The Prime Minister of China, Li Keqiang, announced the government intention to drastically reduce the production of steel and coal by state owned enterprises at the end of the annual full meeting of the National People’s Congress. The decision was not taken by the legislature, but by the dictatorship that rules the country. Before the beginning of the Congress’ sessions a Labour Ministry official had said that 1.8 million jobs would be cut in those sectors – not to mention the indirect job losses – to achieve the government’s target.
By Marcos Margarido.
In the most cynical way, Li Keqiang said that “we must avoid a wave of mass layoffs” and that if that did not happen “central and local finances have the capacity to make suitable arrangements” as freeing up private businesses, cut red tape and create new opportunities for investment and employment. That is, workers should cope with it and arrange a way to survive on their own.
This is the way found by the capitalist dictatorship of the Communist Party of China to face the “hard landing” of the Chinese economy, demonstrated by the reduction of the 2015 GDP growth and the forecast of further reduction for years. GDP was 6.9%, against an average growth of 10% annually in the last decade.
The other alternative would be the “soft landing” of the economy, a metaphor created by economists to describe a growth reduction process under the control of the government and without shocks that could lead to instability (economic and social) of the country. In fact, this alternative is just an illusion built by imperialism that the Chinese government could maintain a high growth rate with iron hand to keep intact the profits of the multinationals installed there. For years, the Chinese government followed the “recipes” written by the IMF, which only served to increase “the height of the fall.”
And the “fall” is reported by official news agencies in an even more cynical way. Under the heading “Job losses unfortunate but necessary” Xinhua (http://news.xinhuanet.com/) said that “China has promised to let the market play the decisive role in the economy … from a business perspective, these industries are simply no longer viable and it is the market — rather than the government — that is the ultimate force behind the closure of coal mines and steel mills.” Chutzpah has limits, but not for the Chinese government …
The workers resist
Even as the congress was underway, the workers at a state owned coal mine in northeastern China, Longmay, protested against months of wage arrears while the President Xi Jinping was telling the Congress that Longmay needed to “face the market.” In September, the company announced it planned to lay off 100,000 workers, about 40% of its workforce. This is the treatment reserved for workers, the true inheritors of the 1949 revolution that expropriated the coward and reactionary Chinese bourgeoisie. Now, the usurpers of workers’ power render homage to the market and promise to do all that is demanded by “it.” The “market” means, of course, imperialism.
Steel workers also react against the mass layoff plans. In the capital of Guangdong state, southern China, the most industrialized region in the country, hundreds of steelworkers at the state-owned Angang Lianzhong went on strike against a plan to reduce up to 50% of wages and increase the daily journey to 12 hours in some sectors.
While facing repression, they sang the national anthem of the country, which reads “Rise, we who refuse to be slaves.” The strike ended due to police repression and the fear of losing jobs, but the plant was forced to delay its planned wage cut.
A country-wide fight-back
But the struggle is not limited to the sectors that the government intends to hammer hard. Strikes and protests have spread across the country as the result of employers’ attacks due to the worsening economic crisis and the installation of many industries and infrastructure on the countryside in recent years, where wages are lower.
In the last weeks, as a result of the loss of confidence in the Chinese government, the imperialist countries’ media (United States, Germany, Britain among others) have been highlighting the increase in the number of strikes, based on the “Strike Map” (http:// maps .clb.org.hk/strikes /en) posted by the NGO China Labour Bulletin, an advocate of Chinese workers labor rights, on its website.
Although there is actually an increase in the number of strikes, these figures should be viewed with caution (as warned by the NGO itself) because they are based on press reports and information from social networks. The increase may be the result of further information from the people, as the “Strike Map” is best known. In addition, the “map” records strikes and protests and does not separate the two types of events. On the other hand, the actual figures are certainly higher than those reported by the “map” as not all strikes and protests are known by the NGO. One of its leaders estimates that it records about 12% of the actual figure. Anyway, the “Strike Map” is a good tool to qualitatively assess the reality of the Chinese workers struggles.
According to the map, there were 1,200 incidents (strikes and protests) between 2011 and 2013, while only in 2014 they surpassed 1,300 incidents. There was a hike in 2015, with 2726 incidents – more than one per day (418) in Guangdong state, the record-holder of mobilizations – as well as in the first months of 2016.
The strikes and protests occur mainly for paying back wage arrears as in January 2016 on the eve of the lunar New Year, which marks the workers’ holiday period, when they return to their hometowns.
In 2016, 28 per cent out of the 1826 incidents up to March occurred in the manufacturing sector, 8 per cent in the transportation and construction sectors each, and 5.5 per cent in mining.
However, according to the government, the situation of workers’ shortage is not caused by the fraud of the bosses, but by the high cost of labor market. Hearing this in the country practicing one of the lowest wages in the world is weird, but it is nonetheless true. The Minister of Finance Lou Jiwei said that the Labor Contract Law is “unbalanced” and “overprotective of workers”, which would discourage new investments. “Even if an employee doesn’t work hard, the law makes it difficult for the employer to deal with this, for example, dismissing him.” And the Minister of Human Resources said that “there is a lack of flexibility in the labor market and the labor cost is very high for employers.”
As it turns out, the members of the Communist Party of China learned fast with Western capitalism. At least regarding the overexploitation of workers.
What is the way?
The end of imperialism’s confidence in the Chinese government is so clear that the CNN website compared the current situation in China with the rise of Solidarity in Poland in 1980, when one of the strongest and most organized political revolution processes in the former workers’ states in Eastern Europe happened before the capitalist restoration in the country. According to CNN, the Solidarity trade union was responsible for the demise of the Communist Party’s government, although mixing the capitalist restoration with the end of the PC in power (which occurred only a few years later). And confusing also the Solidarity rank and file with its majority leadership (symbolized in Lech Walesa), which was pro-restorationist and made an agreement with general Jaruzelski, who had led a military coup in 1981, for the holding of elections in 1989.
What exists today in China is a military dictatorship led by the Communist Party of China in a capitalist country, where the workers and the people have no right to organize their independent trade unions and parties, and where the working-class leaders who emerge are imprisoned at the lowest signal of disagreement with the CP official line.
However, it seems, the party of capital – the CP of China – is no longer able to defend the interests of capitalists and maintain their high profits in the country, and for this reason the imperialism seeks to support the just struggles of workers to force the government to make democratic concessions and lead to a controlled political opening.
The revolutionaries can have no doubt on which side they should be in this dispute. The workers’ side in their economic struggles and in their attempts to organize independent organizations from the government, while exposing every minute the hypocritical cries of the bourgeoisie for more democracy, but making unity of action with those sectors for democratic achievements, if necessary.
The overthrow of the CP of China would mean a huge advancement of workers’ struggles in China and complete the process of revolution that defeated Stalinism since 1989, in what was known as the “fall of the Berlin wall.” In this struggle, which would grant democratic rights for all, including the bourgeoisie, the working class would have the opportunity to build their independent unions and parties, including the revolutionary party to lead a second social revolution there and rescue the achievements of the 1949 revolution.