From Radio Free Asia, via ncn.com, translated by David Kelly:
The 21st century Economic Herald recently published a report entitled “New target of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions: 10 million rural migrant workers join the union.” About a year ago, some PRC media reported that Hu Jintao’s “devoted teacher” in politics, former Politburo Standing Committee member Song Ping, had proposed during a tour of inspection that to safeguard their rights the rural migrant workers must all be incorporated into the government-run trade union. My thought at the time was that the old Bolshevik could only be dreaming this. The news report has got me believing that Hu Jintao really seems to want to carry out the old man’s instruction.
Guo Wencai, Head of the All-China Federation of Trade Union’s Grassroots Work Department, revealed in an interview that the key point of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions in 2006 was to impel workers in foreign enterprises to join the union, while in 2007, its target will shift to rural migrant workers, and 10 million rural migrant workers will be driven in to join.
Everybody is clear that it’s one thing to use government pressure to force foreign enterprises to accept the government operated trade union, but it’s another to incorporate a billion rural migrant workers dispersed in various enterprises into it. People can’t help but ask whether the regime has ability to do this? And even if it does, what will be the result?
As all politically literate people know, if worker’s rights are to be fleshed out, the most effective means is to give them the right to organize their own autonomous trade unions. The CPC is, however, clearer than anybody that the first to be threatened by autonomous trade unions will not be the capitalists, but the political power of the Communist Party. Therefore, for many years the CCP regime has always resourcefully suppressed any sparks of spontaneous worker organization. But, facing the serious social consequences caused by the decline of worker’s rights, the PRC rulers realize that the great imbalance between rural migrant workers and the power of capital poses an ever greater threat to the Party’s political power. Under the pressure of an ever greater crisis, the higher levels of the Party have written the prescription of bringing the rural migrant workers into the government union.
The question is, can local officials accept this prescription given the intimate collusion of local organs of state power with local capital? Would they not draw fire on themselves by doing so? It would now seem that there is absolutely no way the local authorities could accept this prescription. First, the conflict between external mingong and capital is intensifying, posing serious threats to stability and public security in the coastal cities; Second, some authorities in regions which produce large numbers of mingong understand the advantage to their own political and economic interests of safeguarding mingong rights and interests, hence, some local officials are motivated to organize the outgoing workers, to safeguard their rights and interests in the outside areas, and not immediately endanger the political stability of their locality.
According to the 21st Century Economic Herald report, Xinyang county in Sichuan which outputs 170,000 rural migrant workers a year, has absorbed a great number of rural migrant workers into the government-run trade union in that area, and tried to link up with such unions in the outside areas to gain their agreement, in places where external workers are concentrated like Shanghai, Guangdong, Xinjiang, Suzhou, Hangzhou, to establish a federation of over 40 migrant workers’ trade unions, accepting the leadership of the local government-run trade union. If this kind of kind of arrangement can be comprehensively extended in China, it may possibly incorporate a considerable number of mingong into the government-run trade union system.
The regime is attempting to do so to enhance the ability of the mingong to safeguard their rights. No matter how these efforts progress, it is an important trend which is worth paying attention to. If the regime fails completely, it will imply even more rapid development of China’s social crisis. If they actually achieve their goal and successfully incorporate a majority of mingong into the govern¬≠ment-run trade union, and enhance their ability to safeguard their rights, this could facilitate a new pattern of social power.
The regime of course hopes that this new pattern of power will be advantageous to extending one-party dictatorship and unification, but, once the millions of mingong have tasted the benefit of organized rights defence, what kind of political institutions their awakened political consciousness will choose, will perhaps be beyond the control of the CCP’s rulers. They of course understand this point, but do they have any other options?