The Conditions of Migrant Workers in Shenzhen: A Discussion with a Rural Migrant Workers’ Rights Activist

by Shui Mui, China Left Review (Issue # 4) — (researcher, mainly focusing on migrant workers and labor-capital relations)

In March, 2009, I interviewed a Shenzhen based migrant workers’ rights activist. The interview helps us better comprehend the current conditions of migrant workers in China.

1. Workplace Injuries

A Hong Kong NGO put out a report (Arms and Legs), which discussed workplace injuries in China. At present in Shenzhen, many factories adopted new machinery equipped with infrared technologies, which could help prevent workers’ injuries. But that didn’t mean that older machinery left the Chinese scene altogether, it just moved inland. Still, Shenzhen’s rate of workplace injuries did not decrease, they only became more intense. Many 18-25 year old workers who just started working were injured in the first few days of work. This was because at many factories there was no training for newly hired workers.

Small factories owned by local investors are well below standard. When workplace injury related incidents occur, bosses frequently jump ship. Many workers’ injuries are not covered by regulations on the books that ensure workplace injury insurance. Electronics and shoe factories use a great amount of chemicals during production, without needed measures to prevent workplace poisoning. Smaller scale factories are especially weak in this area. Most of the workers in electronics factories are women, accounting for 70-80 percent of the workforce. Their work has a great impact on their reproductive systems, and the frequency of their falling ill is quite high. This is not only a problem for individual women workers, it also affects the next generation of offspring. One of the staff at University of Science and Engineering opened a battery factory where the majority of women workers fell ill to cadmium poisoning. One of these workers gave birth to an infant with a large black stripe on its body, which no one could explain. There have emerged many new chemicals used in factories are not covered by Chinese law. It’s estimate that in the next few years, rates of factory dust related lung disease will surge. This amounts to the end of the incubation period for diseases acquired since the process of economic liberalization began. Grinder’s disease, especially prevalent among miners, has already ended countless workers’ lives. Others with the disease are simply waiting to die.

Since the labor shortage that started in 2004, it should be noted that women workers are also finding it easier to secure jobs. Because women are regarded as more physically nimble, more obedient thanks to traditional culture in the countryside, much like previous generations of women workers in Korea, factory owners are predisposed to hiring them. Furthermore, if women workers look to fight for their rights, they typically have a much harder time than male counterparts. Continue reading

Xenophoia Alert: “Anti-immigrant ‘Golden Dawn’ rises in Greece”

The rise of Greece’s Golden Dawn: Ultranationalist party raises fears as it builds a network of public aid reserved only for Greek citizens and is accused of violence against immigrants.

[Xenophobia is a most basic weapon against the working class when the capitalist and imperialist attacks are waged with great and desperate aggression.  The challenge to confront these malevolent movements, to expose their puppetmasters, and to defeat their attacks is a major challenge for the revolutionary proletariat, in Greece and everywhere. — Frontlines ed.]

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By Anthony Faiola, Washington Post,  October 20, 2012

ATHENS — At first glance, the shop on a nondescript street in this chaotic capital looks standard-issue military. Fatigues. Camouflage. Hunting gear. Deeper inside, the political message emerges. Black T-shirts emblazoned with modified swastikas — the symbol of the far-right Golden Dawn party — are on sale. A proudly displayed sticker carries a favorite party slogan: “Get the Stench out of Greece.”

By “stench,” the Golden Dawn — which won its first-ever seats in the Greek Parliament this spring and whose popularity has soared ever since — means immigrants, broadly defined as anyone not of Greek ancestry. In the country at the epicenter of Europe’s debt crisis, and where poverty and unemployment are spiking, the surplus shop doubles as one of the party’s dozens of new “help bureaus.” Hundreds of calls a day come in from desperate families seeking food, clothing and jobs, all of which the Golden Dawn is endeavoring to provide, with one major caveat: for Greeks only.

To fulfill its promise of a Greece for Greeks alone, the party appears willing to go to great lengths. Its supporters — in some instances with the alleged cooperation of police — stand accused of unleashing a rash of violence since the party rose to national office, including the stabbings and beatings of immigrants, ransacking an immigrant community center, smashing market stalls and breaking the windows of immigrant-owned shops. Continue reading

Northern Ireland: Here Comes Trouble(s) — (again)

[Typically, bourgeois Brit media characterize rebellious violence in Northern Ireland as nonsensical and anarchistic, without good or understandable cause.  This is especially true since the highly touted peace deals were consummated years ago.  But today, conditions in Northern Ireland continue to worsen for the people as the economic crisis grows.  Farmers march in protest of milk prices, mass resentment grows at plans for a celebratory visit by the hated British monarchy, provocative Orange marches are staged, and the gap between the conciliating compradors of Sinn Fein and the abused and discarded working class youth in the streets is a faultline that the powers only address with force. — Frontlines ed.]

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Police Wounded In Northern Ireland Violence

Sky’s David Blevins reports on the anarchy that emerged in Belfast as the annual Orange Order march reached an ugly end.

By David Blevins, Ireland correspondent, Sky News — Friday, July 13, 2012

Nationalist protesters face the police in Ardoyne in north Belfast after an earlier Orange parade returned back past shops in the area

At least 20 police officers have been injured during public disorder at a flashpoint in North Belfast.

Nationalist youths rioted for hours after a loyalist march on a contentious stretch of road.

The teenagers went from hurling missiles to ramming police lines with vehicles they had stolen.

Officers deployed water canon and later fired plastic bullets in an attempt to restore calm.

Police later came under gun attack. Officers escaped injury when at least 10 shots were directed at them.

Nigel Dodds, the Democratic Unionist MP, witnessed the unrest in his constituency.

“There comes a point where everybody has to stand up against people who only are interested in violence,” he said.

The Orange Order had been told it must complete its annual parade earlier than usual.

Loyalists were outraged when the Parades Commission then permitted a nationalist protest march on the road.

Tension reached breaking point when rival factions came face to face, exchanged chants and threw bottles at each other.

Not for the first time, police were caught in the middle.

Protesters clash with police in Ardoyne following an Orange Order parade in north Belfast

Gerry Kelly, a Sinn Fein member the Stormont Assembly, said: “Let’s sit down, talk this out and come to some sort of accommodation. We have had worse problems to solve.”

North Belfast witnesses similar disturbances every July but they are now being fuelled by a power struggle.

Sinn Fein had called for calm but dissident Republicans made no such appeals.

Assistant chief constable Will Kerr, the officer in charge of policing parades in Northern Ireland, encouraged “individuals and communities” affected by trouble to respond in a “calm and responsible manner”.

With the Orange Order demanding its right to walk traditional routes and Catholic residents objecting, the marching season often provides the backdrop for a period of tension on the streets.

Loyalists march to mark the victory of King William of Orange over the Catholic King James in 1690.

To some, it is tradition; to others, triumphalism and they rarely compromise.

Chinese Workers Defy the Government and Employers in Heated Riot

by

May 29, 2012

An intense protest of enraged migrant workers broke out on Tuesday in Ruian, China. The city is located in the Zhejiang, a wealthy province in China. Reuters reports that about 1,000 migrant workers proceeded to turn over an iron gate, and damaged at least a dozen cars during their protest, which was centered on a government office building.

The demonstration began in the early morning after a young worker was allegedly killed by his employer over a payment dispute. The demonstration finally ended at midday after the family of the murdered man was given 300,000 yuan in compensation, which is the equivalent of about $47,000.

Worker uprisings have been extremely common in the last decade throughout China. Just a month ago, about 200 workers threatened to protest Apple’s Foxconn factory. The protesters, who were demanding “workplace adjustments” according to Reuters, threatened to jump off the roof of the factory in a show of solidarity. Although the disagreement was quickly settled in negotiations, the incident illustrates the often tense relationship between workers in factory settings and the large corporations that run the factories. Continue reading

CPG (M-L): “The situation in Greece”

Statement of Communist Party of Greece (Marxist-Leninist):

“For Greece it is now clear that the revolutionary breakthrough of the working class and the people is irrevocably connected with the overthrow of imperialist dependence. Therefore we must exit the EU and NATO, oust the foreign bases, and break every military, political and economic bond with imperialism. The productive-economic problems of the country and foremost the debt issue cannot be seen or solved outside or before the revolutionary overthrow. It can only be seen as a whole.”

The situation in Greece

The people and the working class of Greece struggle for the overthrow of imperialist brutality and subjugation.

The situation in Greece is critical both for the people and the working class. Because of the imperialist dependence of the country, its position in the EU and the Eurozone, its military-political dependence in NATO and its military-political role as a NATO-US springboard, the social and political developments in Greece cannot be seen apart from the developments in SE Mediterranean, the M. East., N. Africa, the Balkans and the quarrels inside the EU.

All contradictions and geo-political aims of the imperialist powers in the region, along with the special but critical issue of the future of the EU, are influencing all developments in our country, having in their background the world crisis. That is the reason that Greece is in the first page of the Media something that is proportionately greater than that of other countries similar to Greece (Portugal, Ireland).

The troika mechanism and its real targets

Starting after the October 2009 elections and the troika (IMF-EU-ECB) “salvation mechanism” of May 2010 there is in motion a rapidly escalating antipopular and antilabor policy that flattens all economic-labor-social rights of the people. The imperialist powers of the EU, mainly Germany and France, aided by the strong presence of the US through the IMF, and with the pretext of the great foreign debt imposed a deeper subjugation that takes the form of a protectorate.

This mechanism gives shark loans in 3-month installments in order to pay back a portion of the huge interests. This leads to greater debt. (In 2009 the debt was 120% of GDP and now approaches 160%). But the greatest imperialist profit is not the huge amounts of money that accumulate through this loan shark imposition. The main return that they take from the country is its total destruction of any productive base, the imposition of a medieval regime as far as the labor, social, economic and political rights of the people are concerned, and the sell-out and plunder of every resource and infrastructure this country has. Continue reading

April Conference in India: “Turn the Prevailing Economic Crisis into Revolutionary Upsurge!”

Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF)

 Friends,

The first Conference of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) is going to take place at a time when the imperialist forces and their props – the ruling classes of various colonial and semi-colonial countries – are going through an unprecedented economic depression resulting in a worldwide economic crisis, a condition which is of their own making. The reactionary Indian ruling classes, being agents of imperialism, have transferred the burden of the world economic crisis to the people of this country – the masses of the people who are already grappling with acute exploitation, poverty, unemployment and deprivation of the basic necessities of life. Their purchasing power has come down drastically. They have been denied the right over jal-jangal-zameen (water, forest and land resources) and other resources. Such conditions have generated disaffection amongst vast sections of people of the subcontinent manifested as a multitude of peoples’ struggles.

Despite every effort of the Indian state to hide the gravity of the crisis in which it is, the Indian economy has been severely shaken by the worldwide economic crisis due to its increasing dependence on the imperialist economy. The exploitative ruling classes, who never tire of making tall claims about outstanding ‘growth’ and ‘development’ riding on the fortunes of an export-oriented economy aided by imperialist globalisation, have lost their sleep over the present crisis. Those who used to wax eloquently of ‘development’ citing the speculative growth in the sectors of information technology, outsourcing, real estate, etc. has now been put on the dock. Due to the imperialist domination and dependence prevalent in the Indian economy, lakhs of workers have been rendered jobless and thrown out of sphere of production. Workers in hundreds of thousands have been at the receiving end of lay-offs and pay-cuts as a result of the closure of a large number of firms in the real estate industry, export-based industries, textiles, brass industry, jewellery and metal industry, mining, and so on. Now, the introduction of Foreign Direct Investment in retail trade will render more than 50 lakh people jobless by bringing Wal-mart and other imperialist players in retail business. Students particularly in the professional courses like engineering are finding little avenues of employment even through placement agencies. At the same time, however, imperialist forces such as foreign institutional investors are siphoning off the hard-earned wealth of the working people through speculative trading in the share market which are completely cut off from the real economy.

The impact of the economic crisis is evident in each and every sector of the Indian economy. The worst ever economic depression since the Great Depression in the 1930s has further deepened the agrarian crisis. As the demand of ‘Land to the Tiller’ remain yet as a tall promise with the ruling class bereft of any political will to fulfil the demand, the impact of the economic crisis on the working people engaged in agriculture has been very severe. The growing dependence of the rural masses on the agrarian sector has strengthened the landowners and moneylenders in the countryside, and has given them the opportunity to continue their exploitation and oppression. This exploitation and oppression takes the concrete form of caste-atrocities and caste-violence, the number of which is on the rise all over the country. Khairlanji, Lathor, Mirchpur incidents provide glaring evidence of this fact. More than 2.5 lakh peasants and agricultural workers have been forced to commit suicide in the last fifteen years due to the anti-peasant policies of the Indian state. In spite of this devastation, the imperialist stranglehold over Indian agriculture is being further tightened in the name of Second Generation Reforms and the Second Green revolution. Continue reading

General strike brings Greece to a standstill as public sector closes down

Protesters flood into streets of Athens

in Athens

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 5 October 2011

Greeks protesting in Athens over the austerity measures. Photograph: KeystoneUSA-Zuma/Rex Features

Greece edged deeper into chaos as workers brought the country to a standstill with a general strike.

The closure of the entire public sector – from schools to hospitals to government offices – left Athens airport looking like a ghost town and kept museums and archaeological sites shut.

Anger was evident on the faces of the protesters who flooded into the streets. “We have no work, we have no money,” they screamed, denouncing the EU and IMF which have propped up the near-bankrupt Greek economy with rescue funds. “Erase the debt! Let the rich pay. There will, there can, be no more sacrifices.”

Nearly two years after Europe‘s great debt crisis erupted beneath the Acropolis, the people on its frontline have clearly had enough. An austerity programme that has begun to resemble a bad dream of relentless wage cuts, tax increases, price rises and pension drops has crushed the middle class and sent poverty levels soaring.

Wednesday’s demonstrations, the biggest anti-austerity protest since June, were the “beginning of a battle” to eradicate further emergency belt-tightening measures announced last month.

“The government is behaving as if it has a pistol to its head,” said Stathis Anestis, a spokesman for the Confederation of Greek Unions. “It is not just that it is the poor who are forced to carry the burden of this barrage of measures,” he insisted, denouncing the terms of the €110bn (£95bn) bailout Greece received from the EU and IMF in May last year.

“It’s not just that all our hard-earned rights are being peeled away. It is that we wake up every day to another cut, another tax, another pay rise. No one can keep up!” Continue reading