ELI FRIEDMAND: I just want to begin by talking a little bit about why we're going to be spending an entire day talking about this one labor conflict, the Jasic conflict. Well, in reality, we're not going to be just talking about this one conflict. But by posing it as sort of a question-- what are the implications of Jasic for understanding labor politics, for understanding a capitalist development in contemporary China-- I think it allows us-- it provides an important window on rapidly changing dynamics in the Xi Jinping era. And the great panelists that we have here, including my co-director Pun Ngai, who's just arrived, as well as many others-- we're going to be-- we're going to be approaching this from a variety of different angles.
Because this conflict has impacted a huge number of social actors, including not just the workers themselves, but students, faculty at universities, lawyers NGO activists, even cadres from the official [? ECF ?] [INAUDIBLE] trade union who've been imprisoned as a result of this. The reverberations of this one conflict have been massive. And through the analysis both of the context and the consequences of this movement, I think we can really deepen our understanding of the state of politics in contemporary China.
There's another really important reason why I wanted to put this event together and that's because you can't discuss it in China. And as I'm going to talk about in my presentation in just a little bit, the environment for academic freedom has become increasingly constrained in China and particularly so for labor. It's been constrained for lots of different sorts of issues. But labor has certainly not been accepted.
Increasingly, what we see is that the actions of the Communist Party are pushing labor studies-- are pushing Chinese labor studies outside the boundaries of the country. And the most important-- by almost all accounts, the most important-- politically speaking, most important labor conflict to occur in China in the past decade cannot be discussed. As far as I know, there's been no public forum or symposia or anything in China or really anywhere in the world that has discussed this case. And so I thought that it was important to do it.
And it's not just of academic interest. I'm a labor scholar. I'm a sociologist. I think that this stuff is interesting academically.
But there's, of course, also really important practical consequences. And that's one of the reasons why we wanted to do it here in New York City at ILR's nice new facilities right here in Manhattan because we're very interested in public engagement. We want people to know about what's going on. We want to engage not just scholars, but also activists in China, in the United States and globally as well as the increasing number of Chinese activists who, unfortunately, are being put into exile by the deteriorating political situation there in China.
There are a lot of people who are associated with the Jasic conflict who are still locked up. And if you were so inclined, during the break or at some point during the symposium, there'll be someone who will be standing outside by the coffee and tea, which you should help yourself to, asking folks to take a picture holding this sign, which refers to three of the activists who have been detained who are still imprisoned in conjunction with the Jasic case. So if you're so inclined, they would appreciate the sort of-- the act of solidarity. And the HKU Cornell program is going to continue these forms of public engagement to try to keep this flame of labor studies alive despite the difficult situation in China. And we're going to continue to do events here in New York City as well as Ithaca and as well as in Hong Kong.
I just briefly want to thank all of the people who helped make this possible-- my partner Pun Ngai from the University of Hong Kong, but also many staff here in New York and in Ithaca and Sieverding, Jen [? Morley, ?] Betsy [? Wiggers, ?] David [INAUDIBLE]-- who am I missing-- Zach [INAUDIBLE], Mary [? Cat ?] who's sitting right over here, Edward Martinez here in New York City. I'm probably forgetting someone. But there's a lot of work went into this. And I really appreciate all the support that's gone into it.
I mentioned that there's coffee and tea in the back. Go help yourself at any point. We only have one break, which is going to be at 3 o'clock. But if you need to get up, go to the bathroom, get something to drink, feel free to do that.
The first hour of this event is live streamed. But we ask that after that, that nobody record or take photos. As you can understand, there's some security concerns with this event. And so we'd appreciate if you would honor that.
So what we're going to do next is we're going to move to sort of a brief timeline, an overview of the events that are associated with the Jasic conflict. And I'm going to turn it over to Sophie Chen, who is a campaigner with the group SACOM, the Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior. So please join me in welcoming Sophie.
SOPHIE CHEN: Good afternoon, everyone. And I'm Sophie. And first of all, I would like to thank Cornell for inviting me and hosting the event.
So I'm with SACOM, a campaign group based in Hong Kong. And we work on the labor issues in mainland China. So after Jasic case happened, we have been one of the organizations trying to organize solidarity campaign to show our support. And today, before Professor Pun started to analyze the significance implication of Jasic, I would like to just provide more factual introduction and also timeline of the case so that we can have a better ground to further discuss in the following sessions.
Although international media has been framing Jasic as a student movement, but actually Jasic struggle started from a unionizing attempt of a group of workers in Jasic factory. Jasic Technology is a factory based in Shenzhen and produce welding machine. And workers there have been suffering from really poor working condition. And that's why they came up with the demand of setting up in union.
But as some of you might already know, in China, ACFTU, All-China Federation of Trade Union, is Department of State and also the only trade union allowed. So for any trade union setting up attempt, they have to seek for approval from upper level of trade union. And it's worth emphasizing that Jasic workers didn't attempt to set up an independent trade union. Instead, they tried very hard-- tried their best to go through the legal procedures to form a union.
As you can see in this timeline, in early May, Jasic workers submitted a joint letter to district federation of trade union and seek for request for support for the trade union. And after the FTU replied positively, Jasic workers submitted a formal application again a month later. And also under-- after the instruction given by the president of district FTU, Jasic workers also tried to form a preparation committee inside the factory and then collect workers' opinion of their unionizing. And in only two days, they got 89 signatures from the workers to show their consent of joining the union.
However, in response to workers' series of actions, Jasic management, federation of the trade union, and the local police tried to obstruct their unionizing by physical assaults, dismissal, and also detentions. In late July, when six dismissed Jasic workers tried to go back to the factories to work, the police arrested 29 people, including the dismissed Jasic worker and also their supporters. And ironically, only days after this arrest, district FTU approved the application of the yellow union. And then now, the Jasic investment director is the president of the trade union.
So after workers' arrest, students from more than 10 universities launched petitions to show their support. And thousands of students signed it. Also, some young Marxist activists formed a group called Jasic Solidarity Group. So what they do is they organize campaign to call on the release of the detainees. More and more students from various university are mobilized and responding to their call and travel to Shenzhen to show their support. And it's worth mentioning that these students are from various universities' Marxism Societies, which are the [AUDIO OUT].
As you can see in the picture, these students petitioned. That is the photo they petitioned in the prosecutor general's office. And also they had a lot of demonstration. They had public speaking. And also they [INAUDIBLE] international, so on the street. And that lasted for more than two weeks.
But in late August, 20 riot police raided the rental place where 50 students stayed. And they arrested all of them. Meanwhile, as the new semester started, the university authorities started to tighten the Marxism Society's activity space by suspending their registration.
But the students at that time organized a lot of campaigns to safeguard their student society by demonstrating in the demonstration inside the campus and also distributing leaflets. So after a series of campaigns, the students actually won their battles. And then several university societies registered successfully.
But in early November, another mass arrest happened. So the third mass arrest on Jasic supporters was carried out all over the country in five different cities. And then the crackdown was on student activists, social worker center staff, and even community-level trade unionists. And over a dozen people were arrested in that arrest.
So since last December, the authorities started to [? make ?] forced confession from those activists who were arrested earlier in the year. So in these forced confessions, they kind of admitted that they intended to subvert that current state power. And then a lot of really severe accusations were made by the police.
And what's following up is the intimidation campaign organized by the public's security. So they summoned the students to watch these videos of their comrades and then threaten them to stop their participation in the labor movement. And meanwhile, the university authorities also revoked and took over the Marxism Society in different universities.
So in January, some of the students tried to release some rebuttal in response to this intimidation campaign. So they wrote articles and published online to disclose what's going on with their comrades in jail. But only hours after they released their articles, like 10 more students were arrested.
So this is an infographic which tried to visualize who are the detainees in these waves of arrests. And so Jasic's struggle started from last July and until today. So they were-- over 100 people were arrested in series of crackdowns. And currently there are over 40 people remaining on the list. They are either missing or detained.
And we tried to make it in color. So the names in blue are the workers. And the names in yellow are the undergraduate students. And then the names in purple are different people from civil societies, [? NGOs, ?] and also social worker center.
And also it's worth mentioning that only the four-- so the prosecutor already filed indictment against the four Jasic workers. And then they were charged of gathered crowd to disturb social order. And then the majority of the detainees were actually held-- being held in the special form of detention called RSDL, residential-- RS-- Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location. So this is a special detention which allow the authority to help people without notifying their parents where they are. And also they are not entitled of the legal representation during this period.
So under the-- like, without oversee-- so these kind of detention allow forced confession and torture to happen. For example, the human rights lawyers were also under RSDL. So I think [? Aaron ?] will go through all of legal [INAUDIBLE] later.
OK, so the previous infographic includes the people who were arrested because of their support in Jasic's struggle. But it's worth mentioning that the crackdown actually expanded beside Jasic. So this January, five staffs of labor [INAUDIBLE] working on worker collective actions and also provide legal consultancy for the workers were arrested. And this January and March, another three editors of a pro-labor website called iLabor were also detained.
And the most recent arrest has happened to a famous [? left ?] intellectual called [? Tai ?] [? Chou ?] [? Ming. ?] And he was accused of subverting-- intended to subvert current state power. And this [? puts ?] under RSDL. So my presentation briefly, really quickly-- try to squeeze all the information in 10 minutes and just cover the recent crackdown on the labor activism. So now let's welcome Professor Pun to give a closer analysis.
PUN NGAI: [INAUDIBLE]
OK, good afternoon. So let me thank Eli and [? Kevin ?] [? Lynn ?] working so hard to put us together. Today my duty is to try to contextualize the whole event so that you can understand what is happening in China. And I'm quite sure my presentation will cross some kind of controversial because it touch upon Marxism, which would not be really acceptable to you. But it doesn't matter, because I just want to help you to understand what's really happening in China.
So let me begin with the Sino-American Trade War. I'm not saying that the whole event is really originated from the Sino-American Trade War. But I still would like to begin with this, because we all know there is severe [INAUDIBLE] of economic supremacy.
And high-tech competition really created conservative power politics in [INAUDIBLE] China. And in doing this, obviously we discuss [INAUDIBLE] the eco-- I mean evilness of the state and capital in controlling all the power, resources, and [? discourse. ?] So I just would like to argue that the Chinese working class that would be the first one to be [INAUDIBLE] or suffered.
And due to the economic slowdown, closed up factories, and moving jobs to the southeast Asia, obviously that would generate wider social inequality and deeper capital labor conflicts. And worse, the Sino-American Trade War would cripple the principle of internationalism-- I mean labor internationalism-- and also cripple the potential cooperation among progressive groups between the United States and China. And this is why Eli and me are trying to organize this conference, especially Eli. I mean, we just like to call upon more progressive politics in order to support not only politics and labor parties in China, but as well as connect it with the politics in the United States.
So let me move to the Jasic case. Let me say the Jasic incidents of 2018 is a kind of turning point of labor struggles since the past two decades, because it was really-- it's really demonstrate a call to left politics which is a [? depart ?] from a civil society frame where they only look-- they hardly look at ideology, politics, and they have [INAUDIBLE] try to transgress the class [? inequality ?] and creating [INAUDIBLE] forms of organizing.
So the Jasic incidents, I would say, that characteristic of student and workers unity has caused us to revisit Communism, Marxism, and Maoism. And that kind of calling is really what to watch for the future of the [? emancipatory ?] politics and labor movement. So obviously, because of the future politics, we need to call on free returns. So what are these three returns I'm trying to understand in this way?
There is the call to class protects, and second call to return to Communism, and the third is the return to Maoist mass line. And these three returns, obviously, they are not retro [INAUDIBLE] politics, trying to romanticizing the past, but instead they call upon historical experiences, cultural resources, and Communist legacy in order to fight for a more egalitarian society for the future.
So let me begin with the first return to class politics. To these Jasic left groups, both workers and students, to them, all history, all human history, is class history. And all history is contemporary history. So we all have-- we really have to understand that the class politics is the most fundamental form to politics in Maoist China, but it has been entirely subsumed and forgotten and trying to subsume along the denunciation of the Cultural Revolution and Maoist politics.
So reform and opening of China represents a fusion of the global capitalism as well as a betrayal of the socialist past by dramatically transforming the social relation in China. So in this way, China has become the workshop of the world, with the working class now today composes with more than 280 million migrant workers, 90 million lay off state enterprises workers, and millions of university graduates who now join the ranks of a new laboring subjects.
So we have to understand this really transition from Maoist politics to the reform politics. And the first phase of the reform is that we call upon the transnational corporation in order to help China to reform. So the Chinese state really took a lead in introducing the [INAUDIBLE] market initiative that attracted TNC from all over the world, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, United States, and Western Europe.
So China has been [INAUDIBLE] in a bigger picture into the global economy of the 21st century. So by doing this, obviously, we have simultaneously produced and reproduced a new working class. And this struggle, obviously, is not only class itself, but also class for itself, and rapidly remaking the class relationship not only in China but also throughout the world.
And we witness the first phase of pouring in foreign capital in to remake China into a world workshop. But then into the same phase, we also see a rapid transformation of the public economy into the private economy. So the proportion of GDP generated by the private sector economy grew at a spectacular race, reaching over 60%, while the state-owned sector fell into a [INAUDIBLE]. So it's no longer sustained its leading role in the China industries.
So it was always a wrong perception here in the United States that the Chinese state-owned enterprises was very strong. It's not true. If we try to compare to Mao's China, they're really strong. But now, the state-owned enterprises, they're really declining and dismantling. So after the lay-off of a large number of workers from the state-owned enterprises, individual business and private enterprises have become the main sources of employment.
In this private sector, the [INAUDIBLE] provided by them are largely offered to rural migrant workers, which account for 37.7% of the total employment [INAUDIBLE] 90% of the newly created job opportunities. And everybody heard about China Dream. Just this is really created by Xi Jinping. And so because of this China Dream, the Chinese state's really forcefully reimagined the roles of labor and class in order to create Chinese Dream as a kind of national [INAUDIBLE] of strength and growth.
So the dream is actually sustained by a [? blueprint, ?] a national [? blueprint. ?] We call it Made in China 2025. And because of this [? blueprint, ?] that directly get United States and China into the war because the Trump Administration is so worried about this Made in China 2025, even though I'm not really understand why they have so [INAUDIBLE].
But what is this Made in China 2025? If you look at the statement produced by Premier Li Kegiang, Li Kegiang's trying to say that it is to seek innovation driven employment, apply smart technology, strengthen foundation, pursue green development, and redouble our effort to upgrade China from a manufacturer of quantity into quality. So upgrading China's economy and technology really creates dynamic competition with the USA and threatens its imperial hegemony and the world order [INAUDIBLE] after the Cold War.
So this is the backbone of the Sino-American trade war. And the Chinese government was forced to hide this Made in China 2025 and was not able to speed it up perfectly. So the deepening of the Sino-American war could not be [INAUDIBLE]. According to my understanding-- obviously could not be [INAUDIBLE] by the presidential [? powers ?] because the trade war is actually indispensable part of global capitalism crisis in the late capitalism period.
So what the mass media is trying to convey to us is a picture of trade war between the two nation states. And it was the media pit Chinese workers against the USA workers due to job competitions. So the impact of the Chinese working class is entirely [INAUDIBLE] and not assessed. I'm not going to say that the [INAUDIBLE] process of labor/capital conflict in China is due to this war. But I'm saying it's due to an ongoing crisis of late capitalism.
So all the [? area ?] will be [? effect. ?] Even though the trade war is not yet settled, the links of those this product is not finalized, but because this debate and also a lot of anxiety generated by both media in the West and in China, so all the areas already being [? effected ?] including also the product. So you can imagine that the impact on the Chinese working class is really huge.
And roughly, we can understand it these two aspects. One is that the sanction against the Chinese manufacturing will squeeze the workers' wages and even their jobs. So many factories close themselves and then relocate to the southeast Asia in order to prevent the trade war. And the second aspect is because of the trade war. So the Chinese government promised to buy [INAUDIBLE] a huge number of American agricultural products. So obviously, this is going to have hurt the agriculture and the livelihood of the Chinese farmers.
So to get the-- the more impact on the Chinese farmer means that more farmers have to leave their land and migrate to [INAUDIBLE] city. So that's why the number of migrant workers keep going up. So I just would like to let you know that the impact on the Chinese working class is really huge, and it directly affects the current and the future labor struggle.
And if you look at the number of strikes, in the past few years, it's almost double. It's almost double. And most of these strikes actually concern about labor strikes over factory culture or relocation, including those famous cases like the [INAUDIBLE] furniture in 2013, the footwear in 2014, and the [INAUDIBLE] in 2015. So these are all very, very famous strike cases in China.
And all this case demonstrated that the company violates the law, and they always in collusion with the local government not only failing to pay compensation but also threatening, arresting, and suing workers' representative, and even driving workers into [? adopt ?] the threat of suicide as a weapon in the struggle. So obviously, we can observe a kind of process of radicalization of the new working class.
And this new working class is really fighting for its own class formation and through a variety of actions in both their working and living conditions. And the process of radicalization is accompanied by a heightened awareness of the labor organizing such as labor groups, labor NGO, and labor unions in the workplace. And demanding for setting up trade unions have been appear in the labor struggles from time to time since 2010.
If we really understand a little bit about the labor parties in China, 2010 signalling the [INAUDIBLE] wave of the [INAUDIBLE] workers and also the [INAUDIBLE] struggles. So we see a lot of cases that the workers already learn how to demand to set up a trade union in order to protect themselves. So a new generation of workers have consistently raised the awareness and also the demand of forming their own organization in order to represent their own interests.
And currently, what is special to you is that a number of left intellectuals and students that have actively participated in supporting the labor struggles. In Beijing, under the support of the student activists, the construction workers have organized to protest in front of Beijing [INAUDIBLE] in order to demand separate union in 2009. And campaign against Apple and Foxconn also have persistently focused on setting up trade union and use of student interns.
And in summer of 2018-- that's the Jasic case-- students actively joined workers to protest [INAUDIBLE] the local police against the workers attempting to set up a trade union. So this sparked the ongoing Jasic labor struggles until now. So I don't really move into detail because Sophie already provided you with the timeline. So let me move from the first return to class analysis to the second return to Communism.
What makes the Jasic case special is that this [INAUDIBLE] is really determined to call for a truly Communism. If you wanted to compare the civil society framework since the mid '90s, most of the civil society framework, they don't really ask for to end the class conflict and to [? review ?] the socialist country. But this group of students, they really ask for setting up a truly Communism.
So I'm trying to let you understand how this happened. So we all understand that today, global capitalism has triumphed over the world, defeating all attempts of Communist revolution of the 20th century. And it destroyed [? fruits ?] of the socialist goal that [? composed ?] of economic equity, human emancipation, and people's democracy. And this destruction continues that humanity has reached the end of history. And thus the word communism and revolution become a taboo not only in the intellectual circle but also in the public domain, both in China and elsewhere.
So Communism became a symbol of dictatorship, irrationality, and repression of individual democracy and freedom, so scare away the new generation who has been grown up in the neoliberal age. But this defeat was not [INAUDIBLE] because of the failure in the ideological battlefield in the post '60 eras and also by the time when the Union Soviet dissolved and when China opened up to the foreign capital.
We always heard a story telling us that the failure of the first wave of Communism is due to an authoritarian party state and inevitable bureaucratic and ossifying state organ, stagnancy of economic development, suppression of individual freedom, and chaos of cultural revolution, especially in China. So this story repeat and repeat again, become a common sense for us to understand what is happening in the Communist struggle.
I will say that no theory, no revolution. So in order to ignite the revolutionary imagination of a future Communist movement, two Western left theories, Alain Badiou and Alessandro Russo, these two theorists try to [INAUDIBLE] Communism form a slice of history to a dialectic of history. So these two theorists really seriously revisit the '60s in general, and the Cultural Revolution in specific.
And according to them, especially Badiou, they try to understand the failure in this way. They think all the problem is because of the form of the party. So they say that we know today that all emancipatory politics must put the end to the mode of party or of multiple parties in order to affirm a politics without party. So the Cultural Revolution, according to Badiou, was seen as the last revolution of Communism as it contains a [INAUDIBLE] politics moving beyond the party. But it fails. It fails because Mao is also a man of the party state. He wants its renovation, even a violent one, but not its destruction.
So moving from Alain Badiou to Alessandro Russo, he also tried to point out that the whole politics of the '60s is to question the value of party in all the-- in both the capitalist and the socialist societies. So by arguing the questioning of the party state through the masses' understanding, they dismissed the real problem of class and also the existence of class enemies, and they turned this real historical agent into an abstract form of party state. Obviously, the form of party state is a [INAUDIBLE] problem. But this problem reflects class conflict. So only by resolving the class conflicts we can resolving the party state. So it's not vice versa. But these two Western leftists, they try to move our way the real enemies to a kind of abstract from.
So if you look at Mao's literature, he always liked to view the real enemies. He always asks, who is the real enemies? Who is our friends? So one year before Mao's dying, that is, 1975, I mean he already openly say this-- "The bourgeoisie is in the Communist Party." That means that the real enemy is the bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie is hiding in the Party. And now this Party become the form of the party state.
Obviously, the form matters. However, to Mao, the bourgeoisie is the real historical subject that holds power over the Party and turn it into a class party. And this is the reason to [INAUDIBLE] the Cultural Revolution to smash the Party from the power of the masses. So this is why the Jasic students call to return to the Communism.
So I move from the second call to the third call, that is, the call to the Mao's mass line. I'm not quite sure are you familiar with Mao's language, but mass line is really the method of revolution. So moving beyond Leninist party line, Mao's method of revolution was the mass line, which is what the Jasic support group has upheld, calling upon support from students, workers, peasants, journalism, lawyers, leftists, [INAUDIBLE] such as retired cadre, and all sorts of activists over the country. But what is mass line? [SPEAKING CHINESE]
If we look into Mao's literature immediately after the May 4th Movement in 1919-- there's 100 years ago exactly-- Mao wrote in an article called "The Great Union of the Popular Masses" in which he stated, "The decadence of the state, the suffering of humanity, the darkness of society have all reached an extreme. To be sure, among the methods of improvement and reform, education, industrialization, strenuous efforts, creation, destruction, construction are all right. But there is a method more fundamental on all this, which is that of the great union of the popular masses."
So who are the masses? Who are the masses? Mao put it in this way-- "We are the peasants, so we want to unite with others who cultivates the land like we do." So the peasants, obviously, are the major component of the masses. "We are the workers. We wish to unite with others who work like ourselves. "We are the students. We are already living in the 20th century." That means they demand a modern China. "We are women. We are sunk even deeper in a sea of bitterness, so we want to carry out our union."
So this mass line, I would say, forms the basis of the CCP, and that is the Chinese Communist Party. There is always a slogan when the Communist Party tries to organize the revolution. There is "all for the masses," "all rely on the masses," "from the masses and to the masses." So the mass line, in contrast to the conventional party line, is not just a political propaganda, but indeed it's a description of an organic revolutionary politics as well.
So the mass line is an inventive class politics. The masses become a political category as well as the political party. So the political party is part of the mass politics, and vice versa. So these two define each other. And the immediately outcome of the May 4th Movement was the birth of CCP-- we all know this part of history-- who serve as the vanguard of the working class, leading the masses to carry the Communist revolution.
So before the coming of the violent war with Japan and the Kuomintang, this nationalist party, the forms of organizing CCP was actually very vibrant and variance. So they formed study groups. They formed even in school. They entering into workplace, setting up trade union, peasant union, and women's group, among all these under common form for the CCP to use it.
So the masses study group were formed on campus, and the student of Peking University [INAUDIBLE] who set up [INAUDIBLE] even in school for organizing railway workers in 27 factories in suburban Beijing. That is in early 20th century history. So together with a workers leader [INAUDIBLE] had formed trade union and also organized the worker's struggles, signaling the beginning of the labor movement led by the masses study group in China.
So in similar occasion, Mao went to [INAUDIBLE]. [INAUDIBLE] is a famous site of mining industry where workers were very anxious to set up a union in order to fight for the class interest. So entering the workplace, eating with workers, living with workers, living together workers, and working with workers, these three principle, eating, living, and working with workers, they are the essential principle affirming the revolutionary tradition when the leftist student went to organize the workers.
So self-transformation to be workers was the body politics that shift the student-workers unity inspiring to transform the society, self-transforming yourself to become part of the workers group. So it's not really the student coming from [INAUDIBLE] and the workers coming [INAUDIBLE] so the students support the workers. The [INAUDIBLE] is not like this.
According to the mass line, the students have to transform themselves to become part of the workers' group. So this is how the tradition in the May 4th Movement given to the existing students and workers. Many move quickly. The students, including myself, we understand that 1949 to so many people is the success of the Communist revolution. But to us, it's an unfinished revolution.
So 1949 is not the final victory of the Communist revolution. Instead, it signals a new beginning in a new era of continuous revolution. By nature, China's revolution of 1949 is a product of socialism in one country, surrounded by strong bourgeoisie [INAUDIBLE] in the New World Order. So by 1949, what the CCP has achieved was national unification and the eviction of foreign imperial powers. So expel those foreign imperial powers and also the capital to Taiwan. But it's still a long way to have the revolution being success.
So the transition to socialism was not yet to come, including the process of whittling away of the party state. While the majority of the leadership of the CCP, they shift all the political energy to focus on the economic reconstruction-- socialist construction. Mao was the only one who never kept an eye away from politics and potential enemies. So the enemies with a gun, especially foreign imperial powers, were very easy to identify according to Mao. And Mao always tried to remind people.
But who were the enemies after revolution? Do we still have enemies after the revolution? Obviously, when the land lord classes and the old bureaucratic bourgeoisie were gone. But according to the Maoists at least, we can identify five kind of internal enemies. The first term is the old civil servants inherited from Kuomintang, from the nationalist party who were in the new government-- in the new socialist government.
And the second term as the intellectual of the old [INAUDIBLE] who still prefer a hierarchical society, and including the liberal intellectual who believed in Western parliamentary politics. And the third term of potential enemy is the national bourgeoisie and its supporters who are not willing to transform themselves. And the fourth term is the rich and the middle peasants, both from the liberation period or the newly emerged period after the land reform in the early '50s who were not willing to join the collectivization movement.
And the last one, and also the most important one, is the party revisionists and the elite who refuse and may not agree to the light of socialist construction and radical politics for social change. Obviously, I'm not going to say that all these enemies, they have been correctly identified, and some of them even wrongly accused and sentenced. But equally wrong is that we don't think there's no more internal class enemies inside China.
So it is quite hard to convince everybody that there is no internal enemies or class conflict at all in Maoist China. And because of the failure of struggle with this internal class enemies, the Cultural Revolution failed, and we are now into the reform period. So if we look at the literature of Stuart Schram who is the expert in studying Mao Zedong's thought, he tried to understand Mao in this way. He says that Mao Zedong developed a theory of dialectic of revolution.
As the socialist revolution developed, Mao Zedong understood the force of opposition as contradiction amongst peoples as well as class contradiction. So the development of a dialectic of revolution for the Communist movement in history and in future is not simply to [INAUDIBLE] internal rivals, but also a calling for deepening of revolution, trying to resolve contradiction among people and between humans and nature.
So Stuart Schram put it this way-- "Mao's dialectic of revolution translated a concept of men, society, and the universe in ceaseless and ending flux which has no real parallel in Soviet Union thought." So this is why I'm not quite sure whether you can really understand what I'm trying to say, but this is really what the left [INAUDIBLE] they have been discussed seriously among themselves. So this is the return to Mao's mass line and also the concept of continuous revolution.
So to conclude my talk today, I just want to let you know that the ideal of Communism, obviously, was finished, but not the structure of it. This is the historical origin of the struggle-- of the Jasic struggle presents in the form of student-worker unity calling to challenge ideological justification of the self-proclaimed socialist regime. And the return to class politics, the return to Communism, and the return of the Maoist mass line all lay the foundation of the left movement of workers and students in China.
Moving beyond a civil society and labor NGO framework to recall the Maoist mass line and the reactivation of class politics will shape the labor struggles firmly in the direction of transgressing capitalism and approaching a truly Communism. So let me stop here. And I'm quite sure we're going to have a debate. Thank you.
ELI FRIEDMAND: Great. Thanks very much, Pun Ngai. We have a few minutes for questions, so I'll open it up. Maybe I'll take a handful of questions to begin with. Yeah, right here.
AUDIENCE: I have fundamental disagreement what you're saying. Mao was a Stalinist. Stalin believe in socialism in one country. He murdered the entire opposition of the Bolshevik party when he came to Power. Mao talks about the Bloc of Four Classes. He [INAUDIBLE] the nationalists in there. The only problem for him were the running dog imperialists. It's impossible for China to become what it came without Mao setting up the stage for this to happen in the first place.
By the early 1920s, the opposition was already annihilated in China. By 1927, Mao brought the working class into the Kuomintang to be slaughtered during that period of revolution. Mao is integrally responsible for what's going on in China now. And I think as long as we argue that Mao is a Marxist in anyway and that he's a Communist in any way would mean you'd be going down the same track to-- capitalism wasn't instituted not-- during the period of Mao.
Mao didn't even support the peasants taking the land away from the landlords. When the workers went out on strike, then he sent out the Revolutionary Guards against the workers. Mao is no way in any way, shape, or form an internationalist, a Communist, a Marxist. He was a supporter of Stalin, as I said, who completely annihilated the Bolshevik Party and supported the idea of socialism in one country. So I completely and fundamentally disagree with your premise.
ELI FRIEDMAND: OK. Thank you. Right behind you.
AUDIENCE: Thank you very much, Professor Pun, for your excellent talk. And I note that there is a kind of glaring oversight in the introduction of the participants in Eli's opening remarks as far as in the timeline that Sophie presented us with. I have been observing this event for a long time, and I observed that a lot of retired party cadres and older workers participated in the protest.
This group of participants, they didn't act as a very cohesive subgroup of the group members, but they had a lot of visibility, not only in photos taken of the support group members, but also on the support group website in the form of blog articles. And these people somehow were exempted from the mass arrests. Therefore, it is kind of understandable that they are not that represented in the timeline. But I still wonder about the intention behind or the reason for this oversight. Thank you.
ELI FRIEDMAND: And one final question. This man right here. Could you pass the microphone?
AUDIENCE: Thank you guys so much. I was wondering, are these Marxist societies and neo-Marxist movements in any way related to Bo Xilai, who was trying to start a neo-Maoist campaign in Chongqing? And I think there is a party that started in support of Bo Xilai. Thank you.
ELI FRIEDMAND: OK. You can respond.
PUN NGAI: OK. The last one is the easy one. Can you hear me? [INAUDIBLE] According to me understanding, I think there's no connection between Bo Xilai's group and this [INAUDIBLE] group. So I would say that these Marxist student groups, actually they have their own tradition, because at every university in China, we have a Marxist faculty. So everybody actually were asked to study those official texts, classic Marx, Lenin, and Mao Zedong, especially classic [INAUDIBLE].
So under those faculties, all the society [INAUDIBLE] their own student society. So they have their own tradition and own legacy. And this group, I would say that they have an experience like more than 10 years. They get involved with supporting the migrant rights, including the construction workers, Foxconn workers, and all sort of at campus. They organize the workers on their campus, like security guard and also the [INAUDIBLE]. So this is form the basic character of-- or basic features of these student groups.
And why-- oh, yeah. Do you want to respond to this [INAUDIBLE]? Obviously because they are the retired cadre and also some of them, they are the left and netizens. That means that they just observe online. So I don't think the Chinese government will really arrest everybody. And this is not the case because always say there are over thousands and thousands people [INAUDIBLE] to this struggle. So they arrest, of course, the leading one and also the co-activists.
Yeah, the Maos. Because we have different understanding of the history. I one agree that-- because Mao-- so the Kuomintang push the Communists in 1927 is the reverse is because the Soviet Union order [INAUDIBLE] the Third International Committee, they order the CCP to join the Kuomintang. So [INAUDIBLE] and push in the early 1937. But we have different understanding of Mao. That's OK.
ELI FRIEDMAND: We have time for just one final question. Yeah, there in the back.
AUDIENCE: With regard to [INAUDIBLE].
PUN NGAI: Yeah.
AUDIENCE: Hi. Progressive Pun, with regards to the erasure of class analysis in China, what do you make of this discussion of strata [INAUDIBLE] right now, of migrant workers being a part of 10 or so strata in China. What do you think that does to the idea of class conflict?
PUN NGAI: You mean the migrant? Because actually, all my studies is about migrant labor. And obviously, when we talk about the formation of the new working class, it covers not only migrant labor. Obviously, you cover the [? state ?] lay off workers, and also the newly university graduate, especially the newly [INAUDIBLE] the number is really huge. Every year, we have nine million. So this nine million student union that we-- they have to join the labor market and then join through the global capitalism competition. So they also create a new labor subject to formulate the new working class. So that provide the base for the struggle.
ELI FRIEDMAND: Thanks very much.
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This is the keynote presentation as part of “Jasic Conflagration: Assessing the State of Labor Politics in China”, a symposium organized by the HKU-Cornell Global China Program on Labor and Migration. The symposium features speakers reflecting on how the incident has implicated so many social actors - students, feminists, leftists, NGOs, and lawyers - and to think about what this case reveals about shifting politics in the Xi era.
Introductory remarks by Eli Friedman, Associate Professor of International and Comparative LaborPresenters: Pun Ngai & Sophie Chen