This 4 June marks the 20th anniversary of the crushing by the People’s Liberation Army of a counter-revolutionary rebellion in the Chinese capital Beijing.
Precisely because this resolute action saved the socialist system in China from the destruction visited, in the succeeding months, on the socialist countries of central and eastern Europe and then on the once great Soviet Union, it was, and still is, the subject of a frenzied imperialist campaign of distortions, half-truths and sheer lies by those to whom the existence of the socialist system, rule by the working people, in any part of the world, constitutes an unbearable provocation and a mortal threat.
Consequently, we have just seen the publication of the supposed ‘secret diaries’ of Zhao Ziyang, the revisionist who was dismissed from the post of general secretary of the Communist Party of China following the crushing of the rebellion, featuring the worn and tired assertion that only ‘western-style democracy’ can provide a decent future for China and her people.
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. While imperialism, in a never-ceasing holocaust, is responsible for the deaths of millions of children every year due to the lack of medicine to cure easily treatable diseases, the lack of clean water, and so on; has butchered 1.5 million men, women and children in Iraq and tens of thousands more in Afghanistan; and is now plunging millions of working and middle-class people into poverty in the imperialist countries themselves, socialist China, in the two decades since the crushing of the counter-revolutionary rebellion, has lifted at least 200 million people out of poverty.
China has risen to become the world’s third-largest economy, and she extends her hand of fraternal assistance to peoples throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America.
In contrast, had the counter-revolutionaries succeeded in their designs, countless millions would have been plunged into an abyss of poverty and despair and even lost their lives. To understand this, one need only review what befell working people in those countries that did succumb to counter-revolution 20 years ago.
In January this year, the medical journal The Lancet carried a study by three academics from Cambridge University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which showed that the ‘shock therapy’ of rapid mass privatisation in the former socialist countries in the first half of the 1990s was responsible for the premature deaths of millions of people, with the greatest number of victims being men in late middle age. Between 1991-94, average male life expectancy in those countries dropped by five years. (See ‘“Shock therapy” sell-offs blamed for 1m deaths’, Financial Times, 15 January 2009; ‘Mass murder and the market’, The Economist, 22 January 2009)
As China was a much poorer and less developed, and also more populous, country than the Soviet Union and those of central and eastern Europe, the number of deaths would have been far higher than even these appalling figures.
That is why, in those crucial days in 1989, the comrades who later founded the CPGB-ML, dared to swim against the tide, and gave their full support to the communist party and government of China in its defence of socialism. In this, our comrades stood out not only against the tide of bourgeois hysteria, but also every shade of opportunist traitor in the ranks of the working-class movement, including the revisionists of the misnamed Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and New Communist Party (NCP), who hypocritically claim to ‘support’ China when it suits them, but who bolted at the speed of light for the comfort and safety of the imperialist swamp at a time when China most needed support.
In a brilliant analysis of the situation, which has more than stood the test of time, our comrades wrote in Lalkar:
“The Chinese people achieved their liberation from imperialism in 1949 after a long and arduous struggle. During the course of this struggle millions of Chinese people perished and many more suffered extreme hardship. After liberation they completed the democratic tasks of the revolution and under the leadership of the CPC, the vanguard of the Chinese working class, they went on to begin the construction of socialism. They have made untold sacrifices and suffered much in order to reach the present stage of affairs when no Chinese dies of hunger, there is no illiteracy, there is basic health care available to everyone, and last but not least, China is no longer a pushover for imperialism. It is no longer possible for the imperialist powers to wage opium wars against China or to sack Nanking or Beijing.
“Having reached this state of affairs, the Chinese people, with their long revolutionary traditions, the history of their struggle and sacrifice, are not lightly going to let a few thousand criminal elements, albeit with strong connections with international imperialism, overthrow the socialist system. The People’s Liberation Army is a guarantee of that: it is the cutting edge of the dictatorship of the proletariat in China and if this causes outrage among imperialist circles, their hired hacks and their ideologues, the Chinese people can afford to treat it with the contempt such outrage deserves.
“If the resolute actions of the Chinese Government and the PLA sent petty-bourgeois ‘socialists’ – the Trotskyists and the Euros and even some would-be Marxist Leninists – into a state of paroxysm, this only goes to show that at every critical juncture in the development of the revolutionary movement the world over, during every major crisis, our petty-bourgeois socialists are as unfailingly bound to support the imperialist bourgeoisie as they are to stab the working-class and the national-liberation movements in the back.” (‘Chinese counter-revolution crushed’, Lalkar, August 1989; reprinted in ‘Hail the 20th anniversary of the crushing of the Chinese counter-revolution’, Lalkar, May 2009)
Likewise, in the weeks and months following the counter-revolutionary rebellion, Comrade Deng Xiaoping, China’s most senior leader at the time, drew out some of the key lessons regarding its cause and consequence. In view of their importance and continued relevance, we are printing some excerpts below. All the articles may be found in Volume III of the Selected Works of Deng Xiaoping.
In an address to officers commanding the martial law troops on 9 June 1989, he said:
“The nature of the incident should have been obvious from the very beginning. The handful of bad people had two basic slogans: overthrow the Communist Party and demolish the socialist system. Their goal was to establish a bourgeois republic, an out-and-out vassal of the West. Naturally, we accepted the people’s demand for a fight against corruption. We even had to accept as well-intentioned the so-called anti-corruption slogans of the bad individuals. Of course, these slogans were simply pretexts, and their ultimate aim was to overthrow the Communist Party and demolish the socialist system …
“We have a tradition of hard struggle. During the next 60 or 70 years we must make a point of educating people about the need for hard work and plain living. The more developed our country is, the more we need the pioneering spirit of hard struggle. Encouraging such a spirit will also help to overcome corruption. After the founding of the People’s Republic, we always stressed the need to build the country in that spirit. Later, when things were slightly better, we encouraged a high level of consumption, which resulted in the spread of extravagance and waste in every field.
“It was because of this, because of our poor performance in ideological and political work, and because of the incomplete legal system, that violations of the law and discipline, corrupt practices, etc all came about. I have told foreign guests that during the last ten years our biggest mistake was made in the field of education, primarily in ideological and political education – not just of students but of the people in general. We didn’t tell them enough about the need for hard struggle, about what China was like in the old days and what kind of a country it was to become. That was a serious error on our part.”
On 16 September 1989, in a talk with Professor Tsung-Dao Lee of Columbia University, a Chinese-American physicist and Nobel Prize winner, Deng observed:
“The West really wants unrest in China. It wants turmoil not only in China but also in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. The United States and some other western countries are trying to bring about a peaceful evolution towards capitalism in socialist countries. The United States has coined an expression: waging a world war without gunsmoke. We should be on guard against this. Capitalists want to defeat socialists in the long run. In the past they used weapons, atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs, but they were opposed by the peoples of the world. So now they are trying peaceful evolution.
“The affairs of other countries are not our business, but we have to look after our own. China will get nowhere if it does not build and uphold socialism.”
And in a 23 November 1989 talk with the former President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, Deng said:
“It seems that one Cold War has come to an end but that two others have already begun: one is being waged against all the countries of the South and the Third World, and the other against socialism.
“The western countries are staging a third world war without gunsmoke. By that I mean they want to bring about the peaceful evolution of socialist countries towards capitalism. We are not surprised at the developments in eastern Europe. These changes were bound to take place sooner or later. The trouble there started from inside.
“The western countries have the same attitude towards China as towards the East European countries. They are unhappy that China adheres to socialism. The turmoil that arose in China this year also had to come about sooner or later. We ourselves were partly to blame. As you know, two of our General Secretaries fell because of their failure to deal with the problem of bourgeois liberalisation …
“Western countries criticise us for violating human rights. As a matter of fact, they are the ones who have violated human rights. How many Chinese people were killed or wounded when the United States helped Chiang Kai-shek fight the civil war? And how many Chinese volunteers were killed or wounded when it supported south Korea in the Korean War? And that’s not counting the immeasurable losses inflicted on our people during a century of aggression by colonialists and imperialists, including the United States! So they have no right to talk about human rights.”
Deng Xiaoping concluded his talk with the following very important point: “So long as socialism does not collapse in China, it will always hold its ground in the world.”
It is above all for this reason that our party resolutely puts forward the slogan:
Hands off China!