the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Aug 15, 2022
This article is translated from the August 12 issue #2819 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.
Taiwan is a small island of 14,000 square miles located around 120 miles off the southeast coast of China. With just over 23 million inhabitants today, it has been a field of maneuver for imperialism for more than a century.
The island was governed for a long time by imperial China. In 1895 it became a colony of Japan after rising Japanese imperialism defeated China. In 1945, after the Japanese defeat in World War II, the imperialist powers decided that Taiwan would be returned to the regime of the Chinese Kuomintang party under Chiang Kai-shek. This nationalist dictatorship had imposed itself in China in the mid-1920s, but it was contested by a powerful peasant rebellion led by the Chinese Communist Party.
As early as 1945, the American General Staff made Taiwan a military base. They equipped and trained Kuomintang divisions sent to continental China to try to stem the advance of Mao Tse-tung’s communist troops. At first, the population of Taiwan viewed the departure of the Japanese colonizers with relief. But in came the arbitrariness, corruption, and brutality of the Kuomintang apparatus, with no other concern than that of filling their own pockets at the expense of the islanders.
So the Taiwanese population was pushed to revolt. On February 27, 1947, yet another excess by the Kuomintang police broke the camel’s back. Demonstrations multiplied for two weeks. But on March 8, fresh Kuomintang troops arriving from mainland China won the upper hand. They carried out mass executions night and day for a week, shooting anyone who stood in their way. This bloodbath caused between 10,000 and 30,000 deaths.
Under the protection of American troops, in 1949 the island became the last refuge of nationalist troops beaten on the continent by Communist Party soldiers. The Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-shek imposed a fierce dictatorship on the Taiwanese people. For 40 years, in a period called the “White Terror,” 140,000 people were imprisoned for sympathizing with the Chinese Communist Party or for opposing the Nationalist government. Between 3,000 and 4,000 were executed. The island became a prison for its working class.
The United States generally financed the development of the local bourgeoisie and industry. This was done with billions in direct grants, on top of U.S. military aid and entanglement with the Vietnam War. Taiwan served as a permanent fallback base for American troops throughout the conflict, as well as a spare parts workshop for military equipment and the main supplier of food.
Martial law was only lifted in 1987. This allowed the regime to give itself a democratic facade starting in the 1990s. Today, the Kuomintang is no longer in power; it is the opposition. The Taiwanese bourgeoisie has grown and prospered under the protection of imperialism, thanks to the markets and capital provided by imperialism. The ruling class has built a certain consensus among the part of the population which has a higher standard of living than many in mainland China. But the state apparatus that protects Taiwan’s capitalists, with its thugs, is still a dictatorship.