Coming 3-4 June marks the 20th anniversary of the crushing of the counter-revolutionary rebellion in Beijing by the People’s Liberation Army. Just as the original events, doubtless this anniversary will be another occasion for the imperialist propaganda machine to go into overdrive in an effort to whip up anti-Chinese and anti-socialist hysteria. The Chinese people, the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China (CPC), will treat this hysteria with the contempt it deserves. Those, who have killed more than 1.5 million Iraqis, tens of thousands of Afghans, and who sanction Zionist mass murders in Palestine are in no position to teach the Chinese people, their government and the CPC, lessons on humanitarianism.
Going against the stream of propaganda unleashed by imperialism and its ‘left’-wing flunkeys, we greeted with joy the crushing of the attempted counter-revolution in China. Events have proved us right, for had this attempt succeeded, the Chinese people would have been thrust back to the utter lairs of destitution. During the last 20 years at least 200 million Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty, while China has made great economic progress and its economy is the third largest in the world.
To be convinced of this, one has only to compare the conditions of existence of the peoples in the former Soviet Union with that of the Chinese people. The restoration of capitalism in the erstwhile USSR has claimed the lives of over a million people and the life expectancy has fallen precipitately by five years over such a short period, while the Soviet people’s wealth has been stolen by a couple of dozen thieves known as the oligarchy.
It is for this reason that we are reprinting, without any alteration, in this issue of Lalkar, the article we wrote 20 years ago entitled ‘Chinese Counter-Revolution Crushed’. Once again we take the opportunity to greet the Chinese people, their government and the CPC on this their great victory and send them our best wishes in safeguarding the socialist system.
All friends of China have a bounden duty to defend the gains of the Chinese Revolution which, after the October Revolution, is the most important event in the history of the international proletariat and the whole of progressive humanity. They have a duty to tell the imperialist blood-suckers: Hands Off China!
Chinese Counter-Revolution Crushed
LALKAR August/September 1989
It is just over a month since the dramatic events of 3-4 June in Tienanmen Square, Beijing. The gigantic power of the print and electronic media of all the imperialist countries, in particular those of the United States, has been mobilised to misrepresent these events as a “massacre” and a “bloodbath” of the innocent students demanding little more than “democracy” and an end to corruption. Not only have the propaganda machines of the junior partners of US Imperialism fallen into line, but also the various petty-bourgeois ‘socialists’, from Euro-communists to various Trotskyist outfits, ever ready to malign and maliciously slander the achievements of socialism, have swallowed the misrepresentation of these events hook, line and sinker. The liberal Trotskyite, Mr Tariq Ali, long ago discarded by the working-class movement, has even turned to poetry and joined the chorus of imperialist lackeys engaged in the falsification of the happenings in Beijing. What is surprising, however, is that even a section of those organisations and individuals who describe themselves as Marxist-Leninists have fallen for this distorted version. In view of this it is extremely important to look at these events closely so that a clear picture of what actually happened may emerge.
The student demonstrations, which culminated in the events of 3-4 June in Tienanmen Square, actually started in April following the death of Hu Yao Bang, the former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC). The pretext for these demonstrations was to cherish and honour the memory of the departed Hu. At the same time the demonstrators levelled accusations of “corruption” and “profiteering” at the leadership, demanding more democracy.
Neither the CPC nor the Chinese Government tried to interfere with these demonstrations since some of the slogans initially raised by the demonstrators expressed also the legitimate concern of the Party, which has been trying to eliminate corruption and profiteering – of which a minority of Party members are undoubtedly guilty. In fact the Government conducted several negotiations with the students and conceded some of their demands immediately, while promising to look into others. But the students were not satisfied. Each concession by the Chinese Government only had the effect of the demonstrators demanding further concessions. In the end it became clear that the demonstrators were not out to reform the socialist system in China with a view to eliminating corruption and promoting socialist democracy; what they wanted was to overthrow the Chinese Government and replace socialism by capitalism, socialist democracy by bourgeois democracy of the American type. They asserted that China should be completely Westernised, that Marxism-Leninism had no relevance to China, and that the Chinese Government should step down. Nothing could symbolise the real aims and demands of the demonstrators more than the raising of the Statue of Liberty, to an accompaniment of delirious joy on the part of those who have been longing and plotting for quite a number of years for the restoration of capitalism in China, with its market of 1.2 billion people. The putting up of this so-called Goddess of Liberty, this symbol of US imperialist plunder and exploitation of weaker nations, right opposite the portrait of China’s greatest proletarian revolutionary Mao Zedong, was nothing short of a provocation.
As time went on, alien elements, irreconcilably hostile to socialism, were setting the agenda, trying to use the students for their own purposes, encouraging them to boycott classes, organise huge illegal demonstrations and go on hunger strike, thus creating turmoil in Beijing and some other cities as well. Those students who wanted to leave Tienanmen Square were forcibly prevented from doing so by hostile and alien elements, who more and more came to control this movement. In the twenty days leading up to the events of 3-4 June, the situation in Beijing went from bad to worse. While the Chinese Government, exercising the greatest restraint in the face of extreme provocation, tried to resolve the problem by peaceful means, the anti-socialist diehards in control of the movement, egged on and encouraged by the presence of hundreds of bourgeois journalists from several imperialist countries, providing an instant service for broadcasting their views and programme, became more and more brazen. They even dared to besiege the Party and Government headquarters in an effort to paralyse and overthrow the Chinese Government, get rid of the socialist system and replace it with capitalism.
The Chinese Government could not take a kindly attitude towards such attempts. Its patience exhausted, through the person of Premier Li Peng, it declared martial law on May 20 and demanded that the demonstrators leave the Square, but to no effect. As a matter of fact the demonstrators set up barricades and soldiers brought into Beijing on trucks were stopped.
At last the Chinese Government gave a warning that it took a serious view of the continuing turmoil, that people should “protect their lives” and go home. On June 3, the Government sent troops into Tienanmen Square. Far from taking the Government’s warning seriously, the response of the demonstrators was derision and violent attacks on the soldiers. Some thugs set fire to army vehicles and beat up soldiers. Even the bourgeois media, biased as it is, provides unequivocal evidence in the form of newsreel and eyewitness accounts, to the effect that the soldiers hit back only after having been viciously attacked. Newsreels reveal army trucks and armoured personnel carriers ablaze, their crews incinerated. There is photographic evidence of the bodies of the soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who had been lynched and burned. There are pictures too of students flaunting weapons they captured early on Saturday before the troops fought back. Even the New York Times of June 6 felt obliged to report a broadcast of a videotape by Chinese television showing a “a crowd of young men throwing rocks at an army truck whose engine had stalled. They hurled rocks through the windshield, apparently killing two soldiers inside”.
The news programme reported that thugs and criminal elements had killed several dozen soldiers, beaten up more, set fire to vehicles and indulged in indiscriminate looting and burning. Long before the army used their weapons, the soldiers of the PLA had tried extremely hard to clear the Square of the violent and riotous mob by use of persuasion, tear gas and by firing their weapons into the air. The reluctance of the PLA to use its weapons was taken by the criminal elements and their imperialist backers as a sign of the army’s weakness and ascribed to divisions within the army rather than being recognised for what it really was, namely, the ingrained respect for human life that every PLA soldier, not to speak of the socialist Chinese Government, has. The soldiers had strict orders to use every peaceful means to disperse the crowds. Only this explains the scale and magnitude of injuries suffered by the soldiers. In Beijing alone 5,000 soldiers were injured, as opposed to 2,000 students receiving injuries. Only when hundreds of guns had been stolen from the army, dozens of soldiers killed and hundreds beaten up, did the army take resolute action. Earlier there was no violence. Western media have run scare stories about deaths among the allegedly peaceful innocent students demanding “democracy” and an end to corruption. The facts are that in Beijing not all the guns were fired by the soldiers. In Tienanmen Square the army negotiated with the students and a majority of the latter decided to leave of their own accord. But the criminal counter-revolutionary elements, who were in charge and bent upon overthrowing the socialist system, were by no means agreeable to such an outcome. They tried forcibly to prevent ordinary students from leaving. They instigated and indulged in wanton violence against the soldiery.
When it became absolutely clear that this criminal coterie would accept no other resolution of the problem than the complete overthrow of the socialist system and its replacement by capitalism, that to achieve this nefarious end the conspirators were prepared to kill, burn and loot, to practise thuggery and intimidation, the Chinese Government and the army decided to take resolute action. It would have been a criminal dereliction of duty in such grave circumstance for the Government and the army not to have resorted to the use of force. In fact, should we not accuse the Chinese Government and the army of not having acted resolutely early enough? Should we not accuse them of showing patience for far too long? Should we not accuse the Chinese authorities of tolerating the presence in Beijing and elsewhere of hundreds of bourgeois journalists, who acted as cheerleaders for the criminal conspirators in Beijing in flagrant disregard of Chinese law?
The Chinese people achieved their liberation from imperialism in 1949 after a long and arduous struggle. During the course of this struggle millions of Chinese people perished and many more suffered extreme hardship. After liberation they completed the democratic tasks of the revolution and under the leadership of the CPC, the vanguard of the Chinese working class, they went on to begin the construction of socialism. They have made untold sacrifices and suffered much in order to reach the present stage of affairs when no Chinese dies of hunger, there is no illiteracy, there is basic health care available to everyone, and last but not least, China is no longer a pushover for imperialism. It is no longer possible for the imperialist powers to wage opium wars against China or to sack Nanking or Beijing. Having reached this state of affairs, the Chinese people, with their long revolutionary traditions, the history of their struggle and sacrifice, are not lightly going to let a few thousand criminal elements, albeit with strong connections with international imperialism, overthrow the socialist system. The People’s Liberation Army is a guarantee of that: it is the cutting edge of the dictatorship of the proletariat in China and if this causes outrage among imperialist circles, their hired hacks and their ideologues, the Chinese people can afford to treat it with the contempt such outrage deserves. If the resolute actions of the Chinese Government and the PLA sent petty-bourgeois ‘socialists’ – the Trotskyists and the Euros and even some would-be Marxist Leninists – into a state of paroxysm, this only goes to show that at every critical juncture in the development of the revolutionary movement the world over, during every major crisis, our petty bourgeois socialists are as unfailingly bound to support the imperialist bourgeoisie as they are to stab the working-class and the national liberation movements in the back.
Once the PLA had taken the resolute action and used its force, something it had tried hard to avoid, the imperialist media launched a frenzied campaign of lies with the aim not only of discrediting socialist China, but also of creating confusion, and instigating civil war within China. It put out wild rumours of thousands of students having been shot dead, that Premier Li Peng had been shot at and injured in an attempt on his life, that Deng Xiaoping had died, that one section of the PLA was converging on Peking to fight another. These rumours, reported as gospel truth in the imperialist media, were beamed hourly into China as “news” by the Voice of America and a vast communications network of fax machines and phone calls which have been enthusiastically paid for by US corporations. Chinese students in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, who feed information from China to the Voice of America, have been given free space and phone lines since May 24 by an outfit called the Walker Centre for Ecumenical Exchange.
The Voice of America, the US Government’s propaganda arm, was even more blatantly interventionist than the rest of the US media. The New York Times of June 9 carried the report that during the height of the crisis “the Voice of America had begun sending television signals to China, the first time that the agency had taken such a step. These television signals were going directly to about 2,000 satellite dishes in China, operated mostly by the People’s Liberation Army”. The New York Times went on to say that “the broadcast of news to military units is significant because of reports that units backing the pro-democracy demonstrators may have exchanged fire” with units supporting the socialist government of China. In short, the imperialist media were busy broadcasting a continuous stream of rumours, lies and disinformation in order to foment civil war within the PLA with the hope of helping the counter-revolutionary forces.
With the passage of time the rumours and lies put out by the imperialist media turned out to be untrue and an expression of wishful thinking on their part. Sections of the media changed their tune in an attempt to correct their earlier lies. These corrections, however, came not in the form of banner headlines but buried in the obscurity of inside pages. The Washington Post of June 12 carried the following important admission:
“The [Chinese] government is depicting the [Tienanmen Square] operation as a textbook case of restraint in the face of wild provocation and the casualties almost entirely on its side.
“The government’s case is bolstered by the fact that, in some areas, demonstrators did attack troops who did not respond, and these incidents were captured on videotape.
“On television every night now, images are broadcast of protesters stoning troops, beating them with poles and, in some particularly dramatic photos, firebombing trucks, buses and even armored personnel carriers. In some cases, soldiers were still inside at the time.
“On one avenue in western Beijing, demonstrators torched an entire military convoy of more than 100 trucks and armored vehicles. Aerial pictures of the conflagration and columns of smoke have powerfully bolstered the government’s argument that the troops were victims, not executioners. Other scenes show soldiers’ corpses and demonstrators stripping automatic rifles off unresisting soldiers”.
On June 12, the New York Times reproduced an ‘eyewitness’ account of the alleged Tienanmen Square massacre by an “unnamed 20-year old student” from the Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po. This account was full of horrific details, blood, beatings and shootings of students, battles at the Heroes’ Monument in Tienanmen Square, machine guns on the roof of the Revolutionary Museum, etc. This “eyewitness” report was fabricated to such an extent that it threatened to discredit the New York Times. As a result Nicholas Kristoff, who had been covering the events for the New York Times, was obliged to dissociate himself completely from this version and to confirm the correctness of the claim by the Chinese Government that there was no ‘massacre’ at Tienanmen Square.
“The central scene in the [June 12] article is of troops beating and machine-gunning unarmed students clustered around the Monument to the People’s Heroes in the middle of Tienanmen Square”, says Kristoff of the report. “Several other witnesses, both Chinese and foreign, say this did not happen …
“There is also no evidence of machine-gun emplacements on the roof of the history museum … witnesses say that armored vehicles did not surround the monument”. In fact, witnesses say that “students and a pop singer, Hou Dejian, were negotiating with the troops and decided to leave at dawn, between 5 and 6 am. The students all filed out together.”
Kristoff concludes, “The Wen Wei Po article, reprinted as gospel by the ‘New York Times’, has the clashes unfolding in the wrong places.”
To get truth from the bourgeois media one has almost to indulge in archaeological excavations. If one has the stamina to do that, one finds even in this media the corroboration of the accounts put out by the Chinese Government. One finds, for instance, that the Chinese Government figures of 300 people killed is much nearer to the truth than the baseless and wildly exaggerated figures put out by the media in the imperialist countries. Furthermore, of the 300 killed, half were soldiers beaten to death, set on fire or killed by bullets. Of the remaining dead only 30 were students and the rest were simply onlookers who became victims in the chaos prevailing in the streets at the time.
The more deeply we go into these events, the more we become convinced that the protest in Tienanmen Square was a counter- revolutionary rebellion. This is not to say that quite a few innocent and gullible students did not join the protest. What is important, however, is that the programme of those who led the protest and their foreign backers was to overthrow the socialist government and the socialist system in China. It is precisely this that explains the violent reaction of the US and other imperialist governments to the suppression of this counter- revolutionary rebellion by the PLA, and not any concern for any alleged violation of human rights by the Chinese government. The ruling circles and governments of the imperialist countries do not give a fig for human rights. The only “human” right they defend most resolutely is the right of capital to exploit labour and the right of imperialism to oppress, exploit, subjugate and plunder weak nations. It is in pursuit of the attainment of this “human” right that they happily arm counter-revolutionary bandits in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Mozambique and Angola; it is in the pursuit of this self-same “human” right that they give full backing to such fascist regimes as those of South Africa, Israel and El Salvador; it is for the same reason that they greeted with undisguised glee the murder of over one million people by the fascist Suharto military dictatorship that overthrew in the late 1960s the Indonesian government of the late Dr Sukarno. These gentry have very little to teach us about respect for human rights and human life.
In his polemic against Kautsky (who opposed the October Revolution in the name of “democracy”), Lenin said:
“It is natural for a liberal to speak of democracy in general; but a Marxist will never forget to ask ‘for what class?’” Continues Lenin: “If we are not to mock at common sense and history, it is obvious that we cannot speak of ‘pure democracy’ so long as different classes exist; we can only speak of class democracy … ‘Pure democracy’ is the mendacious phrase of a liberal who wants to fool the workers.”
With equal justification we can say that the cry for human rights in the abstract, divorced from class reality, is the “mendacious phrase” of a flunkey and a stooge of imperialism who wants to fool the workers. In this category of flunkeys and stooges fall not just the ordinary bourgeois hacks and ideologues but also the Trotskyites and revisionists of various hues. Like all other crises, the crisis in China has had the effect of revealing all too clearly the reactionary features of these flunkeys who in normal times are able to hide their reactionary nature under the cover of ‘left’, even Marxist, phrase-mongering.
One thing is certain, i.e., if the counter-revolutionary rebellion in China had succeeded, it would have been followed by an unprecedented massacre that would have been considered by imperialism and its hangers-on as a small price to pay for the restoration of “democracy” – i.e., the overthrow of socialism and the reinstatement of the basic “human” right, i.e., the exploitation of man by man – capitalism – in China.
It is for this reason, and being guided solely by the interests of the proletariat, that we unhesitatingly support the suppression by the PLA of the counter-revolutionary rebellion in Tienanmen Square. It is for this reason that we denounce and oppose the sanctions and pressure being sought to be put on the Chinese government by US Imperialism and its junior partners.
One last question that we must raise is: how could this counter- revolutionary rebellion have arisen in the first place? In their effort to modernise China, the Chinese leadership has been trying for nearly a decade to break into the monopoly over technology held by Western and Japanese imperialism, by offering them special economic zones and joint ventures. This, accompanied by the loosening of the centralised economic planning, the dissolution of the communes, wider pay differentials between the masses and managers and intellectuals, have disrupted the socialist economy and led to inflation, unemployment and dislocation of vast numbers of workers and peasants. These economic factors have been accompanied by an ideological relaxation and a lessening of emphasis on the teachings of Marxism-Leninism at a time when an increasing number of Chinese students studying in America and other Western countries were not simply acquiring technical and scientific expertise, but also having their heads stuffed with bourgeois ideology. (At present there are 73,000 Chinese students in America and another 250,000 visitors).
The CPC must take a hard look at these economic and ideological factors, which together contributed much to produce the counter-revolutionary rebellion. It must learn the necessary lessons and put an end to those practices – economic and ideological – which led to the present crisis. We wish the Chinese working class every success in tackling these problems.