Leon Trotsky on China


March 31, 1927

Dear Comrades:

It is only through the papers that I am able at present to follow the events in China. What instructions you have given I do not know. But one cannot help noticing that nowhere in our press, in dealing with the development of the Chinese revolution (primarily its military aspect), has the question of soviets been raised. But it seems to me that at the present stage this question takes on absolutely decisive significance.

1. The Chinese revolution has taken over such major proletarian centers as Shanghai and Hankow, not to mention other less important places. Everything seems to point to the fact that the first thing that should be done in these proletarian centers is to organize soviets of workers' deputies.

2. Revolutionary collaboration between the proletariat and the urban and rural poor is a matter of life and death for the further progress of the Chinese revolution. Regardless of how one views the question of the further relations between the CCP and the Kuomintang, one thing is clear: day-to-day political, administrative and practical collaboration between the hundreds of thousands of workers and the millions of semiproletarian and petty-bourgeois elements in town and countryside cannot be achieved solely through the essentially elitist organization of the Kuomintang, with its roughly 300,000 party members. This kind of actual, genuine, day-to-day collaboration among the masses of the people awakened by the revolution can only be brought about in reality through the creation of soviets of workers', artisans' and peasants' deputies

3. The national army, whose political education has only begun, will inevitably become swollen out of proportion as it is joined by new, provincial forces, completely green and raw as far as politics is concerned. The officer cadre, as far as one can tell from the available materials, is characterized by bourgeois and landlord origins and by sympathies tending to favor those same classes. Apprehensions regarding a Chinese variant of Bonapartism are apparently rather strong among revolutionary circles in China, nor can one say by any means that these fears are unfounded. Under existing conditions it would seem there is no more effective measure for countering such dangers than the establishment of soldiers' sections of soviets, beginning with the garrisons in the major proletarian centers.

4. It goes without saying that the formation of soviets must be done very carefully, in accordance with all the class relations, local conditions, and other special features and factors, so as not to give any accidental advantage to reactionary elements in one place or another, not to cause disturbances among the troops, etc. Nevertheless, everything points to the fact that this task of truly consolidating the conquered territories by forming soviets of the working and exploited masses of the Chinese population cannot be postponed any longer.

5. Only in this way can there, and will there, be a radical agrarian transformation -- by "reformist" means where circumstances permit, and by "revolutionary" means where there are landlords with military detachments supporting them.

6. Today, many are being persuaded to desert or betray, especially if they are generals. The creation of rank-and-file soviets would help to radically alter this pattern. Without ruthless reprisals against the militarists, the heads of outlaw bands, the innumerable "generals" and bandits, it will be impossible, in a China that has suffered years of civil war, to establish a stable democratic system. But stern measures of reprisal are unthinkable without the creation of a firm base of support for them among the lower ranks of society. Such a base can only be found in soviets of workers', soldiers', and poor people's deputies.

7. Needless to say, such soviets should and will become agencies in the struggle for power or actual organs of power on the local level.

8. All social layers and groups which in fact cooperate with and support the revolution in particular situations, at particular times, in particular localities, would elect their deputies to the soviets. This cooperation and support would be shown, on the one hand, by the attitude of such layers toward the workers, their strikes, etc., and on the other, by their attitude toward the national army. The lines of political cooperation as well as of political demarcation would follow the course of the class struggle, and not the artificial organizational schemes of the Kuomintang (such as the formula of one-third for the communists and two-thirds for merchants and intellectuals, etc.).

9. I will not raise the question of the relations between the CCP and the Kuomintang here. But I do think that a system of soviets would also help to place this question in its proper framework in a very short time. A system of soviets in China would not be, at least not in the coming period, an instrument of proletarian dictatorship, but one of revolutionary national liberation and democratic unification of the country. The soviets in this period would not be under the dictatorship of one party but under the direction of a bloc of parties with inevitable internal struggle between them, inevitable shifts, etc. The Kuomintang's attempt, using the model of the Russian experience, to set up a one-party dictatorship, i.e., of the Kuomintang, with the Communist Party totally subordinated to it, is in essence counterrevolutionary and will inevitably produce fascist tendencies. The dictatorship of the proletariat in the Soviet Union, under conditions of capitalist encirclement, was possible only in the form of the dictatorship of the Communist Party. But in China, what is occurring is a national-democratic revolution, not a socialist one. A national democratic revolution is supposed to assure the proletariat full freedom for the class struggle and, consequently, full independence for the Communist Party as the leader of that struggle. The revolution cannot succeed without prolonged, close, and even more deepgoing collaboration between the proletariat and the plebeian masses of the towns and villages. This can be realized through the soviets in the form of blocs between parties, through the influence of worker delegates on nonparty deputies, etc.

L. Trotsky


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