Workers Councils Part 4. The War
l. Japanese Imperialism
The preceding chapters were composed in the first years of the war, 1941-1942, a summary of what past times of struggle provided in useful information for the working class, an instrument helpful in their further fight for freedom. Now, 1944, the war, begun as an attempt of German capital to wrench world power from the English bourgeoisie, has extended over the entire world. All the strains created by the growth of capitalism in different continents, all the antagonisms between new rising and old powerful bourgeoisies, all the conflicts and excitations in near and far away countries have coalesced and exploded in this truly world war. And every day shows how much deeper, more tremendous and more thorough than in any former war its effects will be, in America and Asia, as well as in Europe. Mankind in its entirety is involved, and the neutrals, too, experience its consequences. Every nation is implicated in the fate of every other nation, however remote. This war is one of the last convulsions in the irresistible process of unification of mankind; the class fight that will evolve from the war will make this unity into a self-directing community.
Besides Europe, its first scene, Eastern Asia has become a second, no less important, centre of the war. In China war with Japan was already going on for some years when, by the outbreak of the war between America and Japan, it was included as a subordinate part in the world fight. This struggle in East Asia will have the same importance for the world's course as the fight in Europe. Hence its origins, as well as its tendencies, must be considered here somewhat more attentively.
The dense populations thronged together in the fertile plains of East and South Asia and the adjacent islands have long resisted the invasion of capitalism. With their number of nearly a thousand millions they constituted almost the half of mankind. Hence, as long as they remain in the condition of small agriculture and small handicraft, capitalism cannot be said to occupy the world, capitalism is not yet at the end of its task and its growth. The old powerful monarchies stiffened in their first contact with the rising capitalism of the 16th and 17th centuries, they kept off its intrusion and shut out its dissolving effects. Whereas in India and the Indian islands commercial capital could gradually establish its sway, China and Japan could maintain themselves as strong military powers during some centuries. In the 19th century the military power of modern capitalism broke the resistance. The development of capitalism, first in Japan, now in China, was the origin, is the content and will be the outcome of the present world war.
In the 17th, 18th, and the first half of the 19th century Japan was a feudal-absolutist state separated from the outer world by strict prohibitional laws. It was governed by some hundred small princes ( daimyos ), each lord over his own realm, but all strictly subjected under the sway of the Shogun in the capital, formally the military chief for the nominal emperor, the Mikado in Kyoto, but practically the real ruler. The Shoguns, whose office was hereditary in the Tokugawa family, retained the daimyos in submission and kept internal peace during two and a half centuries. A strict feudal organisation of four orders in society was maintained; but in the long run it could not prevent an inner development.
The basis of society was small farming, on lots mostly of only one or some few acres. Legally half the product had to be delivered to the prince, in kind ( mostly rice ), but often more was taken from the farmers. Above them stood the ruling and exploiting class of warriors, the samurai, forming the uppermost order ranged in a number of ranks, from the princes down to the common soldiers. They constituted the nobility, though their lowest most numerous ranks had only a small rice-income; they were a kind of knights, living around the castles of their lords. Since through the cessation of the internal wars of old their special office, fighting, was no longer needed, they had turned into a purely parasitic class, living in idleness or occupying themselves with literature and art -- they were the producers of the famous Japanese art, afterwards so much admired in Europe. But they had the right to slay everyone of the lower orders they came across without being punished. Below the second order, the farmers, stood the lowest orders, the artisans and the merchants, who worked for the samurai, their patrons and customers; they earned money and gradually out of them arose a first species of bourgeoisie.
The basis of the system was heavy exploitation of the farmers; Japanese authors said the policy of the government consisted in leaving to the farmers so much that they neither could die nor live. They were kept in absolute ignorance, they were bound to the soil, which they could not sell, all ease of life was denied to them. They were slaves of the State; they were looked upon as machinery for production of the rice the ruling class needed. Sometimes the famished peasants rose in local revolt and obtained some redress, because the inept soldiers did not dare to oppose them. But hunger and misery remained the prevailing conditions.
Still, although the laws meant to establish a petrified immutability, conditions gradually changed. The extension of craft and commerce, the increase of the production of commodities, brought luxury into the towns. The ruling nobility, to satisfy their new needs, had to borrow money and became debtors of the merchant class, the highest daimyos, as well as the common soldiers. The latter, reduced to poverty, sometimes, notwithstanding the prohibition, escaped into other professions. In the 19th century their growing discontent crystallised into a systematic hostility to the system of government. Because they formed the most intellectual class and were influenced by some European ideas trickling through the narrow chink of Dutch commerce at Deshima, they were able to formulate their opposition in the nationalist programme of "respect for the Emperor" as a symbol of national unity. So there were forces for change from feudal absolutism in the direction of capitalism; but they would have been too weak for a revolution, had not the big push from aggressive Western capitalism come to enforce admission.
In its first rise already, in the discovery of the entire earth in the 16th century, capitalism had knocked at the gates of Japan; it kindled wars between the feudal lords and princes; the spreading of Christendom over against Buddhism was an expression of the paralyzing disruption of the empire. A couple of consecutive strong Shoguns averted the danger by subjecting the rebellious lords to their centralised power; the foreigners were driven out, and with a booming blow -- prohibition and extermination of Christendom -- the gate was closed for two centuries and a half. Then modern capitalism in its world conquest again knocked at the gate, and with its guns forced it open. American and Russian men-of-war came in 1853, others followed, treaties for commerce were made with the Western powers. And now the old worm-eaten system of government broke down, the Shogunate disappeared, clans hostile to it got the upper hand, and through the "restoration" of 1868 established a strongly united state under the government of the Mikado.
This meant the introduction of capitalism. First the juridical basis for a middle-class society was laid : the four orders were abolished and all inhabitants became free citizens with equal rights. Freedom of trade, of living and travel, private property, also of the land, that could be bought and sold now, were established. Instead of the tiller of the soil paying half the product in kind, land taxes in money were laid upon the owner. The samurai lost their feudal privileges, and instead got an amount of money to buy a lot of land or to start a business; as artisans and employers they formed part of the rising bourgeoisie. The state officials, the army and naval officers, the intellectuals in the new society chiefly came from this samurai class. The upper ranks remained in power; part of the feudal princes now formed the Secret Council, which, behind the scenes directed government; their retainers, still linked together by the old clan ties, became cabinet ministers, generals, party chiefs and influential politicians.
So in Japan things were different from Europe. Capitalism did not come because a rising bourgeoisie vanquished the feudal class in a revolutionary struggle, but because a feudal class transformed itself into a bourgeoisie, certainly a performance worthy of respect. Thus it is easily understood that also under capitalism the feudal spirit, with its prejudices of ranks, its overbearing haughtiness, its servile respect to the emperor, persisted in the Japanese ruling class. The middle-class spirit of European capitalism was entirely lacking; Germany, that most resembles it, differs from Japan by the diversity there between the land owning nobility and the middle-class industrialists. Not till some dozens of years later a constitution was made, after the German model, with a parliament without power over the administration and the budget. Civil rights hardly existed, even on paper; government and officials had absolute power over the people. The peasants remained the deeply subjected, heavily exploited mass of starvelings; the substitution of capitalist for feudal pressure meant that they had to pay a lot of money in taxes or rent, that their land came into the hands of big landowners, that they could be evicted by withdrawal of the lease, that instead of the former known misery there came unforeseen ruin through unknown influences of market and prices. Peasant revolts were numerous after the first years of the Restoration.
Capitalism was introduced from above. Capable young men were sent to Europe to study science and technics. The government erected factories, in the first place armament works and shipyards; for military strength against the other powers was most urgent. Then railways and ships were built, coal mines constructed, afterwards the textile industry developed, chiefly silk and cotton, banks were founded. Private business was encouraged by subsidies, and state industries were turned over to private hands. In this way the government spent much money, got partly by taxes, partly by borrowing, or by the issue of paper money, which rocketted prices. This policy was continued later on; capital was fattened by government subsidies, especially navigation, with its ensuing artificial prosperity. The system often developed into sheer corruption; the new-made capitalist class, through the absence of inherited business maxims in its dealings, exhibited a brazen lack of ordinary honesty; plundering public funds for personal enrichment is considered a common affair. Even the highest officials and politicians take part in big enterprises and procure orders for them by means of political influence.
Large numbers of impoverished peasants flowed into the towns, to the factories, where a heavily exploited proletariat, almost without rights, accumulated in the slums, ravished through low wages ( half a yen per day ), long hours ( 14-16 hours ), and child labour. State officials in the lower ranks, even intellectuals, engineers, marine officers are paid far lower wages than in Europe. The working classes in the country, as well as in the towns, lived in a state of hopeless misery, of squalor and despair, surpassing the worst conditions in Europe of olden times. In the textile industry there is a regular slave system; the farmers sell their daughters for a number of years to the factories, where they live intern under the most horrible unhygienic conditions; and after the contract expires they return in part only to their villages, bringing with them tuberculosis. Thus, Japanese production was cheap, and through the low prices of its trash could outbid Western products on the Asiatic market. On the basis of highly developed machine technics -- complemented by extensive primitive home industry and the low standard of life of the workers -- capitalist industry and commerce shot up powerfully; every ten years import and export were doubled. Though it did not equal America, England and Germany, it rose above most other countries. The number of industrial workers reached two millions in 1929; agriculture occupied less than half the population already. The workers lived in a state of partial slavery; only in machine industry and among the sailors was there a bit of organisation. Strikes broke out, but were forcibly beaten down. Socialist and communist ideas, naturally finding their way under such conditions, were persecuted and exterminated ferociously. This fitted entirely in the system of police arbitrariness, of lack of personal rights, of brutal cruelty and lawless violence against their own, as well as against subjected alien people, which showed already the character of later fascism.
Imperialism, the big-capitalist politics of conquest, had no need to develop gradually here; from the first it belongs to the policy of introduction of capitalism from above. From the beginning militarism was the chief aim and ideal of the new system, first as a means of defence against the white powers, then as a means of conquest of markets and sources of raw materials. All the old fighting instincts, traditions of discipline and impulses of oppression of the former samurai class could exhibit themselves and revive in the military spirit of exalted nationalism. First by defeating in 1895 the mouldy Chinese power and conquering Korea and Formosa, it took its place among the big powers. Then its victory over the equally mouldy power of Russian Czarism in 1904, opened the way into the inner Asiatic realms. Now the Japanese rulers grew cockier and began to speak of Japan's world mission to lead East Asia and to free Asia entirely from the white domination.
This policy of conquest is often defended with the argument that the rapid increase of the population -- a doubling in 35 years -- that cannot find a sufficient living on the small lots of tillable soil in these mountainous islands, compels emigration or the increase of industrial labour for which markets and raw material must be available. Everywhere the rise of capitalism, with its abolition of old bonds and its increasing possibilities for living has brought about a rapid increase of population. Here, on the reverse, this consequence, considered as a natural phenomenon, is used as an argument for conquest and subjugation of other peoples. The real reason, however, of this policy of conquest, first of Manchuria, then of the northern provinces of China, consists in Japan's lack of iron ore. All industrial and military power nowadays is based upon the disposal over iron and steel; hence Japan wants the rich mineral deposits of Jehol and Shansi. At the same time Japanese capital invaded China and set up factories, chiefly cotton mills, in Shanghai and other towns. And there a vision loomed of a future of greatness and power : to make of these 400 millions firstly customers of its industry, and then to exploit them as workers. So it was necessary to become the political master and leader of China. And most experts in Eastern affairs did not doubt that Japan, with its military power, its big industry, its proud self-reliance, would succeed in dominating the impotent and divided Chinese empire.
But here the Japanese rulers met with a heavy reverse. First with the unexpected tenacious resistance of the Chinese people, and then with a mightier opponent. Mastery over the markets and the future development of China is a life issue for American capitalism in its present state of development. Notwithstanding the most careful and extensive preparations Japan cannot match the colossal industrial resources of America, once they are transformed into military potency. So its ruling class will succumb. When the military power of Japan will be destroyed and its arrogant capitalist barons have been beaten down, then for the first time the Japanese people will be freed from the feudal forms of oppression.
For Japan this will be the dawn of a new era. Whether the victorious allies enforce a more modern form of government, or with the collapse of the suppressing power a revolution of the peasants and the workers breaks out, in every case the barbarous backwardness in living standards and in ideas will have lost its basis. Of course, capitalism does not disappear then; that will take a good deal yet of internal and world fight. But the exploitation will assume more modern forms. Then the Japanese working class will be able, on the same footing as their American and European class-fellows, to take part in the general fight for freedom.
2. The Rise Of China
China belongs to those densely populated fertile plains watered by great rivers, where the necessity of a central regulation of the water for irrigation and for protection by dykes, in the earliest time already produced unification under a central government. It remained so for thousands of years. Under a strong and careful government the land rendered rich produce. But under a weak government, when the officials neglected their duties, when governors and princes made civil war, the dykes and canals fell into decay, the silted rivers overflowed the fields, famine and robbers ravished the people, and "the wrath of heaven" lay on the land. The population consisted chiefly of hard toiling peasants, carefully tilling their small lots Through the primitive technics and the lack of cattle for ploughing, with the hardest labour during long days they could produce hardly more than a bare existence. The slight surplus produce was taken from them by the ruling class of landowners, intellectuals and officials, the mandarins. Since usually more even was taken from them, they often stood on the brink of famine. The plains were open to the north, the Central-Asiatic steppes, from where warlike nomads came invading and conquering. When they conquered the land they became the new ruling class, formed a kind of aristocracy, but were soon assimilated by the higher Chinese civilisation. So came the Mongols in the Middle Ages; so came in the 17th century the Manchus from the north-east, extended their empire in the 18th century far over Central Asia, but fell into decay in the 19th century.
In the numerous towns lived a large class of small artisans and dealers with a proletarian class of coolies below and the wealthy class of merchants above them. From the seaports, as well as on caravan routes to the West across deserts and mountains, the precious wares of Chinese origin : tea, silk and porcelain were exported, even into Europe. So there was a middle class comparable with the European as to free initiative in business. But in the Chinese peasants too lived the same spirit of independence and selfreliance, far stronger than in the Japanese, deeply curbed as they were under feudalism. If the oppression of the officials, tax farmers, landlords or usurers became too heavy, revolts broke out, increasing sometimes to revolutions, against which the possessing class sought protection from foreign military powers; in such a way the Manchus came into the country.
In the 19th century Western capitalism begins to attack and invade China. The strict prohibition of opium import led to a war with Britain, 1840, and to the opening of a number of ports for European commerce. This number increases in later wars and treaties; European merchants and missionaries invade the country, and by their use and abuse of their specially protected position incite the hatred of the population. Cheap European wares are imported and undermine home handicraft; heavy war contributions imposed upon China aggravate the tax burden. Thus revolutionary movements flare up, such as the Taiping insurrection ( 1853-1864 ), having its own emperor in Nanking, and the Boxer revolt, 1899; both were suppressed with the help of European military power, which showed itself as barbarian destroyers of old Chinese culture. When the war with Japan lays bare Chinese impotence, all the Western powers, including Japan, seize parts of it as "concessions," tearing it asunder in "spheres of influence." Foreign capital builds some few railways and instals factories in the great harbor towns; Chinese capital, too, begins to take part. And now the obsolete Manchu dynasty crumbles in 1911, and is replaced in name by a Chinese republic proclaimed in Nanking, in reality, however, by the rule of provincial governors and generals, the so-called "war lords," often upstart former bandit chiefs, who now with their gang of soldiers in continuous wars pillage the country.
For the rise of a Chinese capitalism the elements were present : a class of wealthy or even rich merchants in the cities, mostly agents of foreign capital, which could develop into a modern bourgeoisie; a numerous class of poor urban proletarians and artisans, with a low standard of life; and an enormous population as customers. Western commercial capital, however, was not a driving force towards a development to higher productivity; it exploited the primitive forms of home industry for commercial profit, and impoverished the artisans by its imports. Hence the dominating position of this Western capital, on the way to make China into a colony, had to be repelled through organisation of the Chinese forces. This work of organisation fell as their task to the young intellectuals who had studied in England, France, America or Japan, and had imbibed Western science and Western ideas. One of the first spokesmen was Sun Yat-Sen, formerly a conspirator persecuted by the Manchu government, a well-known figure in European socialist circles, then the first President in name of the Chinese republic. He designed a program of national unity, a mixture of middle-class democracy and government dictatorship, and after his death in 1925 he became a kind of saint of the new China. He founded the Kuomintang, the political organisation and leading party of the rising Chinese bourgeoisie.
A strong impulse came from the Russian revolution. In 1920 students in Paris and workers ( chiefly miners, railway men, typos and municipal workers ) in Shanghai and Canton founded a Chinese Communist Party. Big strikes broke out against the mostly foreign employers, and by their exemplary solidarity the workers were able to get many of their demands conceded by the powerful capital; often, however, the fight led to bloody reprisals from the war lords. Now also the bourgeoisie took heart; in the next years the Kuomintang allied itself with the communist party and with Russia. Of course, the Chinese bourgeoisie did not profess any inclination to communist ideas; but it felt that such an alliance offered a lot of advantages. Merely by allowing them to shout for liberty and communism it gained the service of the most active groups of workers and enthusiastic young intellectuals for its purposes, and found skilled Russian organisers from Moscow as "advisers," to lead its fight and to instruct its cadres. Russia, moreover, gave it exactly the slogans it needed for its liberation from the grip of the all-powerful Western imperialism : the doctrine of world revolution against world capital, especially against its chief exponent, the English world power. Soon strictly enforced boycott and strike movements undermined European business and commerce; a sharp anti-foreigner excitation flooded the country; and from the interior, a terrified flock, came a stream of white missionaries, dealers and agents, fleeing to the seaports and the protection of the guns of the men-of-war. From Canton, 1926, an expedition went to the North, partly military conquest, partly intense nationalist propaganda campaign, "watering its horses in the Yang-tse River," chasing the war lords or compelling them to join, and uniting Central and Southern China into one state, with Nanking as its capital.
But now the long smouldering and ever again suppressed fight of the classes broke loose. The workers of the big towns, especially the industrial workers of Shanghai, the emporium of the East, took communism in its proletarian sense, as the workers' class fight. Their wages hardly sufficed to appease direct hunger, their working time was 14 to 16 hours daily; now they tried to raise their miserable conditions by striking, notwithstanding that Russian propaganda always had taught coalition with the bourgeoisie. The C.P. of China had been instructed from Moscow that the Chinese revolution was a middle-class revolution, that the bourgeoisie had to be the future ruling class, and that the workers simply had to assist her against feudalism and bring her into power. The C.P. had followed this lesson, and so had entirely neglected to organize and to arm the workers and the peasants against the bourgeoisie. It kept faith with the Kuomintang, even when this party ordered the generals to beat down the peasant revolts; so the communist militants were left at a loss, wavering between contradictory class sentiments and party commands. The mass actions that broke out in Canton and Shanghai were quenched in blood by the Kuomintang armies of Chiang Kai-shek, financed for that purpose by the Chinese and international bankers. A sharp persecution of communism set in, thousands of spokesmen and militants were slaughtered, the Russian "advisers" were sent home, the workers' organisations were exterminated, and the most reactionary parts of the bourgeoisie took the lead in government. These were chiefly the groups of rich merchants, whose interests as agents of foreign commercial and banking capital were bound to this capital and to the preservation of' the old conditions.
Communism in the meantime had spread over the countryside. During all these years of anarchy the condition of the peasants had gone from bad to worse. By the landlords and tax collectors they were stripped to the bone; the war lords often demanded taxes for many years to come, and when they had been driven out by others who demanded the same taxes again, these were deposed safely in a foreign Shanghai banking house. Nobody took care of the canals and the dykes; through floods and the ensuing famine and pestilence uncounted millions perished. For some few pieces of bread the famished peasants sold their land to full-stocked hoarders and money lenders, and roamed as beggars or robbers through the land. Under such conditions communism, in its Russian bolshevist form of' a workers and peasants republic, without capitalists, landlords and usurers, was hailed and made rapid progress in the most distressed provinces. At the same time that it was extinguished in the towns, communism rose in the countryside as a mighty peasant revolt. Where it won power it began already to drive out the landlords and to divide up their land among the peasants and to establish Soviet rule. Part of the armies, consisting chiefly of workers and peasants, joined by their officers, mostly intellectuals sympathizing with the popular movement, revolted against the reactionary Kuomintang policy, and formed the nucleus of a Red Army.
The civil war, thus ensuing was waged by the Kuomintang government as a campaign against the "communist bandits," who were branded with all kinds of atrocities -- doubtless the rebellious peasants often were far from soft against their tormentors -- and which had to be exterminated before unity of the nation was possible. From the side of the peasants it was a tenacious and heroic defence of their besieged chief territory in the south-eastern provinces Kiangsi and Hunan. Every year again from 1930 onward, the war of extermination is resumed with ever larger armies, and ever again it is frustrated by the superior skill, the indomitable courage and the self-sacrificing enthusiasm of the red troops that in careful and intrepid guerilla fighting had to win their very arms from the routed enemy regiments. Meanwhile, Japan makes use of this mutual destruction of Chinese military forces by occupying consecutively Manchuria and the Northern provinces.
What may be the reason that the Chinese bourgeoisie so ferociously made war upon the peasants and thereby squandered its military and financial resources ? If we speak, for shortness, of a Chinese bourgeoisie, we should bear in mind that this class differs considerably from the bourgeoisie of Europe, so that ideas instinctively associated with the latter class are not all applicable here. In Europe the rising bourgeoisie, a class of industrial and commercial employers and capitalists, in a social revolution, assisted by the peasants, had to break the political dominance of a landpossessing nobility. In China this antagonism is lacking; the bourgeoisie itself was the land-possessing class, and from herself came the ruling officials. On account of the lack of a rapidly rising industry the rich urban merchants and business men invested their money in land; and rent was as important a source of their income as profit; on the reverse landowners went into the town to set up a business. They combined the characters of two opposite European classes. Thus the peasants' fight found its most fitting expression in the communist slogan of fight against capitalism. In its character of landowners subjection and exploitation of the peasants was a life interest of the Chinese bourgeoisie; its deepest feelings were affected by the land expropriation of the red soviets. So the conservative elements of this class, who had first distrusted the Kuomintang as a disguised red organisation, as soon as possible expelled the communists and made it an instrument of reactionary middle-class politics. They felt the lack of power on the part of the Chinese government to bring order into the chaos : so they sought support from the strongest anti-communist power, from Japan. Japan, aiming at dominance over the resources, the mineral riches and the labour power of China, came forward as the protector of the landowning interests against the rebellious masses. In every next treaty it imposed upon the Chinese government the duty to exterminate communism.
Against this conservative there was, however, an opposite trend, especially among the smaller bourgeoisie and the intellectuals. It anticipated and represented the future; it gave expression not to what the bourgeoisie had been till now, but to what it would be and should be. Its spokesmen realized that a wealthy class of peasants with purchasing power was the chief and necessary condition for a powerful development of capitalist industry in China. Their middle-class feeling understood instinctively that all these landowners and usurers represented a piece of feudalism, barring the way to the future development of China; and that a free landowning peasantry belongs to the middle-class world and would form its solid basis. Hence, next to and opposite to the conservative tendency there was a strong democratic stream of thought among the rising Chinese bourgeoisie. It was strongly nationalistic; the Japanese aggression, the seizure of precious provinces in the North, and the haughty brutalities of Japanese militarism filled it with indignation. It wished to end the civil war by concessions to the peasants in order to unite all force in a common resistance to Japanese imperialism.
Five years the extermination campaign lasted in Kiangsi, and, on a minor scale, in other provinces, without success. The communist armies were firmly rooted in the peasant population, among which they made extensive educational propaganda, and from which ever new forces came to join them. When at last their position against the besieging superior forces ably led by German military advisers, became untenable, they broke through the iron ring and invaded the South-western provinces. Then in 1934 the Red Army began its famous long march, over the highest, nearly unpassable, mountain passes, across the wildest and most dangerous rivers, through endless swampy steppes, through the extremes of heat and cold, always surrounded and attacked by better equipped superior White forces, until after heavy privations, heroic struggles and severe losses it arrived, a year later, in the North-western provinces, where in Shensi a new Soviet government was organized.
But now, in the meantime, tactics and aims had changed. Not against capitalism and landlords the communist fight was directed in the first place, but against Japan and Japanese imperialism. Before the start of their long march already the C.P. of China had proposed, publicly, to the Kuomintang to cease the civil war in order to fight in common the Japanese aggression, in which case it would stop the expropriations and respect the existing property rights, in exchange for social reform and democratic rights of the people. But this offer had not been regarded.
This change of tactics has been sharply criticised in other countries as an opportunistic renouncement of communist principles. Such criticism, however, is based on the false supposition that the C.P. was a party of industrial workers exploited by big capitalism. The Chinese C.P., and still more the Red Army, however, consists of rebellious peasants. Not the name stuck on a label outside, but the class character determines the real content of thought and action. The party leaders saw quite well that Japanese military power was the most dangerous threat to the Chinese peasants, and that a coalition of the Chinese bourgeoisie with Japan would make their liberation impossible. So it was imperative to separate them and to direct all military and economic potencies of China against Japan. To the red leaders the ideal of the future was a democratic middle-class China, with free peasants as owners, or at least well-to-do farmers of the soil. Under communist ideas and slogans they were the heralds and champions of the capitalist development of China.
From these tendencies on both sides arose the new policy, in the dramatic form of the capture, December, 1936, in Sianfu, of the generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek by the government's own Manchurian troops, who wanted to fight the Japanese rather than the Reds. The nationalist leader, in involuntary discourses with the communist leaders, could make certain that they were equally nationalist and middle-class minded as himself, and were ready to put themselves under his command in a war with Japan. When, then, the civil war ceased and the most reactionary leaders were turned out of the government, Japan immediately drew the consequences and began war with a heavy attack on Shanghai. China, with its undeveloped sleeping resources at first sight might seem no match for the tremendous, carefully prepared war machinery of Japan, But it had trained armies now, it was filled with a strong nationalist spirit, and it got war materials from England and America. To be sure, its armies had to give way, the government had to retreat to Chunking in the South-western province of Szechuan, and Japanese troops occupied the Eastern towns. But behind their back ever new armies of partisans stood up as guerilla and exhausted their forces. Till, in 1941, after the war in Europe had gone on for nearly two years, the long foreseen conflict between America and Japan broke out in consequence of America's ultimatum that Japan should leave China. Thus the Chinese war became part of the world war.
This world war means the rise of China as a new capitalist world power. Not immediately as an independent power on an equal par with its allies, Russia on the one, America on the other side, though it exceeds both in population. Its economical and political dependence on America, to which it is heavily in debt because of its war supplies, will mark the new future; American capital will then have the lead in building up its industry. Two great tasks are standing in the forefront; the construction of railways and roads, combined with the production of engines and motor cars, to modernize the primitive expensive traffic; and introduction of mechanical power in agriculture to free the human beast-of-burden and make its labour efficient. The accomplishment of these tasks requires a big metal industry. China possesses all the resources necessary for capitalist development. It has coal, iron and other minerals, not enough to make it an industrial country for export as England or Germany, but enough for its own needs. It has a dense population with all the qualities necessary for capitalism : a strong individualism, painstaking diligence, capability, spirit of enterprise, and a low standard of needs. It has, moreover, a fertile soil, capable of producing an abundance of products, but requiring security by wide scientific care and regulation of the water, by constructing dykes and excavating and normalizing the rivers.
The ideals and aims for which the working masses of China are fighting, will of course not be realized. Landowners, exploitation and poverty will not disappear; what disappears are the old stagnant, primitive forms of misery, usury and oppression. The productivity of labour will be enhanced; the new forms of direct exploitation by industrial capital will replace the old ones. The problems facing Chinese capitalism will require central regulations by a powerful government. That means forms of dictatorship in the central government, perhaps complemented by democratic forms of autonomy in the small units of district and village. The introduction of mechanical force into agriculture requires the conjunction of the small lots into large production units; whether by gradual expropriation of the small peasants, or by the foundation of co-operatives or kolchozes after the Russian model, will depend on the relative power of the contending classes. This development will not go on without producing deep changes in the economic, and thereby in the social relations, the spiritual life and the old family structure. The dimensions, however, of things there, of the country, of the population, of its misery, of its traditions, of its old cultural life are so colossal, that an innovation of conditions, even if taken up with the utmost energy, will take many dozens of years.
The intensity of this development of economic conditions will stir the energies and stimulate the activity of the classes. Corresponding to capitalism the fight against capitalism will arise simultaneously. With the growth of industry the fight of the industrial workers will spring up. With the strong spirit of organisation and great solidarity shown so often by the Chinese proletarians and artisans, even a rise more rapid than in Europe of a powerful working class movement may be expected. To be sure, the industrial workers will remain a minority compared with the mass of the agrarian population, equally subjected to capitalist exploitation, though in another way. The mechanisation of agriculture, however, will weave strong ties between them, manifesting itself in the community of interests and fights. So the character of the fight for freedom and mastery may take in many regards another aspect in China than in Western Europe and America.
3. The Colonies
When socialism grew up, half a century ago, the general expectation was that the liberation of the colonial peoples would take place together with the liberation of the workers. The colonies there and the workers here were exploited by the same capitalism; so they were allies in the fight, against the common foe. It is true that their fight for freedom did not mean freedom for the entire people; it meant the rise of a new ruling class. But even then it was commonly accepted, with only occasional doubts, that the working class in Europe and the rising bourgeoisie in the colonies should be allies. For the communist party this was still more self-evident; it meant that the new ruling class of Russia looked upon the future ruling classes in the colonies as its natural friends, and tried to help them. Certainly the forces for colonial liberation were still weak. In India, with its 300 millions of people, industry and a class of employers gradually developed, giving the basis for an independence movement, that suffers, however, from the great diversity of races and religions. The 50 millions population of Java is well-nigh homogeneous, but entirely agrarian, and the opposition was till recently restricted to small groups of intellectuals.
These colonial peoples are no savages or barbarians, as the tribes of central Africa or the inhabitants of remote Indian islands. They live densely crowded in fertile areas with a highly developed agriculture. Often they have a thousand years old civilization; there is a separation between a ruling class of priests and nobility spending their portion of the total product in often refined artistic and spiritual culture, and the subjugated masses of heavily exploited peasants. Foreign warlike peoples invaded India and formed new upper social layers; incessant wars between larger and smaller princes checked the increase of the population. Agriculture was the chief occupation; because during many months agricultural labour had to rest, there was also an important cottage industry in the villages. This handicraft, artistic and highly developed, differing according to natural produce, raw materials and inherited endowments in different regions, produced a large amount of goods for export. Cotton goods, fine dyed cloths in many designs, silk wares, goldsmiths' and copper wares, beautifully decorated swords formed the contents of an extensive trade over Southern and Eastern Asia, and far to the West, even into Europe. Here the precious coloured textile wares from the East, chiefly from Indian village industry, formed the main part of medieval traffic, produced the materials for the dress of princes, nobility and rich bourgeoisie, up to the 18th century, and brought a continuous flow of gold from Europe to India.
Against the invading European capitalism the Indian countries, mostly divided into small states, were soon powerless. The armed Western merchant vessels began to monopolize forcibly the entire trade of the Indian seas, with its enormous profits. Thereafter direct conquest and pillage brought the accumulated riches of Eastern treasuries into the hands of Western officials and adventurers, and contributed in England in the 18th century to form the capital needed in the industrial revolution. More important still was regular exploitation by enforced delivering of precious products on the Molucca islands of spices, on Java of pepper, indigo, sugar -- for which hardly anything was paid, a few coppers for what in Europe brought hundreds of florins. The population had to spend a great deal of its time and of its soil in these products for export, thus leaving not enough for their own food; famine and revolts were the result. Or heavy taxes were imposed upon the people of India, to procure high incomes for a parasitical class of English officials and nabobs. At the same time England employed its political power to forbid, in the interest of the Lancashire cotton industry, the export of Indian textile goods. Thus the flourishing Indian cottage industry was destroyed and the peasants were still more impoverished. The result was that in the 19th century, and even up to the present day, for the majority of the villagers life is a continuous state of hunger. Famines and pestilences, formerly unavoidable local occurrences, now take place in devastated larger regions and more often. But also in normal times in the villages and urban slums a state of misery reigns, worse than at any time in Europe.
The essence of colonial policy is exploitation of foreign countries while preserving their primitive forms of production or even lowering their productivity. Here capital is not a revolutionary agent developing production to higher forms; just the reverse. European capital is here a dissolving agent, destroying the old modes of work and life without replacing them by better technics. European capital, like a vampire, clasps the defenceless tropical peoples and sucks their life blood without caring whether the victims succumb.
Western science of course demonstrates that the domination of colonies by the Europeans is based on nature, hence is a necessity. The basis is formed by the difference of climate. In cool and moderate climes man can extort his living from nature by continuous exertion only; the temperature allows of assiduous hard working; and the inconstancy of the phenomena, the irregular change from storm and rain to sunshine stimulates the energy into restless activity. Labor and energy became the gospel of the white race; so it gained its superior knowledge and technics that made it master of the earth. In the hot tropical and sub-tropical countries, on the contrary, nature by itself or with slight labor bears abundant fruit; here the heat makes every continuous exertion a torment. Here the dictum could originate that to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow was the worst curse to man. The monotonous equality of the weather, only interrupted at the change of seasons, deadens the energy; the white people, too, when staying too long in the tropics, are subjected to these influences that render laziness the chief characteristic and Nirvana the highest ideal. These dicta of science doubtless are true, theoretically. But practically we see that the Indian and Javanese peasants till their soil and perform their handicraft with unflagging zeal and painstaking assiduity. Not, of course, in the nerve-racking tempo of' modern factory work; economic necessity determines the character of their labor.
The Western bourgeoisie considers its rule over the colonies a natural and lasting state of things, idealizing it into a division of tasks; profitable to both parties. The energetic intelligent race from the cool climes, it says, serves as the leaders of production, whereas the lazy, careless coloured races execute under their command the unintelligent manual labor. Thus the tropical products, indispensable raw materials and important delicacies are inserted into the world's commerce. And European capital wins its well deserved profits because by its government it assures to the fatalistic aborigines life, security, peace and, by its medical service and hygienic measures, health, too. Suppose this idyll of a paternal government, honest illusion or deceptive talk of theorists and officials, to be as true as in reality it is impossible under capitalist rule, then still it would be faced by an insoluble dilemma : If by the cessation of wars, epidemics and infant mortality the population increases, there results a shortage of arable land notwithstanding all the irrigation and reclaiming that only postpones the conflict. Industrialization for export, properly speaking an unnatural way out for the most fertile lands, can give only temporary relief. Into such a final state every population that, ruled from above, is left to its own life instincts, must arrive. Every economic system develops its own system of population increase. If by an autocratic rule from above the feelings of responsibility are suppressed, then any active force of self-restraint and self-rule over the conditions of life is extinguished. The impending clash between increase of population and restriction of means of subsistence can find its solution only in a strong display of inner energy and will-power of a people, consequence of its self-reliance and freedom, or of an active fight for freedom.
In the later part of the 19th century and thereafter it is not the commercial capital in the first place that exploits the colonies. Capitalist enterprises come forth in ever greater numbers : partly agricultural and mining enterprises for cultivating rubber, coffee, tea, for winning oil, tin and other metals, partly industrial or mixed enterprises to work the tropical raw materials, such as textile or sugar factories. It is mostly European capital, drawing high profits from this exploitation. In India, where in such towns as Bombay lived a class of rich merchants, these also take part and constitute a first instance of a modern Indian bourgeoisie. This Indian industry consists well nigh exclusively of textile factories; and from all the textile goods consumed in India nearly 60 per cent. is imported from England and Japan, 20 per cent. comes from the cottage industry, and only 20 per cent. is provided by Indian factories. Yet to exhibit and introduce aspects of modern work and life is sufficient inspiration to a nationalist movement, for throwing off the yoke of the Western rulers. Its spokesmen are the intellectuals, especially the younger generation, who are acquainted with Western science, and in opposition to it study and emphasize with strong conviction their own national culture. They feel deeply hurt by the racial haughtiness of the whites, who admit them in lower offices only; they come forward as the leaders of the oppressed masses, involving them into their fight for independence. Since the impudent riches of the rulers contrasts so sharply with the abject misery of the masses, this is not difficult. Though as yet the fight can only be peaceful propaganda, passive resistance, and non-co-operation, ie., the refusal of collaboration with the English government, it alarms public opinion in England, inspiring so much apprehension in the rulers there that they resort to vague promises of self-government, and at the same time to sharp persecutions. The movement, of course, is too weak still to throw off the domination of Western capitalism. With the capitalist factories a class of industrial workers is coming into being with extremely low wages and an incredibly low standard of living; strikes occurred against Indian, as well as against European employers. But compared with the immense population all this is an insignificant start, important only as indication of future development.
With the present world war colonial exploitation, as well as the problem of liberation, acquires a new aspect. Against the enormously increasing power of capitalism a fight for independence in its old meaning has no longer any chance. On the other hand, it is probable that from now on world capital under American hegemony will act as a revolutionary agent. By a more rational system of exploitation of these hundreds of millions of people capital will be able to increase its profits considerably; by following another way than the previous primitive impoverishing methods of plunder, by raising labor in the colonies to a higher level of productivity, by better technics, by improvement of traffic, by investing more capital, by social regulations and progress in education. All of this is not possible without according a large amount of independence or at least self-rule to the colonies.
Self-rule of the colonies, of India, and of the Malayan islands, has already been announced. It means that parliaments in Europe and viceroys sent from thither can no longer govern them despotically. It does not mean that politically the working masses will be their own masters, that as free producers they will dispose of their means of production. Self-rule relates to the upper classes of these colonies exclusively; not only will they be inserted into the lower ranks of administration, but they will occupy the leading places, assisted of course by white "advisers" and experts, to ensure that capital interests are served in the right way. Already from the upper classes of India a rather numerous group of intellectuals has proceeded, quite capable as ruling officials to modernise political and social life.
To characterize modern capitalist production as a system wherein the workers by their own free responsibility and will-power are driven to the utmost exertion, the expression was often used that a free worker is no coolie. The problem of Asia now is to make the coolie a free worker. In China the process is taking its course; there the workers of olden times possessed a strong individualism. In tropical countries it will be much more difficult to transform the passive downtrodden masses, kept in deep ignorance and superstition by heavy oppression, into active well-instructed workers capable of handling the modern productive apparatus and forces. Thus capital is faced with many problems. Modernization of the government apparatus through self-rule is necessary, but more is needed : the possibility of social and spiritual organisation and progress, based on political and social rights and liberties, on sound general instruction. Whether world capital will be able and willing to follow this course cannot be foreseen. If it does, then the working classes of these countries will be capable of independent fighting for their class interests and for freedom along with the Western workers.
To all the peoples and tribes living in primitive forms of production in Africa, in Asia, in Australia, it will, of course, mean an entire change of the world, when the working class will have annihilated capitalism. Instead of as hard exploiting masters and cruel tyrants, the white race will come to them as friends to help them and to teach them how to take part in the progressing development of humanity.
4. Russia And Europe
With this war Russia, the Federation of Socialist Soviet Republics, as it calls itself, has made its entry among the recognised capitalist powers. In the Western countries an entire change has taken place in valuation of and attitude towards Russia and bolshevism. Certainly, the first fear of a communist revolution and the accompanying calumnies had already died away gradually in the ruling classes. Yet they were not quite at ease about their workers, and since the talk of the C.P. on world revolution went on, reports of forged atrocities and real cruelties were a motive to exclude Russia from the community of civilized nations. Until they needed Russia as an ally against Germany; then sentiment made a turn, though at first only in the kind wish that both dictatorships might devour one another. Then there they met governing politicians, officials, generals and officers, factory directors, intellectuals, an entire well-dressed, civilized, well-to-do class ruling the masses, just as at home. So they were reassured. The church only kept aloof, because of the bolshevist anti-religious propaganda.
The similarity of political forms and methods of government in Russia and Germany strikes the eye at first sight. In both the same dictatorship of a small group of leaders, assisted by a powerful well-organized and disciplined party, the same omnipotence of the ruling bureaucracy, the same absence of personal rights and of free speech, the same levelling of spiritual life into one doctrine, upheld by terrorism, the same cruelty towards opposition or even criticism. The economic basis, however, is different. In Russia it is state capitalism, in Germany state-directed private capitalism. In Germany there is a numerous class of owners of the means of production, a bourgeoisie, which, because of the difficulty of the fight for world power, gave itself a tyrannical dictatorship; it is augmented by an increasing bureaucracy of officials. In Russia bureaucracy is master of the means of production. The conformity in the necessary forms of practical rule and administration, domination from above, gave them the same system of dictatorship.
There is similarity also in the character of their propaganda. Both make use of the ideology of community, because both represent organized against unorganized capitalism. As in Russia, the antithesis to old capitalism was expressed in the catchword of communism, so in Germany by socialism. These are the names under which, in extensive propaganda, the fight for their own power against the old capitalist powers is urged upon the masses as a fight against capitalism. Thus they present themselves as more than a mere nationalism, they proclaim new world principles, fit for all countries, to be realized by world-revolution and world war against the exponents of the old order, English and American capitalism. So they find adherents to their cause, followers of their party, within the country of their opponents, ready to undermine from within their power of resistance.
As similar hostile rivals they find a basis for their opposition in their origin and the consequent traditions. National socialism came to power as an agent of big capitalism, wiping out the old labor movement, in conscious sharp antagonism to the "Marxian" trends of social-democracy and communism. In their own country only it could proclaim itself a party of the workers and impose by terror-propaganda this trickery upon uncritical adherents. The Russian ideology proceeded directly from a revolution made by the workers under the communist banner, and appealed to Marxian doctrines that had been adapted to its cause; but in foreign countries only could it find belief that indeed it represented dictatorship of the workers. Here it could impose upon young people desirous to fight capitalism and exploitation, whereas national-socialism was considered everywhere as a genuine enemy of the workers, and found sympathy only among the upper and lower part of the bourgeoisie.
The foreign policy of the Russian revolution was a logical consequence of its basic ideas. Though a socialist community has no wishes but to live in peace besides other peoples, it is in danger of being attacked by capitalist states. Hence, it must prepare for war. Moreover, world revolution, annihilation of capitalism all over the world remains the supreme aim; only in this way, by liberating the workers elsewhere, the socialist state can secure its own freedom. So the, socialist state arms and prepares for war, not only for defence, but also for attack. And with surprise naive idealists perceive that what seemed a haven of peace reveals itself a power for war. And they ask whether indeed compulsion by the sword can bring freedom to others.
The contradiction is easily explained. What is named state-socialism discloses itself as state-capitalism, the rule of a new exploiting class, bureaucracy, master of the production apparatus, as in other countries the bourgeoisie. It, too, lives on surplus value. The larger its realm, its power, the larger its share, its wealth. Thus, for this bureaucracy war assumes the same significance as for the bourgeoisie. It takes part in the world contest of Powers, on the same footing as other States, but with the pretension to be the world-champion of the working class. And though in view of the allied governments it cannot make too much show of it, and temporarily even silences the Comintern, yet it knows that in all foreign countries communist parties are working on its behalf. Thus the role of Russia in and after the war begins to depict itself. Behind the old now deceitful aims of extending the realm of communism stands the reality of extending the own international power. If the German bourgeoisie tries to steer its course in the track of England and America, the working class, prevented during long years from finding its own new way, may produce communist parties as agents of Russian hegemony over the Mid-European regions.
This policy and position among the other capitalist powers has its basis in an inner change of policy in Russia itself. State capitalism has consolidated its power in and through the war, the completion of the preceding development. Since the revolution there was a continual struggle between the socially important groups. First, State bureaucracy, with the Communist Party as its organ, being master of the industrial production, in a hard fight subdued the peasants in its campaign of founding the kolchoses. Besides them, however, stood the army officers and the numerous technical experts and officials in the factories, commonly called the engineers. They had an important function as technical leaders of the production, they had their own union, and were mostly non-party men. The well-known trials of engineers on forged charges of sabotage were an episode in the silent struggle; they were condemned not because they had committed the imputed crimes, but for intimidation and to forestall any attempt at independent political action. In the same way in the trial of General Tukhachevsky and other officers all elements from whom independent action was feared, were shot and replaced by others. Thus the political bureaucracy remained master, but it had to regard the other groups.
The war made a unification of all these forces necessary, and at the same time possible, on the basis of a strong nationalism aspiring to expansion. In the preceding years some so-called reforms had been proclaimed, though by the absence of free speech and free press they had no meaning for the working masses; they now could afford an opportunity for non-party men to take part in the governing apparatus. Party rule and Comintern was pushed into the background. Now under a firmly consolidated ruling class the masses, as in every capitalist state, could be led to the front in well-disciplined gigantic armies.
At the same time the war has brought about an increase of the spiritual influence of bolshevism in Western Europe. Not among the bourgeoisie; now that organized big capitalism is becoming master of the world it has not the least inclination to make way for state capitalism. Not very much among the workers; in the beginning the recognition perforce of the communist parties by the governments may increase its credit among workers dominated by nationalism; but its support of government policy, however masked by a seeming of wild opposition talk, will soon discredit it among the fighting masses of the working class. Among the Western intellectuals, however, Russian bolshevism attracts ever more attention.
Under the rule of big capitalism it is the class of intellectuals that has the technical lead of production, and the spiritual lead of society in its hands. Now it begins to ask -- in so far as it is not entirely occupied by its narrow personal job -- why shareholders and stock jobbers should have the upper command over production. It feels itself called upon to lead social production as an organized process, to throw off the dominance of a parasitical bourgeoisie and to rule society. It is divided, however, in a series of higher and lower ranks, arranged after usefulness or what else; they form a ladder on which, in mutual rivalry, one may ascend by ambition, capacities, favor or cunning. The lower and badly paid ranks among them may join the fight of the working class against capital. Its higher and leading elements, of course, are hostile to any idea of mastery by the workers over the process of production. Their prominent thinkers and learned scholars, often refined or ingenious spirits, strongly feel their superiority threatened by the phantom of a general "levelling." The intellectual class feels quite well that its ideal of social order cannot exist without a strong power apparatus, to keep down private capital, but chiefly to keep down the working masses. What they want is a moderate dictatorship, strong enough to resist attempts to revolution, civilized enough to dominate the masses spiritually and to assure a rational liberty of speech and opinion to the civilized; anyhow, without the rough violence that made national socialism the object of hatred all over Europe. A free road to the talented, and society led by the intellectual elite, such is the social ideal rising in this class.
This they see realized to a fair extent, though mixed up with barbarous remnants, in the Russian system. And the Russians have exerted themselves to promote such ideas. Soon after the revolution already scientific congresses were organized where the assembled scholars from all countries were regally entertained -- though there was dearth in the land -- and got the most favorable impression of the young enthusiasm and the fresh energy bestowed by the new-shaped society upon science and technics. Of the Solovki camps, where the deported peasants and workers are ill-treated till they perish, of course, nothing was shown to them, nor did they know of the deadly hard labor of millions of victims in the icy wilds of Siberia; probably not even the ordinary "black workers" in the factories did they meet with. Such inspiring experiences could not but strongly impress the younger Western intellectuals; what trickled through about atrocities was easily effaced by the splendour of increasing production figures in the world-wide propaganda of the CP. And now the military successes of the Russian armies enhance the image of Russia as a vigorous civilized modern State.
So we may surmise something about the future of Russia and Bolshevism in Europe. In its antagonism to the Western powers of private capitalism, England and America, its ideology may serve as a valuable weapon to undermine the solid power of their bourgeoisie, by rousing, in case of need, working class opposition against her. As a recognised respectable party the C.P. will try to win posts of influence in politics, either in competition or in collaboration with social democracy; by a seeming show of sparkling opposition talk it seeks to gather the workers in its fold, to deter them from taking their own road to freedom. As it does already now, it will try, by a quasi-scientific propaganda among intellectuals, to win them over to some bolshevist kind of dictatorial government, and adorn it, may be, with the mark world-revolution.
More direct and important will be the Russian influence upon Central Europe. In the wake of the annihilation of military power comes economic slavery. To impose as much as possible of the burdens on the defeated foe, through the necessity of restoration and compensation of the immeasurable wanton destruction and pillages by the German armies, not only all property, so far as it is left, will be seized, but also all the peoples in so far as they are left, will be harnessed under the yoke of hard labor. The victors probably will not, as after the first world war, leave to the German bourgeoisie the possession of the production apparatus and the rule of the country.
Before, then, an effective fight for their cause will be possible to the Central European workers, a deep change in their thinking and willing must take place. They are faced not only by the formidable physical power of victorious world capitalism, but they will also encounter extreme difficulty in resisting the spiritual forces of Bolshevism on the one side, nationalism on the other side, to find the way clear to their class task. In this fight they must involve the Russian workers. Russian State capitalism, as well, has been exhausted and ravaged by the war; to restore itself it will have to lay a harder pressure upon the workers. So the Russian workers will be compelled to take up the fight for freedom, for liberation out of slavery, as a new great task, the same as the workers all over the world.
5. In The Abyss
The second world war has thrown society into an abyss deeper than any former catastrophe. In the first world war the contending capitalisms stood against one another as Powers of old form, waging war in old forms, only on a larger scale and with improved technics. Now the war has reversed the inner structures of the States, and new political structures have arisen; now the war is a "total war," into which all forces of society are linked up as its subordinate means.
In and through this war society is thrown back to a lower level of civilization. That is not so much because of the immense sacrifices of life and blood. During the entire period of civilization -- i.e., the period of written history and of the division of society into exploiting and exploited classes, between the primitive tribal life and the future world unity of mankind -- war was the form of the struggle for existence. So it is quite natural that the last world fights, before the final consolidation drawing along all people, should embrace greater names and be more bloody than any former war.
What makes this retrogressive is first the regress from military and juridical norms that in the 19th century gave a certain appearance of humanity to warfare. The enemies were nominally considered as equal humans and soldiers, political rights of vanquished or occupied countries were recognised, national sentiments respected; civilians usually stood outside the fighting. In international treaties on "the laws of war" these principles were endorsed, and however often violated, they stood out as international law, that could be appealed to against the arbitrariness of a victor. Total war tramples on all these scraps of paper. Not only are all supplies seized and all industry is put into the service of the conqueror, not only are prisoners of war set to work for the enemy, but on an ever larger scale all people from occupied regions are forcibly, in a real slave hunting, dragged off to work in the German war industry. So, by producing arms for the foe, they are constrained to aid him against their own nation; at the same time relieving the enemy's workers for service at the front. Now that war is a matter of industrial production, slave labor becomes one of the foundations of warfare.
It is natural that in the occupied countries -- half of Europe -- resistance sprang up, and it is natural that it was suppressed severely, even when it consisted only in tentative first traces. It is not natural, however, that in the repression such a height of cruelty was reached, as first applied in the rough mishandling and extermination of the Jewish citizens and then extended to all national opposition. The German soldier, himself an unwilling slave of the dictatorial apparatus, develops into a master and instrument of oppression. As a filthy contamination the habits of violence and outrage spread over the continent, wakening an immense hatred against the German occupants.
In former wars occupation of a foreign country was considered a temporary situation, and international law expressed it in this way, that the occupant was not allowed to change anything in the fundamental law of the country, and only took the administration in its hands insofar as war conditions necessitated it. Now, however, Germany interfered everywhere in the existing institutions, trying to impose the national-socialist principles, pretending it was the beginning of a new era for the entire Europe in which all the other countries as allies, i.e., vassals, had to follow Germany. Underlings it found in the small number of foreign adherents to its creed, and the larger number who saw their chance now; they were made rulers over their compatriots and exhibited the same spirit of wanton violence. The same spiritual tyranny as in Germany itself is imposed; and especially in the Western countries, with their large civil liberties, this arouses an increasing embitterment, that found expression in underground literature. Neither the silly fiction of the unity of the Teutonic race nor the argument of the united, continent of Europe made any impression.
The fall into barbarity is due, firstly, to the destructive power of modern war machinery. More than in any previous time all industrial and productive power of society, all ingenuity and devotion of men is put into the service of the war. Germany, as the aggressive party, set the example; it perfected the air weapon into bombers that destroyed, with factories of war supplies, the surrounding city quarters. It did not foresee at the time that the steel production of America many times surpassed that of Germany, so that the system of destruction, once that America would have transformed its industrial into military power, would with multiple vehemence upon Germany itself. In the first world war much lamenting was heard about Ypres being destroyed and some French cathedrals damaged; now, first in England and France, and then on a larger scale in Germany, towns and factory quarters, grand monuments of architecture, remnants of irretrievable mediaeval beauty, went to rack and ruin. Week after week the wireless boasted of how many thousands of tons of explosives were thrown upon German towns. As an instrument of terror to bring the German population upon its knees, or to rouse the desire for peace into resistance to the leaders, these bombardments were a failure. On the contrary, through the exasperation over the wanton destruction and killings a disheartened population was bound the firmer to its rulers. They rather gave the impression as if the Allied rulers, sure about their industrial and military superiority, wished to prevent a revolution of the German people against the national-socialist rulers which would have led to milder peace conditions, preferring to beat down German attempts at world power once and for all by a downright military victory.
Besides the material, the spiritual devastation perpetrated among mankind represents no smaller fall into barbarity. The levelling of all spiritual life, of speech and writing to one prescribed creed, and the forcible suppression of any different opinion has grown in and through the war into a complete organisation of falsehood and cruelty.
Censoring of the press had already proved necessary in former wars to prevent sensational news harmful to the warfare of the country. In later times, when the entire bourgeoisie felt keenly nationalist and closely bound to the government, the papers felt it their duty to collaborate with the military authorities in upholding morale by optimistic statements, in criticizing and abusing the enemy, and in influencing the neutral press. But censorship became more needed than before to suppress resistance on the part of the workers, now that the war brought a heavier pressure of long hours and of shortness of provisions. When propaganda is needed, artificially to rouse in the people enthusiasm for war, counter propaganda revealing the capitalist background of the war cannot be tolerated. So we see in the first world war the press turned into an organ of the army staff, with the special task to uphold the submissiveness of the masses, as well as the fighting spirit.
In the present war this may still represent the state of things on the Allied side; but on the other side it is far surpassed by the adaptation to war conditions of the already existing department of propaganda, with its staff of artists, authors and intellectuals. Now its system of directing opinion, raised to the utmost perfection and extended over Europe, reveals its full efficiency. By stating its own case as the case of highest right, truth and morals, by relating every action of the foe as an act of weakness, or of baseness, or of embarrassment, an atmosphere of faith and victory is created. It proved itself capable of transfiguring the most obvious defeat into a brilliant success, and to represent the beginning of collapse as the dawning of final victory, and thus to inspire stubborn fighting and to postpone the final collapse. Not that people accept it all as truth; they are suspicious of anything they hear; but they see the resolution in the leaders and feel powerless through lack of organization.
Thus the German masses are the victims of a system growing more violent and more mendacious as ruin approaches. So the destruction of the power of German capitalism will be accompanied by the aimless destruction and new slavery of the German people, not by its rise to a new fight for a new world of real freedom.
As a destructive catastrophe, the reign of national-socialism passed over Germany and the surrounding countries. A torrent of organised cruelty and organised falsehood has flooded Europe. As a poisonous taint they have infected mind, will and character of the peoples. They are the mark of new dictatorial capitalism, and their effect will long be felt. They are not a chance degeneration; they are due to special causes characteristic of the present times. Whoever recognises as their deepest cause the will of big capital to keep and to extend its domination over mankind, knows that they will not disappear with the end of the war. Nationalism excited to red heat everywhere, imputing all this to the bad racial character of the foe, thereby rousing stronger national hatred, will always be a fertile soil for new violence, material and spiritual.
The fall into barbarity is not a biological atavism to which mankind might be subjected at any time. The mechanism of how it came to work lies open to the view. The reign of falsehood does not mean that what is said and written is all lies. By emphasising part of the truth and omitting other parts the total can turn into untruth. Often it is combined with the conviction of its truth on the part of the speaker. Doubtless, it holds for everybody that what he says is never the objective, material, all-sided truth, but always subjective truth, a coloured personal, one-sided image of reality. Where all these subjective, personal, hence incomplete, partial truths complete, control and criticise one another, and where most people thereby are compelled to self-criticism, there arises out of them a more general aspect which we accept as the nearest approach to objective truth. If, however, this control is taken away and criticism is made impossible, whilst only one special opinion is put forward, the possibility of objective truth entirely vanishes. The reign of falsehood finds its essential basis in the suppression of free speech.
Cruelty in action often is accompanied by ardent devotion to new principles, that is, irritated by its failure to make progress rapidly enough. In normal society there is no other way than patient propaganda and the thorough self-education in working out arguments. If, however, dictatorship gives to the few power over the many, then, excited by the fear of losing this power, it tries to obtain its aims through increasing violence. The reign of cruelty finds its essential basis in the dictatorial power of a minority. If we wish that in the coming times, in the fight of classes and peoples, the downfall into barbarity be prevented, these are the things we must oppose with all energy; dictatorial power of a small group or party, and suppression or limitation of free speech.
The storm now sweeping over the earth has raised new problems and new solutions. Besides the spiritual devastation it brought spiritual renovation, new ideas in economic and social organization, most conspicuous among them ideas on new forms of suppression, dominance and exploitation. These lessons will not be lost to world capital; its fight will be more tenacious, its rule stronger by using these new methods. On the other side in the workers a stronger consciousness will dawn of how completely their liberation is bound up with the opposite factors. Now they feel in the body how much the reign of organized falsehood hampers them in gaining the simplest inkling of the knowledge they need, how much the reign of organized terror makes their organization impossible. Stronger than ever before the will and the strength will arise in them to keep open the gates to knowledge by fighting for freedom of speech against any attempt to restrict it; to keep open the gate to class organisation by refusing and repelling any attempt at forcible suppression, in whatever guise of proletarian interest it may present itself.
In this second world war the workers' movement has fallen much deeper than in the first. In the first world war its weakness, so sharply in contrast with former pride and boasting, manifested itself in that it was dragged along, that deliberately, by its own will, it followed the bourgeoisie and turned into underlings of nationalism. This character persisted in the next quarter of a century, with its idle talk and party intrigue, though gallant fighting in strikes occurred. In the present war the working class had no will of its own any more to decide on what to do; it was already incorporated into the entirety of the nation. As they are shuffled to and fro over factories and shops, uniformed and drilled, commanded to the fronts, mixed up with the other classes, all essence of the former working class has disappeared. The workers have lost their class; they do not exist as a class any more; class-consciousness has been washed away in the wholesale submission of all classes under the ideology of big capital. Their special class-vocabulary : socialism, community has been adopted by capital for its dissimilar concepts.
This holds good especially for Central Europe, where in former times the workers' movement looked more powerful than anywhere else. In the Western countries there remains a sufficient amount of class feeling soon to find them back on the road to fight in the transformation of war industry to peace industry. Encumbered, however, with the heavy load of old forms and traditions, leading to battle in the old forms, it will have some difficulty to find its way to the new forms of fight. Still, the practical needs of the struggle for existence and working conditions will, more or less gradually, compel it to put up and clarify the new aims of conquering the mastery over production. Where, however, dictatorship has reigned and has been destroyed by foreign military power, there under new conditions of oppression and exploitation, a new working clans must first take its rise. There a new generation will grow up, for whom the old names and catchwords have no meaning any longer. Certainly, it will be difficult under foreign domination to keep the class feeling free and pure from nationalism. But with the collapse of so many old conditions and traditions, the mind will be more open to direct influence of the new realities. Every doctrine, every device and catchword will be taken, not at its face value, but at its real content.
More powerful than before, capitalism will tower after the war. But stronger also the fight of the working masses, sooner or later, will arise over against it. It is inevitable that in this fight the workers will aim at mastery over the shops, mastery over production, dominance over society, over labor, over their own life. The idea of self-rule through workers' councils will take hold of their minds, the practice of self-rule and workers' councils will determine their actions. So from the abyss of weakness they will rise to a new unfolding of power. Thus a new world will be built up. A new era is coming after the war, not of tranquility and peace, but of constructive class fight.