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Fourth International, October 1945


The Editors

Review of the Month


From Fourth International, Vol.6 No.10, October 1945, pp.291-294.
Transcribed, marked up & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


Stalin and the Far East

KREMLIN POLICY IN ASIA As the political picture clarifies in the Far East, it is seen that the policy of the Kremlin oligarchy in Asia is symmetrical with its policy in Europe. Stalin is a firm ally of American imperialism in stamping out all revolutionary manifestations of the colonial masses; he uses the insurgent mass movements as pawns of his arch-reactionary diplomacy; and as in Europe he has embarked on an unabashed policy of conquest and plunder. The Stalinist ruling caste is proceeding to carve for itself a new vast domain in the limitless expanses of the Far East.

Ever since the fortunes of war turned in their favor, the Kremlin rulers began casting covetous glances on Manchuria and Korea. They knew that once Japanese imperialism collapsed, new masters would come forth to claim its booty. The Kremlin was determined to get its “rightful” share of the loot, and formulated its military and diplomatic plans accordingly.

Churchill informed us in his recent speech to the British Parliament that Stalin definitely promised at Teheran that his Far Eastern armies would attack the Japanese positions in Manchuria three months after the conclusion of hostilities in Europe. And, Churchill added, Stalin is always prompt in keeping his military commitments (to the imperialists.)

As a matter of fact, Stalin was more than prompt in this instance. As Japan was reeling from the devastating blows dealt her by the United States military machine and was on the point of capitulating, Stalin hastily ordered his troops into action, several days ahead of time, for fear that Japan might “prematurely” collapse and the Soviet Union could claim no credit for her defeat. Stalin was not going to be cheated out of his seat at the Far Eastern “Peace Table.”

Despite the Soviet Union’s negligible military outlay in the Far East, Stalin occupies an important seat at the conquerors’ banquet table. In accordance with previous secret agreements concluded with his Anglo-American allies, the Red Armies have taken over southern Sakhalin, northern Korea and the Kuriles. By an additional treaty with China the Soviet Union’s position in Manchuria is re-established to the point occupied by Czarist Russia before the Russo-Japanese war in 1905. The USSR receives joint ownership and management with China of Port Arthur as a naval base and an area around the port is provided in which the Soviet Union has the right to maintain an army, navy and air force. The other important Manchuria port, Dairen, is declared a free port. But even here it is agreed that the harbor master shall be a Russian and the USSR is to receive leases free of charge of half of all port installations and equipment. All this adds up to a Soviet “sphere of influence” in Manchuria. The USSR furthermore continues to exercise control over Outer Mongolia. Thus Stalin seems to have realized the century-old dreams of the former Czarist diplomats.

STALIN BETRAYS YENAN MOVEMENT And what is the price that Stalin has had to pay for these Soviet “spheres of influence” in Asia? Undoubtedly from Stalin’s point of view a very reasonable price. He merely had to pledge his full support to Anglo-American counter-revolutionary aims and plans. And in token of good faith, he had to sell out the Yenan movement in China as a starter. Stalin carried out this “commitment” as punctiliously as he carried out the military commitments.

At the very moment that the Yenan and Kuomintang armies were racing for the major cities of China, at the very moment that each side was striving to effect the surrender of the Japanese troops, at the very moment that American imperialism brazenly intervened in Chinese affairs and openly threw its weight behind the Kuomintang, Stalin demonstratively published his treaty with Chiang Kai-shek. This bombshell left his Chinese followers high and dry. Stalin specifically pledged to give moral support and military supplies solely to the National Government of China, the Kuomintang. It was further announced that Molotov, Soviet Foreign Commissar, told T.V. Soong, Chinese Prime Minister, during the latter’s visit in Moscow, that the struggle between Chungking and Yenan was an “internal question” and the Soviet Union would not interfere in any way. This declaration had likewise been made previously to Maj. Gen. Patrick J. Hurley, US Ambassador to China, during his visit to the Kremlin. The insurgent mass movement of China represents for the Kremlin but a pawn to be cynically used and, where necessary, sold out to further the aims of Stalin’s despicable diplomacy.

What driving forces impel the Soviet oligarchy on its present policy of furious expansion? Why is this caste so eager to plunge into one adventure after another? Some people have a ready answer: “Imperialism! The Soviet Union has become imperialist.” But such an explanation befuddles rather than clarifies the problem at hand. History knows of the expansionism of various monarchies, oligarchies, feudal ruling classes, slave-owning classes, etc. in the broadest sense of the word, all of them could be called “imperialist”. The conscientious materialist historian, however, would still have to study and analyze each “imperialism” with the greatest of care in order to determine the precise laws that governed its expansionism and the precise historical causes that impelled its ruling classes or castes to pursue this course. Kautsky, for example, performed precisely such a labor in his monumental work The Origins of Christianity by painstakingly tracing the material causes and dynamics of the expansionism of the slave-holding ruling classes of the ancient world. Only superficial journalists could be content with indiscriminately labelling all these variegated manifestations of expansionism as “imperialist” and believe that they have thus solved the problem or even approached it.

MARXIST DEFINITION OF IMPERIALISM In Marxist literature modern imperialism has a sharply defined meaning: it is the expansionist policy of finance capital and emerges out of the development of capitalism in its monopoly stage. Obviously the Soviet Union does not represent the expansionism of finance capital. And yet Soviet expansionism is a fact. What then are the laws that govern the specific Soviet expansionism? What are the prime material motivations of the Stalin regime that impel it to move out beyond its borders? We would, of course, be wasting our time in attempting to find the explanation to this problem by turning to the capitalist “theoreticians” – or their pseudo-Marxist imitators – who have provided us with the formula of “Soviet imperialism”. None of them, literally none of them, have attempted to define concretely what this new “imperialism” signifies, what the laws are that govern its development, in what respects it resembles the old types of expansionism and wherein it differs from them. (This is a small illustration of the utter bankruptcy of bourgeois thought in the period of capitalism’s death agony.)

Without attempting to deal exhaustively with this problem we can set down some of the main reasons that push the Stalin bureaucracy into its present expansionist course:

First, let us establish the fact that the Soviet Union, even in its healthy days, in the days of Lenin and Trotsky, followed, insofar as it was able, a policy of expansionism. Trotsky informed us:

“The proletarian revolution, which occurred on the territory of the Czarist empire, attempted from the very beginning to conquer and for a time conquered the Baltic countries, attempted to penetrate Rumania and Persia and at one time led its armies up to Warsaw (1920).“

Why? In order to augment the forces of the international Socialist revolution; in order to attain a larger arena for its economic development; in order to strengthen its strategic position as against the capitalist world. The degenerated workers’ state is still bound by the last two motivations. But of course, Lenin and Trotsky solved their problems (the problems of the Soviet Union, and in the last analysis of world socialism) by depending on the class consciousness and independence of the workers; Trotsky’s Red Armies marched everywhere as the banner-bearers of the Socialist Revolution. Stalin attempts to solve his problems (the problems of the Soviet ruling caste) exclusively by bureaucratic and military means and his administrators oppress and plunder conquered populations in the manner of the old Czarist officials.

KREMLIN CASTE SEES NEW VISTAS Secondly, as the ruling caste grows more rigid, it pushes its pretensions forward more brazenly. The war has suddenly opened up gigantic, unbelievable vistas before it. Why should it not grab while the grabbing is good? Its ambition and greed seem to know no bounds. Unquestionably, like ruling dynasties of old, it is governed by an irresistible urge to increase its power, its revenue, its prestige. Feeling the weakness of world capitalism, it probes everywhere for openings and pushes on everywhere further and further until it confronts strong opposition. Soviet expansionism is made possible less by the strength of the Soviet Union than by the weakness of imperialism and the present war weariness of the peoples.

The third and possibly most decisive factor is the Kremlin’s fear of Anglo-American imperialism and its desire to strengthen the position of the Soviet Union against any future eventualities. In this sense the present occupations and conquests of the Soviet Union can be likened to the occupations and conquests of 1939, except that the 1939 occupations were designed as protection primarily against Germany. The present occupations are aimed against the United States and its junior partner, Britain. The foreign policy of every big power consists in part of manoeuvring against its rivals and grabbing up strategic points of support to strength its position in the event of future conflict. Undoubtedly that is a big element in the present manoeuvring and sparring that is taking place between the two most important world states, the United States and the USSR.

But an even more important element in this friction is the fact that the United States and the USSR face each other not merely as potential state rivals but clash as antagonistic social systems. Despite the frightful degeneration of the Soviet Union (and it is frightful), and despite the present bloc between Anglo-American imperialism and the Soviet Union which may well continue for a whole period of time-that fundamental social antagonism will continue and persist, so long as the USSR remains on the foundation of nationalized property.

PERNICIOUSNESS OF NEW THEORY And it is precisely here that we can discern the perniciousness of the theory of “Soviet imperialism” – if such a poverty-stricken phrase can be graced with so imposing a title. This “theory” blurs the fundamental social antagonism between two divergent systems. Instead of clarifying the dynamics of the conflict it muddles it by identifying the totally divergent types of expansionism of the USSR and the Anglo-American powers.

Making use of this piece of theoretical obfuscation, the Max Eastmans, Liston Oaks, and other paid and unpaid literary hacks of American imperialism had no difficulty in throwing their support (such as it was) to the counter-revolution in Greece. The problem was simple for them: What was involved, they informed us, was a conflict between British and Russian imperialism. And since Britain is more democratic (despite India! ) therefore they support the lesser evil, British imperialism. Involved here is not merely a case of the devil quoting scriptures for his own nefarious purposes. The “theoretical” identification of the expansionism of the USSR with imperialism lends itself to reactionary proposals in the field of practical politics.

Our rejection of the “theory” of “soviet imperialism” naturally does not mean that we give the slightest support to the Kremlin’s conquests and occupations. On the contrary! We condemned the Kremlin occupations of Poland and the Baltics in 1939 even though these were accompanied by the nationalization of property. We took this position because the strategic advantages obtained were negligible compared to the mass revulsion and hatred which Stalin engendered against the Soviet Union by his policy of brutal conquest. All the more do we condemn and fight against the present Stalinist conquests which serve no progressive purposes whatsoever and aim in the first place – let us not forget – to crush the revolutionary movements in Asia and Europe.

Why Congress Has Knifed Unemployment Compensation Bills

ACTIONS OF CONGRESS By shelving all unemployment compensation legislation Congress has displayed its utter callousness toward the plight of the fast-growing army of jobless workers and ex-servicemen. On September 19, after a cursory debate, the Senate thrust a dagger into the heart of the Kilgore Unemployment Compensation Bill by voting down the key section providing a maximum of $25 weekly to the unemployed. The mutilated measure it passed on to the House extended a maximum of 26 weeks compensation at the starvation-level state rates which are as low as $2 weekly in Alabama and $5 in Indiana. It also provided compensation for federal and maritime workers, and travel allowances limited to $200 for displaced war-workers and turned the United States Employment Service over to the state governments.

The following week the House Ways and Means Committee gave the coup de grace to this miserly bill by voting that its consideration “be indefinitely postponed so that the committee can receive more concrete information as to what the unemployment situation is to be during the reconversion period.” Estimates of present unemployment range from 2½ million to 4 million. Government agencies have published estimates that within a year there will be at least 8 to 10 million out of work. And in the face of these figures the so-called “representatives of the people”, Democrats and Republicans combined, reject all, responsibility for aiding the unemployed on the unbelievable pretext that they need “more concrete information!”

In more candid conversations with the press the members of the House Ways and Means Committee disclosed the anti-labor venom behind their action. Representative Knutson of Minnesota openly expressed the committee’s strike-breaking intentions by telling reporters: “With hundreds of thousands out on strike, who have also forced tens of thousands of others into idleness, we’ re in no position to survey the unemployment situation in this country at the present time. We’ ll have to wait until the strikers get back to work. To extend the time for paying unemployment benefits would be to encourage idleness.”

WHAT CONGRESS GAVE TO BIG BUSINESS This is the Congress which permitted Big Business to roll up $47 billion in acknowledged profits during the war and has donated tax-refunds totalling many more billions to manufacturers with cancelled war-contracts, enabling them to recoup any losses during the next two years! But this same Congress which votes billions for Big Business will not give another penny to the millions of war-workers and veterans who need immediate assistance to ward off hunger and even outright starvation.

To heap insult upon injury the very Ways and Means Committee that killed the Unemployment Compensation Bill at once began consideration of new tax-reducing and tax-rebate proposals to present more billions from the public treasury to the profit-bloated industrialists and bankers.

And this bit of skullduggery is put over with the furtive connivance of the Truman administration. According to the New York Times, the president informed his Senate leaders on September 17 that “he would accept the best compromise he could get.” But he himself had already compromised the Kilgore Bill by sending a private memorandum to the Senate Committee saying that the crucial $25 weekly maximum was not “indispensable.” Following up this cue from the White House, the Congressional agents of Wall Street ruthlessly disposed of the measure.

Business Week in its September 8 issue revealed the real reasons behind these actions of the administration and Congress.

“In the present national debate over raising unemployment compensation benefits to $25 a week for a 26-week period, labor finds it hard to believe that any except members of what it characterizes as a die-hard, reactionary group in the business community are against such liberalizing of unemployment provisions. But here labor is wrong.”

THE POSTWAR PLANS OF WALL STREET The Business Week editors proceed to explain why.

“In the sometimes considered normal year, 1939, the average weekly wage of all workers covered by unemployment insurance was $26.15. Today, in order to net $25 a week after taxes, a single man must earn $29 and a man with one dependent must earn $26. Unemployment benefits are not taxable. Therefore, at 1939 income levels, more than half of the single and married workers in covered employment would be at least as well off financially if they qualify as unemployed. What business, with few exceptions indeed, wants to know is: How ‘available’ will an adequate work force be under these circumstances?”

What this means is plain enough. Any approach to adequate unemployment relief would interfere with Wall Street’s plans to drive down wages and slash living standards. The industrialists want a desperate army of starving unemployed to use as a club over the heads of the workers in the plants and as a spur to the speedup system.

This knifing of unemployment compensation legislation by Congress serves notice of the kind of conditions labor can expect in the period ahead. The capitalists well know there will not be full employment at decent wages even during boom times. Instead they are anticipating millions of unemployed coupled with deteriorating living standards for those at work. Even a beggarly $25 a week for a limited time would seriously undermine the hunger regime they intend to impose upon the working class.

Could there be a graver warning that prosperity for the capitalists won’t provide a living wage to the employed workers, not to speak of sufficient relief to the jobless? Could labor receive a more forceful reminder to intensify its independent class action on both the economic and political fields against the postwar plans of Big Business?

American Rule of Japan

CONTRAST BETWEEN GERMANY AND JAPAN There has developed a marked contrast, which at first sight seems inexplicable, between the treatment accorded defeated Germany by the victorious Allied Powers and the corresponding treatment accorded to defeated Japan. So pronounced has the contrast become that the liberal press, which supported the imperialist war from the beginning to the end, has accused the policy makers in Washington of “betraying” their own announced war aims.

Severe punishment of all the “aggressor” nations was promised. Why, then, is Japan being given what appears, by contrast with Germany, a “soft peace?” It was also one of the proclaimed purposes of the United States to abolish the dictatorial and totalitarian governments of the “enemy” countries. Yet in Japan, the government (with a little refurbishing, it is true) has been permitted to remain in office and the Emperor to retain his throne. In Germany, on the other hand, the Nazi government has been totally eliminated and the country is under the direct military rule of the Allied Powers.

The Allied Powers are directing their efforts to the virtual destruction of what remains of German industrial economy. It is their purpose, not merely to prevent a possible rearming of Germany, but to insure that Germany never again becomes a commercial competitor. In Japan, on the other hand, the conquerors are contenting themselves with the destruction of the country’s military and heavy industry. They have deprived Japan of her colonies, but they promise to restore her place in world trade, even though on a greatly reduced scale.

GENERAL PLAN OF OCCUPATION Whereas Germany has been occupied by the armed forces of all the leading Allied Powers, the US imperialists have reserved to themselves, almost exclusively, the occupation of Japan. The general plan of occupation was laid down in a statement of policy prepared jointly by the State, War and Navy Departments and endorsed by President Truman. This statement was sent to MacArthur on August 29 and released for publication on September 22. A perusal of this document is sufficient to reveal the immediate aims of US imperialism with regard to Japan.

Part II of the document contains the following directive:

In view of the present character of Japanese society and the desire of the United States to attain its objectives with a minimum commitment of its forces and resources, the supreme commander will exercise his authority through Japanese government machinery and agencies, including the Emperor, to the extent that this satisfactorily furthers United States objectives.

The significant words here are contained in the reference to “the present character of Japanese society.” This society was analyzed in great detail in earlier issues of Fourth International. (See Li Fu-jen’s study, Japan Faces the Abyss, in the February, March and April 1944 issues of this magazine). Without saying so, the authors of the directive to MacArthur are referring to the extremely complicated social structure of Japan, and the highly explosive quality of class relationships due to the weighty remains of Japanese feudalism. Japan has never had a democratic (capitalist) revolution and a thorough revolutionary house-cleaning is long overdue. The social system is a strange admixture of feudalism and capitalism, with all the contradictions and antagonisms which such a state implies.

The war has sharpened all these contradictions and antagonisms by its disruption of the delicate balance of the semi-feudal, semi-capitalist economy. A large part of Japan’s industry has been destroyed. Millions of homes have been blasted or burned. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Where previously the Japanese masses suffered from want, today they are literally starving. Popular hatred of the ruling class has increased.

Into this explosive situation MacArthur poured his occupation troops. When MacArthur spoke of the US occupation of Japan as the most risky military enterprise ever undertaken, he was thinking not so much of possible armed resistance from the still intact Japanese home army, as of the danger of a mighty revolutionary upheaval which would engulf both the Japanese ruling class and the US occupation forces. There were many signs pointing to the imminence of such an explosion.

MacARTHUR PRESERVES JAPAN’s MONARCHY Under these circumstances it would have been foolhardy to tamper with the political and social structure of Japan. That is why the US imperialists found it necessary to preserve, almost intact, the entire system, above all the monarchy, which helps to cement its disparate parts.

The pent-up forces of revolution are still there. That is why the directive to MacArthur states that “the policy (of the US) is to use the existing form of government in Japan, not to support it.” It may be necessary, however, to sponsor, as a political safety valve, a limited and “controlled” revolution which would effect certain superficial changes while leaving intact the social structure as a whole. This possibility is, indeed, explicit in the very next passage of the directive, which reads:

Changes in the form of government initiated by the Japanese people or government in the direction of modifying its feudal and authoritarian tendencies, are to be permitted and favored. In the event that the effectuation of such changes involves the use of force by the Japanese people or government against persons opposed thereto, the Supreme commander should intervene only where necessary to insure the security of his forces and the attainment of all other objectives of the occupation.

The policy-makers in Washington conceive of such a phony half-way revolution as a means of forestalling a thorough and fundamental renovation of Japanese society. A genuine, popular revolution of the masses, in order to sweep away the remnants of feudalism, will be compelled to liquidate the system of capitalism, with which the feudal remains are inextricably intertwined. The tasks of the democratic and socialist revolutions are thus combined. Needless to say, the American imperialists don’t want a socialist revolution in Japan, any more than they do in Europe. Such a revolution could set the whole Far East aflame and bring to nought their far-reaching plans. This is one of the key reasons for their present “Peace” policy in Japan.

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