Articles posted by Radical Socialist on various issues.

The Third Chinese Revolution (May 1950) -- I

I. Origin and Significance of the Victory of Mao Tse-tung

Ernest Mandel / Ernest Germain

From Fourth International, Vol.11 No.5, pp.147-157.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

A half-billion inhabitants in a sub-continent as vast as Europe , nomad peoples living beside modern proletarians, the kerosene lamp and Rockefeller’s fuel oils penetrating to the smallest villages of the South while money remains unknown in entire regions – such is the China of today, classic example of the historically combined development of all Asia. The penetration of international capital industrialized an insignificant coastal strip and a few northern provinces; in the rest of the country its action was limited to the destruction of the centuries-old handicrafts and the crushing of the peasant under the burden of usury. Between international capital and the mass of the Chinese arose a class of intermediaries, the compradors, who. living on the commercial profit granted them by the foreign entrepreneurs and its conversion into usurer’s capital, bled the peasantry white.

Incapable on account of their social peculiarities of unfying the country, of assuring its independence, of resolving the agrarian question, this bourgeoisie of compradors, unable to play any progressive role in history, kept the country in chaos and prostration. The ancient Chinese culture disintegrated: in the countryside, ignorance and illiteracy reached their culmination. At the same time, in the big cities as a common means of communication with the foreign lords the infernal and highly symbolic jargon of “pidgin English” was coined in which “I am” is translated by “I belong.” Such is the country which is the theater of the most important revolution precipitated by the Second World War.

Chinese society, bastard child of the old China and world imperialism, did not cease suffering bloody convulsions. Principal theater of imperialist rivalries in the Far East, it was chopped up by warlords waging private wars subsidized by the big powers interested in Chinese commerce before duly falling victim to a war of conquest by Japanese imperialism. The defeat of the Chinese revolution of 1925-27 permitted no progressive solution of the contradictions in which this bastard society writhed. That is why there was a consequent slow decomposition of the lundamental productive relations on which Chinese society was based.

Japanese imperialism invested considerable capital in Manchuria, colonized in 1931. The equivalent in yen of close to 5.5 billion dollars flowed in. Vast industrialization doubled coal production there and tripled metallurgical production. But this industrial development did not profit the country as a whole. The great agricultural belts of the North and the South, which the Japanese never succeeded in occupying, were cut off from the developed industrial centers. In the North, above all in territories occupied by Communist guerillas or by local peasant militias, handicrafts underwent a new growth. Trade died down and the tendencies toward provincial and even district autarchy gained strength continually. The country turned in upon itself.

This had considerable consequences for agrarian economy. The links with the world market which made it possible to smooth the ups and downs in the supply of rice and wheat, were cut. The result was famine at each bad harvest. Entire provinces with tens of millions of inhabitants

were hard hit, especially during the big famine in the northern plain in 1941-43. A shift occurred away from crops such as cotton, grown for sale in the cities, to food crops.

At the same time, the officers of Chiang Kai-shek’s army, small local officials and other supports of the Kuomintang, suffering from the mounting inflation, appropriated for themselves immense stretches of communal and tenant peasant lands. In the province of Szechuan it was estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the landlords seized their lands during the war and their holdings represented 90 percent of the land owned by the old landlords. This evolution was again accentuated after the end of the war when the government through nationalized companies seized lands belonging to the Japanese. The North China Exploitation Company alone seized several hundred thousand mow of land in Hopei. (One mow equals approximately one-sixth of an acre.)

The tax in kind since 1941, the innumerable forced loans and requisitions of the army, dealt the final blow to a peasant economy that had been tottering for a long time. Numerous villages were depopulated – the number of farmers who died of starvation during and after the war is estimated at ten to fifteen million! Vast reaches remained uncultivated. The soil, exhausted by centuries of too numerous harvests and lack of care, rebelled in its turn against the archaic mode of production in northern China. The yield per mow dropped without cease. Belden estimates that at the end of the war 50 million mow of land were lying desolate in the three fertile provinces of Honan, Hupeh and Hunan. Hundreds of thousands of small and middle peasants were dispossessed. A considerable devaluation in the price of land occurred as numerous peasants found themselves forced to sell their tiny patches.

Thus the war and its immediate aftermath created on one side a new layer of speculators and parasitic owners, and on the other an enormous mass of expropriated peasants. This polarization of society signified an extreme exacerbation of the social contradictions and was the midwife of the third Chinese revolution.

“Bureaucratic Capital”

China’s sudden reconquest of the big industrial centers upon the Japanese capitulation betokened brutal confirmation of a typical aspect of contemporary China – the submergence of the extremely weak industrial bourgeoisie by “bureaucratic capital.” From 1936 on, nationalizations acquired importance. Official statistics indicate that in 1942 the government possessed 20 power stations, eight iron and steel factories, many machine and electrical manufacturing plants and ten distilleries. At the end of the war, the government seized all Japanese-owned enterprises, thus appropriating the lion’s share of the textile and coal industries. Four families, Chiang Kai-shek, the Soongs, the Kungs and the Chen brothers skimmed the cream from these nationalized enterprises as their private domain, utilizing their political positions at the same time to amass fabulous fortunes in the management of these enterprises and to acquire in numerous sectors virtual monopolies for their private enterprises.

The reactionary American writer George Moorad, who remains nevertheless an apologist for the Kuomintang, decried the situation thus created in these terms:

By using government loans and UNRRA materials, and by confiscating enemy-alien properties, the state-family monopolies soon came to dominate mining, heavy industry, silk, cotton, spinning, sugar, transportation, and, of course, banking and overseas trade ... In addition to their controlling interest in the National government, Soong-Kung combine and its satellites also owned the China Highway Transport Company, Fu Chung Corporation, Yangtze Development Corporation, Central Trust of China, China Textile Development Corporation, and Universal Trading Corporation. Thus the great Japanese-owned cotton spinning mills in China, which, in 1937, had rivaled Bombay and Manchester productions, were taken over by the China Textile Development Corporation, which, receiving government loans and government cotton, was able to put private Chinese and British mills out of business. The monopolies also got preferences in allocations of fuel, transport and raw materials. (Lost Peace in China, E.P. Button & Co., New York, 1949, pp.197-98)

This is a form of the concentration of monopoly capital which the advanced countries have never known.

When a member of one of these families, the financier T.V. Soong, ex-president of the Bank of China, ex-minister of foreign affairs, and ex-prime minister, was named governor of the rich province of Kwangtung in September 1947, four months after his resignation as head of the government under the pressure of public opinion, the press explained this nomination as the result of a gift which Soong himself had made to the charity fund of the Kuomintang of at least 500 billion Chinese dollars, or 10 million American dollars, in stocks and bonds of important commercial and industrial enterprises. “Bureaucratic capital,” hence, was the conquest of dominating positions in the economy by exploiting public office, combined with the purchase of controlling posts in the government by means of enormous profits wrung from the economy.

These extremes of corruption and despotism injured not only the foreign capitalists who saw themselves excluded from part of their traditional profits, but also the majority of the Chinese compradors themselves who found the most profitable fields monopolized by the “four families.” These native bourgeois layers, cut off from profitable commercial or industrial activity, concentrated all the more on speculation and usury, thus accelerating the disintegration of the economy and feeding the hate of all the productive classes toward the Kuomintang and its rotten regime.

Galloping Inflation

But the factor which contributed most to the disintegration of the traditional social relations was the galloping inflation that developed during the course of the war and its immediate aftermath. In addition to the universal parasitism of the regime, the cause of this inflation resided above all in the enormous mass of unproductive governmental expenditures for the maintenance of a hypertrophied bureaucracy and army – approximately 70 percent of the budget was devoted to the army. This led to an enormous budgetary deficit surpassing two-thirds of the expenditures, and this deficit could not be covered except by unbridled printing of bank notes. By 1940 prices had already reached an average of 3,500 (taking the 1937 level as 100) and in some provinces even more than 5,500. The end of the war was marked by pronounced acceleration of the inflationary movement. During 1946 prices soared 700 percent in Shanghai. From January to July they mounted again by 500 percent. The circulation of money rose from 1.15 trillion Chinese dollars in January 1946 to 11.46 trillion in July 1947. From that time, the rhythm of inflation accelerated, as is indicated by the course of the American dollar on the Shanghai black market:

One American dollar was worth [in Chinese dollars] – in June 1947, 36,000; August 1947, 44,000; October 1947, 100,000; November 1947, 165,000; March 1948, 500,000; May 1948, 1,000,000; beginning of August 1948, 10,000,000. The magnitude of the inflation ended in the elimination of money as means of monthly payment of salaries and wages, payments being made with sacks of wheat. Inflation led to hoarding of gold and foreign money, to massive stockpiling of goods and from that to increasing scarcities. At the end of August 1948, the government made a last attempt at stabilization of the monetary situation. A new issue, the gold yuan, was put in circulation. Prices were stabilized and rigorous penalties instituted to curb speculation. But the public remained sceptical, since at the same time budget figures showed annual government revenue covered scarcely two months’ expenditures. And so, like agrarian reform, inflation on the morrow started up again worse than ever. Six weeks later the hike in prices reached 45 percent. Four weeks more, and the official index hit 81 percent. Between November 1948 and January 1949, prices mounted 500 percent. A new cycle of galloping inflation was opened.

The inflation led to complete prostration of business. “Production is paralyzed,” wrote the correspondent of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, October 17, 1948, “because of the lack of raw materials. The peasant producers refuse to sell their products so long as they cannot buy foods at official prices.” Fear of the inflation led to heavy disinvestment of capital. Such capital, transformed into gold bars or dollars, flowed to Hong Kong, the United States, Latin America. Plant equipment deteriorated. Machines were no longer repaired. Capital ceased to be renewed. Inflation devoured what reserves had remained intact in the country. Coal production fell to half the pre-war level; textile production to a similar level. Throughout Manchuria, industrial production in 1948 stood at 10 percent of its normal level. A typical case, cited in the report of General Wedemeyer, is that of the Hwainan Coal Mine in central China owned by the China Finance Development Corporation which is controlled by two of the four families, the Soongs and Kungs. This corporation possessed extensive foreign exchange assets, but refused to use them to rehabilitate the mine. The government itself had to start production moving by advancing more than one million American dollars. After exhausting this loan, things stopped at that. Finally, this situation led to a rupture in trade between city and country. Great stocks of foods and cotton accumulated in the villages of Manchuria and northern China while famine reigned in the cities. At the same time, huge stockpiles of coal accumulated in mining centers while the peasant population suffered terribly from the bitter cold of winter. All economic life in the country seemed to halt. The culpability of the regime was apparent to everyone.

American Intervention in China

Imperialist intervention had prevented transformation of China into a modern nation. At the same time it lent unexpected support to the particular social relations characterizing the China of the first half of the twentieth century. With the end of the war this situation was radically upset. Of the old powers protecting the Chinese social order, only Great Britain and the United States remained independent forces, and Great Britain was too weak to intervene effectively in China. On American imperialism fell the whole burden of defending that Christian civilization which had pressed on China the seal of opium, coolies and the licensed brothels of Shanghai.

The outbreak of war between Japan and the United States considerably accentuated American interest in China. While bankers and technicians prepared plans for credits and capital investments, General Stilwell sought to utilize the immense Chinese human potential for the creation of new armies endowed with modern equipment. It was in the course of these attempts that the Yankee military heads had their first prolonged contacts with the leaders of the Kuomintang and understood that the Chiang Kai-shek regime Was hopelessly corrupt and condemned to perish. The documents published by the American State Department contain secret reports of agents, written in 1943-44, which were all unanimous in predicting the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek in the event of civil war on the grand scale in China. The report of John Stewart Service characterizes the situation in the provinces controlled by the Kuomintang in the following way:

1. Morale is low and discouragement widespread. There is a general feeling of hopelessness.

2. The authority of the Central Government is weakening in the areas away from the larger cities. Government mandates and measures of control cannot be enforced and remain ineffective. It is becoming difficult for the Government to collect enough food for its huge army and bureaucracy.

3. The governmental and military structure is being permeated and demoralized from top to bottom by corruption, unprecedented in scale and openness.

4. The intellectual and salaried classes, who have suffered the most heavily from inflation, are in danger of liquidation. The academic groups suffer not only the attrition and demoralization of economic stress; the weight of years of political control and repression is robbing them of the intellectual vigor and leadership they once had.

This appreciation of the Chinese situation placed American imperialism before an insoluble dilemma the moment the war in Asia came to an end. On the one hand, it was necessary to give maximum aid to Chiang Kai-shek to prevent the swift collapse of Kuomintang China. On the other hand, it was necessary to replace the Chiang Kai-shek government by a government capable of avoiding the outbreak of civil war on the grand scale, since the Kuomintang could not help losing such a war. But the sole means American imperialism had to put pressure on the Kuomintang was precisely the aid which it advanced. Unable to make up its mind to cut this aid in order to wring real concessions from the Kuomintang, it saw all its attempts to reach conciliation between the Chinese Communist Party and Chiang Kai-shek doomed to failure in advance.

Attempts at Compromise

The political and military basis for such a compromise was real nonetheless the first two years after the war. Chiang’s armies, equipped thanks to the Americans with ultra-modern materiel, were transported by American planes and ships to the big centers of Manchuria and the North, in order to speedily occupy the cities evacuated by the Japanese, then by the Russians. The groups of Communist partisans, officially united to the regular army under the name of the Eighth Route Army, had occupied some agricultural districts and a few cities, then had halted their operations. On October 11, 1945, an agreement was reached between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party providing for the convocation of a People’s Political Consultative Conference to iron out all the differences.

This conference was held in Chungking in January 1946 and after 21 days of discussion adopted a series of resolutions on the organization of a coalition government, the reconstruction of the country, military problems, convocation of a National Assembly, etc. It was not a question of a radical reform. Finally on February 25, 1946, under the aegis of General Marshall, in China on special mission as conciliator, the Kuomintang and Chinese Communist Party concluded an agreement for the unification of the armed forces. The road to “social peace” seemed open.

Nevertheless, at the very moment these agreements were reached, hostilities were again on the point of breaking out. Responsibility for this fell squarely on the Kuomintang, and several months later General Marshall did not hesitate to publish a declaration in which he listed “seven errors” of Chiang Kai-shek, seven flagrant cases of military aggression on the part of the Kuomintang’s forces in violation of the agreements previously reached with the Chinese Communist Party. In the summer of 1946, general hostilities resumed and at the end of that year the Kuomintang army opened a general offensive aimed at occupying the territories held by the Communist armies. A widespread civil war had blazed up.

Failure of Marshall’s Mission

Formally, General Marshall’s mission of conciliation was wrecked on the question of the occupation of territories which had changed hands after January 13, 1946, the opening date of the Political Consultative Conference. The Chinese Communist Party demanded the status quo ante and continuation of social reforms previously carried out in these areas. Marshall proposed evacuation of the territories and; their conversion into a kind of no-man’s land. Chiang Kai-shek demanded their occupation by “government” forces.

In reality, the landlords were convinced of the inevitability of peasant uprisings on a grand scale. They had no confidence that the Chinese Communist Party, following eventual entrance in a coalition government, would prove capable of halting these uprisings. They feared consequently that any prolongation of the period of relative freedom enjoyed by the peasants in the Communist-occupied regions would lead fatally to the seizure of land, and that the example set by these regions would spread throughout the Chinese peasantry. The sole means of avoiding this catastrophe was the rapid reconquest of these regions, as long as the relation of military forces was basically favorable to the Kuomintang. The Chinese ruling classes understood that time worked against them. The military adventure in which they plunged with a blindness rarely equalled was neither desired nor provoked by the Chinese Communist Party which seems to have genuinely sought the road to compromise.

The failure of General Marshall’s mission of conciliation and the following fact-finding mission of General Wedemeyer did not by any means signify abandonment by American imperialism of its policy of intervention and “pacification” of China. For two years, American policy continued to be buffeted between two contradictory aims – to avoid any breaching of Kuomintang power from one side; from the other to try to “liberalize” the regime and lead it to putting an end to the civil war. If American conciliatory intentions in China seem to have been genuine, in practice American intervention brought about prolongation of Chiang Kai-shek’s dictatorship. The “pressure” exerted on the generalissimo to introduce some “progressive” reforms achieved only ridiculous results.

The total amount of American aid given the Kuomintang was considerable. It is a flagrant lie when reactionary circles in the United States and the world try to explain the victory of Mao Tse-tung by the “insufficient” support Washington gave Chinese reaction. So far as military aid strictly speaking is concerned, besides numerous American advisors in China and the transport of soldiers and materiel for the Kuomintang in American ships and planes, 700 million dollars’ worth of lend-lease deliveries were made after the end of the war in Asia, plus arms and munitions worth more than one billion dollars. As for economic aid, the official American figure is another billion dollars plus sale of surplus goods worth an additional billion dollars. Say a total of three billion dollars which could not save Chiang Kai-shek. In truth, nothing could have held back the mounting flood of the third Chinese revolution.

The Disintegration of Power

The defeat of Chiang Kai-shek in the Chinese civil war cannot be understood if you consider it as the defeat of a “democratic” government in the face of the “totalitarian” power of the Chinese Communists. From the social point of view, the Kuomintang regime, based on an alliance of landlords and bourgeois compradors, was crushed by the uprisings of exploited peasants. Even from the formal point of view, it was the spontaneous initiative and a considerable degree of local self-government which permitted the Mao Tse-tung armies to overwhelm the rotten and universally detested despotism of the Kuomintang.

Nothing in fact could be further from reality than to call Chiang Kai-shek’s dictatorship bourgeois democracy. The dictatorship was openly affirmed as such, since the Kuomintang openly declared that it was exercising tutelage over the Chinese people, not yet ripe for political sovereignty, up to 1947. And the formal abandonment of this “tutelage” came at the time when the dictatorship, basing itself on a secret service of 200,000 members, opened an unparalleled wave of repressions.

A very convincing example of the “democratic” nature of Chiang Kai-shek’s government is its reign of terror on the island of Formosa in 1947. On February 25, 1947, incidents broke out which led to a number of killings by Chinese soldiers. The population of Formosa rose up and organized political councils which demanded a democratic constitution for the island. The governor entered into negotiations with the populace to gain time pending arrival of reinforcements from the mainland. When the Chinese troops landed, a bloody repression began. The Americans fix the number of victims at 5,000 slain; the inhabitants of Formosa speak of 20,000 people murdered. History took its revenge on Chiang Kai-shek by abandoning him today to the stubborn, underground hatred of the unhappy people of this island.

As Trotsky long ago observed, the Kuomintang dictatorship was not fascist in character ; contrary to the fascist regimes it had no base of support in the petty-bourgeois masses, which were violently hostile to it. It was a military dictatorship based on an alliance between landlords, certain layers of compradors and the immense caste of military men and upper bureaucrats who profited from the regime. According to the Swiss journal Der Bund, China had 6,773 generals in active service. (June 15, 1948.) The war, however, altered the base of this regime. Cut off from the big industrial centers and the decisive levels of the compradors, Chiang Kai-shek was forced to support himself more fully on the most conservative and backward landlords. From this fact, the political weight of the representatives of this class (notably the clique of the Central Committee of the Kuomintang) became decisive. This explains the failure of the 1946 compromise which had been favored’ by the industrial bourgeoisie of northern China, who, on March 13, 1946, sent a delegation to Kuomintang headquarters to obtain immediate cessation of hostilities.

Career of a Generalissimo

The personality of Chiang Kai-shek is a faithful reflection of the regime which he incarnated. Harold Isaacs has drawn a portrait of the Chinese dictator as ferocious as it is faithful. Son of a landlord-trader of the province of Chekiang, Chiang Kai-shek came to Shanghai about 1911 where he tried to make a career as a stock broker. He got in touch with the secret societies and hobnobbed, says Isaacs, with “gangsters and bankers, smugglers and brothel-keepers, the money-changers and the scum of the treaty ports.” Headed for prison, he was saved by his comprador protectors, then went south to link his fortune with Sun Yat-sen. A young career officer, he was chosen by the father of the Chinese Republic to spend six months in Moscow in 1923. On his return, he became commander of the Whampoo Military Academy, constructed and maintained with Russian funds; and it was from this position that he left in 1925 for the military expedition which permitted him later to crush the revolution in 1927 and to unify China under his dictatorship. The massacres which he perpetrated left wounds that are felt to this day.

From April to December 1927, 37,985 persons were executed for “political crimes.” From January to August 1928, the number condemned to death was 27,699. At the end of 1930, it was estimated that 140,000 political, opponents had been put to death by the regime. In 1931, incomplete statistics referring to the cities of only six provinces mentioned 38,778 persons executed by the political police in the course of the year.

Changes Wrought by the War

Chiang Kai-shek maintained his dominant position, says Isaacs, by offering immediate benefits to all the ruling classes and by effective maneuvering among the mutually hostile military cliques. But the change in the relationship of forces between landlords and compradors during the war profoundly altered the Kuomintang’s seat of power. Even more fatal was the development in northern China and Manchuria during the same period of organs of self-defense and self-government among the peasants. In the lost villages where the Japanese troops had not been able to send more than advance scouts but which the Kuomintang troops precipitatejy abandoned, solid nuclei were organized of anti-imperialist resistance and local democracy. The village militia of secretly elected town administrations appeared even behind the Japanese lines.

The Communist Eighth Route Army soon began to coordinate this resistance movement under its leadership. Having insufficient cadres, it was compelled to leave the villages a high degree of autonomy and democracy. Administrative units put together in rather slack fashion were taken in hand by a central body created from above, the “government of the Shansi-Hopei-Shantung-Honan Border Region” which left considerable representation to local and non-Communist elements. Toward the end of the war, this “government” and the authoritative formations which the Communist partisans had constructed in other parts of the country already controlled close to 90 million people.

The mass of peasants, while observing with distrust the measures of the new authorities tending to prevent the agrarian reform up until 1946, nevertheless considered the new government as the first which had not acted forcibly and always against the people. They were ready to grant it their support from the moment their fundamental demand for land was carried out.

The Chiang Kai-shek regime thus found itself facing an adversary whose forces did not cease to grow. Its own resources did not cease to diminish, corroded by an unbridled corruption. Belden cites the case of a colonel due for promotion to command of a battalion who was rejected because of inability to pay the customary “gift” to his superiors. He was then made head of the transport unit of his regiment. In this capacity he had to give one-seventh of all the gasoline to the officer in charge of the supply depot. His superiors took another one-seventh of the gasoline for their personal graft. To supply the regiment, the colonel had to sell grease and lubricants on the black market himself in order to make up for the gasoline lifted by the corrupt officers. The Chinese writer Pei Wan-chung reports that the mayors of villages responsible lor sending young recruits to the army had organized, in the province of Hopei, a system according to which every family paying exorbitant sums could keep their sons home. At the same time the missing forces were inscribed on the regimental books so that the officers could put their pay in their own pockets. The result was that numerous armed formations did not have more than 60 percent of their presumed forces. The situation becomes clearer still when one adds that very often officers of the Kuomintang sold their arms to the Communists.

The monetary reform of August 1948 installing the gold yuan had been prepared so secretly that not even the American advisors of the Chinese governmelnt had been informed. Yet it soon appeared that the General Secretary of the Ministry of Finance had organized his own little speculation in the Shanghai stock exchange through the fact that he knew the date and details of this reform! General Wedemeyer’s report affirms that tax officials took more from the peasants than they could pay, while rich businessmen and merchants evaded tax obligations by presenting fake accounts. The same report declares that “In pre-war years, the reputation of the Chinese-Maritime Customs for efficiency and honesty of administration was unexcelled throughout the world. At the present time ... corruption ... is widespread, more so ... than at any time in the last 94 years.” Merchants bribed customs officials to pass their goods illegally, evading license fees and customs duties to get around price controls or simply to expedite action. The administrative costs of collecting duties, however, averaged only 10 percent; while in the Direct Tax Bureau of the Ministry of Finance the “administrative” expense of tax collection ran as high as 60 percent.

Middle Class Rebellion

In contrast to the high dignitaries of the regime who organized fraud and corruption as a private racket, the bulk of the small functionaries were pushed on the road of corruption because of the flagrant insufficiency of their salaries. Inflation hit the functionaries and salaried middle classes harder than it did the industrial workers. In March 1948, a university professor earned 10 million Chinese dollars (equivalent to 20 American dollars). He had no way of obtaining supplementary income to this starvation wage. Hardly surprising then, in these conditions, that “the cultured, intellectual classes should be almost completely alienated from the regime”. And in token of this hostility, imposing protest movements centered around the universities.

In 1946 especially there were demonstrations greeting establishment of the truce; but the demonstrators who acclaimed the leaders of the Kuomintang as well as those hailing the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party were attacked by the police and army. At Suchow, 12 students were killed and 27 wounded. The dean of the school was likewise killed. At Kunming, two professors were murdered after having spoken at a meeting in favor of the truce. In 1947, the movement was much larger. Students of the universities of Shanghai, Peking and Nanking proclaimed a general strike. Some 3,000 students of the Transport High School occupied the North Station in Shanghai and seized a train, demanding that it take them to Nanking to talk with the government. The students tried to organize the nationwide general strike for June 2. Repression was rapid and violent. Thousands of soldiers and police closed in on the universities of Shanghai and Nanking, arresting and beating hundreds of students. At Hankow and Chungking likewise, the number of victims was high. Nine hundred and twenty-three arrests, dozens of deaths, a thousand wounded – such was the balance sheet of the student movement of 1947.

In 1948, the movement started again in the spring. At Peking a mass demonstration clashed with a barrier of police. There were a number of dead and wounded on both sides. At Kunming, July 15, 1948, police staged a raid on the University, killing five students, wounding a hundred and arresting 1,200, of whom 300 were sent to concentration camps. The prisoners were submitted to infamous tortures; 30 were buried alive. In August 1948, a special court was set up to handle “student insubordinations.” Thousands of students and hundreds of professors were dismissed from the middle and higher schools.

The workers’ movement during the first postwar years also experienced a period of mounting intensity in the big industrial centers. During 1946, 1,600 strikes took place in Shanghai.

The sliding scale of wages was won and the workers obtained numerous supplementary bonuses to offset the effects of the worst inflation. In 1947, there was a new wave of strikes which in Shanghai in May almost reached a general strike protesting the temporary banning of the sliding wage scale system. The system was restored. In 1948, however, the acceleration of the inflationary movement and the aggravation of the military situation brought on a period of retreat in the labor movement. The struggle for elementary personal and family needs became paramount. Apathy spread among the people who began to look toward the armies to resolve their difficulties. There were only the disturbances of the famine, the rice riots.

Government authority disappeared completely. The desire for peace was universal. All classes of the nation felt profound loathing for the regime. Still, a class was needed to deal it the final blow. It was the peasant insurrections that overthrew Chiang Kai-shek.

The Agrarian Question

The unequal historic development of China finds its most faithful reflection in the unequal development of agriculture in the different Chinese regions. Hence it is impossible to give a simple sketch of class relations in the Chinese village since these relations vary enormously from region to region. A certain number of generalizations nevertheless remain possible. Agriculture in the provinces south of the Yangtze is in general more advanced than that of the northern provinces; in the same way, in the North in places remote from the coast and principal railway lines one finds stronger vestiges of feudalism in agriculture. In southern China, farms are smaller than in the North. But this difference simply reflects the poverty of agriculture in the North where the peasants are unable to eke out a living on smaller plots. Thus in the South of China only half the farms have an area greater than 1.64 acres and 20 percent an area greater than 3.29 acres. In northern China, 73 percent of the farms have more than 1.64 acres, not more than 50 percent are larger than 3.29 acres and 35 percent exceed 4.94 acres. These figures also indicate the extremely small dimensions of Chinese farms.

In the North of China, the small landlord system predominates; in the South, tenants and sharecroppers constitute the majority of the peasants. However, throughout China the number of independent peasants has diminished considerably since the turn of the century, as is recognized by official Kuomintang sources. In some provinces of southern China, the percentage of peasants owning their land fell extremely low – in the province of Chekiang (south of Shanghai along the sea) to 18 percent; in the rich province of Kwantung, where Canton is located, 21 percent; in Fukieng, between Chekiang and Kwantung, 25 percent, etc. More agriculture is capitalist and more small farmers have given way to the tenant and sharecropper.

In 1936, professor Chen Han-seng estimated that 65 percent of the Chinese peasantry either possessed no land or possessed too little to make the barest living.

Chinese agriculture is likewise marked by a strong differentiation in the form of payment of agrarian rent. This rent is paid sometimes in kind at a fixed rate, sometimes as a portion of the annual harvest. In general, industrial crops (cotton, tea) pay rent in money, food crops predominantly in kind. This rent is extremely high. Official Kuomintang sources fix “the average” at 40 to 60 percent of the harvest, but in numerous cases the landlords receive more than 60 percent of the harvest, as the following figures demonstrate:

Percentage of farms paying on the harvest
Province From 50% to 60%
(of the crop)
From 60% to 70%
(of the crop)
More than 70%
(of the crop)
Hopei 6.9 16.0 9.2
Szechuan 28.9 21.7 2.4
Shantung 3.4 9.4 11.7
Suiyuan 6.3 12.5 6.3
Honan 11.0 13.6 2.2
Shansi 24.8 14.3 0.8
Fukien 19.3 9.7 2.2
Tsinghai 9.1 4.5 4.5
Hunan 16.5 5.5 3.3
Kansu 4.9 4.9 2.4

To complete this picture, it must be added that in practice the landlord fixed the rate of rent as he pleased and this rate often varied from harvest to harvest in the absence of any written contract. Even with a written contract, it remained with the landlord to interpret it as he pleased since the peasant was most often illiterate. Finally, it is necessary to say that the rates cited above refer solely to rent of the land. If the landlord likewise furnished some farm tool or fertilizer, he demanded additional payment.

Backwardness of Land Relations

The landlords were themselves quite different. In the North, they lived in general amid their lands; capital went from the city to the countryside; the merchant tended to become a landlord. Contrariwise, in the South, the owner generally lived in the city. He invested the rents he received in business or industry. Capital went from the countryside to the city. In both cases, however, the capitalization of the land rent was never made through the industrialization or mechanization of agriculture, the improvement of the land or increase in the productivity of labor. It was done either by taking the land from ruined peasants and parceling it out to other peasants toiling with the same archaic methods, or by usury, trade, or by a combination of these different operations. This explains the considerable backwardness in the development of agriculture in relation to the growth of the population.

Bourgeois economists try to explain this backwardness by the lack of arable land or the excessive birth rate. In reality, it is a question of a phenomenon already well known in Russia and again today in India. Because of the lack of land, the landlord is interested in maintaining production within the limits of intensive small production similar to truck gardening, without introducing the methods of production and instruments of modern technique. Each year, all the surplus product and a part of the means of subsistence are taken from agriculture to feed and enrich the landlords, the bureaucrats and innumerable officers. This permanent crisis in agriculture cannot be resolved unless the owners are expropriated, a new concentration of land rendered impossible by the nationalization of the soil, the buying and selling of land forbidden and the countryside thus made capable of providing a market for the industries of the city, which in turn will furnish the countryside with the instruments needed to considerably raise agricultural production.

The Burden of Taxes and Usury

In addition to this basic cause of the poverty of the Chinese peasant, other evils overwhelmed him too, principal among them being the feudal vestiges, usury and the exorbitant taxes. Feudal vestiges were heavy in northern China and even in certain inland provinces of southern China. Not very far from Shanghai one could see the adobe castles of the landlords surrounded by the miserable huts of the peasants. The head of each sai (social unit composed of a number of villages) was at once judge, merchant, tax collector, usurer and executioner. He had his own army recruited on a “voluntary” basis among his servants and the poor peasants of the area. Forced labor, the lord’s feudal right over wives of the peasants, concubinage, existed on a wide scale.

Usury was the direct consequence of the exorbitant rate of rent which prevented the peasants from accumulating the least reserve fund. It expanded considerably with the commercialisation of agriculture which tied the value of the harvests to the fluctuations of the world market. If for natural causes or in consequence of the movement of prices a poor harvest made it impossible for the tenant to pay his taxes to the government and his rent to the landlord, he was obliged to borrow money from the usurer, the landlord himself or a member of his family. He was often obliged to borrow seed for the coming season or even food in order to give his family its meager pittance of millet or rice. Interest was extremely high and did not cease to mount in later years. On the eve of the war, it reached 40 to 60 percent a year. During the war it exceeded 100 percent for three months.

Who could be astonished in these conditions that “the most massive and best-built houses in the villages and small towns were always the pawnshops”? Or that the poor peasants of the province of Shansi had a bitter verse: “In good years, the landlord grows crops in the fields. In bad years, the landlord grows money in his house.”

During the war the four families sought to move in on the considerable profits of usury. Their Farmer’s Bank and above all the “government” farm cooperatives, which before the war had never advanced more thn 15 percent of the sums borrowed by the peasants, now furnished them 80 percent. These cooperatives loaned money to the village heads and small landlords who in turn loaned it to the peasant. As in the celebrated cartoon at the time of the peasant war, the tenant alone bore the cost of all these beautiful institutions which crushed him and pushed him into revolt.

The exorbitant character of the taxes has been emphasized again and again. In the history of China, the examples of insupportable tax systems which have pushed the peasants into revolt are innumerable. But never were any pushed to such extremes as in the final years of Kuomintang rule. Besides the land tax, there were a dozen different additional taxes which from 1941 on began to be collected in kind. In 1942, government monopolies were established for the sale of salt, sugar, tobacco and matches. At the same time, they established and extended the system of military requisitioning of manual labor and agricultural products which bled entire areas white.

In the article already cited, the writer Pei Wan-chung reports that in the province of Hopei in 1946 no one would accept a mow of land as a gift, the special tax exceeding in effect the annual revenue which one could squeeze from this morsel of land. Belden tells of a case where the special land tax passed annual production by more than 100 percent in the plain of Chengtu. And in the province of Honan, the same author discovered a case where the military requisitions of the Kuomintang army were one thousand times greater than the land tax. This had a precise significance – the peasants lost not only their land, their food and their clothing, they still had to sell their women and children as concubines or servants to the tax collectors or officers in charge of the requisition.

If the predominant mode of agriculture was that of small plots, the continuous expropriation of the small peasants through very high rates of rent, usury and taxes ended in the concentration of property in the hands of the village lords, usurers and merchant-usurer-compradors. It was not rate to find landlords possessing 20,000 mow (3,333 acres) or more. Ten percent of the agricultural population of China – lords and rich peasants – possessed 55 to 65 percent of the land. In the province of Shansi, 0.3 percent of the families possessed 24 percent of the land. In Chekiang, 3.3 percent of the families possessed half the land, while 77 percent of the poor peasants possessed no more than 20 percent of the land. And in Kwantung where 2 percent of the families possessed 53 percent of the land, 74 percent possessed only 19 percent of the land.

This explains why the insatiable land hunger of the peasant soon became transformed into a class hate with an exact object – hate for the landlord and all those allied with him. This hate precipitated the downfall of Chiang Kai-shek.

The Collapse of Chiang Kai-shek

When the economic and political situation becomes insupportable to all the productive classes of a society; when all the conflicts tend to become marked by force; when the classes supporting the decrepit power have lost all confidence in themselves; when indignation and revolt constantly mount; when the past and the future confront each other in every social conflict; at such a crucial time, the rulers of the country, seeing their power falling away definitively, end up despite themselves risking all in a fatally imprudent action because they are powerless to reverse the course of events. What the Varennes flight of Louis XVI was for the French aristocracy and the Kornilov coup d’etat for the Russian bourgeoisie, such was the Manchurian adventure of Chiang Kai-shek for the Chinese ruling classes.

We have seen that at the time the truce was agreed upon under the aegis of Marshall at the beginning of 1946, the Kuomintang still possessed considerable military superiority over the Communist armies. At that time nothing was yet clear-cut. The peasants had not yet definitively chosen. The uprisings were still sporadic. It was then that Chiang Kai-shek, against the advice of the Americans but with their aid, took his best armies to the north of China and Manchuria and began an offensive to drive the Communists out of the few cities which they still occupied after the departure of the Russians.

This maneuver proved fatal on all counts. Militarily, it lengthened the communication lines of the government armies to the extreme and ended in their isolation and complete encirclement far from the supply centers and vital centers of central China. Politically, it forced the Chinese Communist Party to proclaim agrarian reform to obtain the active support of the peasantry. And socially, it provoked the indignant hostility of this same peasantry because of the vexations and reprisals inflicted on them, and thus unleashed the uprisings on such a scale that the downfall of the Kuomintang became inevitable.

In vain the American advisors, including General Wedemeyer himself, counselled Chiang Kai-shek against the Manchurian campaign and proposed that he first consolidate his positions on the North plain. The generalissimo was obliged to take his chances as he had been obliged to sabotage the agreement with Mao Tse-tung. Chiang had used this tactic with success in crushing the revolution of 1927. But the revolutionary fires were then less numerous and more isolated. Now it was a question of the entire country. That is why in 1927 the lightning-blow of a concentrated force could overwhelm the main revolutionary centers one by one, while twenty years later a similar concentrated force found itself outflanked on all sides by the extent of the uprisings.

At first the generalissimo’s action seemed crowned with success. On May 23, 1946 government forces seized the important city of Changchun in Manchuria; the Communists were obliged to lift the siege of Tatung, important communication center in the province of Shansi. On October 10, the government troops seized Chihfeng, last important Communist center in the province of Jehol, and the big city of Kalgan. In November, they occupied the city of Tunghua in Manchuria, and finally, in March 1947, they occupied Yenan, which had been the Communist capital during the war with Japan.

Communists Gain Initiative

These quick successes would not have been possible had not the Communist command avoided being drawn into big engagements. The Communist troops retired systematically from the cities toward the countryside, contenting themselves with cutting communication lines between the urban centers occupied by the government troops, and harassing them constantly. Although the Kuomintang troops at the beginning of 1947 still had a numerical superiority of two to one and still greater superiority in arms, the immobilization of important contingents of the Kuomintang used to garrison the cities soon gave the advantage of the initiative to the Communist troops.

This initiative was utilized by the Communists in an audacious maneuver that was crowned with complete success. The armies of the Communist general Liu Po-cheng marched from their base positions in Shantung, close to the sea, toward the province of Honan in central China, separating the government forces which had conquered Yenan to the west from the main forces of the Kuomintang in the Suchow-Nanking area. The forces of General Liu gained the Yangtze and began to cross it in the month of June 1947. Other Communist forces followed and a new front was opened by the Communist troops on the two banks of the Yangtze in central China. At the same time, Liu continued his march, ending by establishing his general headquarters in the autumn of 1947 in the mountains between Nanking and Hankow, the very heart of the Kuomintang empire, from where in 1948 the decisive attacks were directed against the government forces. Thus began to develop the grandiose encircling maneuver which in 1948 overwhelmed the troops of the Kuomintang in the battle of Suchow and destroyed them there.

It would however be unjust to ascribe the success of the Communist maneuvers and the failure of the government maneuvers solely to the difference in strategic ability of the generals of the Kuomintang and those of the Chinese Communist Party. It is true that this difference existed, and that, adhering to the fundamental rules of the military art, the Communist chiefs sought above all to destroy the enemy , while the Kuomintang generals sought to occupy the big cities.

But in these different strategies was reflected the different structure of the two armies and the difference of their social function. Army of social conservatism, dragging with it an interminable train of parasites, living off the country and universally detested by the population, constantly losing forces when in march because of desertions and carelessness; cut from its supply bases in the South, and for that reason obliged to group itself around aviation fields where its food came by air – the army of Chiang Kai-shek was heavy, immobile, harassed continually from the rear by partisans, exposed more and more to demoralization. Army of social revolution, consciously seeking to gain the sympathy of the peasants by distribution of the land and food stocks , capable of dividing itself into innumerable columns which in course of the way became armies that grew larger with peasants in revolt; without baggage or a train of camp-followers, limiting itself to the most frugal nourishment on the level of the population of the area it traversed – Mao Tse-tung’s army enjoyed extreme mobility, unseizable by the forces of the adversary, utilizing with constantly repeated success the tactics of infiltration, seeing its morale growing at each new success and at each extension of the peasant uprisings. No matter what Chiang’s strategy, he would have lost this civil war in advance.

Peasant Revolt

As military operations, extended to an ever greater number of provinces and districts, the peasant uprisings similarly widened and deepened. The peasants had hesitated up to the summer of 1946. At that time, after months of hesitation and evasion, the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party decided to permit distribution of the land. This was the sole means available to halt the offensive of the government armies at the edges of the big cities and to recruit new forces. Peasant uprisings began to be felt behind Communist lines in territories under jurisdiction of the “Border Region Government.” Organizing at first with hesitation, then with growing courage as they became conscious of their forces in the frequently held public meetings , the poor peasants expropriated 21,000 landlords in the Shansi-Hopei-Shantung-Honan Border Region during the summer of 1947. This example exercised an irresistible attraction on the peasants in neighboring areas, then on the peasants of all China.

In vain the landlords supported themselves on the forces of the Kuomintang or on their own armed bands, seeking to dam the insurrections. The “fire brigades” which they organized against the “bandits” conducted a reign of terror in the villages, but this terror continually brought new recruits to the armies and partisan groups of Mao. Numerous students and functionaries escaped from the big cities to join the Communist forces. In the second half of 1947, the peasant insurrections in Hopei, Honan and Shantung brought together a new armed force. Farther to the south, an insurrection in Kiangsi forced the Kuomintang to open a new front. Along with the students and small functionaries, women joined their forces in the revolt, rising against the thousand-year-old slavery, covering the villages with their “Women’s Associations” which had written the emancipation of women on their banners. The downfall could not be delayed longer. But the Communists understood that the easiest and most crushing victory is not that carried off on the fields of battle, but the one conquered in the minds and hearts of the opposing army. Beginning in 1948, they concentrated all their forces on the disintegration of the government armies. The democratic structure of their army, the lack of privileges among their officers, the attention paid the ranks, the consideration with which prisoners were treated, paved the way for a radical reversal of the situation.

Chiang’s officers, already profoundly demoralized, treated their own soldiers as brutally at the first military reverses as the Chiang Kai-shek regime had treated its own peasants. Thousands of wounded were abandoned without any aid, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, destitute of food and clothing, did not even receive their pay. It was on these detachments that the Communists concentrated their efforts, efforts at fraternization. Beginning in May 1947, the press announced that special “supervisory” detachments would prevent the mass desertions of government troops in Manchuria. In January 1947, the whole American-equipped 26th Division went over to the Communist camp.

A year later this movement became irresistible. In September 1948, Tsinan, capital of Shantung, was captured thanks to the desertion of the troops of the general defending the city. In the same month, the important city of Kaifeng likewise surrendered at the same time as other centers. Chiang Kai-shek lost within a few weeks three armies and 300,000 men. The situation of his best armies in Manchuria became untenable. Besieged in Changchun, the 60th and the 7th government armies lost 13,000 soldiers and officers within a few weeks to the Communist camp; then it surrendered almost without a fight. At Chinchow, another Manchurian city, 120,000 men surrendered. The Communist troops took Mukden, capital of Manchuria, rejoining under forced march in December 1948, the Communist forces of the Great Plain, occupying rapidly Tientsin and Peking and destroying the bulk of the troops of the Kuomintang in the battle of Suchow.

The military collapse of the Kuomintang completely shook the foundations of the regime. Important military chiefs like General Fu Tso-yi, commander of Peking, went over to Mao’s camp. A spirit of everyone-for-himself marked the definitive disintegration of the party in power. Seeking to save itself by desperate measures, it opened a reign of terror in Shanghai, directed not only against the Communists but even against the bourgeoisie. The latter threw its weight in the scales and demanded the end of the civil war at any price. Chiang Kai-shek resigned as head of the government and retired to his home province. Peace parleys which could not lead to anything were undertaken. Meanwhile, the Communist armies regrouped along the whole Yangtze, central artery of China.

At midnight, April 20, 1949, when the Communist ultimatum for the acceptance of terms expired, Communist troops crossed the river at numerous strategic points in face of insignificant resistance. The triumphal march on Shanghai, Nanking, Hankow, Canton and Chungking began. In a few months, Mao Tse-tung became master of all continental China. The dictatorship of the Kuomintang had lasted 22 years, exactly the same as that of Mussolini.

May 1, 1950

(The second part of this article gives a description of the current situation in China, a study of the evolution of the policy of the Chinese Communist Party in the civil war, a criticism of the intervention of the USSR in China, an analysis of the class nature of the Chinese revolution and a sketch of the future perspectives of this revolution.)


Including Sinkiang and Manchuria, excluding Tibet and Outer Mongolia, China has an area of some 3.75 million square miles, that is, somewhat less than that of Europe. With Tibet and Outer Mongolia, China becomes 15 percent bigger than Europe.

Report of Pauley, President Truman’s special envoy to Manchuria, in the spring of 1940. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, May 4, 1947.

Jack Belden, China Shakes the World, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1949. pp.127-28.

United States Relations with China. Based on the files of the State Department, US Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., August 1949, pp.127-28.

Ibid., p.60. Belden, op. cit., pp.145 and 151.

Belden, op. cit., p.151.

Belden, op. cit., p.151.

Article by a Chinese professor in Journal of Farm Economics. Cited by John Bowman in The Chinese Peasant (Workers International News, January-February 1949).

Belden, op. cit., pp.151, 157.

Article from the Peking magazine Ta Kung Pao, reprinted in N.Y. Herald Tribune, July 8, 1947.

China Handbook, 1937-1943. Compiled by the Chinese Ministry of Information. The Macmillan Company, New York, 1943. pp.432-30.

Report by General Wedemeyer, United States Relations with China, pp.780-93.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, October 2, 1947.

United States Relations with China, p.770.

China Handbook, pp.612-13.

United States Relations with China, pp.782-83. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, August 21, November 29, 1947, June 5, 1948. N.Y. Herald Tribune, May 21 and August 7, 1948.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, September 9, 1948.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, October 10 and November 28. 1948. N.Y. Herald Tribune, October 10, 1948.

United States Relations with China, pp.781-82, 80, 89, 93.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, May 4 and June 3, 1947. United States Relations with China, p.221.

United States Relations with China, p.567.

United States Relations with China, pp.135-40.

United States Relations with China. pp.140-43.

United States Relations with China, pp.151-56.

United States Relations with China, pp.232, 158, 166.

In an interview with Marshall. December 1, 1946, Chiang-Kai-shek felt confident “the Communist forces could be exterminated in eight or ten months.” Previously, his military advisors had even declared that the Communist armies could be brought to terms within three months! (Ibid., pp.212, 216.)

See the declaration of Chu Teh, commander in chief of the Communist armies: “If the Kuomintang had carried out the People’s Consultative Council’s agreements in February, there would never have been a civil war.” (Robert Payne, China Awake, Dodd, Mead and Co., New York 1947, p.304.) Payne likewise reports that the Communist Party proposed as arbiter of a common administration of the town of Changchun, a big Manchurian capitalist, Mo Ti-huei.

Thus, to combat inflation, the government decided in September 1947 to bar importation of cosmetics and to limit the duration of banquets to two hours, limiting the number of dishes to the number of guests only, with a ceiling of 8 dishes! (Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Sept. 14, 1947).

United States Relations with China, pp.940-42, 945-46, 952-55, 969.

United States Relations with China, pp.1043-44.

See Program of Political Tutelage, fundamental charter of the Kuomintang between 1928 and 1937, in China Handbook, pp.84-85.

Robert Payne, Journey to Red China, p.110, Heinemann, London 1947.

United States Relations with China, pp.925-33. Belden, op. cit., pp.394-97.

L. Trotsky. Letter to the comrades of Peking, A Strategy of Action and Not of Speculations (La Lutte de Classe, Nos.46-47, January-February 1933).

Belden, op. cit., p.422.

Payne, op. cit., p.109.

Harold Isaacs, No Peace for Asia, Macmillan, New York 1947. pp.54-55, 60-61.

Belden, op. cit., pp.28, 52-53, 55, 71, 84.

Report of John P. Davies, Jr., United States Relations with China, p.567.

Belden, op. cit., pp.83, 84, 161-62.

Belden, op. cit., p.376.

N.Y. Herald Tribune, July 8, 1947. General Wedemeyer extends this conclusion to all of China. United States Relations with China. p.759.

Belden, op. cit., p.376.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, September 9, 1948.

United States Relations with China, p.758.

United States Relations with China, p.799.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung. June 15, 1948.

The Times, May 19, 1948.

Belden, op. cit., p.399.

United States Relations with China, pp.238-39. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, May 21, 1947. Le Soir, May 22, 1947.

Belden, op. cit., p.400-02.

Belden, op. cit., p.404. United States Relations with China, pp.277, 869, 872. Neue Zürcher Zeitung, July 17, 1948.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, August 12, 1947.

Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, May 12, 1947.

Harold Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, Seeker & Warburg, Ltd., London 1938, p.28. Belden, op. cit., p.155.

China Handbook, pp.609-10.

China Handbook, p.605. One reads: “Land ownership became more and more concentrated in the hands of a small section of the people.”

Agrarian Problems in Southernmost China. Cited by Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, pp.27-28.

China Handbook. p.608.

Bowman, The Chinese Peasant, op. cit.

Agnes Smedley, Feudal Vestiges in the Chinese Countryside, in Sneevliet’s magazine, De Nieuwe Weg, 1933, No.2.

Belden cites on this subject (op. cit., p.147) the following facts: From about 1650 to the present, the population of China grew from 70 million to 450 million, while the area under cultivation increased from 130 million acres to only 260 million!

Agnes Smedley, op. cit. Belden, op. cit. pp.155, 158.

Belden, op. cit., pp.152-53. Isaacs, op. cit., p.29.

Owen Lattimore, The Making of Modern China, pp.78-84. George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London 1945. Isaacs, op. cit. p.3.

China Handbook, pp.200-04.

Belden, op. cit., pp.157-58.

Belden, op. cit. pp.149-50.

United States Relations with China, pp.131-32.

Belden, op. cit., pp.360-61. The report of military operations is based essentially on the dispatches of A. Steele of the N.Y. Herald Tribune.

Military tactics outlined by Mao Tse-tung in his Christmas Day speech in 1947. Belden, op. cit., p.322.

Belden, op. cit., pp.361, 381.

Meetings to “settle accounts” or “list grievances” against the landlords. Belden, op. cit., pp.30-31, and in passing.

. Belden, op. cit., p.200.

N.Y. Herald Tribune, July 8, 1947.

Belden, op. cit., p.406. In October 1948, 4,500 students crossed over in ten days.

The Times, November 20, 1948.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung, June 27, 1947.

Belden, op. cit., p.351.

Notably by the execution of speculators, the arrest of owners of the biggest textile mills and Tu Yueh-sen, opium king of Shanghai and head of the yellow “trade unions” of the Kuomintang. (Belden, op. cit., p.409.) Belden, as well as others, indicates that the bourgeoisie was forced to resume commercial relations with the areas occupied by the Communists. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung of November 19, 1948, estimates that 25 to 40 percent of the goods imported in the Kuomintang ports went past the Communist lines.

The Bourgeois State: the Face of Everyday Reality

Ernest Mandel

Through the struggle waged by the labour movement certain institutions of the bourgeois state become both more subtle and more complex. Universal suffrage was substituted for suffrage for property-owners only; military service has become compulsory; everybody pays taxes.

The class character of the state then becomes a little less transparent. The nature of the state as an instrument of class domination is less evident than at the time of the reign of the classical bourgeoisie, when the relationships between the different groups exercising state functions were just as transparent as in the feudal era. The analysis of the modern state, therefore, will also have to be a little more complex.

First, let us establish a hierarchy among the different functions of the state.

In this day and age, nobody but the most naive believes that parliament really does the governing, that parliament is master of the state based on universal suffrage. (That illusion is, however, more widespread in those countries in which parliament is a fairly recent institution.)

The power of the state is a permanent power. This power is exercised by a certain number of institutions that are isolated from and independent of so changeable and unstable an influence as universal suffrage. These are the institutions that must be analysed if we are to learn where the real power lies: “Governments come and governments go, but the police and the administrators remain”.

The state is, above all, these permanent institutions: the army (the permanent part of the army - the general staff, special troops) the police, special police, secret police, the top administrators of government departments (“key” civil servants), the national security bodies, the judges, etc. - everything that is “free” of the influence of universal suffrage.

This executive power is constantly being reinforced. To the extent that universal suffrage appears and a certain democratisation, albeit completely formal, of certain representative institutions develops, it can be shown that real power slips from those institutions towards others that are more and more removed from the influence of parliament.

If the king and his functionaries lose a series of rights to parliament during the ascending phase of parliamentarism, on the contrary, with the decline of parliamentarism (which begins with the winning of universal suffrage), a continuous series of rights are lost by parliament and revert to the permanent and irremovable administrations of the state. This phenomenon is a general one throughout Western Europe. The present Fifth Republic in France is presently the most striking and most complete example of this phenomenon.

Should this turnabout, this reversal, be seen as a diabolical plot against universal suffrage by the wicked capitalists? A much deeper objective reality is involved: the real powers are transferred from the legislative to the executive; the power of the executive is reinforced in a permanent and continuous fashion as a result of changes that are also taking place within the capitalist class itself.

This process began at the time of World War 1 in most of the belligerent countries and has since continued without interruption. But the phenomenon often existed much earlier than that. Thus, in the German Empire this priority of the executive over the legislative appeared concomitantly with universal suffrage. Bismarck and the Junkers granted universal suffrage in order to use the working class to a certain extent as a lever against the liberal bourgeoisie, thus assuring (in that already essentially capitalist society) the relative independence of the executive power exercised by the Prussian nobility.

This process shows full well that political equality is more apparent than real and that the right of the citizen-voter is nothing but the right to put a little piece of paper in a ballot box every four years. The right goes no farther, nor, above all, does it reach the real centres of decision-making and power.

The monopolies take over from parliament

The classical era of parliamentarism was the era of free competition. At that time the individual bourgeois, the industrialist, the banker, was very strong as an individual. He was very independent, very free within the limits of bourgeois freedom, and could risk his capital on the market in any he wished. In that atomized bourgeois society, parliament played a very useful, and even indispensable, objective role in the smooth functioning of everyday affairs.

Actually, it was only in parliament that the common denominator of the interests of the bourgeoisie could be determined. Dozens of separate capitalist groups could be listed, groups opposed to one another by a multitude of sectional, regional, and corporative interests. These groups could get together in an orderly fashion only in parliament. (It’s true that they did meet on the market too, but there it was with knives, not words!) It was only in parliament that a middle line could be hammered out, a line that would express the interests of the capitalist class as a whole.

Because that was then the function of parliament: to serve as a common meeting place where the collective interests of the bourgeoisie could be formulated. Let us recall that in the heroic era of parliamentarism it was not only with words and votes that this collective interest was hammered out; fists and pistols were used, too. Didn’t the Convention, that classical bourgeois parliament during the French Revolution, send people to the guillotine by the slimmest of majorities?

But capitalist society is not going to remain atomized. Little by little, it call be seen organizing itself and structuring itself in a more and more concentrated, more and more centralized way. Free competition fades away: it is replaced by monopolies, trusts, and other capitalist groupings.

Capitalist power is centralized outside parliament

Now a real centralization of finance capital, big banks and financial groups, takes place. If the Analytique [1] of parliament expressed the will of the Belgian bourgeoisie a century ago, today it is above all the annual report of the Société Générale [2] or of Brufina, [3] prepared for their stockholders’ meetings, that must be studied to know the real opinions of the capitalists. These reports contain the opinions of the capitalists who really count, the big financial groups who dominate the life of the country.

Thus, capitalist power is concentrated outside parliament and outside the institutions born of universal suffrage. In the face of so high-powered a concentration (we need only remember that in Belgium a dozen financial groups control the economic life of the nation), the relationships between parliament and government officials, police commissioners and those multimillionaires is a relationship burdened very little by theory. It is a very immediate and practical relationship: and the connecting link is the payoff.

The bourgeoisie’s visible golden chains - the national debt

Parliament and, even more, the government of a capitalist state, no matter how democratic it may appear to be, are tied to the bourgeoisie by golden chains. These golden chains have a name - the public debt.

No government could last more than a month without having to knock on the door of the banks in order to pay its current expenses. If’ the banks were to refuse, the government would go bankrupt. The origins of this phenomenon are twofold. Taxes don’t enter the coffers every day; receipts are concentrated in one period of the year while expenses are continuous. That is how the short-term public debt arises. This problem could be solved by some technical gimmick. But there is another problem - a much more important one. All modern capitalist states spend more than they receive. That is the long-term public debt for which banks and other financial establishments can most easily advance money, at heavy interest. Therein lies a direct and immediate connection, a daily link, between the state and big business.

The hierarchy in the state apparatus ...

Other golden chains, invisible chains, make the state apparatus a tool in the hands of the bourgeoisie.

If we examine the method of recruiting civil service people, for example, we see that to become a junior clerk in a ministry, it is necessary to pass an examination. The rule seems very democratic indeed. On the other hand, not just anyone can take any examination at all for any level whatsoever. The examination is not the same for the position of secretary general of a ministry or chief of the army general staff as it is for junior clerk in a small government bureau. At first glance, this too would seem normal.

But - a big but - there’s a progression in these examinations that gives them a selective character. You have to have certain degrees, you have to have taken certain courses, to apply for certain positions, especially important positions. Such a system excludes a huge number of people who were not able to get a university education or its equivalent, because equality of educational opportunity doesn’t really exist. Even if the civil service examination system is democratic on the surface, it is also a selective instrument.

... mirror of the hierarchy in capitalist society

These invisible golden chains are also found in the remuneration received by members of the state apparatus.

All government agencies, the army included, develop this pyramidal aspect, this hierarchical structure, that characterizes bourgeois society. We are so influenced by and so imbued with the ideology of the ruling class that we tend to see nothing abnormal in the fact that a secretary general of a ministry receives a salary ten times higher than that of a junior clerk in the same ministry or that of the woman who cleans its offices. The physical effort of this charwoman is certainly greater; but the secretary general of the ministry, he thinks! - which, as everyone knows, is much more tiring. In the same way, the pay of the chief of the general staff (again, someone who thinks!) is much greater by far than that accorded to a second-class private.

This hierarchical structure of the state apparatus leads us to emphasize: In this apparatus there are secretaries general, generals of the army, bishops, etc., who have the same salary level, and therefore have the same standard of living, as the big bourgeoisie, so that they are part of the same social and ideological climate. Then come the middle functionaries, the middle officials, who are on the same social level and have the same income as the petty and middle bourgeoisie. And finally, the mass of employees without titles, charwomen, community workers, who very often earn less than factory workers. Their standard of living clearly corresponds to that of the proletariat. The state apparatus is not a homogeneous instrument. It involves a structure that rather closely corresponds to the structure of bourgeois society, with a hierarchy of classes and identical differences between them.

This pyramidal structure corresponds to a real need of the bourgeoisie. They wish to have at their disposal an instrument they can manipulate at will. It is quite obvious why the bourgeoisie has been trying for a long time, and trying very hard, to deny public service workers the right to strike.

Is the state simply an arbiter?

This point is important In the very concept of the bourgeois state - regardless of whether it may be more or less “democratic” in form - there is a fundamental premise, linked, moreover, to the very origin of the state: By its nature the state remains antagonistic, or rather nonadaptive, to the needs of the collectivity. The state is, by definition, a group of men who exercise the functions that in the beginning were exercised by all members of the collectivity. These men contribute no productive labour but are supported by the other members of society.

In normal times, there is not much need for watchdogs. Even in Moscow, for example, there is no one in charge of collecting fares on buses: passengers deposit their kopeck on boarding, whether or not anyone is watching them. In societies where the level of development of the productive forces is low, where everyone is in a constant struggle with everyone else to get enough to live on for himself out of a national income too small to go around, a large supervisory apparatus becomes necessary.

Thus, during the German occupation [of Belgium], a number of specialized supervisory services proliferated (special police in the railway stations, supervision of printshops, of rationing, etc.). In times like that, the area of conflict is such that an imposing supervisory apparatus proves indispensable.

If we think about the problem a bit, we can see that all who exercise state functions, who are part of the state apparatus, are - in one way or another - watchdogs. Special police and regular police are watchdogs, but so are tax collectors, judges, paper pushers in government offices, fare-collectors on buses, etc. In sum, all functions of the state apparatus are reduced to this: surveillance and control of the life of the society in the interests of the ruling class.

It is often said that the contemporary state plays the role of arbiter. This statement is quite close to what we have just said: “surveillance” and “arbitrating” - aren’t they basically the same thing?

Two comments are called for. First, the arbiter is not neutral. As we explained above, the top men in the state apparatus are part and parcel of the big bourgeoisie. Arbitration thus does not take place in a vacuum; it takes place in the framework of maintaining existing class society. Of course, concessions to the exploited can be made by arbitrators; that depends essentially on the relationship of forces. But the basic aim of arbitration is to maintain capitalist exploitation as such, if necessary by compromising a bit on secondary questions.

The watchdog-state, testimony to the poverty of society

Second, the state is an entity created by society for the surveillance of the everyday functioning of social life; it is at the service of the ruling class for the purpose of maintaining the domination of that class. There is an objective necessity for this watchdog organization, a necessity very closely linked to the degree of poverty, to the amount of social conflict that exists in the society. In a more general, historical way, the exercise of state functions is intimately connected with the existence of social conflicts. In turn, these social conflicts are intimately, connected with the existence of a certain scarcity of material goods, of wealth, of resources, of the necessary means for satisfaction of human needs. This fact should be emphasized: As long as the state exists, it will be proof of the fact that social conflicts (therefore the relative scarcity of goods and services as well) remain. With the disappearance of social conflicts, the watchdogs, rendered useless and parasitical, will disappear - but not before! Society, in effect, pays these men to exercise the functions of surveillance, as long as that is in the interests of part of society. But it is quite evident that from the moment no group in society has a stake in the watchdog function being exercised, the function will disappear along with its usefulness. At the same time, the state will disappear.

The very fact that the state survives proves that social conflicts remain, that the condition of relative scarcity of goods remains the hallmark of that vast period in human history between absolute poverty (the condition during primitive communism) and plenty (the condition of the future socialist society). As long as we are in this transitional period that covers ten thousand years of human history, a period that also includes the transition between capitalism and socialism, the state will survive, social conflicts will remain, and there will have to be people to arbitrate these conflicts in the interest of the ruling class.

If the bourgeois state remains fundamentally an instrument in the service of the ruling classes, does that mean that the workers should be indifferent to the particular form that this state takes parliamentary democracy, military, dictatorship, fascist dictatorship? Not at all! The more freedom the workers have to organize themselves and defend their ideas, the more will the seeds of the future socialist democracy grow within capitalist society, and the more will the advent of socialism be historically facilitated. That is why, the workers must defend their democratic rights against any and every attempt to curtail them (antistrike laws, institution of a “strong state”) or to crush them (fascism).

Next section

Ernest Mandel was a key Marxist economist and politcal theorist and longstanding leader of the Fourth International. He died in 1995.


[1] Analytique. The equivalent in Belgium of the US Congressional Record.

[2] Société Générale. Belgium’s most important capitalist grouping since its independence in 1830. Originally organized in the form of a merchant bank, the Société Générale was a forerunner of “finance capital”, which became general in other capitalist countries only in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This resulted from the Société’s early possession of controlling interests in many joint stock companies, especially in coal and steel. Later it controlled the famous Union Minière du Haut Katanga, as well as other companies in the Congo. Today it has reorganised in the form of a central holding company that controls stock in many apparently independent companies, among them Belgium’s main savings bank.

[3] Brufina. Belgium’s second largest capitalist grouping, Brufina grew out of the Banque de Bruxelles, the second largest Belgian bank.

Online Petition to the President of India against New Uranium Mining and Power Plants: Please Sign

Dear Friends,

An online petition, on behalf of the National Alliance of Anti-nuclear
Movements (NAAM), to the President of India (with copies marked to the Prime
Minister and the the Minister for Environment & Forests) is hosted at http://www.petitiononline.com/Nonukes/petition.html.

Pls. do visit to sign up.

Please circulate extensively urging friends and others to sign.

The petition, along with the full list of signatories, will be forwarded to the addressees and released to the media on the next Jan. 30, the Martyr's Day.


Peace Is Doable

Amendments to the resolution on the Role and Tasks of the Fourth International

by Hall (Appeals Commission, Britain) and Philomena (IC, France)


"In the next period, given the centrality of our understanding of women’s oppression and the strategic nature of the fight against it and the struggle to build the autonomous women’s movement in an anti-capitalist perspective, we must find the necessary resources to ensure that this question is developed as a central element of the anti-capitalist perspective we propose"

The amendments are indicated in bold.

Part 1

...The social and economic attacks and neoliberal counter reforms against the popular classes are going to in crease. There will be more wars and conflicts. Religious fundamentalism will be increasingly used as the ideological underpinning both for attacks on the popular classes, targeting notably women’s control of their own bodies, and wars and conflicts between nations and ethnic groups. Ecological catastrophes will hit millions of people, notably in the poorest regions disproportionately worsening the situation of women as those responsible for sustaining families.

A new historical period is on the horizon ....

Part 2

(1st para)

...The Belem WSF shows, nevertheless, the need and possibility for international convergences, but in a framework where struggles are more fragmented and dispersed. In Europe the success of the mobilisations against the G20 and NATO give an indication of a renewal of the global justice movement. The Istanbul ESF could be another important occasion.

The World March of Women proposes a new occasion of common initiative in 2010 which could become a step in rebuilding and strengthening this international feminist movement.

(last para)

... and a greater convergence of social fightback movement existing in different fields : anti-war and anti-nuclear, against the debt and for food sovereignty, in defence of social and ecological rights, in defence of women’s rights notably to control their own bodies, as well as the women’s movements playing a significant role in other social fightback movements, ...

Part 3

All the forces politically or institutionally linked to social-liberalism or to the centre left – including the women’s movement, notably in the institutionalised forms of NGOs, women’s aid associations, etc - are, to varying degrees, being dragged into these qualitative changes in the workers’ movement and are incapable of formulating a plan for getting out of the crisis.

Part 5

Revolutionary Marxist militants, nuclei, currents and organsiations must pose the problem of the construction of anti-capitalist, revolutionary political formations, with the perspective of establishing a new independent political representation of the working class that takes into account the diversity of the working class – in gender, race, residence status, age, sexual orientation - in defending a resolutely programme class-based programme.

our goal must be to to seek to build broad anti-capitalist political forces, independent of socal democracy and the centre left, formations which reject any policy of support to the class collaboratonist governments, today government with social democracy and the centre left, forces which understand that winning victories on women’s rights, like in the abortion referendum in Portugal, strengthen the radical anti-capitalist forces.

Part 7

(end of 1st para)

... opposition to any participation in governments (in the advanced capitalist countries) that merely manage the State and the capitalist economy having abandoned all internationalism or fight for an end to inequality and discrimination on gender, racial, ethnic, religious or sexual orientation grounds.

Part 10

As a result, in order to strengthen ourselves and play this role all the bodies of the FI must be reinforced : regular Bureau meetings, International Committees, specific working commissions, travel, exchanges between the sections. It is necessary to reinforce the activity that the International has deployed over the last few years in regularising and strengthening EPBs meetings and the efforts of coordination between the Latin American sections. The meetings of the International Committeee (IC) which are held every year representing about 30 organisations must ensure the organisational continuity of our international current.

Lack of resources as well as the decline in the presence of women, notably in our leading bodies, in the last period (result of the decline in activity of a strong autonomous women’s movement which has had an impact on our national organisations and thus the International), have meant that we have not sustained an active women’s commission and a corresponding network of regional meetings and international schools. Three women’s seminars have been held since 2000 as well as meetings of the women comrades present at each IC. These have maintained a limited and fragile but neverthless real feminist internationalist perspective. In the next period, given the centrality of our understanding of women’s oppression and the strategic nature of the fight against it and the struggle to build the autonomous women’s movement in an anti-capitalist perspective, we must find the necessary resources to ensure that this question is developed as a central element of the anti-capitalist perspective we propose. In this framework we must at the same time strengthen our internal commission and be on the offensive in proposing discussions to our partners, including participation in seminars and schools in our Institute. This process must also find a reflection at national level.

At the same time we must ensure that the women in our organisations – and in the new parties we are building – find their full place and that the simple adoption of parity or quotas for leadership bodies or electoral lists is not considered a sufficient answer to the obstacles to women’s full participation in the political process. The range of measures constituting a positive action plan were presented in the 1991 World Congress resolution on positive action.

The educational institute has taken on a fresh impetus. We now have to ensure that the schools and seminars are held and ensure the equilibrium of its management and its organisation. The FI must also open up its meeting and its Institute. The Institute occupies a central place, not only to educate the cadres of the section but also to contribute to the exchanges between currents and to various international experiences. The seminar on climate change open to a series of international experts is a good example. Like other meetings it indicates the necessity and the possibility that we are a crucible for programmatic elaboration of essential questions that anti-capitalist and revolutionary currents are tackling. Our schools have always been an occasion for inviting participation from organisations with which we are building relations. This role must be strengthened and broadened in the coming period.

To sum up, in the coming period, and on an orientation aimed at building a new international force or a new International, the FI as an internal framework, represents an essential asset for revolutionary Marxists.

Israel: Colonial-settler state

Phil Gasper

ZIONISM IS a political movement that originally emerged in the late nineteenth century as a response to anti-Semitism, particularly in Eastern Europe. Capitalist development undermined the traditional commercial roles that many Jews had played in the old feudal economy. As the economic system moved into periodic crises, ruling groups in many countries would deflect mass anger at economic hardship and political repression by scapegoating Jews.

Zionists drew the pessimistic conclusion that anti-Semitism could not be eliminated, and that to escape persecution Jews had to emigrate to a region where they could set up an exclusively Jewish state. At the time of the Dreyfus Affair in France, in which a Jewish army officer was falsely accused of espionage, Theodor Herzl–who is generally regarded as the father of Zionism–wrote:

I achieved a freer attitude toward anti-Semitism, which I now began to understand historically and to pardon. Above all, I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to "combat" anti-Semitism.1

The Russian Zionist Leo Pinsker similarly argued that "Judeo-phobia is a psychic aberration" that is "hereditary" and "incurable."2

Herzl set out the Zionist program in 1896 in a pamphlet called The State of the Jews. He called for a Jewish state to be set up in an undeveloped country outside Europe. Herzl was explicit that the program could be carried out only with the backing of one of the major imperialist powers, who were at that time carving up the world between them. Once such support had been won, the Zionist movement would conduct itself like other colonizing ventures.

Various sites for the new state were considered, including Argentina and Madagascar, but the influence of religious Jews led the Zionists to decide on Palestine, the Biblical "promised land."

Herzl declared that, if it were created, this Jewish state would form "a portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism."3 In other words, the new state would be part of the system of colonial domination of the rest of the world.

Having chosen Palestine, the Zionist movement attempted to persuade one of the imperialist powers to give them support in colonizing it. Initially, Turkey and Germany were approached. According to one Zionist spokesperson,

Turkey can be convinced that it will be important for her to have in Palestine and Syria a strong and well-organized group which…will resist any attack on the authority of the Sultan and defend his authority with all its might.4

Similar advances were made to Germany.

The founders of Zionism were even prepared to ally themselves with the most vicious anti-Semites. Herzl approached Count Von Plehve, the sponsor of the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia: "Help me to reach the land sooner and the revolt [against Tsarist rule] will end." Herzl and other Zionist leaders offered to help guarantee Tsarist interests in Palestine and to rid Eastern Europe and Russia of those "noxious and subversive Anarcho-Bolshevik Jews"–in other words, to get rid of the people who wanted to fight anti-Semitism rather than capitulate to it. Von Plehve agreed to finance the Zionist movement as a way of countering socialist opposition to the Tsar:

The Jews have been joining the revolutionary parties. We were sympathetic to your Zionist movement as long as it worked toward emigration. You don’t have to justify the movement to me. You are preaching to a convert.5

When Britain took control of Palestine at the end of the First World War, Zionists turned their attention to lobbying the British government. The Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann argued, "A Jewish Palestine would be a safeguard to England, in particular in respect to the Suez Canal."6 This argument became increasingly attractive to the British ruling class. The war had underlined the importance of the Middle East, which guarded the sea routes to the Far East and contained the immensely profitable and strategically vital Persian oil fields.

Britain was eager to find ways to consolidate its power in the region, in opposition to both the other imperial powers and the emerging anticolonial nationalist movements in countries like Egypt. On November 2, 1917, the British foreign minister Lord Balfour, a notorious anti-Semite, issued the following declaration:

His Majesty’s Government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object….7

One person who played an important role in arguing for the declaration was the South African delegate to the British war cabinet, General Jan Smuts, a close friend of Weizmann’s and a future South African prime minister. In fact, Zionist leaders like Herzl and Weizmann frequently compared their aims with the South African conception of a racially distinct colonizing population, and built close ties with South Africa. In his diaries, Herzl had explicitly drawn parallels between himself and the most prominent representative of British imperialism in South Africa, Cecil Rhodes:

Naturally there are big differences between Cecil Rhodes and my humble self, the personal ones very much in my disfavor, but the objective ones greatly in favor of our [Zionist] movement.8

The Balfour declaration did not create a Jewish state, but it did encourage mass emigration to Palestine and the construction of an extensive settler community that was to become the basis of the state of Israel. But there was one problem. Contrary to Zionist propaganda that Palestine was "a land without people for a people without a land," the area was in fact the most densely populated region of the Eastern Mediterranean, with an Arab population that had lived there for about 1,000 years and had developed an extensive economy.9

Small Jewish settlements had existed in Palestine from the late nineteenth century, but after 1917 the colonization process accelerated considerably. Jewish organizations bought up large areas of land from absentee landlords, displacing large numbers of Palestinian peasants. The Zionists also began building an exclusively Jewish "enclave" economy, organized around the Histadrut–the general confederation of Hebrew workers in Palestine. The settlers refused to employ Arab labor and boycotted Arab goods.

In the 1930s, the rise of fascism in Europe gave a further boost to Jewish immigration, even though most Jews had no interest in moving to Palestine. Zionism was still very much a fringe movement among Jews, and only 8.5 percent of Jewish migrants went to Palestine during this period. The number would have been even smaller if countries such as the U.S. and Britain had not had racist immigration policies that excluded most Jews. The refugees who did arrive in Palestine, however, strengthened the settler community.

The founding of a Zionist state is often justified as a response to the rise of fascism and to the horrors of the Nazi holocaust that exterminated six million Jews. But far from fighting against fascism, Zionists frequently collaborated with the fascists. In 1933, the Zionist Federation of Germany sent a memorandum of support to the Nazis:

On the foundation of the new [Nazi] state which has established the principle of race, we wish to fit our community into the total structure so that for us, too, in the sphere assigned to us, fruitful activity for the Fatherland is possible.10

Later that year, the World Zionist Organization congress defeated a resolution for action against Hitler by a vote of 240 to 43.

Leading Nazis like Joseph Goebbels wrote articles praising Zionism, and some Zionists received Nazi funds. A member of the Haganah, a Zionist militia in Palestine, delivered the following message to the German SS in 1937:

Jewish nationalist circles…were very pleased with the radical German policy, since the strength of the Jewish population in Palestine would be so far increased thereby that in the foreseeable future the Jews could reckon upon numerical superiority over the Arabs.11

The Zionist movement went so far as to oppose changes in the immigration laws of the U.S. and Western Europe, which would have permitted more Jews to find refuge in these countries. In 1938, David Ben-Gurion, who was to become the first prime minister of Israel, wrote:

If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael [greater Israel], then I would opt for the second alternative.12

This philosophy was put into practice. As the author Ralph Schoenman notes in The Hidden History of Zionism:

Throughout the late thirties and forties, Jewish spokespersons in Europe cried out for help, for public campaigns, for organized resistance, for demonstrations to force the hand of allied governments–only to be met not merely by Zionist silence but by active Zionist sabotage of the meager efforts which were proposed or prepared in Great Britain and the United States.

The dirty secret of Zionist history is that Zionism was threatened by the Jews themselves. Defending the Jewish people from persecution meant organizing resistance to the regimes which menaced them. But these regimes embodied the imperial order which comprised the only social force willing or able to impose a settler colony on the Palestinian people. Hence, the Zionists needed the persecution of the Jews to persuade Jews to become colonizers afar, and they needed the persecutors to sponsor the enterprise.

Meanwhile, Jews in Palestine were given privileged status by the British colonial regime. The British helped to establish and train a Zionist militia, granted Jewish capital 90 percent of economic concessions, and paid Jews higher wages than Arabs for equal work. From the 1920s onward, the British government used the Jewish settlers to help suppress mass Arab demonstrations against landlessness and unemployment and for independence. The most sustained uprising by the Palestinians took place from 1936 to 1939, and included a general strike of several months, the withholding of taxes, civil disobedience and armed insurrection. The British responded by declaring martial law and instituting mass repression, relying heavily on Zionist forces. Hundreds of Palestinians were executed or assassinated, thousands were imprisoned, and thousands of homes were demolished.13

The foundation of Israel

But Britain, greatly weakened by the Second World War, was forced to withdraw from Palestine. In 1947, the leading imperialist powers, including the U.S. and the USSR, decided to partition the country into separate Jewish and Palestinian states. Even though at this time Jews comprised only 31 percent of the population, the Zionists were given 54 percent of the fertile land.

Even this was not satisfactory for the Zionists, however. In 1938, Ben-Gurion had declared:

The boundaries of Zionist aspiration include southern Lebanon, southern Syria, today’s Jordan, all of Cis-Jordan [the West Bank] and the Sinai.… After we become a strong force as the result of the creation of the state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine. The state will only be a stage in the realization of Zionism and its task is to prepare the ground for our expansion. The state will have to preserve order…with machine guns.14

The Zionist project could only be completed if the local Arab population was expelled. As Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department, had put it in 1940:

There is no room for both peoples together in this country…. We shall not achieve our goal of being an independent people with the Arabs in this small country…. And there is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries. To transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe should be left.15

Another Zionist document, the "Koenig Report," was even more blunt:

We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.16

In 1948, this policy was put into effect. Zionist forces seized three-quarters of the land and expelled close to one million Palestinians. Military groups, whose leaders included the future Israeli prime ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, carried out massacres at Deir Yassin and other villages designed to terrorize the rest of the Palestinian population into fleeing for their lives. At Deir Yassin, 254 men, women, and children were murdered. In Begin’s own words:

All in the Jewish forces proceeded to advance through Haifa like a knife through butter. The Arabs began fleeing in panic, shouting "Deir Yassin."17

Other massacres were carried out by the official Israeli Defense Forces. At the village of Dueima, according to the eyewitness account of one soldier,

They killed between eighty to one hundred Arab men, women and children. To kill the children they fractured their heads with sticks. There was not one home without corpses…. Educated and well-mannered commanders who were considered "good guys"…became base murderers, and this not in the storm of battle, but as a method of expulsion and extermination.18

Nearly 500 Palestinian villages existed in the territory that came under Israeli occupation after partition in 1947. During 1948 and 1949, nearly 400 of these were razed to the ground. More were destroyed in the 1950s. In 1969, Moshe Dayan, former chief of staff and minister of defense, summarized the nature of the Zionist colonization:

We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs, and we are building here a Hebrew, Jewish state. Instead of Arab villages, Jewish villages were established…. There is not a single [Jewish] settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village.19

Zionist apologists have defended Israel’s expansion on the grounds that the survival of the Jewish state was threatened by hostile Arab neighbors. On the pretext of defending the Palestinians, Arab countries did launch a military offensive in 1948, but as John Rose notes, "It was a totally unreal exercise. There were military clashes–but key Arab governments were already in negotiations with the Israelis."20 Israelis forces vastly outmatched their Arab counterparts, and they used the opportunity to seize as much territory as possible.

In his diary, Moshe Sharett, Israeli prime minister in the 1950s, admits that the security argument has always been a fraud. According to Sharett, the Israeli political and military leadership never believed in any Arab danger to Israel. Rather, Israel has sought to maneuver and force the Arab states into military confrontations that the Zionist leadership was certain of winning so that Israel could destabilize Arab regimes and occupy more territory. Israel’s aim has been to "dismember the Arab world, defeat the Arab national movement and create puppet regimes under regional Israeli power" and "to modify the balance of power in the region radically, transforming Israel into the major power in the Middle East."21

Before 1947, Jews owned about 6 percent of the land in Palestine. In the process of establishing the state of Israel, the Zionists expropriated 90 percent of the land, the vast majority of which formerly belonged to Arabs. Entire cities were emptied of Palestinians, and Palestinian orchards, industry, rolling stock, factories, houses, and possessions were seized. Close to one million Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homeland.

The Arabs who remained in Israel became second-class citizens, while Palestinians who were driven out of the country were forced to live in poverty in refugee camps throughout the Middle East. Israel passed "The Law of Return," which allows every person of Jewish descent to emigrate to Israel, but the Palestinians were not allowed to return to their own homeland.

Following the Six Day War in 1967, Israel occupied further territory including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, 55 percent of the land and 70 percent of the water were seized for the benefit of Jewish settlers who constituted only a tiny fraction of the population. In Gaza, 2,200 settlers were given more than 40 percent of the land while 500,000 Palestinians were confined to crowded camps and slums.

Israel’s actions have been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations (UN), but the U.S. government has ensured that nothing has been done to enforce a series of UN resolutions. Since its creation, Israel has been a defender of Washington’s interests in the oil-rich region of the Middle East. The US wanted a client state in the region that could help prevent popular resistance to its control of oil. As the influential Jewish paper Ha’aretz put it in 1951:

Israel is to become the watchdog. There is no fear that Israel will undertake any aggressive policy towards the Arab states when this would explicitly contradict the wishes of the U.S. and Britain. But, if for any reasons the western powers should sometimes prefer to close their eyes, Israel could be relied upon to punish one or several neighboring states whose discourtesy to the west went beyond the bounds of the permissible.22

As a consequence, Israel has received billions of dollars of U.S. aid every year, which has made it one of the most heavily armed states in the world.


1 Theodor Herzl, The Diaries of Theodor Herzl (New York: Dial Press, 1956), p. 6.

2 Quoted in Nathan Weinstock, Zionism: False Messiah (London: Pluto Press, 1989), p. 44.

3 Quoted in Maxime Rodinson, Israel and the Arabs (Hardmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1973), p. 14.

4 Quoted in Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism (San Francisco: Socialist Action, 1988).

5 See Andre Chouraqui, The Life of Theodor Herzl (Jerusalem: Keter Books, 1970), p. 230, for an account of Herzl’s meeting with Plehve.

6 Quoted in Weinstock, p. 96.

7 Quoted in Weinstock, p. 97.

8 Quoted in Uri Davis, Israel: An Apartheid State (London: Zed Books, 1987), pp. 3—4.

9 See, for example, Rashid Khalidi, "Palestinian peasant resistance to Zionism before World War I," in Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens, eds., Blaming the Victims (New York: Verso, 1988).

10 Quoted in Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators (Westport, Conn.: Lawrence Hill & Co., 1983), pp. 48—49.

11 Quoted in Brenner, p. 99.

12 Quoted in Brenner, p. 149.

13 Phil Marshall, Intifada: Zionism, Imperialism and Palestinian Resistance (London: Bookmarks, 1989), pp. 35—43.

14 Quoted in Schoenman.

15 Quoted in Maxime Rodinson, Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1973), p.16. As Weinstock observes, "These words, it should be borne in mind, express the mentality of moderate ‘Labour’ Zionists" (Weinstock, p.154) .

16 Quoted in Schoenman.

17 Quoted in Weinstock, p. 242. For a description by an Israeli historian of the massacre, see Simha Flaphan, The Birth of Israel (New York: Pantheon Books, 1987), p. 94.

18 Quoted in Schoenman. The massacres continued after the state of Israel was established, for example at Qibya in 1953 and at Kafr Kassem in 1956. Both of these attacks were commanded by Ariel Sharon, later the Israeli defense minister and today leader of the Likud Party. See Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle (Boston: South End Press, 1983), pp. 158—59 and 383—85.

19 Quoted in Schoenman.

20 John Rose, Israel: The Hijack State (Chicago: ISO, 1986), p. 42.

21 Quoted in Schoenman.

Carbon trading: a corporate scam

Patrick Bond, Rehana Dada, Graham Erion

With climate change posing as one of the gravest threats to capital accumulation - not to mention humankind and our environment - in coming decades, it is little wonder that economists such as Sir Nick Stern, establishment politicians like Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and US Democrat Al Gore, and financiers at the World Bank and in the City of London have begun warning the public and, in the process, birthing a market for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The idea is to sell the right to continue polluting in the North, in the hope that more efficient energy systems can be incentivised through “Clean Development Mechanism” (CDM) offset projects in the Third World.

This was the key theory motivating capitalist states’ support for the Kyoto Protocol and, since February 2005, when the protocol was ratified by Russia and formally came into effect, a great deal more money and propaganda have been invested in the carbon market, including at a major Nairobi climate conference last November.

Rather than forcing countries, or firms, to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions, Kyoto Protocol designers created - from thin air - a carbon market and gave countries a minimal reduction target (5% from 1990 emissions levels, to be achieved by 2012). They can either meet that target through their own reductions or by purchasing emissions credits from countries or firms that reduce their own greenhouse gases beyond their target level.

But as Larry Lohmann from the British NGO Cornerhouse and the Durban Group for Climate Justice remarked: “The distribution of carbon allowances [the prerequisite for trading] constitutes one of the largest, if not the largest, projects for creation and regressive distribution of property rights in human history.”

Big oil companies, particularly, win property rights to pollute at the level they always have, instead of facing up to their historic debt to the Third World for using its atmosphere as a “sink”, a function that the UN estimated was worth US$75 billion annually in 2000.

South Africa is a good case study of abuses, for in mid-2005, Sasol, one of the country’s largest companies, admitted its gas pipeline project proposal to the CDM bureaucracy lacked the key requirement of “additionality” - i.e., the firm doing something (thanks to a lucrative incentive) that it would not have done anyway - thus unveiling the CDM as vulnerable to blatant scamming.

At Durban’s vast Bisasar Road rubbish dump, Africa’s largest landfill, community protests against ongoing carcinogenic emissions have derailed the World Bank and municipal state’s plans to market a methane-capture project as a CDM.

According to Sajida Khan, a cancer victim leading the fight: “The poor countries are so poor they will accept crumbs. The World Bank knows this and it is taking advantage of it.”

Similar protests across the Third World have targeted destructive CDMs such as tree planting at Brazil’s Plantar industrial timber plantation, and in Indian communities where mass demonstrations are raising the profile of the dangerous market.

Carbon trading may also suffer classic contradictions of capitalist markets, such as volatility, overproduction and manipulation. In April 2006, Brown made a strong pitch at the United Nations “for a global carbon trading market as the best way to protect the endangered environment while spurring economic growth”.

But 10 days later, the European Union’s emissions trading market crashed thanks to the over-allocation of pollution rights, and the carbon spot market price lost more than half its value in a single day, destroying many CDM projects earlier considered viable investments.

Guardian columnist George Monbiot recently explained why schemes like tree-planting are so dubious: “While they have a pretty good idea of how much carbon our factories and planes and cars are releasing, scientists are much less certain about the amount of carbon tree planting will absorb. When you drain or clear the soil to plant trees, for example, you are likely to release some carbon, but it is hard to tell how much. Planting trees in one place might stunt trees elsewhere, as they could dry up a river which was feeding a forest downstream. Or by protecting your forest against loggers, you might be driving them into another forest. In other words, you cannot reasonably claim to have swapped the carbon stored in oil or coal for carbon absorbed by trees. Mineral carbon, while it remains in the ground, is stable and quantifiable. Biological carbon is labile and uncertain.”

The main force for a genuine alternative to capitalism’s fake market mitigation strategy will be public pressure. With Third World communities and progressive environmentalists - especially the Durban Group for Climate Justice - seeking and finding allies serious about the climate crisis, there will be fewer opportunities for Nick Stern and Gordon Brown to sell bogus market solutions to capital’s pollution problems.
BOND Patrick, DADA Rehana, ERION Graham

* From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #694 17 January 2007.

* Patrick Bond, Rehana Dada & Graham Erion are editors of a new book “Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society”, available from Rozenberg Press, Amsterdam.

Women and the crisis of civilisation

Debate : Contributions to the World Congress discussion


Women and the crisis of civilisation


by Hall (Appeals Commission, Britain) and Philomena (IC, France)


The convergence of the different aspects of the crisis of global capitalism today confirms that we are faced with systemic economic, ecological and social crises, which combine to produce a crisis of civilisation.

In this paper we indicate some of the ways in which this crisis particularly affects women.

Women were already at the bottom of the pile before the crises started, so it is no surprise that we feel the effects of these disasters most acutely. Women’s subordinate place within the labour market, notwithstanding the limited gains made as a result of women’s self organisation, remain a reflection of the sexual division of labour and inferior status of women within the patriarchal capitalist family. The family, together with the education system, continues to reproduce notions that women are inherently inferior to men —or at best have different destinies as primary care givers to children and the elderly— a particularly important notion for the state to fall back on as it slashes public services. The family continues to be the main site of violence (and repression) against women.

And make no mistake: what is tested out on women today in terms of the capitalists’ attempts to make sure they do not pay for the crisis will be imposed on the whole of the working class tomorrow, as we have already seen in many other instances, for example with part-time work.

In response to all these issues, we need to make sure that the demands we raise as parties and campaigns take into account the specific oppression of women. Sometimes this will mean raising specific demands that affect women (e.g., abortion or equal pension rights), but it always means looking at what we say from women’s point of view.

So, for example, the demand for a shorter working day/week is in the interests of the whole working class, but has particular importance for women while we also carry out the double burden of domestic labour. Another example: nationalisation of the banks has come to the forefront of our propaganda as a result of the credit crunch, though of course we understand that the economic crisis did not start and will not end with the banking crisis. But women, as one of the poorest sections of the working class, are particularly affected by rises in interest rates and limitations in the availability of credit.

Of course, the context in which these demands are formulated will be different in each national situation and need to be adapted to meet the concrete realities in which we are working. The programme developed by the Belgian comrades for the 2009 European elections, "An ecosocialist Europe will be feminist or it will not exist," is a good example of how this can be done.

Women are also an integral part of the resistance to the onslaught and the fight we see taking place to create the other ecosocialist and feminist world that is daily ever more necessary. Women’s self-organisation is essential to achieving this. The steps forward that women have made in terms of the constituent assembly and the campaign against public debt in Ecuador, for example, are not because Correa decided to grant women favours but because women’s self-organisation helped create the balance of forces that won these gains.

Women and Climate Change

Poverty and inequality is the lot of the majority of women in the south, and they are the first to be hit by the climate crisis, caused by emissions produced mainly in the countries of the north. Eighty percent of the 1.3 billion people in the world living under the poverty line are women.

Women produce 80% of food in the south, so desertification, the loss of water resources, etc., have a huge impact on their daily lives. When people are forced to move because the place they live can no longer provide any food because of climate change, women and children are and will be the majority of those displaced.

A report published by Oxfam in June 2009, The Winds of Change: Climate change, poverty and the environment in Malawi, argues that women are affected most by climate change because they have multiple roles as farmers, providers of food, water and firewood, and child carers. It also points out that women in Malawian society have no say in decision making and that climate change exacerbates existing inequalities. It further argues that there is a danger that deepening poverty will pressure women to sell sex for food and that this will further exacerbate the spread of HIV/AIDS. The spread of HIV/AIDs will further weaken the ability of the population to resist climate chaos.

In 2008 the level of global malnutrition grew by 800,000 to reach more than 1 billion people and, at the same time, diseases such as cholera that we have long known how to eliminate are now re-occurring as part of this crisis of civilisation.

The fight for women’s access to decent free public education and health care, including access to abortion, contraception, and sex education, is an essential element of combating the climate crisis especially in the south. Women are often at the forefront of campaigns to defend and extend these essentials.

The neo-Malthusian answer to the climate crisis arguing that there are too many people on the planet seeks to further limit women’s right to control our own bodies and is racist in that the rate of population growth is greater in the countries of the south. Our first response is to fight for the extension of women’s fertility control, as well as for the eradication of poverty which means that there is less pressure on communities to provide more people. We also fight against capitalist consumerism which means that so much of what is produced has no use value and is deeply environmentally wasteful.

The growing impact of agribusiness, production of biofuels and the continuing sell-off of land to multinationals for the continued extraction of oil and other resources has resulted and will continue to result in the loss of land and of autonomy for small producers, the majority of whom are women, many from indigenous communities. Pesticides destroy organic crops of small producers.

Indigenous women and women landless farmers play a central role in defending forest ecosystems from governments who want to sell them to the highest bidder and mutinationals who want use them for the production of biofuels and to extract other resources including water, tropical hardwoods (which take hundreds of years to grow a few inches) as well as oil and other minerals. The action by Via Campesina women in Brazil, who destroyed the Aracruz Celulosa substitution for eucalyptus, was a victorious example of women playing a leading role in defending the biosphere. Women of many indigenous communities are also central to the defence of ancestral lands.

  • Diminishing energy consumption by ending wasteful production including the arms industry, nuclear industry, advertising and the explosion of air transport
  • For localisation of production, including agriculture
  • End the use of harmful energy sources and expand sustainable energy
  • Free and adequate public transport
Women and the Economic Crisis

Neoliberal globalisation has resulted in a vast expansion of insecure jobs with short-term contracts and the massive extension of part-time work. At the same time, the informal economy has spread from the countries of the south to parts of the north and to sectors that were previously part of the formal economy.

The majority of those who work in the informal economy are women and children. For example, 1-2% of the urban populations of the world make some sort of living from collecting and reselling waste on landfill sites. The majority of these are women and children. The demand from industry for recycled paper, especially from China, has already begun to fall as a result of the recession, which means the price for these products is falling significantly, and therefore so is the ability of those sectors of the population who live by collecting and reselling them to survive.

In a recession, informal sector jobs are lost at the same time that some previously in the formal sector move into the informal sector. In the south some export-oriented industries like textiles where large numbers of women have been employed have grown rapidly: in Africa for example 100,000 new jobs were created over the last 7 years. But demand has reduced as a result of the economic crisis. In the Philippines, 42,000 jobs in textiles, semiconductor and conductor industries, where a majority of workers are women, were lost in one day (Oxfam report, Paying the Price for the Economic Crisis, March 2009).

Export manufacturing is, of course, an area where workers have virtually no rights, so most of the women who have lost their jobs in this sector have received no redundancy pay or social security benefits. Even where there is supposedly a legal right to them, where there is no worker’s organisation to ensure that this happens, the bosses ignore their legal obligations.

The growth of microcredit has been important in allowing some economic independence for growing numbers of women in the south. But the recession means that its availability is severely reduced, which will have a negative impact on women’s economic and therefore social and political independence.

In terms of job losses in the formal sector, the crisis has so far impacted differently on women in different countries. The motor industry —where it exists, one of the hardest hit sectors— is generally male-dominated. In some places, generally those countries of the advanced capitalist world where the recession has already hit deeply, we have already seen big job losses in the service sector where a majority of workers are women. In countries where this has not yet happened, the service sector will be next.

Though statistics on global rates of unemployment for women and men are difficult to find, it seems that so far the differential rate of unemployment has not increased; it will, however, as the crisis has more impact on the service sector. Oxfam says the majority of jobs lost in the south are women’s, while in the US, female unemployment rose faster than male in May 2009 (5.6% for women, 4.1% for men - Womenstake.org)

Despite legal protection in most advanced capitalist countries, women workers have continued to suffer particular discrimination when they become pregnant. Indeed the assumed possibility that they will get pregnant lies behind much discrimination against women of child-bearing age. But there is evidence in Britain at least that this is getting worse in the recession. The Alliance against Pregnancy Discrimination in Britain, a coalition of different groups who have come together to campaign on this issue, says:

”There has been an alarming increase in the number of pregnant women and new mothers who are being made redundant. It appears that some employers are using the recession as an excuse to break the law on discrimination. With the economic downturn has come a rise in the number of calls to our organisations from women facing maternity or pregnancy discrimination. We have examples of pregnant women being singled out for redundancy and of women returning from maternity leave to find their jobs have gone.

”Even before the recession, the Equal Opportunities Commission had already estimated that 30,000 women lose their jobs each year as a result of being pregnant, and this figure looks set to rise. This shocking impact of the recession is not only morally wrong and deeply damaging to workplace gender equality - it is illegal” (http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/documents/AllianceAgainst PregnancyDiscrimination.pdf ).

The sub-prime crisis in the US, the first visible sign of today’s crisis, has taken a higher toll on women - especially women of colour. Thirty-two percent of women mortgage holders have sub-prime mortgages vs. 24% of men; and African American and Latino homeowners were 30% more likely to have received sub-prime loans (Ms Foundation for Women).

And of course poverty rates increase during economic downturns; with the increasing costs of even basic necessities like food, transportation, and energy, the number of poor families is growing. And once a family has fallen into it, poverty is difficult to escape. An estimated 60% of families in the bottom fifth of income levels remain there a decade later (Ms Foundation for Women).

And, as is historically the case, when women are faced with no current or future prospects for job opportunities, even in the informal sector, already strained by its swelling ranks, they often turn to considering marriage and child-rearing as their only “acceptable” alternative. Still others try to keep a roof over their and their children’s heads by selling their bodies for sex.

  • Nationalise the banks under popular control, extend provision of microcredits, and increase government aid especially to women
  • For shorter working week/day with no loss of pay
  • For the ending of temporary contracts. Full rights for all workers
  • Against discrimination including at work on the basis of gender, marital status, age or sexual orientation
  • For the creation of new jobs open to women and men
  • No discrimination in pensions or state benefits
Women and Public Services

The defence of basis services —most fundamentally water, but also electricity, housing and transport— as publicly controlled and affordable —preferably free— is essential. Women have very often played a leading role in the campaigns to defend and extend these basic services, from the successful battle against the privatisation of water wars in Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2000, to the struggle against privatisation of railways and cotton and rice cultivation in Mali.

The economic crisis we face now will not see any let-up in the neo-liberal policies that privatise and starve public services of resources, affecting women both as the majority of workers in this sector and as those most dependent on the services provided. In many European countries, cuts in health services are a constant example. In France the drive to privatise pre-school care in private kindergartens rather than in nursery schools in the public school system will reduce public sector jobs and make childcare more expensive. In Mexico, state outsourcing of an increasing number of childcare centres to private manager-owners has led to a severe decline in the quality of service; the cruellest result of this so far has been the death of 48 children in a June 2009 flash fire at a childcare centre in Hermosillo, Sonora, owned by relatives of high-level government officials, operating under the same roof as a warehouse. Public horror at the corruption and impunity for those responsible distilled into a movement that cost the ruling party the governorship, but the guilty parties have yet to be brought to trial.

In countries where abortion is legal (within limited conditions), cuts in public health services are already impacting on women’s access to abortion and contraception. Rape crisis centres and other services for women who have been on the receiving end of violence have also lost funding. These services will be seen by many providers as optional extras, while others will be happy to cut projects that they never supported in the first place under the guise of economic necessity.

Personal social services are increasingly being privatised in different European countries: France, Sweden, Belgium, and Britain at least. Primarily women workers are employed to do house work (cleaning of house and clothes, cooking, childcare and in some cases care of elderly or disabled people) in the homes of professional families (sometimes by the state, sometimes by private companies). They work maybe 5 or more jobs a week with a small number of hours spent at each and almost as much time travelling between jobs as working. The status of these jobs is very low and unprotected, and the extension of these services is used as an argument for reducing public services, in the retirement home sector for example.

Together with very low hourly wage rates. this means poverty for the women working there. And given that "reform" of social security systems mean that in many countries people are forced to take any job or lose benefits, it is harder for workers to refuse to take these jobs, while the bosses are provided with a pool of cheap labour. These types of developments also result in deepening divisions between women where those with more social and economic power become the employers of those —mainly black and migrant women— who do not.

  • For the defence and expansion of public services under workers’ and users’ control
  • For the extension of high quality childcare services

Over the past four decades, total numbers of international migrants have more than doubled, but the percentage of the world population migrating has remained fairly constant. There are now 175 million international migrants worldwide or approximately 3.5 per cent of the global population. About half this number is women, despite the common misconception that migrants are men. Most migration takes place to adjacent countries, and some takes place within countries as well as across continental borders.

In many countries of the south, remittances sent back by migrant workers play a crucial role in the economy. For the Philippines in 2008, annual remittances amounted to US$16.4 billion and in March 2009 alone, total remittances were US$1.47 billion. In seven Latin American and Caribbean countries, remittances even account for more than 10% of GDP and exceed the dollar flows for the largest export product.

As the crisis deepens, women’s migration will increase further for a number of reasons: women moving to work abroad because they cannot sell their labour power at home, or if they can, they cannot sustain their families on the income offered. For example, 4.5 million families in the Philippines cannot meet the minimum requirement for food.

In some situations, in fact, the majority of migrants are women: for example, from the Philippines 70% are women, employed mainly as undocumented domestic workers. The RMPP (Philippines section of the Fourth International) works in Europe to organise Filipina migrants and to try to win rights for undocumented workers.

Filipina women, like other women from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe, working as domestic workers are part of the global domestic care chain, where women in first world countries who want to be liberated from their domestic functions and pursue fulfilment in the public space by working have to find someone to replace them in their domestic functions. So, migration of domestic workers is a form of demand-based migration founded on the gender division of labour in receiving countries. This demand is met by Filipina women, many of whom have children of their own in the Philippines. Given the gendered division of labour in Philippine households, they cannot expect their husbands to take on their domestic workload in their absence. Furthermore, the husbands might themselves be migrant workers elsewhere (mainly in construction).

For migrant women, the solution to this problem is to in turn employ live-in domestic workers to care for their family while they are gone. In the non-migrant family, the absence of the mother creates a demand for care for her own children. Since they cannot afford to pay a domestic worker, this work is taken on by an elder daughter while the mother is at work.

At the end of the global care chain, this daughter assumes the role of mothering for her younger siblings, giving her less time to play, study, or work outside the home. Alternatively, the migrant’s mother cares for her children. Such grandparent fostering is a common constellation in societies of emigration. It takes pressure off the eldest children, but means that grandmothers can experience forty or fifty years of continuous child-rearing responsibility. While every woman in the chain feels she is doing the right thing for her family, hidden costs are passed along and eventually end up with the older daughter in the non-migrant household. As childcare work is passed down the chain, it diminishes in value and becomes unpaid at the end.

Migrant families are deprived of their mothers’ personal affection and care since they are already commoditized in the global market and traded internationally. This “new commodity” in the global market is well promoted and supported by the state. For example, the two women presidents of the Philippines (Aquino and Arroyo) made these migrant women “heroines” because they sacrifice their families in order for the Philippine nation to progress through remittances. President Arroyo promised the Middle East countries to send efficient and reliable domestic workers. They both called the migrant women workers the “new heroes” to pacify them in the face of the emotional distress of separation and exploitation.

The migrant women and their families are the sacrificial lambs of this neoliberal globalization. During global financial crisis, women migrants working in the domestic households are directly affected and cannot even claim severance pay when they lose their jobs because they are mostly undocumented.

Governments like that of the Philippines ignore their own legal obligations to protect migrant workers from their country (Republic Act 8042 (Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995). For example, since 2002, six Filipino migrant workers have been executed in Saudi Arabia including one woman, and a number of others have been held on death row for crimes they clearly did not commit. The violence (beatings, rapes, forced detention) meted out to women migrant domestic workers from Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the receiving countries has been well-documented.

Of course not all those who migrate become migrant workers. Men, women, and children are displaced in huge numbers as a result of wars —including civil wars— and by climate change, which makes the places they were living uninhabitable. People try to escape political persecution by leaving their country of origin. Women may run from violence within the family or from forced marriages. Many of these flee as refugees, hoping for a place of safety in the country to which they run. Unfortunately the lot of the majority is to be treated as outcasts and scroungers.

Trafficking in women has also increased. The most publicised form has been trafficking for sexual exploitation of women, particularly from Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia to Western Europe, creating a huge network of forced sex workers. But there is also an increase in women being sold within their own countries as domestic slaves: recently, Peruvian feminists’ research showed that the largest number of women in their country subjected to trafficking were actually indigenous women kidnapped and sent to work as servants in other towns inside Peru. This is a sign of deepening inequality within countries.

Women who are refugees and/or subject to trafficking have even fewer rights than migrant women workers. The majority of refugees remain within other countries of the south. The conditions of refugees in the advanced capitalist countries has become worse over recent years with the “development” of more repressive measures in North America, Europe, and Australasia to keep out refugees as much as possible. This has taken a number of different forms, from making it harder for people to cross borders in the first place, imprisoning many of those —including pregnant women and children of all ages— who do so in barbaric conditions, and making access to what welfare provision still exists in the "host" countries more and more difficult.

Not only the far right, but increasingly mainstream politicians scapegoat refugees for the economic crisis. In Italy, the passage of an emergency law on rape in February 2009 was a cynical attempt by Berlusconi to scapegoat refugees, particularly Roma, for violence against women, while at the same time giving the state more power in general.

  • Against the informal economy. For the regularisation of migrant workers’ status

The crisis of civilisation is also the motor for the growth of reactionary ideas. Berlusconi’s policy of blaming immigrants for all the effects of the crisis and using this as an excuse to introduce strong “security” —that is, anti-immigrant— laws is just an extreme example.

Religion has an increasing hold on greater sections of the population, and fundamentalism within all major religions continues to be a threat. Women’s bodies are seen as a key terrain of struggle for all fundamentalists.

A striking example is the way in which the reactionary elements of the Catholic Church in Ireland used the threat that the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union would force Ireland to legalise abortion to build support for their reactionary opposition to the Treaty, despite the fact that it contains no such provision. This forced the EU to give a formal guarantee that adoption of the treaty would not mandate Ireland to legalise abortion, as it had also been forced to do on the question of preserving Irish neutrality.

The collusion between right-wing governments and religious hierarchies continues from Italy to Iran, even if there has been a change in the US, where this is no longer the case. One important consequence of the latter is the overturning of the Bush government ban on funding for projects that gave even contraceptive advice —let alone abortion services— to women. This opening will potentially have a positive impact on women’s rights, especially in Africa. However, the murder of Dr. Tiller, one of the few physicians in the US openly prepared to perform late-term abortions, reminds us that fundamentalism is still alive and well in the US itself.

Further, the Bush regime’s fundamentalist doctrine had a profoundly negative impact on the fight against HIV/AIDs, especially in Africa, that has destroyed the lives of so many women. Sixty-one percent of those with the disease in sub-Saharan Africa are women. But in some countries there, infection rates among young women far surpass those of their male peers. For example, in Swaziland, four times as many females aged 15-24 are infected as males. Lack of access to accurate information about how the disease spreads, as well as pharmaceutical companies’ greed, which has severely limited the availability of anti-retrovirals in the communities that most need them, have been the most important causes of this devastation.

In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas ditched their political principles on the question of abortion in 2008, apparently in order to win the election, although there was no real indication that in fact this would increase their vote. But they not only abandoned their own position, they also decided to actively attack the women’s movement, bringing criminal charges against nine prominent feminists in the case of a therapeutic abortion given to a nine-year-old rape victim. It just so happened that most of these nine women had also been involved in supporting President Ortega’s step-daughter in her case against him for sexual abuse.

In Mexico we have seen collusion between the right wing PAN government and the PRI to introduce "right to life" legislation in 13 states - making the extension of the right to abortion up to 12 weeks which the PRD introduced in Mexico City more difficult. Such developments were possible because the gains in Mexico City, while positive, took place at the level of the superstructure and were not achieved through mass mobilisations, with the resulting change in mass consciousness that this would have involved.

In Brazil, the Lula government has continued to compromise with the Vatican to the point of considering the possibility of putting religious education on the school curriculum. At the end of 2008, Congress chairman MP Arlindo Chinaglia created a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into abortion with as a mandate for no less than the institutionalisation of criminalisation of women who defend legalisation of abortion and those who are obliged to carry it out. Moreover, the Judiciary of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, in the town of Campo Grande, which cited more than 10,000 women for practising abortion, using as proof the medical records requisitioned in a clandestine clinic. Out of these women, some 1,200 are facing trial.

In Afghanistan, one of only three countries in the world where women die earlier than men, we have had the grotesque spectacle of the passage of a law legalising rape within marriage and debate of a clause that would allow a man to legally starve his wife if she refused to have sex with him. This is the country where those who have waged war against it since 9/11 have cynically claimed to do so in defence of women’s rights, but where the government they installed is just as reactionary and as in hock to Islamic fundamentalists as their predecessors (who, anyway, were a creation of US imperialism).

The new Afghan constitution allows a separate "family code" for the Shia population and it is under this provision that the current debates are taking place —in the run up to a general election. In this context, as in many others, women’s lives and bodies are instrumentalised. Afghan women have organised against this —with at least moral support from feminists elsewhere— however their protests have been viciously attacked by fundamentalists.

As feminists we also face an ideological attack from a different direction: post feminism and masculinist ideas. Starting from the idea that feminism has “gone too far,” these currents use differentialist theory to attack women’s individual rights to abortion, divorce and protection against violence.

  • For full separation of religion from state, an end to religious influence in the framing of laws and the operation of the legal, health or education services.
  • For the right to free abortion, contraception and sex education

The crisis of civilisation is marked by an increase in violence at all levels of society as alienation deepens.

Whether in the private or public spheres, women are victims of violence: in France one woman dies every three days from conjugal violence. At work masculine domination leads to widespread physical/psychological/sexual violence and the increasing tension in workplaces as the crisis deepens can only deepen this phenomenon.

War is of course the most obvious and brutal (and brutalising) example of violence. War in the late 20th and 21st century has become a phenomenon in which it is routine for massive casualties to take place amongst civilian populations, therefore affecting huge numbers of women and children.

From the time of the wars in the Balkans and then again in the wars in the Great Lakes in Africa, we have seen the increasing use of rape as a weapon of war.

Evidence of the extent of rape in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995 by Serb forces in particular forced the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to deal openly with these abuses, and in 1996, for the first time, rape was recognised as a war crime. According to the Women’s Group Tresnjevka, more than 35,000 women and children were held in Serb-run "rape camps" in which Muslim and Croatian women were held captive, raped and deliberately made pregnant. This occurred in the context of a patrilineal society, in which children inherit their father’s ethnicity, hence the "rape camps" aimed at the birth of a new generation of Serb children —and the continuation of ethnic cleansing by another means.

Similar horrors have also been experienced by women in the Great Lakes region of Africa. Their bodies have become battlegrounds because women are seen only as vehicles through which new generations are produced; and, in ethnic warfare, preventing the enemy from reproducing equates to the ultimate prize. Against this background, sexual violence has become a deliberate and effective war-time strategy in the region.

Violent sexual acts directed toward women to brutalise and instil fear in them and the general population do not discriminate by age, with girls as young as four months and women as old as 84 suffering the same fate. UN agencies working in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) estimate that approximately 50,000 women were raped in the region between 1996 and 2002, and close to 55% of women have experienced sexual violence during the conflict in South Kivu. An estimated 250,000 women were raped during the Rwandan genocide.

In Haiti, an Amnesty International report (November 2008) said a trend has emerged involving groups of armed men assaulting girls, the legacy of rape as a political weapon that emerged during the armed rebellion that ousted Aristide in 2004. Rape became a political weapon by armed insurgents to spread fear and to punish women believed to have supported the democratic government. "Rape has now become a common practice among criminal gangs," said the report. Of 105 rape cases reported by November 2008, 55 percent involved girls under age 18. In 2007, 238 rapes were recorded; 140 of these involved girls between 19 months and 18 years of age. All this is taking place despite the fact that UN troops have been in Haiti since 2004.

Women in Palestine and particularly in Gaza continue to suffer brutally as a result of the Israeli occupation. Pregnant women beginning labour or needing medical attention at earlier stages of their pregnancies are routinely refused passage through the check points into the Israeli state, at the same time that hospitals in Gaza are denied medical supplies, even when they are brought by aid convoys. Countless women have miscarried or died themselves as a result of this barbarity. 192 women died in the Israeli bombardment of Gaza at the beginning of 2009. And the siege of the area continues to impact extremely negatively on the whole society including on the physical and mental health of women and children.

In other places we have seen the impact of increasing militarisation of societies usually resulting in the criminalisation of civil society and violent repression by the state apparatus. Sexual violence including rape has been increasingly used as a tool. In Atenco, Mexico in 2006 the police launched a brutal attack on the social movements resulting in two dead and 26 women being sexually assaulted. The war on drugs, especially in Latin America, and the war on terror are two sides of the same coin here.

We have also seen the use of horrendous forms of sexual torture by US forces —including women—in Abu Graib and in Guantanamo. These abuses, used mainly against male detainees who are presumed to be religious, are clearly intended as much to humiliate the victims as to physically assault them.

We further see that prejudices —racism, anti-semitism, homophobia and sexism where these had been rolled back by the gains of the movement— are again on the increase, together with the spread of Islamaphobia. At the same time these prejudices are expressed more violently so we see a marked increased in murders as a result of these brutal beliefs.

In the case of women, we have the grotesque phenomena of feminicide, which first came to light around the case of Juárez City in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico from the early 1990s and continues to this day. What became clear as women organised and fought back around this issue however, is that the murder of hundreds of women just because they are women is not unique to this one Mexican city. Rather the phenomenon is pervasive throughout the national territory of Mexico and in other Latin American countries including Guatemala, Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina and also in Spain. Feminicide has to be understood as the (il)logical extension and normalization of other forms of violence against women, and like other such crimes is carried out by men in a number of different relationships to the women involved.

  • For full and free support systems for women victims or potential victims of violence, such as women´s centres, the independent right to benefits and housing, adequate training of social work, police and justice departments.


Submitted following the international women’s seminar.