinese Nationalists want an agrarian revolution, but they want it in order to clear the way for China’s capitalist development.” —(Manchester Guardian, 20th April.)
We recognize, as Marx recognized, that China, like other backward countries, must pass through the stage of capitalist development, but that is no reason for deluding the workers there or here into the belief that nationalism is anything but a capitalist movement. Premature attempts to seize power before economic conditions are ripe and before the workers are numerous enough and conscious enough to make success thinkable, are foredoomed to failure. Racial prejudices are aroused among the workers by association with Nationalist propaganda, violence is encouraged as a substitute for political education and organization, and the resulting disappointment, bitterness and social unsettlement are not conducive to rapid or orderly development of the working-class movement. Those organisations in this country which support any nationalist movement are deceiving the workers if not themselves, and are demonstrating their unfitness to claim to speak in the name of Socialism.