Letter: Blaming A Victim for Tiananmen?

Against the Current No. 22, September/October 1989

Aleksei K. Zolotov, Washington, DC

“CHINA, DEMOCRACY, YES!” (ATC 21, Letter from the Editors) correctly makes the most important point: the left must give complete support to the democracy movement. Unfortunately, the letter is unclear on whether or not the editors join much of the U.S. left in condemning market reforms for generating the Chinese social crisis.

To blame the market reforms is to confuse victim and perpetrator. It was, in fact, a turn by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) away from the market and toward more central political and economic control that set the stage for the spring upheaval. This turn, under way for more than a year, culminated in the definite postponement of further price decontrol announced in early 1989.

In response to the ascendancy of the centralizers, the student resistance of early 1987 came once more into the open in March and April. The coincidence of the death of Hu Yaobang the May 4 anniversary, and Gorbachev’s visit then provided the catalyst for the May-June uprising.

Political and economic (market) decentralization in China are linked just as in the rest of the Second World. Empirically, it has been the case that the adherents of the one gravitate toward the adherents of the other, within the party and without Yugoslavia, Poland (four limes), Hungary (twice), and Czechoslovakia come immediately to mind, along with the grand contemporary example in the USSR By the same token, suppression of the one has meant suppression of the other.

Still, there is being peddled on the left (in the Guardian, or by Cockburn, Sweezy, and Magdoff in the Nation, for example) a bedtime story for radicals that assures us that what is involved in China is basically a split in the party between soft and hard capitalist-roaders. We are left to conclude that it is capitalist-roaders in general who are ultimately to blame for the Chinese disaster what else should we expect from people who turned their backs on Mao’s real socialism?

ATC is not to be held responsible for this bizarre apportioning of blame and virtue. However, the editors’ repeated citing of the reforms’ connection to multinational corporations, and the mention of the exploitation of non-union, low-wage Chinese labor, and the elevation of the market over human needs and workers’ rights, raise issues that also figure prominently in the Maoist fable It is important to spell out ATC’s adducing of them for a contrary purpose.

The same point might be made about the editors’ blaming the reformers for inflation and corruption. Better still, these arguments might simply be dropped, since they are plain wrong.

It is the failure to extend the reform by establishing a competent central monetary authority that made inflation. With such monetary discipline, all prices could be freed to register supply and demand forces in a rational fashion, without inflation. Moreover, it is precisely the irrationality of existing prices, in part formed by the market and in part fixed, that created the potential for graft (exploited so successfully by tbe various party children.

June, 1989, was glorious as well as tragic, and not in China alone. In Poland, Solidarnosc swept the elections. This was on the weekend of the Beijing massacre, and after the victory celebration, a Warsaw crowd set candles outside the Chinese embassy in honor of the Tiananmen martyrs, In Hungary, the martyrs of 1956 were reburied with solemn honors. Something is on the march in the eastern Lands; the only socialism with a chance to attract it is that of the market.

September-October 1989, ATC 22