Ted Grant

The Robbers Quarrel over Tientsin

Written: July 1939
Source: Youth For Socialism, vol. 1 no. 11 (July 1939)
Transcription: Francesco 2008
Markup: Manuel 2008

The war between China and Japan has now been dragging on for more than two and a half years. The quick successes anticipated by the Japanese have failed to materialise. The costs of the war have meant a steady drain on the financial and economic resources of Japan. The Japanese military clique can feel the rumble of the coming revolt which it has suppressed temporarily by diverting the anger aroused in the masses by the social crisis in Japan into the channels of “patriotism” and “nationalism.” But the contrast between the misery and privation by the workers and peasants and the enormous super profits being made by the landlords and capitalists is driving the masses on to the road of revolution as the only way out.

These conditions have driven the military clique in control in Japan completely off their balance. In sheer panic they have been compelled to try and make some desperate coup which will save the situation. Now that the war crisis in Europe is about to reach its peak (Churchill has warned of the coming period of crisis during the next three months which can easily lead to war in Europe), the Japanese imperialists have calculated that now is the time to strike a blow against their imperialist rivals in the Far East.

That is the meaning of the crisis over Tientsin and now the Treaty Pacts of Swatow and Foochow have been drawn into the struggle. The newspapers have been featuring with blazing headlines the “unprecedented treatment of British subjects. The deliberate insults, searching and stripping naked at the barrier, manhandling, the blockade of the British concession itself, indicate the lengths to which the Japanese are prepared to go.”

What the Japanese are aiming at is indicated by their demands. They want to force the British to concede the major part of the Chinese market and to preserve China as an exclusive Japanese colony in fact if not in name, like her puppet state of Manchukuo and North China.

The British imperialists, purely for their own greedy ends, have been helping the struggle of Chiang Kai Shek and the Chinese by supplying them with arms and other necessities imported through the foreign concessions and the treaty ports. The Japanese in return for minor concessions are demanding that all aid to China shall cease and that Britain exert pressure on the Chinese to force them to surrender.

The loathsome hypocrisy of the moral indignation shown by the British capitalist press at the “barbarism,” the “inhuman,” “uncivilised,” etc., conduct of the Japanese is shown by a report which has just come through of what is taking place in the British West African “Protectorate” of Sierra Leone. In order to collect the monstrous and burdensome taxes inflicted on the natives, tortures and flogging are officially used on women as well as men in the best traditions of “Anglo-Saxon” gentle methods of government.

The quarrel between Britain and Japan is a quarrel between two sets of thugs and gangsters over the division of the booty from the exploitation of the Chinese people. Because of her difficulties in Europe, Britain has been attempting to make a robber’s agreement at the expense of the Chinese masses. The motives which inspire the actions and diplomacy of Britain and other imperialist countries can be clearly seen in the horse deals which they are attempting to arrange behind the scenes in secret discussions at Tokyo.

Under these conditions the shameful role played by the “Labour” and “Communist” leaders is transparently demonstrated. Instead of exposing the economic and political motives of the actions of the British Government, they attempt to show themselves as better and more zealous defenders of the “interests” of the British capitalists than the capitalists themselves. They are demanding a “firm” stand and no retreat in the face of Japanese “insolence,” “protection” of the rights of Britain in China, that is, of the robber treaties forced at the point of the bayonet on the Chinese. As if any action undertaken by the imperialists can be for any purpose except the protection of their profits.

We must demand the cancellation of all privileges enjoyed by the British and other imperialist nations in China, and the handing over to the Chinese of the plunder wrung from them in imperialist wars of conquest. That is the way to strike a blow not only in favour of China, but against British capitalism as well. We cannot trust the British capitalists to carry out any act in the interests of the workers of Britain and the world.

We can help the Chinese people only by independent action. For the workers’ boycott of Japan! Transport workers, Dockers, all workers must rely only on their own might by refusing to handle goods to and from Japan.

The Far Eastern situation reveals the precarious state of the world. The imperialists are preparing to sacrifice the youth of all nations on the altar of profits. There is only one road for youth to travel, the road of unrelenting opposition to imperialism and capitalism as the only way to abolish the nightmare of the world-wide slaughter which they are preparing for us. No support for imperialist war preparations, diplomacy or horse-deals!