Not Just Another Recession
Why the Global Economy May Never Be the Same
OUR military resistance to Communist aggression in Korea has been entirely necessary and unavoidable, yet it has brought with it the danger that American policy toward Asia may become preponderantly military and so defeat itself. May we again win a war but lose the peace to follow? Win the conflict in Korea but lose most of Asia?
It is significant that our military action in Korea since June 25 has been more vigorous and more fully supported by a united public opinion than was our political action there during the preceding five years. We Americans have learned how to fight, even in rice-paddies. But the political problems of revolutionary Asia have largely baffled us. The use of our China policy as a political football in the contest between the Republican and Democratic Parties has been regrettable, if not indeed disastrous; but it could hardly have occurred if the American public had been united in its understanding of the revolutionary process in China.
The unity of the American people on the issue of Korea thus gives us a rare opportunity to develop a more comprehensive and positive policy. This opportunity cannot be utilized, as some suggest, by a sole concentration on warfare in Korea and on mobilization at home. Our weakness in dealing with the Asian revolution in the past has not been solely military or material. It has also been intellectual, psychological and political.
We need to agree upon an analysis of the sources of Communist strength in China, as well as in Korea. We must then envisage more fully the rôle which the American people could play in Asia, if they would, in competition with the Russian influence. How can we relate ourselves more constructively to the forces of social change? How can we forestall the Communist capture and use of these forces for the ends of Communist power?
My own conclusion is that the effort to ally ourselves with "nationalism" in Asia and to use it as a bulwark against Communism is a will-o'-the-wisp unless we combine "nationalism" with "reform" in a very specific and sophisticated manner. In the final analysis, "reform" is the more fundamental force. The effort to comprehend the nature of the revolutionary process in Asia is the most pressing necessity in our current mobilization.
II. THE SOCIAL CONTEXT
Any analysis of the sources of Communist strength in a country like China must begin with the social context in which the Communists have risen to power. It is hard, if not impossible, for Americans to appreciate this context of social change. The breakdown of the traditional, self-sufficient farm economy, the loosening of the bonds of the old family system, the rise of national consciousness, the emancipation of women and of youth--these are all abstract and general labels which Far Eastern specialists are accustomed to use but which mean little to the American public. Sympathetic insight into the mainsprings of revolution is not easily acquired from a distance. Too few Americans are tenants dependent upon their own hand labor in the fields to understand the bitterness of anti-landlordism. Few non-Negro Americans belong to racial-cultural-geographical minorities that can appreciate the intense feeling of anti-colonialism. "Feudalism" and "imperialism" do not seem our mortal enemies. Ancient glories in our historical heritage do not contrast with an ignominious recent past--no one has been calling us "natives." In short, we have little basis in our own experience for a sympathetic understanding of the motives and feelings which can be used by organizers of revolution in Asia.
The raw ingredients of social revolution, which lie ready at hand in the villages of China, India and the countries in between, must also be distinguished from the process of revolution, by which they are combined and kindled into explosive activity. The backward technology and low productivity in a Chinese village, the stresses and strains in the old kinship structure and the old class structure, the mounting frustrations of a teeming populace gifted with intelligence and infected with hope of a better life--these are not factors making inevitably for Communism, but merely for change. For us the important question is: How did the Chinese Communists unlock the energy of the Chinese village? How did they crack the traditional structure of these atomic elements in Chinese society and control their chain reaction?
III. THE COMMUNIST RISE TO POWER
This deserves our closest study. It is noteworthy that Communism made little progress in China until it found the formula of combining agrarian reform with nationalism. At the end of the first decade of Comintern effort in China, the movement was almost a failure, certainly on the defensive. From 1921 to about 1931 the Comintern's main stress had been laid upon the organization of China's weak city proletariat, since by Marxist-Leninist doctrine only it could lead the revolution. The peasant was esteemed less than the urban worker. When Mao Tse-tung eventually broke out of this doctrinaire cul-de-sac by simply organizing peasants, he called them a "landless proletariat" and used other euphemisms to hide his unorthodoxy. By 1932 he was basing Communist power on the countryside, where most of China lives. Chinese Communism rode to power on the backs of an organized peasantry which provided both the manpower for the Communist armies and the food to feed them, both the local espionage network to frustrate the Kuomintang and the coolie corps to support the Eighth Route Army.
How does one organize peasants? The Communist formula has seemed simple and effective: two classes are needed--the peasant masses of the villages and the intellectual youth recruited from the towns and cities. Once indoctrinated and trained, the latter organize the former and the job is done. But how does one recruit the intellectual and idealistic youth of the nation?
Chinese Communism was at a low ebb in the early 1930's when Mao took over. It remained on the periphery of Chinese politics until Japan struck in 1937. From then on the Chinese Communists became leaders of a patriotic effort in North China, for which Western observers at the time rightly gave them credit. Peasants can never be organized so easily as when foreign invaders are burning and raping in the land: the Japanese army delivered the farming populace of North China into the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, which was ready and waiting to receive them. More important, the Communists found that the intellectual youth of China responded to the call of patriotism, in the war of resistance against Japanese invasion, in a way that they never had to the call of anti-landlordism in the hills of Kiangsi.
Until the war of resistance, the intellectual youth of China had been largely cut off from the peasantry by that subtle but pervasive bifurcation of Chinese traditional society which made it impossible for long-gowned students to mingle with illiterate peasants on a common ground. Getting the literati into direct contact with the villages was the first essential. This process had begun at the time of the Nationalist Revolution of the 1920's, but Japan gave it an impetus that it had never had before. Tens of thousands of Chinese students from the middle schools and colleges went to Free China, where the Chinese Communists soon outdid the Kuomintang in enlisting and training cadres for village mobilization. When the Japanese war ended, Chinese Communism had a grip on the two essentials of power--agrarian revolution as the dynamic of the peasantry and national regeneration as the dynamic of the intellectuals.
The Chinese Communist use of these two elements of power is an object lesson in revolutionary technique. The first stage was the creation of a peasant-supported military force in a territorial base area, such as Ho Chi Minh has in Tonkin, such as the Huks are evidently seeking today on Mindanao. Let us repeat: the peasantry supplied both the manpower and the food supply for the guerrilla armies, the intellectuals of the student class provided the cadres of party-workers necessary to organize the peasantry. In a land which consists of innumerable peasant villages, as most of Asia does, the mobilization and control of the agrarian populace is the key to military power. This activation of the peasantry in turn is achievable only through the devoted work of an élite body of evangelists of the revolution--mainly boys and girls drawn from the esteemed scholar class, imbued with the patriotic fervor of wartime, indoctrinated with the Marxist-Leninist view of the world and trained to use the methods of village organization which Chinese Communism has perfected.
As this new power became established in its territorial bases in North China, it proceeded with a second stage, the economic-political-cultural reorganization of the peasant village society. The whole "liberation" movement deserves more careful study by competitors of Communism: its combination of persuasion and coercion, its use of hope and of fear, its remaking of class structure and cultural values, all provide a textbook study in "social engineering." This program unlocked energies which had been for centuries stultified in the old social order, utilized suppressed desires which had long sought expression, and under the slogan of "Liberation" created a new system of power.
It is a truism that in the peasant-based society of China, the surplus for investment, if it is not to be borrowed from abroad or gained through foreign trade, must come in the main from the peasant economy. Thus the new régime must squeeze the agrarian surplus from the farmer just as inexorably as the landlord class ever did. The all-important difference is that the new government not only collects this surplus more efficiently but uses it for wider social ends.
Substituting the government for the landlords has its precedents in Chinese history, but a great deal more has gone with this change-over than the old Confucian literati ever dreamt of. The Communist order in China has fundamentally new ideas and methods, which we minimize at our peril. Among these is its use of the modern technology of communications: the centralized Leninist party apparatus, the monopolistic propaganda machine, and the open and secret police networks. These are familiar features of Communist states elsewhere. They constitute a totalitarian control system more effective and comprehensive than anything in China's past, even when based upon some of the same sanctions as the old imperial administration, with its network of officials, its orthodox Confucian ideology and its monopoly of police power.
Thus agrarian reform is fitted at last into a new pattern of state power. Similarly the patriotism of the Chinese peasant and party worker is channeled into the service of the nation. Increased production, industrialization for defense--these conceptions focus the national effort. They are valid expressions of nationalism.
Let us note one essential step in this Communist rise to power--the capture of the Chinese "liberals," that stratum of unorganized individuals of literary and artistic abilities who have inherited the tradition of scholarship and the position of literati. The Chinese Communist approach to these individuals was in their terms, speaking the language of liberalism, expressing the disgust of the intellectual for corruption and self-seeking in high places, the despair of the patriot over official incompetence, and the hope of high-minded idealists for a better world. Indeed, if these promises of peace, order and plenty should be fulfilled and China not be prostituted for Russian ends, we in America would have no need to fear the course of developments in Asia. Like Pandit Nehru, we cannot rule this happy prospect out of account in China; but neither can we accept it as probable, in view of the Communist record elsewhere.
The desertion of the intellectuals from the old order was a crucial factor in its collapse. As the Nationalist Government sank deeper in a morass of inflation, disinvestment and incompetence, its police and party organizers sought to suppress the disaffection of the intellectuals, and so pushed them directly into the Communist camp. Equally important, however, was the appeal of the Marxist-Leninist view of the world.
The harness and checkrein of the new order is its dogmatic ideology of revolution, which can be manipulated only from the top. In the setting of peasant Asia, the Marxist-Leninist formulas take on concrete meaning. "Feudalism," that ill-defined word, becomes identified with the old order of landlordism. Capitalism becomes an outmoded phase of inevitable world history in which the United States is still backwardly immersed. Most of all, the shopworn thesis of Lenin that imperialism is the necessary final stage of capitalism is used first to explain the aggression of Japan in China (on the theory that the Zaibatsu sought profits by war abroad) and then to explain the American support of Chiang Kaishek (as evidence of the classic tie-up between native feudalism and foreign imperialism). "Feudalism" as the landlord and "imperialism" as the foreign invader make good sense to a peasant or a party worker. After all, even Chiang Kai-shek, in "China's Destiny," showed himself, unconsciously like so many others, a believer in Lenin's theory of imperialism.
It is illusory to think that this made-in-Moscow ideology is incompatible with the sentiment of nationalism, particularly in the early stages of Communist revolution. The Chinese patriot who has felt the humiliation of China's "backwardness" and the "unequal treaties" can rejoice in what seems Communist China's new chance to be in the vanguard of progress.
In practice we outside observers are inclined to overlook the fact that Communist movements are in the main carried on by native converts. It is hard to convince a Chinese Communist who feels himself patriotic that he has sold out to Russia. It is as easy for the Chinese Communists nowadays to suggest that a Chinese Christian has accepted an unpatriotic spiritual tutelage to the West. Like any other faith, Communism is accepted as a way to salvation--national salvation quite as much as human salvation in general.
This brief analysis suggests that the Communist system, with its Russian allegiance, can expand to almost any part of Asia that offers conditions similar to those in China, Korea or Indo-China. An insecure peasantry and a frustrated intelligentsia, the hope for economic improvement and national regeneration, are ready at hand to be organized in the Communist pattern. How can the United States compete with this system in its seemingly inexorable advance?
IV. THE USE OF NATIONALISM
Military strength is a first essential for any American policy in Asia, as in Europe, since the Russian threat of force can be offset only by a corresponding threat of force. But to concentrate solely on the creation of military force would be a shortcut to disaster. Communism does not rely on arms alone. Neither can we.
To supplement our rearmament, should we seek to ally ourselves in Asia with the forces of "nationalism"? This is an easy slogan to announce. But nationalism is of many kinds. Let us distinguish two varieties--the conservative and the reformist-revolutionary. Conservative patriots in Asia may have no less love of country than their rivals, and yet have little or no comprehension of the social forces making for revolution. Conservatives in power are of course prone to preserve their power at the expense of change. By some, "nationalism" in Asian countries is taken to mean simply "anti-Communism," on the tenable theory that no real Communist can have the good of his country as the ultimate criterion of his effort. The defect in this kind of "nationalism" is the same as that in any and all "anti-Communism" in Asia--given the context of social change, the key to power lies in active programs of change, not in programs of suppression nor even of maintaining stability.
The true nationalist appeal in backward Asia consists not merely in preserving one's country from outside control, as might be sufficient in the West, but of constructing one's country anew, solving its many problems, uplifting its ragged millions, and remaking its society in every respect where it now is inadequate. Thus the higher patriotism of the modern Orient is compounded of love of country and belief in its potentialities, faith in its future rebuilding, and determination to carry through great social changes. This is the other kind of nationalism--the reformist-revolutionary kind, to be found among most of the Asian leaders who have come to power since the war. Nationalist reformers of this type can lead the Asian revolutionary process, while leaders who identify their own careers with the welfare of their countries and become bent upon holding power lose their following. The nationalism toward which such leaders as Nehru, Soekarno and Thakin Nu appear to be working is compounded of diverse things, many of which are in the realm of the spirit--self-respect and self-confidence, the expression of national culture. We cannot assist this kind of national fulfillment solely by a program of arms and anti-Communism.
The project of stopping Russia by aiding nationalism thus has to be broken down into a more complex series of problems. The peoples of Asia seek to realize their national life in all its many and varied potentialities. Many Chinese today hope to do it under Communist leadership; the Peking Government already claims the usual plethora of achievements, many of which are undoubtedly real. It is the hope of realizing these many potentialities that makes up the real appeal of "nationalism" in Asia--to develop agricultural production, to industrialize for national strength and welfare, to alleviate disease, illiteracy, poverty and ignorance, to build up a genuine "people's democracy" in the proper sense. This expanded nationalism seeks both freedom and welfare, both independence and growth, both political and economic progress--dynamic "reform" in the broadest sense.
V. LEADERSHIP IN ASIA
Since the United States is of all countries the richest in technological and other resources, we have a great opportunity to participate in the remaking of Asia. With a modicum of capital equipment our agricultural specialists can do much to raise Asia's productivity. But this is a political as well as an economic problem. One lesson learned from our private assistance to China's Rural Reconstruction movement in the 1930's--such as the Rockefeller Foundation gave to Jimmy Yen's mass education movement at Ting-hsien in North China--was that the upbuilding of peasant life through programs of literacy, health, technical improvement and coöperative effort sooner or later threatens the established order of tenant-landlord relationships. The local political power must therefore be behind the reconstruction movement and not feel itself obliged to rely upon the landlord interest, as the wartime Kuomintang Government felt obliged to do after Japan had pushed it into southwest China.
The most recent proof of this comes from the successful work of the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction which was set up by the China Aid Act of 1948 and has been continuing its work in Formosa: the J. C. R. R. program of reducing tenant rents to 37.5 percent and extending landlord contracts to three years really got under way only at the last moment, when the Communists were just over the hill. Only then did the landlord interest, facing extinction, acquiesce in the program; only then could official support become vigorous and adequate. Even today the J. C. R. R.'s main problem is to find peasant associations--those inveterate enemies of the landlord--which are strong enough to carry on the many aspects of the reform. In short, it is plain that American specialists, backed with American technology and some supplies, can help carry through genuine rural reform programs; but they must have the active political backing of the local régime. The Asian government in question must aim at reform, not mere self-defense. It cannot be primarily a landlords' government. This means that agrarian reform, even when helped by us, must depend for its main impetus upon an Asian leadership. Our key problem is, therefore, to find and support those Asian leaders who have the youthful vision and the dynamic idealism to seek a genuine reconstruction of the life of the peasant masses on a non-totalitarian basis.
Here we face the fact that the Communist leadership in Asia has been carefully selected, trained and nurtured by the international movement centered in Moscow. This Russian equivalent to the American program of educating Asian youth has concentrated upon the Marxist-Leninist science of organizing revolutionary power. Our own training of "returned students," on a largely private basis in a variety of subjects at all sorts of universities, has lacked this concentration of purpose. So it is that Chinese trained in the United States are today becoming civil servants under the Communist régime at Peking. We have supplied the trained technicians, the Communists have supplied the new order that makes use of them. This is an index of our own ideological inadequacy to meet the problems of social change in Asia. Students who return to Asia from this country have new skills and insights into the potentialities of modern technology applied to human problems, but they have been given little guidance from us as to how these skills can be applied to the specific problems of Asia. We do not pretend to understand peasant problems, which are beyond our range of study. The American ideology has not yet been applied to the far-different conditions of Asian life. The freedoms of the Anglo-Saxon political tradition are not easily transplanted to alien societies. We have not devoted much attention to making export versions.
Asia thus represents an ideological vacuum in American life. Its problems are not understood by our public, and we lack a comprehensive view and a corresponding will to act in that half of the world. For this weakness the only cure is to foster a greater degree of study and contact, partly in our schools and public life, partly by sending to these new countries of Asia where we still have access a greatly increased number of American students, specialists, travelers and people of good will in all walks of life. As a people we still have the vitality to respond to the intense problems of the Asiatic scene, provided we get in touch with them.
VI. CHANNELS OF AID
Our record in postwar China has a lesson which few Americans have bothered to study. It is significant, first of all, that American influence, which had been exerted for a century through private channels such as the missionary and educational movements as well as private business, suddenly in 1942 began to flow mainly through government channels. The beginning of our large-scale aid to the Nationalist Government marked a departure from the previous century of American activity. Now the United States Government began to carry the enlarged burden of aid to China. As a government it could do this only through the medium of its opposite number, the recognized government of China. This at once brought the United States Government into the Chinese political scene as it had never been before.
This new and greater American influence, however, was even less under our control than the private activity of an earlier day. U. S. Government aid to Free China during the war was given without strings attached in one instance after another. This pattern was set by the first half billion dollars granted to Chiang Kaishek early in 1942. As the White Paper makes clear, Chiang refused the Treasury suggestion that he state how the money would be spent. The result was that China received an enormous sum outright, and until this day we do not know exactly what happened to it. We did not attach conditions to our gifts in wartime which would ensure that reform programs were undertaken by the Chungking Government. Ambassador Gauss' suggestion that American funds be used in a land reform program, to buy out the landlords, went unheeded. It is a question, of course, how far strings can be attached in our governmental relations with a state whose independence we espouse.
This suggests that a sole reliance upon government channels as the media of our influence will defeat us by stifling our freedom of manœuvre and flexibility of approach. Throughout the last decade of our intimate relationship with the Nationalist régime, we have been at the mercy of our own principles of international law. The legal sovereignty of the Chinese Government has been further buttressed by the ardent nationalism of its leaders, averse to any semblance of foreign dictation. Finally, when our Government came to the point of formulating conscious programs for domestic reform in China, it was faced by the prior problem of combatting Russian expansion. The growing Communist power forced us into anti-Communism, as distinct from pro-reformism. The Communist success in polarizing Chinese politics put us on the defensive. By making us fearful of Communist subversion, they made us wary of pressing for reforms which the Communists advocated. We thus wound up talking reform but obliged to defend the status quo.
In this context, the Russian example again may be instructive. By the Leninist methods of dual activity in a foreign country--open and secret--Russia was able to maintain relations with the Nanking Government and gain concessions from it, as in Manchuria and Sinkiang. At the same time, the covert and subversive program of the Comintern and its successor system went forward on a different level. By this policy of hitting high and hitting low, both at once, whatever is not gained by formal diplomatic relations may be gained later by Communist-led domestic revolution, as has indeed occurred in China and might sometime threaten in Japan or the Philippines.
Such deception is not possible or acceptable for us. It is not the American aim to subvert foreign governments. We have no intention of pushing them around. But a permissible, honest and open duality of approach on our part might be achieved by an increase of private American contact with Asia, outside of government channels. Private and unofficial American citizens in any country undergoing great changes will include among their number some sympathetic or adventurous individuals who have the genius for participating in the local scene. This participation of private Americans in social movements abroad is part of our tradition. Under our system it cannot be officially organized although it can, by our government's action, be kept within constructive bounds. American support of the Industrial Coöperative Movement in China, the activities carried on under United China Relief and its successor, are recent examples of an established pattern first marked out by the missionaries of a century ago. American education in Asia, for example, has been a result of private activity. This amounts to saying that enterprising individuals must be left free and actively helped to represent us in Asia. American individuals, whether in business or in social services, with all their variety of talents and the multiplicity of organizations which they represent, are the apostles of the democratic idea. To keep them out of Asia is to tie one hand behind us.
American contact cannot be limited to the conservative factions. American students who did not become aware of the currents of social change abroad would hardly be worth sending there. Social scientists whose job it is to study revolutionary movements must have contact with them. We cannot compete with the Communist agents who are in the field against us unless we are willing to let Americans enter the fray and participate in the process of discussion and ideological ferment. If we deny ourselves contact with the welter of conflicting ideas and loyalties in which Communist subversion is making its bid for power in Asia, we will give the game to the Soviets by default.
In Asia, however, it is the governments that must lead in programs of reform and economic development. Many Asians admire nothing in America so much as the T. V. A. Their governmental programs are often called "Socialistic," meaning chiefly that their societies lack the pluralistic institutions which give us our strength. In Asia we must expect to find the state power playing a greater rôle in the new national life than is the case with us. Private initiative and local capitalist enterprise cannot be expected to do the job in a country like Indonesia or Burma which we expect it to do in our own country. While we may hope that those institutions will have their chance to develop in these new countries, we cannot look to them for immediate results.
This suggests that our competition with Communism in Asia can be mounted most effectively on a basis of increased private American contact arranged directly with the Asian governments. This unofficial American contact, represented on the ideological plane by students, professors, universities and research agencies, can be stimulated and financed in part by expanded State Department programs for educational and cultural exchange. Given the growing facilities of the Voice of America and the United States Information Service, our urgent need is not for outlets toward Asia but for inlets of ideas from Asia. Advertising America does not stop Communism abroad; our information and propaganda work needs an intellectual adaptation to the target audience more than it needs equipment. The great private sector of American education should be enlisted in this ideological effort at home, and mobilized for greater activity abroad.
On the plane of economic and technological aid, the beginnings under our own Point Four program and through the United Nations needs steady expansion--always bearing in mind that undeveloped economies cannot absorb such aid rapidly, and that technology alone, which can be prostituted for political purposes, is no bar to totalitarianism of the right or left.
It is plain that we can neither revive the old "imperialism" and "colonialism" nor escape the problems left in their wake. The new problem of creating a partnership between Eastern and Western states which claim equality in international law but are unequal in economic and military power has not been solved by the Communist system. We have it to solve. It is plain that our doctrine of self-determination for all peoples must be redefined to meet the reality of a world where power is concentrated in big states and the complete independence of small states is impossible. To solve this problem we cannot think purely in political terms, and when we broaden the scope of our thinking, we face at once the social and economic problems of the Asian revolution: how can peasant life be recreated, how can the patriotic intelligentsia be recruited to lead movements of reform, how can we inspire and help them to work out alternatives to the Communist system? We will get no answer, nor will we save Asia from Communism, except by a concerted nation-wide effort of study and action. Our success will depend upon the degree and quality of contact that we can establish, in the immediate future, with the peoples of Asia. In this nonmilitary effort every American agency, from Americans for Democratic Action and the Associated Press to Rotary and the Y. M. C. A., should be enlisted in an all-out intellectual mobilization.