The ORGANIZER Weekly Newsletter
Issue No. 47 — January 7, 2022
Please Distribute Widely
IN THIS ISSUE:
• Editorial: The “Silent Insurrection” — and What Is to Be Done
• Contents of Six New Boxes Hold Enormous Promise for Mumia’s Freedom!: Letter from Johanna Fernandez
• Student Researchers at University of California Win Fight for Union Recognition – by Fernando David Márquez Duarte
• Guadeloupe: Immediate End to the Repression Against Eli Domota!: Statement by the Independent Democratic Workers Party (POID)
• CHINA Dossier: Defending the Gains of the Revolution:
“Only the freely organized Chinese working class can defend China’s sovereignty and the gains of the Revolution” – by Alain Frandor (reprinted from Issue No. 24 of The Internationale, the quarterly theoretical magazine of the Fourth International (OCRFI)
The China Newsletter — Issues Nos. 565 (November 23, 2021) and 566 (December 1, 2021)
Presentations to the December 9 LCIP Forum on Independent Working-Class Politics
* * * * * * * * * *
The “Silent Insurrection” — and What Is to Be Done
One year ago, an estimated 2,000 right-wing insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol with the intention of overturning the election of Joe Biden. A few hands have since been slapped (only 71 insurrectionists have gone to prison, with an average sentence of four months), while the real instigators — Donald Trump and his cabal — remain free to pursue their takeover of the nation’s body politic by other means. Their effort has been called the “silent insurrection.”
This is how the San Francisco Chronicle describes this situation in a January 1 editorial:
“‘Fascism’s legal phase,’ as Yale professor Jason Stanley recently branded this moment, advances unhindered. Republican-controlled states are actively rigging the game to either restrict voting rights or more overtly overturn electoral outcomes they don’t like. Supreme Court-sanctioned partisan gerrymandering and the gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act are primed to permanently entrench local Republican control in battleground states like Georgia that — demographically — would otherwise be trending blue. Overtly stripping Black constituencies of their political representation is at the heart of this strategy.”
At this writing, there are 389 bills in 48 state legislatures across the country seeking to curtail voting rights.
The Chronicle editorial continues: “We appear to be headed toward permanent one-party minority rule at the federal level. … This has left Congress’ Democratic majority seemingly resigned to ride out the clock until the 2022 midterms sweep them out of power, possibly for good.”
What is to be done?
If ever there was a time for the labor movement to organize independent mass mobilizations for democratic and workers’ rights – in Washington, DC and in state capitals nationwide – the time is now. Millions of people in the streets are what’s needed urgently to halt the drive aimed at reversing the gains of the Civil Rights movement – the drive toward fascism. What’s needed is a new March on Washington such as the 1963 march organized by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s the responsibility of the leaders of the trade union movement – the only organized expression of the working class as a class – to summon the immense power of the working-class majority and Black Lives Matter movement that saw 28 million people take to the streets to protest the police killing of George Floyd. It’s the responsibility of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win to issue an Emergency Call to Action, in alliance with its community allies, to defend – and expand – voting rights.
The call for an immediate end to the filibuster must be a central demand of all the mobilizations. Arndrea King, the wife of Martin Luther King III, has issued a call for MLK Day to be a day of “no celebration without legislation.” President Biden and the Democrats, she said, “need to act with urgency to support an end to the filibuster. … and to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.” 
There is no time to lose: Independent mass action in the streets NOW – for voting rights; reproductive rights/abortion rights; the ProAct; Medicare for All; Citizenship for All; and living-wage jobs and a union, not bombs and battleships. Waging this fight will inspire all working people and the oppressed to fight back.
But as long as the labor movement remains tied at the hip to the Democratic Party, it will be waging the struggle with one arm tied behind its back. Independent mass action, though essential, must be coupled with independent working-class political action in the electoral arena.
For Independent Working-Class Political Action
The major obstacle facing working people and all the oppressed in the United States today is the subordination of the labor movement to the Democratic Party, one of the two parties of Big Business. As one of the speakers at the December 9 forum sponsored by Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) pointed out, “It’s the task of trade unionists to call upon the leadership of the labor movement to implement its 2017 resolution in favor of an independent union-based party and to create a Labor Party advocacy structure in the unions.” [See attached LCIP report with presentations to the December 9 forum. Also, go to http://www.lcipcommittee.org.]
Why can’t this wait, as some pro-Labor Party unionists have stated?
During the coming year, the Democratic Party will be focusing its efforts on lobbying for the very same Democrats who, through one failed promise after another, have demoralized and demobilized their base to such an extent that it seems a foregone conclusion that the Democrats will be “riding out the clock till the midterms sweep them from power, possibly for good,” to quote the San Francisco Chronicle editorialists.
It’s not just the Democrats’ failed promises that have led millions of working people to abandon the Democratic Party. What has marked the Democrats’ record in office is their refusal to challenge and reverse any of the institutional holdovers of the slavery era, making a mockery of the claim that the U.S. is the “beacon of democracy,” as President Biden has proclaimed.
Biden and the Democratic majority in Congress — ever loyal to their corporate paymasters – have refused to wage a fight to overturn the filibuster (Biden, in fact, supports the filibuster). They have refused to bypass the undemocratic Senate parliamentarian (who ruled that citizenship for all was not admissible in the Build Back Better plan). They have refused to disband the Electoral College (the most undemocratic institution of all) or to break the entrenched two-party system by introducing proportional representation for third parties.
In fact, it’s the Democrats’ allegiance to these undemocratic institutions that has helped to pave the way for the unabashed authoritarian rule that is rearing its ugly head and threatening working people and all the oppressed.
There is no time to lose: It is time to rise up and make the rulers tremble. The labor movement, spearheading a coalition with the communities of the oppressed, can and must defeat the “slow insurrection” and turn things around in favor of working people – but for that it must break with the Democrats and act independently, both in the streets and in the electoral arena.
How to get there from here
Speaking at the December 9 LCIP forum, Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen explained the importance of independent working-class politics. He said:
“Anybody who thinks right now that the Democrats are going to do the right thing, you’re out of your mind. … If we continue to put our faith in the Democratic Party – which takes every opportunity to betray us time and time again — then we become accomplices in that betrayal. … We, the working-class majority, need our own party. …
“What we need to be talking about is the actual nuts and bolts of how from one state to another, we can build and then federate a real grassroots working-class party – a party that supports working people.”
On December 9, an extremely important dialogue on the nuts and bolts of building a mass independent party rooted in the unions and communities of the oppressed took place. at the LCIP forum.
We urge our readers to read this dialogue [see attachment and links above], circulate it widely among friends and co-workers, and join us in helping to build LCIP and promote its method, which is both innovative and full of potential. The time to get involved is now!
 On January 17, the King family will be joined by 75 organizations (National Action Network, National Urban League, AFL-CIO, SEIU, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, among others) at the 16th Annual MLK Peace Walk in Washington, DC – but there is little evidence that these organizations are building the event and mobilizing people to attend. The AFL-CIO, for instance, has no note about the march on its web pages. It takes a search for AFL-CIO MLK Jr. events 2022 to even locate a two-day AFL-CIO digital conference on civil and human rights.
* * * * * * * * * *
Contents of Six New Boxes Hold Enormous Promise for Mumia’s Freedom!
We are reprinting below a letter from East Coast Mumia activist and leader Johanna Fernandez with a link the recent legal filings of Mumia’s attorneys, Judith Ritter and Samuel Spital. The filings are based on the contents of six boxes of material on Mumia’s case that were essentially disappeared by Pennsylvania prosecutors for decades. They once again reveal the racist frame-up nature of Mumia’s case. The letter was sent to us by the Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, PO Box 10328, Oakland, CA 94610 — Contact: email@example.com.
– – – – –
January 4, 2022
The contents of these boxes hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom.
We need to Love, Not PHEAR them! Stay Tuned.
In her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston wrote, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia DA’s Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. That’s because Abu-Jamal’s attorneys have filed a PCRA petition (link below) focused entirely on the 6 boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA’s office in December 2018 when the case was being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas.
The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state’s two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection—a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won’t know for at least a month.
The new evidence includes a handwritten letter penned by Robert Chobert, the prosecution’s star witness. In it, Chobert demands to be paid money promised him by then prosecutor Joseph McGill. Other evidence includes notes written by McGill prominently tracking the race of potential jurors for the purposes of excluding black people from the jury and letters and memoranda, which reveal that the DA’s office sought to monitor, direct and intervene in the outstanding prostitution charges against its other key witness Cynthia White.
Mumia Abu-Jamal was framed and convicted 40 years ago in the early 1980s during one of the most corrupt and racist periods in Philadelphia’s history – the era of cop-turned-mayor Frank Rizzo. It was a moment when the city’s police department, which worked intimately with the DA’s office, routinely engaged in homicidal violence against Black and Latino detainees, corruption, bribery and tampering with evidence to obtain convictions.
In 1979, under pressure from civil rights activists, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Philadelphia police department and detailed a culture of racist violence, widespread corruption, and intimidation that targeted outspoken people like Mumia. Despite concurrent investigations by the FBI and Pennsylvania’s Attorney General and dozens of police convictions, the power and influence of the country’s largest police association, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) prevailed. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re still living with the failure to uproot these abuses. Philadelphia continues to fear the powerful FOP, even though it endorses cruelty, racism, and multiple injustices. A culture of fear permeates the “city of brotherly love.”
The contents of these boxes shine light on decades of white supremacy and rampant lawlessness in America’s courts and prisons.
They also hold enormous promise for Mumia’s freedom and challenge us to choose Love, Not PHEAR. Stay tuned.
Campaign to Bring Mumia Home
Access Legal Document Here
* * * * * * * * * *
Student Researchers at University of California Win Fight for Union Recognition
By Fernando David Márquez Duarte
On December 12, after many months of struggling for recognition, the Union of Student Researchers (SRU) a University of California-wide union, finally won the fight.
In May 2021, over 10,000 UC student researchers (SRs) out of a total of 17,000 (a supermajority) submitted signed cards to the California Public Employment Relations Board to form a union: the SRU. On September 2, the UC decided to exclude a total of 6,000 SRs from SRU arguing that they were not student researchers (referring to fellows and trainees), even though these SRs do the same work as every SR.
On December 12, the UC finally agreed to recognize Student Researchers United-UAW (SRU-UAW) in its entirety. This victory is not a concession from the UC; rather, it’s the result of the organizing work of SRU-UAW, which in a couple of weeks gathered 10,622 SRs votes to authorize a strike if the UC continued to deny recognition of the 6,000 SRs (fellows and trainees).
Moreover, 30 members of Congress and 49 members of the California State Senate and Assembly wrote letters to UC President Michael Drake supporting the struggle for recognition of SRU-UAW. Comrades of the UC union of Academic Student Employees (ASEs), including Teaching Assistants, Tutors and Readers, as well as comrades of the UC union of postdocs, strongly supported and strengthened the SRU-UAW fight.
With the recognition of SRU, all graduate workers of the UC system are now represented by a union. Nearly 50,000 Academic Workers at UC are now part of UAW-represented unions. The goal now is to work on the collective bargaining agreement between SRU-UAW and the UC.
This is also an important step towards labor power in general throughout graduate workers at the UC, where all the three unions: UAW 2865, UAW 5810 and now SRU-UAW work as a united front to get the common demands met in the collective bargaining with the UC.
* * * * * * * * * *
Guadeloupe: Immediate End to the Repression Against Eli Domota! Statement by the Independent Democratic Workers Party (POID)
The Independent Democratic Workers Party (POID) of France expresses its indignation over the colonial repression of Eli Domota, spokesperson of the LKP  and former general secretary of the General Workers Union of Guadeloupe (UGTG), on December 30, 2021.
Eli Domota was participating in a peaceful demonstration in Petit-Pérou, as part of the general strike that began on November 15, when the gendarmerie brutally dispersed the demonstrators, spraying them in the face with tear gas, tackling them to the ground, and handcuffing Eli Domota and other activists. Eli Domota was placed in police custody, before being released.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Pointe-à-Pitre then announced that Eli Domota was “summoned to appear before the criminal court on April 7, 2022 on charges of intentional violence against a person holding public authority and refusal to submit to compulsory directives.” It is however evident from the images broadcast by Canal 10 that Eli Domota offered no resistance during his brutal arrest, continuing to demand “the opening of negotiations”.
As for the “compulsory testing samples”, they are in fact the DNA samples generally reserved for sex offenders, which they insist on imposing on union leaders and activists in Guadeloupe and which the latter rightly refuse.
The POID joins Maïté Hubert-M’Toumo, general secretary of the UGTG, in describing this arrest as a “provocation” and a “serious attack on a fundamental freedom: the right to strike”.
The POID recalls that the LKP, the coalition of organizations in struggle in Guadeloupe (of which Eli Domota is one of the spokespersons), presented on September 2 to the prefect of Guadeloupe, the representative of the Macron government, a list of 32 demands of workers and the population. For almost four months now, the French authorities have refused to negotiate with the 30 organizations of the coalition on these demands.
The only response of the Macron government to the legitimate demands of the workers and people of Guadeloupe and their organizations is colonial repression.
The POID considers that the labor movement in France has the responsibility to stand up against the repression that has targeted Eli Domota and the activists and organizations of Guadeloupe, and to demand the lifting of the legal proceedings against him and the immediate opening of negotiations with the Guadeloupean organizations. The POID is available to participate in any unitary initiatives on these demands.
The POID expresses its solidarity with Eli Domota, the LKP and the UGTG.
Daniel Gluckstein, national secretary of the POID,
Montreuil, December 31, 2021
– – – – – – – – – –
 Translator’s Note: The LKP — or Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasion – is a coalition of unions and community organizations spearheaded by the General Workers Union of Guadeloupe (UGTG). In March-April 2009, the LKP organized a 44-day general strike in support of its immediate and national demands, in opposition to French colonial oppression. Eli Domota, the LKP’s main spokesperson, toured seven cities on the East Coast of the United States on July 5-15, 2009 to organize solidarity with the struggle in Guadeloupe. The tour was organized by the Guadeloupe-Haiti Solidarity Campaign with the support of Black Workers For Justice, International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal, People’s Organization for Progress, AFSCME Local 1199C, and the National Black Lawyers Association, among other organizations.
* * * * * * * * * *
CHINA: Defending the Gains of the Revolution
“Only the freely organised Chinese working class can defend China’s sovereignty and the gains of the Revolution”
(reprinted from Issue No. 24 – November 2021 – of The Internationale, the quarterly theoretical magazine of the Fourth International – OCRFI)
By Alain Frandor
US President Biden hammers home the same message in all circumstances, referring to China as “the most serious competitor” and “systemic rival” to the US, representing “the greatest threat to the United States since World War Two”.
On 31 August, after the last US soldier left Afghanistan, he announced that: “The world is changing. … Our strategy has to change too”, because “we’re engaged in a serious competition with China.”
The acceleration of events confirms what we wrote in the editorial of the previous issue of The Internationale: this “new strategy” of US imperialism is aimed at concentrating its forces against China. As Socialist Organizer, the US section of the Fourth International, explains: “The goal is clear: US capitalists need to conquer new markets to offset capitalism’s declining rate of profit – and toward that end, they must overturn socialised property relations in China, which, despite the inroads of capitalism, remain a major obstacle to the global system based on the private ownership of the means of production.” (1).
The military encirclement of China is being considerably strengthened. The formation of AUKUS, a US-led military coalition involving Australia, the UK and the US, allows for a further deployment of military forces in the region. Australia will have eight nuclear-powered submarines sold by the US and Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Pentagon will also provide 12 attack helicopters and a warplane.
Many other facts are worth noting: a US military budget that has risen to $715 billion; an unprecedented and threatening declassification by the US military of the number of nuclear warheads it has (3,750 against China’s 350); the creation of a CIA centre specifically dedicated to China; the stationing in Taiwan of US military personnel (in reality, US “instructors” have been there for years); the resumption of large-scale military exercises by the US and Philippine armies which will invite Australia and the UK as observers; the resumption of the presence of US troops in the Philippines; Japan offering to defend Taiwan and making available to the US army slots on its aircraft carriers; the Indian navy training with the Philippine navy.
South Korea’s growing military spending is as much about dealing with China as it is with North Korea. The decision, for example, to build an aircraft carrier has nothing to do with North Korea. Similarly, India’s military modernisation is clearly motivated by being able to participate in a confrontation with China. One military provocation after another are occurring in the China Sea and in the China-Taiwan Strait, with parades of warships and submarines of all kinds (a US nuclear-powered submarine had a mysterious accident in the China Sea on 2 October!) and from all the imperialist countries: the US in the first place, but also Britain, France and Germany, allegedly to enforce a freedom of navigation that has never been threatened (China would then deprive itself of the major part of its imports and exports!), defined by an international treaty which the United States has always refused to sign in order to be able to sail in the territorial waters of each country as they please, as it did recently in India. According to this propaganda, the aim is to prohibit a supposed landing in Taiwan by the armies of Xi Jinping’s People’s Republic. Regardless of Xi Jinping’s recent reaffirmation that Taiwan’s reunification with China would be peaceful, imperialism needs to create more tension to make China comply. (2)
In 2016, the Rand Corporation, a Pentagon-sponsored research centre, published a lengthy report titled “War against China. Thinking Through the Unthinkable”.
This military pressure does not mean that it will necessarily lead to armed conflict. Certainly, such a military concentration can lead to uncontrolled slippage. But war is not an objective in itself for imperialism. It is increasing its pressure because it wants to have complete control over the Chinese market, to impose its laws, i.e., the system of private ownership of the means of production. The means to achieve this can be varied. Starting with the fact that the policy of the bureaucracy, which has already largely opened the country’s doors to capitalist penetration, could be carried through to its restorationist end. Imperialism is cautiously assessing the consequences of a direct confrontation. In China and in the rest of the world.
History teaches us that revolutions can arise from wars. Until now, imperialism (at least in some of its ruling circles) has tended to consider that the apparatus of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), by imposing its bureaucratic control over the Chinese working class – the most numerous and concentrated fraction of the world proletariat – contributes to the stability of “order”. One economist from Singapore has argued that: “A democratic China would probably be even less patient in dealing with Hong Kong and Taiwan. … [T]here is a potential volcano of anti-western sentiment waiting to explode in China. Currently, the only political force strong enough to hold down these forces of Chinese nationalism is the Chinese Communist party.” (Financial Times, 21 September 2020)
The military pressure is therefore aimed – in the short-term – at obtaining the maximum of concessions from the Chinese regime and an accelerated opening up of the Chinese market. This warlike deployment is part of a vast panoply that combines trade sanctions, diplomatic offensives and repression against Chinese public figures and entities.
The recent G20 summit in Rome and the COP26 summit in Glasgow were the occasion for an international media outburst directed against China. Whatever the topic, we hear “China is responsible”. Which is the only major power to trample on human rights? The answer from all governments and the media is China (3). Who is hindering global economic growth? China. Who is responsible for the military escalation? China. Who caused the pandemic? China. And how about global warming? China, I tell you.
When Chinese leader Xi Jinping absented himself from the COP26 climate summit, Biden stated: “I think it’s been a big mistake quite frankly, with respect to China not showing up. The rest of the world is going to look to China and say what value are they providing?” And the entire world press went on to say that China is the world’s biggest polluter. This is contrary to the facts, since, as a study by Carbon Brief – a media outlet specialising in scientific analyses of climate change – pointed out in early October, the US alone has accounted for 20.3 percent of carbon dioxide emissions since 1850 (compared to 11.4 percent for China, with a population four times bigger).
The pressure is also economic, with the application of tariffs on a large number of Chinese imports by Trump and then Biden to the tune of US$370 billion dollars, and this will continue because, as US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on 4 October: “We continue to have serious concerns with China’s State-centred and nonmarket trade practices”. Chinese software, hardware and companies are banned or expelled from US territory, as in the famous case of Huawei and its director imprisoned in Canada at Washington’s request, but recently, the State-owned telephone company China Mobile was asked to pack up, and the blacklist has grown steadily.
The salient feature of the situation, therefore, are the outbursts against China on all issues and the willingness of the Biden administration to force its partners – and secondary rivals – to follow, in the place assigned to them, the offensive led by US imperialism (as Macron has experienced with his submarines). What is the fundamental reason for this? We have established this in numerous documents of our international current: as far as imperialism is concerned, China is an “intractable enemy”, because the social relations (on which the Chinese State is based) are the result of a revolution which expropriated the capitalists. Certainly, and this is a central question for the development of the world revolution, the workers had power confiscated from them by the CCP apparatus from the beginning. Since 1949, the bureaucracy has developed in a sprawling manner, constituting a Party-State.
Although this bureaucracy has opened the doors of the country to imperialism through its reform policy, although it has offered the multinationals the opportunity to come and exploit the Chinese workers, it turns out that today, from imperialism’s point of view, this is insufficient. The crisis of capitalism has reached such a level that it is pushing imperialism into engaging in this offensive against China. China’s economy is not directly dictated by Wall Street’s system, and imperialism finds this unbearable. Imperialism needs to be able to access the huge Chinese market completely and freely without any hindrance.
China’s joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2001 has failed to make a significant difference, says a US report by the Rhodium-Atlantic Council. The September 2021 report finds that the commitments made when China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001 have not been met, and apparently are not about to be: “Movement since 2010 has been modest, and Beijing is well short of expectations set as a condition of World Trade Organization (WTO) accession that it would achieve “market economy norms”; according to the study, “results illustrate that the pace of convergence is clearly not what was envisioned in 2001.”
The head of the French bosses’ organisation (MEDEF) was saying the same thing in June 2021: “When Bill Clinton brought China into the WTO, the bet was that China would come closer to our democratic model. In fact, we can all see that this is not happening, that China wants to play by rules other than ours.”
So if, from the point of view of imperialism, the destruction of social ownership in China is a major issue, what about from the point of view of the international working class?
Of course, the workers of the world are against war. The peoples know that the US armies and their auxiliaries bring only destruction, poverty, decay and the disintegration of nations, and that in no way does the word “democracy”, with which these military campaigns are labelled, correspond to reality. The tragic examples of Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and many others bear witness to this.
Workers and young people around the world have every reason to be concerned about the growing military tension in the China Sea and the possibility of uncontrolled events leading to escalation and conflict at any moment.
However, there is another dimension to consider. This is, in any case, our point of view as the Fourth International. The working class must defend its gains all over the world, and social ownership in China is a gain on behalf of the entire world working class.
The main achievement of the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and its aftermath – despite the rule of the bureaucracy, whose entire policy tends to undermine the basis of social ownership – is the existence of a concentrated Chinese proletariat and a working class that has gained nationwide status, despite the deep divisions introduced by the ruling bureaucracy as it pursued its policy of opening up. The destruction of the foundations on which the Chinese State still rests and which define it would necessarily mean a return to the barbarism of imperialism, a decay leading to the physical destruction of the proletariat. Defending China means defending an essential component of the world working class, the Chinese working class numbering hundreds of millions of members.
This means fighting the corrupt bureaucracy which, by repressing the Chinese workers, is weakening China and facilitating imperialism’s offensive. In reality, defending China calls for the struggle to end the power of the bureaucratic caste. We will come back to this.
That is why it is necessary to pay the greatest attention to the developments that are underway and to the processes as they are being expressed in the working-class movement itself. Of course, repression weighs heavily. The fact that Chinese workers cannot organise freely limits the opportunities to have an exchange of views. However, some elements are emerging. According to a report by China Labour Bulletin dated 1 July 2020, massive strikes and workers’ protests are tending to become much more evenly spread across the country.
The inland provinces of Sichuan and Shanxi have seen a high proportion of protests by workers, whereas in the previous decade the largest share of workers’ protests took place in the industrial region of Guangdong. Hunan is now firmly in the lead in the number of labour disputes.
And there is something to note here. Hunan had a floating population of 21 million in 2020, a 164 percent increase compared to 2010. This floating population was made up of migrant workers who left the countryside to work in nearby cities; these migrant workers tend to be employed in low-paid, dangerous and insecure jobs, such as in the construction and transport industries. However, the majority of the disputes identified are in the construction and transport industries. These disputes are linked to unpaid wage arrears. It is these most exploited social layers that are on the move. The tendency to reconstitute the working class as a unified class can be seen in these disputes. This is a more general mark of the situation to which we need to pay attention.
In a written contribution, one Chinese labour activist began by recalling that in the revolutionary movement of May-June 1989, the working class had played the central role – as a result of its mobilisation against the first consequences of the reform policy. He underlined the fact that the workers’ mobilisation really frightened the CCP leadership and that this is why the workers paid the highest price in the repression at the time. He went on to argue that in the following decade, in connection with the policy of opening up to the market economy, a kind of “middle class” had developed that was not concerned with the workers’ struggles.
But, he pointed out, in the last two years, with the COVID crisis, “there have also been some signs that have given us a little bit of hope that this class divide might start to weaken. We have started to see some middle-class professional and white-collar workers who organised as workers. Especially, we have seen a lot of activity among the workers in the IT sector, struggling against the issue of overwork. Behind these actions is a deeper, broader structural transformation of China economy, because with the Chinese economy slowing down, and the private monopoly capital taking shape and gaining a prominent place, we are really beginning to see more middle-class professionals who are starting to experience stagnant wages and benefits, decreasing prospects for career progression, a high increase in workplace competition and worsening labour conditions.”
The stagnation of the economic recovery can be measured by the worsening of unemployment, especially among young people in cities: 15.3 percent of young people aged 16 to 24 – in other words, millions – are unemployed. “So there are more and more workers who need to defend their labour rights. And they have started to organise as such.”
In October 2020, delivery workers in Hunan province went on strike to get paid back wages. On 1 March 2021, meal delivery workers from the online platform Meituan went on strike in at least two cities, Shenzhen and Tong-dang.
As these disputes developed, delivery worker Chen Guojiang set up a kind of association on the social networks. He was arrested by Beijing police on 25 February 2021. He explained: “What I said is the opinion of 70 percent of the delivery workers. And it’s not because I have this or that ability. It’s because they tend to trust me, I’m fighting for reasonable demands for all of us on the Internet, for the interests of delivery workers collectively.”
Following a cut in wages and bonuses, some delivery workers started to vent their frustrations in work chat groups and then were sacked, so “a bunch of us got together and decided to make our own group in response, one in which drivers could help each other out. I made a sign, printed a QR code linked to a WeChat chat group on it, and pasted it to the back of my moped. I named it the “Drivers’ Alliance.” I started getting between 30 and 40 invite requests a day, and gradually one group became many. (WeChat groups put a cap at 500 members.) Currently, there are 11 chat groups in total.”
Another recent mobilisation is tackling the “996”, i.e. working from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Young workers have launched an initiative named Workers’ Lives Matter. This project is being presented as “a collective effort to make work schedules more transparent and unite youth against unreasonable overtime” and “some contribution to banning 996 and popularizing 955”, i.e. working from 9am to 5pm, 5 days a week, as provided for in the labour law that is being broken by all the tech giants such as Alibaba, Tencent, ByteDance and Meituan.
The appeal has indeed been a “collective effort”, as within a few days of starting up, information was collected by this network from 1,173 companies and 6,000 people joined the discussion group. One of the organisers explains: “I don’t know how long this discussion will last inside China’s Great Firewall, but it has already sent a very strong signal about how tired young Chinese workers are. I was also told that the online document has been viewed 1 million times.” It is extremely significant that isolated, superexploited layers of workers are seeking to organise themselves around respect for collective labour rights.
This tendency to organise can be seen in another form in the mobilisation of a section of the youth at the beginning of the pandemic. The Alliance of Young Activists has published a report on the activity of the various groups it has identified during 2020. This is the year in which the Chinese bureaucracy, after initially trying to cover up information about the Covid epidemic, mobilised the huge resources of the State apparatus – which relies on social ownership – to take drastic measures to fight the pandemic. However, the effective fight against the epidemic required the mobilisation of the population.
As this report says, it turns out that “The chaos of the early days of the epidemic created spaces for young activists to organise and act. Within months, they gained practical experience. They formed volunteer groups that focused on the health of healthcare workers, they also focused on the education issues facing the children of migrant workers. The young activists, using the code name “Mask+City”, quickly travelled, as if by butterfly effect, to more than a dozen cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guang-zhou (…). Some groups even reached more than a hundred volunteers.”
These groups themselves set out to find personal protective equipment (PPE), the masks that the healthcare workers were lacking. This tendency of society to act on its own was obviously a threat to the bureaucratic regime, which “quickly restricted this space open to action and initiative by citizens and harassed and even condemned activists”. However, a trace has been left. And the report of the Alliance of Young Activists opens this line of thought: “To develop the workers’ militancy in day-to-day life in the various industrial sectors, and that the workers’ awareness of their rights comes from the daily resistance against the repression and exploitation”.
This fundamental law of class struggle – exploitation engenders resistance to exploitation, the working class has only its organisation and its numbers in order to fight – can be found in another form in the message addressed by the HKCTU, the independent trade union confederation of Hong Kong, on the occasion of its forced dissolution (it should be noted that even in the conditions of repression, a significant sector of this organisation declared itself in favour of refusing to vote on the dissolution).
After recalling that it had always worked to develop trade unions, to demand a minimum wage, regulation of working hours, restoration of the right to collective bargaining and a pension scheme, and after referring to the 2007 scrap metal workers’ strike, the 2013 dockers’ strike and the 2017 street sweepers’ strike, the HKCTU, said: “The end of the HKCTU is a blow to the independent labour movement, but we are confident that the power of workers’ resistance will not fade away. Contradictions lead to opposition; exploitation leads to struggle.”
Finally, let us note another significant element in these disputes: the reader will have understood that for the Chinese youth, the Workers’ Lives Matter campaign was a direct reference to the mobilisation of the youth and workers in the United States with Black Lives Matter. It is significant that young Chinese refer to the mobilisation of US youth at the heart of imperialism, i.e. express the feeling that their allies are the exploited social layers repressed by institutional racism in the United States; they are not calling for US “democracy”.
Also significant is the fact that workers demonstrating in Hainan in October joined together in singing The Internationale. It should also be noted that, having learned of the demonstration organised by the POID of France at the Chinese Embassy in Paris under the slogan: “Socialism is the workers”, an activist in China who is a member of an organisation aadhering to Marxism sent a message: “Thanks again, and let’s not forget: Workers of all countries, unite.”Of course, no-one will deduce from these indications, which are valuable but which are for the moment only indications and not a general movement, that the situation is not complicated. But there is no doubt that a search is taking place.
This is in the situation marked by the pressure of imperialism, which is feeding many debates among Chinese activists fighting for the independent organisation of workers.
As our contribution, we submit our reflections contained in the Alarm Manifesto adopted by the International Conference of the OCRFI: “For the Fourth International, it is clear that US imperialism’s offensive is aimed at the complete dismantling of State ownership in China, as it did in the past in relation to the Soviet Union. If it succeeds, it will be a major blow not only to the Chinese proletariat, but also to the world proletariat.
This is why the Fourth International stands for the unconditional defence of China against US imperialism.
Unconditional means without any “conditions” addressed to the bureaucracy. In giving this support, there is no illusion that the bureaucracy will somehow be bestowed with a historically progressive mission. The resistance of the Chinese working class puts the demand for democracy at its centre.
This is why the Fourth International, which is unconditionally in favour of defending State ownership in China, does not entrust any historical mission to the bureaucracy and considers that the surest way to preserve the gains of the 1949 Revolution is the struggle through which the Chinese working class in all its components seeks to impose its right to self-organisation, to build its independent organisations. It is on the grounds of its independence (including from the bureaucratic state apparatus) that the Chinese working class will preserve its gains.
For the Fourth International, the fate of the Chinese people cannot be dissociated from the international class struggle.”
In a discussion on this text, one Chinese activist considered: “You are right, we must remain independent of the state. Defending China must be done from the point of view of the working class. But it is not that simple. There are left-wing intellectuals who talk about defending China, criticize the CCP, but do not support the workers. It is difficult to link the suffering of the workers to the CCP’s policies.”
This is certainly something that will require reflection in the resurgent labour movement. For its part, the Fourth International argues that by denying the workers the right to organise, the Chinese bureaucracy deals a blow not only to the interests of the workers who cannot defend their rights in an organised manner, but also to China itself, for who else but the freely organised working people can defend China?
The bureaucracy has opened up the country to imperialism. For years it has sought an agreement with imperialism. Beyond the ups and downs, it is still seeking it. But basically, this bureaucracy is caught between the two fundamental classes of society, the capitalist class and the international working class. From a certain point of view, up to now imperialism had been dealing with the bureaucracy while seeking to gain ground. This period tends to be over. The reason for this, we repeat, is the global economic crisis and judgement made by imperialism regarding the results of the opening-up policy in China. It sees that the State-owned enterprises (SOEs) remain the backbone of the whole economy; and that as long as the CCP apparatus has state control, it can impose its rule.
What will be the developments within the bureaucracy in the next period? Events will tell. The fight against corruption, which in the last 10 years has affected junior and senior bureaucrats by the hundreds of thousands, is being used as a pretext to silence vested interests and reduce the risk of splintering. It can be seen that the ruling circles of the bureaucracy are increasingly giving out contradictory signals.
On the one hand, the bureaucracy is trying to bring a certain number of large privately-owned groups into line; for example, it has just nationalised thousands of private out-of-school tutoring schools that are a heavy burden on the budgets of households that are obliged to go into debt for the success of their children. In the name of “common prosperity” and the fight against anti-competitive practices, the e-commerce giants have been called upon to review their activities, including online banking and credit, and to treat their employees better. In fact, Xi Jinping has explained that this is mainly aimed at “preventing major financial risks”.
On the other hand, the bureaucracy is issuing more and more statements affirming its desire to respect – and even increase – the opening up to the market. Not only is XI Jinping giving instructions for “ridding SOEs of their social burdens”, referring to what had been gained by the proletariat following 1949, but “one of the lasting legacies of the Xi administration will most likely be the deepening of financial markets reform and opening.” (Asialyst, 24 September).
Certainly, there are and will be debates within the bureaucracy about how far to go in agreeing to US demands. The website US-China Perception Monitor wrote last September: “There is one thing for certain: this debate indicates there is raging debate inside the CCP on the merits of reform and opening up, on where China is today in terms of social and political stability, and about what kind of nation China wants to become.” And that’s the main thing: this apparently contradictory zigzag policy cannot hide the fact that the bureaucracy, taken as a whole, is restorationist. It is afraid of the masses, of the mobilisation by millions of Chinese workers truly establishing the power of the Commune, which would liquidate its apparatus and its privileges. The bureaucracy is repressing the workers and youth to ensure the maintenance of its power.
While ad hoc agreements are possible with sectors of the apparatus that would practically engage in a policy of resistance against imperialism’s aggression, the long history of the labour movement teaches us that the effective struggle against the capitalist system can only be carried out by the social class that holds the future of humankind in its hands: the freely organised working class fighting for socialism. The struggle against war, to preserve peace, to avoid the dramatic collapse of China if the opening up to the decaying world capitalist system were to come to an end, can only be waged by the working class and the Chinese people as they freely decide on their destiny. In this sense, the anti-war struggle raises the question of ousting the corrupt bureaucracy from power.
The Chinese working class has a long tradition of revolutionary struggle. And it’s no coincidence that the reference to the Paris Commune – to elected and revocable delegates – resurfaces at every stage (Canton in 1927, Shanghai 1967, Beijing 1989). “Socialism is the workers”. This was the title of the statement by the Fourth International on 22 May 1989, which welcomed the huge movement by millions of Chinese workers, industrial workers, rural workers and students who rose up against the arbitrary power of the bureaucracy.
That immense movement, which was crushed by bloody repression, by the massacre of workers and young people occupying Tian An Men Square in Peking, had its origins in the rejection, by all strata of the working population, of the “opening up reforms” decided by the government. As the statement by the Fourth International put it: “The effective exercise of democracy and the elimination of corruption as a way of life for a whole social stratum is the overthrow of the power of the bureaucracy, the destruction of the instruments of this power. It is the refusal of the auctioning off of whole regions of the country for the greater profit of imperialist capital and the bureaucrats who serve as intermediaries (…) These aspirations are at the heart of the immense movement which today is shaking the whole edifice of bureaucratic dictatorship and which, once again, is making China shake the world.” Today, in the context of the international situation and the Chinese situation analysed in this article, the same problem is posed.
In 1989, the workers and youth in China stood up against the bureaucracy’s arbitrary rule. They expressed their desire to move towards a democratic system, that is, a system that respects the law of the majority, the majority who, through their labour, were the basis of China’s sovereignty and its development. The workers and youth of China were thus marking their rejection
of the arbitrariness and arrogance of those who claimed to speak in their name. They opposed the consequences of the reforms initiated in 1978 to open up the country to the multinationals. However conscious they were of it, they were opposing the policy of the bureaucracy that was leading to the restoration of the capitalist system.
Today, in different circumstances, it is the same struggle that resurfaces when workers put forward their demands, when they oppose what is being decided in their name and when they seek to take matters into their own hands to organise the fight against the pandemic.
More than ever, the slogan “Socialism is the workers” expresses in a concentrated way the content of the Chinese workers’ struggle for their right to organise. Because in the final analysis, the whole situation is concentrated in this alternative: Either the bureaucracy, going through to the end of its restorationist course, will completely surrender the country and the Chinese people to imperialism and the laws of capitalist exploitation.
Or the freely organised Chinese workers will overthrow the bureaucracy, driving it from power and finally establishing the victorious Commune, the Republic of the Workers’ Councils. And this political revolution – insofar as it will change the conditions of power without calling into question the social foundations that emerged in 1949 – will be an essential link in the struggle for socialist revolution internationally.
15 November 2021
(1) This article will not recall in detail the analysis of US-China relations set out in Issue No. 21 (February 2021) of The Internationale. That analysis established that in relation to the open crisis of capitalism, the fundamental antagonism between world imperialism and the very foundations of “Chinese power”, i.e., the gains of the 1949 Revolution, was more than ever at work. This has since become considerably more pronounced. We also refer our readers to Issue Nos. 10 and 11 (May and August 2018) of The Internationale, in which the long struggle of the Chinese people for sovereignty and the nature of the State that emerged from the 1949 Revolution are discussed.
(2) Taiwan is a Chinese island inhabited by Chinese people, occupied by Imperial Japan from 1895 to the end of the Second World War. In 1945, the troops of the Republic of China, led by Chiang Kai-shek, took possession of the island and carried out a ferocious repression (involving thousands of deaths), establishing martial law for nearly 40 years with the support of the United States, which was further increased after 1949 and the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on the mainland. Taiwan was then a rump “Republic of China”, a dictatorship protected by US imperialism and its 7th Fleet, but recognised by the UN until it was abandoned by imperialism in favour of recognition of the People’s Republic of China in late 1971. This was the moment when, under the leadership of US President Nixon, imperialism began to seek an agreement with the bureaucracy to “open up the country”.
(3) It is well known that the United States, where a Black person is murdered every 28 hours by a police officer or a private security guard, is not concerned by the violation of human rights.
* * * * * * * * * * *
THE CHINA NEWSLETTER
Nos. 565 (November 23, 2021) and 566 (December 1, 2021)
“The workers’ right to organize independently knows no borders”
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Presentation to Issue No. 565
On Saturday, November 20, 2021, the 23rd Banquet of Solidarity with Chinese Workers was held in Paris. About a hundred participants, activists of the workers’ movement or just citizens attached to the defense of democratic freedoms in China as elsewhere, were able to read various documents and, especially, to hear two Chinese activists who spoke live from China during a video conference.
In this special two-part edition of The China Newsletter, you will find excerpts from these documents and from the speeches that punctuated this 23rd Banquet in homage to Lee Cheuk-yan, the imprisoned secretary-treasurer of the HKCTU confederation, now dissolved, and to Chen Guojiang, the delivery worker arrested and silenced for having founded an association for the defense of delivery workers.
Finally, we take note of the announcement of the constitution of an editorial committee for the publication of a trilingual newsletter reporting the events that presage a renaissance of the Chinese workers’ movement. Readers who were unable to attend this demonstration of solidarity will find here material to encourage the various solidarity initiatives.
* * * * *
Introduction by Alain Denizo
Dear friends, welcome! The first banquet was held on January 4, 1990 in the presence of Chinese activists who had found refuge in France after being hunted down by the massacres of Tiananmen Square. One of these activists, Cai Chongguo, is present here. And three days ago in Hong Kong, Lee Cheuk-yan, the guest of the 22nd banquet, before Covid, appeared before his judges for having participated for 30 years in the organization of the commemorative vigil of the June 4th massacre which gathered up to 500,000 people in Hong Kong. “It is again time to gather to show our sense of solidarity and friendship and our commitment to the labor movement in China and Hong Kong,” wrote two lifelong activists who were once our guests.
So we are happy and proud to present and let you hear our guests live through these screens. For the first time, they speak to us from China. There are two of them. One of them wrote about the workers’ square in May-June 1989. We asked him to tell you about the current situation of the workers’ movement. The second guest, whom you will hear but not see his face or name, will describe the current situation of workers in Covid times and today.
* * * * * * * * * *
Hello everyone! If we look at the 1989 democracy movement today, there were actually two main groups of participants. On the one hand, there were the intellectuals in the universities and students, you could call them liberals, in the sense that they were fighting for liberal political reforms, in the context of accelerating market reforms. The other big group in the movement was the workers and the working class in the main Chinese cities. And the workers were actually fighting the bureaucrats of the Chinese CP and their market reforms, which challenged democracy in the enterprises.
Their demands were very different from those of the intellectuals and students. Although the workers were initially drawn into the movement to support the students, as the movement developed and they began to formulate their own demands and perspectives, such as preparing for strikes, we began to see a growing division between students and workers.
When the repression occurred at the beginning of June, it was at a time when student mobilization was beginning to wane, and worker participation was rapidly gaining in importance. It is clear who the CP was really afraid of. … In the 1990s, we saw this division between intellectuals and students on the one hand and workers on the other become more pronounced with the market reforms, because they gave a lot of opportunities to well-educated students in the universities. And this middle-class layer became supporters of the State and political stability, because they were getting rich in a outrageous way within the existing political framework.
In the mid-1990s, there were massive waves of privatization, restructuring and closure of State enterprises, where the so-called traditional urban working class, which was very militant in 1989, was concentrated. Now they were suffering massive layoffs, the destruction of their working conditions, the end of job stability. The middle-class professions paid little attention to these sufferings.
On the one hand, there were the workers of the State-owned enterprises who fought against layoffs, the reduction of social gains, the destruction of job stability, while on the other hand, the coastal regions of China were being transformed into export-oriented industrial hubs with intensively exploited factories. Migrant workers from inland arrived to work in these factories owned by Chinese or foreign private capital. But middle-class workers and intellectuals showed little interest in either type of labor struggle.
Most middle-class people were pro-State and put political stability first. Yet, in the early 2000s and 2010s, there was a small but vocal middle-class movement fighting for political rights and freedoms, with intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, private entrepreneurs. Their main demands were essentially about the market, local elections, civil society organizations, etc. So essentially, this fairly broad middle-class movement was fighting for more political protection for their rights and property and greater political security for themselves as a middle class. …This division made it very easy for the CP to maintain the so-called political stability.
But in the last two years there have been signs that this division in the working class may be narrowing. First, we’ve begun to see middle-class and white-collar workers organizing as workers, with a lot of activity among computer technology workers, in a struggle against overwork. Many of you may have heard about the campaigns against “996” as of 2019 and the “Workers’ Lives Matter” initiative that started last month. …
So for these middle-class workers, for white collar workers, it’s become difficult to consider themselves a privileged middle class, because they have to defend their rights at work. And they started to organize as such. … A discussion has opened up on these issues. There is a little hope that the divisions between white-collar and blue-collar workers might diminish. And that a large-scale labor solidarity might begin to take shape. Of course, it’s still very uncertain, but it’s something we should all focus on in the next few years. Thank you!
* * * * *
Hello everyone! Labor mobilizations in the Pearl River Delta region peaked in 2010, with the strike for wage increases at the Nanhai Honda factory. A few years later, in 2012, there was a wave of strikes against factory closures and relocations caused by industrial modernization. In 2016, the wave of offshoring subsided and the government then stepped up its crackdown on workers’ actions. …
Now I will give you an overview of the living conditions and workers’ mobilizations after the eruption of the Covid-19 epidemic in January 2020. In mid-2020, the situation changed rapidly. Between mid-February and early March, and because of very strict local government controls, it was very difficult for factories to get permission to resume production and for migrant workers to return from their distant homes.
After mid-March, the pandemic broke out in Europe and the United States. As most of the factories in the Pearl River Delta region are export-oriented, many factories closed. So, overtime cuts (for those who don’t know, overtime is usually a very important part of workers’ income), production stoppages and layoffs were the source of many conflicts. …
From the second half of 2020, the economic situation improved, and the manufacturing industry in the Pearl River Delta region faced a labor shortage. “Flexible” work exploded and temporary work increased. … Contradictorily, the platform economy sector (such as food delivery or logistics) has flourished with the pandemic. According to statistics from food delivery platforms, the number of delivery drivers increased by 580,000 between March and April 2020. 40% of these new deliverers come from the manufacturing industry and 30% from the restaurant, tourism or sales sector.
Since then, due to the competition between these companies and the decrease in remuneration, there have been several waves of collective strikes by platform workers to demand income increases. According to “China Labor Bulletin,” there were 134 strikes by logistics and delivery workers between January and October 2021, four times more than in previous years.
Regarding labor protests, the government has adopted the method of “repressing leaders with one hand and regulating the market with the other.” For both the industrial workers in the Delta region who were at the forefront of the strikes, and the workers on the platforms, the increasingly severe government repression, as well as the increasingly precarious and fragmented methods of hiring, make inreased organized collective action more difficult.
* * * * *
Dear friends, dear comrades, … We submit to you a project that is at the same time exciting, ambitious and difficult: we want to prepare a second issue of the booklet “Concerning the reborn Chinese workers’ movement”. The first issue was written in the aftermath of the Honda strike, where the workers elected their own delegates to negotiate. This booklet included on-the-ground documents, interviews, and reports, so that everyone could get an idea of the changes taking place in the independent workers’ movement after this unprecedented strike.
The issue that we are going to prepare is made necessary by this new period that is opening in China and on an international scale, but it will be different from the first one because it will be elaborated by a common editorial committee of activists from mainland China, Hong Kong and Paris. It will be a real joint editorial board where, as equals, these activists will draw up the list of documents that they consider most useful for reflection in China and internationally. It is a question of contributing to re-establishing free debate, reflection, from the materials that the class struggle itself, the living conditions of the workers themselves, releases, and not from ideological considerations.
It is an ambitious project because it will run into problems of communication, security, translation and will raise the question of financial means because, according to our traditions, our journal will be independent. The workers are not unaware of the difficulty of the struggle, the conditions of repression, but all of them formulate hopeful perspectives, like this document of the HKCTU which affirms that “the end of the HKCTU is a hard blow for the independent workers’ movement, but we know that the power of resistance of the workers will not be erased, exploitation leads to struggles.” …
Fighting for the free right to organize is a vital issue today in the face of the new world situation. China is threatened. The military deployments around China, the diplomatic and propaganda campaigns, make China responsible for all the evils of the planet. Our committee is diverse. We are all committed to democratic freedoms. On the other hand, views may differ.
For my part, I belong to an international current which calls for the unconditional defense of China in the face of the stepped-up threats against it. Our stance is totally independent of the Chinese Communist Party, which always rose up against the mobilization of the masses. It is the task of the Chinese people themselves to defend the sovereignty of the country, its unity in the face of the threats of a dislocating war, in the face of all the efforts by the multinationals to plunder China. …
We have seen the mobilization of sectors of the youth in China at the beginning of the pandemic, taking charge of the solidarity with migrant workers, the help to hospital workers, self-organizing for this purpose, the signs announcing the capacity of the working people to take their affairs in their own hands. It is therefore with confidence that we will undertake this work. We are confident that we will have your support, your backing.
* * * * * *
Special Edition 23rd Solidarity Banquet (Part 2)
Editorial of Issue No. 566
A victorious strike. On the eve of the 23rd Banquet of the International Commission of Inquiry on China, delegates of striking Foodpanda food delivery workers in Hong Kong signed an agreement on wages and working conditions. They had called for a strike on November 13 and 14 with placards that read “All on strike! Foodpanda treats us like slaves! It’s time to show our strength!” These activists are members of the delivery workers’ union affiliated to the HKCTU, the confederation that was forced to dissolve itself. …
On this occasion, for the first time, during a gathering of these delivery workers in front of the company’s headquarters, the police brandished this threatening blue banner ordering the dispersal under penalty of the use of force. A dozen delivery workers gathered! The situation was tense. …
“The workers are not silent lambs. History tells us that if a worker leader has fallen, the others take up his torch and the struggle continues until victory”, wrote activists from Hong Kong to greet the solidarity banquet (see statement below). This edition of The China Newsletter publishes their message as well as the speeches of the closing speakers of the banquet.
Layoffs, unpaid wages… at the end of November, various rumors and information were mixed on these issues: Alibaba, the online retail giant, with its subsidiary Ele.me, the spoliator of delivery workers, was going to lay off 20,000 employees due to the plunge in its profits and the decline in consumption. The other delivery giant, Meituan, announced a loss of 1.4 billion euros after the antitrust fine it received and would therefore cut thousands of jobs. Nothing is official, but concerns are high. The tens of thousands of teachers laid off overnight by private after-school tutoring companies after the government’s decision to ban such activities are on everyone’s mind.
“China Labour Bulletin (November 1) cites the example of Baoneng, a private holding company that started out selling vegetables and ended up in finance, real estate and automobiles, up to its eyeballs in debt and on the verge of bankruptcy, and which therefore no longer pays its employees… or else only a pittance: “Where is our salary? Where are our social contributions? You do not keep your promises!”, wrote employees on social networks while the company had just received a reinforcement of nearly 2 billion euros from a public company.
American style… Baoneng’s automotive branch was the first to stop paying pension contributions in February 2021, followed by wages and other social contributions in May. Management has the right to refuse negotiation or arbitration by the labor administration. It is notifying its employees in the American way: “You will be notified in the morning that you have been dismissed, so finish your work and leave in the afternoon!”
In several cities, Baoneng employees or dismissed workers have received no salary and are “unable to pay back loans, children cannot go to school, parents who depend on them cannot see a doctor and have reached the point where they cannot live,” it says. Yet there is a union. For the entire Baoneng Group, which has had up to 150,000 employees, Lu Xuequn is the president of the ACFTU, the official and only authorized union in China. In 2019, he called for Baoneng’s union to “effectively serve and protect workers’ rights, conscientiously protect employees’ legal rights and interests.” So?
So, nothing! Everything is concentrated in this simple fact: The “official trade union leader,” Lu Xuequn, is also the deputy general manager and HR director of Baoneng Group. Why is it that “the Shenzhen unions are not helping the Baoneng workers”, asks China Labour Bulletin. If the union were not under the control of the Communist Party, it would have every opportunity to defend the demands, but, as elsewhere in the country, the close ties between the leaders of this private group and the bureaucrats of the Communist Party and the ACFTU of Shenzhen prohibit any defense of their demands. Let’s face it: the “trade unionist” Lu Xuequn is first and foremost a manager who is a member of the Party and who can therefore afford to violate the labor law…
A conference on … democracy. The conference was convened and hosted by Xi Jinping himself, the supreme leader of the Party, on October 16. He said: “Democracy is not about decoration, but about solving problems; it is not about the right to vote, but about the right to participate widely; it is not about promises made for elections, but promises kept…
The workers of Baoneng see that neither the Party nor the official trade union intends to solve their vital problems, that they cannot “participate widely” because they are forbidden to negotiate or to take any action for their demands. Democracy, in this case, would be for workers to be free to decide and to organize.
The next issue of The China Newsletter will return to these issues and to the situation in Hong Kong, where, on November 29, the so-called “47” trial began, with the activists accused of “conspiracy to subvert,” and for organizing and participating in a primary in July 2020! Our thanks to all the readers who have generously resubscribed.
* * * * * * * * * *
23rd Solidarity Banquet: Closing statements
We live in strange times: a millionaire Chinese tennis player accuses a former Communist Party leader of sexual assault on social networks, the message disappears and so does the player. We read that the UN High Commission for Human Rights is mobilizing! In 2020, The China Newsletter published lists of dozens of names of young workers, students, journalists, young Maoists, all of them activists who had purely and simply disappeared from the summer of 2018, kidnapped, detained or threatened with imprisonment, tortured … No more news! This is what happened to Chen Guojiang for having formed on social networks an association for the exchange of information and the elaboration of the demands of meal delivery workers. There are six or seven million of them in the country. But demanding higher wages can lead to prison. The international labor movement, especially the trade unions, did not lift a finger.
And what did we see when Lee Cheuk-yan was arrested? (Lee Cheuk-yan is the secretary-treasurer of a Chinese trade union confederation with 150,000 members, a member of the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, in the same way as the CGT or FO in France.) There was a press release and a photo of ITUC members in front of a diplomatic representation of the Chinese People’s Republic in Geneva. If it is possible to arrest trade union leaders who are also members of international trade union bodies without a hitch, the Beijing authorities will certainly not hesitate to ban any independent trade union…
And when the HKCTU itself, after the teachers’ union and its 95,000 members, was forced to dissolve, did the ITUC organize a solemn press conference? No. Did it organize delegations to Chinese embassies? No. Only a few lines in a press release the next day! Thus, those who have the duty to put their immense means at the service of the defense of trade unionists facing repression have remained silent.
All the militants, in China and elsewhere, know that when there is exploitation and repression, there is resistance. The initiative of young graduate workers, overexploited with the “996” system, which they called “Workers’ lives matter,” expresses these movements simmering in the depths of society, encouraging our work. Let’s now hear from two pillars of the solidarity banquets, Marie Holzman, a constant relief for persecuted Chinese activists, and Cai Chongguo, one of those 1989 activists who escaped the massacre.
* * * * *
Dear friends, it is an honor and a pleasure to be with you again. Allow me to salute the China Commission of Inquiry and the bi-monthly China Newsletter which brings us information that we do not see published anywhere else in the French press. We are thus able follow the struggles of Chinese workers, cab drivers, home-delivery workers, as well as the repression that continues to be relentless on the most daring.
We are currently gravely affected by the arrest of the lawyer Zhang Zhan, who was reporting on what was really happening in Wuhan. Zhang Zhan is accused of betraying “state secrets” and has been sentenced to four years in prison. She has started a hunger strike and we fear for her life. … In Hong Kong the situation is no better. Our friend Lee Cheuk-yan, who was with us at the 2019 banquet, is now in prison. The two texts of his pleadings that have reached us are impressive: not a single aggressive word against his judges, but on the contrary the reaffirmation of his deepest convictions, the defense of the weakest and the most deprived, the peaceful and rational way, the faith in justice and human rights.
Let us hope that a new era will soon begin in China, for the Chinese, and for peace in the world!
* * * * *
The Chinese comrades we have heard have described the workers’ movement very well, I cannot add anything else. I am from the famous city of Wuhan, I was extremely sad because I thought it would disappear. And I lived in Hong Kong for ten years, I have known Lee Cheuk-yan for thirty years and I have many friends there. In Taiwan, where I have friends, fear has set in.
So for the past two years, it has been very hard for me personally. In Wuhan, the local and central government hid the truth. For years, my compatriots in Wuhan have been very worried, but no one listens to the people, that’s why public figures, teachers signed a petition in March 2020 for freedom of speech. Now there are advanced technologies for controlling communications in the factory, on the campus, in the neighborhoods and on social networks and then there is a leader who wants to become “eternal” and not just president for two years… Thank you!
* * * * *
Message from activists in Hong Kong
It’s time again to come together to show our comradeship and commitment to the labor movement in China and Hong Kong. I wish you all good health and good spirits. Unfortunately, we are unable to participate in your important rally due to the Covid-19 and the continued severe harassment by the Chinese and Hong Kong governments. The most upsetting news of the year is the dissolution of the center of our independent movement, the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions.
Over the past 30 years, the HKCTU has never failed to defend the rights of workers and trade unions, both in Hong Kong and in China. Over the past 30 years, the HKCTU has consistently called for the release of trade unionists and labor leaders, the freedom of collective bargaining and the right to form trade unions and labor organizations, the demand for workers’ health and safety measures and the right to social protection. Much progress has been made in this process, thanks to your support and that of other like-minded comrades around the world.
Unfortunately, the only independent center in China and Hong Kong will not be able to carry out its activities from now on. But we can assure you that this independent workers’ movement will not cease even with this dissolution and the relentless pressure of the authorities. The workers are not silent lambs. History tells us that if a labor leader has fallen, the others take up his torch and the struggle will continue until victory.
The labor movement has its ups and downs. But our solidarity is eternal.
November 14, 2021
* * * * * * * * * *
The victorious strike of Foodpanda delivery workers in Hong Kong
With their union delegates, they had called for a work stoppage on November 13 and 14 with placards that read: “All on strike! Foodpanda treats us like slaves! It’s time to show our strength!”
This was the case with over 300 meal delivery workers on strike and 14 hours of negotiations! Boxson Cheng, one of the delegates, believes that “even if the result is not perfect, it is acceptable” because the agreement improves many points, for example, the calculation of the delivery distance, the waiting time in the restaurants to pick up the orders, the health and accident coverage and especially the fare: the strikers demanded minimum fares of HK$50 for motorbikes and HK$30 for pedestrians and cyclists.
Another delegate, Waqas Fida, said: “We did our best to get what we wanted. Ho Hung-hing, spokesperson for the General Union of Food and Hotel Workers, believes that it was the unity of the delivery workers that made the deal possible: “I hope that even though Foodpanda has given us a more satisfactory answer this time, we will remain vigilant for our rights and not let our power and unity weaken.
A delivery driver sums up: “This is not a Chinese, Indian or Pakistani strike, we are all Foodpanda drivers, it is a community”.
* * * * *
SUPPORT THE LABOR AND DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT IN CHINA
Do you want to support the labor and democracy movement in China? Do you want to help the China Commission of Inquiry in its work?
Then you can support and sponsor the joint editorial committee for the announced edition of a journal in Chinese, English, French with international distribution.
You can help to collect the necessary funds to organize the exchanges with China in all independence by paying a sum by check or transfer monthly, semi-annually or annually.
Finally, you can urge your friends to subscribe to The China Newsletter.