[Marxism] Re: Taiwanese Independence Movement Progressive?

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Wed Apr 6 09:39:19 MDT 2005

First, let me state my agreement with Carlos regarding mode of 
discourse. To take a somewhat humorous self-deprecating comment and 
turn it into an insult may be o.k. if done lightly in a jocular manner 
among friends face-to-face, but has no place here. One of us should 
have pointed this out before Carlos felt compelled to reply.

      *     *     *     *
Carlos commented on Japan's success at the beginning of WWII. As he 
points out, there is historical agreement that Japan's success was more 
or less rapidly followed by disillusion when Asians realized that 
Japanese Imperialism was no improvement over the varieties of Western 
Imperialism. This is a very rich subject and is explored in the 
following 2004 book.

Race War: White Supremacy and the Japanese Attack on the British Empire 
by Gerald Horne

Japan's lightning march across Asia during World War II was swift and 
brutal. Nation after nation fell to Japanese soldiers. How were the 
Japanese able to justify their occupation of so many Asian nations? And 
how did they find supporters in countries they subdued and exploited? 
Race War! delves into submerged and forgotten history to reveal how 
European racism and colonialism were deftly exploited by the Japanese 
to create allies among formerly colonized people of color. Through 
interviews and original archival research on five continents, Horne 
shows how race played a key—and hitherto ignored—role in each phase of 
the war.

During the conflict, the Japanese turned white racism on its head 
portraying the war as a defense against white domination in the 
Pacific. We learn about the reverse racial hierarchy practiced by the 
Japanese internment camps, in which whites were placed at the bottom of 
the totem pole, under the supervision of Chinese, Korean, and Indian 
guards—an embarrassing example of racial payback that was downplayed by 
the defeated Japanese and the humiliated Europeans and Euro-Americans.

Focusing on the microcosmic example of Hong Kong but ranging from 
colonial India to New Zealand and the shores of the U.S., Gerald Horne 
radically retells the story of the war. From racist U.S. propaganda to 
Black Nationalist open support of Imperial Japan, information about the 
effect of race on U.S. and British policy is revealed for the first 
time. This revisionist account of the war draws connections between 
General Tojo, Malaysian freedom fighters, and Elijah Muhammed of the 
Nation of Islam and shows how white racism encouraged and enabled 
Japanese imperialism. In sum, Horne demonstrates that the retreat of 
white supremacy was not only driven by the impact of the Cold War and 
the energized militancy of Africans and African-Americans but by the 
impact of the Pacific War as well, as a chastened U.S. and U.K. moved 
vigorously after this conflict to remove the conditions that made 
Japan's success possible.

About the Author
Gerald Horne is Professor of African & Afro-American Studies at the 
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Race 
Woman: The Lives of Shirley Graham Du Bois (NYU Press, 2000), From the 
Barrel of a Gun: The United States and the War Against Zimbabwe, 
1965-1980, and Black And Brown: African Americans And The Mexican 
Revolution, 1910-1920 (American History and Culture Series)
[A fair summary on Amazon.com]

      *     *     *     *     *
I believe that I was the one that raised the question of Taiwan on this 
list. I don't believe that I argued that the movement for independence 
in itself is progressive. On the other hand, I think that Taiwan should 
be regarded as an independent nation, while recognizing that there are 
legal and political impediments to formal recognition. After this 
discussion began--initially over Kuwait and Iraq--I wrote the following 
in an e-mail to a list contributor (slightly revised here):

Basically I think that our general Marxist approach can’t be overly 
abstract. The concrete circumstances shape the application of Marxist 
theory--often to the detriment of hoary Marxist tenets. Lenin was in 
favor of invading Poland in order to aid the German Revolution; Trotsky 
was not. I sure it was much more complicated than that, which would 
actually reinforce my point.

At one time in the 1930s, Trotsky’s opponents brought up the question 
of the Trans-Siberian RR which crossed land that was legally part of 
China. The argument was whether or not the Soviet Union violated its 
tenets in support of national independence. Trotsky defended holding on 
to it, arguing that the Soviet Union had the right, if not the duty, to 
hold onto it until the workers and peasants overthrew the Chinese 
government and established a workers state.

But suppose there had been the possibility of working out a deal with 
the KMT whereby the CCP was recognized as a legal party, allowed to 
publish, organize workers, etc. Aside from the fact that this may have 
been completely utopian under the circumstances, suppose it had been 
possible? Wouldn’t Trotsky have considered this organization gain for a 
revolutionary party worth the sacrifice of a railroad across that 

Arguing by analogy: at Brest-Litovsk the new Soviet Republic sacrificed 
land for the preservation of its new government--for a breathing spell. 
Yet there were three different “Marxist” positions: Lenin’s, Trotsky’s, 
and Bukharin’s. At the beginning, Bukharin’s position, which called for 
a revolutionary war against Germany, was in the majority. After an 
intense argument and further military gains by Germany, it was the 
Lenin position (Trotsky's was close to Lenin's) that won, sacrificing 
land (e.g., Trans-Siberian RR) for the sake of preserving the new 
government (e.g., recognition of the CCP as a legal party).

A few weeks ago, you pointed out that legal norms had a certain reality 
or weight to them. I entirely agree. For example, the technical 
legality that Tibet and Taiwan were part of China had a great deal of 
weight for the Chinese Revolution.

However, so far as Taiwan is concerned, today I would put a question 
mark over that. This is why I posted the recent visit of the KMT to 
China on Marxmail. The KMT wants to use the new China to reinforce its 
political organization against the “native” pro-Taiwan party. I don’t 
believe that Marxists can take a stand on this other than to urge 
caution on both sides. Taiwan has operated as an independent nation 
since taken over by the KMT in 1949, and it previously had governments 
separate from mainland China under three imperialisms (Dutch, 
Portuguese, and Japanese). Neither they nor China needs to rock the 

from Brian Shannon

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