The Workers' Revolution Statue
The protests in Tiananmen Square that began 25 years ago this week showed the possibility of real socialism emerging in China, writes Dave Sewell. The fall of the Soviet Union, and China’s turn to the free market, were supposed to prove there is no alternative to capitalism. In reality none of these regimes had been communist in the sense that Karl Marx meant. The revolt that grew around Tiananmen Square, showed the possibility of a real alternative to both capitalism and this false socialism. The massive square is at the heart of Beijing, China’s capital. Twenty five years ago this week the death of Hu Yaobang, a senior politician associated with reform, opened a door for dissent. Students came to lay wreaths in Tiananmen Square. They stayed for speeches. Soon there were tens of thousands. Some attacked the gates of the compound where China’s rulers lived. One told reporters, “The police don’t dare to do anything. If there’s trouble the workers will join in.” The day of the funeral on 22 April 150,000 people defied a ban on protests to fill the square. They chanted, “We will return”. The following week a huge march made its way to the square. Students shouted “long live the workers” as they passed building sites, while workers banged their lunch boxes shouting “long live the students”. Workers stopped troops attacking the march. Nearly 1,000 army trucks fled as it entered the square. The movement grew and spread to over 400 cities across China. The protesters turned the square into a well-organised camp with food, first aid and protester-run checkpoints. Half a million people occupied it during Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit in May. China’s rulers had to sneak him in the side door of the Great Hall of the People which was on the square’s western edge. The new Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation set up headquarters in the square. Thousands of workers attended meetings about wages, workplace democracy and political representation.
Armed Paris was the only serious obstacle in the way of the counter-revolutionary conspiracy. Paris was, therefore, to be disarmed. On this point, the Bordeaux Assembly [National Assembly] was sincerity itself. If the roaring rant of its Rurals had not been audible enough, the surrender of Paris by Thiers to the tender mercies of the triumvirate of Vinoy the Decembriseur, Valentin the Bonapartist gendarme, and Aurelles de Paladine the Jesuit general, would have cut off even the last subterfuge of doubt. But while insultingly exhibiting the true purpose of the disarmament of Paris, the conspirators asked her to lay down her arms on a pretext which was the most glaring, the most barefaced of lies. The artillery of the Paris National Guard, said Thiers, belonged to the state, and to the state it must be returned. The fact was this: From the very day of the capitulation, by which Bismarck’s prisoners had signed the surrender of France, but reserved to themselves a numerous bodyguard for the express purpose of cowing Paris, Paris stood on the watch. The National Guard reorganized themselves and entrusted their supreme control to a Central Committee elected by their whole body, save some fragments of the old Bonapartist formations. On the eve of the entrance of the Prussians into Paris, the Central Committee took measures for the removal to Montmartre, Belleville, and La Villette, of the cannon and mitrailleuses treacherously abandoned by the capitulards in and about the very quarters the Prussians were to occupy. That artillery had been furnished by the subscriptions of the National Guard. As their private property, it was officially recognized in the capitulation of January 28, and on that very title exempted from the general surrender, into the hands of the conqueror, or arms belonging to the government. And Thiers was so utterly destitute of even the flimsiest pretext for initiating the war against Paris, that he had to resort to the flagrant lie of the artillery of the National Guard being state property!