Vol. 64/No.18 May 8, 2000
Class tensions are growing inside China today
(From the pages of 'Capitalism's World Disorder')
The excerpt below is taken from "Youth and the Communist Movement," a report presented in the United Kingdom at a special congress in Sheffield over the June 27-28 weekend in 1992. The entire talk appears in the pages of Capitalism's World Disorder: Working-Class Politics at the Millennium, copyright 1999 Pathfinder Press, reprinted by permission. Subheadings are by the Militant.
BY JACK BARNES
The consequences of slowing capital accumulation and sharpening interimperialist conflict are also at work throughout Asia and the Pacificfrom Japan, to Australia and New Zealand, to Korea, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. And there, too, capitalism is expanding the size of the working class, whose prospects are ever more tightly linked to those of workers around the world.
We should never underestimate how attractive the Chinese revolution remains to hundreds of millions of toilers, especially to peoples of color long oppressed and exploited by imperialism. Despite the crimes of its Stalinist misleadership, China stands as an example of a people--more than a billion strong, abused by both European and Asian imperialist powers for more than a century--who carried out a powerful revolution, swept aside the landlord and capitalist exploiters, and restored their national sovereignty and dignity.
Today, more and more toilers in China are being drawn out of the countryside and into factories, mines, and mills owned by the state and increasingly also by foreign and domestic capital. As this process unfolds, the breakdown of Stalinist apparatuses that we have seen in Europe and the former USSR will inevitably shake the deformed Chinese workers state as well.
It will take time, but class tensions and conflicts are already growing in China's cities and workplaces, as well as in the countryside. And when the day comes that a young and rapidly growing working class enters into combat in larger battalions, the Stalinists will find that their bloody suppression of the Tiananmen Square youth rebellion in 1989 cannot be endlessly repeated. The struggles that are coming, whatever their tempo and exact forms, will be larger and more explosive than anything in China since the revolution itself.
Many of you have probably read newspaper reports about the so-called Special Economic Zones in southern China, where much of the imperialist investment is concentrated. These zones are located in huge, and growing, population centers. The Shenzen and other Special Economic Zones in Guangdong [Canton] Province and the Pearl River Delta, around Hong Kong, are in an area with about 80 million people. Companies based in Hong Kong are estimated already to employ as many as 3 million factory workers in this region.
Among Deng Xiaoping's pithy sayings of late was one this past January, during a visit to Guangdong. In another twenty years, Deng said, the province would become the "Fifth Small Dragon" of Asia, joining Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong itself. Think of the depth of the political bankruptcy! The main spokesperson of a supposedly socialist country says the goal they are pursuing--and are well along the road to achieving--is to become more like Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong.
But that is the goal of the dominant wing of the bourgeois-minded bureaucratic caste in China. Desperately poor peasants are being drawn from the countryside and into the cities, where to survive they are forced to work long hours, under extreme speedup, for minimal wages in both state- and capitalist-owned factories. In the medium term, these conditions will permit a relatively rapid economic expansion.
The Japanese, U.S., and other capitalists investing in China think they have died and gone to heaven. They have most of the rights of capitalists, but the state "handles" the workers for them. The state, including the Communist Party and its functionaries, makes sure the workers do not get out of line on the job, do not strike--do not do much except work very hard, for very long hours, for very little pay. It seems like a dream!
Explosive conditions in China
Of course, the dream will not last. As capitalist exploitation increases throughout China, so do strikes, peasant protests, and attacks on bosses. A few weeks ago, for example, the New York Times ran an article headlined, "Capitalist-Style Layoffs Ignite Sabotage and Strikes in China." The home of a Chinese bank director, a "reformer," had been firebombed after he had fired numerous workers. In another case, a factory boss known for "Western-style management" had been run over by a truck, and workers at the plant rejected the government's proposal to honor him as a "martyr" for reform.
The article cited spreading wildcat strikes, sabotage, and smashing of machinery across China. The Times reporter noted that these "incidents suggest that opposition to fundamental changes is increasingly coming not only from octogenarian Communist hard-liners but also from many ordinary blue-collar workers."
Ignore the correspondent's imaginary bloc between angry workers and senile Stalinists. The resistance reported in the article is real, however. Workers in China will conduct more fights like these, and they will eventually link up with dissatisfied peasants and also win support from young people attracted to the working class as the force that can revitalize society. That will be the real bloc. It will be forged through enormous class battles, and as that happens growing numbers of fighters will be open to the ideas of the communist movement.
Preparing for what is coming in Asia
In preparing for what is coming in Asia, we should remember that there is a big difference between the position of United States imperialism in that part of the world and its position in Europe. In the wake of the U.S. victory in World War II, U.S. imperialism engineered the NATO alliance as the codification of its permanent European presence. Ever since the war, Washington has been the dominant "European" power.
As interimperialist conflict and class struggles intensify across capitalist Europe, as well as in Central and Eastern Europe, those battles take place with the reality of the U.S.-dominated NATO existing cheek and jowl with the European Community and various military alliances among the European ruling classes themselves. According to the interests of each national ruling class, there will be both shifting alliances with Washington and growing conflicts with it, as the U.S. rulers tenaciously hold on to their military foothold in Europe as part of maintaining their dominance in the world imperialist system.
In Asia, on the other hand, Washington still has to bring its power to bear under conditions more comparable to the 1920s and 1930s. U.S. forces intervene militarily in the region, of course, and some 100,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan, Korea, and aboard warships afloat in the Pacific. But U.S. imperialism is not integrated as the dominant force in any Asian military alliance with other powers. That makes U.S. armed intervention in Asia less "legitimate" and thus more explosive, and the reactions to such aggression across the region will be explosive as well.
The United States ruling class is armed to the teeth and will not back off being the world's top cop--with the world's mightiest conventional and strategic nuclear arsenal in its holster. Washington is and will remain both an Atlantic and a Pacific power, and it will react to defend U.S. capitalist interests wherever, and by whomever, those interests are endangered. But it will pay the consequences.
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