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Stalin Calls the Chinese Reds “Margarine Communists”

Excerpt from The Strange Connection: U.S. Intervention in China, 1944-1972, by Bevin Alexander, pages 4-6

[U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union W. Averell] Harriman passed on to [Vice President Henry A.] Wallace the views Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin had related to him on June 10, 1944. Stalin said Chiang Kai-shek was the best man available to run China under existing circumstances. He maintained the Chinese Reds were “not real Communists” but “margarine Communists.” However, they were patriots who wanted to fight while Chiang refused to allow them to do so....

Despite American suspicion of Soviet connections with the Chinese Communists, Stalin’s endorsement of Chiang as the best Chinese leader and his rejection of the Chinese Reds as legitimate Communists were in fact accurate reflections of his thinking.

Stalin knew what the rest of the world did not know at the time: although the Russians had instigated formation of the Chinese Communist party in 1921, Mao Zedong had repudiated Soviet control in 1935 and had eased out of the topmost positions the “twenty-eight Bolsheviks,” young Chinese trained in Russia who had been running the party largely as an arm of the Comintern. Mao also had turned Marxist doctrine on its head. In China, Mao asserted, the revolution would be won by the oppressed peasants, not, as Marxist theory called for, by the industrial proletariat, which represented less than 1 percent of the Chinese population. Although Mao spoke of himself as a Marxist, to Soviet Communists he was an apostate, both because of his heretical beliefs and his rejection of Soviet direction.

American leaders did not know it, but in 1944 the Soviet Union had no hold whatsoever over the Chinese Communist movement. In fact, it existed wholly independent of any other force and already had acquired an immense confidence that it would gain control of China because it offered the downtrodden masses relief from their misery, while the Nationalists offered nothing but more exploitation and poverty.

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