The Tiananmen Square massacre 30 years ago: A new ideological campaign with the aim of defending capitalism!

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Thirty years ago, a terrible, particularly bloody repression took place on Tianenmen Square and in the main Chinese metropoles. The recently-released Tiananmen Papers fully confirm the facts as we published them at the time, detailing a savage repression involving machine-gun fire, round-ups, massive arrests and executions. Today as yesterday we insist that "the police-military terror and the democratic lie are complementary and both strengthen each other". Behind this dismal anniversary the same propaganda is being spewed out, not only to discredit the growth of Chinese imperialism, incidentally strengthening the idea that this was "communism", but also and above all to strengthen the democratic myth and mask the responsibility of the capitalist system in all the world's horrors past and present[1]. This propaganda is much more important given that it takes place in the context of the growth of tensions between the new Chinese giant and its direct imperialist competitors, the United States and the European Union. As our communiqué of 1989 showed, the only real perspective faced with such barbarity lies with the proletariat. The communiqué was correct to highlight "the particular responsibilities of the proletariat of the central countries”. On its shoulders rests the greatest responsibility to show a way forward, a revolutionary perspective aimed at putting an end to capitalist barbarity


On June 3rd, 1989, the Chinese bourgeoisie unleashed its wound-up killer-dogs onto the population of Peking. With several thousand killed, tens of thousands injured, the inhabitants of Beijing paid a heavy price for resistance to the tanks of the "People's Liberation Army". The repression also raged in the provinces where little by little the massacres reached Shanghai, Nanking, etc. Far beyond the students, who were said to be the victims by the media, the whole proletarian populations of towns suffered the repression: after the gunfire, the round-ups, appeals for informers, mass and arbitrary arrests, terror reigning everywhere.

The world's bourgeoisie has profited from the justified anger caused by this barbaric repression with its crocodile tears and the strengthening of its campaign of democratic diversions.  The media hubbub around democracy is intense but we shouldn't be blinded by it because it's a trap for the working class; as much at the international level as in China itself.

Stalinism, democracy and repression

Western propaganda has used the events in order to accredit the idea that only Stalinist or military dictators have the monopoly on repression, that democracy itself is peaceful, that it doesn't use such methods. Nothing is more false. There's plenty in history that shows that western democracies have nothing to learn from the worst dictators and from this viewpoint there is the historical example of the bloody massacre of workers' struggles in Berlin, 1919. Since then they have shown themselves murderously adept in colonial repressions and in sending employing torturers to maintain their imperialist interests over all over the planet.

Today, Deng Xiaoping has been put in the dock by the good conscience of international democracy, whereas, for the whole of the western bourgeoisie just a few years ago he was the post-Mao symbol of light and one of the "reformers", the man opening up towards the west, the privileged negotiator. Will that change?  Nothing is less sure.  Once the wall of silence was in place, whoever comes out the winner, our democracies, full of indignation, will wipe away their hypocritical tears in order to get in with the new leadership.

There's no antagonism between democracy and repression; on the contrary they are the two interlinked faces of capitalist domination. Police/military terror and the democratic lie complement and reinforce one another. The "democracies" of today are the executioners of tomorrow and the torturers of yesterday; Jaruzelski for example, plays the democratic card[2].

While the democratic barrage echoes around the planet from East to West, massacres follow massacres, Burma, Algeria where, after ordering a fusillade against protesters, President Chadli turned towards democracy. In Argentina, it's the friend of Mitterand, the Social-Democrat Carlos Andres Perez who launched his soldiers against the revolts over misery and hunger.  In Argentina, Nigeria, the USSR (Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan), etc., there have been thousands of deaths imposed by capitalism in a few months. China is part of a long, sinister list.

In China, the war of cliques

The world economic crisis imposes an economic rationalisation/"modernisation" on all the factions of the bourgeoisie, as shown by:

- the elimination of anachronistic systems and those in deficit, the "lame ducks" of capital, provoking growing tensions within the ruling class;

- more and more austerity programmes which polarise a growing discontent among the proletariat.

In China, the "liberal" economic reforms enacted over the last dozen years have led to a growing misery in the working class and stronger and stronger tensions within the Party in which the dominant class regroups. The establishment of economic reforms faces a double trap, firstly through the weight of underdevelopment and then by the specifics of a Stalinist-type state capitalism. While more than 800 million Chinese live in conditions basically unchanged for centuries, widespread quasi-feudal fractions control entire regions, fractions of the army and police and are not happy with the reforms which risk calling into question the basis of their domination. The most dynamic sectors of Chinese capitalism, industry in the South (Shanghai, Canton, Wuhan) are closely linked to world trade, the banks which deal with the west and the military-industrial complex which crystallises advanced technologies, etc., have always had to take account of the enormous force of inertia of the anachronistic sectors of Chinese capital. For some years, Deng Xiaoping has personified the fragile equilibrium which exists at the head of the Chinese CP and the army. Since his old age makes it more difficult for him to undertake his functions and the rivalries between cliques are being aggravated, the faction regrouped around Zhao Ziyang launched a war of succession. Gorbachev produced some imitators, but China is not the USSR.

In the pure Maoist tradition, Zhao Ziyang launched a massive democratic campaign through the medium of students' organisations in order to try to mobilise the discontent of the population to his side and impose himself over all of Chinese capitalism. Representing the reformist faction which dreams of a Chinese "Perestroika" in order to better corral and exploit the proletariat, he wasn't able to impose his point of view and the reaction of rival state factions was brutal. Deng Xiaoping, who had been the father of economic reforms, ridiculed the illusions of his ex-protégé. A dominant sector of the Chinese bourgeoisie thought that it had more to lose than to gain by bringing in forms of democratic control. Perhaps, even, there are grounds for thinking that it's an impossible task and that the only result would be a destabilisation of the social situation in China. However, even if they partially represent divergent interests of Chinese capital the cliques confronting each other today only use ideological arguments as a smokescreen; the organisers of the repression can just as well transform themselves into "democrats" tomorrow in order to better attack the workers. Jaruzelski and Chadli are examples of it.

These dramatic events are part of the process of the destabilisation of the world situation under the blows of the economic crisis. They translate into a growing barbarity imposed by an accelerated decomposition into which world capitalism is sinking. China is entering into a period of instability which risks greatly disturbing the imperialist interests of the two major powers and will open the door to dangerous global tensions.

A trap for the proletariat

On the grounds of a war of succession, engaged in by the different cliques of the Chinese bourgeoisie, the proletariat is not fighting on its class terrain. It has nothing to gain from this fight. The proletarians in Peking who heroically tried to resist the repression - more through hatred for the regime than through the depth of their illusions in the democratic fractions within the Party - paid dearly for their combativity. More than the enthusiasm for demonstrations for democracy from the student apprentice-bureaucrats, the workers in the large industrial towns of the South showed their prudence. The call from the students for a general strike (who also called for support to Zhao Ziyang, facing repression) was not followed.

For the proletariat there's no choice between the military and democratic dictatorship. It is a false choice which has served to mobilise the proletariat and drag it into its worse defeats at the time of the war in Spain, 1936 for example, and then in the second world imperialist butchery. To call for the workers in China to strike today while the repression is being unleashed is to lead the combat into the abattoir for a fight which isn't their own and in which they have everything to lose.

Even if through its strikes these last years and its desperate resistance these last days, the Chinese proletariat has shown a growing combativity, we shouldn't overestimate its immediate capacities. It has had limited experience and nowhere in these last weeks has it had the occasion to really affirm itself on a class terrain. In these conditions, and while the full force of the repression is being deployed, the perspective cannot be the immediate entry of the proletariat onto the social stage.

The effects of the crisis which is shaking the capitalist economy more and more profoundly, particularly in the lesser developed countries such as China, as well as the aggravation of the proletariat’s hatred for the dominant class, violently reinforced these past weeks, announce that it will not stay that way for long.

The events which have shaken the most populous country in the world once again highlight the importance of the global combat of the proletariat against the bloody barbarity of capitalism. Also underlined is the particular responsibility of the proletariat of the central countries which has a long experience of the democratic bourgeoisie and which can, through its struggles, undermine the influence of democratic illusions on a world scale.


ICC, 9-6-1989


[1]  There's a similar edge to the recent western campaign around a new Beijing-dominated extradition treaty applying to Hong Kong. The Independent, reporting on the "large, peaceful demonstrations against the new law in Hong Kong (11.6.2019) denounces "the Communist dictatorship in Beijing". On the same day, the Guardian piece attacks Beijing and supports the "freedom" protesters who have been "denied democracy". There's genuine anger against the Hong Kong government about the cost of living and the threat of repression, but the movement is one that is isolated and drowned in "freedom and democracy for Hong Kong". There was a similar deafening campaign around democracy over Hong Kong's "Umbrella Revolution" in 2014 - see

[2] Jarulzelski was the main architect of the repression unleashed against the Polish workers in 1981.