The Ambassador in China (Gauss) to the Secretary of State

No. 3022

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy of a report (no. 26, September 10, 1944) entitled “The Development of Communist Political Control in the Guerrilla Bases” prepared by Mr. John S. Service, Second Secretary of Embassy on detail to General Stilwell’s Headquarters, who now is in Yenan, Shensi (seat of the Chinese Communist regime) as a member of the United States Army Observer Section.

A summary of Mr. Service’s report will be found in the opening paragraph thereof. The report constitutes a comprehensive and revealing account of Communist political and administrative policies and measures and accordingly seems to merit careful scrutiny.

In connection with this general question, it would seem only fair to observe that a good many Chinese, whether Kuomintang officials or civilians, take issue with the thesis that the Chinese Communist Party is democratic or that genuine democracy is being practiced in the Communist-controlled area. A recent example is to be found in the editorial columns of the influential Ta Kung Pao which, in commenting on the scene at Yenan, charged the Chinese Communist Party with possessing “almost carte blanche powers over all Party, political and military affairs” (see enclosure to the Embassy’s despatch 2856, August 9, 194415). For what is probably a typical Kuomintang point of view of the “democracy” of the Chinese Communists, reference is made to the enclosure to the Embassy’s despatch 2963, September 15, 1944.

Respectfully yours,

C. E. Gauss
[Page 623]

Report by the Second Secretary of Embassy in China (Service)

No. 26

Subject: The Development of Communist Political Control in the Guerrilla Bases.

To: Commanding General, Fwd. Ech. USAF–CBI, APO 879

Summary: Communist influence predominates in the guerrilla bases because the Communists took the lead in establishing the governments, because there has been no important organized political opposition within the areas, and because the Communists have been supported by the peasants and liberals. The Communists have used their influence in a democratic way and to further democratic ends. End of Summary.

1. The Chinese Communist Party has overwhelming political influence in the various guerrilla bases. In effect, this influence amounts to control. Although the governments of these bases are nominally independent of each other, their form of organization, and their policies and administrative programs, are all similar. Furthermore these policies are identical with those of the Communist Party.

It is sometimes suggested that this fact of Communist control is a refutation of Communist claims of democracy. Considering the history, political development and present situation of these bases, I do not believe that this criticism is valid.

2. The political history of the guerrilla bases has been discussed at length with a number of Communist leaders. These include:

Liu Shao-ch’i Member of the Political Bureau, Communist Party.
Lin Pai-ch’u Chairman of the Shen-Kan-Ning Border Region Government.
Nieh Jung-chen Commander of the Shansi-Hopei-Chahar Military Region (General Nieh played a leading part in the establishment of the government of the Shansi-Hopei-Chahar Border Region, which is identical in extent with the Military District).
Ch’en Yi Acting Commander of the New Fourth Army. Political Commissar of the Shantung Military District.
Yang Hsiu-feng Chairman of the Government of the Shansi-Hopei-Honan-Shantung Border Regions. (At the outbreak of the war Dr. Yang was a professor in the National Normal University at Peiping and a member of the National Salvationist Group. He was a leader of the first popular resistance in Central Hopei. He joined the Community Party in 1939.)

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3. From these talks it appears that the political development in the different bases has followed a generally similar pattern. I have therefore attempted to give a generalized account of this development which will fit all of the bases.

There have of course been minor differences from base to base. In Shen-Kan-Ning there was a Soviet type government established several years before the war; even after the government was reorganized in accordance with the United Front agreement, the Kuomintang never made any attempt to set up its Party organization. Shansi-Hopei-Chahar was set up at a very stage of the war when there was still some degree of Kuomintang–Communist cooperation; some Kuomintang Party organization was maintained and there has been relatively greater Kuomintang participation than in other bases. In Shantung and the areas under the New Fourth Army, the Kuomintang attempted for a while to maintain its own separate governments; the Kuomintang therefore regarded the Communist governments as illegal and has never been willing to allow participation as a Party.

4. The political development of the Communist bases has been, in general, along the following lines.

[Here follows detailed report.]

The typical composition, then, is one-third Communists, plus a few liberal Kuomintang (or ex-Kuomintang) members, plus a large number of liberal-intellectuals, and finally a relatively small group of the landlord-merchant group.

With this strong representation and a predominantly liberal and sympathetic majority, it is not surprising that the Communists have been the chief initiators of the policies followed by the base governments. Furthermore, since the Communist Party holds the same dominant position in each government, and since it is the one connecting link between these separate governments, it has secured the adoption by all of them of its program.

5. Related to this development of predominant Communist influence in the guerrilla bases are a number of other factors which should be mentioned, even though detailed study of some will be left for following reports.

The Communists have kept their program moderate and within the limits that the liberal-Kuomintang and liberal-intellectual groups affiliated with it would continue to support. This has promoted unity. It has also increased and held support. It might also be said that it has robbed any important potential opposition of any issues.
The Communist program has introduced democracy and improved the economic condition of the great majority of the population. This is the first experience the people have had of these benefits, and their political experience has not had a chance yet to go beyond the stage of being grateful. Nobody opposes Santa Claus.
The Communists at times have played a balancing role. In areas where the landlords were too successful in gaining control over local governments, either through the old awe in which they were held by the peasants or their power over their tenants, the Communists have stepped up their assistance to the people through indoctrination in democracy and active support of the people’s organizations. On the other hand, in areas where the peasants “felt their oats” and used their new political powers to monopolize the local governments, the Party used its influence to obtain the election of landlord representatives. Wherever used this policy makes grateful friends. And the Communists admit that when they use their influence to aid the election of a landlord, it is a progressive landlord—in other words another supporter of their policies.
The Communists have accepted and incorporated into their own program some proposals put forth by other groups. An example was the policy to “refine the Army and reduce the Government” (generally translated as “rationalization”), which was originally introduced into the Shen-Kan-Ning Peoples Political Council by a landlord representative. The Communists make much of this willingness to accept suggestions from others as an indication of their democracy. And they explain incorporation into their own program as the most expeditious and sure means, since they are the only party to all governments, of having these improvements universally put into effect. There is a great deal of merit in these arguments. But it must be recognized that the Communist Party, in a very smart and hard-headed political way, gets the credit for these improvements because the original introducer is not widely known and soon forgotten and it becomes known as another item of the Party program.
The Communist control of propaganda has already been mentioned. This propaganda, except in special instances, does not attack the Kuomintang or other groups. But it does tend to put these other groups in a bad light. And it invariably works to promote the Communist Party.
Finally, the Army is the army of the Communists. This is important because the political effect of the 8th Route and New 4th Armies is tremendous. This effectiveness comes in several ways. The Political Department, which is used in indoctrination of the people, especially of newly occupied areas, is highly organized and experienced, and under wholly Communist leadership (contrary to the rest of the Army). But even greater than this direct effect is the example of the behavior and attitude of the army toward the people, its volunteer character, its completely different attitude of unity with the people, its high morale, and the fact that it fights.

6. I have attempted to show that the political control of the Communist Party in the guerrilla bases has developed from its leadership in establishing and holding these bases, the absence of strong opposition, the adoption of moderate, democratic policies which have benefited the great majority of the population, and political astuteness combined with control of propaganda and the influence of the Army. The policies of the Communist Party have been democratic and there [Page 626] is little which under the circumstances can be called undemocratic in its methods.

The question may be asked whether the Communists would have been so democratic in method if they had been faced with stronger opposition. The question is hard to answer because there has never been a strong opposition willing to cooperate on a democratic basis. In the one area where the Kuomintang has an organization, it has been allowed its own newspaper and other democratic freedoms. But this opposition was weak. In areas where the Kuomintang came in with military force to oust the Communists, the Communists won out because they had the democratic support of the people. The Kuomintang did not have this support and was unable to obtain it. This fact, together with difficulties connected with the war, forced the Kuomintang to withdraw.

The next question is logically the future. I believe that the Communist influence with the people in the guerrilla bases is now so great, and rests on such a strong democratic basis, that the Communists will be willing to contest their political control there with any other party on a democratic basis; and that they will accordingly content themselves with democratic methods—including freedom of propaganda—provided that the other party or parties do the same.

John S. Service

Approved for Transmission:
David D. Barrett, Colonel, G. S. C.

  1. Neither printed.