By Chris Fry
October 25 this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Taiwan’s Republic of China (ROC) being ejected from the United Nations, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) being installed as the true, legitimate government of China, both in the UN General Assembly as well as the Security Council.
This was not only a stinging defeat for the Taiwan military regime, but more importantly for its U.S. imperialist master, which at the time was losing its brutal war of occupation in Vietnam. For two decades after the victory of the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949, the U.S. had sustained the absurd myth that the defeated Chiang Kai-Shek regime, which had fled to Taiwan that year and was protected by the U.S. Navy, was the legitimate government of China. That bubble had now burst.
Seven years later, the U.S., under President Carter, signed an agreement with China recognizing the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China, and the island of Taiwan as part of China. The existing military alliance with Taiwan was terminated. This change of imperialist strategy came after the PRC stepped up its conflict with the Soviet Union and opened a border war with Socialist Vietnam. Obviously, Wall Street hoped that opening relations with the PRC would pull it into its orbit and spur a counterrevolution there that would topple the workers’ state.
That never happened, and now China has become a huge economic rival that threatens U.S. hegemony. It has done so while maintaining its socialist foundations of planning and social ownership over large portions of its economy, and tight controls over its own and foreign capitalist class. Through its “Belt and Road” initiative, it has made possible many beneficial infrastructure projects in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, while the U.S. offers only weapons sales and military bases.
Taiwan has become a flashpoint for conflict and possible war between the U.S. and China. In direct violation of the 1979 agreement, the U.S., first under Trump and now under Biden, despite denials, has pressed the Taiwan regime to declare itself an independent country. This is also a shift in Taiwan’s policy, whose leaders up until the election of the “Green” Coalition in 2016, had always maintained that Taiwan was part of “one China”. But surveys of Taiwan’s residents show that there is little support for independence. Most certainly do not wish to be the pawns of a U.S. proxy war against the PRC. Negotiations begun in the 1990s have made the PRC Taiwan’s biggest trading partner.
But now the Taiwan regime, which is heavily armed from decades of weapons sales by the U.S., is hosting U.S. troops on the island. And the U.S. corporate media has many screaming headlines about how the “aggressive” Chinese air force is flying over Taiwan, while failing to mention that Taiwan’s self-declared Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) stretches not only over a huge portion of the South China Sea, but also over a large part of the Chinese mainland. In fact, Chinese jets were never close to Taiwan’s land and sea borders at all.
This change of U.S. policy was obviously kowtowing to a shift by a major part of Wall Street and its political minions towards confronting the PRC over its increasingly successful socialist economic construction along with its leftwards turn under the leadership of President Xi. The specter of the loss of its economic and technical hegemony has now largely overcome the U.S. banks’ and corporations’ fear of the loss of their investments in China.
For the Pentagon, Taiwan would provide an ideal military base right off China’s shore, where fleets of nuclear-armed U.S., British, French, and Japanese warships are parading, declaring their “freedom of navigation” while threatening a military blockade that would shut down the busiest sea lanes in the world.
Trump and Biden’s push for Taiwan’s independence does have an instructive precedent: the British and French governments’ campaign to mobilize public support for and recognition of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War.
They are our brother toilers, notwithstanding a difference in colour – George Howell, secretary of the London Trades, 1862
When the U.S. Civil War broke out in April 1861, Confederate leaders were confident that the British government would intervene and support their slaver republic. As Eric Foner describes in his book “British Labor and the American Civil War”:
“We have only to stop shipment of cotton for three months and a revolution will occur in England,” a Confederate leader told William H. Russell, American correspondent for the London Times. “Hundreds of thousands of your workers will starve without our cotton, and they will demand you break the blockade.”
Indeed, the textile workers in the Lancashire, center of the British textile industry, did suffer terrible hardship:
At its peak – in November, 1862 – about three-fourths of the labor force of the Lancashire cotton industry was idle. Full-time employment of 533,950 workers in November, 1861 dropped to 203,200 in November, 1862…Meanwhile, the total unemployment went from zero in November, 1860 to 330,759 in November, 1862…
Nearly all the British capitalist newspapers and even some of the workers press, noting that, in the beginning of the war, the Lincoln government stated that the war’s goal was the “preservation of the union” and not the ending of slavery, called for the British government to press the Union for an armistice and proclaimed that a war against the U.S. was preferable to the continuation of the blockade. They proclaimed the Confederacy to be a democracy, with an elected Congress and President, just as the U.S. describes Taiwan today.
It is well known that in the fall of 1862, Lord Palmerston and Napoleon III of France discussed jointly forcing the North to accept an armistice which they expected would lead to reconciliation with the South, with the understanding that in case of failure, England and France would recognize the Confederacy.
England’s capitalist class was hostile to the rising capitalist class in the U.S., just as the current U.S. ruling class is hostile towards Socialist China. The English aristocracy felt an affinity for the “genteel” slave owners in the Confederacy. But there was one social force in England that never wavered in its support of the struggle against slavery and the Confederacy – the English working class.
English workers were at this time denied the right to vote. The Chartist movement of 1838 to1857 waged a struggle for suffrage but were ruthlessly suppressed, with their leaders jailed or exiled. But during the U.S. Civil War they made their voices heard through mass meetings, many with thousands of workers attending.
At first, textile factory owners organized mass meetings in the Lancashire district, where they presented pro-Confederacy resolutions. But the thousands of workers who showed up shouted them down. Then they chipped in to rent halls (very difficult to do amid all the unemployment) and held meetings of their own. They demanded no British government intervention in the Civil War, an end of slavery, and voting rights for the freedmen, something that the British workers were then denied.
Such meetings were then held across the mill towns like Manchester and Birmingham, culminating in a mass meeting in London in April 1863, organized by Karl Marx, and attended by the son of the U.S. Ambassador to England, who conveyed the resolutions in support of the Union back to the Lincoln Administration.
Lincoln himself sent messages of gratitude to the British workers for their support, and the U.S. sent ships like the George Griswold with tons of food for the starving textile workers.
Although the British government secretly constructed warships like the Alabama for the Confederacy to help break the Union blockade, this strong workers’ movement prevented the British and French governments from recognizing the Confederacy as a legitimate government. And soon after, the British workers would not only win their own suffrage but also would form the International Workingmen’s Association (IWA), which became known as the First International.
In the face of the U.S. drive to “recognize” by force Taiwan’s “independence”, it is the task of progressives here, in solidarity with the workers in all of China, to mobilize against any imperialist interference in China’s internal affairs, and to stop Washington’s war drive against the PRC.
Next: Taiwan’s so-called “democracy”, the White Terror, and the struggle for computer chips.