Year of the Snake – a year of struggle

We wish all our readers and supporters a Happy New Year

As families gather to celebrate the Spring Festival, wishes to extend greetings to working class communities everywhere. While we take time to enjoy the festivities, we also know the class struggle between labour and capital, between the disenfranchised masses and the dictatorship of the super-rich, continues without interruption even through the coming days. In some important respects this time of year actually sees a sharpening of class tensions.

Tens of millions of China’s hard-pressed migrant workers have gone home in the world’s largest yearly human migration. According to state media, 51.7 percent of migrant manufacturing workers would rather not to go back to their current employers. Despite media propaganda about improving pay and conditions for factory workers, this life is still exhausting and the pay is too low!

Protests over wage defaults

Problems with unpaid wages are widespread. On 5 February, 1,000 riot police were unleashed in Chengdu’s Wenjiang district against protesting migrant workers after Zhang Derong, a 20-year-old migrant, was beaten to death by hired thugs following a wages dispute with his company. In Tangshan, Hebei province, on 3 February, over 100 migrant workers knelt in the snow in front of a construction site in another protest over unpaid wages. A similar, even larger, protest occurred last month in Fuping county, Shaanxi, when thousands of migrants knelt down to appeal for their wages. The workers complained their bosses had once spent 1.3 million yuan on a pop concert to promote the company, but now wanted to cheat workers out of their wages. Several strikes were reported from the Pearl River Delta in the past two weeks, many linked to wage defaults and discrepancies in annual bonus payments.

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Migrant workers in Shanxi protest unpaid wages

According to a recent survey reported in state media, 11.3 percent of migrant workers in the construction sector reported a default in wages. “Among them half said their employers had dodged payment for at least six months,” said Xinhua. Quoting from the same survey, Xinhua noted that 46.9 percent of construction workers reported no change in their income from 2012 compared to 2011. Almost one in seven workers said their income had actually fallen in the last year.

A year of challenges

The coming year promises major challenges to the CCP dictatorship. Socialists must prepare for a new wave of struggle, as Xi Jinping attempts to introduce new capitalist reforms that will increase the burdens on the masses, thinly wrapped perhaps in some cosmetic and ‘moderate’ populist anti-corruption measures. The economy is still in a fragile state, despite avoiding a ‘hard landing’ – with the slowest growth since 1999. This was only achieved with a new wave of infrastructure spending and a further inflation of the housing bubble – leading to increased indebtedness throughout the economy, higher inflation, and monster levels of over capacity. The shadow banking sector has grown massively in the past year, posing risks of a meltdown in the future.

The fierce internal power struggle inside the Communist Party-state has not been resolved, nor can it be. It is a reflection at the top of the massive and worsening social contradictions at the base of society. The wealthiest ten percent of China’s people earn on average about 65 times the income of the poorest 10 percent.

Not surprisingly warnings of ‘revolution’ and also of ‘war’ can be heard regularly. The crisis in East Asia, of an arms race and intensified imperialist tensions between the US, China and Japan, was not an anomaly of the past twelve months. As one Japanese military commentator said these regional tensions reflect the “new normal”.

These are unmistakeable symptoms of a crisis of capitalism that afflicts China and the whole world, and requires the antidote of an international socialist alternative. The supporters of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) and website, wish all our readers socialist New Year Greetings, with the pledge to step up our struggle for socialism and mass democratic workers’ organisations.