Category: History

Why the Communists are Winning as of 1976...
by William D. Pawley & Richard R. Tryon

The early stories and experiences of W D Pawley in Cuba and then in China prepared him well for what was to come.

Chapter Two

I Go To China


It has been a long way to come for a boy born in the small town of Florence, South Carolina, on September 7, 1896, and who went with his parents and older brother to live in Cuba in 1900, when his father’s business took him there. Sent to boarding school in Texas at the age of twelve, I ran away, acutely homesick. I rode a cattle train the 600 miles to New Orleans on nearly empty pockets and an emptier stomach. I worked my passage by freighter to Havana, Cuba, arriving at long last, to the astonishment of my parents, at the family’s home in Caimanera, near the United States naval base at Guantanamo.
Growing up in Cuba, I gained a fluent command of indigenous Spanish and insight into Latin Americans that was to determine much of the course of my later life. As a businessman, first primarily in real estate and then in aviation, I made (and sometimes lost) considerable sums of money in enterprises that took me from the United States to China. I sold airplanes and built airlines and aircraft factories. Later I went to India, where my company built that nation’s first aircraft factory and first ammonia fertilizer plant, in a series of improbable adventures that could fill a small volume.
As a small boy, I witnessed a racial uprising at Caimanera that featured arson, gunfire and hatred as weapons. The Caimanera insurrection was not fomented nor exploited from abroad. Fidel Castro was still unborn, and the baleful influence of communism had not yet been focused on American race problems. The violent tactics, however, were similar to those of today’s terrorist groups.
In 1933, during the President Machado regime, for the first time in my direct experience I saw a preview of Communist-type terror tactics. Machado, while coping with the economic havoc and suffering in Cuba that accompanied the Great Depression, became the target of revolutionary organizations, among them the “ABC.” This remarkable society would probably repay careful study by historians and by psychiatrists. Most key members were young men and women of intelligence and from the upper class. Typically, the letters ABC stood for no constructive program. It was implacably dedicated, however, to the extermination of General Machado and all the members of his regime.
Most of the opposition terrorists of that day whom I know and who are refugees in Miami today declare that Machado will go down in history as one of Cuba’s greatest Presidents. The terrorists made at least a dozen attempts on his life, one of them a small bomb was dropped from the roof of his palace down the air duct into the bathroom where the President was shaving. Snagged by an obstruction high up in the duct, it exploded harmlessly.
A more ingenious and gruesome attempt, which nearly cost me my life as well as Machado’s, was inspired by an engineer in the ABC who noted that water from a hill ran through the main cemetery in the suburb of Marianao. To prevent flooding the graves, the water was directed through a conduit ten feet in diameter which traversed the entire length of the cemetery and emptied into the bay.
A study of the map of the cemetery showed that one of the plots above the main conduit belonged to the family of Vasquez Bello, the young and brilliant Speaker of the House, a close friend of Machado and a man who was almost universally popular. It was obvious to the revolutionaries that, if Vasquez Bello should die, there would be a great public funeral and a golden opportunity to liquidate all those at grave side by exploding dynamite charges in the conduit directly beneath the casket. If successful, the massacre would dramatize the power and audacity of the ABC, worldwide. (Shades of the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the Patricia Hearst kidnappers in 1974 and the terrorist “skyjackings”)!
Accordingly, dynamite was planted under the burial site; revolutionaries rented an apartment overlooking the cemetery; a plunger-type detonator was installed in the apartment, and wires were run underground to the explosive charge.
To bait the trap, a gunman murdered Vasquez Bello as planned. I accepted General Machado’s invitation to join the official party at the grave. Meanwhile, Vasquez Bello’s widow, who had been in New York on a shopping trip, returned at once to Havana and ordered a complete change in funeral plans, preferring a quiet church service in the town of Vasquez Bello’s birth.
Days later, workmen engaged in a routine repair job discovered the huge dynamite cache. Machado’s security police, the Porra, unraveled the murder plot, discovered its amazing scope, and apprehended some of the terrorists implicated. It can be assumed that the guilty paid with their lives for a conspiracy to commit mass murder.
This episode, which had not seemed to me of any great moment at the time, actually marked my introduction to the methods and mentality of the revolutionary forces which would cast so long a shadow over my own life and that of my country. It was the smoke of a small fire on the horizon that by 1976 would grow to control and enslave one-third of the peoples of the earth and threaten the liberties and the self-government of all citizens of the free world.
In 1932 I made the long journey by boat to China. My purpose was to help create a modern air transportation network in that vast country.
I had operated the Cuban Airlines as that company’s president for four years. Harold Talbott, chairman of the board, sold the company to Pan American Airways, headed by Juan Trippe. Tom Morgan, president of the Sperry Corporation, owner of the Inter-continent Corporation of which I was vice-president, decided that the experience I had had in Cuba qualified me for the task of stabilizing and expanding the China National Aviation Corporation. The company, owned jointly by the Chinese Nationalist government and our firm, was experiencing business difficulties.
Largely ignorant of China at that time, I seized the chance during the voyage to get in a lot of deck-chair reading on the background of Chiang Kai-shek’s struggle to unite his country and to fend off Communist domination.
I soon realized that I was about to become involved, not merely in another business venture, but in the immensely complex problems of a great nation in turmoil. Whether I liked it or not, my activities in behalf of Chinese air transportation would be inextricably meshed with the struggles of the emerging Nationalist regime of Generalissimo Chiang.
In 1931, Nationalist China suffered a series of misfortunes and disasters. The worst floods of the Yangtze in modern history left fifty million people homeless.
Two expeditions against the Communist strongholds in Kiangsi resulted in Nationalist defeats because of the superior strategy and tactics of the Reds. Then in June, Chiang personally assumed command and, with a force of 200,000 troops, seized one district after another, compressing the communists, who avoided battle, into a noose from which it seemed improbable that they would ever extricate themselves.
In September of 1931, the Japanese unintentionally saved the Chinese Communists from annihilation by invading Manchuria. The university students demonstrated in favor of all-out war against the domestic enemy within his grasp, Chiang had to return to Nanking and deploy some of his best divisions to the North to counter Japanese aggression.
The greatest problems faced by that regime were to unify the country and transform it into a nation; to substitute peace and order for the arbitrary rule of some 38 conflicting warlords; to modernize a tradition-bound civilization, and to make China strong enough to withstand the twin threats of Japanese aggression from without and Red subversion from within.
The history of modern China, I found, began with the collapse of the Manchu Dynasty in 1912 and the fragmentation of the Chinese nation into provinces and regions, which were ruled, or misruled, by rival warlords. Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the visionary “father of modern China,” had consecrated his life to overthrowing the Manchu Empire and to establishing a powerful, unified nation.
Sun Yat-sen and his chosen heir, Chiang Kai-shek, established a power base in Canton and turned to Soviet Russia for political and military assistance. Their reasons for requesting Soviet aid included a thoroughly justified distrust of Japan and the great powers of Europe. The nations had exploited China and wrested territorial and other concessions from her ever since the Opium Wars of the mid-nineteenth century. Dr. Sun and Chiang believed that the Russian Revolution might prove a liberating force from which China could learn and profit.
In 1917, the leaders of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, first pinned their hopes upon a World War I, devastated Eastern and Central Europe. They believed that Communism would spread like wildfire through Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Balkans. That hope was dashed by events. They then turned their eyes toward China, India and the Moslem world as potential seedbeds of Marxist revolution.
“China and India are seething,” Lenin wrote in the tenth anniversary issue of Pravda, in 1922. “These two nations have a population of more than seven hundred million. Add to them their Asian neighbors, who are in like condition, and they comprise over half the population of the earth.”
Sun Yat-sen, who was slowly dying of cancer, suffered from a starry-eyed illusion about the Russian Revolution and wept when he was shown favorable references to himself in the writings of Lenin and Trotsky. In 1923, he sent the 36-year-old Chiang Kai-shek to Moscow to arrive at far-reaching arrangements for cooperation between the two revolutionary countries.
After long conferences with Trotsky and Commissar of Foreign Affairs Chicherin, Chiang concluded that Soviet political institutions were “instruments of tyranny and terror,” basically incompatible with the ideals of Dr. Sun and his political party, the Kuomintang. Returning to China, he presented a report to the Kuomintang Central Standing Committee which revealed his phenomenal ability to judge events and institutions realistically.
“The Russian Communist Party in its dealings with China,” he wrote, “has only one aim namely, to turn the Chinese Communist Party into an instrument for its own use. It does not believe that our Party can really cooperate with it for long. It is the Communist’s policy to convert the Northeast Provinces, Mongolia, Sinkiang, and Tibet into parts of the Sovietized domain. It may even harbor sinister designs on China’s other provinces.” And he added, “Communist internationalism is only Tsarism by other names...”
The importance the Russians attached to the Chinese revolutionary movement was revealed by the caliber of the military advisers they sent to Canton to train officers for the Nationalist regime at the new Whampoa Military Academy. The chief Soviet adviser was General Vassily K. Bluecher, one of the outstanding military leaders in the Russian civil war of 1917-1922. He was assisted by Marshal A. I. Yegorov, who would later become Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army and a commander of major battle fronts in World War II. Also present in China was Marshal Georgi I. Zhukov, who would serve as chief of the Red Army General Staff and command the forces which captured Berlin in 1945.
Using propaganda methods they learned from their Russian political advisers, the Kuomintang forces marched north from Canton in 1925 and proceeded to force warlords, provincial satraps and other rivals for power to choose between cooperation or defeat. Meanwhile, the Communists within the Chinese Nationalist Army and in the ranks of the Kuomintang infiltrated all positions of power, to build revolutionary trade unions and peasant’s leagues and to denounce Chiang as a “militarist” guilty of “oppression of the toiling masses.”
They tried to strip Chiang of political and military authority, but failed. Then, on May 22, 1933, as recorded by Liu in his “Military History,” Stalin cabled a direct order to the communist and left wing forces in control in Wuhan to arm revolutionary workers and begin the struggle for power.
“The dependence upon unreliable generals must be put to an end,” Stalin ordered. “Mobilize about 20,000 Communists, add about 50,000 revolutionary workers from Hunan and Hupeh, forming several new army corps, and utilizing the students of the school (Whampoa) as commanders. Organize your army before it is too late; otherwise, there can be no guarantee against failure.”


Chiang retaliated with a bold and decisive move. Taking the Seventh Army Corps, the so-called “army of steel” which was free of Communist infection, he purged the rest of the armed forces, compelled the Wuhan regime to capitulate, sent the Soviet advisers back to Russia and ordered all communists expelled from the Kuomintang. In the course of this internal struggle, the powerful Communists were ordered to report to the police within ten days. Those who failed to do so were shot. Those who reported were imprisoned.
Back in 1932 I had had comparatively little experience with Communism, but I was convinced it was an evil force. In reading the story of Chiang’s Northern Expedition, I soon realized that he had accomplished two remarkable feats. He had worked with the Communists, but had not allowed them to betray and destroy him. He unified a country of continental dimensions with about half-a-billion inhabitants in a short period and with comparatively little bloodshed. I concluded that he must be one of the most remarkable political leaders of all time.
Chiang still faced Herculean problems. The Chinese people were disunited by a variety of dialects, some differing from each other as much as Italian does from Spanish, which made communication between different regions almost impossible. The incredibly complex and cumbersome Chinese written language, with its thousands of characters, grouped in 214 different classifiers corresponding to our alphabet, made literacy unattainable for the majority of the peasantry and common soldiers. This handicap retarded public education and rendered such urgent tasks as modernizing agricultural methods difficult to achieve. Yet, up to the year 1750, it is estimated that more books had been published in Chinese than in all other languages combined.
Despite the substantial unification of the nation which Chiang had achieved, neither the warlords nor banditry had been eradicated. The poverty and dense population of the country made it easy to conscript coolie armies, while famine victims often joined bandit gangs. Since the provinces were generally defined by geographical barriers, such as Shansi’s mountain ranges, the domains of the warlords were easier to defend than to attack.
Transportation in China was comparatively good, as it was based on three great river systems and a network of canals, combined with fair railroads. Despite China’s abundant resources of coal and iron, her main industries were textile and other light manufacturing. The Japanese seizure of Manchuria in 1931 stripped China of her most promising heavy industrial base, together with valuable ports and railroads.
One of the major tasks to which Chiang and the other leaders of the Kuomintang dedicated themselves was to modernize administrative methods and, insofar as possible, eliminate corruption in government. In the light of the loose charges about the alleged corruption and venality of the Chiang regime, spread by Communists and their sympathizers during the 1940’s and 1950’s, this assertion may cause raised eyebrows. Let me, therefore, cite the testimony of a Harvard Professor, whose sympathy for the Chinese Communist cause was so notorious that he was to be singled out for attack by John F. Kennedy on the floor of the House of Representatives on February 21, 1949:
“Our policy in China has reaped the whirlwind,” said then-Congressman Kennedy. “The continued insistence that aid would not be forthcoming unless a coalition government with the Communists was formed gave a crippling blow to the national government. So concerned were our diplomats and their advisers, the Lattimores and the Fairbanks, with the imperfections of the diplomatic system in China after twenty years of war and the tales of corruption in high places that they lost sight of our tremendous stake in a non-communist China.
“There were those who claimed, and still claim, that Chinese communism was not really communism at all, but merely an advanced agrarian movement which did not take directions from Moscow...
“This is the tragic story of China whose freedom we once fought to preserve. What our young men had saved, our diplomats and our President Truman have frittered away.”
“The Nationalist Government,” wrote Fairbank, (the “Fairbank” mentioned by Kennedy), inaugurated “a new trend toward modernization of the government through the use of Western administrative methods, the inculcation of a new loyalty to the nation, and the monopoly of power by a party dictatorship rather than a new dynasty. The dominant sentiment behind the revolution was a nationalism which sought both unity within China and independence from foreign domination.”
These prodigious domestic tasks had to be accomplished at a time when Nationalist China was struggling desperately to avoid dismemberment by the armed forces of Imperial Japan and destruction from within by the Communist remnant which escaped the 1927 battles for power.

Previous Chapter


Next Chapter