Li Fu-jen

Shanghai’s Fall Shows Urgent Need
of Mass Action to Stop Japan

(November 1937)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 16, 27 November 1937, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Nearly five months have elapsed since Japanese imperialism embarked on the current phase of its military campaign to subjugate China and convert it into, a colony of Japan. Assembling a mighty war machine, Japan has driven forward relentlessly to establish its control over the northern provinces of China and the vital area of the Yangtze. The oppressed Chinese masses have received innumerable fresh lessons in imperialist frightfulness. Death and devastation on a fearful scale have accompanied the Japanese campaign to imbue the victims with Japan’s “friendly” intentions.

In the path of the Japanese invaders, the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek has strewn soldiers by the hundreds of thousands. On the North China fronts these troops have proved totally incapable of even holding up the Japanese advance. Provincial soldiery, ill-trained and poorly-armed, proved no match for Japan’s mechanized war machine. After brief and sanguinary encounter, they usually fled in disorder before the advancing hosts of Japanese imperialism. Today the Japanese armies are in possession of all Hopei province, all Chahar, most of Sui-yuan, a large part of Shansi, and a portion of Shantung. Military conquest of the latter province has been delayed by the Japanese hope that they may be able to buy over the provincial governor, Gen. Han Fu-chu, and thus avoid a costly military campaign.

Shanghai Falls, Too

At Shanghai, the Chinese resistance to the invaders has been much more real. For approximately three months Chinese forces largely drawn from Chiang Kai-shek’s own armies held the invaders at bay and -prevented them from gaining a strong foothold on the Shanghai peninsula. Trained by German military specialists, better armed than the provincial forces, they fought with unmatched heroism and at tremendous sacrifice to hold their defense lines. But at Shanghai, too, the technical superiority of the Japanese forces, rich in such telling armament as airplanes, tanks, armored cars, heavy artillery – not to speak of warships which were able, unhindered, to blast at the Chinese lines from the Whangpoo River – had finally to prevail.

From Shanghai, on November 8, the Chinese commenced a retreat many miles west of the city to fresh and supposedly stronger defense positions designated by Chiang Kai-shek as China’s “Hindenburg line.” Latest press dispatches indicate, however, that line has been broken through at several vital points. The city of Soochow, key point of the line, was apparently surrendered to the Japanese without a shot being fired in its defense. It is clear that the retreat from Shanghai is in danger of developing into a rout. The Japanese forces are sweeping forward on several encircling fronts towards Nanking, the capital, from which the Kuomintang government has fled precipitately to remote points up the Yangtze River.

Several important conclusions can be drawn from these developments. It has been once more demonstrated that a backward country, with a feeble industry, poor in modern heavy armament, cannot long prevail in a purely military-defensive war against a more powerful adversary. Revolutionists have always contended, and the experiences of the Russian Revolution proved, that the weaker side can make good the technical deficiencies of its defense only by the development of an all-sided political campaign, having as its immediate object the disruption of the enemy forces. The Bolsheviks, pitting themselves against the interventionist forces, not of a single imperialist power but of all the leading imperialist powers, were probably no better supplied with armaments than China is today. But the Bolsheviks knew how to appeal to the class sentiments of the soldiers in the armies of their opponents. Revolutionary propaganda so weakened the interventionist forces that they could no longer be relied upon to fight and had to be withdrawn.

A backward, ill-armed country must pit against a well-armed enemy the superiority of its cause – a cause which must serve as the basis for rallying the entire nation for defense, a cause which, by reason of its essential rightness and progressiveness, will sustain the national morale, inspire the masses to that self-sacrifice, solidarity and unbounded initiative of which, as history has demonstrated over and over again, they are capable, and which would evoke actions of international solidarity in the enemy country.

Heads For Defeat

Five months of the Far Eastern conflict have shown, however, that the Kuomintang government is totally incapable of conducting the war in this manner. It is heading China’s cause to defeat. Revolutionists cannot be surprised at Chiang Kai-shek’s inability to appeal to the revolutionary sentiments of the oppressed Japanese soldiers, the vast majority of whom are drawn from the poorest layers of Japan’s peasantry, any more than they were surprised at the inability of the Spanish bourgeois government bourgeois government can hardly issue revolutionary appeals.

Neither is there anything extraordinary in the fact that the Kuomintang regime, through five months of warfare against a powerful foe, has kept the Chinese masses immobilized and has clamped down on any suggestion that the population be armed and drawn into country-wide guerilla warfare against the Japanese invaders. The Chinese bourgeoisie and its government fear the armed masses more than they do the Japanese imperialists.

With defeat piling on defeat, it is no wonder that the morale of the population is wilting. Despite the irresponsible chatter of the Daily Worker about all China being united against the invaders, there are already evidences that the struggle is beginning to be looked upon as lost and that the lack of any hopeful perspective is engendering opposition to further sacrifices. We learned, for example, that the Chinese “Dare-to-Die” battalions who fought rear-guard actions in Nantao to cover the retreat of the Chinese army from Shanghai were met by hostile Chinese demonstrators at the gates of the French Concession when they turned over their arms and abandoned their two-day struggle. The demonstrators, residents of Nantao, had watched their homes and possessions go up in smoke and splinters as Japanese airplanes bombed the positions taken up by the “Dare-to-Die” men. “If you had withdrawn with the others,” they were heard to say, “this disaster would have been spared us.”

Treachery and Corruption

At the commencement of the Shanghai hostilities, when such a move was still entirely possible, Chiang failed to block the Whangpoo River at its mouth. Such an act would have bottled up the Japanese naval units already at Shanghai and prevented any further ships from reaching the city. But it would also have interfered with the shipping of “friendly” powers and drawn protests from London, Washington and other capitals. And since the Kuomintang government chose to repose its main hopes in intervention by Japan’s rivals, the river was left open to the free movement of the Japanese navy.

Truth Must Be Told

There are those who will say that we are painting the situation in too dark colors. Revolutionists, however, must never fear to face unpleasant truths. Once again it must be said that China’s national independence can be gained only by wresting the conduct of the struggle from the hands of the Kuomintang and the Stalinists, who can organize only defeats. The struggle against imperialism must be combined with the emancipatory struggle of the exploited Chinese masses – against the bourgeoisie, against the landlords, against the Kuomintang, against the Stalinists. While participating in and supporting the present military struggle against Japan, the revolutionists will tirelessly expose all acts of treachery. In this way they will earn the confidence of the masses, build a revolutionary party, and lead the masses to the conquest of power. Only a revolutionary government of the Chinese proletariat, leading behind it the millions of exploited and oppressed in city and country, will be able to conduct a war to the finish against imperialism.

Last updated on 19 November 2014