Cambodia: Long Live the Heroic Struggle of the Textile Workers!

Prepare for a General Strike! Build an Independent Workers Party! Fight for a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government!

Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 18.1.2014,


1.            Hundreds of thousands of Cambodian textile workers – most of them women – are engaged in a heroic struggle for higher minimum wages. Their protests have been met with brutal repression by the police unleashed by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen. At least four workers have been killed and many hurt. Cambodia is a poor semi-colonial country which is largely dependent on and exploited by Chinese imperialism. Its garment and shoe factories are of key importance for the globalized world economy, and the imperialist capital extracts huge extra profits through super-exploitation of the Cambodian workers. The key task is to transform the bold struggle of the textile workers into a general strike for better working conditions and against the government. At the same time it is urgent to build an independent political alternative of the working class – a new mass workers’ party – which will fight for a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.

2.            Cambodia’s textile workers are engaged in a militant struggle to raise their extremely low minimum wages from US$80 per month to US$160. In addition they demand – among other things – that employers provide a food allowance of US$3 per day (covering three meals), and that the army and police stay out of labor conflicts. They started their struggle on December 24th, and on 3 January – when the strike involved hundreds of thousands of workers – the military intervened and killed and injured dozens of workers. The struggle is led by a broad united front of various trade unions like the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union, the National Independent Federation Textile Union of Cambodia, the Collective Union of the Movement of Workers, the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Union, the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Worker Friendship Union Federation, and the Independent Youth Union Confederation. (For details, see the interview with Chrek Sophea in the Green Left Weekly, January 14, 2014,

3.            Female and male workers have fought back bravely against the police and military and have even set some factories on fire. The violent character of the class struggle demonstrates once more the dangerous illusion spread by social democrats, Stalinists, and various centrists (like the CWI and IMT), that a peaceful road to socialism is possible. The Cambodian events rather prove the famous statement of Marx and Engels at the end of the Communist Manifesto that, in their struggle against the capitalist class, the working class cannot achieve their goals without a forcible struggle.

4.            Cambodia is a poor semi-colonial country of 15 million people. Its economy is still largely agricultural, the sector in which 60.1% of the country’s labor force is working (2010). However it is also home to a small but rapidly growing industry (13.1% of the labor force). The most important sector of Cambodia’s industry is the clothing sector (garment and shoe) which employs about 700,000 workers – 92% of them are women – and accounts for 20% of the country’s GDP and 80% of its exports.

5.            The country is totally dominated by Great Powers and the imperialist world market. 63.8% of Cambodia’s capital formation has its origin in foreign corporations. Given its low wages, Cambodia is an attractive destination for imperialist corporations. Among the foreign investors, China is the largest, with nearly 24% of all Foreign Direct Investment. The textile industry is an example of Cambodia’s dependence of imperialist corporations. Only 7.6% of its textile enterprises are owned by Cambodians, while two-third of the industry are controlled by China (41.3%, including 21.5% from Hong Kong) and Taiwan (24.6%). At the same time, Western textile and retail corporations like Walmart, Levi Strauss, H&M, Nike, and Adidas also appropriate a significant proportion of the surplus value extracted from the Cambodian textile workers. Cambodia is an example of the world in which we are living: imperialist powers and monopolies subjugate and super-exploit the poor countries and receive a rising share of their profits from their capital exports to these semi-colonial countries. This is the world of imperialism in which the inequality and contradictions between the capitalists and the workers and poor, as well as between the imperialist countries and the semi-colonial world, are increasing.

6.            Furthermore Cambodia is highly indebted to imperialist financial capital. It has external debts equivalent to 40% of its Gross National Income. Again, Chinese banks and financial institutions are Cambodia’s largest creditor of and thereby extract huge amounts of extra-profits. The dominant position of Chinese corporations once more confirms the RCIT’s analysis of China as an emerging imperialist power which exploits poor countries around the world, and which has become a serious rival to the old imperialist powers like the US, Japan, and the EU.

7.            Cambodia has been ruled since 1981 by the thoroughly bourgeois, ex-Stalinist Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Similar, to other Stalinist parties, the CPP – which represented the Stalinist bureaucratic caste and ruled the country with the help of the Vietnamese armed forces – restored capitalism to the country in the 1990s, while retaining its political power. This demonstrates once again the Marxist assessment of the Stalinist bureaucracy as a petty-bourgeois caste which – if circumstances allow – is ready to utilize the reactionary Stalinist state apparatus (whose bourgeoisified form resembles the capitalist state apparatus and represents the opposite of a healthy workers’ state) to destroy the planned property relations and restore capitalism.

8.            While Hun Sen’s CPP represents the dominant faction of Cambodia’s bourgeoisie, which serves as a lackey for Chinese imperialism, the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP, Cambodian National Rescue Party) is the largest opposition party representing the pro-Western sector of the bourgeoisie. The Sam Rainsy Party tries to exploit the workers unrest for their own political ends. Therefore, many workers rightly refuse to support either the CPP or the SRP, and insist that the trade unions must stay independent of them.

9.            The brutal crackdown of the Hun Sen government shows that the workers have to organize a massive fightback. They need to organize self-defense units to repel the repression forces. In addition, they need to prepare for a general strike for higher wages and to eventually bring down the Hun Sen regime. Of particular importance is the need to build an independent Workers’ Party so that the working class cannot be manipulated by existing bourgeois forces like the CPP and the SRP. A militant trade union movement could play a leading role in the formation of such a Workers’ Party.

10.          Such a Workers’ Party would put together a revolutionary program which includes the expropriation of big business – including the imperialist corporations – and the nationalization of the banks under workers’ control. Another important task would be to rally the poor peasants for a program that expropriates the big landowners and foments an agrarian revolution. However, in doing so, the Workers’ Party has to patiently explain to the workers and poor peasants that sustainable democratic reform and social improvement can only be achieved if the working class takes power and creates a government of workers and poor peasants, based on councils and popular militias of armed masses.

11.          Such a Workers’ Party based on a revolutionary program must from the beginning be built in conjunction with efforts to create a new World Party of Socialist Revolution which, in our opinion, will be the Fifth Workers’ International. The RCIT looks forward to discussing these matters and collaborating with revolutionaries in Cambodia and Asia, in order to advance the formation of such a revolutionary organization.