June 5, 2009

Tiananmen 1989: Living In People's City

[Because of the continuing--and heartening--interest in the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, Fire on the Mountain is reprinting another contemporary piece from the September 1989 issue of Forward Motion magazine in which the article on the implications of the massacre by Dennis O'Neil posted here yesterday appeared. This is a short one, a first-hand report by a member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization who had lived in China for several years, working as a polisher at the government's Foreign Languages Press. Her name was not included in the original report, which she made at considerable risk via telephone as the brutal clampdown held Beijing in its grip. Dell Bisdorf has since died of brain cancer, a revolutionary to her death and one whose valuable insights helped FRSO take a determined stand condemning the massacre.]

"Living in People's City"

Shortly after the June 4 crack down in Beijing, we were able to gain a phone interview with a North American women, long time political activist, and friend of FM now living and working in Beijing. Her first hand observations confirm the mass character of the student initiated struggle and the severity of the repression which followed.

Does everyone know that this democracy movement was not anti party and not anti socialist? It was like living in People's City, like the Paris Commune. There was a big demonstration in front of the telegraph office when the tanks rolled in. When someone said, "Tanks are coming," the demonstrators linked arms and sang the lnternationale. Then a particularly hideous kind of tear gas, something worse than tear gas, was thrown at them.The political situation is still a bit unsure: will Deng and Li Peng remain in power? That is not absolutely certain. There are food shortages and it is hard to get around. There is no mail in or out right now. Rumors fly around like Deng is dead, or Deng is on a respirator. Then he appeared on TV, praising the troops.

Many noticed that at each great stage, the government blew it [by not taking advantage of its freedom to absorb the just demands of the demonstrators]. Those nasty old men are really withdrawn from reality. I don't know who is feeding them their information, but whoever those people are, they are lying. The government tried to organize counter demonstrations. Workers were approached, for example at the Capital Iron and Steel works. They were offered 500 yuan a day to participate in a counter demonstration, and they said "no way." All sections of the people here were involved in supporting the demonstrators. The government succeeded in organizing only tiny suburban farmers counter-demos, really pathetic people who didn't know what was going on.

We heard that some people from CCTV English language news were taken out and shot and that two people from Beijing Review were arrested.

I want you to tell people that Saturday night, a hot night, the tanks rolled in and shot at random, shot wildly at ordinary people. Ordinary people were killed--bystanders, old, young, children, bike riders. In the Square, some students were negotiated with, but others were shot outright. There were some negotiations, and then they started shooting again. After curfews were established, some shooting continued. We have witnessed bizarre troop movements. Hundreds of thousands of troops ring Beijing. We here are doubtful about any so-called independent minded armies; we think that is wishful thinking, and a civil war is unlikely.

People are not anti party, even after the shooting, because the army moved without any authorization by the Party. Only a few mad old dogs approved this. They didn't go through Party channels before sending in the troops. There was no approval by the Standing Committee of the Politburo, or the Politburo, let alone the Central Committee. They didn't even meet.

The students have not issued demands about the reforms beyond the call to end corruption. Only a few intellectuals connect the rise in corruption with the reforms creating more markets and individual economic enterprise. The students talk only about political questions democracy, an independent student union.

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