FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Meaning of Tiananmen Square

by

Alexander Cockburn was born on the 6th of June in 1941. Today would have been his 73rd birthday, always a festive time in Petrolia. In honor of Alex’s birthday (and the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests), we’re running one of his most trenchant columns from the June 12th, 1989 edition of The Nation. –JSC

Transfixed by a million people in Tiananmen Square, the press seems unfazed by the fact that though some students plainly want capitalist democracy, others sing “The Internationale.” Workers carry pictures of Mao. But then, these journalists don’t seem to notice very much. How come, if Deng Xiaoping has been the most hated man in China, we had to wait for a million people to tell us the news?

Speaking as one who has stood in a crowd of a million people-the demonstration in favor of a nuclear freeze, held on June 12, 1982, in New York’s Central Park-I don’t recall the press here getting quite as excited at the turnout. Some millions are more millionish than others.

I hope Deng goes down and his whole crowd with him. They promoted market relations within an authoritarian state, which is fascism. At least Gorbachev is going at it the other way round.

The past decade has spelled long-term misfortune most Chinese peasants and workers. Thatcherization in the countryside has led, as William Hinton observed in the Monthly Review  for March, to a dispersal of social assets so great that “it is doubtful if, in the history of the world, any privileged group acquired more for less.” The privileged in this case are those-mostly party functionaries urged to the pillage by the leadership-best positioned to loot the public economy.

So far as urban workers are concerned, Jim Petras points out in a fine article in the May/June issue of Against the Current (7012 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, MI 48210) that they are losing the social benefits of communism and getting little in return, beyond “market discipline,” linkage of wages to profits a contract system hailing back to feudal times.

If 1905 in St. Petersburg, or 1968 in Paris, or 1986 in Manila taught us anything, it is that real political change takes more fuel than mass good will. Undesirable classes do not liquidate themselves voluntarily; vested power is not overwhelmed by yellow roses. “People power” can change the nature of the government but not the nature of the state, because although a mass of citizens can stop an army, as the second entry of the Little Red Book says, “To make a revolution, you need a revolutionary party.” And there is no revolutionary party for those Chinese students to turn to.

The word “democracy” always needs footnotes. There was recently a “democratic” mayoral election in Angeles. About 20 percent of the eligible voters turned out, and the winner was a man, Tom Bradley, who in the recent portion of his long stay in City Hall has mostly represented the causes of real estate (local, Canadian, Japanese), in whose interest tens of thousands of the city’s poorest people are about to be flung from their homes.

As Petras concluded, “The class lines are being drawn in the East [i.e., China] between the managerial supporters of the market and working-class defenders of democratic collectivism. It is time for those on the left in the West to also define themselves, because historical experience is demonstrating that one cannot be for both the market and ~ socialism.”

Maybe you can have some market mechanisms within socialism that would make it work better, but that’s not what the Chinese “reforms” have been all about. They’re about restoring capitalism. I buy Petras’s point.

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail