Friday, June 5, 2009

The 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre

The corporate media tried to portray the student movement in China as some kind of campaign against socialism, but it was in fact a campaign against the tyranny and injustice of Communist Party rule and for a more just and democratic society. A society where workers and peasants had power in reality, not only in name.The song most frequently sung by the student protesters during the seven weeks they had occupied the heart of China's capital was called the "The Internationale."

Arise, you prisoners of starvation!
Arise, you wretched of the earth!
For justice thunders condemnation:
A better world's in birth!
No more tradition's chains shall bind us,
Arise you slaves, no more in thrall!
The earth shall rise on new foundations:
We have been nought, we shall be all!

The protesters were making a powerful witness in song, not just in protest of the tragedy then unfolding in Beijing and of the betrayal of 20th century socialism by all those who, in its name, had become a new class of oppressors and exploiters.

Despite the calamity which took place in China that day, the student martyrs had given the world a glimmer of hope. While the nonviolent movement that had emerged that spring in Beijing and in towns and cities throughout China was brutally crushed, other largely nonviolent movements would emerge elsewhere in the coming years that would bring down scores of autocratic regimes, ranging from monarchies to Communist dictatorships to right-wing military juntas. By the end of that year, such unarmed insurrections would usher in democratic governance in Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Chile, and Kenya. During the 1990s, nonviolent movements brought down dictatorships in Mongolia, Mali, Thailand, Madagascar, Indonesia, Nigeria, and elsewhere. This decade has seen strategic nonviolent action play the pivotal role in overcoming corrupt and autocratic rule in such countries as Serbia, Nepal, Georgia, Ukraine and the Maldives.

We want no condescending saviors
To rule us from their judgment hall,
We workers ask not for their favors
Let us consult for all:
To make the thief disgorge his booty
To free the spirit from its cell,
We must ourselves decide our duty,
We must decide, and do it well.

It is up to those in China and elsewhere still suffering under oppressive rule to lead their own struggles for liberation from tyranny. We cannot trust that the U.S. government or any other government can legitimately engage in "democracy promotion." However, global civil society can offer the kind of international solidarity, in opposing arms transfers to human rights abusers, in providing workshops on strategic nonviolent conflict, and in raising global awareness of these struggles for freedom and justice.

It is a solidarity that is based not upon whether the oppressive regime being challenged is an ally or an adversary of the United States or what kind of economic system it claims to adhere to. It is a solidarity based upon nothing less than a universal respect for fundamental civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.


Dawson said...

Has it really been 20 years? Wow, I had no idea.

It begs mentioning that I am both impressed with the fact that we have not allowed the Chinese to sweep these events under the rug, that we hold these events close to our hearts... and saddened by the fact that 20 years have gone by and still so few of us have taken the lessons regarding oppression and the sacred right of free expression and internalized them. I hope the next 20 years see a more profound shift in the way we, especially Americans, view the world... or I fear we may eventually find history once more repeating itself in an effort to teach us what it is that we need to know.