Interviews With Mao Tse-tung by Edgar Snow
QUESTION: Will you please explain the united front policy of the Communist Party and its change in attitude toward the Kuomintang governments?
ANSWER: Three main factors have influenced the decision leading to the policy announced in our recent manifesto issued August 25, at Pao-an, and addressed to the Kuomintang.—E.S.]
First of all the seriousness of Japanese aggression; it is becoming more intensified every day, and is so formidable a menace that before it all the forces of China must unite. Besides the Communist Party we recognize the existence of other parties and forces in China, of course, and the strongest of these is the Kuomintang. Without cooperation our strength at present is insufficient to resist Japan in war. Nanking must participate. The Kuomintang and the Communist Party are the two main political forces in China, and if they continue to fight now in civil war the effect will be unfavorable for the anti-Japanese movement.
Second, since last August (1935), the Communist Party has been urging, by manifesto, a union of all parties in China for the purpose of resisting Japan, and to this program the populace has responded with sympathy. Today the Chinese people, as well as many patriotic officials, are eager to see the reunion of the two parties for the purpose of national salvation. They are eager to see an end to the civil war. Without it, the movement for resisting Japan is faced with great obstacles.
The third point is that many patriotic elements even in the Kuomintang now favor a reunion with the Communist Party. Certain anti-Japanese elements, even in the Nanking government and Nanking’s own armies, are today ready to unite because of the peril to our national existence.
These are the main characteristics of the present situation in China, and because of them we are obliged to reconsider, in detail, the concrete formula under which such cooperation in the national liberation movement can become possible. Such a formula has, in fact, been proposed in our recent negotiations with the Kuomintang. The fundamental point of unity which we insist upon is the national liberation anti- Japanese principle. In order to realize it we believe there must be established a National Defense Democratic Government, within a national defense democratic republic. Its main tasks must be (1) to resist the foreign invader; (2) to grant popular rights to the masses of the people, and (3) to intensify the development of the country’s economy.
Such a program fulfils the will of the people at present and will win their unanimous support, and this is why the Soviet government favors the establishment of such a united people’s democratic government.
We will support a parliamentary form of representative government, an anti-Japanese salvation government, a government which protects and supports all popular patriotic groups. If such a republic is established the Chinese Soviets will become a part of it. We will realize in our areas the same measures for a democratic parliamentary form of government as are realized in the rest of China.
QUESTION: Does that mean the laws of such a government would also apply in Soviet districts?
QUESTION: Does it mean that the present laws of the Soviets, especially on the land question, will be nullified?
ANSWER: If and when the formation of a united front with Nanking is realized, that problem can easily be settled.
Of course we realize that Japan and pro-Japanese elements in China will violently oppose this program. Its principles are directly opposed to their own interests. But the Chinese people will welcome it and we believe will fight to realize it. Everyone who still has a conscience must feel that the alternative [i.e., if the united front is not achieved and civil war continues—E.S.], which is subjugation by Japanese imperialism, means extinction for the Chinese people.
Part of the Kuomintang, we know, is already opposed to accepting further humiliation at the hands of the Japanese. Among the people, among all classes, among army men, scientists, students, merchants, policemen, professional people, as well as among our own workers and peasants, there are already organized anti-Japanese patriotic groups, and with these groups we want whole-heartedly to shake hands and cooperate. We hope that such elements will form a united force to overcome the influence of the Japanophiles. We hope that such elements will help to restore and once more to realize Sun Yat-sen’s basic principles in the Great Revolution, i.e., (1) alliance with the U.S.S.R. and those countries which treat China as an equal, (2) cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party, and (3) fundamental protection of the interests of the Chinese working classes. We hope such elements will help to realize the final will of Sun Yat-sen and oppose Japanese imperialism.
If such a movement develops in the Kuomintang we are prepared to cooperate with and support it, and to form a united front against imperialism such as existed in 1925-27. We are convinced that this is the only way left to save our nation. If such a program is realized we need not fear Japan. Japanese imperialism is incapable of defeating a really united, armed and organized Chinese people.
Meanwhile, however, Japan hopes to form an anti-Red front of her own. This in reality means a front of subjugation for the Chinese people. We want to form a national liberation front, and success for it will mean victory in the anti-Japanese struggle, and a victory, ultimately, for world peace. For only by such a victory can the Chinese people march hand in hand with all the free peoples of the earth.
QUESTION: What exactly do you mean by “representative” government? What, for example, would you insist upon as the minimum demand for suffrage?
ANSWER: Suffrage should be universal, without any qualifications of property, position, education or sex.
QUESTION: If such a program is accepted by Nanking, will the Red Army agree to change its name and submit to the higher command of Nanking?
ANSWER: We recognize (as mentioned in an earlier interview) that in an anti-Japanese war there must be a unified command of the national armies, but we also believe that the war council must be representative. It should be emphasized that this is only possible on the basis of the anti-Japanese liberation front. Some Kuomintang members also talk of “unification”, but not to support the national liberation and anti-imperialist movement. In reality it is perfectly clear that without real anti-imperialist struggle there can be no unification of the country.
Whether or not the Red Army changes its name depends upon the conditions of the reunion.
QUESTION: Does the new policy mean recognition by the Communist Party that national liberation must be established before class revolution can be accomplished?
ANSWER: It is and has been all along a principle of the Communist Party that in this stage the anti-imperialist drive must be realized, so that our emphasis on the national struggle against Japan does not, fundamentally, represent any new thesis.
At the same time, as already pointed out, we believe the anti-Japanese movement can only be made effective if realized simultaneously with the liberation of the oppressed peasantry and the realization of Sun Yat-sen’s third point, the protection of the interests of the workers and peasants.
QUESTION: Does the united front policy mean that the Communist Party is willing to give up, or postpone indefinitely, the practice of land confiscation from landlords and redistribution to poor and landless peasants?
ANSWER: This will also have to be decided upon with the development of the anti-Japanese movement. However, we are confident that the anti-Japanese program cannot be realized without relief to the peasantry. Agrarian revolution, as you know, is of bourgeois character. It is beneficial to the development of capitalism. We are not opposed to the development of capitalism now in China, but against imperialism. This principle meets the demands of all democratic elements in the country and we support it wholeheartedly.
QUESTION: Would not the realization of the united front on this basis in actual effect mean an immediate declaration of war on Japan?
ANSWER: Yes, quite possibly if the reunion were proclaimed today war might begin tomorrow.
[NOTE: In conversation with various Soviet functionaries I was assured that the Soviet government might agree to change the name of the Soviets, as well as that of the Red Army. On the latter’s banners already the inscription has been altered from “Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army” to “Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese Vanguard Red Army”. It has been suggested in informal “Red-White” talks that the Soviet districts might change their name to the “Experimental Area” or “Special Administrative Districts.” Generally there seems to be a willingness among the Communists to make such changes in nomenclature as might facilitate an agreement, but not fundamentally affect the independent role of the Communist Party and the Red Army.
[The Communists evidently will not insist upon representation in the Cabinet of the proposed “democratic republic”. They would be prepared to submit to its discipline. The point of universal suffrage would perhaps not be insisted upon. But a central demand would be the guarantee of civil liberties, of the rights of freedom of speech, press and assembly, and the release of political prisoners. The Communist Party, I was also assured by Chairman Mao, would be willing to agree not to organize mass movements opposed to the principles of the National Salvation United Front, and not to “promote” class struggle.
Peiping, November 5, 1936.