“Is a Kemalist revolution possible in China?”
I consider it improbable in China, and therefore impossible. A Kemalist revolution is possible only in countries like Turkey, Persia or Afghanistan, where there is no industrial proletariat, or practically none, and where there is no powerful agrarian-peasant revolution. A Kemalist revolution is a revolution of the top stratum, a revolution of the national merchant bourgeoisie, arising in a struggle against the foreign imperialists, and whose subsequent development is essentially directed against the peasants and workers, against the very possibility of an agrarian revolution.
A Kemalist revolution is impossible in China because :
- a) there is in China a certain minimum of militant and active industrial proletariat, which enjoys enormous prestige among the peasants;
- b) there is in that country a developed agrarian revolution which in its advance is sweeping away the survivals of feudalism.
The vast mass of the peasantry, which in a number of provinces has already been seizing the land, and which is led in its struggle by the revolutionary proletariat of China—that is the antidote against the possibility of what is called a Kemalist revolution.
The Kemalist Party cannot be put on a par with the Left Kuomintang party in Wuhan, just as Turkey cannot be put on a par with China. Turkey has no such centres as Shanghai, Wuhan, Nanking, Tientsin, etc. Ankara falls far short of Wuhan, just as the Kemalist Party falls far short of the Left Kuomintang.
One should also bear in mind the difference between China and Turkey as regards their international position. In relation to Turkey, imperialism has already secured a number of its principal demands, having wrested from it Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia and other points of importance to the imperialists. Turkey has now been reduced to the dimensions of a small country with a population of some ten to twelve million. It does not represent for imperialism a market of any importance or a decisive field of investment. One of the reasons why this has happened is that the old Turkey was an agglomeration of nationalities, with a compact Turkish population only in Anatolia.
Not so with China. China is a nationally compact country with a population of several hundred million, and constitutes one of the most important markets and fields for capital export in the world. Whereas in Turkey imperialism could content itself with severing from it a number of very important regions in the East, exploiting the national antagonisms between the Turks and the Arabs within the old Turkey, in China imperialism has to strike at the living body of national China, cutting it to pieces and severing whole provinces from it, in order to preserve its old positions, or at least to retain some of them.
Consequently, whereas in Turkey the struggle against imperialism could end with a curtailed anti-imperialist revolution on the part of the Kemalists, in China the struggle against imperialism is bound to assume a profoundly popular and distinctly national character and is bound to deepen step by step, developing into desperate clashes with imperialism and shaking the very foundations of imperialism throughout the world.
One of the gravest errors of the opposition (Zinoviev, Radek, Trotsky) is that it fails to perceive this profound difference between Turkey and China, confuses the Kemalist revolution with an agrarian revolution, and lumps everything indiscriminately into one heap.
I know that among the Chinese nationalists there are people who cherish Kemalist ideas. There are pretenders in plenty to the role of a Kemal in China today. The chief among them is Chiang Kai-shek. I know that some Japanese journalists are inclined to regard Chiang Kai-shek as a Chinese Kemal. But that is all a dream, the illusion of frightened bourgeois. In China victory must go either to Chinese Mussolinis like Chang Tso-lin and Chang Tsung-chang, only for them to be overthrown later by the sweep of the agrarian revolution, or to Wuhan.
Chiang Kai-shek and his followers, who are trying to hold a middle position between these two camps, are inevitably bound to fall and share the fate of Chang Tso-lin and Chang Tsung-chang.
- V. Stalin
Talk with Students of the Sun Yat-Sen University
May 13, 1927