The international workers’ movement must raise its voice in collective protest against the increasingly repressive measures against the organized left in mainland China. Over the last few years the capitalist class that rules the country in the name of “Communism” has tightened its grip on independent political expression. Of course, in the factories where millions of workers toil under terrible conditions, political dissent and organizing continues to be harshly repressed. But more recently, even legal pro-government publications have faced increasing censorship and have been forced to conform with stringent topic guidelines, and in some cases were even suspended. “Real name” registration is enforced in much of the blogosphere and in the internet cafes; harassment and assaults of journalists, both foreign and domestic, have become the norm; and police raids targeting seemingly unthreatening arts festivals and gay pride events have become almost expected.
After the uprising of the Arab masses throughout the Middle East and North Africa that began eighteen months ago, and particularly since the Bo Xilai scandal unfolded in China earlier this year, the regime has launched a more systematic campaign of repression against left-wing and labor activists in particular. Largely ignored and barely tolerated in the last few decades, the left has most recently become a target of denunciation by the state-run media.
Among the specific acts of state persecution:
Discontent is mounting in Chinese society, reaching levels that Communist Party leaders consider dangerous. The working class is growing and feeling its strength, as evidenced by the increasing number of strikes and other working-class protests. Peasants are continually rebelling against Party corruption in the countryside. This discontent, in part a result of the “rising expectations” that accompany the growing economy, is also a reaction to the rapidly expanding inequality in a society already torn by class divisions.
Even where the government has mobilized campaigns that seek to divert the growing political and social tensions into nationalist and chauvinist channels – including the recent anti-Japanese demonstrations, there is danger of these protests becoming more than what the rulers bargained for. The official rhetoric against resurgent Japanese militarism and the unusually strident editorials and speeches against the U.S.’s attempt at strategic encirclement of China struck a deep chord among the masses. They rightly feel that their miserable wages and conditions of life are linked to China’s history of oppression at the hands of Western and Japanese capitalism. Such a groundswell of popular rage is not simply fodder for Chinese imperialist ambitions; it can also expose and threaten the deep links underneath between the imperialists and the Chinese rulers.
While the far left in China is relatively small and disparate, living an mostly underground existence, it has a potential reach way out of proportion to its current size. Already involved in some of the important labor disputes, the left could see its influence grow rapidly, given the rising levels of struggle against poverty and oppression.
China’s rulers are turning to repression because they do not have much capacity to co-opt struggles with reforms. They have made fantastic profits in recent years, but their prominent place in the world economy is based on their control of the world’s greatest supply of cheap labor – they cannot afford to allow China’s workers to improve their wages and living standards much. Moreover, the cost of funding the expansion of a middle class and labor aristocracy broad enough to offer stable support is beyond their means in this nation of well over a billion people. Protecting the profits of capitalists in China, foreign and Chinese, demands an iron fist or repression.
The coming years will likely see an explosion of working-class struggle in China that matches the scope of the nation’s economic expansion over recent decades. It is vital that a genuinely revolutionary socialist party be built among China’s workers to lead that struggle, beginning with the masses’ most immediate democratic and economic concerns, all the way to the conquest of state power. A genuine revolutionary workers’ state in China would use the nation’s greatly expanded industrial capacity to provide a decent life for all rather than the profits of a few, and an expanding realm of personal freedom and cultural expression. Such a revolution will be a mighty step toward the overthrow of capitalism everywhere and the building of a genuinely communist society of peace, freedom and abundance.
1. See www.chinaworker.info/en/content/news/1887/.
2. See www.chinaworker.info/en/content/news/1534/.
3. See www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/06/china-maoist-website-utopia.