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The communists favoured military unification after the formation of the joint government, while Chiang wanted it the other way around, hoping to centralise control over the military forces in the country and reluctant to submit to democratic oversight. Dean Acheson explained that for the Kuomintang the proposals at the Provisional Consultative Conference in 1946 were ‘too liberal and opened the way for capture of the government by the Communists; it wished a maximum of power in a minimum of hands’.45 In March 1946 George Marshall was sent to China to try to halt the Civil War that had broken out. He visited Mao’s Headquarters in Yenan and was impressed by the communist leader. ‘I had a long talk with Mao Tse Tung and I was frank to the extreme’, Marshall reported to President Truman: ‘He showed no resentment and gave me every assurance of cooperation’. By contrast Marshall was impatient with Chiang, and on 31 May demanded that he call off his offensive against communist positions, angry that the nationalists’ sneak attacks were calling into question ‘the integrity of my position’. All too often ‘the Generalissimo appeared to agree’ with Marshall, recalled Averell Harriman, ‘and then did not fully support the agreement’.46 Throughout the war the US had blown hot and cold on the nationalist Kuomintang, hoping that they would take the fight to the Japanese, and serve as a block to the communists, but felt that they were too often let down.
This final decision of American imperialism came as a death blow to Chiang Kaishek’s regime, which was fuly expressed in the atmosphere of dejection and despair hovering around Chiang’s group when news reached China of Truman’s victory in the 1948 election and his refusal to aid Chiang.51 At the end of 1948 veteran Kuomintang General Fu Tso-yi commanding the army based in Peking decided not to defend the city against Lin Bao’s Red Army rather than see the capital destroyed – ‘he had lost faith in Chiang’s regime’. Nearby Tianjin, the country’s third largest city, was also taken with little fighting.52 Early in 1949 what was left of Chiang’s regime and its army fled to the Island of Formosa (modern-day Taiwan). The original inhabitants had been terrorised into acquiescence when America took that colony from the Japanese. Twenty-eight thousand Formosans were killed to make way for Chiang’s phoney Chinese government that until 1971 took a permanent seat on the United Nations’ Security Council.
The ‘loss’ of China was in truth the collapse of a corrupt and brutal dictatorship, propped up by the United States for no other purpose than to do the Americans’ fighting against the Japanese for them. Mao Tse-tung and the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party were no more interested in liberating the people, who they saw as instruments in a mechanical vision of history to which they were the engineers. If they had an advantage it was that they were largely independent of US help, and so had greater room to manoeuvre. Given the way that successive powers – Britain, Japan, America and the Soviet Union – had treated China as an arena for fighting out their differences, and used the Chinese people as proxy warriors in those conflicts, it was hardly surprising that the regime that did establish itself at the end of that violent era was of a military-bureaucratic character. Even the policy that most offended the western powers, China’s supposedly autarkic, protectionist policy was not chosen by Mao, who wanted to trade with the world. World trade in 1949-50, though, was skewed towards America and Western Europe, with the Far East in the doldrums. Mao pleaded with the ‘patriotic bourgeoisie’ to stay and help build the country, but they preferred the expatriate, ‘comprador’ life of trading on the margins of East Asia’s farming and small handicrafts to the uncertainty of the Chinese mainland. China’s peasant communism was simply what filled the vacuum when capitalism failed to develop the country.
In America, though, the ‘loss of China’, was a traumatic event. For decades China had occupied the public imagination, as a site of protestant missions and more latterly in the headline-grabbing promotion of Soong-ling May, Madame Chiang Kai-shek by her supporters publishing mogul Henry Luce and Republican leader Wendell Willkie. Mao’s seizure of power in 1949 convinced the US State Department that fighting communism would be their raison d’être, the crusade that would justify the siting of bases throughout the Pacific for ‘Forward Defence’, and the sustained interventions in Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, and the subordination of the region to US military control.
Chapter Thirty One The Intellectuals and the War Throughout the war intellectuals were torn between participation and withdrawal.
Opposition to war was attractive to many though it carried heavy costs. Artists and intellectuals, leftists, democrats and Jews, left Germany in dismay at the country’s drift towards war and dictatorship, and indeed from all of central Europe fleeing all kinds of chaos. Of 100,000 who left Nazi Germany for Europe and America, 7,600 had degrees and 1,000 were university teachers.1 Many ended up in Britain. Already the historian Lewis Namier had come from Poland (as did the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski later), the philosopher Wittgenstein from Vienna, and the economist Nicholas Kaldor from Hungary.
The German diaspora is vast. Psychologist Hans Eysenk and physicist Klaus Fuchs came from Germany, Karl Popper, the young Frederick Hayek, the art historian Ernst Gombrich and psychoanalyst Melanie Klein from Austria. From Vienna the elderly psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and the young Eric Hobsbawm, by way of Berlin, came to London.
Hobsbawm, alienated from a darkening Germany fixed his loyalties to the Soviet Union, and under the rubric of the ‘People’s Front’ shifted them once more onto Britain. Looking back, Hobsbawm felt affection for ‘the old British Empire, run by a country whose modest size protected it against megalomania’.2 The writers Elias Cannetti and Arthur Koestler ended up in London, too, the latter bringing a striking manuscript denouncing the French capitulation (‘The Scum of the Earth’). Some were not so lucky. The radical critic Walter Benjamin was caught by guards at the Spanish border and fearing the concentration camps took his own life. The New Left historian Perry Anderson thought that this white migration was a conservative influence on England, and that homebred intellectuals were put in the shade by these grand thinkers.3 It would be truer to say, though, that the leftish attitudes of the British – and also the American – intelligentsia tended to give way to a patriotic outlook, albeit one that emphasized the popular character of the war, as those intellectuals began to work for the Allied cause.
The physicists Leo Szilard, Edward Teller and Albert Einstein all came to America from Germany and Hungary. The Frankfurt Institute of Social Research, with the social theorists Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, Pollock, relocated to Los Angeles, where Bertolt Brecht re-named them the Hollywood Institute of Social Research. ‘The lifestyle was formal, with servants’, remembered Peter Marcuse,4 and Brecht wrote a satirical novel ‘the story of the Frankfurt Institute’ in which ‘a rich old man’ the Horkheimer
dies disturbed at the poverty in the world. In his will he leaves a large sum of money to set up an institute which will do research on the source of this poverty. Which is, of course, himself.5 Adorno and Horkheimer joined many German émigrés of the left, like the Marxists Karl Korsch, Henryk Grossmann and Paul Mattick (who had come earlier than most), and the Social Democratic Party lawyer and social theorist Franz Neumann, with his collaborator Otto Kircheimer. Brecht connected them with the world of literature, Thomas Mann, and of theatre and film, as he met up with the now-established director Fritz Lang, Peter Lorre, who had come from Hungary, and with artists like Georg Grosz. These all grated against one another in the hothouse world of exile politics.
The exiles argued over just what had happened in Germany to let Hitler into power.