Factory Stories: Conditions and Struggles in Chinese Workplaces

Factory Stories: Conditions and Struggles in Chinese Workplaces

Reposted from Gongchao (July 30, 2015).1

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Hao Ren, et al. are Chinese worker activists who have been documenting and analyzing the situation and struggles of factory workers in the Pearl River Delta in South China over the past few years.

In 2011, Hao Ren, et al. published a book with strike reports based on their interviews with migrant workers who had taken part in strikes since the early 2000s. The book shows the inner dynamic, the forms of organization, and the strike tactics employed. Hao Ren, et al. circulated the book among workers and activists in South China in order to instigate a discussion on the experiences of struggle and on the self-empowerment of workers.china on strike cover

In 2014, the German translation of the book was published by Mandelbaum. You can read the preface and two reports on this website. An English version of the book will be published by Haymarket Books in February 2016 [under the title China On Strike: Narratives of Workers’ Resistance].

Since 2012 more reports about the conditions and struggles in factories around the Pearl River Delta have been published in the magazine Factory Stories (工厂龙门阵). Please, read the preface of the 1st issue on their motivation. We publish stories and reports from the magazine in English here… and we will add more in the future. [The original Chinese versions of issues #1 through #8 (2012 to 2014) may be downloaded here and here.]

 

Factory Stories, #1/ January 2012

gclmz1

Preface
Presenting the magazine and its aims.

Labor shortage and layoffs
How bosses handle the ups and downs.

 

Factory Stories, special issue on management/ November 2014

gclmz management issue

Management in the factory
On different aspects of managerial control over factory workers.

There is no such thing as fully used work time
On the struggle about work time and free time.

Getting through security
On the troubles to get to work.

Three conflicts and one talk
On conflicts on overtime, productivity and control.


Preface

Factory Stories, No. 1 (January 2012)

Longmenzhen (龙门阵) means chatting, telling stories, so [the name of this magazine] Gongchang longmenzhen (工厂龙门阵) means talking about what happens in factories. People who’ve never worked in a factory before often get it wrong and use stereotypes [to describe factory life]. Those who’ve experienced it and are familiar with life in the factory often think, “there’s nothing to talk about”. Although it’s a topic people often discuss with friends, relatives and other workers, it still seems mundane and trivial, something that doesn’t deserve to be publicly discussed; something you chat about in private and then forget.

But it’s precisely these trivial incidents and this mixture of feelings that make up workers’ living environment, that shape workers’ consciousness, and that trigger and influence workers’ action. Going further: the future of society is already hidden within these realities. Only when workers understand these real circumstances in their totality can we find a basis for collective exit from the present situation. The first step is to thoroughly and carefully survey, record and analyze the situation of the working class – that is, to obtain first-hand material.

Today, factory workers are the main creators of wealth in society. But since bosses hold the power within the industrial system, what social development grants to workers is poverty and disenfranchisement (although many workers from the countryside have improved their families’ economic situation through hard work and frugality). Commodity prices rise faster every year, but many workers make only enough to get by or less. From the 2008 crisis until now, the gap between rich and poor has only increased.

But in these last few years, it is easy to notice a transformation of workers’ consciousness: they seem to be developing a more intense and conscientious awareness of their plight and demands, and they more often resort to actions creating more pressure on capital. The drive to control workers and oppose the improvement of workers’ conditions (including active meddling in legislation) shows an extreme level of concern among capitalists. Management personnel in every factory regularly talk about strikes and go-slows, while lawyers and experts in the field of industrial relations organize training courses on the topic… On the other hand, workers usually lack the advantageous circumstances and the self-conscious combativeness of their rulers. Of course workers also learn from struggling – they summarize the experience and communicate it with others. Usually scattered, they require more attention from those who wish to collect and arrange the records of these struggles in order to spread them among other workers.

The central goals of this publication are to develop a thorough understanding of the factory and workers’ real situation, to analyze the lessons gained from past and present struggles, and to spread information. We still believe that the power of the empty-handed working class is far greater than that of the whole propertied class. But it is also clear that we are standing at only the beginning of the road.


Chuang notes:

  1. We have made some minor edits. Keep an eye on Gongchao for new translations that will be added in the future.

1 Comment

  1. 感谢关注,中国工人的处境和现状。

    Thanks for attention, the situation and the status quo of Chinese workers.

    作为一个中国工人,工人这个词语,我只是感到悲哀和悲痛!

    As a Chinese worker, worker this word, I just feel sad and sad!

    工人维护权利的艰难,只有经历过,才更加明白!

    Workers are struggling to maintain the right, only through experience, to be more aware of!

    Reply

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