Saturday, June 8, 2019

Links to Videos from Tiananman Days

A walk down memory lane

My thanks to the people who have sent in appreciations of my reminiscences about the Chinese student movement in 1989. Here are a couple links from the time, unfiltered:      
Bernard Yoh, Feng Sheng-ping, Ira Straus, on the democracy desmontrations in China. May 12, 1989   Mihajlov Mihajlov and Ira Straus on the break-up of Yugoslavia, July 2, 1991

It was only recently that I saw that C-span has uploaded these old archived videos onto the internet. Viewing them thirty years on, I was greatly impressed by what my old colleagues had to say. How much they knew. How much they foresaw.


An open moment in history, when everything seemed possible. A time of huge changes. Which quickly turned into huge gains and huge losses. Successful transformations and failed transformations, on a global scale. Realized and lost opportunities, on a historic scale. The lost ones bringing about, first, repressions in China, wars in Yugoslavia; later, frightful global problems that we now face from Ukraine to the South China Sea.

The window closed.

For us, as federalists...

It brings back a brief time, when it was possible to talk on mainstream public platforms about union of countries, a hopeful union that seemed at hand in place of the Communist unions that were coming apart. When Russians as well as Eastern Europeans wanted to be a part of the Western system of union. Even in that period it was not easy to get the media to pay attention to this, not even when James Baker himself spoke of federalism as the new model from Vancouver to Vladivostok; but sometimes it proved possible. For talk about union not just in general but up to and including federation; not just as a goal or ideal of our small group, but as a matter immediately at stake in the events that were shaking the world.

For me, this is a bittersweet memory. A time of hope, a time of historical achievements in many countries, historic opportunities lost in still larger ones. Crisis, so the Chinese character tells us, always includes opportunity; opportunity, if not realized, always leaves an opening for crisis. Perhaps we federalists were too few to make the difference that was needed, perhaps not enough focused on the needs and opportunities suddenly emerging from the fading of Communism. I wonder, will such a time of opportunity come back for us...

best regards to all,

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Tiananman and the Chinese Student Movement in America:

A personal reminiscence

Ira Straus

I took it personally when Tiananman was suppressed in 1989. When I was involved in my own small way, and I feel it'd be worth sharing a few reminiscences here.

In 1987 I had contacted a few Chinese friends in America about the Shanghai demonstrations. In 1989, using what I had learned from those contacts, I got in touch, during the early phase of the 1989 demonstrations with the China Spring people. “China Spring” was the name of their publication since 1987; their formal organization was the Chinese Alliance for Democracy. Their US group consisted of relatively young Chinese students studying in America, along with former students.

China Spring's US offices were at that point only in NY. I gave them free office and boarding space in DC, in the townhouse that belonged to Federal Union -- by that time it was renamed the Association to Unite the Democracies, and I had been executive director since the early 1980s. From this base of operations, they organized a China Solidarity Committee, mixing Chinese students with the loads of Americans who wanted to find a way to help.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Tiananman: Days of Hope

And the Night When The World Took a Turn for The Worse
by Ira Straus

I would like to make this posting in memory of my friends who were involved in the Chinese democracy movement of 1989. Their cause was one of great importance for the prospects for global solidarity. Alas, they lost.

It was a night the world took a turn for the worse. The demonstrations in Beijing had been going on for weeks, with about a million people in the square on many days and evenings. Then, 30 years ago to the day, it was suppressed, with a number of dead; estimates range from the quasi-government one of 300 (conveniently limiting the count to the square itself) to 10,000 in all of Beijing. The leaders were subsequently hunted down and jailed for years, those who were not able to escape abroad.