In a bizarre but brilliant turn of editorial line, BBC’s Newsnight has launched an apparently socialist documentary series on China. At least, that was how it appeared on the basis of Paul Mason’s excellent report on Wednesday 26th March, to be followed up the following week. You can watch it here for free: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/china/default.stm. It is the programme entitled: China’s Migrant Workforce.
You should watch this simply because it contains fascinating information and footage of the changing conditions of working class militancy in China, and how this is interacting with the state, the whole political superstructure, and economic conditions. For instance – he points out that China is now the ‘strike capital of the world’ and experiences on average one strike per-day. This, he says, is due to the economic conditions – not only are migrant workers appallingly treated, but they are also able to fight effectively because there are so many jobs in relation to numbers of workers.
The parallels with Russia over 100 years ago are striking: Huge influx of cheap labour from the countryside. Illegality of striking. Appalling conditions. State control of trade unions. And the buckling of the government and its institutions under working class pressure. For example, the state-sponsored union has had to change. Instead of simply acting as a depressor and ‘stabiliser’ of the working-class, it organised, from below, a branch at a Wal-Mart store, and won Wal-Mart’s recognition. But it has been forced to do this as China ‘liberalises’ and privatises its economy.
The Chinese ruling bureaucracy is losing control, and the world’s biggest working class is gaining collective consciousness.
The Riots in Tibet By Heiko Khoo, Tuesday, 18 March 2008
China: Migrants, workers and unions in year of the Rat By Heiko Khoo, Thursday, 07 February 2008
China's long march to capitalism By the International Marxist Tendency, Monday, 02 October 2006