Leon Trotsky

Pacifism and China

Answer to Journalist Devlin

(September 1937)

Written: 25 September 1937.
Published: Socialist Appeal, Vol. 1 No. 10, 16 October 1937, p. 4.
Transcription/Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2014. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The so-called peace organizations, including the working class organizations, do not in the least constitute an obstacle to the war. The numerous peace conferences, organized mainly by the Comintern, are purely theatrical enterprises without the least effectiveness; in time of war all these, peace leaders, all these pious and humanitarian ladies and gentlemen, will return to their governments to support them in the war as they did in 1914–1918.

The only political factor which today hinders the outbreak of war is the fear, on the part of the governments, of the social revolution. Hitler himself has said it many times. We must draw the logical conclusions from this: the more revolutionary the working class, the more it opposes the ruling imperialist class, the more are these latter prevented from carrying out their designs to make a new division of the world by armed force.

At the same time we must carefully distinguish between the imperialist countries and the backward countries, colonial and semi-colonial. The attitude of the working class organizations in and towards these two groupings cannot be the same. The present war between China and Japan is a classic example. It is absolutely indisputable that, on the part of Japan, it is a war of rapine and that, on the part of China, it is a war of national defense. Only conscious or unconscious agents of Japanese imperialism can put the two countries on the same plane.

That is why we can only feel pity or hatred for those who, in the face of the Sino-Japanese war declare that they are opposed to all wars, to wars altogether. The war is already a fact. The working class movement cannot remain neutral in a struggle between those who wish to enslave and those who are enslaved. The working class movement in China, Japan and in the entire world must oppose with all its strength the Japanese imperialist bandits and support the people of China and their army.

No Confidence in Chinese Bourgeoisie

This does not at all suppose a blind confidence in the Chinese government and in Chiang Kai-Shek. In the past, above all in 1925–27, the general was already dependent upon working class organizations in his military struggle against the Chinese generals of the North, agents of foreign imperialism. In the end, he crushed the working class organizations by armed force in 1927–28. We must learn the lessons from this experience which resulted from the fatal policies of the Comintern, in participating in the legitimate and progressive national war against Japanese invasion, the working class organizations must preserve their entire political independence of the Chiang Kai-shek government. The Communist Party of China again, as in 1924–25, is making violent efforts to turn over the Chinese working-class movement politically to Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang. It is a crime all the more horrible because it is being committed for the second time.

At the same time, the remedy does not lie in the working class organizations declaring themselves “against all wars” and folding their arms in an attitude of passive treason, but rather in participating in the war, aiding the Chinese people materially and morally, and simultaneously educating the masses of peasants and workers in a spirit of total independence of the Kuomintang and its government. We do not attack Chiang Kai-shek for conducting the war. Oh, no. We attack him for doing it badly, without sufficient energy, without confidence in the people and especially in the workers.

A pacifist who has the same attitude towards China as towards Japan in this terrible conflict is like one who would identify a lockout with a strike. The working class movement is against a lockout of the exploiters and for a strike of the exploited. At the same time, strikes are often, led by misleaders who are capable of betraying the working class movement during the strike. This is no reason for workers to refuse to participate in the strike but it is reason for mobilizing the working masses against the defections and the treason of the leadership. It often happens that during or after a strike the organized masses change their direction. This can very well happen in China. But this change can be favorable for the people only if the Chinese and international working class organizations support China against Japan.

Sept. 25, 1937

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Last updated on: 21 November 2014