Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Primative accumulation in contemporary China

Pictured right is Chinese labor activist, Huang Qingnan. He lies injured after he was attacked with a machete for helping workers fight for their rights. These types of attacks were very common in the US well into the 20th century. Workers were beaten and lynched on a regular basis by paid thugs and police. One of the most famous incidents was the Ludlow Massacre, perpetrated in the name of John D Rockerfeller.
Chinese activists have been concentrating on publicising the contents of the new Labour Contract Law that will come into force on 1 January next year. One of its positive features is that it will make it more difficult for employers to dismiss workers.

The law was passed despite fierce and sustained opposition from multinationals led by the American Chamber of Commerce, who threatened capital flight.

A compromise draft was eventually approved by the National People’s Congress – China’s non-elected parliament – with the bosses reassured by the certainty that implementation will be lax, not least because China’s only legal trade union is constitutionally and legally bound to uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China.

While this link gives the organisation considerable leverage in law drafting, the union has barely any influence on the shop floor. Local government officials frequently find common interest with capitalists and ensure that enterprise-level trade unions are run by management or their stooges.

The rare instances of union officials speaking out on behalf of workers usually leads to their being sacked or transferred. Workers who organise outside the traditional union structures face arrest and imprisonment.

Although there is no protection of the right to strike in China and freedom of association is banned, there has been a marked increase in strike activity, as workers have made good use of recent labour shortages and a growing awareness of workers’ rights to demand a living wage paid on time.

Independent unions are banned, but workers often form hometown associations that are sometimes capable of organising strikes. Occasions where these associations unite in strike action are increasing.

The fight for labour rights in China’s cities. Socialist Worker. 11-Dec-2007.

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