The New Danger of War in the Far East

Attack on the Workers’ Fatherland by the Japanese Militarists Imminent

(December 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 56, 23 December 1933, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Press dispatches from the Far East point to the imminence of a fresh military campaign by Japanese imperialism, intended to carry a stage further the grandiose plan or colonial conquest designed by the late Baron Tanaka. With the military accomplishment of each successive phase of this plan, which is the guiding plan of the Tokyo warlords, the danger of war against the Soviet Union approaches appreciably nearer.

With the signing of the Tangku truce last May 31, resulting in the “demilitarization” of approximately 5,000 miles of Chinese territory south of the Great Wall, there ensued a period of comparative quiet. The Japanese army withdrew to the Great Wall but continued to hold all the strategic passes into Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, including the important gateway at Shanhaikwan. The past six months have witnessed intensive preparations for a fresh military drive. Heavy Japanese troop concentrations took place at Mukden and Changchun late in September on the time-worn pretext of “bandit-suppression.” Now it is reported that Japanese forces have undertaken the conquest of Inner Mongolia, the next step from which is armed intervention against the People’s Government of Outer Mongolia, meaning war against the Soviet Union.

Japan Aims at War

All the facts of the present situation in the Far East point indubitably to tho clear-cut intention of the Japanese imperialists to pit their military might against the Soviet Union without unnecessary delay. The Tanaka plan calls not only for the conquest of Manchuria, sections of China proper and Inner and Outer Mongolia, but also for the forcible seizure of all Soviet territory east of Lake Baikal territory richer than Manchuria in such basic raw materials as coal and iron and possessing mineral and other riches which Manchuria does not possess.

The principal danger spot for the Soviet Union has shifted recently from Russia’s western frontiers to the Far East. Germany, as the Left Opposition organ in that country, Unser Wort, recently asserted, is in no position to make war on the land of the Soviets. Years of preparation are required. To those who contend that Japan is not adequately prepared either it must be stated that, given the present balance or relationship of forces, Japanese imperialism is as prepared for war on the Soviet Union as it can ever hope to be. The different imperialist powers are never, in any absolute sense, prepared for war, but they embark upon war nevertheless. In the case of Japan awareness of weakness in certain respects is lost in the general psychosis of invincibility, stimulated by the military campaigns of the last two years and the still-unforgotten victory over Czarist Russia in 1905.

Japan is being driven along the road of war by her growingly critical internal situation, reflected in mounting budget deficits, falling revenues, the flight of capital from the country, currency depreciation, advancing unemployment and impoverishment of the peasantry, and an adventuristic trade policy. Her ruling class, caught in the vise of an economic crisis they cannot mitigate, much less liquidate, see their salvation from threatening revolution in war – in the forcible conquest of fresh markets and simultaneously a crusade to free the Far East from the “menace of Bolshevism.”

Effect of American Recognition

American recognition of the Soviet Union has lessened the danger of a Japanese attack on the workers’ fatherland, we have been told. This facile contention, embodied in the diplomatic jargon of Stalin-Litvinov and slavishly echoed by Stalinist scribblers who seek to justify a Soviet “peace policy” that involves the desertion and virtual repudiation of revolutionary internationalism, will not bear the test of examination. American recognition of the Soviet Union, insofar as it affects Soviet-Japanese relations, will more probably hasten the onslaught of Japanese imperialism on the Soviet Union. There is no prospect of any improvement in Japan’s internal situation, and the hopes of the Japanese imperialists of a successful war against the Soviet Union can only become dimmed by delay in delivering the attack (we are not discussing here the actual possibilities of Japan’s winning out in a war on the Soviets in the Far East). Moreover, Japan cannot hope to forge a united imperialist front against the Soviets by the methods of diplomacy. Fifteen post-war years have proved that impracticable. But Japan does expect to find allies in the west once she has started the fight.

Japan will in all probability decide to strike the first blow before the Soviet Union has the opportunity to take advantage of American credits, expected to follow recognition. This view was expressed succinctly enough by George Bronson Rea, the $30,000 a year American adviser to the new state of Manchukuo – that is, Japan – in a letter to the New York Herald-Tribune on November 18. He declares that: “If recognition is followed by huge credits or loans which will enable Moscow to rush through its plans in central Asia and Siberia, then the outlook for peace is far from bright.” As a result of such loans or credits, he goes on to contend, “the jaws of the Communist nut-cracker will begin to close and Japan will have to fight for her life.”

Sharpening Japano-American Relations

American recognition, while tending to hasten a Japanese attack on the Soviet Union, will sharpen Japano-American antagonisms – in fact has done so already. It was announced from Tokyo on December 8 that the Japanese fleet is to be reorganized on a war basis. The fleet is not needed for war on the Soviet Union. Only a few ships would be employed for an assault on Vladivostok. The move is clearly intended as a “hands-off” warning to the United States. Japanese officials are said to have revealed that “secret conversations” have taken place in Tokyo with Manuel Quezon, leader of the Filipino bourgeois independence movement.

Quezon, reportedly sought Japanese and and discussed linking the Philippines to the chariot of Japanese imperialism. It must be remembered that the Tanaka memorial envisages the seizure of the Philippines in order to round out the Empire of the Rising Sun and establish Japanese hegemony in the Pacific.

That Japan’s first target is the Soviet Union and not America is indicated in a report from Mukden last week, which stated that the exiled Turkish prince, Abdul Kerim, is now en route from Tokyo to Sinkiaug (Chinese Turkestan) on the Soviet borders, to head a puppet government that Japanese agents are trying to set up there. The prince has been tho guest of the Japanese government for almost a year, being held in readiness to fill in Sinkiang the role that the ex-Manchu emperor, Henry Pu Yi, fills in Manchukuo. Japanese intrigues in Sinkiang are part of the preparations for the coming assault on Outer Mongolia. Hence, while it is indubitably true that Japano-American antagonisms are growing sharper, the reported reorganization of the Japanese fleet on a war basis, coupled with the whisperings concerning the Philippines, should be construed as a warning rather than as a threat.

Japanese Militarism in a Hurry

If Japan is not yet fully prepared for a war with the Soviet Union, she is not even at the beginning of preparedness for a war against her powerful Pacific rival. A Japanese war against the United States is predicated on the completion of Japan’s several contemplated land-grabs on the Asiatic mainland, including eastern Siberia. In other words, victorious emergence from a war with the Soviet Union is the condition precedent to a trial of conclusions with dollar imperialism.

The growth of Japano-American rivalry was emphasized in news items appearing last week. American imperialism is in particular seeking set-offs against growing Japanese influence in China. On the same day that reorganization of the. Japanese fleet on a war basis was announced from Tokyo, Thos. A. Morgan, president of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, announced in New York the signing of a contract with the Nanking government for the erection at Hangchow, in Chekiang province, of a $5,000,000 airplane factory. The Nanking government has contracted to buy an initial total of 60 war planes a year. This latest deal was preceded a short while ago by an American $50,000,000 wheat and cotton loan through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. Earlier, according to George Bronson Rea, a contract was concluded for the construction of a steel and munitions plant at Canton with American capital. The recently-concluded Mackay radio contract gives America virtual control of China’s radio communications, while Pan-American Airways are actively bidding for control of international sections of China’s air communications.

Drive of Rival Imperialisms

Thus American imperialism enters into the general drive for domination of China – a general drive of rival imperialisms in which Britain and France also have most important interests and roles.

But in the phases of this drive which reflect specifically Japano-American rivalry Japan is in the lead, diplomatically, economically and strategically. Tokyo’s overtures to Nanking – to that government which time out of number has declared it would never enter into direct negotiations with Japan – have already produced concrete results. The Chinese bourgeoisie, represented politically by the Kuo Min Tang government at Nanking, has moved steadily toward rapprochement with Japan during the year now closing. Hoping for much from renewed relationships with the Soviet Union, Nanking abandoned all such hope when, to its utter amazement, Moscow declared its readiness to sell the Chinese Eastern Railway to Japan. Ever since, with clumsy attempts at secrecy, Nanking has been dickering with Tokyo.

Relations of China and Japan

Nanking’s present position vis-à-vis Japan has been defined with a clearness that precludes misunderstanding by the Peiping correspondent of the New York Times: “Remarkable development has occurred during recent months in the relations between China and Japan. Although the Nanking government has not yet chosen to risk public displeasure by entering into formal diplomatic negotiations with Japan for the settlement of the Manchurian and related issues, Japanese diplomacy has made important gains through informal dealings with the North China political faction headed by General Huang Fu.

“It has been scarcely half a year since the Tangku armistice brought an end to Sino-Japanese hostilities. Yet, in that brief period, the attitude of the North China administration toward Japan has been transformed from one of bitterness to one of utmost friendliness and cooperation. Anti-Japanese elements in the administration have been gradually weeded out. Intimate relations have grown up between Japanese military and diplomatic representatives and the North China government. Within the last month Japan has become particularly assiduous in sowing good will. (N.Y. Times, December 10.)

The correspondent goes on to relate how, as evidence of the “new spirit” he describes, there took place a “strange spectacle”, when Chinese and Japanese troops, which a few months before had been at war with each other, joined forces to quell the Chinese rebel, General Fang Cheu-Wu. But what is of especial importance and significance is the Japanese view of the strengthened influence they have gained in Chinese government circles. It is considered “an important factor in the event of Soviet-Japanese complications,’’ says the correspondent.

Nanking’s Deal with Japan

It is plain that Nanking has made at least a tentative deal with Japan – a deal that is directed, obliquely at any rate, against the Soviet Union. This development is very largely the bye-product of Soviet diplomacy, which retreated step by step before Japanese aggression during the past two years. The culminating act in this retreat was the decision to sell the Chinese Eastern Railway.

Current developments in the Far East demand the closest vigilance of the revolutionary movement and of the working-class movement generally. A war by Japan against the Soviet Union, in which the Kuo Min Tang government would be the ally of Japanese imperialism, would undoubtedly engender the profoundest repercussions in the ranks of the Chinese working class and in the broad layers of the poor population. The Chinese workers are still confused and disorganized, largely passive. They have not yet recovered from the catastrophe wished on them by the Stalinists in 1927. But there are signs of their revival, indicated in the rising strike movement in the industrial centers.

Tasks of Chinese Communists

The Chinese Communists are obligated by their revolutionary tasks to penetrate the ranks of the workers, aid in the work of reorganization, give sound political direction to the movement. The official party still maintains its false course toward the armed uprising, predicating it upon the existence of Soviet districts and the continuance of peasant guerilla warfare in remote rural areas in the heart of the country. The raising of democratic slogans around which the city masses can be mobilized for action is still denounced as “counter-revolutionary Trotskyism”, although only nine mouths ago the Provisional Soviet Government at Juikin – that government of which Moscow is still not officially cognizant – advanced a series of democratic demands in an official manifesto. Pressed by political needs born of actuality, this peasant government, which the Stalinists point to as evidence of the “mistakes” of the Left Opposition, advances a program of demands which the Chinese Communist Party and the Communist International even to this day denounce as counter-revolutionary

Democratic Demands

What were these demands? They are embodied in a declaration issued to the people of China on April 15 this year over the signature of Mao Tse-tung, president of the Provisional Government of the Soviet Republic of China. Toward the end of the declaration we read the following – note it carefully, you who denounce the democratic slogans of the Left Opposition as Menshevism:

The Red Army is ready to enter into fighting operative agreements with any army or military detachment in the fight against Japanese invasion under the following conditions:

1. Cessation of the advance against the Soviet Districts.

2. Granting of Democratic rights to the people of China (free speech, free press, rights of assembly, demonstration, organization, release of political prisoners, etc.)

3. Arming of the people, the creation of armed volunteer detachments to struggle for the defense, independence and unity of China.

For A New Party in China

If we add the obviously requisite demand for the National Assembly there is nothing to cavil at in this program. Put forward by radio from the bottled-up Soviet government at Juikin it reached nowhere. As the program of the Chinese Communist Party its slogans could become the slogans of the workers in the cities and acquire a tremendous significance. But it is hopeless to expect anything of the Chinese Communist Party, decayed beyond repair by its own vices. The Chinese oppositionists must construct a new party which will enter into its tasks correctly, seriously and conscientiously, mobilize the masses for two third Chinese revolution and simultaneously for the defense of the Soviet Union. These twin tasks converge and supplement each other. The new party must bury the rubbish heaped upon the Chinese revolutionary field by the Stalinists. It must oppose itself directly to the Chinese ruling class and its government, enemies of both the Chinese masses and the peoples of the Soviet Union, and not lose itself and disperse its forces in nebulous activities against imperialism in general.

In the measure that the Chinese working class, led by a new Communist. Party, is successful in, furthering its own revolution by fighting the Kuo Min Tang and the Nanking government, and the class forces represented therein – to that extent will it be discharging its share of the task of defending the Soviet Union. The Chinese workers are confronted by great tasks. They must receive the unstinting support of the workers of America and other countries.

Last updated on 8 February 2016