Australasian Spartacist No. 231
China in Imperialist Crosshairs
Down With U.S./Australia Alliance! Defend China!
During last year’s presidential election campaign, Donald Trump, now commander-in-chief of U.S. imperialism, pushed vile “America first” China-bashing and crude militarism while threatening to withdraw U.S. military assets from bourgeois allies in the region unless they made a greater contribution. Following his inauguration in January, he pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact. The TPP was to be the economic adjunct of the Obama administration’s military build-up against China, the largest and most powerful remaining country where capitalism has been overthrown. The strategy of U.S. imperialism, backed by its Australian junior partner, is to destroy the gains of the Chinese Revolution through economic pressure and military encirclement. Having ditched the TPP, Trump is now preparing brazen economic nationalist and military measures to target China. We in the ICL stand for the unconditional military defence of China and the other deformed workers states— North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Laos—against internal capitalist counterrevolution and imperialist military attack.
In 1949, China experienced a social revolution as the peasant-based People’s Liberation Army (PLA), led by Mao Zedong’s Communist Party (CCP) overthrew the imperialist-backed bourgeois nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-Shek’s Guomindang. This victory liberated China from landlord rule and imperialist subjugation. The subsequent creation of a collectivised, planned economy laid the basis for an acceleration of industrial development and brought enormous social gains to China’s worker and peasant masses, particularly women.
However, unlike the 1917 Russian Revolution which was made by a class-conscious proletariat guided by the internationalism of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party, the Chinese Revolution based on the peasant masses, was shaped by the absence of the Chinese workers struggling for power. From its beginning the People’s Republic of China was deformed by the rule of a nationalist bureaucratic caste resting atop the collectivised property forms. The CCP leadership modelled itself on the Stalinist bureaucratic regime that had usurped political power from the Soviet proletariat in a political counterrevolution beginning in 1923-24.
Today, despite three decades of “market reforms” the Chinese economy as a whole is not organised on the basis of capitalist production for profit. State-owned enterprises dominate strategic industrial sectors and much of the surplus they create is directed into the banks and treasury of the workers state. Testifying to the superiority of this collectivised economy over the capitalist profit system, China’s economy continued to grow rapidly during the 2008-09 world capitalist economic meltdown that brought misery to hundreds of millions of workers and the poor throughout the capitalist world.
However, from Mao’s time to today, the CCP’s policies have been based on the dogma that socialism—a society of material abundance marked by the disappearance of classes—can be built in a single country. The foreign policy analogue to this nationalism is to reject the Marxist perspective of international socialist revolution and instead seek to appease the imperialists. Combined with bureaucratic mismanagement and allowing capitalist inroads, such a course helps pave the way for capitalist counterrevolution. The ICL fights for proletarian political revolution in China and the other deformed workers states. It is the task of the proletariat in these countries to sweep away the Stalinist bureaucracies and establish workers democracy based on a program of revolutionary internationalism.
From Obama to Trump: War Moves Target China, North Korea
Since 2010, when the Obama administration declared a “pivot to Asia” as a top priority, the U.S. has escalated military pressure against China. Under Obama, the U.S. lavished more on its war machine than the next ten highest spending nations combined. The military framework for Obama’s “pivot” was developed by a Pentagon office that had devoted two decades to planning for war against China. It resulted in strengthening military alliances with Japan and Australia and is based on a doctrine aimed at destroying China’s radar and missile systems built to keep U.S. forces away from its coastline. Trump’s administration has requested an additional $54 billion in military funding while increasing the volume of anti-China rhetoric alongside continuing military and other provocations.
A case in point was the crazed imperialist response when North Korea fired four test ballistic missiles into the sea during U.S./South Korean war games in early March. With the White House threatening “very dire consequences” for Pyongyang, the U.S. military rushed to accelerate its installation of the advanced missile shield known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, in South Korea. With its battery of weapons and powerful missile-tracking radar, this system constitutes a significant military danger, especially to China. The system’s radar can cover a broad swathe of China and allow the U.S. to peer into and therefore undermine China’s nuclear and other military preparedness.
While demanding the U.S. and South Korea “cease and desist” from the deployment of THAAD, the Chinese leadership is treacherously trying to broker a deal calling on North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the U.S. and South Korea halting their joint war games. This appeasement, based on the fantasy that there can be “peaceful co-existence” with imperialism, will embolden the White House and its allies to ever greater attacks. Indeed, only days after installing the “first elements” of THAAD, the U.S. military announced that it would be deploying Gray Eagle surveillance and attack drones, at Kunsan Air Base, 180 kilometres south of Seoul.
We Trotskyists welcome military and other advances by the deformed workers states as gains for the international proletariat in that they help stay the hand of the imperialists. It is in the interests of the proletariat to defend the states where capitalism has been overthrown. This includes supporting North Korea’s and China’s development and testing of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems as a deterrent against the threat of annihilation by the massively nuclear-armed cowboys in Washington, backed by their junior partners in Australia.
As we state in the accompanying article (see page 1), who can really tell what Trump and his cabinet of extreme right-wing billionaires and ex-military chiefs will do next? That said, it is well known that Trump’s trade secretary, Peter Navarro, and his chief strategist, the racist provocateur Steve Bannon, consider war with China to be inevitable.
In January, Trump’s nomination for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, threatened that the U.S. and its allies would block Beijing’s access to islands and land reclamation and construction projects in the South China Sea. Such a provocation would lead to military conflict between the U.S. and China in the centre of the world’s busiest maritime trade route. The Chinese bureaucracy did not let Tillerson’s remarks go unrebuked. Highlighting the stakes involved, the state-run English-language Global Times responded that “Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories.”
After some conciliatory words from Trump to Chinese President Xi Jinping in early February, the U.S. government almost immediately despatched secretary of defense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis to Seoul and Tokyo to pledge unequivocal ongoing military backing for Washington’s allies in the region. This included a reaffirmation that the U.S. would come to Tokyo’s military aid in the event of any clash between China and Japan over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Washington also deployed the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which carries a flight group of more than 60 aircraft, to disputed waters in the South China Sea saying it was part of “routine operations.” At the same time it was announced that the U.S. intends to station a squad of U.S. Marines at the American Institute in Taiwan.
For its part, the hawkish Abe government, which represents an increasingly restless and revanchist Japanese imperialism, recently approved a record $43 billion on military spending. This is designed to build a mobile force to police the southern edge of the East China Sea as part of the broader U.S.-led encirclement of China. The ultimate aim is to enable a naval blockade of China closing off shipping lanes and preventing Chinese naval forces from breaking out into the Pacific Ocean. Extending from the coast of Southeast Asia up through the Philippines and to Japan, these islands are a key component of the military defence of China. Alongside standing with China in any clashes over the islands, we also oppose all military aid to Taiwan, which has been central to imperialist designs for capitalist counterrevolution since Chiang Kai-shek’s defeated bourgeois nationalist regime fled there in the face of the unfolding revolution on the mainland. As part of our Trotskyist defence of the Chinese deformed workers state, we call for the revolutionary reunification of China through proletarian political revolution on the mainland and socialist revolution in Taiwan.
Mr. Trump Is “Very, Very Impressed”
The Australian bourgeoisie have been troubled by the economic nationalist rhetoric and belligerent militarism issuing from the White House. They do not want to be caught in a trade war between their great power ally, the U.S., and their major trading partner China, which takes 56 percent of Australia’s exports and provides 36 percent of its imports. When Xi Jinping reasserted China’s commitment to free trade at a recent World Economic Forum in Davos, the chief executive of the Australian Business Council, Jennifer Westacott, responded, “President Xi is right.” Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, former head of the Australian Defence Force, Angus Houston, warned against Australia joining U.S. “freedom-of-navigation” exercises in the South China Sea. Houston’s comments were later described as a “constructive contribution” by the Liberal/National Coalition defence minister, Marise Payne.
Meanwhile, federal Opposition Labor Party defence spokesman, Richard Marles, championed such military provocations declaring that the ALP supported exercises to enforce last year’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision that China had no territorial claims to the islands. The Chinese government correctly denounced and refused to recognise the ICJ decision. Set up by the United Nations in 1945 as its principal judicial organ, the ICJ provides a “legal” fig leaf for imperialist oppression and exploitation. Taking their cue from ALP parliamentary leaders who march in lockstep with U.S.-led militarism against China, the pro-capitalist Laborite union misleaders have spent years pushing anti-China protectionism to their base. Far from saving any jobs, the union tops’ chauvinism fosters racist filth while lining workers up behind their own capitalist rulers against Chinese and other overseas workers and the Chinese deformed workers state. It is a cover for their prostration before the capitalist rulers’ attacks on unions, jobs and conditions.
Whatever disquiet the Australian capitalist rulers may feel over U.S. sabre-rattling against China, there can be no question where they would stand in case of military conflict between the U.S. and China. Since World War II, Australia has played a key role as a gendarme for the U.S. under the ANZUS treaty while maintaining their own predatory interests in the region. Signed in 1951, just two years after the Chinese Revolution and amid the Korean War, ANZUS was conceived as an anti-Communist pact against the Soviet degenerated workers state. Under this agreement, the U.S. and Australia have together cooperated in the slaughter of millions of workers and peasants in counterrevolutionary wars and plots from Korea, to Indonesia and Vietnam.
Today, under ANZUS, Australia hosts over a thousand U.S. Marines out of Darwin as well as the top secret Pine Gap spy base and other facilities. These connect with a string of U.S. military bases and installations from South Korea to Central Asia, which target the deformed workers states, particularly China. Fully supportive of the U.S.-led aim to destroy the gains of the Chinese Revolution, the Australian imperialists have escalated their own build-up. Last year the federal government announced $30 billion in expenditure on warships, submarines, army equipment and aircraft. Speaking at the rollout of two of Australia’s new squadron of 72 F-35A Joint Strike Fighter jets, Prime Minister Turnbull remarked that Mr. Trump is “very, very impressed
. This is the biggest investment in Australia in peace time. Nobody in the world, especially in Washington, would ever suggest Australia is not pulling its weight.”
Like our comrades in America and Japan, here in Australia we have a particular obligation to oppose our own imperialist rulers. It is in this framework that we fight to smash the ANZUS alliance through workers revolution. As proletarian internationalists we demand: All U.S. Marines and bases out now! Not one person, not one cent for the Australian imperialist military! Australia get out of the Middle East and keep your bloody hands off Southeast Asia and the South Pacific!
Reformist Left: Anti-Communist Lackeys of Lackeys
Trump’s provocations against China come at a time when capitalist rulers around the world are savaging workers and the oppressed with attacks against wages, conditions and social services. It is no different in Australia. Alongside an escalating campaign against the unions, the bosses are raining blows on women, Aboriginal people, immigrants, the homeless and welfare recipients. At the same time, Trump’s ascension has inspired all manner of extreme rightist forces from Pauline Hanson’s fascistic One Nation party to outright fascists. That billions of people worldwide are being ground down by the profit system clearly shows that capitalism is incapable of providing a decent existence for its wage slaves. The same capitalist rulers that seek to destroy the gains of the Chinese Revolution and return that country to the brutal imperialist subjugation that existed before 1949 are enforcing ramped up oppression and exploitation of workers and the poor at home.
Our unconditional military defence of the deformed workers states is a defence of the overturn and expropriation of capitalism as part of the fight for international workers revolution. Nothing could be further from the perspective of the anti-Communist “little Australia” nationalist left. Taking their cue from ALP and Greens “critics” of the U.S./Australia alliance, these “socialists” have been shrieking about the Trump presidency while providing foreign policy advice about how capitalist Australia can best avoid becoming embroiled in a conflict between the U.S. and China.
Leading the charge have been Socialist Alternative (SAlt). In a 5 February article headlined “Trump’s China aggression drawing Australia closer to war,” Tom Bramble writes, “It’s more than past time that Australia broke military ties with the US war machine
.” For Marxists, opposition to the U.S./Australia alliance must be on the basis of working-class internationalism, premised first and foremost on hostility to one’s “own” ruling class. Unsurprisingly there is not a grain of either in Bramble’s article. In fact he cannot even bring himself to mention the words socialism, communism or revolution.
Earlier in his article Bramble declared, “The US empire has never been anything but barbaric—from dropping the atomic bomb on Japan and supporting the slaughter in Indonesia in 1965 to invading Vietnam and Cambodia and propping up murderous dictators all over the region.” Not only does Bramble amnesty Australian imperialism but he disappears the fact that most of the imperialist atrocities he lists were directly aimed at places where social revolutions had occurred or where workers and peasants were in struggle against imperialist oppression and subjugation.
The 1945 U.S. nuclear incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was not only a vindictive act perpetrated against Japanese civilians but it was also designed to send a warning to the Soviet Union. In Indonesia, Australia’s security forces collaborated with the CIA to help orchestrate the 1965-66 anti-Communist massacre. This military-led bloodbath crushed the Indonesian Communist Party and served to “stabilise” Southeast Asia under the imperialist yoke at the cost of more than a million lives. Millions of Vietnamese workers and peasants lost their lives in a heroic struggle that militarily defeated U.S. and Australian imperialism and led to a social revolution as the hated bourgeois rulers fled the country in 1975. This was a great victory for the working people of the world. In fact, workers in Australia owe the Vietnamese workers and peasants a special debt.
But you won’t read about this from SAlt. Why? Because they have always stood with their own imperialist rulers against those places where capitalism has been overthrown. Bramble’s list omitted the Korean War, where U.S., British, Australian and other forces slaughtered millions before the war ended, sealing Korea’s division along class lines at the 38th parallel. This is no surprise. SAlt’s political origins go back to the late Tony Cliff and his followers in Britain who fled Trotsky’s Fourth International in 1950. Bowing to the pressure of anti-Communist Cold War hysteria over the Korean War, Cliff capitulated to the British bourgeoisie and refused to defend the Soviet Union, China and North Korea during the Korean War.
In a subsequent 8 February SAlt article, “Trash the US alliance,” Ben Hillier heaps praise upon the bourgeois Greens for attempting to force a debate in the Senate on the U.S.-Australia alliance. He gushes:
“...[Greens leader] Di Natale was right to savage the government and the opposition in the Senate for their policy of appeasing an openly reactionary and authoritarian president....
“The Greens taking a stand on this issue can help build the sort of protest movement we need in Australia against Trump and his admirers such as Pauline Hanson, Cory Bernardi and the right wing of the Liberal Party.”
Such “fight the right” class collaboration is echoed by other groups on the left including Solidarity and Socialist Alliance. It is no accident that all these groups have given electoral support to the viciously anti-China and anti-Communist Greens who are committed to the Australian imperialist military and regularly call to “Bring the troops home” in order to more aggressively defend Australian imperialism’s interests in the region. It is also no accident that, tailing the Laborite union tops, much of the reformist left backed the chauvinist union campaign against the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement last year (see “Defend the Gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution!” ASp No. 228, Autumn 2016).
In contrast to the reformist left, our model is the 1917 Russian Revolution led by the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky. Standing in this tradition, we fight to overthrow our “own” bourgeoisie through workers revolution. The Spartacist League of Australia is dedicated to building the party that can lead such a struggle as the Australian section of a reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution. As we have previously stated:
“Like our comrades in the U.S., Japan, and other sections of the ICL, comrades of the Spartacist League of Australia fight to build such a revolutionary vanguard party to lead the multiracial working people in this country in sweeping away the capitalist rulers and establishing their own class rule. This requires an intransigently proletarian internationalist perspective. Down with Australian Imperialism! Defend the Chinese deformed workers state! For a workers republic of Australia, part of a socialist Asia!”
—“Defend China!” ASp No. 215, Summer 2011-12.