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Fourth International, March-April 1953


Labor in Revolutionary China

A First-Hand Report


From Fourth International, Vol.14 No.2, March-April 1953, pp.49-55.
Transcription & mark-up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


We are happy to be able to provide our readers with the following first-hand detailed account of the conditions of the working class in the New China. The period covered is from Mao Tse-tung’s victory over the Kuomintang regime in 1949 up to the end of 1951 when the article was written. The author is a leading Trotskyist with many years of experience in the Chinese labor and revolutionary movement. Another installment of this study will appear in a subsequent issue of Fourth International.

* * *

In the period immediately after liberation, the policy of the Chinese Communist Party was oriented in its entirety on “developing production, improving the economy, maintaining equality between the private and public sectors, between Capital and Labor.” The new power had confiscated the Stale enterprises and the “bureaucratic capital” of the Kuomintang, but it protected other capitalist properties. It is estimated that the proportion of workers in State and private enterprises is 1 to 1. But the majority of State workers are in heavy industry.

Struggles in the Factories After the Liberation

Shanghai was liberated in May 1949. During the next seven months, from June to December, the number of conflicts between workers and employers in the private enterprises of Shanghai was as follows, according to statistics published by the General Trade Union of Shanghai.








During this period the workers were demanding the resumption of production, increased wages, payment of a 13th month at the end of the year, etc. These demands were the basis of 98% of the struggles. Plant shutdowns and the discharge of workers by employers was, in the beginning, the cause of only 1% of these struggles. During this period the working class was very active. An article in the Shanghai paper, Liberation (August 1949), analyzed the numerous labor struggles wihich broke all the cities after liberation in the following way: “On the one hand, there was the desire of the working class for revenge and for struggle, after liberation, against certain reactionary capitalists who had insulted it under the Kuomintang regime, by oppressing it on the political level and exploiting it on the economic level. This desire confronted the capitalists with disquieting uprisings, who from then on adopted an indifferent attitude towards production.

“On the other hand, there is a deficiency in the political. views of certain workers who are ignorant of the economic conditions of Chinese society and are raising exaggerated demands. Obviously certain of their demands are justified. But in a period when the war is not yet over and production is little developed, it is difficult to satisfy them. In reality, the labor struggles are developing in such a way that there is neither victor nor vanquished, but the restoration and development of industry are hindered by them.”

A “democratic” capitalist complains “that in the first period of liberation, the majority of workers only saw their immediate interests and neglected the improvement of production. Also, certain workers struggled against their employers, like the peasants against the landowners and rich peasants.” This kind of reporting occurred repeatedly. It is even reported that other workers demanded complete suppression of the capitalists, and in Tientsin, the confiscation of the factories.

During this entire period the sole aim of tfte CP was “to restore production” and to find the means for helping the capitalists preserve their enterprises. In August 1949, the new regime published a series of “provisional laws” on the relations between workers and capitalists. These documents specify that “the workers must comply with factory administrative regulations and with the work orders of the capitalists. The capitalists alone have the light to hire and fire workers and personnel.”

Those already dismissed can only be reinstated on the job if the employer himself decides to rehire them. “It is forbidden to occupy the factory by force or to compel the capitalists to rehire or to impede the smooth functioning of the enterprise in any way whatsoever. The workers and unions are in no case authorized to seize buildings, machines, raw materials, furnishings and property of the capitalist, nor to take over or automatically distribute these properties.” The length of the working day varied from 8 to 12 hours. All labor conflicts must be settled by “negotiation.” If the latter fails, the Bureau of Labor is the mediator. If it also is unsuccessful, a last appeal may be made ito the Courts. “Prior to any decision, the two parties must maintain normal production, which means that the employer must not close the factory nor suspend payment nor decrease the amount of wages; for the workers, it means that they must continue to produce at the same tem.po and maintain discipline.”

This law, in effect, suppressed almost all the workers’ rights, and during the -last months of 1049, the closing of factories by the capitalists and the demands for employment by the workers caused numerous conflicts. These factors enter into as many as 58% of the struggles in Shanghai, which is readily understandable since the governmental laws dealt a very heavy blow to the working class.

At the commencement of liberation, the “’labor groups” which the government sent into tthe factories for trade union work felt the pressure of the masses and “always took sides against the capitalists.” This activity was immediately “corrected” by the “higher-ups.” Thus, in order to carry out the orders of the government, which “represented the workers,” the “labor groups” accepted unfavorable terms. If “their representatives” were unable to convince the workers to accept these conditions, the Bureau of Labor and even the Army of Liberation were authorized to intervene.

For example, in a large textile manufacturing plant in Shanghai, where the workers had molested “their representatives,” the Army of Liberation received an order to suppress the disturbance. Eight workers were killed or wounded. At Tientsin, from February to April 1949, workers’ discontent steadily mounted and Lui Shao-chi made a personal appearance in order to try to restrain the discontented workers, called them “Kuomintang agents” and had several arrested. Nevertheless, it is true that some Kuomintang agents were involved. This policy brought about a definite decline in the workers’ movement beginning with May 1949 at Tientsin and August 1949 at Shanghai. The “provisional laws” on the relations between workers and capitalists were promulgated in August, and according to the statistics previously given, we can affirm that fromi’this period on labor conflicts steadily declined.

Employers Sabotage Production

In February 1950 planes from Formosa bombed most of the power stations in Shanghai, causing a work stoppage in many factories, mainly in textiles and silks (70%). This was the critical moment for the economy. Lack of raw materials and contraction of the market had driven light industry to the wall, to the point of suspending production.

It was reported: “The capitalists lost confidence” and “became unduly worried. Making not the slightest effort to improve production and their relations with the workers, they did not try to foresee a better future but despaired of being able to produce and quit their factories. Many contractors abandoned their factories at this time, refused contracts, and when they could not continue in business, they sold their raw materials in order to pay wages.”

Financial difficulties and workers’ struggles were the cause of this attitude of the capitalists. If we were to believe the numerous reports published at this time, “the political consciousness of the working class was not very strong. The workers were taking revenge for their previous exploitation.” “Concerning themselves only with the immediate present, they neglected their long-term interests, and refused to join with the capitalists in order to overcome present difficulties.” Even more, “the workers insisted on continuing production. Far from wanting to negotiate, they wanted to use force.” Therefore “the struggles were hand to resolve.” “While the workers, misundertanding their role in society, were insisting on demands that could not possibly be satisfied, the capitalists were losing confidence in the future,” etc.

This description depicts the sharpness of the class struggle and is confirmed by the statistics of labor conflicts in Shanghai from October 1949 to September 1950 given by the National General Union:













Shanghai accounted for 41% of all the conflicts covered in a census of 13 different cities. As an industrial city, Shanghai was characteristic of all Chinese cities.

In the first months of 1950, struggles increased several times over those of the last months of 1949.

The capitalists, aware of the urgent needs of the State, made use of this to force the State and the public enterprises to grant them financial aid and to renew the struggle against the workers, in return for which they would endeavor to increase production. From then on (March 1950), under the pressure of financial difficulties and the class struggle, the government changed its policy and gave “powerful” support to the capitalists.

Government Favors Capitalists

This attitude was a logical consequence of the previous policy. Here is how the government resolved social conflicts.

In April 1950 the director of the Labor Bureau at Shanghai, Ma Sun-ku, announced the intention of the government to settle social problems as quickly as possible and to prevent their reappearance. (Liberation, Shanghai, April 25, 1950.)

As early as February 6th, at the congress of workers’ representatives of Shanghai, the President of the General Union, Lui Tchan-sien, admitted that it was necessary to correct the tendencies of a minority of the working class which was too concerned with immediate interests to the detriment of its long-term ones. He added: “Our workers must make concessions so that factories having difficulties can continue to produce.” He complains, finally, of the bankruptcy of CP members who do not know how to educate the workers and raise their political level, but who act like sectarians or permit themselves to follow the masses instead of leading them, as trade union representatives should do. The workers of Shanghai must develop their class consciousness and accept a temporary lowering of their standard of living. They must be ready to refrain from collecting all their wages, and to eat black bread, in order that production should be maintained. If that proves inadequate, it is necessary to be prepared for all sacrifices, even for evacuation to the countryside. (Which means that many layoffs were being planned) – (Chinese Workers, No.3, pp.5-7, publication of the National General Union).

This policy was adopted by the party in March and subsequently applied in all the big cities of the country. A conference of all directors of the Labor Bureau held in Peking in which representatives of the trade unions and of the capitalists participated. The prime goal of this conference was the creation of a “Consultative Committee of Workers and Employers.” The resolutions of this conference were officially published in May, but had been applied in effect since March.

Upon submission by the Labor Bureau, the “Consultative Committee of Workers and Employers” becomes the legal organ of negotiation between two parties. It does not take responsibility in matters of the administration and control of businesses. It comprises an equal number of workers’ and employers’ representatives. The President of the Union is tht acknowledged representative of the workers inside this organization, which has to deal with collective contracts, with improvement in technique, and which is to supervise the application of social legislation regarding wages, length of working hours, workers’ welfare, etc.

The directors of the Labor Bureau clearly defined the principal aim of this Committee, which is “to develop production, improve relations between workers and employers,” etc. The Committee has not interfered with the capitalists’ right of administration and control. On the contrary, it has taken measures to assist them in better applying their administrative rights and duties.

An editor of the People’s Journal writes:

“The workers must respect the administrative right of the employer and must adjust their conduct along the lines of striving to maintain and develop production in order to restore the consciousness of the capitalists. The workers fear that the capitalists will create difficulties for them by reducing wages or by layoffs ... and they prefer a continued state of conflict within the plant to negotiation. These tendencies are not good ... If the capitalists really have difficulties, the workers must make concessions in order to maintain production.”

And the author continues by turning to the capitalists:

“You must understand that each machine must be used by the workers. If you continue to oppress them, their activity will decline and consequently the output of your plants will also decline. You will therefore gain no advantage by this. The Consultative Committee of Employers and Workers offers you a new means for realizing a democratic administration. It is not by voting procedures, with the minority obeying the majority, that these problems will be resolved, but by democratic negotiations ... The workers must not intervene in administration, but on the contrary must increase the effectiveness of employer administration.”

Lui Tchan-sien, addressing the Consultative Political Conference of the People, declared: “To improve production by private businesses, workers and capitalists must tell themselves that they are like shipwrecked people in great peril, and must consequently stop their quarrels.” As President of the General Union of Shanghai, he gives guarantees to the capitalists and tells them: “If you regain your confidence and the desire to improve your businesses, the Union will support you in every way. It must be understood that the spirit of sacrifice of the workers is strong enough to bear all difficulties.”

Role of the Consultative Committees

Consultative Committees of Employers and Workers were therefore set up in all the cities, but what was their activity? Let us not forget that at this time the class struggle was violent, the workers fiercely defending their wage and employment level, while the members of the Communist Party, ostensibly the “objective representatives” of the workers, were in fact always supporting the employers. Example: “After negotiations between employers and workers, the employees of the Sang-Hwa Pharmaceutical Laboratory, fully understanding the difficulties of their employers, voluntarily refused the payment of a thirteenth month.” “The Hon-Fon textile converter made a profit of only 300 million yens up to April 1950, and the employees who originally receive 88.7 units per month [1] voluntarily proposed that their wages be reduced to 30 units. The directors of this converting firm thereby regained their confidence and hired additional workers.”

There were formerly 1582 workers and 12 clerks in the manufacturing firm of Si-Tai. There are now only 872 workers, indidcating a layoff of 821, and a drop in wages was recorded there. At the manufacturing firm “Golden Eagle” there has also been a decrease in the number of workers by 36%, and wages declined 70%. [2] The example is cited of the ten Universal Works manufacturers, where members of the New Democratic Youth and of the Trade Unions, after having accepted a wage reduction, voluntarily increased their work day by five hours.

In the Mai-Lin preserves plant, the workers voluntarily requested a reduction in their wage and a lowering of the quality of their food, while the employees of another manufacturer accepted a temporary lowering of their wages by 19 to 27%, and took special pains to economize on raw materials and to avoid waste. We could give many examples of this kind for many different cities, and we point out in particular that it was after the creation of the worker-employer committees that all the workers suddenly “wanted” to lower their wages and do not ask for compensation in the event of employer successes. In this period there were 150,000 unemployed in Shanghai. With their families, the figure of those affected by unemployment can be set at 500,000.

Workers Begin to Intervene

Capitalist and worker each understood the resolutions of the Consultative Committee in his own way. The first saw in them a means of obtaining orders from the State enterprises and the support of the workers. Thus, in order to secure government advances, they emphasized the numerous difficulties with which they were contending. They feared intervention by the unions in administration and above all into conditions of employment.

For the workers on the contrary, the Consultative Committee was nothing but an instrument for oppressing them and preventing them from struggling. They consequently had no interest in it and left the burden of these questions to their representatives.

“The workers imagine that the Consultative Committee between employers and workers is a second Labor Bureau. Some of them are still very much to the left and believe that improving production means helping the capitalists. For this reason it seems to them useless to take part in negotiations. The union should decide and the capitalists execute their decisions. In a Tientsin plant, a union leader, unconcerned about obeying the regulations of the Labor Bureau, intervened in administration, changed the composition of the labor force and even gave orders to the paymasters,” – etc.

In most of the plants, Communist Party members in the unions, who were usually the “representatives” of the workers, worked toward strengthening the confidence of the capitalists while being aware of the hostile attitude taken by the workers.

Several months later, thanks to improvement in the State economy, to the stabilization of prices and to the sacrifices of the working class, production was effectively restored in private industry. In this period the policy of the Chinese Communist Party saved the capitalists. But its pre-occupation was not to help the capitalists exploit the workers.

Although the law stipulates respect for the property and administrative rights of the capitalists, the capitalists had to make a show of their “difficulties” in order to put the policy of the Consultative Committee into practice and secure the “voluntary cooperation” of the workers in wage reductions, layoffs, economic use of materials and increase in productivity. They were required to reveal the business secrets of the enterprise, to open up their books, etc.

After that, the workers made “voluntary sacrifices,” contenting themselves with giving their employers certain suggestions on production, administration and welfare. Some of these proposals could not be refused, and this was a means whereby the Consultative Committee gradually interested the workers in production and the improvement of administration, thereby slowly bringing them to an interest in business. These Committees were not therefore totally useless to the workers, especially after production could be resumed.

Reversal of the CP Policy

This policy of the Chinese CP provoked discontent and hatred among the masses. After the change in orientation, Dun Tse-hwei, vice-president of the Military Control Commission of South-Central China, and third secretary of the CP in this region, published a report in the Workers Daily. This document, having been officially approved, can be considered as revealing official tendencies regarding the attitude of the trade unions.

Dun Tse-hwei writes there:

“Many of the factory trade unions have recently adopted the position of the capitalists, issuing the same slogans, speaking the same language, acting like them. The unions defend management, and certain workers in the State enterprises reproach them for concealing the truth from them. I believe they are right. The members of the unions in the private enterprises have overstepped our principles of concessions to the capitalists. They have served as their mouthpieces by asking the workers to accept a lowering of their living standard even in circumstances where this was useless. In certain factories the capitalists could have accepted the demands of the workers, but the union proceeded to convince them to withdraw these demands. In this way they aroused their discontent and were accused by them of being ‘lackeys’ of the capitalists. For example, in the coal mines of Ta Hye the workers, when they learned of the dismissal of the union director, were as joyful as if they had learned of the liberation of Formosa or a raise in wages ...” (Workers Daily, Aug. 4, 1950.)

In this connection, the editor of Chinese Workers also admits that:

“In the struggle between capital and labor, the union members did not take a position in favor of the workers; they neither represented their opinions nor submitted their demands, but they simply set themselves up as mediators between the two. The union’s position consequently was equivocal ... Not having fulfilled its task, the union became isolated from the masses ... Certain unions of the State enterprises have behaved like servants of the administration and have been deaf to the demands of the workers.” (Chinese Workers, No.15, p.36).

As regards the workers’ discontent, we know that during the months of July and August 1950, some 15 months after the occupation of Shanghai by the Communist Party, and at a time when its rule was already well established there, the workers were complaining in the neighborhoods, in the street, on the trams, and in the factories, voicing their disapproval of the unions, of the CP and even of the government. But there were no reprisals, not because the Communist Party is so very democratic, but because the discontent was too widespread in this period. At Shanghai, cradle of the working class, the CP could do nothing. The unions then were very remote from the workers and their members had a difficult task. If they carried out the policy of the government, the workers blamed them; if they sided with the workers, the party accused them of being a tail to the workers. Because of this, the representative proletarian elements were reduced to impotence, and the others, following the governmental policy unreservedly, became nothing but bureaucrats.

The disclosures of Dun Tse-hwei and the Chinese Workers do no more than expose the natural result of the social policy of the Communist Party.

The situation then was essentially characterized by two facts: workers’ discontent on the one hand, restoration of production on the other. The powers of resistance of the bourgeoisie were gradually restored. It speculated on the lowered quality of its products, or it corrupted members of the Party. Consequently, at the end of July, the CP policy towards the workers took a new turn. We have just quoted the report of Dun Tse-hwei which was a first indication of this turn, and which shows how the unions did not fulfil their role or truly represent the workers.

Unions Urged to Defend Workers’ Interests

He says later on:

“Members of the trade unions in private enterprises naturally must protect and defend the interests of the working class, just as the Association of Trade and Industry defends the interests of the capitalists. In no case must they become mouthpieces for the bosses or act the role of mediators. While concessions must be made to the capitalists, it is nonetheless necessary to keep in mind the interests of the working class. If the need does not exist, there must not be an unprincipled protection of the employers. The unions must not oblige employers to break promises they have already made to the workers.”

Further on he adds:

“In the State enterprises, the position of the comrades must not be confused with that of the administration, which too readily supports the interests of the management at the expense of the workers, and has too greatly increased the severity of working conditions. Numerous laws have been passed which place the workers at a disadvantage. When that occurs, the unions must listen to the workers and then negotiate with the factory for a revision of the program. They must above all represent the workers, formulate their demands, and even apply to the courts in order to gain their objective of defending the workers. This method of acting will favor the development of production and will avoid strikes or work stoppages.”

As regards the relations between the unions and the authorities, each should remain, in his place:

“The Peoples’ Governments represent the interests of the four big classes, not only those of the workers but those of the peasants, petty bourgeois and capitalists as well. For this reason it is difficult to find a correct attitude which will permit the conflicts between these classes to be resolved, and it is difficult for the administration to be impartial and avoid favoring one side or another. Functionaries cannot easily avoid contamination by bureaucratism. Union members, therefore, must always adopt the point of view of the working class when they study government laws. Similarly, if measures have been taken against the workers, or if their interests have been defended inadequately, the union has the duty of exposing these conditions to the government with the object of securing their revision.”

He also admits that the union members are not the only ones to be condemned for “we, too, have made concessions to the capitalists. This year (1950) we never accused our comrades; we know that prejudices and new elements existing in our organization bear part of the responsibility tor events.” [3]

Improvement and Enforcement of Wage Laws

In August the National General Union proceeded to revamp its internal organization. At the end of September, it decreed that as a consequence of the fall in agricultural prices, commencing with October 1, all wages, whether on a monthly basis or governed by the “supply-system,” had to be included in the sliding-scale system calculated in units expressed on the money basis of May 1950 prices, the value of the unit increasing with prices. The Shanghai General Union then issued the following declaration to private and public enterprises:

“The unions must demand strict observance of the wage laws from the employers or the administration. If they are not at the level of the month of May, do not hesitate to insist upon supplements. The difficulties which may arise on this score in the private enterprises will be resolved by the Consultative Committee. Even if the price of rice is lower than it was in May, they must nevertheless fight to secure the difference. If the situation is good in private enterprises, the unions must automatically demand a solution of these problems from the employers in agreement with the Consultative Committee.” (Chinese Workers, No.11, p.30).

From August to December 1950, there were no more articles in the newspapers and in the union periodicals on “voluntary sacrifice by the workers.” On the contrary there is insistence on the effective support which the unions must give them. “Since improvement in the economic situation, from August to September, certain factories have been able to balance their budget, or even produce a surplus. After negotiations between employers and workers, certain enterprises have increased wages to their original levels and rehired dismissed workers. [4] Since the stabilization of prices other factories have established wages without a sliding scale.” At Anyang the length of the workday was still 16 hours. At the end of December, after negotiations, it was restored to 10 hours per day.

The workers have now regained the real wage which they had before liberation. Although the laws have consolidated the right of exploitation by the capitalists, confidence in the future has returned to the workers to the degree that living conditions have improved. We cannot neglect this change which has been in effect up to today (end of 1951), and which completely changes the situation of the workers in the private enterprises.

Workers’ Conditions in Private Employment

At present few private enterprises, and only the smallest, are in poor condition and find difficulty in balancing their budgets. After negotiations between employers and workers, the latter received the right to cooperate with the administration and to be advised on all production plans. The capitalists retain their property rights, but no longer direct the business of the enterprises in a great measure. Some contend that these factories will be nationalized. Most of the private enterprises have balanced budgets or even show profits.

We often find advertisements and employment offers in the newspapers. In 1951, all industrial organizations of the North and Northeast advertised for skilled labor in central China, which brought about an emigration toward this region of a section of workers employed in the State enterprise. The administrative Committee had to forbid these shifts. Toward the end of last year, a textile machinery plant was constructed at Chang-Chu (Honan province) which wanted to employ 10,000 workers. It appealed right up to the Hong Kong region in order to recruit skilled workers. It seems therefore that industry has really been revived in China. In contrast, many workers in commerce are still unemployed.

This heavy demand for labor has brought about the change in CP policy. The wages in most private enterprises have found their pre-liberation level, or have even gone beyond. For example, at Fusan (province of Kwangtung) there were formerly 6 manufacturers of textiles; after liberation there were no more than 3; now there are 9. The workers, working 8 hours a day, would earn 60,000 to 70,000 yen per day, which would surpass the pre-liberation level if we evaluate this in Hong Kong dollars. With one exception all wages are higher than those of Hong Kong (under British rule). Evaluating them in terms of the price of rice, wages in continental China are one-third higher than those at Hong Kong, but the buying power for industrial products is considerably lower.

The wage of a lathe operator in private industry at Shanghai is 1,180,000 yen per month. A Hong Kong dollar is worth 300 yen. This wage is 15 to 20% higher than that of a lathe operator in Hong Kong. If this entire amount were used for the purchase of rice, the wage would be even 30% higher than that at Hong Kong; but if it is used in the purchase of industrial products, it is lower.

In the largest private textile manufacturing plant at Shanghai the wage of a coolie a short time ago was still 60 units per month, that is 327,180 yen. Technicians and administrators received a maximum of 1,400 units, which equals 7,634,200 yen. The unions have recently demanded that the guaranteed minimum living wage for labor be set at 500,000 yen; technicians and administrators were to be given a cut in wage of two-thirds (400 units, or 2,181,200 yen). The demand was approved by the Labor Bureau and applied beginning January 27, 1952.

How Grievances Are Settled

In the enterprises of the big cities, a great deal of attention has gone into developing the welfare, education and culture of the workers. Initiative in these cases rests with the unions but the cost is borne by the factory. ExpenstEs for this account represent 5% of the worker payroll. In plants of more than 100 workers, the social-insurance laws are already being applied. There are plants, however, which are still not applying them in toto but try solely to carry out the main regulations. Accident cases and pregnant women have the right to paid vacations. Older workers are already benefitting from the application of these laws. In the large cities and above all in the large enterprises, the workday is 8 hours. In the smaller ones, it is sometimes 9 or 10 hours.

Conflicts over severance pay no longer take place in the industrial sector but are still frequent in trade. In this connection, the government and trade unions have defended different proposals. In severance cases, the Labor Bureau is mediator. In those cases where the workers asked for three months’ pay, and the employers only wanted to pay one month, it set the amount at two months. According to the law, in case of disagreement, appeal may be made to the courts. While awaiting their decision, if the employer is plaintiff, he must continue to pay the wage and subsistence. If the worker is plaintiff, the employer no longer has any obligations to him. Because of this, the workers are in practice forced to accept the decision of the Labor Bureau.

However this situation can also turn against the employer. Thus at Canton, a tobacco manufacturer having closed his door, his director accepted the decision of the Labor Bureau, but did not have sufficient funds to meet severance pay. He therefore had to sell his villa, all his furniture, and his machines in order to pay up. The sum accumulated in this way was still insufficient; he was arrested and imprisoned. According to governmental laws, it is in fact first necessary to sell consumer goods, and only as a last resort to dispose of productive property.

Consultation between directors and workers has become common practice and a Consultative Committee exists in almost all plants. Obviously in certain factories this Committee is nothing but a capitalist tool for deceiving the workers. But in others, these committees really permit the workers to intervene in the workings of the factory and to control them. In certain cases, the workers’ representatives on the committee were not named by the union but elected by general assemblies of the workers. Their representatives are generally skilled workers, often very young. The proposed resolutions of the committee must first be debated in the general assembly. If an employer wants to buy a machine or raw materials, or if he sets up a plan of production, the comniittee must first be consulted. The bookkeeper of the plant must always attend these assemblies and present his report. According to the law, the right of firing belongs to the employer; the unions only have the right to protest. But in practice, everybody has forgotten this law, and a worker cannot be discharged without agreement by the union.

The Workers’ Role in Production

We have stated that intervention in production by the workers was forbidden. But the Chinese CP is not the representative of the capitalists. In order to ferret out fiscal evasions and frauds in the quality of products, it has allowed the workers to supervise manufacture. Thus, products manufactured for the State undergo an inspection by the union before leaving the plant. If the quality is not up to the agreed standard, the government can reject them.

The CP knows that the capitalist can readily deceive the government, which is ignorant of the concrete processes of manufacture, but they cannot deceive the workers who participate in them first-hand. Naturally, the workers must often pay the price of such intervention: avoid spoilage, improve methods of work and increase productivity.

Workers’ assistance has permitted employers in various factories to make a great deal of profit. But at the same time, the workers’ position is very different from what it was prior to liberation. The workers are no longer afraid of their foremen, engineers and directors, with whom they can now talk familiarly. The latter no longer have the right to beat the workers, to condemn them or insult them. A worker of Hong Kong who worked for 15 years in continental China recently returned there and noted a fundamental change in the atmosphere of the factory.

The workers are now respected in society. To obtain a pass for going from Hong Kong to Canton it is necessary to have the guarantee of two firms. But for a worker, the guarantee of a single one of his comrades is sufficient.


1. There is now a sliding scale of wages in China: The worker always receives the same number of units on a commodity basis, money payment varying with the cost of living.

2. Payment was on a piece-work basis.

3. All above quotations from Workers Daily of August 4, 1950.

4. In the first half of June 1949, the public and private enterprises at Shangai had set wages in relation to the price of rice. The latter rose in July. The employers then declared the method of calculation unreasonable. Wages were therefore calculated in “units,” based on the cost of all foodstuffs. The workers then suffered a relative lowering of their wages since rice was practically the only commodity that rose in prices. The unions busied themselves with subduing the discontent of the workers. A knowledge of these facts permits us to make useful comparisons with the present laws.

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