CHINA, 1989: TIANANMEN SQUARE IN PERSPECTIVE Chalmers Johnson, Professor of Pacific International Relations at the University of California, San Diego, provides his assessment of events leading to the student uprising in China in 1989 and the possible future consequences. The year 1989 not only marks the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution; in future centuries it may be celebrated as a new watershed in revolutionary behavior. A general crisis of communism engulfed the Marxist Leninist states. The problem of attempting to reform failed economic systems overtaxed the gerontocratic remnants of politburos in most communist systems and left them with the options of either repression or a sharing of power.
...During 1989, de facto insurrections occurred in every communist capital except those ruled by family dynasties...
Communism, of course, aims not at economic efficiency but at social justice. But in the modern world, particularly after the advent of the information based, electronics driven industrial structure, state owned and controlled enterprises cannot operate efficiently enough to finance a modern welfare system. For communism to try distributing benefits equitably, there must be some benefits. By the late 1970s it had become apparent to virtually all Chinese that Mao's 27 years in power had produced nothing more than that: 27 years of personal dictatorship. The system had run out of benefits.
Dictatorship was the second problem. The communist revolutions of the 20th Century differed from the English revolution of the 17th Century or the French Revolution of the 18th Century in that they did not culminate in "Thermidor." By Thermidor, students of revolution mean that stage in the process of revolution when the masses assert themselves and send the revolutionary vanguards back to their customary occupations as clerks, lawyers and functionaries. Thermidor means that the peoples whose victimization justified the revolution finally decide to take their winnings and call it quits─consolidating the new order and preserving gains.
Where Thermidor did not occur─largely because the masses are too unsophisticated to understand what their vanguards are up to─we see a typical pattern. The vanguards first attempt to force their ideology on the masses─the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution, Stalin's purges, China's Great Leap Forward. Then the vanguard dictatorship becomes solidified and makes its rule routine. This latter phase, the sleepy but policed indolence of the Leonid I. Brezhnev years, is typified by massive cynicism and corruption─the world of dachas in Russia, the East German communist elites guarded paradise at Wandlitz, the beach resorts and party stores of China's party plutocracy.
Deng tried to restart China's economy without disturbing the dictatorship's entrenched vanguards. Although the terms had not yet been invented, Deng sought perestroika without glasnost. This was not a particularly unusual project. There are innumerable historical examples of similarly placed monopolists without political reform, including those of the late Manchu China, czarist Russia and Meiji Japan. It does not work.
Reform of a Soviet type economy, much like the attempt to achieve an outward orientation among less developed countries, is not a unilinear process. There are different ways to do it, each with different trade offs. Economic reform certainly must be accompanied by political reform, but that is an inadequate way to put it. What is needed is a set, or critical mass, of reforms together with a clear understanding of what markets do and cannot do for economic systems....Nothing is easy about this process, but as the economic dynamism of the non communist Pacific reveals, there are many possible forms of political economy other than Marxism Leninism or Adam Smith's bedrock capitalism.
Deng attempted economic reform without political change. But neither he nor his hand picked managers of reform, Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, ever touched the privileges of the old communist vanguards...Instead of studying such nearby functioning states as South Korea and Taiwan, China seemed to have taken Ferdinand E. Marcos' Philippines as its model....According to the Chinese government's own statistics, 70% of all reported economic crimes during 1987 88 were committed by officials, including members of the People's Liberation Army. Corruption extended all the way to the top political leadership, known as the 14 Big Families. These are the families of Deng, President Yang Shangkun, Premier Li Peng, the deposed party leader Zhao, plus heirs and descendants of the old vanguards. Many of the students who gathered in Tiananmen Square came from families of lesser officials or professionals on fixed incomes. Inflation affected them personally and focused their attention on families not troubled by inflation because those families were on the take. Calls for democracy were not so much for institutions of the West as they were for Thermidor─to get the entrenched old vanguards off the backs of the people and to hold public officials accountable.
The 14 Big Families reacted precisely as Marx, Engels, and Lenin had predicted such a ruling class would act under similar circumstances: in their own interest. Instead of compromising with the students...Deng and company used the army...
In the worldwide 1989 crisis of communism, China behaved worse than any other communist nation and with less excuse...The reply of the students of Tiananmen was apt: "Only power grows from the barrel of a gun; our cause is democracy." The next time the students' cause will not be democracy but anti communism.
Source: Los Angeles Times, December 17, 1989.
THE END OF THE COLD WAR The passage below by historian Pauline Meier describes the collapse of the Soviet Union and of four decades of superpower rivalry and potential nuclear war. When he entered the White House in 1989, George Bush was suspicious of the genuineness of Mikhail Gorbachev's commitment to perestroika and glasnost. But Bush's caution was overwhelmed by volcanic demands for freedom that redrew the political map of Central Europe with stunning speed. During the first year of his presidency, Hungary cast off most of its Communist leadership, and so did Poland, where, with the help of the administration, free elections were arranged, and Solidarity, the union movement that had initiated the drive for liberalization, won control of the National Assembly. In May, Estonia and Lithuania declared themselves independent of the Soviet Union, and in August Latvia broke free. Upheaval followed in East Germany, where in early November, with Gorbachev having declared a hands off policy, thousands forced the regime to open the gates to the West and started tearing down the hated wall dividing Berlin. That winter, the Communist governments in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania were overthrown, and a pro democracy playwright became president of Czechoslovakia.
...In East and West Germany, sentiment for reunification was mounting rapidly. Gorbachev, anxious about Russian security in the face of a united Germany and under pressure from hard liners at home, resisted the union. But Bush opted for it, fearing otherwise an unpredictable instability in East Germany. In May 1990, during a summit in Washington, he granted Gorbachev a trade package to help shore him up against the hard liners, and Gorbachev, in exchange, agreed to German reunification by 1994. In July 1991, at a summit in Moscow, Bush and Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START 1), an agreement to cut strategic nuclear weaponry ultimately by 30 40 percent.
The following month, however, Russian hard liners attempted a coup against Gorbachev and his reforms. In defiance, hundreds of thousands of people protectively cordoned off the parliament, and Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian republic, rallied the crowd, courageously mounting a tank to denounce the plotters. Although the coup failed and Gorbachev retained power, he was increasingly overshadowed by Yeltsin and, in the end, overwhelmed by the liberalizing forces he had unleashed. In December 1991, the Soviet Union came to an end, replaced by a Commonwealth of Independent States comprising the eleven former Soviet republics. Gorbachev resigned, and Yeltsin reigned over Russia. In January 1993, Bush and Yeltsin signed START II, which called for a two thirds reduction in long range nuclear weapons within ten years and complete elimination of land based missiles. The Cold War was now indisputably over.
Source: Pauline Maier, Inventing America: A History of the United States, vol. 2 (New York, 2003), p. 1044-1045.
CHAPTER NINE: THE RISE AND FALL OF LIBERALISM Readings for Chapter 9
Terms for Week 9
THE BABY BOOM GENERATION: ONE SEATTLEITE'S RECOLLECTION
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
Jerry Falwell/Moral Majority
The AIDS Crisis
Newt Gingrich/Contract With America
The World Trade Organization (WTO)
THE BABY BOOM GENERATION: ONE SEATTLEITE'S RECOLLECTION
In the following vignette local historian and political activist Walt Crowley describes the baby boom generation.
I first saw Seattle from the windows of the Great Northern's Empire Builder early one November morning in 1961. Three days out from Chicago, the train delivered my mother and me to King Street Station, where my father waited to take us to our new home. My eyes filled with tears, but not of joy.
A long, twisting route had brought me to that moment. I was born fourteen years earlier in a middle class suburb of Detroit. No one knew it then, least of all me, but I was one drop in a swelling wave of more than 3.8 million births in 1947. That year was the leading edge of the "baby boom." This was not some postwar spurt of pent up passion but the first of a series of demographic tsunamis which would not crest until 1957 or abate until 1964, when annual births finally dropped below 4 million. In all, 75 million Americans were born between 1946 and 1964. Nearly 50 million of us hit our teens and early twenties between 1960 and 1972 and were old enough to participate as leaders or followers in shaping the Sixties.
Huge as the baby boom was in absolute numbers, it loomed even larger in relative terms. The boom followed upon the fertility bust of the Depression and war years and thus overwhelmed the generation of its parents, teachers, professors, and other social guardians... [Nobody] was prepared for my generation, and society never got ahead of the wave.
But the magnitude of the baby boom cannot alone explain the unprecedented character of its impact on politics, popular culture, art and social values. This golden cohort was not merely the largest in history, it was also the richest, healthiest, and best educated, and it was born and reared in the world's most powerful nation flush with confidence, idealism, and not a little arrogance. The adolescence of the baby boom also coincided with a profound transformation of economic organization from capital industry to mass consumerism, dramatic technological innovation, and also great dread. We were shaped by both unprecedented affluence and anxiety, the first children raised with televised mass marketing and the prospect of nuclear mass destruction.
The boom did not erupt from the large families typically raised by farmers and the urban poor to provide a domestic work force and hedge against infant mortality. Most children of the boom were raised with one or two siblings in "nuclear" families. I, however, was raised an only child; my experience and understanding of the Sixties are condition by this basic natal fact, and diverge early from the lives of others raised in large families. Beyond this, my upbringing was not exactly average, which deserves a little explanation. My father was a scientist, inventor, and militant atheist. My mother was a feisty British war bride raised in the working class row houses of Hartlepool, Sheffield, and Hull. Both were independent, energetic, and confident citizens eager to build a new world up from the ruins of World War II. Neither of my parents was active politically, but our house resounded with discussions of current events and solutions to the world's problems. The coffee table was piled high with magazines--news, science and science fiction--which provided my first reading.
My parents instilled in me a fierce individualism, a passion for justice, a faith in rationalism, and a historical optimism which refuses to surrender to objective reality... I grew up a "liberal" without ever having to ask why, for a thinking, caring person could be nothing else.
Conservatives like to argue that we were shaped by a "liberal media." They have a point, but the wrong one. There is no doubt that television shaped the political consciousness of my generation. The content of news broadcasts--footage from far off wars in Korea and the Middle East, the Army-McCarthy hearings, scenes of federal troops guarding Negro children during the integration of Little Rock's Central High School, and interviews with Allen Ginsberg and other beatniks--each in its own way undermined faith in the established order and created an appetite for something new and better. If breakfast cereals could improve themselves every other week, why couldn't the world?
* * *
If the clay of my personality was still damp at age fourteen, the same could be said of Seattle when I arrived virtually on the city's 110th birthday. I like to think that we grew up together; certainly we both changed during the next ten years. I was singularly underwhelmed by the city. Having lived much of my life close to three of the nation's largest cities, I found Seattle puny, provincial, and puritanical. I would learn only much later about the richness of its past and the titanic struggles for wealth, labor and reform which shaped the city's destiny. Stories of old strikes and scandals had no place in the classroom, least of all at Jane Addams Junior High School. Neither, from what I could tell, did education.
I had left Ridgefield [Connecticut] High School, consistently rated one of the nation's best, to enter what was regarded as one of the worst in an undistinguished system. It wasn't really a school at all but an asylum for victims of juvenile dementia and hormonal hysteria. On my first day, I walked into the lunch room to discover a full-scale food fight in progress... Shocked, I marched directly into the administration office to alert officials to this obvious collapse in social discipline. The vice principal listened to my appeal for action and then replied, "You're going to be a little troublemaker, aren't you?"
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had just visited Seattle, and troublemakers were much in the news at that time... In October 1961, the new Seattle branch of CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] led a "selective buying" campaign to compel the major downtown department stores to hire more black clerks. The campaign...was later expanded to include "shop-ins" at area grocery stores, in which protesters would fill and then abandon their shopping carts. Similar tactics clogged up Nordstrom's during "shoe-ins." Seattle yielded CORE its first employment gains for blacks and adoption of corporate "equal opportunity" policies by Nordstrom and other major retailers...
Another measure of social progress came in March 1962 when Wing Luke was elected to the Seattle City Council. He was the first non-white ever elected in the city, and his seat on the Council was the highest elective office yet attained by a Chinese American anywhere in the continental U.S. Luke was no mere token; he became a voice for the "other Seattle" and championed causes such as open housing and minority employment...
Source: Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle, 1995) pp. 3-5, 11-13.
RONALD REAGAN TO RICHARD NIXON, 1960
Shortly after the Democratic Party held its Convention in Los Angeles in 1960 where it nominated Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy for President, Ronald Reagan sent the following letter to Vice President Richard Nixon offering his services in the upcoming presidential campaign. The letter outlines Reagan's belief that the United States is, at heart, a conservative nation and that the GOP should rally many of those non-voting conservatives to political action.
July 15, 1960
Dear Mr. Vice Pres.
I know this is presumptuous of me but I'm passing on some thoughts after viewing the Convention here in L.A.
Somehow the idea persists that someone should put an end to the traditional demonstrations which follow each nomination. True they once had their place when their only purpose was to influence the delegates within the convention hall. Now however TV has opened a window onto convention deliberations and the "demonstration" is revealed as a synthetic time waster which only serves to belittle us in what should be one of our finer moments. One has a feeling that general gratitude would be the reward for any one who would once and for all declare the "demonstration" abandoned.
Starting with the opening speech and continuing through all the speeches until Kennedy's acceptance speech I thought the Democrats could pick up some campaign money by selling the collection of addresses as, "talks suitable for any patriotic occasion with platitudes and generalities guaranteed."
I do not include Kennedy's acceptance speech because beneath the generalities I heard a frightening call to arms. Unfortunately he is a powerful speaker with an appeal to the emotions. He leaves little doubt that his idea of the "challenging new world" is one in which the Federal Govt. will grow bigger & do more and of course spend more. I know there must be some short sighted people in the Republican Party who will advise that the Republicans should try to "out liberal" him. In my opinion this would be fatal.
You were kind enough to write me to comment on the "talk" I had given and which you had read. That is why I'm presuming on your busy day with these thoughts. I have been speaking on the subject in more than thirty eight states to audiences of Democrats & Republicans. Invariably the reaction is a standing ovation--not for me but for the views expressed. I am convinced that America is economically conservative and for that reason I think some one should force the Democrats to publish the "retail price" for this great new wave of "public service" they promise. I don't pose as an infallible pundit but I have a strong feeling that the twenty million non voters in this country just might be conservatives who have cynically concluded the two parties offer no choice between them where fiscal stability is concerned. No Republican no matter how liberal is going to woo a Democratic vote but a Republican bucking the give away trend might re-create some voters who have been staying at home.
One last thought,-- shouldn't some one tag Mr. Kennedy's bold new imaginative program with it's proper age? Under the tousled boyish hair cut it is still old Karl Marx--first launched a century ago. There is nothing new in the idea of a Govt. being Big Brother to us all. Hitler called his "State Socialism" and way before him it was "benevolent monarchy."
I apologize for taking so much of your time but I have such a yearning to hear some one come before us and talk specifics instead of generalities. I'm sure the American people do not want the govt. paid services at "any price" and if we collectively can afford "free this & that" they'd like to know it before they buy and not after it is entrenched behind another immovable govt. bureau.
You will be very much in my prayers in the days ahead.
Source: Reproduced from the holdings of the National Archives, Pacific Region, Laguna Niguel Office, Laguna Nigel, California.
LETTER FROM A BIRMINGHAM JAIL
By 1963 Martin Luther King had emerged as the most important civil rights leader of the era. However as the campaign to desegregate public accommodations in Birmingham proved far more difficult than King or his followers had anticipated, some white Birmingham clergy openly criticized his efforts as harmful to the harmonious relationship between the races and questioned his commitment to Christianity. In his letter written while he was under arrest for violating Birmingham's segregationist ordinances, King answers the ministers.
I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." Several months ago the [SCLC] affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a non violent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise... But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here... I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere... Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations... It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "wait!" This "wait" has almost always meant "Never."
We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters...when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?..." When your first name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs." then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.
Source: Leslie H. Fishel and Benjamin Quarles, The Negro American: A Documentary History, (Glenview, Ill., 1967), p. 523.