Leon Trotsky on China


May 10, 1927

I think the new situation calls for a review of the relationship between the Communist Party and the Kuomintang. Why should we remain in the left Kuomintang?

1. On this point the following argument is often repeated: "Since the workers and peasants support the left Kuomintang, we should remain in it in order to win them over to the Communist Party." This argument scarcely holds up. Far more workers support the Social Democracy and Amsterdam 35 than the Kuomintang. The same argument could also fully apply to the Anglo-Russian Committee.

As a general rule, when we want to break workers away from some organization and win them over, we do not join the organization; we leave it.

2. Another argument is. "Now, while they are smashing both us and the left Kuomintang, withdrawal is out of the question." I think it is much more dangerous for the organization to be combined when they are dealing us blows than it is when we are the ones dealing the blows. Bela Kun's experience in Hungary is eloquent testimony to this. Under such difficult conditions, the meaning of revolutionary firmness is clearer than ever. By remaining in the same organization with the Wang Ching-weis, we are sharing the responsibility for their waverings and betrayals. There must be unity in striking the enemy-but a separation of political responsibility.

3. From the first argument it follows that we should remain in the left Kuomintang until we have drawn all of the workers and peasants away from it. But if this is the case, we will never leave the Kuomintang. First, because China's national democracy will have behind it not only peasants but workers as well for a good while yet. And second, by remaining in the Kuomintang we do not confront the workers with the necessity of choosing between it and the Communist Party.

As for the peasants, they could continue to look to the Kuomintang as our peasants looked to the Social Revolutionaries, right up to the proletarian dictatorship. From precisely this flows the necessity of a bloc.

The second argument states that we should remain in the Kuomintang until our retreat is over (i.e., until our destruction). But if our retreat were to shift to an attack, then they would say: it is impermissible to disrupt the offensive by withdrawing from the Kuomintang.

4. The analogy of the British Communist Party's entry into the Labour Party falls apart under its own weight. The British Labour Party is proletarian in composition and political differentiation is proceeding slowly by comparison. The Kuomintang is a "party" of different classes, and political differentiation among them is proceeding with extreme rapidity because of the revolution. The Chinese Communist Party has lagged behind this differentiation the whole time.

5. After the Chiang Kai-shek coup the question becomes even more crucial. As it turns out, the most vile proposals against the Communist Party and the working class at the Kuomintang's last plenum were made by Wang Ching-wei. That was on the eve of the coup.36 All available information indicates that the Hankow government at this moment continues to pursue the same line, yet the Communist Party remains the left opposition in the Kuomintang. Moscow can talk about "remaining in the Kuomintang with full [?] political and organizational [?!] independence." But what does this mean in practice? In Hankow, surely, all of these questions are being posed at the point of a sword. The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party will be totally unable to comprehend what we are in fact proposing. And in moments as critical as this nothing is worse than confusion.

6. This kind of argument was also advanced: It is necessary to leave the Kuomintang, but the Communist Party must be allowed a certain time to prepare. It is easier to accept this kind of formulation. But then the Chinese Communist Party must be told openly about it. Obviously, the preparation must include the perspective that withdrawal from the Kuomintang will give way to a bloc with it and collaboration on all policy-however, with a separation of political responsibility. Unfortunately this purely practical way of posing the question has been withdrawn and replaced with the arguments of a general nature, examined briefly above.

7. Meanwhile, there can be no doubt that the Communist Party's remaining in the left Kuomintang will in the future mean the subordination of its policy to its organizational dependence, and-considering how young and inexperienced it is-this will inevitably lead it to repeat all the mistakes of the past period.

* * * In Comrade Radek's letter of March 3, the need to remain for a time within the Kuomintang was argued as follows: "All the activity of the Kuomintang, or more precisely, its right wing and military units-directed as they are against the interests of the masses and in defense of the interests of the landlords and capitalists, as well as the Blanquist policies of the Kuomintang Central Committee-have still not produced among the masses any opposition to the Kuomin tang nor led to an understanding of the need for a separate class party of the proletariat and the poorest peasantry."

At the time, I objected to this argument on the basis of which the organization of an independent workers' party is put off until the masses understand the need for such a party. But right now I will leave aside the question of principle on this matter. The meaning of the words we have quoted from Comrade Radek is clear: It is necessary to wait for actions on the part of the right wing and units of the army so that the masses understand the need for their own party. Were the "April actions" not sufficient for this? It would seem that they were.

However, new difficulties now crop up: The "April actions" which, according to the March 3 letter, should have served as the signal for an independent Communist Party, are now being proclaimed the main obstacle to this independence. We are creating an organizational trap for ourselves-one we will not be able to escape from by continually finding new political arguments.

I understand very well that on this aspect of the question our differences are not differences in principle, but how the question is interpreted organizationally under the present conditions in China has enormous significance. The very same Chinese communists who were the left appendage under Chiang Kai-shek will in a year or two become in turn the left appendage under Wang Ching-wei.

[Postscript, June 9, 1927]

The above lines were written about a month ago. Everything that has transpired since then confirms the need for clarity on the fundamental question of independence for the Chinese Communist Party. To depict the Kuomintang as a formless organization committed to no one is to distort the very meaning of the question. No matter how formless the Kuomintang is at its periphery, its central apparatus has the revolutionary dictator- ship firmly in hand. The Canton Kuomintang has imitated the AUCP in this respect. The Hankow Kuomintang imitates the one in Canton (or Nanking). For the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Hankow the proposal that it enter the Kuomintang while retaining full political and organizational independence is no more than an unsolvable riddle. We know that even the present Central Committee of the present Chinese Communist Party declared itself last year in favor of a bloc from without rather than a bloc from within, that is, in favor of withdrawing from the Kuomintang. But now the Chinese Central Committee is no doubt repeatedly being told: "Look, even the Opposition in the AUCP is against withdrawing from the Kuomintang." In China this argument is undoubtedly being used, and will continue to be used, just as widely as we use the argument that the Opposition is for withdrawing from the Kuomintang.

T'an P'ing-shan's speech at the time he became minister37 shows all too clearly that for this Communist Party to remain in the Kuomintang-not "in general" but under the given concrete conditions of time and place-permits its leaders to declare they will implement the program of the Kuomintang and not that of their own party, and what is even worse, permits the party to put up with such leaders, thereby blurring the lines defining the party. This has to be stopped at all costs. A real differentiation of Bolsheviks from Mensheviks within the Communist Party itself is bound to occur over this question.

What is necessary at the present time? It is necessary to formulate the reasons we have remained in the Kuomintang up to the present. At the same time-and this is most important of all- it is necessary to formulate with just as much clarity and accuracy the reasons we must now leave the Kuomintang. The reasons for leaving it multiply by the day-one need only look at the dispatches "not for publication."

To postpone dealing with this question can only worsen the situation. L. Trotsky

1. Comrade Radek's letter of March 3,1927.
2. Comrade Trotsky's reply of March 4, 1927.
3. Comrade Trotsky's memorandum of March 22, 1927.
4. Comrade Trotsky's letter of March 29,1927.
Published for the first time in any language. By permission of Harvard College Library. Translated for this volume by Ivan Licho.



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