Jasic Factory Struggle, Shenzhen China – Webinar by SACOM and Labor Notes, 2/21/2019
Synopsis of Webinar:
An effort to organize a union at a factory in Shenzhen, China has turned into a larger political issue. The Jasic Factory makes large-scale welding equipment for the world market. It is domestically owned by a Chinese businessman who also plays a low-level role in the local Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as a member of the District People’s Congress. There are about 1,000 workers there, of average skill levels, many with long-time service. They went ahead, after permission from a few local officials of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), to organize a union in May 2018.
Since then 50 workers or supporters have been fired or jailed, while students from ‘elite’ universities have been detained, expelled from schools or jailed. The process has involved forced televised confessions. The two local officials from ACFTU who told the workers to go ahead and organize a union have also been arrested.
Why the crackdown? According to Michael Ma of SACOM (Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior) – an organization in Hong Kong which is supporting the Jasic struggle – it is because of the fusion between these workers and students from top universities across the country. Chinese students in Marxist study societies in various universities have noticed that the treatment that workers receive from the state and the CCP is what Marxists have always opposed. For instance, this involved students from the Peking University Marxist Society, who study Marxism and also have gotten jobs in factories to get closer to the Chinese working class. The CCP is threatened because another interpretation of Marxism and socialism is being used by some highly-educated youth against the capitalists inside China. This threatens the authority of CCP bureaucratic rule and also local capitalist and overseas imperialist profits.
The immediate issue here is having an independent union. I might add that the concept of ‘independent trade unions’ and factory committees was part of the transitional demands of the Soviet Left Opposition and later, the 1938 Transitional Program of the 4th International. This approach is not the same as the bureaucratic ACFTU version of unionism, which is basically to be in charge of labor discipline. That is also the role unions played in the former USSR or Eastern European workers’ states. As class struggle continues in China, the Transitional Program becomes ever more useful.
E.D. Friedman introduced Ma by describing a change in China since the rise of Xi Jinping in 2013. Since then she says there has been increased repression directed against workers, against left political opponents, researchers and journalists, against any left opposition to the CCP version of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics.’ Ma said the unique characteristic of the Jasic struggle is that A. it is local, not inspired by some NGO; B. It involved wide support from other students and workers in Shenzhen; C. The support group was large and could reach across the nation; D. their ideology was strong; E. the unity of students and workers was unique.
Ma said that there are increased stresses in this region of China, as some garment factories are moving to even lower-paid parts of Asia, while other factories are moving into the interior of China away from the developed coast. The reactionary and militarist ‘trade war’ initiated by the U.S. and Trump is also causing a slowdown in production.
As to what to do, a professor from Cornell mentioned that their University stopped relations with Chinese university officials because of this repression of students. This had an impact on the CCP, which had to issue statements. The International Confederation of Trade Unions and the International Labor Organization have not done anything as yet. Only the Metalworkers Union in Germany have attempted to support the Jasic struggle so far. To a question, Ma contended that corporate ‘social auditing’ is fruitless, as workers are not allowed to be honest with auditors and factories are prettified before audits.
Full story from SACOM: http://sacom.hk/
Full story from Labor Notes: https://labornotes.org/jasic
Other reviews on China on the blog, below: “China on Strike,” “Two Sea Changes in World Economy,” “Is the East Still Red?” “From Commune to Capitalism,” “The End of the Revolution,” “The Rise of China,” “The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism,” “Maoism and the Chinese Revolution.” Use blog search box, upper left.
February 25, 2019