Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bureaucracy and its manifestations

I have a friend whose wife works for the South Australian Department for Education and Childhood Services (DECS). It is a large bureaucracy and a very poor employer - even the SA Industrial Relations Commission stated earlier this year that workloads for teachers and school leaders were "excessive and unsustainable". The DECS bureaucracy is very much driven by the State Treasury headed by Treasurer Kevin Foley. The lines below were penned by my friend, and reminded me of Mao Zedong's Twenty Manifestations of Bureaucracy, issued during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, in 1970. Mao's observations, which went to the heart of the contradiction between the proletarian state as a foundation of socialism on the one hand, and as an obstacle to continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat on the other, are printed below.

Thoughts on the education bureaucracy

Out of sight and out of touch;
hidden behind an automated
telephone system they sit;
mealy mouthed and tight
fisted they make decisions
about your life.

These phantoms of the department,
warriors of the corporate creed,
they rigidly apply poor and unfair
interpretations of the rules, to suit
their corporate masters
and their own career enhancement.

With weasel words they slither and slide.
Honesty is not one of the policies
they develop or make us implement.
It does not fit their skill set.

People are forgotten
as schools, teachers and students become
a ‘client’ to be avoided
a sacrificial lamb to slaughter
if it protects from Foley’s cuts, the empire built.

Flexibility never worked in a worker’s favour.


Mao Zedong

Twenty Manifestations Of Bureaucracy
February, 1970

[SOURCE: Joint Publications Research Service, (Washington, DC)]


1. At the highest level there is very little knowledge; they do not understand the opinion of the masses; they do not investigate and study; they do not grasp specific policies; they do not conduct political and ideological work; they are divorced from reality, from the masses, and from the leadership of the party; they always issue orders, and the orders are usually wrong, they certainly mislead the country and the people; at the least they obstruct the consistent adherence to the party line and policies; and they cannot meet with the people.

2. They are conceited, complacent, and they aimlessly discuss politics. They do not grasp their work, they are subjective and one-sided; they are careless; they do not listen to people; they are truculent and arbitrary; they force orders; they do not care about reality; they maintain blind control. This is authoritarian bureaucracy.

3. They are very busy from morning until evening, they labour the whole year long; they do not examine people and they do not investigate matters; they do not study policies; they do not rely upon the masses; they do not prepare their statements; they do not plan their work. This is brainless, misdirected bureaucracy. In other words, it is routinism.

4. Their bureaucratic attitude is immense; they cannot have any direction; they are egoistic; they beat their gongs to blaze the way; they cause people to become afraid just by looking at them; they repeatedly hurl all kinds of abuse at people; their work style is crude; they do not treat people equally. This is the bureaucracy of the overlords.

5. They are ignorant; they are ashamed to ask anything; they exaggerate and they lie; they are very false; they attribute errors to people; they attribute merit to themselves; they swindle the central government; they deceive those above them and fool those below them; they conceal faults and gloss over wrongs. This is the dishonest bureaucracy.

6. They do not understand politics; they do not do their work; they push things off onto others; they do not meet their responsibilities; they haggle; they put things off; they are insensitive; they lose their alertness. This is the irresponsible bureaucracy.

7. They are negligent about things; they subsist as best they can; they do not have anything to do with people; they always make mistakes; they offer themselves respectfully to those above them and are idle towards those below them; they are careful in every respect; they are eight-sided and slippery as eels. This is the bureaucracy of those who work as officials and barely make a living.

8. They do not completely learn politics; they do not advance in their work; their manner of speech is tasteless; they have no direction in their leadership; they neglect the duties of their office while taking the pay; they make up things for the sake of appearances. The idlers [e.g., landlord] do not begin any matters, but concentrate mainly upon their idleness; those who work hard, are virtuous, and do not act like the officials are treated poorly. This is the deceitful, talentless bureaucracy.

9. They are stupid; they are confused; they do not have a mind of their own; they are rotten sensualists; they glut themselves for days on end; they are not diligent at all, they are inconstant and they are ignorant. This is the stupid, useless bureaucracy.

10. They want others to read documents; the others read and they sleep; they criticize without looking at things; they criticize mistakes and blame people; they have nothing to do with mistakes; they do not discuss things; they push things aside and ignore it; they are yes men to those above them; they pretend to understand those below them, when they do not; they gesticulate; and they harbour disagreements with those on their same level. This is the lazy bureaucracy.

11. Government offices grow bigger and bigger; things are more confused; there are more people than there are jobs; they go around in circles; they quarrel and bicker; people are disinclined to do extra things; they do not fulfil their specific duties. This is the bureaucracy of government offices.

12. Documents are numerous; there is red tape; instructions proliferate; there are numerous unread reports that are not criticized; many tables and schedules are drawn up and are not used; meetings are numerous and nothing is passed on; and there are many close associations but nothing is learned. This is the bureaucracy of red tape and formalism.

13. They seek pleasure and fear hardships; they engage in back door deals; one person becomes an official and the entire family benefits; one person reaches nirvana and all his close associates rise up to heaven; there are parties and gifts are presented. . . This is the bureaucracy for the exceptional.

14. The greater an official becomes, the worse his temperament gets; his demands for supporting himself become higher and higher; his home and its furnishings become more and more luxurious; and his access to things becomes better and better. The upper strata gets the larger share while the lower gets high prices; there is extravagance and waste; the upper and lower and the left and right raise their hands. This is the bureaucracy of putting on official airs.

15. They are egotistical; they satisfy private ends by public means; there is embezzlement and speculation; the more they devour, the more they want; and they never step back or give in. This is egotistical bureaucracy.

16. They fight among themselves for power and money; they extend their hands into the Party; they want fame and fortune; they want positions and, if they do not get them, they are not satisfied; they choose to be fat and to be lean; they pay a great deal of attention to wages; they are cosy when it comes to their comrades but they care nothing about the masses. This is the bureaucracy that is fighting for power and money.

17. A plural leadership cannot be harmoniously united; they exert themselves in many directions, and their work is in a state of chaos; they try to crowd each other out; the top is divorced from the bottom and there is no centralization, nor is there any democracy. This is the disunited bureaucracy.

18. There is no organization; they employ personal friends; they engage in factionalism; they maintain feudal relationships; they form cliques to further their own private interest; they protect each other, the individual stands above everything else; these petty officials harm the masses. This is sectarian bureaucracy.

19. Their revolutionary will is weak; their politics has degenerated and changed its character; they act as if they are highly qualified; they put on official airs; they do not exercise their minds or their hands. They eat their fill every day; they easily avoid hard work; they call a doctor when they are not sick; they go on excursions to the mountains and to the seashore; they do things superficially; they worry about their individual interests, but they do not worry whatsoever about the national interest. This is degenerate bureaucracy.

20. They promote erroneous tendencies and a spirit of reaction; they connive with bad persons and tolerate bad situations; they engage in villainy and transgress the law; they engage in speculation; they are a threat to the Party and the state; they suppress democracy; they fight and take revenge, they violate laws and regulations; they protect the bad; they do not differentiate between the enemy and ourselves. This is the bureaucracy of erroneous tendencies and reaction.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Falungong lies

The Falungong sect will do anything to blacken the image of the People's Republic of China.

The following expose is based on a report in the EastSouthWestNorth blog.

It reveals the lies and distortions to which the sect's newspaper, Epoch Times, is prepared to resort.

The paper seized on a terrible tragedy at the Nanjing Number 4 Plastic Factory on July 28 2010.
Workers had broken through a gas pipe, there was an explosion and 13 workers died. Another 120 were injured.

On the same day, Epoch Times published the article above titled "Disastrous explosion burned at least 100 persons to death in a terrifying day in Nanjing". The story was attributed to Epoch Times reporter Fang Xiao.

The photo had a caption, seen in the close-up below.

A translation of the caption reads: "On July 28, the scene at the Nanjing Waoshou Baijiang Liquefied Gas Factory was unbearable to watch! == In order to protect the person who provided the photo, this photo has been specially edited here!=="

But the fact is that this photo was not about the Nanjing gas explosion on July 28.

Instead, it was about an oil tanker explosion on July 2 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo!

Below is the photo that accompanied that news report:

The Epoch Times truthfully acknowledged that the original photo had been edited, but it was not to "protect the person who provided the photo" - with the implication that the nasty Communist authorities try to suppress the truth and persecute honest people.

A small portion at the bottom was cropped to remove the logo of the originating media outlet (to hide the origins of the photo) and the top third or so was cropped to remove the black-skinned onlookers whose presence would immediately expose the lie that about this having occurred at the Nanjing Factory.

The photo has now been purged from the Epoch Times website in an attempt to conceal their deceit.

The crude anti-Communism of Epoch Times has resulted in an unedifying display of contempt for the victims of one tragedy - those who died in Nanjing - and an equally contemptuous disregard for the victims of another - those who died in the Congo explosion. The multiplication of those contempts is the massive contempt reserved for the readers of Epoch Times.

For an organisation that promotes itself as cultivating "universal principles based on Truthfulness, Benevolence, and Forbearance", Falungong and its newspaper have a very poor track record.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Raytheon set to capture another SA school

Rumour has it that US arms manufacturer Raytheon is about to move into yet another South Australian school.

Apparently staff at Hallett Cove R-12 School were told that the school was going to have a relationship with a “defence” company – Raytheon.

No further information was forthcoming.

Across the suburbs at Aberfoyle Park, home to one of three SA schools that host the government-funded IGNITE program for students with high intellectual potential, Raytheon entered into a 3 year partnership with the school worth $450,000.

In return for supplying the IGNITE students with personal laptops, the arms manufacturer was given access to students in order to mentor them towards maths and science studies, with a view to promoting engineering as a career path. (See previous post Masters of war invade the classroom).

According to an article on CNET News (At Raytheon, where engineering rules), engineering is “the lifeblood of the company”.

It’s a strange metaphor for a company that specialises in killing, or at least, in providing the means to do so.

The article points out that at Raytheon “more than 40,000 of the total 75,000 employees are engineers, and the company is hiring thousands more each year.”

On July 20, 2010 Raytheon announced that it had successfully tested a ship borne killer laser to knock four unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) out of the sky.

(Above, a "doctored" Raytheon photo showing the invisible infra-red ray intercepting the path of a UAV with white curving vapour trail.)

Unlike conventional weapons for which a weighty and space-consuming magazine of armaments has to be on hand, the laser weapon “offers the military a very cost-efficient and nearly unlimited ‘magazine’ for shooting down things like threatening UAVs, or perhaps airplanes.”

“Or perhaps”, indeed!

Things don’t get much better on land, either.

On July 25, 2010 middleeast.about.com reported that Raytheon had delivered three “Active Denial Systems” or heat-ray guns (see below) to the US military, which had deployed them for the first time in Afghanistan in June.

“The ray-gun is a joystick-operated computerized system linked to a large antenna that can be mounted on a Humvee or other large vehicles. It directs a focused, invisible 100,000-watt beam of energy at the speed of light across a range of up to 250 meters, or 750 feet, at human beings, burning them intolerably until they get out of the beam's way. The heat ray penetrates the skin to a depth of about 1/64th of an inch” according to the report.

Raytheon expects the technology to jump from the battlefield to civilian use. "Various commercial and military applications include law enforcement, checkpoint security, facility protection, force protection and peacekeeping missions," Raytheon's website says.

The article added: “The system was never used in Iraq because it was found to be politically risky. In light of the Abu Ghraib prison-torture scandal, the ray-gun was seen as too closely evoking a form of torture. Curiously, those issues were set aside when the weapon was shipped to Afghanistan, signaling a distance from the Abu Ghraib scandal that the military will now more likely exploit.”

In addition to pioneering the use of ray guns as weapons of modern warfare, Raytheon continues to manufacture such old technology weapons as Maverick, Sparrow, Sidewinder, Tomahawk, Hawk, Patriot and Sea Sparrow missiles.

It must surely be with an acute sense of irony that a Raytheon executive told journalist Daniel Terdiman “Our end customer is that kid in Iraq whose life may depend on what we build, so we want it to be 100 percent”.

It’s comforting to know that the kids of Australia are being groomed to work for a death merchant whose “end customer is that kid in Iraq”!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Indian tribals and Kashmiris: same enemy, same fight

During the British colonial era in India, Indian princes and rajahs joined their colonial masters to hunt tigers and deer in the forests and jungle lands.

Today the Indian big bourgeoisie scour the same areas for humans, for their fellow-citizens who have dared to struggle for basic rights and liberties. The photo above shows a murdered Maoist activist trussed up to a carrying pole as if she were just another dead animal put on display as a trophy.

The latter day hunters call their current campaign Operation Green Hunt, employing the sporting terminology without any trace of irony.

Despite the massive scale of the Indian state’s war on the people of India, few reports are found in the Western media because India is a “democratic ally” and must not be allowed to embarrass the constructed distortions of who comprise the good guys and who are demonised as the bad.

The festering occupation of Kashmir, a legacy of the 1947 Partition of India, has seen recent eruptions of violence by the Indian rulers, and expressions of mutual support and solidarity between the Kashmiris and the adivasis and dalits fighting under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Acting as a regional big chauvinist power, India is also seeking to interfere in the political changes embracing Nepal.

Updates on the struggle against Operation Green Hunt and other oppressive acts of the Indian big bourgeoisie can be found here .

Do you know?

• According to the Indian government, they have deployed 150,000 troops in India’s central and eastern states. Independent witnesses say the numbers are closer to 250,000. This is more than the number of US troops in Afghanistan. This is war on the Indian people.

• Recent statistics show 37% of the country’s people suffer from chronic malnutrition and 50% are undernourished.

• A nearly third of India is under army occupation with no democratic freedoms? All over India arrests, detentions, disappearances have increased to alarming levels since the people began resisting the corporate take over of India?

• On July 1, the Indian Maoist revolutionary Azad, a Political Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and the spokesperson of its Central Committee along with a Delhi-based journalist Hem Chandra Pandey were killed by the Andhra state police.

• During the last few days at least 29 innocent Kashmiris have been killed.

• India has sent one of its ex-ambassador to Nepal to influence the election of the Prime Minister there.

The following is a brief report of the proceedings of the sit-in in Delhi on the evening of 7 August 2010 against the crimes on the people of Kashmir by the Indian State:

The evening of 7 August 2010 witnessed after a long, long time voices of freedom from the people of Kashmir. Despite the heavy repression and the draconian laws to maim and incarcerate the people of Kashmir, to subjugate their indomitable spirit for Azadi, the evening of August 7 at the heart of Delhi just half a kilometre away from the parliament witnessed unprecedented scenes of assertion of the political will, not to say genuine desire, of the Kashmiri people for freedom from the exploitative and oppressive rule of the Indian State. Around six to seven hundred people had gathered including people from various peoples organisations in Delhi to protest against the increasing repression of the Kashmiri people.

(Above: Azadi is a word known to all the peoples of the region and expresses alike the strvings for freedom of the Kashmiri people and the revolutionary women of Afghanistan. See also the link to an article in the Times of India at the bottom of this page).

Every Kashmiri—students, teachers, journalists, working people—who spoke in the meeting was unequivocal about their demand for Azadi which set the tone of the proceedings as the dharna cite reverberated with slogans against India’s occupation of Jammu and Kashmir and the demand for Azadi.

Various people’s organisations from Delhi which participated in the meeting expressed their unconditional solidarity to the struggle for freedom of the Kashmiri people. Revolutionary poet Vara Vara Rao ,who was also an emissary of the present CPI (Maoist) party in their early talks with the government of Andhra Pradesh, asserted that the people of Kashmir are not alone in their struggle against Indian occupation. He pointed out that the fighting masses of Dankaranya, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand are with the struggle for freedom of the people of Kashmir. He said that the enemy of the both the oppressed people of Kashmir and the poorest and the wretched in India is the Indian ruling class which is a prop of US and other imperialist forces and the struggling people of Kashmir and India should join hands for the realisation of the freedom of both.

Noted film maker Sanjay Kak pointed out that the Kashmiris should stop looking at themselves as victims. While it was important for the Kashmiri people to be emotional in their struggles braving the repressive machine of the Indian State it was also necessary to have a political temperament to see the light at the end of the arduous struggle.

Mrigank from the Nav Jawan Bharat Sabha expressed his solidarity for the movement of the people of Kashmir. Narender from the Popular Front expressed his organisation’s support for what he termed as the “complete independence” of the people of Kashmir. Kavita Krishnan from the CPI (ML) (Liberation) talked about the scores of atrocities committed by the Indian army on the people of Kashmir as well as the need for a meaningful dialogue for which the Indian government should be made accountable. GN Saibaba of the Revolutionary Democratic Front pointed out that the rising struggle for freedom of the Kashmiri people will usher in the death knell of US imperialism. He also stressed that the liberation of the people of Kashmir is in the interest of the people of India who are also fighting for revolutionary transformation.

Sharmila Purkayastha from the PUDR, former Ambassador Madhu Bhaduri, Karen Gabriel from Delhi University, Banojyotsna Lahiri from DSU JNU, Om from AISA JNU, Tara Basumatary from DU also spoke expressing their solidarity for the struggle of the Kashmiri people for Azadi.
Members of the progressive cultural organisation Prathidhwani sang songs while some of the Kashmiri participants read out the poems of well known Kashmiri poet Agha Shahid Ali. Later in the night at 10 the meeting ended at a high note amidst thundering slogans for Azadi, Demands to resolve the Kashmir issue, condemning the fake Indian Democracy, to stop the Genocide in Kashmir, when one of the young Kashmiri thundered: “The Indian government terms our struggle anti-national. They brand us anti-national. I want to ask: How can you call us anti-national. We are not part of your nation. We were never. We are Kashmiri nationalists fighting for our freedom. We want Azadi!”

Thursday, August 05, 2010

2010 federal election; reject the sham, develop the capacity to fight!

Some bloody choice: the openly reactionary nightmare (above) or the lies and deception (below) in pursuit of the same agenda!

The Australian working class still maintains a social-democratic illusion that bourgeois parliamentarism is genuine democracy in action.

For this sin, candidates of the major parties are currently all over electors like a rash. Babies are being assaulted with kisses in shopping malls for the benefit of TV cameras. The neglected elderly have suddenly found their nursing homes infested by condescending candidates. Once there is enough footage for the evening news, the candidates are out quicker than a country cricketer at a Test match.

“As long as the elections are in progress,” said Stalin, the candidates will “flirt with the electors, fawn on them, swear fidelity and make heaps of promises of every kind. It would appear that the (candidates) are completely dependent on the electors.”

But once the elections are over, and a candidate has been confirmed as a Member of Parliament, “relations undergo a radical change”.

The elected politician now becomes “entirely independent” of the constituency.

For the next three years, as an MP, the politician feels quite free, quite independent of the electors. The electors have no right of recall before the expiration of the particular term of office and must put up in the meantime with whatever is done in their name, no matter how far that might deviate from the policies upon which the MP was elected.

For the next three years, the politician can turn somersaults with no accountability to electors.

It is just as Indian novelist Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things) says: in these allegedly democratic times, voters will get the governments they vote for, but not the governments they want (A. Roy, Public Power in the Age of Empire).

“In India this year,” she wrote in 2004, “we voted the Hindu nationalists out of office. But even as we celebrated, we knew that on nuclear bombs, neo-liberalism, privatisation, censorship, big dams – on every other issue than overt Hindu nationalism - the Congress and the BJP have no major ideological issues.”

Substitute for Congress and the BJP Australia’s Liberal and Labor parties and the same observation could be made.

Our celebration was for the defeat of Howard’s reactionary WorkChoices legislation that allowed employers to force workers into individually “negotiated” contracts called Australian Workplace Agreements.

But even was we celebrated the defeat of WorkChoices, we knew that on subservience to US imperialism, participation in its war in Afghanistan, continuation of the racist “intervention” into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and a host of other matters, that Liberals and Labor have no major ideological issues.
Labor did make its historical and welcome apology to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

But then the backsliding began.

No, they wouldn’t get rid of Howard’s Australian Building and Construction Commission which imposes the draconian regime of anti-terror laws on construction workers, and we still have Ark Tribe (below) facing six months jail under Labor for refusing to testify before an ABCC secret interrogation.

No, they would not get rid of fines and the threat of jail for workers who planned, let alone engaged in, industrial action outside of formally declared bargaining periods. This was the threat directed at teachers when they announced that they would place a moratorium on the holding of national tests of literacy and numeracy in protest against school league tables.

This is still the threat faced by 1500 FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) Woodside-Burmah workers in Western Australia who collectively face more than $40 million in fines for taking industrial action against Woodside's "motelling" plans, under which they would lose their individual private accommodation and have to stay in different rooms on each work trip.

Woodside has taken the action before the Australian Building and Construction Commission over the eight-day strike in January at the $12 billion Pilbara project.

Union and non-union workers are being prosecuted individually and could face fines of $28,000 each.

"We think it's atrocious in a democracy like Australia that workers are prosecuted to this extent for taking any form of industrial action,” said Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) WA construction division secretary Kevin Reynolds.

"But that's the nature of the governments we live under today, be it Labor or Liberal, they're all the same," he said.

So is there an alternative?

Some point to the Greens, but like Labor, the Greens are a party of capitalism. Their demands do not go beyond the economic system of capitalism, and their actions do not go beyond the political institution of capitalism – parliament. A vote for the Greens, however, is one way in the current situation, for Australian working people to say to Labor, “Enough is enough! You take us for granted, and don’t do anything for us when we vote you in!”

The Labor Party essentially serves the ruling class of local and foreign monopolies, but maintains the pretence of speaking for the working people and the pretence of maintaining a more progressive stance on a variety of social, environmental, legal and foreign policy matters.

The real alternative for workers and their allies seeking a better way of life is to set aside the illusions around the nature and role of parliamentarism and build an independent capacity for unions, community organisations and alternative political groupings to struggle around key demands, regardless of which capitalist party is elected to office.

The CPA (M-L), a minority party but representative of the best interests of the workers and their allies, has put forward the following demands around which to build united struggle by wide sections of the people. The CPA (M-L) says “We urge all comrades and friends to promote and support these demands during and beyond the election period.”


Immediate Demands on current issues

Workers/union rights and democratic rights

Empower workers with the right to strike!
Scrap the ABCC – Stop criminalising workers demanding decent wages and conditions
Drop charges against Ark Tribe

Guarantee workplace rights!
Right to job security
Right to a safe workplace
Right to organise
Right to collective action
Right to union OH & S representatives
Right to full entitlements when companies fail


Make the polluters pay!
Cap and tax carbon emissions – no “market solutions”
No pollution reduction costs passed on to the people
Phase out coal!
Create clean power using renewable energy
Retrain workers for new clean, sustainable industries
Water belongs to all – it’s not for trade or sale!
No uranium mining – unsafe for workers, communities and humanity!

Manufacturing, jobs, resources tax

Stop nation-wrecking by multinationals – nationalise and build the nation for the people!
Regulate and control foreign investment - reject unequal “free trade” deals!
Tax the profits of the mining monopolies! Keep the wealth in Australia!
Develop renewable energy production!
Build clean, safe, sustainable manufacturing and value-adding industries
Improve services and amenities in mining communities and regional areas

Health, education, and livelihood

Serve the people – no privatisation!
More and better public schools
More and better public hospitals
More and better public housing – implement rent controls
More and better public transport
More and better affordable community-run childcare centres

Nationalise the banks!
Regulate interest rates
Cut bank fees
More affordable private housing!
Scrap Negative Gearing!
Increase pensions and entitlements!

Aboriginal sovereignty and the ‘intervention’

End the racist Intervention now - Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs!
Stop land grabbing by mining companies!
Unconditional restoration of the Racial Discrimination Act – scrap compulsory ‘Income Management’!
Leave Land Rights alone - recognise Aboriginal sovereignty!
A just Treaty with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples!

Foreign policy

For an independent and peaceful foreign policy!
No more support for American wars – get out of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines!
No US Alliance – no foreign military bases on Australian soil!
Nuclear free Australia!

Social issues

Equal rights for women!
Equal pay for work of equal value
Make equal opportunity a reality

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Chinese Honda workers blaze a new trail of struggle

Workers at Honda plants in the south of China recently took on the Japanese auto monopoly and won significant improvements in wages.

Like workers in many parts of the country’s socialist market economy, they are having to relearn the basic principles of workplace organisation and struggle.

The main Honda assembly plant is located at Nanhai county, Guangdong province.
Formerly a centre for the production of fish and rice, Nanhai has grown in the space of 20 years to become a major manufacturing centre with a total economy of over 150 billion RMB. And yet wages have remained more or less constant for the last ten years.

The significance of the strike at the assembly plant and two component manufacturing plants is that workers have articulated their independent demands for major wage increases and also for genuine union representation.

In line with the Communist Party’s vision of a “harmonious society” the Honda enterprise union has been led by company managers and limits its role to “providing a platform for discussion between employees and the company”.

During the course of the strike, one leader of the trade union fobbed off workers’ complaints about not doing enough to support their demand for a wage rise by saying “This is a matter between labour and employees. It is inappropriate for the trade union to intervene”.

In the course of a fortnight long strike which began on May 17, workers threw off the misleadership of the official union. On May 31 the union recruited 100 unemployed youth from local villages (in yellow hats below) who physically attacked striking workers who had defied the union on a return to work recommendation.

Hence, a demand for their enterprise unions to be elected by and accountable to the workers emerged as a key demand of the strike.

Most assembly workers had a monthly take home pay of around 1300 RMB (just over 200 Australian dollars) after deductions for the “three insurances and one fund” (old age pension, unemployment and medical insurance and the housing fund). Approximately one third of the workforce was trainees recruited from local vocational colleges. Their wages are only around 900 RMB.

These wages are one twentieth of their American and one twenty-fourth of Japanese counterparts.

The Honda plant was particularly vulnerable to workers’ actions in May. China was Honda’s only growth market in the world, and May was China’s peak sales season. Given that Chinese labour rarely engages in strike action, the company had only built the one assembly plant, so when it stopped so did the production of cars.

The workers eventually won a 24% wage rise – les than what they had sought, but significantly more than the contemptuous initial offer from the profit-hungry corporate bosses of a measly 55 RMB.

They also won a mealy-mouthed apology from the union for the violence directed at strikers and, with the support of a local delegate to the National People’s Congress, the right to elect their own chairperson of the factory union. However, there is yet no right of recall - all they have is the right to have the chair subjected to an annual “vote of confidence” failing which “they will have to improve”.

The three hundred million strong industrial working class of China has a glorious revolutionary history but is having to relearn its content in the course of a new generation’s practical experiences.

Australian workers salute their Chinese comrades and urge them to persevere on the path of struggle against foreign and local exploiters.