The liberal model of Russian reforms is collapsing. Therefore many Russian bourgeois economists have begun to subject the reforms and ‘reformers’ of the 1990s to sharp criticism. The extremely low level of internal capital investments has led the Russian economy as a whole to catastrophic consequences. As of the year 2000 up to 60% of Russian capital has been flowing abroad through different channels. The economy of the country depends to a considerable degree on the export of oil and gas. Another negative factor is the large-scale import of foodstuffs and consumer goods, which Russia can produce inside the country. Up to 70% of real economic turnover is not taxed. This causes enormous damage to the state budget. Therefore certain bourgeois circles in Russia have begun to persistently insist on the intensification of state intervention in the economy of the country and even to voice doubts about the expediency of the privatisation reforms.
At the same time, the Russian bourgeoisie understands very clearly that the revival of industrial production will be accompanied by the intensification of the exploitation of the workers. This is a natural phenomenon under capitalism and its basis. By the adoption of the new labour code the ruling Russian bourgeoisie has prepared the necessary legal foundation for this. With the increase in exploitation the workers will be forced to fight for their rights and vital interests, against the resistance of the exploiters. The practice of struggle, which is inevitable, will make it necessary for the proletariat to organize at the highest level to resist their oppressors, also, to lead all the oppressed masses who are passing over to the class struggle against exploitation in general. This is the main conclusion of Marxist science about classes and class struggle. This is repeatedly and convincingly confirmed by the historical practice of the struggle of the proletariat. The inevitability of such a development in the relations between the oppressors and oppressed creates panic and fear in the ranks of the Russian bourgeoisie. In view of this the highest echelons of authority are more and more persistently recommending using the ‘Chinese model of reforms’ in Russia.
What Concretely Began to Attract the Russian Bourgeoisie to the ‘Experience of Chinese Reforms’?
As their ideological idol, at the present time the Chinese revisionists are propagandising Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese Gorbachev. The Chinese revisionists, covering themselves with Marxist phraseology about the building of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ and with superficial Communist attributes, are building a savage capitalism based on the brutal exploitation of the Chinese proletariat. This revisionist lie politically disorients the oppressed masses and holds in check the process of the class ripening of the proletariat.
At the same time, the ruling revisionist clique is cruelly suppressing any attempts by the oppressed masses to organisationally defend their rights and vital interests. In China the formation of any workers’ structures, capable of showing organised resistance to bourgeois oppression is forbidden.
Specifically, the special features of the ‘Chinese experience’ first of all interest the Russian ruling bourgeoisie, which has proven to be completely bankrupt politically and at the given moment it does not see any way out of the blind alley it created.
In a number of cases the Russian authorities have willingly preserved or are restoring Soviet symbols, allegedly carrying out the will of the people. Thus certain circles of the Russian bourgeoisie are trying to prepare conditions for an easy passage to a ‘society of social justice’ of the type of ‘Chinese socialism’, but with ‘Russian characteristics.’ In proportion to the intensification of social-class tension in society, the Russian bourgeoisie will more and more resort to elements of ‘socialisation’, deprived of genuine socialist content.
They cannot introduce an openly fascist dictatorship, since they fear a social explosion from below. However, they are attempting to impose a police state on society under the pretext of fighting against ‘international terrorism.’ Psychologically, significant numbers of Russian citizens still have sympathies with their socialist past, and their hatred for fascism is massive and steady.
Many Russian citizens sincerely believe that China is building socialism, and that the revisionist CPC is a Communist Party. Many have no idea about the social-class reality of Chinese society.
Let us provide the Russian reader with little-known facts about the exploitation of the multimillion strong Chinese proletariat.
The Social Position of the Chinese Workers
The Chinese authorities carried out a number of preliminary reforms to the labour legislation and in 1999 adopted a new code of labour laws. The new Chinese code in actuality liquidated all social safeguards for the workers, which they had won by persistent struggle. Although Article 73 formally proclaims the right of workers to social benefits, in actuality the right to free quality medical service, to unemployment and disability benefits, to a guaranteed pension is a fiction. In accordance with Articles 70 and 72 of the new labour code, such social welfare is realized by insurance policies, i.e., it is paid for by deductions from the employers and from each worker personally for this purpose. The deductions from the worker depend on whether he or she is employed, the wages and the physical condition of the worker, i.e., they are objectively unstable, they are not guaranteed. The contributions to the social welfare fund by the owners are very frequently not made under different pretexts, especially in private enterprises. As a result of the increased number of cases of non-payment by the owners into the social welfare fund, numerous conflicts between the workers’ collective and the owners take place. In the state sector tension over social benefits is lower than in the private sector. But at present the state sector in China is rapidly being destroyed.
The assertions of the Chinese revisionists, that the maintenance of the rates of economic increase in the country is achieved by the supremacy of the state sector, are pure lies. The rate of privatisation of the state sector is increasing rapidly. This process is taking place not only with unprofitable, but also with completely profitable ones, flourishing enterprises. Their privatisation is taking place mainly through the creation of shares and the free sale of these on the stock market. Of course the most profitable shares end up in the hands of the representatives of the directors and capitalists, who are getting rich through robbery in the private sector. The main flow of capital investments in the country originates from the private capitalist enterprises. Thus, at the end of the 1990s they made up half of the internal gross product of the country. In particular, in the private capitalist sector, the social position of the workers is most dramatic (the private sector is primarily in the hands of the domestic bourgeoisie).
Conditions of Labour
The conditions of labour of the Chinese workers can perhaps be compared to the conditions of the European workers of the 19th century in the epoch of the industrial revolutions. The conditions of labour formally declared by legislation are completely ignored by the capitalists in the private sector. Moreover this arbitrariness is created with the conscious connivance of the local authorities, the so-called Communist Party and the official trade unions, since domestic capital is closely related to the revisionist party-state structures. In other words, the revisionists serve the political interests of the Chinese capitalists and are themselves indebted to this capital.
According to Article 36 of the labour code, the duration of the workday may not exceed 8 hours, and the workweek 44 hours. However, according to Article 41 of the same code, the employer has the right to compel the worker to work an additional 36 hours per month. According to Article 44, the worker must receive 150% of his base pay for the regular days for overtime work after an eight-hour workday, 200% on weekends and 300% on holidays. But in actuality, especially in the private sector, the capitalists do not respect this law. The actual workday is stretched to 12 hours without any additional payments, i.e., in China the right to the eight-hour workday has in reality been liquidated.
The minimum wage for Chinese workers is established by the local authorities. In the industrial regions the hourly minimum is set at $US 0.35; actually this wage is the maximum for the majority of workers. Workers from outside of the town earn considerably less after all forced deductions. In particular, deductions for the hostel for a man make up one-third of this wage (usually 10 to 15 people live in one room).
Let us examine the rate of exploitation of Chinese workers based on a specific example, the production of sports footwear. The cost of a pair of sneakers in the West is between $50 and $100 US. Wages amount to less than one dollar for each pair of sneakers, i.e., real crumbs. The enormous profits obtained from the super-exploitation of the Chinese workers are appropriated by both domestic and foreign capitalists. The Chinese revisionists willingly allow US corporations to grow rich from the brutal exploitation of the Chinese proletariat, since they themselves also are enriched from the speculation on the national living commodity, labour. The cheap Chinese labour force draws many companies from the USA, such as Nike, New Balance and Adidas. In view of this the US capitalists are shutting some plants in their country and are transferring production to China. At the state level a similar partnership is achieved on unequal conditions.
Unequal rights in collaboration with foreign capital create a dangerous threat to the Chinese economy as a whole. The Chinese revisionists, the national trade partners of international capital, are also concerned only for their own immediate profit; the fate of the country and the Chinese working people does not concern them at all.
In the textile industry and in the production of sports goods female labour is primarily used. Women workers are paid considerably less than men, although the law does not allow such discrimination. Women workers suffer particularly brutal exploitation. Pregnant women are dismissed without reservation, also without any compensation. As a result, up to 60% of women workers older than 25 years cannot get married. Chinese women age rapidly because of the extreme intensity of labour. Lack of future prospects pushes many of them to commit suicide. At the age of 25 women workers are often laid off and replaced by younger ones from rural areas, who are forced to escape from the ravaged villages in search of work. Even with the extremely harsh working conditions, the capitalists do not have a labour shortage because of the large influx of young people from the rural areas into the city.
The legislation in effect formally recognizes the right of workers to a yearly paid vacation, but Article 45 of the labour code does not specify the procedure by which this is granted. Therefore in practice similar vacations do not exist. In the large industrial centres most workers are from outside of the town. The absence of vacations prevents them from seeing their family for 5 or more years. If they go home for any reason and for any period, the workers are forcibly dismissed without compensation.
The mortality rate among industrial workers considerably exceeds the average in the country because of the absence of elementary safety conditions. There is an especially high mortality rate in the mining industry. The law does not regulate the amount and procedure of granting compensation in the case of death or injury. This question is resolved in favour of the employer. Compensation to the families of workers killed on the job amounts to at most several hundred dollars. In spite of this, rural young people continue to enter the mines, since the majority of them simply do not have other means of obtaining work and means of existence.
The Trade Union Movement in China
The law ‘On Trade Unions’ regulates trade union activity in China. The only trade union association in the country is the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). The formation and activity of other trade unions, workers’ committees, strike committees or law forbids other workers’ organizations. The ban on the formation of independent trade unions is reinforced by an amendment to the law on trade unions, adopted in 2001.
The official trade union federation ACFTU fulfils the same task in the trade-union movement in China, as the bourgeois ‘trade union’ federation FITUR (Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia) does in Russia. By its nature the ACFTU is not and, in accordance with international norms cannot be, a trade union, since it comprises both exploited and exploiters. The chairperson of the trade union is generally not elected by the members, but is appointed from above by the revisionist party-state apparatus (as was in actuality the case in the Soviet Union in the Khrushchev-Brezhnev period), i.e., there is a harsh dictate of the revisionist party-state elite with regard to the working masses.
The ACFTU in actuality stands completely on the side of the exploiters. In particular, it opposes strikes as a way to resolve disputes between the workers and their exploiters. The ACFTU is a supporter of the private sector with the most severe consequences for the workers; it supports all measures for the privatisation of state enterprises. In cases of actions by the workers, brought to desperation by the robbery of the oppressors, the ACFTU actively participates in the detection, isolation and prosecution of worker activists. As a rule, such unrest flares up spontaneously. The revisionist trade union is either completely apathetic to the fate of the workers confronted with the savage arbitrariness of the capitalists, or it acts as the watchdog of the interests of capital and attacks and stifles any attempt of the Chinese workers to organize themselves and protect their interests. The revisionists act like hypocrites, trying to convince society that there are no irreconcilable class contradictions in China. Consequently they claim, there is no reason for the class struggle. The ACFTU is one of the key elements in the superstructure of the Chinese capitalist system, concealed under the phrase-mongering about ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics.’
Worker Protests and Repression against Worker Activists
In the last 10 years more than 20,000 people have been sentenced to death in China. A significant number of them are workers, mainly from the ranks of the industrial proletariat. We are not dealing with repression against pro-Western dissidents, who are in favour of the complete subordination of China to the interests of the US imperialists. This unprecedented repression is unleashed against worker activists, to whom the interests of the US corporations are completely alien. Moreover, by such terror the Chinese revisionists are trying to satisfy the demand of the US imperialists and the WTO by ensuring social stability in the country, without worker protests, so that the capitalists can obtain not only a cheap, but also an obedient labour force in China.
However, the spontaneous protests of the Chinese workers are following endlessly throughout the entire country. The basic reasons for the dissatisfaction of the workers are illegal dismissals, wage arrears, arbitrariness in hiring, violations by the exploiters of the existing labour legislation and so on. Basically the activity of the workers is at a low organizational level. True, there are exceptions to this rule.
In the past year, there was broad publicity about workers’ protests in the industrial regions in the northeast of the country. Protests lasted several weeks in the city of Liaoyang in Liaoning province. Many thousands of demonstrators protested against mass layoffs of workers in state enterprises, against the corruption of the administration and the lack of social benefits of the workers. This protest became even more massive after the arrest by the authorities of several workers’ leaders in an important metallurgical combine in that city. Yao Fuxin, Xiao Yunliang, Pang Qingxiang, Wang Zhaoming, Guo Suxiang were arrested.
A similar situation occurred in Heilongjiang province, where one of the largest centres of the oil refining industry is located. On March 1, 50,000 workers held a demonstration against the reduction of social safeguards and the reduction in compensation of workers who are laid off. Similar protests also took place in other provinces of China: Shandong, Hebei, Tsinhay and the Xingjiang Uygur autonomous region.
Today a large number of worker activists are being thrown into prisons. The Chinese authorities completely hide the data about repression against workers.
Let us give some specific examples of repression against workers for their participation in the struggle for the defence of their social rights.
Liao Shihua – a worker at the electrical machinery plant in the city of Changsha. He was arrested in July of 2002 and sentenced to a long period in prison on trumped-up charges. The bourgeois authorities accused him of trying to form an illegal organisation for the purpose of overthrowing the state authority and disturbing the social order. In fact, he led a crowd of workers, brought to desperation by the robbery of the exploiters, which stopped transportation along the streets of the city.
Liu Jingsheng – a worker in the chemical combine in the city of Tongyi. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison on a trumped-up charge. In fact, he was punished for being active in the defence of workers’ rights.
Peng Shi – an electrician. He was given a life sentence. In reality he was punished for leading the protest actions of the workers of the electro-technical plant against the arbitrariness of the local bourgeoisie in the city of Xiangtan in Hunan province.
Guo Xinmin – he was sentenced to two years in prison for leading the struggle of the public transportation workers in the city of Tianshui. The basic demand of the workers was to eliminate wage arrears.
Guo Qiqing –a worker in the chemical combine in Hubei province. He was sentenced to one year in prison for participating in a demonstration against the robbery of workers’ wages by the local bourgeoisie.
Thus, the facts presented convincingly show that the claims of building ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ are an outright lie or, at best, a grievous error based on complete political ignorance. Without a doubt, China is a capitalist country with a harsh police regime. Power in the country is held by a revisionist clique, which attempts to hide its bourgeois essence by lying about the building of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ and concealing it with Communists attributes. This revisionist fraud by the Chinese ‘communists’ has temporarily politically disoriented the Chinese proletariat and is holding the class struggle in check. This is the special danger of revisionism! A similar situation is well known to the Russian proletariat from the historical practice of Soviet social-imperialism of the Khrushchev-Brezhnev period. The objective historical process of the class struggle of the proletariat, up to its revolutionary victory and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, cannot be stopped either by fascist repression or revisionist fraud.
The decisive unmasking of the bourgeois essence of revisionism in all its manifestations and the explanation of its extreme danger to the class struggle of the proletariat is a most important task of the communists and class-conscious workers of all countries.
The ideas of socialism should be the ideological monopoly of the class-conscious organised workers, of their recognized political vanguard. It is dangerous to hand over this right to other classes and social strata of society. In particular, the representatives of the bourgeois intelligentsia, who have gone over to the class positions of the proletariat, must pose to themselves the problem of spreading socialist consciousness among the proletarian masses, proving the correctness of their knowledge by direct participation in the practical struggle together with the proletariat, not placing themselves above that class using their knowledge.
Proletarskaya Gazeta No. 19, 2003, Leningrad.
Translated from the Russian.
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