The debate on the Jasic Struggle

Steven Chan

17th January, 2019

Last July, 89 workers at the Jasic company in Shenzhen applied to found a workplace union but their application was refused and later their leaders were temporarily arrested. This escalated the confrontation between workers and the local authority, and several dozen Maoist students from all over the country came to support the workers under the umbrella organization of the Jasic Workers’ Support Group. The authorities responded with further arrests, and in total 38 workers and supporters were arrested or went missing. Last August, after the first arrest, there were already some debates outside Mainland China, involving those who are in solidarity with the Jasic workers but who hold different views over the issue of the evaluation of the situation and tactics chosen. Professor Pan Yi of the University of Hong Kong published a Chinese article in the BBC arguing that a high tide for the Chinese workers movement had arrived. This was disputed by Hong Kong activist Au Loong Yu in his essay in Ming Pao Daily. Among Chinese labor activists there had already been heated internal debate as well, mostly about the tactics chosen by the Jasic Workers’ Support Group, but it did not go public until the Support Group made its first response to internal criticism on 18th November 2018. In their Debate and Reflection within the Jasic Campaign, the Jasic Workers Support Group replied to their critics as follow:

“We have suffered the partial loss of good Marxists… but let us not forget that the campaign also has had some achievements…..It is unfair to criticize the Jasic campaign as ‘divorced’ from common Jasic workers, or for being developed outside the factory, or for students taking over the role of the campaign subject……Under the situation where several workers had already been laid off, they could only choose to continue to resist outside the factory gate. After the arrest of workers and supporters, the left wing students could only choose to protest against the local government……In the course of campaigning making tactical mistakes is inevitable, and there are grounds for improvement in relation to tactics, for instance whether occupying the police station was too radical……The Jasic workers’ struggle, followed by support actions, in themselves are both inevitable and necessary…..That workers go beyond pure economic struggles and began to take up the demand for institutional (change), i.e, for the right to union organizing……this also determines that the struggle must go beyond the factory….. When there are people who were brave enough to try, shouldn’t they be supported?”

There was a whisper that the older Maoists in Beijing disagreed with the Support Group who are mainly students. Red China, an outspoken Maoist website, remained silent publicly until early January 2019, when it began to release a series of articles heavily criticizing the Jasic Workers’ Support Group for being “adventuristic”. In A Proposal to Young Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Leftist Activists from the Red China Working Group it said:

The Jasic Workers’ Support Group “thought that Chinese workers’ struggle must develop along the lines of their counterparts in Europe, the US, Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, i.e, to fight for the building of a regular and open trade union first, …..followed by the struggle for bourgeoisie democracy.” But under the Chinese situation this is impossible. Rather, “the future Chinese revolution will neither take the road of the October Revolution, nor the road of Jinggangshan,[1] nor will it first go through a period of stable bourgeoisie democracy”. The correct path should rather be “establishing local workers and farmers governments”, “made possible when the central government is weakened during the phase of an eruption of crisis”. These local revolutionary governments “will not reside along coastal areas, rather they will spring up in interior China,” and the mission of Chinese Marxist-Leninist-Maoist leftists is to “turn their eyes to the laboring classes in the interior provinces and cities.”

The article further described students as “part of the petty bourgeoisie,…who belong to the petty bourgeoisie social movement, not the proletarian social movement, nor are they part of the proletarian revolution.”

A second article, Comrade Yan Yuanzhang and the Struggle Experience of the “Eight Youth Concern Group”, by Yuanhang yihao, before dealing with tactical matters in the Jasic struggle, first traced the evolution of the core members of the Jasic Workers’ Support Group from 2017 onwards when they were involved in holding leftist classes in Guangdong and eight of them were arrested. Yan Yuanzhang is Red China’s core leader, who had helped to set up the “Eight Youth Concern Group” to support the arrested eight. The eight were released eventually. This article described in detail how, back in 2017-8, there had been disagreement over tactics and approaches between the core student leaders, who later led the Jasic struggle, and the Red China people. This disagreement has been widening since the Jasic struggle broke out last May. :

 

“Although comrade Yan Yuanzhang, right from the beginning, did not agree with the Support Group’s incorrect line, Yan pointed out that ….we should nevertheless try with our utmost effort to reduce losses.” “Yan suggested to the Support Group to retreat on their own initiative so as to reduce losses. The main responsible person from the ‘eight youth’ was aware that the struggle was defeated, yet they insisted that leftist students from all over the country should go to Shenzhen to express solidarity (with the Jasic struggle), which eventually led to the full-scale arrest of activists at the end of July. After the repression at the end of August the Support Group continued their adventurist line and accused leftist comrades for their ‘failure of not coming forward’.”

“Eventually, when defeat was obvious, they further gambled away their last stake – progressive student forces from all over the country that had taken years to develop. Every step they took put forward demands that were not possible to realize, and then when they were thrown onto the defensive they not only failed to reflect but rather acted like a gambler who gambles even more after repeatedly losing the game with even bigger stakes, and….ultimately lost all the stakes the gambler once owned.”

There are more debates on the topic between the two sides including outside Mainland China, see the links below:

The Jasic Mobilisation– A High Tide for Chinese Labour Movement? (English)

By Au Loong Yu

Our Reply to Yuanhang yihao (Chinese)

By Philadelphia, Jasic Workers Support Group

The Lesson of the Defeat of the Jasic Workers and the Jasic Workers Support Group must be drawn (Chinese)

By Yuanhang yihao, Red China.

The Debate with the Red China Armchair Leftist Comrades

By Youlin

[1] Referring to the mountain where Mao first established his guerrilla base in 1927.

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