Adam Ford discusses the mass protests which forced a defeat on the Chinese state.
Locals are celebrating in the Chinese city of Shifang today, following the government’s decision to scrap its plans for a copper alloy plant which many feared would poison them. This sensational policy reversal was apparently forced out of the Communist Party dictatorship by rioting, followed by a sit-in in support of those arrested. In making this concession, the regime has shown its vulnerability at a time when the national economy is being hit by the economic crisis in Europe and the US.
The announcement itself was stark, a mere “Shifang will not build this project henceforth”. But just like the official accommodation to mass rebellion in Wukan last year, it demonstrates that the Chinese authorities are doing everything they can to avoid the flames of resistance spreading. In many under-reported cases, they will merely repress any popular uprising. But in others – perhaps those that quickly gain a national and international following – they will give away an inch for fear of losing a mile. The release of twenty-one “suspected criminals” after “receiving criticism and education and repenting for their mistakes”, would seem to confirm this analysis.
Shifang is located in Sichuan province, which was devastated by a huge 2008 earthquake. With what passes for a ‘recovery’ still very much ongoing, the jobs ‘carrot’ was dangled before the residents of Shifang, in an attempt to overcome concerns that the local water supply would be contaminated. Because of Chinese censorship, it is difficult to find a record of grassroots concerns, but Ma Jun of the liberal Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs commented that:
“Heavy metal projects are always highly polluting. Of course the public has concerns about this. The government only released the short version of the plant’s environmental report, which did not have information about the solid waste and waste water. It should have released the full version.”
On Monday and Tuesday, demonstrators tore down the door of the municipal government building, smashed windows, and threw bricks at police. In response, police unleashed barely restrained brutality, which was played out across the Chinese-language internet, as users uploaded photos and videos of battered and bleeding protesters. The Tuesday night saw a massive sit-down protest outside a government office, and it was at this point that officials agreed to back down.
The speed at which the government caved-in highlights Communist Party fears of a nationwide uprising, as the export-led economy starts to show signs of collapse. In the wake of falling orders from Europe and America, export orders are reportedly at their lowest level since March 2009 – the crest of the first crisis wave – and the purchasing managers’ index tumbled to 0.2 to 50.4 last month – only 0.5 above a mark which would indicate recession.
The dictatorship’s Shifang u-turn has perhaps bought it more time to prepare, but there seems little doubt that China will be the scene of explosive class struggles will be played out in China in the very near future.
Originally published by The Commune
Hi, comrades! I am
I am translating this article into Russian.
Could you please explain, what does the term "copy alloy" mean? I can not find it in the dictionaries.
Well spotted! That should
Well spotted! That should have said 'copper alloy plant' (a type of metal factory - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_copper_alloys).. I've changed it now..
Nice one for translating it into Russian!
Thanks! Russain translation
Russain translation is done: http://mpst.org/novosti/massovyie-protestyi-vyinudili-kitayskoe-pravitelstvo-otkazatsya-ot-zagryazneniya-okruzhayushhey-sredyi
Quote: Because of Chinese
FSRN did a report on China's environment protests in February. The report mainly focused on the city Dalian and gets some activists to speak about the problems they face.
Good piece by the way, its good to see the ridiculous levels of pollution in China being challenged and for the repression failing to bludgeon opposition. With many "wild cat" strikes, and a big push for independent unions on one hand and community action on the other this could be the start of real change in China.
It's estimated that if
It's estimated that if pollution were accounted for in China it would halve its already falling growth rate. The hundreds of thousands of deaths a year, the rampant ill-health, as a direct result of pollution, can also be added to the balance-sheet.
I think that at the moment the Chinese state is too rigid to facilitate "free trade unions", though there are elements within the Party that support them to some extent. This could change with further surges of the class struggle which, along with social protests, show no sign of abating.
I think that free trade unions would be a dangerous trap and a setback for workers' struggle in China. As Reddibrek says above, the strikes breaking out all over China are wildcats overwhelming the present union structure - and a strong force against state repression. The workers organising and taking part in these strikes don't need training nor role-play as the ability for self-organisation and effective mobilisation is there for all to see. What has been characteristic of many strikes is the initial minority organisation which is produced by the general unrest. Doing all this in the face of the most severe repression - official police, the trade union and the unofficial thugs - takes some initiative that has nothing to learn from present day trade unionism. That these organisations should disappear after the strike mmeans - despite some individuals being "lifted" - that they live to fight another day.
Quote: I think that at the
You'd be surprised, most one party states ( I know there are other parties in PRC but there not even allowed to oppose the CPC in anyway so what's the point?) that last more then a few decades have to be extremely flexible, whilst appearing immovable, because they "Know whats best" and can never be wrong. And if the CPC believe giving in on this front will buy them some more time to reorganise and consolidate on other fronts like say the regional/ethnic tensions in some of its territories, then they may well begin a climb down. From what I've heard some city and provincial CPC administrations have already begun testing the waters in this area.
I disagree, it may be a "step back" on your personal ideal plan, but compared to what current practices exist in China would be a massive step forward.
By keeping a tight control on the all China Trade Union Federation the CPC is not only able to keep working activists under close surveillance but also legitimise repression against any group or association operating outside the officially designated structure. It also helps corporations and factory managers maintain there stranglehold on the factory floor. If workers force the issue then so long as government controlled Unions remain they can offer up a meagre "concession" to stop an escalation.
If the Chinese people can successfully break the control of the CPC over Labour associations and Unions then this is no longer a guarantee. Basically what I'm getting at is that this will open a lot more space for ordinary citizens to organise, how they will organise and what they will achieve having done so I can't say.
Is this in reply to me or a general point? If it is a reply I think you've mistaken my meaning. I actually don't think if China gets independent Unions they'll operate just like the current legal union structure. Why would the Chinese Workers keep them when they've been so poorly served by them in the past and present? In fact I think (though alas I've misplaced my crystal ball) the "new Unions" will for the most part be much more democratically structured then the current model.
I don't want to put words in
I don't want to put words in your mouth Red but it appears to me that you see that any move towards Free Trade Unions would be in the interest of the Chinese state. But, in my opinion this move wouldn't be made with the need of the state to confront regional/ethic sources elsewhere - the Chinese bourgeoisie have an abundance of forces of repression for such tasks - but a move towards Free Trade Unions would be to confront the working class's independent struggle. At the moment, I don't think that the levels of class struggle in China are sufficiently high enough for the state to move towards Free Trade Unions. Though it talks about it, I don't see any move away Stalinism towards a democratic Chinese state. And, even if there was, it would be to the detriment of class struggle. Certainly, as you say, some elements within this stalinist regime are interested in questions of Free Trade Unions but these are stricly in line with the longer term needs of the Chinese ruling class.
The "best" experience of Free Trade Unions is the appearance of Solidarnosc in Poland in 1980. Throughout the 70s and into the 80s, there were unprecedented levels of class struggle in Poland from the MKS, independent strike committees. These organisations became so strong that could call off strikes, run transport, food production and so on. Their demands were becoming more political. The stalinist state, with the assistance of Britain, America and the Vatican, brought forward the Solidarnosc trade union, a "free" trade union that was representative of the interests of Polish capital, its Russian masters and its western "enemies". Solidarnosc strengthened the Polish state against the interests of the working class.
"Compared to current practice in China, Free Trade Unions would be a massive step forward", you say. For the Chinese state they would be, because the "current practice" is self-organised wildcats that have a sound organisation base, an ability to mobilise large numbers of workers and are effective organs of struggle. They are doing all this illegaly and outside the officially designated structures. What does another state-imposed structure offer these?
I agree that the All China Federation of Trade Unions is an arm of repression against the working class. The workers in China are clearly aware of this. But the ACFTU has shown itself to be useless - as elements in the Chinese state have complained - in controlling and diffusing incipient class struggle. Constrast this to its more sophisticate "free" union brothers in the west who pre-empt struggles in useless demonstration ot let off steam and pointless "general strikes" (there's been about 15-20 in Greece alone these last few years). The ACFTU don't even see these strikes coming let alone control, divided them or lead them into dead ends. This is precisely what elements of the Party are complaining about.
Your idea of "break(ing) the control of the CCP over the Labour Association" will mean taking on the Chinese state. That's not going to happen soon and why should the workers "break the control of the CCP over the the Labour Association" in order to let its new, equally repressive but more sophisticated machinery in by the back door? Even if that was to come about, and I don't think that the Chinese state has the flexibility for it to happen, the Free Trade Unions will just be more "democratically" structured to fit in with the needs of Chinese capital.
The proletariat in China is coming up against the unions in its struggle by fighting on its own ground. It doesn't need new, more sophisticated forms of state control which is exactly what Free Trade Unions will turn out to be.
Quote: I don't want to put
I'm trying not to be rude here, but it seems to me that you have been consistently taking my words out of context, making an assumption based on that lack of context and then applying that to your own very narrow definitions. Aside from being annoying its a very cyclical method of debate.
And here we have a good example. You have immediately envisaged that any new organisation that may or may not come out of this wave of struggle as being exactly like the old model. From the start you've been throwing about the phrase "Free" Trade Unions in reply, even though I never did and in fact was careful to use the term independent. I chose that term for a reason, there's a difference between independence and "freedom" as you yourself are aware freedom in this context can easily mean free to join and take part or not take part.
Independence means beholden to no-one unless you choose to be. As I've explained before I don't know enough to make predictions but given the widespread and protracted disputes strikes and demonstrations organised by the disaffected, and the fact that they are at least partially successful means that its only logical to assume that once the ACFTU is broken that new organisations would reflect the lessons they've been learning right now.
If you don't agree that that'll be the case, then fine feel free to say so and show your working but don't attribute things to me I not only didn't say but actually argued against at least in part. After all I don't think you'd be pleased if I took what you've been saying and turned it into some pro CPC pro ACFTU stance now would you?
"a "free" trade union that was representative of the interests of Polish capital," Well at least this is something worth responding to. Surely in this comparison China's Solidarity Union is the existing ACFTU. It serves the state, it also works closely with foreign capital to directly oppress the workers. In fact with the Polish context in mind I find your dogmatic viewpoint quite curious. The reason why Solidarity came to prominence was due to the backing of the Polish/USSR states and the West. The latter were welcomed by many Polish as they were the enemy of the old regime which had been directly oppressing them. And since Poland and the USSR lied about pretty much everything why not the Westerners there stated opponents?
In China not only has the ACFTU's lack lustre track record poisoned many Chinese to the idea of working with them again, but thanks to decades of collaboration with Western corporations there unlikely to fall in love with initiatives that have the backing of Western governments.
"What does another state-imposed structure offer these?" You see? this, this is what I'm talking about, where did I say anything like this? I didn't, in fact I've said the opposite from the start. If its state imposed how is it independent? it isn't so why then do you assume I advocate such a thing? also why do you consistently assume I'm advocating or predicting the sorts of Unions you go on about? I've directly told you I not only do not believe in those sorts of organisations but I also don't see why they would automatically become the new fad in Chinese labour relations. So stop attributing positions to me I don't hold.
"Constrast this to its more sophisticate "free" union brothers in the west who pre-empt struggles" Same song different cover artist. I'm not repeating myself any more, this is not my position it is yourassumption of my position. The fact that my position is the opposite of your assumption just makes this whole exercise farcical.
"That's not going to happen soon" When did I imply otherwise? oh and if you think immediacy is such a important determiner of whether something is worth doing then I suggest Libcom is the wrong site for you.
"in order to let its new, equally repressive but more sophisticated machinery in by the back door?" I don't know perhaps you should go ask someone who believes that for an answer instead of adding straw to that effigy of me.
I'm not assuming your
I'm not assuming your position, I'm expressing mine. That's what a discussion is isn't it?
What are you talking about you "suggest libcom is the wrong site for me"?
Free trade unions, independent trade unions, what's the big deal - they are both the same. Nothing is going to appear out of the sky independent of anything.
My first post used your words only to underline the wildcat nature of the strikes in China. Then I gave my opinion on the situation without attributing anything to you.
On your July 13 post you begin by making frequent reference to my point about "free trade unions". YOu go on to explicitly disagree that free trade unions would be a "step back", as I put it.
I'm talking about the idea of "Free Trade Unions" as they are being advanced by leftist elements in Hong Kong, some elements of within the CCP and leftists abroad. That's what I'm addressing because it is very much being talked about in relation to China and, in my opinion, it is dangerous for the class struggle.
My argument against "independent" trade unions would be exactly the same in relation to the advances made by workers in their struggle in China. As you say, the strikes taking place are wildcats and self-organised. What possible further advance on this could be made by any trade union structure that, in the real world, couldn't be independent of anything.
Quote: I'm not assuming your
No, no you weren't. You were directly attributing positions you cooked up yourself to me in order to give yourself an easier time in promoting your alternative few point. In other words straw manning. That doesn't serve a discussion it just makes it look like you can't understand an alternate view point and have to force to fit a nit little construct your more comfortable with.
Do I really need to quote your previous comment again? Apparently so "What does another state-imposed structure offer these?" I don't know who you're talking to here but it sure as hell isn't me. I'm sorry but "I'm expressing mine." Is a transparent lie. You quote me, you disagree with what I'm saying then in the same sentence go on to attack a view point I certainly never express. Either you don't know how to paragraph properly or you're just shifting the discussion into an area more to your comfort zone.
Look at this text above, do you seriously expect me to believe that the last part has no link to the first? You are clearly trying to misrepresent my views to support an argument I never made so your "counter argument" can look more appropriate.
"What are you talking about you "suggest libcom is the wrong site for me"?" Gee I thought it was very clear lets take another look shall we?
""That's not going to happen soon" When did I imply otherwise? oh and if you think immediacy is such a important determiner of whether something is worth doing then I suggest Libcom is the wrong site for you." What exactly is confusing you here? I can only assume your comment "Thats not going to happen soon" was a criticism (Otherwise why did you bother mentioning it) if you hold to the view that we should only do something if it'll be achieved quickly then why the hell are you on a site for the libertarian left? you know the people whose struggles have lasted for centuries.
"Free trade unions, independent trade unions, what's the big deal - they are both the same." Really? then why the childish insistence on replacing independent with "free"? If there's really no difference then surely there was no need for that substitution. Especially when the other person already used different phrases.
"Nothing is going to appear out of the sky independent of anything. " I never said it would. This is another good example of your discussion skills. You don't actually engage alternate views you just replicate a bit of it then use it as a launch pad for a tangent. Oh and if you really believe the above, and that there is no difference between independent and "free" are you now also criticising the current "wildcats" you admired previously. Because you can't have it both ways mate, either independent associations are achievable or they're not. You can't disagree with someone for believing in the existence or the possibility of something, when you yourself sing the praises of something similar.
"YOu go on to explicitly disagree that free trade unions would be a "step back"," Yeah I know this because I wrote it. Whats wrong with me expressing my view? After all thats what a discussion is isn't it? I gave you my opinion and my reasons for doing so. At no point did I attribute things to you that you didn't say nor attack a position you did not indicate you held, there's a difference I actually don't mind people disagreeing with me I just don't like what you did. Twisted what I said to suit your only ideal debate.
"I'm talking about the idea of "Free Trade Unions" as they are being advanced by leftist elements in Hong Kong, " If thats the case then you really need to proof read before you post. If you quote someone or directly address someone in a comment its only natural to assume that you're points are in response to them. If they weren't you need to separate them and indicate the distinction.
I also don't really believe you because if that were the case all you had to do was reply saying "sorry that part should of been separate as it was addressing something else" but you didn't do that now did you. You instead used more of my comments to do the same thing over and over again.
This is the first time you've mentioned Hong Kong or that you're comments that often started with a quote from me where directed at anyone else. You had plenty of opportunities to go back and clear up the confusion but you didn't. In fact your still doing it now, the majority of this comment continued the argument right up until the last paragraph.
"What possible further advance on this could be made by any trade union structure that, in the real world, couldn't be independent of anything. " Scratch that, looks like you're still up to your old tricks. Again your little conclusion is an attack on a position I haven't held. The closest you've actually come to addressing a point I've made is to dismiss it out of hand. Which is very hypocritical as the crux of your argument rests on the current existence of such organisations.
Do you even know what I've been advocating in practical? the collapse of the ACFTU and China's laws on association. Thats it, I haven't said sack the ACFTU officers, or copy the TUC or the Teamsters Union of Paraguay would be a good blueprint or anything of the sort. Either use my words to challenge the points I actually make or leave me out of it, I ain't being used as a stick to beat the phantoms in your mind.
I'm still not clear what you
I'm still not clear what you mean about 'libcom is not the site for me'? I'm also at a complete loss to understand what your position on the class struggle in China is.
So,let me dispense with your opinion altogether and then there cannot be any mistake or misunderstanding. What provoked me to give my position on the class struggle in China was your correct observation that all of the struggles were wildcats. That's what you wrote but let's dispense with that so that there's no possible misunderstanding.
Now in reference to my own opinion of the class struggle in China - without attributing anythins to you at all Red, here it is. No reference to you whatsoever Red - my opinion.
The strike wave sweeping China shows that the workers do not need trade unions, trade union organisers, trade union trainers, trade union anything in order to struggle effectively. In fact, contrary to many of the capitalist metropoles in the west today, the Chinese proletariat has fought on its own ground against the unions and this is what has made their struggles so effective so far.
Some small examples of widepread and increasing wildcat strikes:
- the Nanhai Honda strike where the strike committee went under the name "unity is victory", no mean statement in a country whose regimes have systematically emptied tenets of proletarian struggle of all their content. Nevertheless, here we have the real, independent organisation of the working class under conditions of terrible repression.
- the PepsiCo strike where delegates were clearly elected from general meetings of workers.
- the Honda Fashan strike last summer, where the strike got stronger and stronger despite repeated attempts by the management to buy it off, provoking neighbouring strikes. In an indication of how seriously the Party was taking this Kong Xianghong, veteran CP and ACFTU member said, "We realised the danger of our union being divorced from the masses". The Hong-Kong based "China Labour Bulletin", which along with elements on the mainland advocate "Free Trade Unions", called for "greater participation (of workers) in committees and other union structures" with "new employees" encouraged to play a role.
The struggles in China show that workers don't need any form of trade union to struggle and struggle more effectively when they do so on their own ground, organising themselves. They don't need any sort of union officials, "Free", "Independent" or whatever organising or training them. They don't need any sort of union structure to fight and the less they rely on such the more they are likely to succeed. Not every strike has been won by Chinese workers - many have been lost and what gains are made are more or less quickly wiped out. But these struggles have sometimes joined up with others, they have also left the factories and taken to the streets and public squares and their positive dyamic outside and against the union remains. Inter-factory strike committees, such as those that appeared through the MKS in Poland 1980, would be a real step forward from the already expressed local strike committees and would pose a wider and deeper political challenge to the regime.
The real lesson from China for me is that the workers are perfectly capable of organising themselves and have shown that to be so in very large practice.
Unless you have a very fevered imagination Red, you will see that there is no reference to anything that you said above. Not that I understood much of what you say above.
yeah baboon wasn't making
yeah baboon wasn't making points about your posts red, they were positing their own ideas about these struggles from the start that workers autonomy > outdated trade union struggle.
i think the problem you are having red is thinking becoming more organized = becoming a union.
Ok this is frankly
Ok this is frankly ridiculous, Baboon its clear we don't agree apparently we can't agree on what, but what you're doing is extremely childish.
"Unless you have a very fevered imagination Red, you will see that there is no reference to anything that you said above. Not that I understood much of what you say above. "
Look at your earlier comments, if you genuinely did not address your comments to me after my first reply then I'm sorry but you need to learn how to outline a non verbal communication.
In your second comment, after I disagreed with you what did you do? You continuously quoted me took a contrary view to that quote then kept elaborating on your contrarion view point. In the process you quickly started opposing a position radically different to one I held. You also peppered the entire thing to the end with "you" "your" "you say" "I agree" "I don't agree" who then where you addressing? the article poster? the nice guy translating into Russian? some hypothetical construct you forgot to name?
When I called you out on this you then came up with this absurd "I'm just stating my view point" nonsense. Sorry mate I can read, I don't know how you have the stones to lie about what's out there in public in a language we both know, but apparently its easier to build a straw man then deny you have hay in your pockets then it is to either A) Address another's actual viewpoint. B) Agree to disagree. And now I see you've taken to mocking my concerns in a shallow attempt to make me seem unreasonable, classy.
Hell in my very first reply to you I even took the step of asking you if certain parts of your first comment were actually aimed at me or a general point. Why? because I honestly couldn't tell, I gave you the perfect opportunity to clarify and or change your tune, an opportunity you ignored.
When I first replied to you I gave you the benefit of the doubt. I won't be making that mistake again.
Sabotage chimes in:
"yeah baboon wasn't making points about your posts red," Yeah, yeah he was its extremely obvious he did you see I have these things called eyes, they allow me to read words.
"they were positing their own ideas" Exactly, which is why there own ideas use quotes from me as there starting point and were loaded with personalised terms like "you" "your" "you say" "I agree" "I don't agree". Oh wait that all actually indicates the opposite, silly me.
"i think the problem you are having red is thinking becoming more organized = becoming a union. " .... Ok I don't know who you are but I sincerely doubt you bothered to read any of my comments, I may not be the best communicator out there but I sure as hell did not say anything of the sort. Its weird but your statement is like the content but the opposite direction of Baboons, they insist I'm advocating an exceptionally detailed Union structure, your now saying I don't believe in anything outside of Union structure. Its like being tied in the middle of a rope being used in a Tug of war competition.
This thread was brought to my
This thread was brought to my attention by some spam that popped up, but I think it's worth putting my 2c worth in anyway.
Reddebrek is putting forward a basically Anarcho-Syndicalist position. Baboon is putting forward a basically Left Communist position. The conflict between the two positions is being displaced by Baboon setting up straw opponents and attributing them to Reddebrek.
What needs to be done in order to disentangle the issues is that the Left Communist position should be explained through its theory rather than purely in an empiricist style. This would demonstrate that the Left Communists believe that unions, by their very nature as mediating bodies between labour and capital, inevitably act conservatively and bind workers to capital, thus benefiting the capitalist class. When this position is taken to its logical conclusion, it means that the most consistent Left Communists oppose all permanent organisation by the working class unless it is in an immediately pre-revolutionary situation.
The Anarcho-Syndicalist position is very different from that. It holds that a permanent workers' organisation in the workplace can play a revolutionary role, provided it retains its working class features - direct democracy, federalism, mandated delegates, the right of recall. I agree with the Anarcho-Syndicalist side of this argument, though I point out that retaining these working class features is a constant battle.
The reason that I side with the Anarcho-Syndicalists is that the Left Communist position ignores the fact that workers, when engaged in the struggles that Left Communists praise, improvise directly democratic structures while continuing to believe in capitalist hierarchical modes of organisation. The organisations of struggle are the exception, while the organisations of daily life and exploitation are the standard. The fact that the directly democratic organs that the workers form in struggle promptly dissolve once the struggle is over shows that the workers involved have a lower level of consciousness (though, in China, often informed by fear of how the State would react to permanent organisation) than in situations where a sufficient number of workers decide that methods of direct democracy are valuable and so keep them going in preparation for the next struggle.
The critique of the Left Communists is useful as a warning to Anarchists not to let ourselves get too precious about the particular organisations we build. We are all fallible militants and our organisations are never proof against bureaucracy, so we should always be prepared to walk when an organisation goes wrong and it can't be fixed from within. It is one thing, however, for bureaucracy to be an ever-present danger and another altogether for it to be an inevitable fate. Let us practice Anarcho-Syndicalism in the workplace and let us build Anarchist Communist Federations of convinced revolutionaries without falling into the abstentionist trap of the Left Communists.
Capitalism is not permanent, because it is unsustainable. The choice, as Luxemburg set out, is of socialism or barbarism. Let's not allow capitalism to send humanity into thermo-nuclear barbarism just because we're afraid to organise.
Baboon wrote: Quote: The real
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