Our Life and Times by Kevin A. Barry and Mary Holmes
March 2001

China's rulers exposed by Tiananmen Papers

The Tiananmen Papers, published earlier this year in the West, document the decisions made by China's ruling Communist Party (CP) elite between April and June, 1989, leading up to the imposition of martial law, the bloody suppression of mass, nationwide demonstrations, and the aftermath of the June 4 massacre. The papers were delivered by Zhang Liang, pseudonym of an anonymous CP member, to western scholars, most of whom agree on their basic authenticity.

The transcripts of meetings detail the split within the CP on how to respond to the students and workers and youth who took over Tiananmen Square. The rulers saw the students as a clear threat to their hold on power. Deng Xiaoping, the ultimate authority at the time, declared on April 25 that the protests were "no ordinary student movement...This is a well-planned plot...to reject the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system at the most fundamental level." According to the transcripts, Deng's declaration, nearly verbatim, became the editorial in the next day's PEOPLE'S DAILY.

The Tiananmen Papers expose a great number of replies to the editorial from the public who supported the students, whose original aims were to root out official corruption. The papers also give a detailed view of the scope of the protests throughout China. According to Zhang, the compiler, the demonstrations involved millions of people, workers and peasants as well as students. The CP was especially fearful of independent activity among workers, and emerging student-worker alliances.

Li Peng was in the faction which called for the army to crush the occupation of Tiananmen Square. The eight "party elders", with Deng in control, sided with military force. Zhao Ziyang, opposed to martial law, was deposed as CP general secretary and replaced by Jiang Zhemin, who now is also president. Li, now chairman of the national assembly, holds the second office in the CP. Zhao remains under house arrest.

In the week after the June 4 crackdown, CP leaders were alerted to clashes in every provincial capital and in every major city. Far from a "well-planned plot," Zhang Liang described what happened as "autonomous, spontaneous, and disorderly." Yet Zhang is himself described as a reformer from within the CP who distances himself from any substantial involvement for mass movements.

China's current rulers have branded the Tiananmen Papers as fake, but they are circulating now on the internet and will be published in Chinese sometime this spring. China's current rulers have refused any open discussion of events surrounding April-June 1989. Hundreds of political prisoners from the revolt remain in jail under harsh sentences.

The CP knows that in 1989 it was close to losing its grip on power. This helps to explain the vicious state attacks on the seemingly benign and apolitical Falun Gong movement. The CP leadership must have been shocked to see 10,000 Falun Gong practitioners appearing to come out of nowhere to surround their compound in Beijing on April 25, 1999. This occurred despite tight security on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

More importantly, international support is rallying around Cao Maobing, an electrician who tried to form an independent labor union at a state-owned silk mill in Jiangsu Province, eastern China, after the official CP-controlled union did nothing to help the workers on issues concerning pensions, unemployment benefits and corruption of factory management. Cao was forcibly put into a psychiatric hospital, and was given drugs and shock treatment after going on a hunger strike in January to protest his detention.

It is an old Stalinist practice to forcibly commit people with dissident ideas into mental hospitals. Nonetheless, a new generation in China is seeking new ideas and some are turning to a re-examination of Marx's Marxism through conferences, translations, and new commentaries.

Home l News & Letters Newspaper l Back issues l News and Letters Committees l Dialogues l Raya Dunayevskaya l Contact us l Search

Subscribe to News & Letters

Published by News and Letters Committees
Designed and maintained by  Internet Horizons