25 years ago: The Chinese Stalinist's Tiananmen Square Massacre
Note of the Editor: Below we reprint two resolutions on the Chinese Stalinist's Tiananmen Square Massacre in June 1989. They have been adopted and published by the RCIT’s predecessor organization Movement for a Revolutionary Communist International in June 1989. They express the Trotskyist position to this crucial event which was a defeated political revolution by China’s workers and students.
This massacre, in which the Stalinist bureaucracy killed several thousands of workers and students who were protesting for democratic rights, was a crucial event in the recent history of China. It paved the way for a capitalist restoration process which ended in China’s transformation into an emerging imperialist power as we have shown in various writings. (1)
In one of our documents we have explained why the Tiananmen Square Massacre was a key reason for China’s much more successful capitalist restoration than Russia’s:
“The Russians also tried to become an imperialist power and indeed they did succeed around the turn of the century. However despite the fact that the USSR was much more industrialized than China, possessed much a more developed machinery park, technology and skilled labor forces, despite all these advantages China today is the much more powerful imperialist state. What is the reason for this? (…) The answer can only be found in the form of the capitalist restoration process. Both in China and in Russia capitalism was restored in the early 1990s. Hence in both cases we saw social counter-revolutions. But the forms were very different. In China the Stalinist bureaucracy managed to brutally smash the working class and the youth with the massacre at the Tiananmen Square on 4th of June 1989 where they killed thousands of activists. After succeeding in this they could subjugate the working class, force on it the worst possible labor discipline (remember the draconic hukou- system), and hence squeeze out of it for many years without any interruptions massive volumes of capitalist value.”
(1) See Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, 2013, Chapter 10, http://www.great-robbery-of-the-south.net/; Chapter 10 is an enlarged and updated version of the following document: Michael Pröbsting: China‘s transformation into an imperialist power. A study of the economic, political and military aspects of China as a Great Power, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 4 (2012), http://www.thecommunists.net/publications/revcom-number-4; We have also published a summary of these documents in: Michael Pröbsting: Russia and China as Great Imperialist Powers. A Summary of the RCIT’s Analysis, 28 March 2014, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-china-and-russia/
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China: Revolution and Repression
China has just passed through a profound political revolutionary crisis. It was a crisis which objectively posed the possibility of the revolutionary overthrow of the ruling bureaucracy. Faced with mass opposition in the cities the bureaucratic regime was paralysed. Industry ground to a halt. The bureaucracy’s control of its armed forces was shaken. In that crisis decisive action by the working class could have overthrown the regime. The potential for political revolution could have been turned into the reality of proletarian political revolution itself.
The Beijing massacre will be remembered throughout the international workers’ movement as one of the decisive moments of twentieth century history. Like the slaughter of the Communards in 1871, or Bloody Sunday, 1905, this will be remembered not only as a testimony to the barbarity of reaction or even the heroism of those who fight it, but as a lesson which, when learned, will hasten both vengeance and the eradication of the social orders which can produce such monstrous inhumanities.
The political revolutionary crisis in China was yet one more example of the deep crisis that is afflicting Stalinism globally. One by one the ruling bureaucracies are attempting to solve the problems of their stagnating planned economies by embracing elements of the market mechanism and retreating before imperialism. The events in China are a portent of the crisis looming for the ruling bureaucracies throughout the degenerate(d) workers’ states. All of the ruling castes are capable of attempting to unleash such bloody repression should workers’ struggles threaten their rule.
The crisis has also served to accelerate further the process of disintegration of world Stalinism as a monolithic tendency and the deep polarisations in its ranks. Fearful for their own political stability the ruling bureaucracies of Cuba, the GDR, CSSR and Bulgaria have openly supported the massacre of “counter-revolutionaries”. The ruling Hungarian party and the Eurocommunists have condemned it. Others, like the Chilean party, were struck silent by events.
In the USSR, Gorbachev has taken great pains not to condemn the massacre in the name of “non-interference” in the internal affairs of other states. He needs to keep a free hand to use repression at home should his perestroika so require it. He wants to establish a precedent should he decide to follow that path. He is also keen to prevent a deterioration in Sino- Soviet relations which he was attempting to normalise at precisely the time the crisis erupted. However, mindful of his relations with imperialism, he has been careful not to appear to openly endorse the massacre. Within the Soviet bureaucracy as a whole the Chinese events will serve to strengthen the resolve of those who, like their East German, Czech and Cuban counterparts,will take them as evidence that the relaxation of bureaucratic planning and political control will surely lead to the destabilising of the regimes themselves.
China: a degenerate workers’ state
Although capitalism was overthrown in China between 1951 and 1953 this was not done by a revolutionary working class which was then able to assert its own control over the economy and establish a system of planning that could mobilise the creativity and energy of the workers. On the contrary, the expropriation—in many cases, by taxation—was carried through by bureaucratic means. This left the state, controlled by the CCP, with ownership of a very backward and distorted economy which was inadequate to the needs both of the population and of the state. Since that time there have been divisions within the ruling bureaucracy over the methods to be used to develop the economy, all that has united them is a commitment to maintaining their own caste rule against all opposition. Throughout the many changes of policy the basic structure of the industrial economy has remained that copied from the Soviet Union during the first Five Year Plan: central planning agencies have laid down quantitative targets to be met by production units and this has been consistently more successful in heavy industry than in light industry.
This form of planning, in the context of a fully statified economy, was able to achieve a significant increase in production and to re-establish a nationally integrated economy. This enabled China to overcome the systematic poverty and national disintegration which she had suffered under capitalism. Nonetheless, the inadequacies of bureaucratic planning were unable to raise production qualitatively above that needed to raise the population above a minimum standard of living. Average incomes and living standards have changed little since the 1950s.
The planned property relations in China represent a historic gain that must be defended. They represent the abolition of capitalism which is a prerequisite of the transition to socialism and communism. However, in the hands of the bureaucracy these planned property relations are not used to create an ever more classless and egalitarian society. The necessary lifeblood of a planned economy—the democracy of the producers themselves—is systematically repressed. As a result, the planned economies stagnate and inequalities and privilege abound.
The reaction of the ruling bureaucracies, first in Yugoslavia, later in China, and now in the USSR, is to try to solve the problem through closer co-operation with imperialism and, most crucially, through the importation of market mechanisms. But by their nature market mechanisms tend to subvert the centralised political control of the bureaucracy. They create their own disequilibriums. For that reason, the Stalinists have, to a greater or lesser extent, tried to marry elements of marketisation with their continued control over production expressed through centralised planning. Objectively this only serves to exacerbate the crisis of their rule. The impact of marketisation serves to hamper centralised planning and control even further. Attempts at centralised planning, in turn, hamper the functioning of the market.
Plan versus market
In China, as elsewhere, this tension is reflected within the bureaucracy itself between those who wish to maintain, or restrengthen, centralised planning and those who wish to push further down the road of marketisation, a section of whom favour the restoration of capitalism itself. These strategic poles within the bureaucracy cannot be simplistically reduced to representing a division between an authoritarian and a liberalising wing within the bureaucracy. It is true that the advocates of centralised planning and control oppose any significant relaxation of the bureaucracy’s politically repressive rule. But so too do the marketeers. That Deng Xiaoping could order the bloody massacre in Beijing while reaffirming his intention to press ahead with market reforms and further openings for foreign capital is proof of this.
Where the so called “liberalisers” in the bureaucracy do call for a relaxation of political control they mean this only to apply to the managerial and technocratic layers of society for whom freedom to discuss the future course of political and economic development is a necessity. None of the bureaucratic factions are genuinely committed to removal of the dictatorial regime over the mass of Chinese workers and peasants.
The present crisis cannot be separated off from the sequence of factional struggles which have centred on this problem of economic growth since the mid-1950s. The “Great Leap Forward”, an attempt by Mao to solve the problem voluntaristically, led to a huge drop in output in all sectors. The consequent famine was overcome by allowing a considerable degree of privatised production in agriculture and a return to centralised planning in industry. In an attempt to reverse the social and political consequences of this “capitalist road” the Mao faction resorted to controlled mass mobilisation against their opponents in the mis-named “Proletarian Cultural Revolution”. The scale of the factional dispute can be judged by the willingness of the Maoists to allow three years of increasingly independent student and working class activity in a movement which destabilised much of the state administration. Nonetheless, when those mobilisations threatened to go beyond the control of the Mao faction the army was used to restore order. In the aftermath, as the factions fought behind closed doors, the economy stagnated under the increasingly authoritarian rule of the ageing Mao and the “Gang of Four”.
After the death of Mao in 1976, the faction led by Deng Xiaoping fought to regain the leadership. Within the bureaucracy they reassembled many of the leaders who had been attacked during the Cultural Revolution but, at the same time they encouraged the development of the “Democracy Wall” movement which came to a head in 1978-79. With considerable precision, Deng utilised these two forces first to remove Hua Guofeng and then to repress the democracy movement itself.
The very existence of long term factional polarities within the Chinese bureaucracy made it necessary, as well as possible, for Deng to fashion his own distinct form of Bonapartist rule over the bureaucracy. With close links to the Army High Command through the military commission that he chairs, and through the Standing Committee, he has fashioned the means of exercising his own rule over the party and state bureaucracy and for playing its component groups, including regional groupings within it, against one another when necessary. Control of the armed and security forces—the decisive levers of political repression—has enabled Deng to defeat his rivals and order the massacre on the streets of Beijing.
Roots of the present crisis
In December 1978, the new leadership embarked on its strategy of overcoming the inefficiencies and rigidities of bureaucratic planning by the re-introduction of the market. Privatisation of the communes led, initially, to a sharp increase in production. This success encouraged a similar policy in industry where, although state ownership was retained, individual enterprises were given greater freedom to trade and threatened with closure if they did not become profitable. Foreign capital was introduced extensively into China both by state borrowing and direct investment in the “Special Economic Zones”. In industry, too, increases in production were registered in the first years of this programme.
However, these policies bore within them the seeds of the insoluble contradictions which have led to the present crisis. As well as opening the economy to the market, the bureaucracy has to retain a central sector under its own control. Without that the bureaucracy has no base in society and no means of enforcing its rule. Parts of the bureaucracy are more immediately related to, or dependent upon, this state economic sector and this is the material basis for the main factional divisions. However, a further element is supplied by the position of the army High Command which, for historic reasons, is closely integrated into the political leadership and also strongly regionalised. Deng’s strategy, which involves major concessions to the market but the retention of a powerful state controlled sector, involves distinct regional implications because the coastal provinces are to be more “marketised” than the hinterland. In sum his strategic objective, “Two Systems, One Country” is a utopia. The same state cannot defend both capitalist and post-capitalist property relations.
The demands of the state sector conflict with the priorities of the “marketised sector” in industry, the procurement prices in agriculture are set below those of the market and this encourages corruption. Peasant production of industrial crops replaces food production for the domestic market. Accumulation of capital in the countryside leads to social class differentiation amongst the peasantry and the emergence of a kulak class. Rapid capital investment and incentive bonuses stimulate the highest rate of inflation since the revolution and, at the same time, the “iron rice bowl”, the guarantee of employment to workers which applies to over 96% of the industrial workforce, sets limits to the productivity targets of the market sector. Commitments to overseas trade lead to shortages and bottlenecks in domestic production.
Throughout the Chinese economy, all attempts to carry out the market-strategy lead directly to conflict with the bureaucracy’s political and economic imperatives. This expresses itself in the demands, by those most closely identified with the market both within the bureaucracy and industry, for further relaxation of state and party controls, for the separation of the party from the state and for the introduction of political pluralism, by which is meant openly restorationist parties. As early as 1986, these had led to a renewal of the “Democracy Movement” amongst professionals and students. The General Secretary of the Party, Hu Yaobang was identified with this movement and, in January 1987, Hu was ousted and replaced by Zhao Ziyang—also a protege of Deng.
The factional struggle, however, did not abate. By the Thirteenth Congress of the CCP, October 1987, the faction in favour of further liberalisation was in the ascendant. It was backed by Deng who insisted that the campaign against the Democracy Movement had to be limited to the political sphere and should not be allowed to affect economic policy. Nonetheless, throughout 1988 the economic problems of the regime multiplied and with them the depth of factional divisions in the highest ranks of the bureaucracy. This culminated in the September 1988 Party Plenum which was so evenly balanced as to be paralysed and unable to ratify the politburo’s proposals for radical price reform.
It was this political vacuum which ensured the re-emergence of the Democracy Movement. This was at first restricted to specialised publications, where coded arguments about the economy fuelled discussion and debate within the managerial strata and the intelligentsia. The death of Hu Yaobang (15 April, 1989) provided the pretext for this underground movement to break into the light of day.
The Democracy Movement in crisis
For decades faction fights within the CCP have been accompanied by bureaucratically controlled mass mobilisations and by attempts to manipulate spontaneous movements. The student demonstrations at the time of Hu’s funeral were called by the Democracy Movement under slogans calculated to avoid charges of political disloyalty and with the hope of pressurising elements of the leading caste.
As the movement grew, sections of the bureaucracy no doubt hoped to try and use it to further their factional ends. However, the strength of the movement and the enthusiastic support of the people of Beijing, meant that there was never any possibility of the movement remaining within limits imposed from above.
Although The People’s Daily condemned the students for conspiracy against the party and the socialist system this did not prevent their central demands—for a free press, against corruption and recognition of unofficial student organisations—from being taken up by students throughout China. By 4 May, the anniversary of the first revolutionary nationalist movement, the movement was able to march tens of thousands of students into Tiananmen Square without opposition from the state. These demonstrations were cheered by thousands of onlookers. In response to this, Zhao Ziyang announced that many of the ideas of the students “coincided with those of the party”. This was interpreted to mean that Zhao, unlike Deng, was willing to tolerate the Democracy Movement. At the same time, after 4 May, the movement subsided. Apart from Beida, most universities were re-opened the following day.
This, however, proved to be a lull in the movement, not an end to it. Having taken stock of what they had achieved, the Beijing students decided to go further and to organise mass demonstrations at the time of the visit of Gorbachev on 15 May. This resulted in huge demonstrations during Gorbachev’s visit. The Chinese bureaucracy was forced to change schedules time and again because of the sheer scale of the mobilisations, which now included large numbers of workers and also protesting journalists who demanded the right to report accurately what was happening. It was in this context that the student hunger strike began and Tiananmen Square became permanently occupied by tens of thousands of students.
In response to this, the Standing Committee of the Politburo met on 18 May to discuss a proposal from Zhao that concessions be made to the students. The proposal was defeated. Zhao signalled his dissent by visiting the students in Tiananmen Square. This act broke the discipline of the bureaucratic caste and led to the downfall of Zhao. Li Peng, the premier declared martial law in Beijing the following morning. Within hours an estimated one million people had occupied central Beijing. When troops tried to enter the centre they were forced back. On the same day, as strikes paralysed the capital, the Autonomous Workers’ Organisation was founded in Beijing.
From stalemate to repression
For the next two weeks a stalemate existed between the students in Tiananmen Square and the deeply divided bureaucracy. Increasing fraternisation between troops and protesters led to the removal of the troops from central Beijing. Rumours abounded of splits in both the army and the bureaucracy as strikes spread throughout China. By the weekend of 27-28 May, the student occupation of Tiananmen Square was beginning to subside and it appeared that a possible compromise had been reached between Beijing student leaders and the bureaucracy: the troops would not be used if the students wound down the demonstrations and ended the hunger strike. However, the arrival of provincial students and the increasing involvement of workers in Tiananmen Square revived the movement within a few days. It was this latter development in particular that concentrated the minds of the ruling bureaucracy and determined it to take decisive repressive action.
On 31 May, leaders of the Autonomous Workers’ Organisation were arrested in Beijing and workers were publicly threatened and ordered not to support the Tiananmen occupation. Strikes to protest at this took place and several thousand protesters demonstrated outside the Interior Ministry. The following day troops appeared throughout central Beijing. They were unarmed but located at strategic intersections and buildings. On 2 June, thousands of unarmed troops were marched into central Beijing but mass demonstrations prevented their progress and most returned to their garrisons.
The scale of the opposition to troop mobilisations in Beijing, coupled with the increasingly nationwide nature of the democracy movement, convinced the core of the bureaucracy, the security services and the army under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, the “paramount leader”, of the necessity for a ruthless attack on their opponents. On 3 and 4 June this took the form of the Beijing massacre, in which the majority of victims were from the working class of the city who went to the defence of the students and workers in Tiananmen Square. In the days that followed this was extended across the country as general strikes and barricades expressed the outrage and the solidarity of the workers of China.
Although factional disagreements must have contributed to both the delay in imposing this barbarous repression and provided a material substance for the rumours of actual armed conflict between different army groups, there is no evidence of consciously directed armed actions of this sort. The decision to act nationally, and to utilise inexperienced troops from every section of the regionally-based army, contributed to the barbarism but, ultimately, demonstrated the agreement of the bureaucratic factions to the bloody suppression of the opponents of their dictatorship. Those factions who initially opposed this strategy were rendered powerless by the determination of the Deng faction, to oppose that could only have meant civil war and this would have implied a choice between siding with an insurgent working class or, longer term, with agents of capitalist restoration in, for example, Taiwan. There was no group willing or able to make either of these choices.
The political revolutionary crisis
The mass mobilisations in China had a clear and indisputable political revolutionary potential. This was most sharply expressed by those components of it that gave mass voice to egalitarian, anti-corruption and anti-privilege demands. It represented a mighty struggle against the deeply privileged and secluded bureaucratic leadership and, very noticeably, against their offspring. Note the charges aimed at Li Peng as the adopted son of Zhou Enlai, and at the opulent business career of Deng Xiaoping’s son.
Trotsky predicted that the political revolutionary struggle would take the initial form of precisely such a struggle against bureaucratic privilege and also against bureaucratic political oppression. As in all revolutionary crises, the mass mobilisations and the organisations which they created, were far from being politically homogenous or of a nationally uniform character. This was reflected in the political ambiguity of many of the slogans and demands raised by the movement. Nonetheless, the demands for, “democracy” and against corruption expressed, fundamentally, a deep hatred of political oppression and of their own political expropriation on the part of the urban masses. In giving voice to their hatred of the bureaucracy’s material privileges they were also voicing their own anger at the extreme hardship of life for the overwhelming majority of the Chinese proletariat.
The political revolutionary potential of the movement was graphically demonstrated by the fact that it mobilised the mighty Chinese working class itself into mass resistance to the bureaucracy through mass strikes and the formation of independent working class organisations. One of the most important features of the entire crisis was the remarkable uniformity of the working class response to the Beijing massacre throughout the major cities of China. In addition, and very importantly, we also saw the formation of joint worker-student organisations of an open, and later after the repression, an underground character.
For these reasons we recognise the politically revolutionary potential of the events themselves. From the point of view of the future they have given the Chinese working class a taste of its own potential strength and its collective identity after years of repression and profound atomisation at the hands of the Stalinist bureaucracy. It has created a river of blood between the Chinese workers and their murderous Stalinist rulers. For that reason it has the potential of playing, for the Chinese working class, the role that the 1905 Revolution in Russia played, despite its eventual defeat, in forging the independent class and political consciousness of the Russian working class.
However, the movement also displayed profound weaknesses and contradictions that precisely prevented the revolutionary potential of the mobilisations being realised and allowed the bureaucracy to ruthlessly reassert its power. These weaknesses were manifested in several different ways.
Firstly, in the initial social composition of the movement itself. As a movement of the students and the intelligentsia it had neither the social nor political weight to mount a challenge to the bureaucracy that could destroy its armed might and fundamentally challenge its political rule. Its non-proletarian character also meant that its initial focus was on an abstract demand for “democracy” and on pacifist tactics supposed to realise that objective.
“Democracy” was posed in a manner that was capable of having several meanings. On the one hand it involved demands to remove the existing inner clique of the bureaucratic leadership and replace it with one that was supposedly more democratic and less corrupt. This allowed sections of the initial student movement to pose their demands in the form of a homage to Hu Yaobang against the existing leadership that had ousted him. And it allowed them later to concretise their demands in terms of support for Zhao against Li Peng. At certain key junctures this opened the road for Zhao to attempt to, or even perhaps to succeed in, mobilising broad sections of the movement behind one particular wing in the bureaucratic faction fight.
The “democracy” that placed its hopes in bureaucratic reformers and expressed illusions in them had equally crippling illusions in the Peoples Liberation Army itself. This was expressed in a naïve and ultimately calamitous belief that the PLA, as the “people’s army”, would never attack the “people”.
Much of this reflected not only the social composition of the original leadership of the movement, (i.e. students) but also the influence of Aquino type notions of “people’s power”. The latter was conceived and articulated in terms of the ousting of the present party leadership through the moral pressure of the display of “people’s power” in Tiananmen Square.
This was to take the form of a passive occupation of the Square, followed by the hunger strike to which the population in general, as the “people”, were asked to give their visible, but still passive, moral support. Only when the movement faced stalemate and the hunger strike failed to achieve its goals and was abandoned, did the leadership of the movement begin to recognise, in a limited way, the potential strength of the working class.
But even then, the working class was still seen only as an auxiliary, although extremely powerful, support to the movement. Despite its massive strength and preparedness to struggle, the leaders of the Chinese Democracy Movement looked to the general strike of the working class as an adjunct to their protests not as the only force that could effectively destabilise bureaucratic rule prior to its insurrectionary overthrow.
While the “democratic movement” called on the working class to give it support as it became increasingly evident that the ruling bureaucracy was refusing to budge, it remained the case that the dominant trends in that movement remained trapped in pacifist, abstract and ultimately profoundly incoherent notions of democratism. This was symbolised both by their enthusiasm for Gorbachev and the construction of a “Statue of Liberty” in Tiananmen Square.
For some sections of that movement, demands for democracy were also combined with demands for further marketisation and the ultimate restoration of capitalism in China. The very policies of Deng himself in the economic sphere and the pressure of imperialism and Chinese capitalism outside mainland China served to strengthen the pressure on sections of the movement to conceive of the realisation of their democratic demands also in terms of hastening the restoration of capitalism in China.
On the other hand, the foundation of the Autonomous Workers’ Organisations on 21 May, starting in Beijing, was an important step forward for the Chinese working class and represented the awakening of genuine independent class organisation even though its founding statements did not clearly express its own class (social and economic) interests.
The road to power
In truth, therefore, the movement was fundamentally inadequate to the task objectively posed, the overthrow of bureaucratic rule. The armed forces remained fundamentally at the disposal of the ruling bureaucratic regime, within whose top ranks the PLA generals are closely integrated; against that armed might, and the determination of the ruling bureaucracy to hold on to power, the tactics of passive protest, in its variety of forms, was absolutely bound to fail. There was not, and could not have been, any section of the ruling bureaucracy prepared to lead a mass struggle to put an end to bureaucratic oppression and material privileges. Equally, the economic programmes of rival wings within the bureaucracy are neither capable of ending, nor intended to end the material hardship and inequalities suffered by the masses of China.
This is not to say that the victory of the bureaucracy was inevitable or that lessons cannot be learned from this round of struggle that can ensure victory in the next round of struggle.
The key to victory lay in mobilising the working class as an independent force that, far from being subordinate to the emocratic movement, was hegemonic in the struggle to overthrow the bureaucracy. The strike wave of the working class could have been, and in future must be, the basis for the forging of workers’ councils (soviets) in all the industrial centres. Such councils would bring together delegates from all major workplaces as well as from the workers’ districts of the cities and would take on the tasks, not only of co-ordinating strikes and demonstrations, but also imposing working class control over production and distribution, transport, broadcasting and publishing, as well as the arming of the working class to defend itself. Such is the determination of the ruling bureaucracy to hold on to power that it was, and will always be, necessary for the working class to arm itself in organised workers’ militias. Those militias must be trained and prepared for direct military confrontation with the Stalinist regime in order to defend their organisations and destroy the ability of the ruling bureaucracy to deploy its armed bodies of men.
However, the working class has other weapons at its disposal to break up the primarily peasant PLA. It has the weapon of physical force to concentrate the minds of the armed forces as to which side they are on. It has the weapon of fraternisation to attempt to actively win the troops to its side. To focus its campaign to win over the rank and file soldiers the working class needs to commit itself to support for the formation of soldiers’ councils with the right to take their place alongside the workers in the soviets. Those soldiers’ councils will become an active component in breaking the power of the central bureaucracy, in arming the workers and in actively assisting the armed insurrection that alone can put an end to bureaucratic rule.
The successful political revolution in China requires that the working class takes up as its own, and hegemonises, the struggles of key non-proletarian sectors of society and that it gives a proletarian class content to such demands as equality, democracy and political freedom. Against corruption it must demand, and impose, workers’ inspection of all public, industrial and financial dealings and appointments. Against inflation it must demand a sliding scale of wages calculated by working class organisations. Against economic dislocation and sabotage it must fight for workers’ control.
It must take up in its programme the rights of Chinese youth and all sectors of society to an education system, a press and a media that is freed from the stranglehold of the Stalinist bureaucracy. Equally vital to working class unity and strength is the need to champion all measures which liberate women from inequality and oppression and which socialise domestic toil.
To counteract attempts at “divide and rule” tactics, the working class must champion the granting of genuine equal and democratic rights to national minorities.
Of vital importance in China will be the linking of proletarian struggles with those of the increasingly impoverished poor and middle peasants against the emerging kulak and rural capitalist class, patronised and enriched by the policies of Deng Xiaoping. Because of the historical circumstances in which the CCP was able to seize power, the peasantry has always been its major point of social stability. Indeed, Deng justified taking the risk of attacking Tiananmen Square by declaring that, “the countryside is behind us”. To destroy that solid support, the proletariat must advance a land programme that will exploit the differentiation caused by marketisation.
This will, necessarily, vary in detail from region to region but its central component will be demands for state support for the poor farmers, for expropriation of kulak land and mechanical equipment, turned over for use by co-operatives, for public works to employ the rural unemployed and the creation of worker-peasant commissions to oversee prices and deliveries to the cities.
Only in this way can a class alliance be cemented which, after the victory of the political revolution, can make real the introduction of planning and more advanced techniques without either disadvantaging or antagonising the mass of the rural population.
In order to win the working class to such a programme it is necessary to build a revolutionary party in conditions that, while they will be ripe in terms of the potential for thousands of workers to be persuaded on the basis of experience, will also be extremely hazardous given the scale of brutality the bureaucracy is inflicting on working class militants in particular. However, such is the popular hatred of the regime and such was the mass scale of the movement against it, that the bureaucracy can be challenged by a popularly protected underground revolutionary party. That party must steel the proletarian vanguard ready for the inevitable struggles ahead. Workers must be won to see the need to be organised independently and ready to lead. The best young intellectuals must be won to this argument, to strengthening their links with the workers as their political priority and to the recognition that their programme must be one that is based on the needs and the struggles of the workers.
The alternative, particularly amongst the intelligentsia, is that pro-capitalist ideas will strengthen as the intelligentsia despairs of winning any democratic liberties except in conjunction with imperialism and its agents who are, no doubt, already active in the fertile conditions created by Deng’s policies. Against this it is vital that the reforged revolutionary communist party defends planned property relations as the prerequisite of developing China’s productive forces in a rounded way sufficient to benefit all the masses and to ensure ever greater equality and put an end to bureaucratic privilege.
The bloody terror with which the bureaucracy reasserted its rule has solved none of the fundamental issues that led to the crisis of its rule. A retreat into autarchy, national isolation and further state control of the economy offers no way out. It will meet with the apathy or resistance of the Chinese workers, as will the attempt to step up production by bureaucratic decree. Even if this were accompanied by a rapprochement with the USSR, involving greater trade, it would still not haul China out of its present stagnation.
On the other hand, if the “open door” policy is reaffirmed and deepened this would lead to further disproportions and dislocations in the economy as has been experienced throughout the 1980s. If the “open door” policy were to eventually allow the “capitalist roaders”—in alliance with the Chinese capitalists abroad—to undermine and overthrow the Bonapartist leaders, then the Chinese masses will learn to their cost that capitalism in China will not lead to prosperity for them.
China, back under the yoke of world imperialism, would not for one moment enjoy the democratic liberties and living standards of the advanced, imperialist, nations. On the contrary she would rapidly be plunged back into the desperate poverty, starvation and national disintegration that she suffered in the 1920s and 1930s. Her present population, a quarter of humanity, could not survive a free market and an open door for the goods of the imperialists.
It is the experience of, for example, the Latin American countries under “liberal economics” that would await her, not that of North America or Western Europe. Similarly, aspirations towards political freedom and “democratic rights” will never be fulfilled by a return to unbridled capitalism. In China, the masses would find themselves denied virtually all rights as is the case throughout most of the semi-colonial world. The only road to political and social emancipation is the road of overthrowing the bureaucracy, the road of political revolution.
The immediate task of solidarity work is for the working class movements throughout the world to take whatever action they can in solidarity with the Chinese students and workers. Cancel all trade union visits and exchanges with the Chinese bureaucrats, fight for unions and federations to send aid and assistance to any autonomous workers’ and students’ organisations still functioning. Organise demonstrations against the continuing repression. In the present period of active repression of workers and students we are for immediate workers’ sanctions to turn back Chinese ships and trade. We reject all popular frontist/class collaborationist solidarity actions. We do not participate in any joint action with any bourgeois administration or any bourgeois figures or parties. We fight in the solidarity movements against any illusions that the imperialist governments will aid the students’ and workers’ struggles in China. Their interests at the moment lie with Deng Xiaoping not the masses. We fight against any anti-communist tendencies which argue for an imperialist blockade of China as a means of restoring capitalism.
For the right of every student from China to have automatic right of abode in the country in which they are studying if they request it. For the right of every citizen of Hong Kong to enter any foreign country if they so wish.
Solidarity with Chinese workers and students!
The immediate task is for the working class movements throughout the world to take whatever action they can in solidarity with the Chinese students and workers. Cancel all trade union visits and exchanges with the Chinese bureaucrats, fight for unions and federations to send aid and assistance to any autonomous workers’ and students’ organisations still functioning. Organise demonstrations against the continuing repression.
In the present period of active repression of workers and students we are for immediate workers’ sanctions to turn back Chinese ships and trade. We reject all popular frontist/class collaborationist solidarity actions. We do not participate in any joint action with any bourgeois administration or any bourgeois figures or parties. We fight in the solidarity movements against any illusions that the imperialist governments will aid the students’ and workers’ struggles in China. Their interests at the moment lie with Deng Xiaoping not the masses. We fight against any anti-communist tendencies which argue for an imperialist blockade of China as a means of restoring capitalism.
For the right of every student from China to have automatic right of abode in the country in which they are studying if they request it. For the right of every citizen of Hong Kong to enter any foreign country if they so wish.
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Down with Stalinist butchery in Beijing! For political revolution in China!
MRCI statement on China
Issued by the MRCI International Secretariat, 6 June 1989
Words are too weak to express the horror and outrage at events in Beijing on 3 and 4 June. A brutal and pitiless army was let loose on the unarmed students and workers of the capital with the clear and deliberate intention of drowning in blood the movement for democratic reform.
The mighty heroism of the young people of Beijing in the face of this carnage has moved the whole world. Any regime that has to resort to this to sustain its hold on power is condemned by history and doomed to destruction.
Yet events in Hungary (1956), Czechoslovakia (1968) and in Kampuchea (1975) indicate that this monstrous crime is neither unique nor a special Chinese phenomenon. No, it is a crime of Stalinism. It is a product of the deadly inner contradictions of the rule of the bureaucratic caste which usurped political power from the working class and peasantry.
Although capitalism was overthrown and imperialism excluded in China by 1953, the Chinese Stalinists then and now act to block the road to socialism and maintain their power and privileges over the masses.
Isolated in a single country—even one so vast as China—socialist construction is impossible. The CCP was never a force for world revolution, that is, for the spreading of the proletarian revolution to other countries. Despite the initial advances which were the product of excluding the imperialist plunderers, crushing the capitalists and setting up a centralised command economy, China has writhed in the contradictions of the bureaucracy’s inability to direct that plan due to the fact that the Chinese masses are excluded from participation in the determination of their needs.
In 1978 the bureaucracy elevated Deng Xiaoping to the role of supreme leader on a programme of opening China to world capitalist forces, restoring private ownership in the countryside and using imperialist capital to discipline China’s workers through unemployment and rising prices.
Yet the bureaucratic caste and its upper clique still had enormous internal divisions The long term existence of this caste is bound up with the existence of the planned property relations. Any unreversable process of their disintegration spells doom for this caste.
On the other hand since the bureaucracy’s power and privileges cannot allow them to submit themselves to the democracy of the workers and poor peasants, they cannot solve the crisis of their system by utilising the conscious creativity of these classes. Indeed, they had to suppress even public discussion of the existence of economic crisis.
The bureaucracy is polarised between factions who wish to make repeated concessions to capitalism and to allow a certain democratisation and those who see in this the danger that their caste dictatorship will come under a mass challenge as a result.
Deng Xiaoping and his clique have balanced between these factions, favouring repeated and far reaching concessions to capitalism but determined to give the workers no democratic scope to oppose the effects of these concessions. Deng precisely reflects the contradictions of bureaucratic rule.
The student movement of recent years represents an attempt by sections of the “liberalising” bureaucrats to mobilise mass pressure to pursue a Gorbachev style policy of glasnost as a necessary condition for economic liberalisation.
Yet this faction fight in the bureaucracy opened the way for the participation of the masses; students at first and then increasingly the workers. The intransigence of Deng and Li Peng obliged the student leaders to broaden their movement. Initially unwilling to draw in the workers, self-defence made them do so. Yet the main student leaders believed that involving the working class was a last resort and concentrated their attention on pursuing the hunger strike to force changes in the actions of the CCP leadership.
Deng decided in favour of the “conservative”, pro-repression faction and rallied the army commanders of the rural hinterland of China. Having restored unfettered private ownership to China’s peasants and allowed for the growth of a rich peasant class, Deng sought to use the indifference and even hostility of the countryside to crush the workers and intelligentsia.
The first phase of the movement has been ended by the bloody carnage of Tienanmen Square. Now Canton students are reported as saying there is a need for a General Strike. This is the right instinct. Peaceful pressure on the bureaucracy, submission to its “liberal” faction is a disastrous policy. Only the working class can paralyse the repression with an all-China General Strike. Only this working class action can lay the basis for winning over the poor peasants in the countryside and the workers and poor peasants in army uniform.
The students and the workers who have formed autonomous trade unions however must go beyond calls for democracy in the abstract. In reality this means to identify with bourgeois, capitalist democracy which will mean unemployment, poverty and renewed imperialist exploitation for China’s millions.
A new political force—a revolutionary party—must arise which openly stands for the maintenance of the nationalised industry of China and its subjection to the control and planning of the toilers not the dictates of the bureaucracy. Such a party must stand for workers democracy in China.
In the struggle to smash the murderers of the people, in the fight to co-ordinate a powerful strike movement, to win over the troops and reach out to the peasantry, strike committees and councils must be formed. These bodies can be the organs of democracy and political power for the workers.
This strategy for victory means total and unreserved identification with the interests of the working class and a total break with the pro-capitalist and pro-imperialist forces in China and beyond it. Dangers exist in the students’ fight for an abstract form of democracy which can lead to a reactionary bloc with pro-capitalist forces. But the use of the Red Flag, their singing of the Internationale and their turn to the working class are all evidence that the movement is not, as the Stalinist slanderers claim, a movement for restoring capitalism in China.
• Down with the murderers, the parasitic bureaucracy! For proletarian political revolution in China!
• For the revolutionary re-unification of all China including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao under workers’ democracy!
• Down with the hypocrisy of the imperialist bourgeoisie who will only take action when they have identified where their own interests lie!
• Down with the cant of the British government who dare to speak of democracy even as they maintain their garrison in undemocratic Hong Kong. Chinese workers and students abroad: do not appeal to Thatcher and Bush but to the working class for international class solidarity!
• Workers throughout the world must take action to boycott or embargo Chinese trade and transport whilst the slaughter and the strike wave continues!
• Force the imperialist governments to recognise the right of students to have political refugee status! No enforced repatriations!