Remember, Freedom Is Worth Dying For 150

In the UK, we are understandably preoccupied with the fact that so many of our elected representatives are personally corrupt in terms of filling their own pockets, and appear not to be particularly distinguished or inspiring people. I actually do not believe the oft-repeated mantra that they all went into politics with good motives.

This country has been through a terrible decade. We have launched illegal wars on others, to further the economic interests of a wealthy class, and unleashed death, mutilation, poverty and grief upon millions in foreign lands. In so doing we made ourselves hated and then disliked the fear of retribution. We have substantially circumscribed our own liberties, hard won by our ancestors, and not cared because we were seduced by a dream of limitless wealth and ease. That bubble inevitably burst and proved to be based on an economic lie. Ordinary people will be paying for bailing out the extremely wealthy, for generations.

So extreme frustration is justified. But today, on the twentieth anniversary of the massacre of Tiananmen Square, we should remember that freedom is so important it is worth dying for.

That has never been a remote concept to me. I have several friends who have died struggling for democracy in Uzbekistan in the last seven years. I also still believe that the Second World War and the fight against fascism was a noble and necessary defence. Like many of my generation, there are close relatives I never got the chance to know because they gave their lives for democracy then. My mother’s only brother, for one. My grandparents never really recovered.

Today in China numerous websites, twitter, Flickr, blogger, livejournal and much else is closed down to try to prevent Chinese people from seeing any remembrance of Tiananmen. This blog was blocked there already, as it is is Uzbekistan and several other countries.

About half as many people as died at Tiananmen, died at Andijan in Uzebkistan, also massacred as they protested for democracy, just over five years ago.

When I was in Uzbekistan, the official line I was given by Jack Straw’s FCO was that Uzbekistan was following the “South East Asian Model” whereby economic liberalisation was bringing about social shifts and the development of a strong middle class, which would eventually lead to democracy. The existence of the model was not a nonsensical argument, though in Uzbekistan there was not any actual economic liberalisation, which invalidated the argument against criticising the regime.

In China there has been economic liberalisation. But precious little sign that this has led to real democratic development or even toleration of dissidence.

In those diaries, Zhao called the massacre of peaceful demonstrators at Tiananmen Square “a tragedy to shock the world”, and clearly stated it could have been averted, had any of the party leadership sided with his view that the demonstrators should be permitted to protest or otherwise be peacefully dispersed. The violent crackdown remains to this day one of the great signs that liberalization of China by trade and engagement has been a moral failure.

The greatest sign of lack of progress over the last twenty years, is the Chinese government’s attempts even today to deny what happened at Tinananmen Square, and its Herculean efforts to prevent its population from knowing about it.

Two decades ago the air was heady, communism was tumbling everywhere, apartheid was vanishing, freedom seemed possible. We are left with a sense of ashes in the mouth. In China, the repression in Tibet and of the Muslim Uighurs – the latter a far less fashionable cause in the West – continues undiminished. But even toleration of dissent is not increasing, and there seems no end to the totalitarian desire to control what the people may know.

China may be moving towards capitalism pretty quickly. It is not even looking in the direction of political freedom.

150 thoughts on “Remember, Freedom Is Worth Dying For

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  • eddie

    Well said. The trouble is we have no idea about what is happening in China. If we did perhaps the far left would get more uppity about it, (or perhaps not as the USA cannot be blamed for it). As usual I completley disagree with your silly, paranoid thesis about our disappearing liberties. We have more freedom of thought and action now than at any time for centuries. This blog is proof of that. You have just made reference to a Freedom of Information Act request – brought in by a Labour govt.

  • KevinB

    I agree that defending freedom is noble and viscerally important and that good people made great sacrifices for us in the past……but it is important to understand how wars have been created and to also understand the extent to which our society is truly democratic.

    Craig, please watch ‘The Moneymasters’, a straightforward factual academic history of money and financial systems over the last 2000 years. It lasts over three and a half hours but I found watching it a life-changing experience. I’ve sat through it at least three times.

    I can now believe in the idea of defending society but not in defending ‘democracy’ because the thing we call democracy is a fraud, an illusion, that will, because of its deliberate systemic deceptions, make victims of us all rather than serve our best interests.

    Understanding this might not make a person an acceptable parliamentary candidate in these days, but if enough people ‘get it’ we might all be saved in the long run.

  • KevinB

    See what our ‘democracy’ is up to now.

    ‘We’ are already at war with Iran, though Obama, the deceiver, speaks sweetly about ‘reconciliation’.

    I wonder how the families of those in Iran who die because of the $400 million the US government invested in covert operations inside Iran will feel about our wonderful ‘democracy'(last week 15 were killed and 50 injured in an explosion in a Mosque in Tehren. The Iranian government blamed America…..well what are they spending their ‘dirty money’ on?).

    Is raising this issue on a thread about ‘defending freedom’ changing the subject?

    I don’t think so.

  • technicolour

    PJ O’Rourke: Eat the Rich. Says it all. China is corporate communism – the worst of all options. Slaves to a commercial regime.

  • JimmyGiro


    I think they are slaves to success.

    When I was in China in 2004, I noticed a lot of old guys sitting aimlessly along the pavement walls either side of the forbidden city, at the edge of Tiananmen Square. They were of the age that made them too old for new dynamism that was China, and yet not so old as to have been weak during 1989.

    I believe they were of the generation that was prominent during Mao’s cultural purges; they were the peoples soldiers that committed the great cleansing of the old traditions, so allowing the new China to grow; though not as Mao envisaged.

    I think that they were the angry locals that sparked the Tank charge in 1989. Those guys at the forefront of the cultural revolution, may have felt betrayed by their subsequent insignificance in the new China, post-Mao.

    I heard that a single army vehicle with four soldiers turned up in the Square to tell the peaceful students to go home. But the angry locals (possibly the old guard) attacked the vehicle, and killed three soldiers; the fourth was rescued by the students, who wanted a peaceful protest.

    A few hours later, possibly as a result of an enraged local commander, in went the tanks to avenge their comrades.

    These days I don’t believe the Chinese suffer from lack of democracy; they are too busy chasing Yuan to give a damn about politics. And the old communists are too old to be dangerous. The problems will come home when their white hot economy implodes, owing to the west being too poor to buy their stuff.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Jimmy Giro – speakng of “slavery” I make the following observations:-

    There is an inversion of “freedom” as it is preached by the Western World:-

    1. Read Lord Mansfield’s decision in the James Somerset case ?” the air of England is too pure to be subjected to slavery ?” so, set the Black free. But , continue exploiting them for centuries onwards overseas.

    2. Then there is the case of the Zong ?” and that is a case where they are determined, under “civilised” English law, to be mere property with no legal locus standi.

    3. Fast forward to the present day ?” there are rich countries ?” there are poor countries.

    4. The rich countries are preoccupied with telling everyone about “civil liberty rights” ( e.g. right to freedom of expression). Pray tell where is the preaching about “survival rights” ( i.e. by that I mean that people have to have food, shelter and clothing, before they are really positioned to embrace, or are able to afford the challenges that are embedded in the next tier ?” and the Western World is fully cognisant of this ?” but its own history of exploitation gives good fodder for the debate).

    5. Pray tell ?” how do you tell a starving man in many a poor country that it is more important to embrace the “freedoms” as defined by the wealthy ?” over- embracing the development of your own country to advance to the position where ?” actually ?” the people are empowered to be able to choose and decide their destiny). As small nations ?” Cuba and Singapore immediately come to mind.

    The cart of Western liberalism cannot pull the horse of economic and political realties as regards development and these needs for survival that have long existed and still are unfolding in the world, cannot be resolved via resort to Western sentimentalism.

    My point is that the West at core is most hypocritical, but if it can sell its political message, without in any honest detail examining how it arrived at a state of wealth, then keep sending the law books, the liberal theories, the well educated Third World intellectual ( let Nehru fuck the British PM’s wife ?” if that’s what it takes) ?” but never, never, never, address the underlying core problems of global economic inequalities and how same are structured or how same can be addressed, forget human needs and inequalities.

    I see precious little integrity in most operations emanating from the West ?” indeed brutality from other quarters does also exist ?” but, if anyone out there ?” globally ?” disagrees with me ?” let the debate begin. I conclude that there are honest and humane individuals both North and South of the globe.

  • anticant

    “We have more freedom of thought and action now than at any time for centuries.”

    What planet does this idiot live on?

  • stef

    “I also still believe that the Second World War and the fight against fascism was a noble and necessary defence.”

    Many of the Poles, Czechs and Slovaks I have known have a somewhat more ambivalent attitude to that conflict

    Once the banksters had created the conditions and made the finance available on which fascism could thrive no, there probably was no alternative to going to war. But, personally speaking, I would never describe WW2 as a noble, Just war without the addition of a whacking big caveat

    I’m not trying to be a pedant here. The ‘Justness’ of WW2 has been repeatedly used in support of many of the other wars which have followed it. Saddam Hussein was, after all, the ‘New Hitler’. I know this because I read it in a newspaper

    Just Wars; incidences of the morally justified use of state violence against the ordinary citizens of another state, are rare as hens teeth.

    Just Insurrections and Revolutions are a lot more common

    Not common enough though

  • Alsaid

    Craig;, the website you have linked to is a very poor one, I’ve seen the reports about the massacre in Gaza, they unashamedly sided with the Zionist bombs and repeated occupaiton propaganda.

    I would believe that nothing happened in Tianamen had this website been the source of the story.

    One more thing, people who click on links will leave your site, websites usually set the links up to open in new windows in order not to work as a linking site for others….

  • eddie

    anticant and Kevin B – you abuse but you can’t come up with arguments against. Sad. I have been through all this with you and others before. If you lived in the seventies you must accept that we have more liberties and freedoms now. If you want to debate the issue without resorting to abuse I am happy to do so. Obviously in your muddled world of paranoid conspiracy theories we are living in 1984 but the reality for the mass of the people is very different.

  • eddie

    Just as a starter for ten, many of your co-thinkers are constantly telling us that they never read newspapers or watch the corporate media. Instead they get all their “facts” from the internet (and doesn’t it make them feel superior). Well I wonder what they did thirty years ago? Is that in itself not a symbol of the democratisation of information and a widening of freedoms? I have already mentioned the Freedom of Information Act. Compare the access to public information now with thirty years ago and there is a chasm between the two. I could go on and on. But perhaps these things mean nothing in your shabby little worldview.

  • stef

    Thirty years ago I could turn on a television and watch some genuine investigative programming such as World in Action or Panorama, pick up a newspaper and read some genuinely dissenting investigative journalism from someone like John Pilger…

    The reasons why things have changed so very, very much is worth much more thought than you could type into a poxy comment box. This book is a good start…

    and eddie, your compalining about personal abuse might carry a little more weight if you didn’t sneer at, patronise and insult people with different views to yourself in the same breath

  • anticant

    Eddie, I am 81 and I grew up during the 1939-45 War, which I very much doubt you know much about. We knew then what freedoms, and what sort of society, we were fighting for. Even in wartime, there was much more personal liberty and privacy than there is now, with all the snoopery and relentless collection of personal data which NuLabour has introduced since 2001.

    All this is amply documented, and it is sheer ignorance – or partisan effrontery – for you to deny it.

    I am not paranoid, nor do I have a “shabby little worldview”, which is a more accurate description of some of your ramblings.

    As for “the mass of the people”, I cannot claim to speak for them as confidently as you do. But I doubt whether they feel as free as you say they do.

    I cannot debate this at length now, as I am about to undergo a cataract operation and shall be offline for a few days at least. So I must leave it to others to point out the rosy colour of your political spectacles.

  • Anonymous


    Craig isn’t being paranoid about loss of freedom its being eroded as we speak. Just people like you don’t see it as you look through your rose coloured myopic specs. Look around you CCTV, emails being monitored, stopped driving down the street for terrorist searches, Draconian laws with reference to protests. If it wasn’t for the inefficiency of the police courts and other agencies we wouldn’t be able to do anything. My ex wife was brought up in communist Warsaw when she first came to the UK her first observation was “You can’t do anything here its worse than Soviet Poland you have laws to prevent everything” I have been surveiled had my emails intercepted and my flat broken into by persons unknown. Craig has had worse including his career ruined and his health compromised.

    My daughter keeps bringing home spurious “homework” asking what food do you have in the fridge? What time do you go to bed? Then they teach her global warming as if its a fact in science. Brain washing of the youth from an early age. This is coming out now in the work place where younger people don’t understand greys only black or white. They follow orders like they have been trained without question. When I was at school I had great teachers that vaguely followed the curriculum but rambled on about everything. Probably why I did appallingly in my exams but havnt done too bad in life since thanks to my teachers and parents. Now teachers have to parrot Labour propaganda without question. Without the freedom to stray, or the inspectors will mark down the school and funding will be cut.

    Police used to be able to use discretion that was fundamental to are democracy and was the first tier of the judicial system. Being told off by the local bobby and being put in his pocket book for playing football in the street or pinching a penny chew was punishment enough. Now police have to arrest you, take your DNA (On the pretext of “you might become a rapist later”)File forms with the social services consider you for an ASBO or caution . The net result? The same as before you are told off just we now have all your details on their computer systems have your DNA and prints. The Government and its agencies have paranoia about anyone they haven’t got data on. You must be hiding something why have you never come to notice. Why hasn’t your child ever fell over in the park and bumped there head so police can fill in a data base on the pretext that your child isn’t safe in your care as they fell over. Maybe you are hiding the fact because you beat them and don’t take them to hospital? This isn’t paranoia this is fact and how police government think.

    All this seems very sensible in isolation but put it all together and it becomes more sinister.

  • eddie

    Anticant “Even in wartime, there was much more personal liberty and privacy than there is now, with all the snoopery and relentless collection of personal data which NuLabour has introduced since 2001.” I respect your age and the fact that you lived through the war, but this is utter nonsense and I am sorry to say that age does not always bring wisdom. Any reading of history will tell you that access to information was much more restricted during the war and that secrecy was paramount. Read Antony Beevor’s book on D Day for starters. As for “snooping and personal data” please furnish me with examples and tell me precisely how they adversely impact upon your freedoms and liberties. The people around here like having cctv on the streets, it makes them feel safer. That is a fact. The truth is we live in a different world to 1945, and there is a danger of seeing that period through the rose tinted spectacles that you accuse me of. My parents both served in the war so I do know something about it.

    I wonder how many of you have ever read the Euroopean Convention on Human Rights to which we are signatories? It puts us a world away from the position even thirty years ago.

    June, England worse than communist Warsaw. Give us a break. Your rant says nothing serious on the subject.

  • stef

    And on the subject of the title of this post…

    George Patton once said –

    ‘The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other guy die for his’

    Dying for Freedom is dandy but I’d rather go with, or help come up with, a Plan that sees the other guy Dying for Oppression thank you very much

  • eddie questioner


    Leading but…

    Have you taken a contrary view on any major, or minor, social or political policy instigated by the government?

    Would you like to tell us about the policy and your views?

    If so, have you taken any action whatsoever to be heard?

    What was your experience?

    Were you successful?

    If not, why not?

  • KevinB


    To be fair, you are right about the internet. There is remarkable and, let us admit, unprecedented freedom of expression here.

    If it was not for the internet I personally would probably never have discovered the depth of the tyranny that elsewhere enslaves us. The mainstream media and major political parties would certainly have kept us in the dark forever.

    My entire worldview altered when I came to realise (irrefutably) in 2005, that 9/11 was an ‘inside job’. Controlled demolition of World Trade Centres 1, 2 and 7 is now proven. Apart from the fact that by the ‘official narrative’ the collapses violate two universal laws of physics, we now have a group of university professors who have published a research paper in which they identify particles of ‘nanothermite’ in samples of the WTC dust. This is full-on forensic evidence. In a courtroom it trumps any amount of blather. The issue is PROVEN beyond the tiniest doubt.

    eddie, I find the idea of governmental forces (whoever they are) murdering thousands of their own citizens so that that they can wage war elsewhere and murder over a million more innocent human beings TOTALLY FUCKING UNACCEPTABLE.

    How free are we when such dramatic real evidence of such a shocking crime is neither discussed in the mainstream media nor debated in parliament.

    There’s your ‘freedom’. Things that REALLY MATTER cannot be even talked about.


    Our ‘freedom’, like our ‘democracy’ is an illusion. We can say what we like provided it does not change anything.

    If the power-that-be ever start to feel threatened by people saying these things in the public domain (this forum is not, quite, the public domain) then they will show us their true face.

    There is subtle and oppresive oversight of our political system that prevents the thoughts of even moderate radicals, like Craig, impinging on the public consciousness. While these people can control minds through the media and parliament and can hand out guns to fools who will shoot us, they have nothing too serious to worry about…….

    …….apart from the total collapse of their financial house of cards, that is.

  • eddie

    I am a member of the Labour Party. I don’t agree with ID cards or kettling or general police tactics on G20 and have written to Gordon Brown and others to say so. ID cards will not happen. Kettling is under review and will probably be scrapped. Does that answer your question?

  • eddie

    KevinB I agree with your first sentence. The rest is bilge. It’s hard to know where to start with your stupid “facts”. Your thesis is basically this: dark forces control the world; I am an intelligent person who can uncover the evidence of these dark forces via the internet; if only other people were as intelligent as me they would come to their senses and overwhelm our elected governments and we would then have peace, love and the brotherhood of man.

    As I say, bilge. Every conspiracy theory since time began has the same focus. “I know things you don’t and I am therefore a better human being than you.”

    But if it makes you feel happy and superior to the rest of us, and it stops you getting into bother, good luck to you.

  • Anonymous

    You gotta love the Americans political elite…

    trying to vote through a bill reuiring that the red cross and the UN investigate war crime by China over the Tianemin Square massacre.

    Clean your own house first…springs to mind

  • anticant

    Dear sneery eddie

    Wisdom doesn’t come with age – it’s more a matter of life experience and knowledge. What’s yours? If, after the events of the past twelve years, and especially the last twelve months, you are still a member of the Labour party you strike me as being an utter fool.

  • Chris


    there are certainly ‘freedoms’ that are available now that were not always available in the 70’s or whichever other period you wish to evoke. The question is: what is the balance between what has been gained (or granted) and what has been removed. The deficit lies in the quality.

    I lived through the seventies and I would have to say that I enjoyed more freedom then in all important senses of the word. I had a media which reported difficult issues… Now I can write here on a blog with 70,000+ visitors. Then, as mentioned above, I could read Pilger exposing the iniquities of power in a newspaper selling millions. Now I read him online or in the darker recesses of a relatively small circulation magazine.

    There are many examples to illustrate the point that there is a huge deficit between that gained and that lost. To suggest otherwise is to miss the point.

  • Jon

    I’d join into the debate but it is getting abusive, again. Not my cup of tea!

    @stef – interesting that you mention Flat Earth News. I went to see Nick Davies do a talk and some of his stories – in particular the racist world-view at one of the middle-class tabloids – were quite illuminating. I have a copy of his book ready for reading, but am somewhat put off by a Media Lens review, which reveals the author’s own conservative biases.

    Early on he apparently dismisses “Marxist” conspiracy theorists, by which he probably means one of the most thorough works on media bias to date, “Manufacturing Consent” by Chomsky and Hermann. That work is a tough read, as it is presented in quite an academic style, and it is now some years out of date (though I suspect the theory still holds). Nevertheless, it remains a worthwhile read for anyone seriously interested in how biases find their way into their newspaper.

    Nevertheless I will give FEN a go at some point… perhaps after I’ve re-read MC 😉

    @anticant – all the best for the operation.

  • tony_opmoc

    In many ways society is freer and more liberal than it was 50 years ago. The UK population has become a very tolerant society and behaviour that would have to be hidden 50 years ago can now openly be expressed. It is now O.K. even to be Gay. The internet has also openned up an entire new source of communication that is mostly free and uncensored.

    But other things have got considerably worse and freedoms have been lost, and nearly all of this is due to a move towards Dictatorship in Government and the most outrageous control and censorship of the media.

    I personally became aware of this cultural change and move towards dictatorship at about the same time Blair was elected in 1997, though didn’t link the connection at the time.

    Dictatorship is an appallingly inefficient way to run any enterprise – be it a Government, Business or a Social club. The reason this is so, is because it eliminates the possibility of other, better ideas being discussed and promoted. It assumes that whoever is the Dictator has the best knowledge and understanding – when usually, this is the direct opposite of reality. So society ends up doing incredibly stupid things as a result of the Dictator’s orders.

    This happenned to me personally in my last job. When I started it in 1995, I was empowered to make decisions myself to get the job done, to take responsibility, to raise issues, to challenge others, to come up with new ideas and present them even right to the top of the management chain if appropriate. It was the same for everyone in the company I worked for. We all worked together and made the impossible happen and achieved real success. A few years later we were effectively taken over by an internal dictatorship. We were told exactly what we would or would not do. People who said this decision is crazy – were fired. The place became intolerable. It changed from being a place where I loved going to work – and would put my heart, soul and enormous amount of time and dedication – to a place I hated. It was such a relief when they finally made me redundant. It took me 3 years to achieve it.

    The same cultural change has happenned throughout society – and we are increasingly and rapidly moving to a fascist dictatorship.

    We need to fight for leaders that will empower and encourage us to achieve – not for leaders like Blair and air-head Cameron. They should all be cleared out and we should start the democratic process again.


  • MJ

    eddie: your kneejerk reaction of describing anything that doesn’t correspond with your fantasy world-view as “bilge” or a “conspiracy theory” is a woefully inadequate response to facts. KevinB is perfectly correct to point out for instance that the controlled demolition of WTC has now pretty much been proved. See the recently published paper from the University of Copenhagen, “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe” for the abstact and a link to the full paper.

    anticant: all the best with your op.

  • Craig


    It is a good article. If I only ever linked to sites where I agree with everything they say, I would never link to anyone.

    I have even been known to link to Guido or Harry’s Place! I am not endorsing anyone, just pointing at an interesting article. I don’t believe anyone is right about everything. If you want blind certainty, go to the SWP.

    It is perfectly possible for an individual to be wrong on Palestine and right on China. I was even wrong about something myself once. I think it was in 1986 🙂

    Not that those sites ever link to me. The extraordinary thing is, we get such a high readership despite a de facto link “boycott” by all the big sites. In large part because I don’t ally with any party.

    I hate ending up with loads of browser windows open myself, so I don’t do pop-ups for links and stuff.

  • eddie

    anticant – as usual you don’t answer my points but just resort to abuse. What’s the point? Your age certainly doesn’t give yo wisdom. I don’t know what you did in the war, if anything, and you know nothing about me. If you want to know about my life experiences I can share them with you. There are thousands of members of the Labour Party and it is one of the two main political forces in this country with strong links in the trade union and labour movement, so your sneering is beneath you. It is also the party that created the NHS, the national parks, built millions of houses etc – all the things that you allegedly fought for.

    Chris your comment is more sensible but unfavourably to compare Human Rights legislation with the fact that the Mirror no longer publishes Pilger (who really is a fool in my opinion) is laughable frankly. Is that the best you can come up with?

    Tony – sounds like your persoanl problems have clouded your judgement. If you think we are moving towards a fascist dictatorship a) you don’t mean it and b) if you did you don’t understand what the words mean.

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