Tiananmen Square: a US-backed attempt at counter-revolution

How the US tried to apply its colour-revolution formula to China, complete with the big lie of a non-existent ‘massacre’.

Lalkar writers

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Counter-revolutionary protesters link arms in Tiananmen Square on 3 June 1989.

Lalkar writers

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The hired harpies and lie-smiths of the mass media in the imperialist countries produced their, now usual, major ‘hate-China-fest’ to mark the 25th anniversary of what they call ‘the Tiananmen Square Massacre’.

The Trotskyist/revisionist/social-democratic so-called ‘left’ in Britain gleefully joined them in this attempt to consolidate a big lie in the minds of working-class people and therefore objectively, whether they meant to or not, have helped the imperialists try to build/strengthen another wall of confusion between workers and the ideology of Marxism Leninism that alone has the power to free the vast majority of humanity from the oppressive rule of a handful of super-rich, all-powerful (seemingly) despots and their henchmen.

There were two very real massacres on 3-4 June 1981. The first was committed by the corrupt forces of imperialist journalism against the truth and facts. The second was committed by the US-created, directed and funded, virulently anticommunist ‘pro-democracy’ movement that formed the core of the student ‘protest’.

The followers of this movement did attack, massacre and desecrate the bodies of soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – but more of that further on.

Causes of confrontation

Let us first take a step back and ask how this six-seven week occupation of the main square in Beijing began and what its causes were. This was summed up quite succinctly in a 1989 article published in Lalkar, which read:

“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, and wider pay differentials between the masses and managers and intellectuals, have disrupted the socialist economy and led to inflation, unemployment and the 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).” (Chinese counter-revolution crushed)

The serious ideological weaknesses displayed were hastily and quite blatantly seized upon by US imperialism to sow the seeds of political confusion and disruption in China, not only among sections of the up-and-coming bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie that were being created but among much of the CPC leadership as well.

The international situation in 1989 was that US imperialism looked unassailable and that the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries were collapsing and being torn to pieces under the latest revisionist (mis)leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev in the culmination of a process started by Nikita Khrushchev and his cronies.

In China, however, it seems that US imperialism jumped the gun and the CPC, despite being ideologically weakened, managed to keep control of a very dangerous situation and saw off this open challenge to its leadership of the country from western-led counter-revolutionary forces masquerading as students concerned with corruption and bad practices (two things that would concern any communist).

What really happened

The Lalkar article mentioned above carried a very good in-depth description of the events during that six-seven week siege of Tiananmen Square and the ending of that occupation on 3-4 June, but we have chosen to utilise the writings of others to illustrate the real happenings of those days in order, hopefully, to prove to any but the most reactionary fool that not only is what we say true but also that it is actually supported by many other sources that seek truth and objectivity as well.

In an online article entitled What really happened in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago today, the massacre that wasn’t, Brian Becker writes:

“The hysteria generated about the Tiananmen Square ‘massacre’ was based on a fictitious narrative about what actually happened when the Chinese government finally cleared the square of protestors on 4 June 1989. The demonisation of China was highly effective. Nearly all sectors of US society, including most of the ‘left’, accepted the imperialist presentation of what happened.”

So pervasive was this imperialist version of events that when China reported that about 300 people had died in clashes on 4 June and that many of the dead were soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army it was greeted with almost universal disbelief and derided with scorn.

So much so that when China also explained that there had been no massacre of students in Tiananmen Square and that in fact the soldiers had cleared Tiananmen Square of demonstrators without any shooting or violence at all by the PLA troops, and that fatalities on 4 June were in street battles after the students had left the square, this was given virtually no air time or print space at all.

Instead, all the emphasis was on a supposed ‘eye-witness account’ from one Wen Wei Po, whose vivid accounts of soldiers machinegunning defenceless students and torturing the survivors filled up TV screens and newspaper columns around the bourgeois world.

Many journalists who had been in China during that time and took part in writing the lies have admitted at various times over the years that it is the Chinese government’s version that is the truthful one and that the Wen Wei Po story was pure anti-government, anticommunist propaganda – not even checked before being rushed out.

These latter-day revelations do not attract much press coverage either, and even when they are reported they are ignored or swiftly forgotten, as the myth of the Tiananmen Square massacre is now so strong and set in the minds of people that it can survive the truth so long as enough people of influence (left and right) bring it out and repeat it every so often.

Brian Becker, looking through articles of the day and since, has shown that snippets of the truth were always there though – just buried under a mountain of lies.

One such snippet he found in a Washington Post article, published on 5 June 1989, which described how “anti-government fighters had been organised into formations of 100-150 people. They were armed with Molotov cocktails and iron clubs, to meet the PLA who were still unarmed in the days prior to 4 June.”

The leading core of the ‘protesters’ in the square were not only set on causing enough confusion and strife in their challenge to the government to allow them a chance to seize power, but they also showed the world their political sympathies, not to mention revealing the identity of their paymasters, when they built a large replica of the statue of liberty in the square.

Over the period of the occupation, the Chinese government had been extremely, some might say almost suicidally, restrained.

Tiananmen Square is in the middle of the central government area of the capital and had been brought to a complete standstill. Yet not only had the ‘protesters’ been allowed to stay, but the prime minister had been to talk directly to their leaders about their grievances, and this was televised.

Instead of calming the situation, the leaders of the potential insurrection were emboldened and would agree to nothing, putting their faith in their US backers to protect them. Mr Becker, in his article, makes the very pertinent point:

“The Chinese government also asserted that unarmed soldiers who had entered Tiananmen Square in the two days prior to 4 June were set on fire and lynched with their corpses hung from buses. Other soldiers were incinerated when army vehicles were torched with soldiers unable to evacuate and many others were badly beaten by violent mob attacks.

“These accounts were true and well documented. It would not be difficult to imagine how violently the Pentagon and US law enforcement agencies would have reacted if the Occupy movement, for instance, had similarly set soldiers and police on fire, taken their weapons and lynched them when the government was attempting to clear them from public spaces.”

Another ‘snippet’ of truth that Brian shows us came in the Wall Street Journal, a leading voice of anticommunism, which served as the main cheerleader for the ‘pro-democracy movement’.

“Their coverage right after 4 June acknowledged that many ‘radicalized protesters, some now armed with guns and vehicles commandeered in clashes with the military’ were preparing for larger armed struggles. The Wall Street Journal report on the events of 4 June portrays a vivid picture:

“‘As columns of tanks and tens of thousands soldiers approached Tiananmen many troops were set on by angry mobs … Dozens of soldiers were pulled from trucks, severely beaten and left for dead. At an intersection west of the square, the body of a young soldier, who had been beaten to death, was stripped naked and hung from the side of a bus. Another soldier’s corpse was strung up at an intersection east of the square.’”

Yet this article was supportive of the ‘pro-democracy terrorists’ and insistent that a massacre had been carried out by the PLA soldiers.

The numbers of the ‘massacred’ declared by imperialist spokesmen and journalists at the time (and still by many today) ranged from 1,000 to 8,000, with Tim Russert, NBC’s Washington bureau chief, appearing on Meet the Press and topping the league by claiming that “tens of thousands” died in Tiananmen Square.

Involvement of US imperialism

The US did not limit itself to training and funding the ‘pro-democracy movement’ in China. Mr Becker also states: “The US government was actively involved in promoting the ‘pro-democracy’ protests through an extensive, well-funded, internationally coordinated propaganda machine that pumped out rumours, half-truths and lies from the moment the protests started in mid-April 1989.”

With its sponsored ‘pro-democracy’ movement in China in 1989, the US government was attempting to create a civil war. The Voice of America increased its Chinese language broadcasts to 11 hours each day and targeted the broadcast “directly to 2,000 satellite dishes in China operated mostly by the People’s Liberation Army”. (New York Times, 9 June 1989)

The Voice of America sent broadcasts to PLA units reporting that some army units were firing on others and that some units were loyal to the protesters while others remained with the government. Just before 4 June they reported that China’s prime minister, Li Peng, had been shot and that premier Deng Xiaoping was near death.

Brian Becker rightly says: “The ‘pro-democracy’ protest movement in China was led by privileged, well-connected students from elite universities who were explicitly calling for the replacement of socialism with capitalism. The leaders were particularly connected to the United States.

“Of course, thousands of other students who participated in the protests were in the square because they had grievances against the government. But the imperialist-connected leadership of the movement had an explicit plan to topple the government.

“Chai Ling, who was recognised as the top leader of the students, gave an interview to western reporters on the eve of 4 June in which she acknowledged that the goal of the leadership was to lead the population in a struggle to topple the Communist Party of China, which she explained would only be possible if they could successfully provoke the government into violently attacking the demonstrations.

“That interview was aired in the film the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Chai Ling also explained why they couldn’t tell the rank-and-file student protesters about the leaders’ real plans.” (Our emphasis)

Another article that takes a better than average line comes from Gregory Clark, a former Australian diplomat and Chinese-speaking correspondent and university president resident in Japan who has written on the subject for IB Times UK.

No massacre

In his article he states: “The original story of Chinese troops on the night of 3 and 4 June 1989 machinegunning hundreds of innocent student protesters in Beijing’s iconic Tiananmen Square has since been thoroughly discredited by the many witnesses there at the time – among them a Spanish TVE television crew, a Reuters correspondent and protesters themselves, who say that nothing happened other than a military unit entering and asking several hundred of those remaining to leave the square late that night.

“Yet none of this has stopped the massacre from being revived constantly, and believed. All that has happened is that the location has been changed – from the square itself to the streets leading to the square.” (The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is a myth: British ‘black information operation’, International Business Times, 4 June 2014)

Mr Clark places much of the blame for the spread and grip of the myth of a massacre to Britain’s shadowy disinformation services, saying: “Anonymously planted stories are a favourite technique of UK black information authorities, but this did not stop it from being front-paged by the New York Times on 12 June, together with photos of blazing troop-carrying buses and followed up by ‘Tankman’ – the photo of a lone student allegedly trying to stop a row of army tanks from entering the square. The myth of an unprovoked massacre has since taken root.”

He follows this up with quoting his evidence for not believing the standard, accepted, story saying that we “have the hourly reports from the US embassy in Beijing, available on the internet, to tell us what actually happened.

“They note that originally the Beijing authorities had wanted to send in unarmed troops to clear the square of remaining students as the protests were beginning to wind down. Blocked by the crowds, armed troops were bussed in and this time they were blocked by crowds with petrol bombs, with ugly results.” These ugly results being the charred remains of soldiers from the incinerated busses whose bodies were strung up as trophies by the US-organised ‘protesters’.

He carries on: “As for ‘Tankman’, we now know from the cameraman himself that his widely-publicised photo was taken from his hotel window the day after the riots, and the tanks were going away from, not into, the square.”

Of course, it is also necessary to say that if the PLA troops really were the devils that the western media painted them as, then surely ‘Tankman’ would have been run over wherever the tanks were going when he stood in front of them.

Despite all the evidence now available that the massacre is a myth, politicians and news moulders are still using the lie to deceive people, and none more so than the so called ‘human rights groups’, one of which, Watchdog, is sending this pro-imperialist, pro-Google email around the internet:

It’s about to be the 25th anniversary of the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square – and China’s marking it with the biggest internet crackdown on record.

“All Google services are reportedly down in the country, along with many other internet communication and search-based sites.

Because the block has lasted for four days, it’s more likely that Google will be severely disrupted and barely usable from now on,” a local advocacy group said.

“The government has never released a death toll for the crackdown, but human rights groups and witnesses estimate as many as several thousand Chinese citizens, most of them young people, perished during the 1989 crackdown.

“Please, join us in calling on the Chinese government to ease internet restrictions. Memorials are already being held across the country, and the Tiananmen tragedy is the government’s worst kept secret: Let your people mourn and reach out to survivors and families online now!” (Our emphasis)

Whichever way one looks at it, the Tiananmen Square massacre myth was nothing but an early attempt at regime change of the type now seen many times since (and before: eg, in Chile in 1973).

China has had to face these US-funded attempts many times since, as in Tibet where no trick is too low for the US-backed forces under the nominal leadership of the Dali Lama as they whip up anti-ethnic Chinese pogroms to try to get the authorities to clamp down so that they can then claim to be leading a popular uprising against an oppressive regime.

So long as China tries to run a dual economy, with state-owned manufacturing and a communist party in government alongside a growing capitalist sector and investment/profit-taking by western imperialist multinational entities, it perpetuates political and financial inequalities and thus creates serious weaknesses that can be exploited by the imperialists in this way.

Bearing this in mind, we finish this article with a long quotation from a sincere letter of support sent to the Communist Party of China on the 90th anniversary of its founding by the CPGB-ML:

“We cannot overlook the fact that in its policies of the last 30 years or so, the CPC has made extensive use of market forces. It is our firm view that the market and socialism are ultimately incompatible; it is the job of socialism to put an end to the market and commodity production, without which the transference to the higher stage of socialism, namely communism, is impossible.

“However, we are not asserting that at no stage in the development of socialism has the market any place. In the beginning, it is perfectly legitimate to use market mechanisms, but with the full and conscious realisation that these are only temporary measures, and not without their dangers and harmful consequences, and which therefore sooner or later have to be brought to an end.

“A perfectly good example of that is the policy pursued by the young Soviet Republic during the period of the New Economic Policy, which helped in the rehabilitation of the Soviet economy. Once it had done that, that policy was jettisoned by the CPSU, which recommenced the socialist offensive against all exploiters through the period of collectivisation and the initiation of the five-year plans.

“In China, too, the reforms implemented since 1979, have at some stage got to come to an end, failing which the capitalist forces that have been unleashed by these reforms would become too powerful and would overwhelm socialism in China. If that were to happen, it would be a devastating misfortune for the Chinese people, and a devastating misfortune for progressive humanity at large.

“China has made great progress since her liberation. During the reform period of the last 30 years, China’s progress, resting on the achievements of the period prior to 1979, has been truly phenomenal. We join the Chinese people in rejoicing and cherishing that progress.

“But, in the ultimate analysis, the question is: progress for which class? If all the material progress made by the Chinese people were to end up in the hands of a tiny minority of Chinese exploiters, the gains of the Chinese revolution would be lost.

“The capitalist forces unleashed during the reform period are strengthening bourgeois elements in Chinese society, with dozens of billionaires and hundreds of thousands of millionaires, side by side with the vast masses of the Chinese proletariat and peasantry.

“For the moment, these bourgeois forces are not strong enough to challenge the authority and the leading role of the CPC. But if allowed to develop unchecked, these forces, in alliance with imperialism, are bound to turn against the Chinese revolution and Chinese socialism.

“The example of the erstwhile Soviet Union cannot but serve as a stark and blood-curdling reminder to all those who value the liberation of China and the cause of communism.

“It is therefore our earnest hope that the CPC will be able to put an end to reliance on the market before it is too late, and in the meantime strengthen the dictatorship of the proletariat to keep tight control over hostile class elements.”


Further reading

The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre? What massacre? by Kim Petersen, Dissident Voice, 9 June 2014

Socialism with Chinese characteristics, Lalkar, January 2006