By Chris Fry
October 1 marks the 70th anniversary of the announcement by Mao Zedong, the leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC), of the victory of the Chinese Revolution in 1949. This culminated the decades-long struggle by the CPC and the Red Army against a terribly oppressive landlord-dominated social and economic system backed by Western Imperialism.
The revolution marked the end of a “century of humiliation” that the people of China endured, beginning with the two infamous “Opium Wars” of 1839 and 1856 waged by the “free market” British, aided by the French and the U.S., which not only addicted millions of people, but also destroyed the craft industry in China and burdened the poor peasants with crushing taxes for the Chinese Qing monarchy to pay “reparations” for losing these outrageous wars.
In the aftermath of the heroic but failed Boxer rebellion directed against Western domination of China, European and U.S. forces exacted a wave of terrible retribution:
One newspaper called the aftermath of the siege a “carnival of ancient loot”, and others called it “an orgy of looting” by soldiers, civilians and missionaries. These characterizations called to mind the sacking of the Summer Palace in 1860. Each nationality accused the others of being the worst looters. An American diplomat, Herbert G. Squiers, filled several railroad cars with loot and artifacts. The British Legation held loot auctions every afternoon and proclaimed, “Looting on the part of British troops was carried out in the most orderly manner.” However, one British officer noted, “It is one of the unwritten laws of war that a city which does not surrender at the last and is taken by storm is looted.” For the rest of 1900–1901, the British held loot auctions every day except Sunday in front of the main-gate to the British Legation. Many foreigners, including Sir Claude Maxwell MacDonald and Lady Ethel MacDonald and George Ernest Morrison of The Times, were active bidders among the crowd. Many of these looted items ended up in Europe. The Catholic Beitang or North Cathedral was a “salesroom for stolen property.” The American commander General Adna Chaffee banned looting by American soldiers, but the ban was ineffectual.
The Republic of China and the Civil War
After massive peasant rebellions as well as worker and student struggles, the Qing monarchy, the last of more than 2000 years of dynastic rule, was overturned in 1911 by a bourgeois democratic revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen. On January 1, 1912, Sun declared the formation of the Chinese Republic, and formed the Kuomintang Nationalist Party (KMT). Sun sought help from the Second International in 1915 to help establish socialism in China to develop the country, but as nearly all the European social democratic parties betrayed all principles by supporting their countries’ ruling classes in World War I, no help was forthcoming.
China joined the Allies in World War I, but at the end of the war, the Western imperialists “gave” the German-controlled Chinese province of Shandong to Japan rather than back to China. This sparked huge demonstrations in many cities on May 4, 1919 and created the “May 4th” youth movement, many of whom were attracted to Communism after the success of the Russian Revolution. Sun invited the newly formed Communist Party of China (CPC) to join the KMT.
Sun died in early in 1925, and the KMT split into two factions. One was supported by the rich landlord class and Western imperialists and was led by Chiang Kai-shek. The other was the working-class CPC. In April 1927, Chiang launched an all-out attack and massacre of the CPC starting in Shanghai. Within 20 days, more than 10,000 CPC members were arrested and executed. Within three years, 300,000 were killed, all to the applause of the Western powers. This was the beginning of the decades-long civil war in China.
With the CPC decimated in China’s cities, emerging leaders of the party including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai formed and led the Chinese Red Army, which would become the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). Encircled by Chiang’s KMT army in the southeast region, in 1934 the Red Army broke out of these sieges and set forth on the famous year-long Long March, some 8,000 miles to the northeast enclave of Shaanxi. Under relentless attack, only a tiny fraction of the Red Army survived the journey. Mao himself stressed its importance when he wrote:
The Long March is a manifesto. It has proclaimed to the world that the Red Army is an army of heroes, while the imperialists and their running dogs, Chiang Kai-shek and his like, are impotent. It has proclaimed their utter failure to encircle, pursue, obstruct and intercept us. The Long March is also a propaganda force. It has announced to some 200 million people in eleven provinces that the road of the Red Army is their only road to liberation.
In Shaanxi the Red Army was able to rebuild their forces. Retaining the working-class character of the CPC, Mao stressed the importance of developing disciplined relations with the surrounding peasantry:
In addition, policies ordered by Mao for all soldiers to follow, the Eight Points of Attention, instructed the army to avoid harm to or disrespect for the peasants, in spite of the desperate need for food and supplies. This policy won support for the Communists among the rural peasants.
After invading Manchuria in 1931, in 1937, the Japanese Empire invaded China, slaughtering millions of people. The CPC and the KMT formed an alliance to fight Japan, but Chiang’s forces still attacked the Red Army during the war.
At the end of the war, the KMT military forces, equipped by U.S. imperialism, had four times the number of soldiers as the Red Army. But just as the Paris Commune drew the support of French soldiers, just as the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution attracted the support of thousands of the Tsar’s peasant soldiers, because of their strong relations with the peasants, tens of thousands of Kuomintang soldiers switched sides and joined the Red Army. The KMT was swept off the mainland, where, after slaughtering more than 10,000 of the native inhabitants, Chiang settled on Taiwan, protected by the U.S. Navy.
Victory of the Chinese Revolution and the Peoples Republic of China ….