Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Condition of the Working Class, in China

Yu Jianrong compares the Chinese working class to their counterpart in 19th century England, quoting Engels:

As pointed out by the ACFTU (All-China Federation of Trade Unions) , we are in a special period of time, characterized by economic transition, social transformation and mounting social tensions. However, in the process of the transformation of State Owned Enterprises (SOE) and the development of the private economy, some local governments have sacrificed practices that would benefit workers in exchange for practices benefiting investment, which has damaged workers’ legal rights. Some owners of SOEs seize state-owned or collectivity-owned properties in the name of transformation by bribing officials and lay off workers who worked in SOEs for their entire lives, transforming them into unemployed without insurance. Some other transformed former SOEs, along with private-owned enterprises, become sweatshops that fail to provide the basic protections to workers in workload and working environment. Workers in those factories toil in a vile work environment for very low wages, work becomes only a means for survival, and workers on the production line become robots without thoughts or dignity.

To change this undignified life, some workers must go to any lengths, including strikes, to protect their own legal interests. As Friedrich Engels wrote in The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, “Since, as we have seen, no single field for the exercise of his manhood is left him, save his opposition to the whole conditions of his life, it is natural that exactly in this opposition he should be most manly, noblest, most worthy of sympathy.”(2)

People may recall his doomsday critique of CCP policy that leaked through Australia:

1'China insider sees revolution brewing' - Sydney Morning Herald

2'Without the Right to Strike, Chinese Workers Have No Dignity- Yu Jianrong


Scott said...

I am shocked, shocked to find that a Chinese Communist Party official quoting Engels ;)

More seriously, there's no question that China's political system is losing legitimacy in the minds of the population

Purple said...

He's considered a reform-from-the-inside critic, I'm told.

Jim Rogers also noted the similarities, mentioning Dickens in a TV interview some time back. His conclusion was of course that this was also the cusp of the heights of the British empire.