From the September-October 2018 issue of News & Letters
Workers at Jasik Engineering in Shenzhen began to campaign in May for an independent union, and even got permission to organize one not controlled by the state through the official All China Federation of Trade Unions, whose officials often act to stymie workers’ demands.
Security forces struck back—detaining 30 workers in July and using thugs to beat up the workers they took as ringleaders. Factory management, in the ruling Communist Party hierarchy, tried to make its own choice of nine workers to bargain with.
Workers had reached out to labor activists to help them organize, some of whom got jobs at Jasik. Security forces on Aug. 24 detained 50 of these students and university graduates who, unlike the billionaire capitalists joining the Party Central Committee, have taken seriously the Karl Marx still taught in schools. While reporters have focused on some activists who have self-identified as Maoists, the cult of Mao Zedong has been useful to Xi Jinping to develop a cult around himself.
Jasik workers are waving two red flags in the face of the Xi Jinping regime: independent unions, and workers and students getting together.
In 1989 tanks rolled into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square shortly after workers raising banners for autonomous trade unions joined the student-led occupation. Mao’s state-capitalist regime viciously suppressed Red Guards who, called forth by Mao in 1966 for his own defense, then entered groups like Sheng Wulian that used Marx to oppose Mao.
This generation of workers, going on strike repeatedly to demand wages and benefits they are owed or, as at Jasik, fighting to control their own jobs, and young intellectuals reclaiming Marx’s work, may prove to be every bit as threatening to today’s rulers.
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