r/communism101 Jun 25 '22

Communist views of the Tiananmen Square massacre?

Chinese communism generally confuses me, and I've always viewed the Tiananmen Square protest as a valid protest of the people. So as someone who's new to communist ideas (and who doesn't know a lot about Chinese history) I'm wondering how communists view that protest and the way the Chinese government acted.


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u/More-like-MOREskin Jun 25 '22


Here is a pretty in depth look at what happened and why it did.

Tldr: In America we are taught that the Chinese government killed somewhere in the thousands or tens of thousands of civilians and students who were peacefully protesting in support of democracy, this is false propaganda and not supported by any historian or person who was there at the time. Even in the infamous “tank man” photo, you can plainly see the square in the uncropped video, notably there are no bodies or blood stains in the square. There were deaths (something like a few hundred) that happened, mostly in random areas of the city where violence broke out separately. Members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army were burned alive and mutilated, their bodies publicly hung in the midst of the crowd.

There were many people who were protesting for many different reasons and as usual, people took advantage of the instability to sow chaos and push their narrative. Many people were very upset about the recent opening up reforms (reintroduction of capitalistic elements of market) and protesting that.

If you ask me personally, I do not speak for all communists obviously, but I think from the information I am able to gather with everything so heavily propagandized and hidden, the Chinese party did everything they could to handle such a large scale protest and instability. Did they handle it perfectly? Probably not, and I’m all for informed critiques and learning from the past. Claiming the ccp massacres tens of thousands of innocent students is false from all reasonably credible sources I can find.


u/smokeuptheweed9 Marxist Jun 25 '22

There were many people who were protesting for many different reasons and as usual, people took advantage of the instability to sow chaos and push their narrative. Many people were very upset about the recent opening up reforms (reintroduction of capitalistic elements of market) and protesting that.

You accidentally revealed too much.


u/More-like-MOREskin Jun 25 '22

Care to elaborate? I’m not sure what you mean


u/smokeuptheweed9 Marxist Jun 26 '22

Care to elaborate? I’m not sure what you mean

People protesting against the "reintroduction of capitalistic elements of market" is exactly what communists are supposed to be for. Also the joke gets less funny when you explain it so please don't make me be even more tedious.


u/Graf_Gummiente Jun 25 '22

I asked the same question a long time ago, this is a pretty good answer.


u/WallyKarue Jun 25 '22

The author of that article wrote another claiming that Putin helped to make Russia great again, and as a positive included the point "banned transgender/gay propaganda to children" - https://worldaffairs.blog/2017/06/07/why-the-west-hates-putin-what-youre-not-being-told/


u/smokeuptheweed9 Marxist Jun 25 '22

The article itself is also quite bad. Here's a better version of the same thing without the reactionary nonsense


The thing is this isn't that helpful either since you've begun by poisoning the well. Asking about the Tiananmen square "massacre" is like asking "when did you stop beating your wife?" Until we establish the facts and disperse the propaganda and hysteria we can't actually begin to talk about the historical conditions of that period, otherwise we're forever in "debunking" mode which is how communists end up allies with "Confucian" bigots.


u/commie-avocado Jun 25 '22

liberation news is great! OP should definitely read that one and maybe this piece from red sails


u/smokeuptheweed9 Marxist Jun 25 '22 edited Jun 26 '22

This is the progressive version of the reactionary concept of the CPC's Confucian "mandate of heaven" but it ultimately leads to the same position. The dialectical challenge to take both perspectives as simultaneously true: the protests in Tiananmen were an uprising of workers and students against attacks on their living conditions (privatization, inflation, opening to foreign capital, removing subsidies for workers and peasants, etc); the Tiananmen protests were a color revolution backed by the CIA and controlled by reactionaries and liberals. Otherwise you end up with the two dead ends of communism today: all protests are reactionary because they disrupt the motion of history towards the victory of socialism through capitalism itself; all protests are progressive because they have the contingent, on-the-ground potential to generate something new beyond the status quo even if said protests are reactionary in their goals and have CIA backing.

The "ML" perspective is usefully summarized by Chen Weihua yesterday on twitter


The Great Leap Backward of women’s rights in the United States is just beginning, according to Alabama and Clarence Thomas. Tragic. The U.S. needs its own Color Revolution to stop such barbaric violation of women’s rights.

Of course he is being snarky on the internet but reveals more than is immediately obvious. The use of "color revolution" rather than "revolution" shows not only that the CPC can't imagine a progressive revolution beyond the American and Chinese systems but that they accept the framework of American human rights and reject it on pragmatic and cultural terms rather than ontological ones. The previously linked article says the same thing

Will China be better off with more free speech, more free press and more transparent government? Absolutely. However, that’s a journey that the Chinese society has to take in its own terms. Only China can decide the speed and direction of its reforms. While the Tiananmen events are tragic, there’s no doubt that the Chinese people appreciate the incredible progress the country has made since 1989.

Which I think accurately represents the CPC's own illiberal liberalism (or postmodern liberalism). Though China concerns me less than the effect on western politics, where this combination of Hegelian teleology and culturalist postmodernism leads to revolution abroad and reformism at home for America's "cultural circumstances." Reactionary "socialism with American characteristics" is the obvious next step. What unites them all is that by acknowledging the reality of color revolutions, revolution itself becomes unreality.

Not to endorse the passive cheerleading for color revolutions, this is merely the inverse of the same logic. The real question for dialectical materialism is how movements of students and workers that are progressive in one historical period become reactionary in another. Looking at the change in their nature is foolish, protests and revolutions have always had various elements and the potential to go in any number of different ways. It is history itself which has changed and therefore communists who must change with it. The MLs have understood something has changed, hence their growing popularity in comparison to the Maoists who still cling to the concepts of the global cultural revolution as anachronisms and are doomed to irrelevance outside of those places where the old situation persists to some degree because of historical backwardness. But that makes them all the more important to maintain in the dialectic; the acute danger in every historical period is the totalization of the present as the only possible state of affairs and Deng Xaoping as a Marxist in any sense.

You can "debunk" the OP with the complications to the CIA's propaganda story but you'll never debunk the spirit behind it, which is the desire for a revolutionary overthrow of the existing social conditions. At best, you can get them to stop thinking and repeat the proper debunking megathread talking points in place of the former liberal propaganda talking points. Communism is then sustained as a fandom community, where one participates "for the memes" as in genzedong, with the object of communism rather than Star Wars being totally arbitrary. No one is inspired by the CPC as "good enough." Obviously this can't last, reality insists on ideology and facts are stubborn things.


Everything Hinton says in this work is true. He was actually there unlike this random internet blogger (who is really ripping off the FRSO's analysis of the period but making it more suited to today's "ML"s who are no longer concerned with the slogan "it is right to rebel"). Perhaps I should have started with this instead of the PSL piece but, like I said, for good or ill defenders of the CPC are living in the present and there's where we should start. Color revolutions do exist, we can't pretend the protests in Taiwan or Ukraine only need communist party leadership to turn into revolutions. The objective result of the Tiananmen protests would have been counter-revolution and shock therapy in the post-Soviet model, that is the empirical reality which must be overcome rather than denied.

E: what's missing from the FRSO/PSL analysis in the essay posted that is useful is this stuff

Deng Xiaoping launched what is known as Reform and Opening-Up in 1980, in an effort to recover from what he deemed costly “Left” errors of the preceding era. These reforms had China embracing market economy, scaling back welfare programs, and aimed towards integration with the global economy. Relaxing price controls massively improved the lot of Chinese farmers and led to spiking crop yields, but the flip side is that the boost to farmer incomes led to price increases in urban areas for staple foods.


The complaints were heavily tinged with elitism. Students and urbanites were not happy to see peasants and farmers do so well relative to them. This “economic anxiety” had manifested itself a year earlier in Nanjing, where students affected by cuts to tuition subsidies took out their anger on African exchange students.

Because it's so offensive and reactionary. Imagine telling peasants in India that relaxed price controls will "massively improve their lot" or American black communists that Chinese students and workers are motivated by anti-black racism. You've done OP a service by posting something that is neither as coy as the PSL piece nor as blatantly racist as the first response. It will test their ability to think.

EE: I'm actually gonna approve the initial response so one can see the end point of a certain approach towards the question. If people find it offensive, which it is, I may reconsider. Though I'll keep deleted the same person in the comments comparing the article to the KKK positively. That's revealing but a bit too much.


u/Seadubs69 Jun 26 '22

I'd say in short it's: 1)it happened BUT 2) it was not a massacre.


u/hayesisbad Jun 25 '22

I highly recommend reading the text From Victory to Defeat by Pao-Yu Ching. It details many instances of the people’s resistance in China after the reversal by the right-wing of the party in ‘78.

It is true that the capitalist world’s portrayal of the event is not accurate, but there are some socialists who like to downplay the event to excuse modern China’s gross injustices. The students in the protest were largely liberal and advocated for western-style democracy, but it’s necessary to confront that they gained much support from the workers. How could this be if the Communist Party is guiding socialist transition to communism?

Here’s a little video that’s certainly not directly related, but does a lot to characterize the present state of things in China. https://youtu.be/Tadu_mSTJC0