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Tiananmen Massacre

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June 1989


This is a slightly revised version of a talk given at the CUNY Graduate Center, New York City, July 13, 1989.


It's impossible to describe everything that happened recently in China.

I'd like to concentrate on the two crucial days that marked the watershed, June 3 and 4, June 3 being the last day of triumphant demonstrations, and June 4 being the massacre by part of the army. On June 3 I was fortunate in being able to spend the whole day in the square, and it was no longer massed with students. There were only scattered student groups in the square on June 3, most of them from outside of Beijing. Large numbers of Beijing students had already left, not to go back to their campuses, but to go out into the community and factories to organize. They were still very active in trying to promote a large people's movement. The students from the very beginning -- I'm not sure from what dates -- had set up a broadcasting unit -- well, it's really a loudspeaker -- in one corner of the square, and on the morning of June 3 there was a journalist talking on the loudspeaker describing the events of the night before, some of which were quite bizarre. First, a group of soldiers dressed in shorts and T-shirts came running down Changan Avenue trying to get into the square, posing as civilians. They didn't carry any weapons, of course, but they did not get very far down the avenue before they were blocked and turned back. Out on the west side of the city a little van skidded and went over a barrier and hit four people on bicycles, one of whom died, and then the people held this van while the three cars that escape. And they found inside the van soldiers in plain clothes with weapons and steel cables for tying around peoples necks to hook them up to each other. In other words, it was a secret army mission that was inadvertently exposed because the driver skidded and had an accident. This was the big news of June 3.

The whole city was alert to any move by the military or by the police. I don't really have a count of how many hundreds of thousands of people were involved, but I'm sure that overall from the two weeks following the declaration of martial law, until June 3 or 4, certainly several million citizens of Beijing became active. But somehow that didn't come through in the media, I think, because the journalists were all concentrating on the square. Almost all the networks had their camera teams in the square, and the focus of world publicity was on Tiananmen Square.

    But the big events were happening on the outskirts of the city, in layers more or less corresponding to the ring roads around the city where the people were blocking the armies from coming in. Every night, all night long, thousands of people blocked just about every intersection. I happened to live in the northeast corner of the city near what they call the third ring road, which wasn't a major entry point. But every night people gathered there, one to two thousand of them. They went to the bus parking lot and pushed buses by hand across the intersection, blocking it all four ways. Then, since there were still gaps, they stopped coal trucks, and freight trucks, and got them to fill in the gaps. There was also a brigade of motorcycle riders supporting the students. They came out at night, some 300 strong and cruised around the city, full of enthusiasm. I remember one night when they came by. There was just enough of a gap for them to get through and everyone gathered to watch them. Then one of the trucks that had been persuaded to stop decided that he would take off. No one got very upset. They just stopped the next vehicle that came down, a farmer with a two-wheel tractor with a little trailer behind, and on the trailer a huge fishing boat, and in the fishing boat was the mans whole family. They persuaded him to block the gap, so the peasant and his family in the fishing boat spent the night there. I hate to think what might have happened to that family had the army come that night!

    On June 3 in the square students broadcast all the news of the night before and then a young professor got up and announced the formation of a People s University which was to be held in the square starting that night. That was probably one of the more short-lived universities in the world. I believe, in fact, it did get underway, but not for long. If one could have stood there all day and listened it would have been fascinating, just to hear what came across that loudspeaker. But then rumors circulated that there were actually soldiers on the west side of the Great Hall. That was the first time soldiers had been reported as being that close to the square. We went over to investigate. And sure enough, theres sort of a pit to the west side of the north steps of the Great Hall of the People, and down in this recessed area there were 200 soldiers. Some of the people were cursing them, and some trying to mobilize them. But the soldiers had orders not to fraternize, so they were sitting facing inward very shame-faced, and trying to ignore what people were saying all around them. We went close enough to see these soldiers, and all of a sudden -- it was about two o'clock in the afternoon -- 8,000 troops poured out of the Great Hall. It was an enormous cascade of helmeted troops, without visible weapons, but each of them carrying a little satchel -- presumably they either had hand grenades or tear gas grenades or weapons in these satchels. So they came out apparently determined to get into the square. As they poured out in three streams they formed ranks of eight, then started rushing northward up the street. People appeared, it seemed from nowhere, and in a few seconds they jammed the whole north end of the street. Some young people ran toward the soldiers and threw themselves against their chests! Some of them bounced off and fell down, and the soldiers kept running forward, but the people kept running south, and finally, even though the ranks behind were pushing the ranks ahead the soldiers couldn't move forward any more. And then, since there were 8,000 troops those in back just folded up like an accordion against the front end. The officers ordered them to move to the left, and they'd all move across the street to the left, and then there would be a new order -- "No, no, not so far, get back to the middle." There was this huge dragon of troops writhing back and forth in the street. We thought it might get fairly ugly, so we started west down a small roadway that ran parallel to Chang An. We got to the next intersection just as hundreds of people came screaming down the street yelling "Tear gas! Tear gas!" Some armed police had used tear gas in front of the Central Committee headquarters, Zhongnanhai, so we decided that wasn't the best way to leave. We had bicycles, so we turned back and found a little alley that ran south, and we came out at the Colonel's Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.

    The contrast of trying to get away from 8000 troops and nearly being tear-gassed and then coming to the Colonel's air-conditioned, three-story building, girls in short skirts and little chicken hats, and the choice of two pieces or five pieces of tender chicken, and ice-cold Coke, was enough to blow your mind away! So, being hungry and thirsty we went up to the second floor and tried to catch a glimpse of what might be happening in the square, but couldn't see anything.

Loudspeakers Silenced

    We finally left there and went back to the square. By that time the government had figured out a way to hook up the speakers that are in front of Tiananmen and they started blaring a condemnation of the democracy statue that the students had put up. Many people think it was a copy of the Statue of Liberty -- of course, it did get some inspiration from the Statue of Liberty, but it was a very Chinese statue, nevertheless. The girl looked most like Liu Hulan a hero of the anti-Japanese war, no crown of spikes on her head, and she was holding the torch with both hands. It was not simply a copy of the Statue of Liberty, as the American press tried to make out. It expressed much of what the students felt in terms of democracy. The voice on the loudspeakers began to attack this thing as an alien intrusion and a mockery of Chinese culture. As we watched, some students climbed up the poles one by one and cut the wires to the loudspeakers, and it must have been 220 current because they were getting heavy shocks from the pliers as they cut, and they asked for cloth and gloves to protect their hands. Huge crowds blocked the whole area right across Chang An Street, watching as the students cut one wire after the other. There were ten speakers altogether. After the pliers silenced them you could hear the students' own speaker once again. It was a rather triumphant process.

    Later we went back to see what was happening with the troops, still bottled up behind the Great Hall. We parked our bikes under the wall of the Forbidden City. The wall brandished chalked slogans that were quite provocative. One was a mock conversation between Deng Xiaoping and Li Peng and went something like "Uncle Deng, what do we do now?" And Deng Xiaoping says, "Well, I'm not sure. We'll have to wait and see, but I think the best thing is for me to sacrifice you to save me." A little further down there was another slogan in chalk that was, in hindsight, prophetic. It said, "Better listen to Deng. He has the guns." We went back and found most of the troops sitting in the street absolutely exhausted, and the students of the medical college were trying to make life more comfortable for them. They were filling their canteens with water, bringing them food, trying to fraternize, and the crowds were singing revolutionary songs. Every time they'd finish a song they'd say Jie feingjun, lai yi ge ("Army, you sing one!"), and finally as the sun was setting a soldier stood up and tried to lead a response, and just then the officers ordered the whole bunch of troops back into the hall. Whether they were trying to prevent that fraternization or whether the order had just come down, I don't know. But the soldiers went back into the hall single file; it took them more than an hour to get back, running. Everyone was standing around cheering, feeling that the people had won a great victory. There was one student who was standing near us -- we were only about two feet from where the soldiers were running in -- and he was cautioning the crowd. He said, "Don't feel too happy. This is only 8,000 men. There are 300,000 more out there and they can take the square at any time . So the worst is yet to come." I thought he was being pessimistic, but of course his words turned out to be quite accurate.

Gunfire at Night

    We finally left the square abut nine o'clock, and being ice cream addicts, we stopped at the Jianguo Hotel to have some ice cream on the way home. I think one of the guards there didn't like where I put my bicycle: he let the air out of my bicycle tire, and at ten o'clock or so we started home with a flat tire on the bike. Things seemed a little ominous. A huge crowd of people blocked an army truck at the overpass just beyond. We decided not to worry about a flat tire, and went all the way home on the rim. We got home about 10:30 and fell asleep exhausted. Already at that hour the shooting had started on the west ern side of the city. The first casualties occurred when some troops of the 27th Army fired on some people in front of the Military Museum of the Revolution at the western end of Chang An Street. But we didn't know that was happening and slept peacefully. We were awakened about two in the morning by very heavy fire on the eastern side of the city, not just automatic weapons fire, but big guns, like guns on tanks. The army personnel carriers had big guns but nothing that could be called artillery. We heard heavy firing as the army came in from the east as well as the west. If the "Nightline" program I saw is typical of the television coverage, that showed personnel carriers on fire arriving in the square and being attacked by people, which gives a completely wrong impression of the sequence of events. It looked as though the people were on the offensive and the army was on the defensive. Actually, by the time these vehicles got to the square, they had shot their way through barricade after barricade and had killed probably close to 2,000 people. Arriving in the square was the end of the assault, not the beginning of it. Once the army began to shoot down people, they got very angry and became active and counterattacked in any way they could. The Chinese television programs followed the same pattern; they showed the end first. They took scenes from Sunday afternoon where the people were burning tanks and weapons carriers and put them at the beginning. They said, "This is Saturday afternoon and this is the way people treated our poor soldiers. So our soldiers had no choice but to hit back." Actually they reversed the days, and made out that the soldiers were the victims of the people, which was just a complete lie. The army came in shooting and they killed people all the way down the avenue. And they kept killing people even after they secured the square.

    Now, it's true that the soldiers didn't kill all the students in the square. There was, in fact, not really a massacre in the square. There were about 4,500 students left, and they gathered around the Martyrs Monument and negotiated with the soldiers about being allowed to leave, which was agreed, and the bulk of them did leave. Some of them after they left got run down by a tank. I think it killed eleven, running them down from behind, but there are persistent rumors that a hundred or more refused to leave and they were shot in the square. Personal friends of mine were in the Beijing Hotel all night. They said there was heavy firing in the square about four o'clock in the morning at a time when all the lights went out. There are so many different versions that it's very hard to prove. One of the problems is that most of the media left the square with the main body of the students, so there were no reporters around when the remnant group apparently defied the army and were killed.

 But regardless of what happened in the square, the main killing occurred on Chang An Street both in the east and the west. On Sunday morning we went to see my sister and brother-in-law, who live out north of the city in Changping county. Since my brother-in-law had just had a serious operation we hired a little minibus to take us there. The driver had been up all night roaming the eastern end of Chang An Street and described the scenes he saw. He said the army came in shooting and behind them were army ambulances picking up the bodies and taking them away in order to conceal the casualties. He thought at least a thousand had been killed by the eastern attack, not to mention what happened at the other side of the city. Of course, all of those figures are guesses, presumably exaggerations because when you have a slaughter like that it's so gruesome and so upsetting that it's easy to make figures bigger than they are. However, he was very angry and upset and as we went north we came across army vehicles burning and every time he saw one he was so happy.

    We went out to the countryside, spent part of the day there and came back into the city about five o'clock. We passed a whole convoy of trucks burning north of a place called Desheng Gate. Eighteen trucks and command cars were burning, with flames forty or fifty feet in the air, fuel tanks exploding, and tires melting. It was a fantastic sight. Apparently the soldiers had been blocked from driving and had walked on into the city. Then the people burned the entire convoy. Later, another convoy stopped there. By Monday afternoon there were thirty-three burned-out vehicles outside Desheng Gate.

Death in the Afternoon

    At five o'clock when I got back into the city I had a chance to go down to the Beijing Hotel, where a close friend of mine had a room on a high floor and I went up there to see what was still going on at the square.


The square was completely secure; there were two rows of soldiers blocking Chang An Street, and behind them a row of tanks, and behind those a whole rectangle of personnel carriers. The people kept coming from the east and getting as close as they dared to the troops and shouting at them, most of them trying to persuade them to cease and desist from killing people.


Whenever 200-250 people gathered there the soldiers fired point blank and mowed them down. I only witnessed the last time this happened, but my friends who had been there all day and kept notes said it happened at least six times. Just about every hour on the hour it was time to shoot down the people, and they counted fifty bodies carried out of there assumed dead, not to mention the wounded.


The army wouldn't allow any ambulances to go in, so the people who brought the bodies out were these pedicab men, some of whom have little freight bikes. They would rush in even while the firing was going on and pick up the casualties. At the time I saw this happen, the firing was absolutely intense and it lasted five minutes. How anyone survived it, I don't know.


The only warning the victims had was that when the soldiers were about to fire, they ran forward a few steps, then aimed and fired. So during that second when they ran forward, people could drop to the ground. But each time, of course, people were killed, people were wounded, and some who ran away were shot in the back. It was a most gruesome sight. The killing was absolutely unnecessary because the whole of Chang An Street was under control .


The army had cleaned out the square and there was no reason to think that 200 people, most of whom had come only to talk could in fact threaten armed men. The response from the people that last time was to set fire to the last bus that still sat unburned in front of the Beijing Hotel. Flames and smoke billowed out and blew down in the soldiers' faces and obscured the people who were shot, so it was hard at that time to tell how many were killed or wounded.


 I left the hotel about 10:30 that night and went back up Wangfujing toward the Palace Hotel to try to find a taxi or some way to get home. A young man came out of the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) Hospital with his lacerated hands all bandaged. He asked if I could help him get home. He lived beyond where I lived, and he said that he had been shot at the time when I was watching and that his bicycle had been completely destroyed. We were able to find a pedicab and I took him home. On the way, of course, we had time for a long conversation  and I asked him why on earth he went up there. Didn't he know that they were still shooting people? He said he had to go and tell them not to shoot. He told them that we're the people and you're the People's Army and you shouldn't be killing people. He said he thought they would fire in the air, but instead they fired parallel to the street. He dropped to the ground but a bullet hit the pavement, broke up and lacerated his hands. He was lucky that's all that happened to him.

Later, when we checked at a nearby hospital we found that the bullets used were a type of explosive bullets. They leave a very small entry wound but do very large damage inside. They seemed to be hollow bullets or spiral bullets or some kind of dumdum bullets that made terrible wounds causing heavy internal bleeding. Many wounds that wouldn't ordinarily be serious became very serious. People were afraid to stay in the hospital. They thought the troops might come and arrest them, so they got a little first aid and then went home. So many people died at home. By Wednesday of that first week there were close to a hundred unclaimed bodies in the PUMC hospital and sixty-seven unclaimed bodies in the Fuxing Hospital and similar high numbers in other hospitals around. So just the number of unclaimed bodies in the morgues of the hospitals outnumbered the total number of people the government claimed had been killed, and of course those numbers include only the ones who died in the hospital after coming for treatment. Many people were killed on the street and other people went through the hospital and died at home. So certainly the casualties were as high as 2,000, while many, many thousands more were wounded. It was a major, major assault on the people.

Teach the People a Lesson

I think the purpose of the assault didn't have so much to do with the students. It was pretty clear that if the government had waited another week or so there would have been almost no students in the square. They had done just about all they could do to raise issues and organize and mobilize. They had welcomed colleagues from all over the country, but more people were leaving every day than were arriving and the numbers were dwindling. If the authorities had waited another week, probably the square would have been quiet, and if the square had been quiet, the people would not have been mobilizing at night to prevent the army from coming to clear the square. There would have been no need for a military assault. But I think that Deng was extremely upset by the mobilization of people, by the millions that went into action. He was frightened by them, and he set out to punish them. You know, Deng is a man who likes to teach people a lesson. He sent the army into Vietnam to teach the Vietnamese a lesson, and of course, the Vietnamese taught the Chinese army a lesson. It wasn't necessary to use military force, but he wanted to send a strong signal to the people of China concerning who was boss, so he moved with force.

    You may question why he didn't move sooner. Why didn't he move at the time martial law was declared? Well, the fact is that at that time, about May 20 or 21, the army that was available around Beijing, the 38th, refused to shoot, refused to take the people on. When the soldiers tried to come into the city, they were blocked by the barricades and the mass of people, and rather than kill people to force their way into the city, they either just sat there or retreated. After that Deng removed the commanders of the 38th army from office and courtmartialed them but he still had to find other troops and it took him about two weeks going around the country to find the troops who would shoot, and then he had to move them in. The troops that would shoot turned out to be the 27th army, which was the army President Yang Shangkun personally commanded in the past. It is now commanded by his nephew. This army is made up of Sichuan troops. Everyone in Beijing said they came from Shenyang, other accounts said Shijiazhuang or inner Mongolia, but in Beijing they thought they came from Shenyang, which is in the Northeast. Nevertheless they were Sichuan troops. Yang Shangkun is a Sichuan man, Deng Xiaoping is a Sichuan man, Li Peng is a Sichuan man. In China, you know, they call Sichuan people Sichuan rats, so there are three rats in charge of China at this point. But the fact is that that army was willing to shoot. It seems they did take part in the invasion of Vietnam ten years ago and they killed civilians there. People said they were about ten years older than the average recruit in the 38th army, 40th army, and other participating units. For whatever reason, they were not reluctant to fire and of course they had been isolated from the news before they moved. They had been told that people had been killing soldiers and mistreating them, so they were mobilized to defend themselves and to defend  the army. In any case, they did come in shooting. I was not surprised that Deng would order armies to shoot, but I was surprised that he found armies that were willing to do so under those circumstances. So the delay was to find the right troops.

In the days that followed the massacre the government spent enormous energy trying to track down and punish both the student leaders involved and the leading people involved in resisting the army. They seized at random people they accused of having burned trucks or, in the case of Shanghai, having burned a train. They tried them, condemned them to death, gave them three days to appeal, and then shot them, as you know. They also issued warrants for twenty-one student leaders and arrested six or seven of them. Others, as you know, got away. The leaders of the nation paid extraordinary attention to taking revenge on the people and on the activists and of course they condemned the whole thing as a "counterrevolutionary insurrection."

Speaking Truth to Power

 One of the heroes on the people's side at this time was Yang Xianyi. He is known to many people in the West as the editor of the Panda series of Chinese translations "The Dream of the Red Chamber," other classics, and current Chinese literature. Xianyi and Gladys Yang have been doing this work for many years. On Sunday night, the fourth of June, BBC television interviewed him and he condemned the action as a fascist coup, probably the worst atrocity in modern Chinese history. He took a very strong stand. He expected that he would be arrested forthwith, and the next day his family persuaded him to hide away. He hid out for a few days and then decided that was hardly worth doing. So he reappeared. Just a few days before I came home I went to see him and we had a long talk. He agreed with me. "You know," he said, "I'm a Communist." It seems he joined the Communist Party not so long ago at a time when they were trying to mobilize prominent intellectuals to join, since the reforms began ten years ago. He said, "I'm not going to resign from the party. I think they've besmirched the name of the party, they've dragged the army through the mud, and we're going to stand up and fight." Of course, he's absolutely defenseless there, yet he's taken such a strong stand . . .

When I went to leave, my bicycle was out on the street. He saw me out to my bike, and in front of the market and hundreds of people, most of whom knew who he was, gave me a big hug, and sent me on my way. He's, I think, about seventy-four years old, an old man -- I'm only seventy -- and I had the sense that he was prepared for whatever might happen, that he felt that this was the time to stand up and be counted, that he didn't really care what might befall him. As far as I know, and strange to say, they made no move against him, and of course that's probably pretty smart on the part of the government, and yet they were doing so many irrational things it wasn't all that clear whether they would act wisely or not in this case. If there's any single Chinese intellectual who is well known in the West and particularly in England -- he graduated from Oxford -- it's Yang Xianyi.

 His stand inspired me, to a certain extent, to take a similar position, and to speak out as widely and as forcefully as possible, and to publicly state that I would not do any further work for this government, not until tbe government in China reverses the verdict on the student movement. Until they are ready to say that it is a patriotic revolutionary movement and not a counterrevolutionary insurrection, I will not do any more work for agricultural construction. My job there was to help set in motion a project which I've been trying to convince the government to do for ten years. It involved setting up model villages in different crop areas of China that would then use the best modern machinery possible. After ten years of effort we finally got it off the ground. It's being financed by the United Nations and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and should commence in November. It will last for three years with a two-year extension, a five-year project. I will not have anything more to do with it until and when the verdict is reversed.

A Squandered Mandate

    You may ask what I think the future holds in that respect. I think this government is very shaky, that Deng Xiaoping has really lost his mandate. Deng and his colleagues have alienated a large part of the army, alienated a large part of the party, and the vast majority of the Chinese people -- they have really no leg to stand on. They're ruling only with the gun and with terror. The only thing that's holding the government together is Deng Xiaoping, his very fast political footwork, playing off one commander against another, one leader against another, and summoning all those old octogenarians back. Many people think of them as being hardliners, who somehow believe in socialism. I think if you examine the list of those people that he has been able to mobilize, almost every one of them was named by Mao Zedong as a capitalist roader. They are not a group of men who have stood for socialism in the last ten years -- quite the contrary. Although they may not have been as active as Zhao and Hu Yaobang in breaking up socialism, they certainly haven't stood in the way.              

    There are differences among the people in this ruling group, but the differences relate to the pace and scale of privatization, to the mix of planning and free market, and so on. They are certainly not trying to build socialism -- they're all capitalist roaders. And they've developed beyond that to the point of being bureaucratic capitalists with strong comprador tendencies. The one thing that united China in this movement was the disgust at corruption. The level of corruption in China has reached proportions similar to the those that overwhelmed the Guomindang back before 1949. What made it possible was, on one hand, the development of a free market, and on the other, state-controlled prices and quotas and a big state intervention. People with clout, people in high office, have been able to use their influence to buy commodities at low prices from the state and turn around and sell them at high prices on the free market. In this way they have been able to make huge fortunes which everyone in China believes are being salted away in Swiss bank accounts, in real estate deals, and so on. I think that this is certainly true. And the people who are doing this are mainly the sons and daughters of the top people. Zhao's sons are deeply involved, Deng Xiaoping's sons are deeply involved, though apparently Li Peng's sons are not. Yang Shangkun's whole family is involved and they're deeply involved in the whole army as well.

    So you have what could be called the development of bureaucratic capitalism, government officials who are taking over huge chunks of industry and combining them as private fortunes and then making comprador deals with external capitalists. It's one of the ironies of the whole situation in Beijing -- that the big new hotels are joint ventures. The Beijing Hotel, wholly owned by China, was virtually abandoned.

After the massacre you couldn't get any food there, the lights weren't even on in the lobby. There was a bullet hole in the glass above the front door. The press kept rooms there because from the upper balconies you could see what was happening in the square, but once the army consolidated its position in the square, once it stopped shooting people, then having a room there wasn't that advantageous. Furthermore, there were always rumors that the army was going to sweep everybody out, so the Beijing Hotel virtually shut down and everyone moved to the Palace Hotel. Now that's a different story. It's the newest, most luxurious hotel in the city. It has a two-story waterfall in the lobby that continuously tumbles down into the open basement and a Watson's supermarket underground. Strange to say, it's owned by the army in conjunction with a group of Manila capitalists -- talk about comprador arrangements. And the beautiful waitresses there look Chinese but they don't speak Chinese. They speak Tagalog and English but not Chinese. It's strange for someone like me to try to communicate with them in Chinese. They look back at me with completely blank stares. Well, the Kunlun Hotel is another new hotel -- this one done in Texas modern style with stainless steel pillars and all that stuff. It's jointly run by the security forces and different outside capitalists.

    Of course, many of you know that I have been a critic of the reforms in China since they began, starting with the dissolution of cooperative agriculture. The surprising thing to me is the speed with which these reforms brought China to the crisis it's in today. The crisis is the direct outcome of reform policies, of the privatization of agriculture, the attempted privatization of industry, of the free market and of the decentralization which threw important economic decisions to regions, particularly coastal regions who then, making money fast and loose, bid against interior China for scarce goods, particularly raw materials. Conditions developed that brought the country close to economic chaos. The government could not guarantee supplies, power was cut down so much that factories worked two or three days instead of six, prices soared out of control, corruption became endemic, and all the moral degradation of the old society started to come back.

    You have open prostitution, you have begging (you actually have the return of child mutilation so children can beg better), you have a huge pool of unemployed -- last winter there were 50 million people uprooted from the countryside, who had no employment in the cities. In order to combat inflation the government shut down 10,000 construction projects and created 4 or 5 million more unemployed. You have these enormous contradictions all arising directly out of the reform. You have the virtual collapse of the birth control, family planning program. The birth rate is now much higher than China has acknowledged. You have a crisis in education particularly in rural areas but also in the cities where funds are so short that they can't pay teachers adequately. They say if your money isn't enough, you should moonlight on another job. You have this weird situation where teachers in the classroom are running ice cream concessions and soda pop stands, and trying to find second jobs and third jobs and of course neglecting their teaching. And then of course you have the privatization of health care particularly at the grassroots level. There is an across-the-board decay of normal services and normal service standards, so that everyone is becoming angry.

    The peasants have figured Deng out quite well. They have the impression that every time a problem arises, Deng will make a snap decision as to what to do about it and then, of course, the results often turn out less ideal than they should. Then he makes another snap decision which turns out even worse than the preceding one -- a whole series of pragmatic decisions. So the peasants say "You no sooner think of it than you say it, you no sooner say it than you do it, you no sooner do it than it's a mess." And so it seems to be in one area after another. I believe that this massacre of the people of Beijing is exactly one of those terrible mistakes which Deng has made. In an effort to solve one problem he has jumped into much, much worse problems.

    Of course, the Western media is presenting this as the last gasp of Communism and the ultimate result of having carried out a revolution, but it is not that at all. It's the ultimate result of having betrayed the revolution ten years ago. I haven't had the time to go back and search out those very cogent statements that Chairman Mao made about Deng, Liu, Shaochi, and other capitalist roaders. On many separate occasions he said that if these people come to power our party will change color and we will end up with a fascist regime, and then the Chinese people will rise up and will again conduct revolution and change this. The only surprising thing to me is how fast this happened. Ten years ago Deng was a very popular man. Ten years ago he was supposedly saving China from the debacle of the Cultural Revolution  and putting China back on its feet by introducing a measure of freedom and discussion, a free market and other liberating innovations. And here, ten years later, there is absolute military dictatorship, everyone is being forced to agree that a counterrevolutionary insurrection broke out that the army did exactly the right thing and that the organizers of this movement should be persecuted and punished.


    One of the last things that happened to me in Beijing before I came home was that an old friend who is a party member came to me and said, "Yesterday we had our party meeting and we all had to biaotai (that is express an attitude) and we had to say the army had acted justly in suppressing a counterrevolutionary insurrection. I also said those words, and I was lying and I've been lying so often, so many times and I'm sick of it, but I have to live here, I have to support my family. I have to lie in this circumstance, but I'm only hoping that you will be able to go home and not lie about what happened here."

A Hugh Progressive Coalition

    The truth is, the students were not conducting an insurrection at all. They were not trying to overthrow the government. They were demanding Deng's resignation because he is eighty-four years old, corrupt, and his policies are jeopardizing China's future. And they are demanding the resignation of Li Peng primarily because he imposed martial law. Prior to the martial law decree they were asking for dialogue, a freer press, more democratic rights, public disclosure of high officials' assets. This is not equivalent to demanding the overthrow of the government; nor is calling on certain leaders to resign insurrectionary. This happens frequently in other countries, most recently in Japan, twice. But Deng regarded it as a terrible affront, as turmoil, as chaos, and he punished them for it.

    Many people on the left in this country worry about the politics of the students: Aren't they rightists? Aren't they making bourgeois demands? Aren't they attacking socialism? Well, there is a lot of political diversity among the students; many of them look to Western capitalism as a model. They have rediscovered Adam Smith and the market and they harbor serious illusions about both. But the students are not the right wing in Chinese politics. The right wing consists of Deng and his group. The students are part of a huge progressive coalition -- people in the middle, people to the left of the middle, and even some to the right of the middle -- that is attacking the real reactionaries. Furthermore, as the movement develops it has to move to the left, and it is moving to the left. The students, on their own, do not have the power to transform China. To do that they have to go to the people, and when they go to the people they have to start dealing with the nitty-gritty issues of peasants' rights and workers' rights. They have to defend land-use rights and protect peasants against adverse price scissors. They have to stand with the workers against surrendering all prerogatives to management. They have to defend the "iron rice bowl," the job security workers won through revolution.

Some people in the United States are calling for the establishment of a new revolutionary party in China and the launching of a new revolution. My estimate is that there are large numbers of dedicated communists in the Chinese Communist Party and also in the army. I foresee the possibility of change brought about by the mobilization of such people -- perhaps through an army coup led by radical officers who can rally all the revolutionary elements in the army, in the party, and in society.

In sum, I think there is a lot of naïveté among the students and their supporters, but I also think they lost some of it on June 3 and 4.


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Created by keza
Last modified 2005-07-17 02:03 AM

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