Friday, June 29, 2007

U.S. Capitalists don't Llike New Chinese Labor Law

The American people are told over and over again that "free markets" and capitalism equal democracy and that "planned economy" and Communist governments equal dictatorship, "totalitarianism," and other bad things.

China is perceived as a "good country" because it has allowed extensive foreign investment beginning at the end of the 1970s and has permitted the development of an internal class of capitalists. It is perceived as a "bad country" because the Communist party remains in power, there is no "multi-party system," and to get down to the nitty gritty the old dream of the "China market" has become the reality of Chinese firms selling goods abroad and the Chinese state investing in U.S. bonds.

The capitalists in the U.S. obviously want more freedom to exploit Chinese labor and resources (for them you can never have enough) and they continue to equate "freedom" and "democracy" with their power, which,
Karl Marx noted on many occasions, is what ruling classes always do, that is, defining their class interests and ideology as universal.

Today, someone got more freedom in China, but it wasn't the capitalists, both internally and internationally, but Chinese workers. A new labor law, enacted over major foreign investor opposition, calls upon employers to give workers written contracts, restricts the rights of employers to dismiss workers without cause, and eliminates tricks that employers use to create a revolving door of "temporary workers" to keep wages down.

It also gives substantially enhanced power to the official national union, which has long been reviled as a "stooge" of the Communist Party of China and the national government, to engage in collective bargaining and in other ways provide protection for workers.

None of this can be considered revolutionary socialism. In fact, it might be considered an advance in workers rights of the kind that since the late nineteenth century has been equated in advanced capitalist countries with "bourgeois" or capitalist "democracy." So the capitalists should be happy about it, right?

Wrong! "It will be more difficult to run a company here," an attorney representing U.S. firms, which had lobbied against the law and, if the press reports are accurate, succeeded in watering down its provisions to pretext workers against unemployment, noted. In the New York Times article on this development, which is filled with what appear to be semiconscious put downs of the Peoples Republic, the first sentence notes that the Chinese legislature had rejected "pleas from foreign investors who argued that the measure would reduce China's appeal as a low wage, business friendly-industrial base."

Of course the workers of the world in no place in the world want to be part of a "low wage, business friendly-industrial base." But capitalists do and this is their definition of democracy, or rather what they fight for as "democracy'--a legal "superstructure," as the Marxists of the world might inform the reporters of the New York Times, which extends and strengthens rather than reduces and limits the exploitation of the workers at its material base, whether that base is agricultural commercial, or mass production industrial.

Many U.S. unions, who often join in the anti-China chorus here, attacking Chinese lack of labor protections along with Chinese exports, should at least put in a good word for this step forward by the Peoples Republic.

They might also have a little more empathy and sympathy for what the Chinese people endured at the hands of European, U.S., and particularly Japanese imperialism since the mid nineteenth century; the Opium Wars of
th mid 19th century where "free markets" meant fighting for the right to sell narcotics; the seizure of territories, "unequal treaties" of the late 19th century which took away Chinese sovereignty over parts of their own cities, the carving up of China into "spheres of influence"; the support for warlords in the post Manchu dynasty early decades of the 20th century who robbed and raped the people because they served the interests of the foreign powers; the annexations and war launched against China by Japanese imperialism in the 1930s and 1940s, which made China second albeit a distant second to the Soviet Union in the loss of life during W.W.II; and finally the intervention by the Truman administration in the Chinese Civil War in 1950, the use of the U.S. Navy to sustain the Chiang K'ai-shek dictatorship which had been swept from power on the Chinese mainland, on the island of Taiwan, and the policy of blackballing the Peoples Republic of China from the United Nations until the early 1970s aiding and abetting Chiang's Taiwan regime in provocations against it. This is the history that so many ignore essentially as a way of supporting the new conventional wisdom to both
ignore and demonize what China is today just as so many in the past supported the old conventional wisdom by ignoring and demonizing the "Red China" of Mao and Chou.

Although, as the English used to say, "the devil is in the details" and one will have to see how this new law is enforced and whether or not it leads to a further expansion of workers rights, it should be welcomed by the broad left and all progressives in the U.S., who along with the labor movement itself should resist "tailing" the conventional wisdom of the right in the U.S. by China-baiting.

With all of its contradictions and, from a socialist perspective, the negative developments that China has experienced in recent years in regard to the growing influence of domestic and foreign capitalists, it is important to recognize the huge and continuing gains that the Chinese people made under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party through the Chinese revolution--that is the end of the misery of landlord-peasant-warlord-comprador China befure the revolution, recovering from the monstrous war crimes
committed against the Chinese people by Japanese imperialism during W.W.II, and resisting the economic, military, and political cold war fought by U.S. imperialism and its allies to isolate the Peoples Republic after W.W.II. Without the CPC, China would be a colonial playground with its people mired in poverty, crime, and drug addiction, on the outside looking in on their own country--China as a world slum, which is what the imperialist powers were creating before the revolution.

More people have been lifted out of poverty in China over the last fifty-eight years since the Peoples Republic was proclaimed than any society in history (and that is not just as expression of Chinese huge population.

That a Communist party which led a great peoples revolution continues to direct the destiny of China in the 21st century remains a source of fear and hostility to the capitalists of the world, whatever relationship the Chinese state and party have developed with foreign and domestic capitalists. It should be a source of hope for those who are partisans of socialism and Chinese policies that advance workers rights should be praised and encouraged here by all U.S. partisans of labor and socialism

--Norman Markowitz

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