Workers of china divide

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Workers of china divide

  1. 1. Workers of China Divide Orientation, BCFL/VDLC Delegation June 3, 2014
  2. 2. Workers of China Divide Fragmentation, Ideology and Labour Movements in Post-Socialist PRC Fragmentation:  region: rustbelt vs. sunbelt (Northeastern, North, and Central, Northwestern China vs. Coastal regions’ exporting zones in Yangtze River Delta & the Pearl River Delta)  localities and sectors: no-cross regional or work-unit unity  Urban-rural divide & Hukou (urban industrial workers vs. Rural migrant workers)  Industrial workers vs. knowledge workers  Gender & generational gap  Labor relations & state industrial policies  Ownership patterns: domestic private enterprises; SOEs; foreign or joint- ventures Ideology & Labor Politics:  Maoism (masters & Maoist socialism)  Socialism & Marxism (New Left, democratic socialism, autonomous Marxism, autonomous trade unions)  Liberal democratic capitalism (legal justice, industrial citizenship, social democracy and independent trade unionism) Labor Movements Major forces  urban laid-off SOEs workers  Educated urban & rural migrant workers  Rural migrant workers Major orientation  Maoist legacies  Autonomous trade unions  Independent trade unions  insurgent identities  class struggle or livelihood struggle
  3. 3. The trade union as a transmission belt? Relations between the party-state, the official trade unions and the workers Autonomous trade unions  within the party state framework  state corporatism (ACFTU as state corporatist institution)  socialism and workers’ state  a politically assertive working class  class-consciousness  with reference to Chinese revolutionary and socialist legacies  reinventing or re-lubricating the transmission belt Independent trade unionism  beyond the Leninist polity  democratization  Capitalism  legal justice, legal citizenships & rights- conscious citizenry  collective bargaining  societal corporatism  civil society beyond ACFTU  the state-society (labour) relation  farewell to revolution
  4. 4. Five Waves of Chinese Workers’ Struggling for Autonomous Trade Unions in PRC (Chan, 1993) 1949-1950: The first Conflict  The Communist trade unions still genuinely representing workers’ interests vis-&- vis the capitalists and the emerging Communist Party managers  Lost a struggle for independence from the Party  The trade unions’ defeat signalled by the fall of the union chairman, Li Lisan  the incident went down in popular memory as simply a power struggle among the Party’s top leaders 1956-1957: The second conflict  the Hundred Flowers period  with the imprisonment of workers and union activists  the fall of Lai Ruoyu, the new chairman of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACTFU), who was championing the notion of a more independent ACFTU  The agitation from the workers in this short period of liberalization was completely overshadowed in public memory by the rebelliousness of the intellectuals
  5. 5. Five Waves of Chinese Workers’ Struggling for Autonomous Trade Unions in PRC (Chan, 1993) 1966-1969: The third round of unrest  accompanied by violence on a massive scale, occurred during the Cultural Revolution  In terms of the number of people involved, the duration of the struggle, and the number of workers ultimately jailed or killed, it greatly surpassed the 1989 workers’ movement  The workers’ organizations that arose in 1967 as vehicles for articulating class interests reached a level of sophistication and independence tantamount to “quasi- political parties”  Yet, in the popular image, the role of the workers is completely overshadowed by the sensationalism associated with the violence of the Red Guards 1976 April 5: Tiananmen Square  groups of workers commemorated Zhou Enlai’s death  The activities of these workers were subsequently recorded in official histories  but the incident itself was interpreted as a popular rebellion against the tyranny of the Gang of Four  rather than as a movement that had any working-class content
  6. 6. Five Waves of Chinese Workers’ Struggling for Autonomous Trade Unions in PRC (Chan, 1993) 1989: The fifth cycle of confrontation  with the popular protest movement of 1989  Yet once again the role of the workers (and the trade unions) became subordinated in public consciousness to the high profile of the students  The government condemned worker participants as unemployed vagrants and hooligan 1989 - Workers in the Tiananmen Protests:  The Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation  anti-elitist  anti-bureaucratic  institutional restraints on managerial power in workplaces  union representation and collective bargaining • and, more vaguely, a role for an independent union in national policy- making and an institutionalized right to “supervise” the Communist Party’s exercise of power (Walder and Gong, 1993)
  7. 7. Chinese Labor historian & political scientist: Elizabeth J. Perry , 1995
  8. 8. In 1980-81, not long after Deng Xiaoping and his team took power, a wave of strikes and agitation for the formation of autonomous trade unions swept China, around the same time as the Solidarity movement in Poland Tendency towards autonomous articulation of workers’ interests. And alongside these official unions have emerged independent unions willing to push even more forcefully for autonomous workers’ rights
  9. 9. Chan, 1993: In this history of sporadic Chinese working-class movements and their recurrent alliance with Communist trade unions, sceptics would surely question whether workers and the official communist trade unions shared similar goals, or whether the trade unions had ever defended workers’ rights vis-a-vis the Party. Very often, to be sure, the trade unions and their cadres have acted against workers’ interests - corrupt, inefficient, ineffectual, functioning merely as an arm of enterprise administration, etc. However, this does not alter the fact that in both China and Eastern Europe the political structure of a one-party communist state is not totally monistic, and that a bureaucratic organization within it, just as in a pluralistic structure, seeks sometimes to assume its own separate identity. It can act in accordance with the institution’s collective interests and/or its members’ individual interests. In short, bureaucratic politics is often at work.
  10. 10. Chan, 1993: If we recognize this model of a party-state with a multiplicity of bureaucratic interests, then it is easy to understand the logic behind the five conflictual episodes involving Chinese workers and, at times, trade unions.
  11. 11. The ACFTC: Future and Labor Movements  During the 1980s, the ACFTU was allowed to re-organize itself.  The party-state even granted the ACFTU a certain measure of power to protect workers' rights from being violated by the party-state itself .  ACFIU institutional agitation from above, and independent spontaneous protest from below and the liberal wing of the ACFTU tried to play a mediating role between the hard-line party elite and rebellious workers.  Some ACFTU cadres even instigated and helped organize workers to stage protest action
  12. 12. In 1985, based on an ACFIU proposal, the State Council ordered that henceforth the Council itself and all relevant administrative organs would permit trade unions to take part in their meetings on matters relating to workers' interests. In 1987 the ACFTU tendered to the State Council a whole series of proposals designed to protect workers' rights, including specific legislation to protect the welfare of the disadvantaged. To counteract the erosion of standards of living by inflation, the ACFTU also proposed several times in the 1980s that incomes be indexed to inflation, but these suggestions were turned down by 'some economists', according to a member of the ACFTU executive committee. At the enterprise level, the bureaucratic status of the trade-union chair has been elevated and, at least on paper, the staff-and-workers' councils have acquired an ill-defined 'supervisory' power over management.  All these measures, though presently merely on paper, could in future conceivably have repercussions in a new configuration of rights and powers within the corporatist structure and within enterprises
  13. 13. More Autonomous Trade Unions than Independent  Future developments of the ACFTU,  its relationship with the Chinese working class,  and the repercussions of this upon the future of the Chinese socialist system.  What can be highlighted here are the aggressively unprecedented attempts by the ACFTU to share power with other bureaucracies in decisions on administrative matters and in drawing up new legislation pertaining to workers’ interest  The ACFTU as a state corporatist institution (as opposed to some of its more radical members who advocate societal corporatism) and the conservative engineers realized that unless the ACFT7U was allowed to reform itself so as to be able to represent workers' interests, even if only to a limited extent, a Chinese workers' Solidarity movement might emerge.  To pre-empt the rise of an independent movement, the ACFITU has undergone a series of organizational reform

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