World Perspectives 2016: Chapter IV.6. The Political Situation and Class Struggle in Asia

Note of the Editorial Board: The following document is an extensive study of the present state of the world economy and the global class struggle. It contains 55 figures, 9 tables and one diagram. The figures can only be viewed in the pdf version of the document here for technical reasons.

 

97.          While other regions currently play a more central role in the world class struggle, this could change very soon given the importance of Asia and Africa. As we have pointed out in the past, Asia is not only the biggest continent and home of three Great Powers but also of 60% of the global industrial proletariat. [1] Africa, while much less industrialized, is the continent with the second-largest and fastest growing population, and is home to a rapidly growing industrial proletariat. Sub-Saharan Africa’s workforce is expected to increase by 830 million people between 2010 and 2050 (plus an additional 80 million in North Africa). Under these conditions, Africa’s workforce would represent two-thirds of the growth in the worldwide workforce during this period (see Figure 50). [2] When the working class of these two continents awakens politically and rises up, they will be proletarian giants who will shake the entire world!

 

Figure 50. Projected workforce growth, 2010-50: Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, China, India, Europe and the United States [3]

 

98.          As we have elaborated above, China has become strongly impacted by the crisis of the capitalist world economy. The party and state leadership under Xi Jinping are trying to curb the crisis by pumping billions into the economy as well by trying to regulate the stock market. Likewise, Xi is attempting to expand China’s global influence with the “One Belt, One Road“ strategy which is also an initiative to export the problems resulting from the over-accumulation of capital given the country’s vast output during the past 25 years. However, until now the regime has not been able to stop the declining growth rates of the country’s industrial production nor the slump in the stock market. At the same time, the Chinese proletariat has enormously gained in self-confidence. Since 2011, according to the Hong-Kong based China Labour Bulletin, the reported number of strikes and protests in the country has doubled every year since 2011 and in particular in the second half of 2015 (see also Figure 51 and 51). The construction industry accounted for 36% of all incidents in 2015 with manufacturing at 32%. However, until now, these workers’ protests have been mainly on economic issues.

 

 

Figure 51. Increase of Workers Protests 2012-15 [4]

 

Figure 52. Strikes and Workers Protests in China in 2015 [5]

 

 

99.          In the event of a full recession this could change, since such circumstances would undermine the legitimacy of the regime. Naturally, it is difficult to predict how such a crisis would develop. It is quite possible that the first step could be – like in 1989 at the beginning of the Tien-an-men Square movement – an open division inside the ruling party. Given the dramatic economic crisis such rifts are quiet likely. This could open the space for mass protests which at the beginning – given the lack of political experience of the Chinese working class – might rally to support one camp against the other. Likewise, revolutionaries have to be aware of the danger that, in such a situation, the ruling class might instigate a wave of Han chauvinism – which could be directed against domestic “terrorist enemies” (e.g., the Uyghurs fighting for national liberation) and/ or against enemies abroad (e.g. Japan or the US). However, this could easily get out of hand and be transformed into a revolutionary situation. As we have said above, such a possible revolutionary situation in the world biggest country and one of the two biggest imperialist powers would have global ramifications and immediately change the character of the current political phase. Revolutionaries should support all economic protests, but try to link them with the democratic struggle and with the political struggle to overthrow the Stalinist-capitalist dictatorship. They should fight against all expressions of Han chauvinism and help the workers’ vanguard to take a consistent internationalist position – i.e., against all forms of Han domination, for complete equality for all minorities and their right of national self-determination, and for an anti-imperialist stand against the expansionist plans of their ruling class. Such a perspective must be connected with a program for working class power.

 

100.        The working class in India has been on the defensive for some time. This is reflected in the decreasing number of strikes during the past 12 years and, in particular, since 2012. Between 2003 and 2014, the number of strikes and lockouts has fallen by nearly 75% (from 552 strikes and lockouts in 2003 to only 143 in 2014). The number of workers participating in strikes dwindled as well, from 1.81 million (in 2003) to one million (in 2014). In the same period, the number of person-days of work lost was reduced from 30.25 million in 2003 to 3.63 million in 2014 (see Table 9). [6] However, things might change now: An alliance of nearly all trade unions organized on 2 September 2015 declared probably the biggest general strikes in human history, with 150 million people participating.

 

 

 

Table 9: Strikes and Lockouts 2007-2015 [7]

Year                       Strikes and Lockouts                      Workers Involved                            Person-Days-Lost

                                                                                                                                                                (in thousands)

2007                       389                                                         724,574                                                 27,167

2008                       421                                                         1,579,298                                              17,433

2009                       345                                                         1,867,204                                              17,622

2010                       371                                                         1,074,473                                              23,131

2011                       370                                                         734,763                                                 14,458

2012                       447                                                         1,307,505                                              12,876

2013                       198                                                         1,057,887                                              3,665

2014                       143                                                         1,008,275                                              3,636

 

 

101.        The significant decrease in the number of strikes in recent years has gone hand in hand with the electoral victory of Narendra Modi and his right-wing Hindu-chauvinist BJP in 2014. At the same, time the traditional reformist parties – the “Communist” Parties CPI(Marxist) and the CPI – have been experiencing crises and decline. In 2011, the CPI(M) lost control over the state of West-Bengal – a state it had run since the early 1970s and which became a highly-corrupt principality of the party bosses. During their decades in power, the reformist CPI(M) bureaucrats closely collaborated with foreign monopolies and helped to expel peasants when this was demanded by the former. They also participated in the suppression of the Naxalite movement – led by the CPI(Maoist) – which has become a leading force of poor peasants and Adivasi (India’s substantial indigenous minority).

 

102.        The increasing public attention to the numerous horrible rape incidents against women have sparked a mass women’s movement which continued to take to the streets in 2015. It also led to the formation of armed militias of rural poor women who organize their defense against oppression and sexual assaults (often perpetuated by men from higher classes and castes). Such developments are a significant achievement given the difficult conditions in India, where only 31.2% of women are formally integrated into the economy. This is also true for the whole of South Asia (see Figure 53). Revolutionaries unconditionally support these protests and self-organizing and call for it to be oriented towards working class and poor women (i.e., the Dalits).

 

Figure 53. Participation of Men and Women in the Labor Force in South Asia (in %) [8]

 

103.        In Pakistan a de-facto cold coup d’état has taken place in which the army command took control while leaving the discredited and corrupt PPP government formally in place. The mass protests have declined since the days of the Inqilab and Azadi Marches in the autumn of 2014. However, important workers struggles have taken place in 2015, like those of the power workers and the protests against the privatization of public sector enterprises. Also, the heroic struggle of the Baloch people for national self-determination – despite the brutal repression by the Pakistani army – is continuing. (Pakistan is a multi-national and multi-ethnic state in which many nationalities and peoples are oppressed.) Furthermore the army – together with US forces – is continuing its war against the various factions of the Pakistani Taliban. There is no doubt that the Taliban are reactionary Islamist forces and enemies of the working class. While most Stalinists and centrists side in this war with the army, revolutionaries in Pakistan recognize that the main enemy is the powerful army (with their puppet government) and their imperialist backers. The struggle of the Taliban – who are closely linked to the Afghan Taliban – reflects the resistance of poor peasants and local ethnic groups against foreign domination.

 

104.        The electoral victory of Sirisena in the Sri Lankan presidential elections one year ago against the long-time ruler Rajapaksa – who launched the genocide of at least 40,000 Tamils in 2009 (according to the UN) – opened a new political phase in the country. Sirisena, a former member of Rajapaksa’s cabinet, collaborates closely with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his conservative UNP. Sirisena’s victory reflected both the determination of sectors of the Sinhala rural poor and Tamil and Muslim minorities to get rid of the reactionary-chauvinist Rajapaksa regime as well as a growing dissatisfaction of sectors of the Sinhala, pro-US bourgeoisie which felt uncomfortable with Rajapaksa’s Bonapartist rule which had become too idiosyncratic and pro-Chinese. However these developments unfortunately took place on the backdrop of serious defeats suffered by the working class and oppressed in recent years – in particular the historic defeat of the Tamil national liberation movement in 2009. Revolutionaries support all efforts to revitalize the workers’ movement and to strengthen the struggle for national self-determination of the Tamil people. This includes supporting the struggle of hundreds of Tamil prisoners – held under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) – for their release. Likewise, socialists call for the defense of the Muslim minority which faces chauvinist attacks organized by chauvinist Sinhala-Buddhists.

 



[1] See e.g. Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South, pp. 382-385

[2] African Development Bank, OECD and UNDP: African Economic Outlook 2015, p. xiii

[3] African Development Bank, OECD and UNDP: African Economic Outlook 2015, p. xiii

[4] Chun Han Wong: China’s Workers Stumble as Factories Stall. As factories run out of money and construction projects idle, China sees a rise in unrest, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 21, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-workers-stumble-as-factories-stall-1442885292; Keith Bradsher: Beijing’s fear of instability prompted devaluation, International New York Times, 18.8.2015

[5] China Labour Bulletin: Strikes and protests by China’s workers soar to record heights in 2015, 7 January, 2016, http://www.clb.org.hk/en/content/strikes-and-protests-china%E2%80%99s-workers-soar-record-heights-2015

[6] Prashant K. Nanda: Industrial strikes and lockouts see steep decline in India, Sep 02 2015, http://www.livemint.com/Politics/tjP4DiG7Uro95iNCiebrAO/Industrial-strikes-and-lockouts-see-steep-decline-in-India.html

[7] Prashant K. Nanda: Industrial strikes and lockouts see steep decline in India, Sep 02 2015, http://www.livemint.com/Politics/tjP4DiG7Uro95iNCiebrAO/Industrial-strikes-and-lockouts-see-steep-decline-in-India.html

[8] International Labour Office: World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2015, Geneva: ILO, 2015, p. 50