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Trotsky to Rivera


TSI | Issue Dated: February 15, 2009
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Trotsky to Rivera Trotsky was a key figure in the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, second only to Lenin in the early stage of Soviet communist rule. However, he lost out to Stalin in the power struggle that followed Lenin''s death, and was assassinated while in exile. Following letter was written to one of Trotsky''s loyal sympathisers and the famous Mexican Marxist muralist, Diego Rivera. The letter discusses some of the articles that appeared in the “Bourgeoisie Press” denouncing collaboration of Communist Party of China with Kuomintang’s Chiang Kai-shek during the Sino-Japanese war.

September 23, 1937

Dear Comrade Diego Rivera

During the past few days I have been reading some of the lucubration of the Oehlerites and the Eiffelites on the civil war in Spain and on the Sino-Japanese War. Lenin called the ideas of these people "infantile disorders." A sick child arouses sympathy.

I want to stop to discuss in this letter only the Sino-Japanese War. In my declaration to the bourgeois press, I said that the duty of all the workers'' organizations of China was to participate actively and in the front lines of the present war against Japan, without abandoning, for a single moment, their own program and independent activity. But that is "social patriotism!" the Eiffelites cry. It is capitulation to Chiang Kai-shek! It is the abandonment of the principle of the class struggle! Bolshevism preached revolutionary defeatism in the imperialist war. Now, the war in Spain and the Sino-Japanese War are both imperialist wars.

We do not and never have put all wars on the same plane. Marx and Engels supported the revolutionary struggle of the Irish against Great Britain, of the Poles against the tsar, even though in these two nationalist wars the leaders were, for the most part, members of the bourgeoisie and even at times of the feudal aristocracy . . . at all events, Catholic reactionaries. When Abdel-Krim rose up against France, the democrats and Social Democrats spoke with hate of the struggle of a "savage tyrant" against the "democracy."

In the Far East we have a classic example. China is a semi colonial country which Japan is transforming, under our very eyes, into a colonial country. Japan''s struggle is imperialist and reactionary. China''s struggle is emancipatory and progressive. But Chiang Kai-shek? We need have no illusions about Chiang Kai-shek, his party, or the whole ruling class of China, just as Marx and Engels had no illusions about the ruling classes of Ireland and Poland. Chiang Kai-shek is the executioner of the Chinese workers and peasants. But today he is forced, despite himself, to struggle against Japan for the remainder of the independence of China. Tomorrow he may again betray. It is possible. It is probable. It is even inevitable. But today he is struggling. Only cowards, scoundrels, or complete imbeciles can refuse to participate in that struggle.

Let us use the example of a strike to clarify the question. We do not support all strikes. If, for example, a strike is called for the exclusion of Negro, Chinese, or Japanese workers from a factory, we are opposed to that strike. But if a strike aims at bettering— insofar as it can—the conditions of the workers, we are the first to participate in it, whatever the leadership. Japan and China are not on the same historical plane. The victory of Japan will signify the enslavement of China, the end of her economic and social development, and the terrible strengthening of Japanese imperialism. The victory of China will signify, on the contrary, the social revolution in Japan and the free development, that is to say unhindered by external oppression, of the class struggle in China.

But can Chiang Kai-shek assure the victory? I do not believe so. It is he, however, who began the war and who today directs it. To be able to replace him it is necessary to gain decisive influence among the proletariat and in the army, and to do this it is necessary not to remain suspended in the air but to place oneself in the midst of the struggle.

L. Trotsky
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017