Chinese workers show a new approach to class warfare: kill the boss.

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N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture
Chinese workers show a new approach to class warfare: kill the boss.

Michael Perelman reports on some labour struggles in China.

In July, Chinese workers murdered beat an executive to death in protesting an immanent privatization of their steel mill.

Says Perelman: "The state responded by halting the sale."

While not condoning violence, the role of the state is interesting here. China is not always known for respecting the interests of those who stand in the way of what we in the United States call economic progress. I would assume that a violent military response would occur here (unless the union would reorganize as a bank). Instead, the Chinese negotiated with the workers.

I assume that some sort of punishments will be meted out, but even so, I am amazed at what happened.


N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

NY Times wrote:
"The success of Linzhou's steel workers in blocking privatization could embolden workers in other industries, experts on Chinese labor issues said on Sunday. "It is no longer possible to push through privatization regardless, without considering the workers' interests," said Geoffrey Crothall, a spokesman for the China Labor Bulletin, a labor rights advocacy group based in Hong Kong."

Snert Snert's picture


When a bunch of citizens and students protest in Tiananmen Square, send in the tanks and murder 200+ people.

When a few workers murder their supervisor, give them whatever they want.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Class warfare goes all the way. Certainly, the number of examples of bosses killing workers, or using the state to do so, is endless.

But it's interesting to see workers in a country full of fake unions (Wal-Mart allows them in China but in no other country of the world) take such an extreme step.


What they need now is a market in leg breaking to put the heavy on workers like that. Imagine Nortel workers raising holy old hell about that companies' problems with mismanagement leading to the firesale. I can't. Canada's bobbys would be all over them beating them senseless with truncheons and tear gassing them what few hundred would dare show up to a rally. Canadians wouldnt say shit if they had a mouthful.

Snert Snert's picture

What they need — and I'd have assumed they had — was some sort of legitimate input into the situation.  What's the point of "The People's" Steel Factory, if the People have no apparatus whatsoever by which to participate in controlling it?  A Union?  Elections?  A governing Council?  What's the point of Communism if you don't even get that?

remind remind's picture

They apparently did/do have the ability to proivide input. :D


Can anyone recommend any credible reading material about workers' rights (if any), unions, etc. in China? I confess to abysmal ignorance on that score.


N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture


the government sponsored All-China Federation of Trade Unions

the China Labour Bulletin (a labor rights advocacy group based in Hong Kong)

maybe the global LaborNet as well

for a start.



I think it shows something else interesting.  Obviously, the Chinese government, unlike ours, doesn't see the late prospective owner of the steel plant as a person of authority, akin to themselves.   Seems the Chinese government has not the same cultural arrangement with business as does ours.

If they did, the workers would have been shot.


N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Tommy, if you read the story and the links associated with Perelman's story, you will see that the Chinese Army considered using deadly force but decided against it. I think the army was outnumbered and unwilling to slaughter the workers. The willingness of the workers to fight to the death may have been a factor.

In any cae, the balance of forces in any particular struggle needs to be figured out as these conflicts aren't math equations or the feverish fantasies of neo-liberal economists. Maybe the Chinese working class can teach lessons to workers elsewhere.

If the army shot the workers, the Chinese government may have faced something worse than a factory occupation.



Hmm.   Maybe so.   

I still think that if the Chinese government felt threatened, they would have used whatever they had to to deal ruthlessly with the workers.   I think in Canada, the government is so joined with business that they would not draw any distinction between workers getting together to kill the boss, or workers getting together to dismantle Parliament with pickaxes.    It's the same crime, in their eyes.  I think in China, that mindset is not there quite yet.




Our genus financial capitalists of the wild west would dearly love to take over the government in Beijing and play yo-yo with the currency, we can be sure.

Jacob Richter

1) While I do support worker struggles in China, they should've at least considered more diplomatic bossnappings.

2) Why did the original poster resort to the liberal-conservative slander of "class warfare" and not use the more appropriate term "class struggle"?

3) Most leftists see class struggle too much in the lens of classical political economy: as being merely sectional (workplaces, union struggles).  "Every class struggle is a political struggle" was what Marx and Engels realized: socially revolutionary party politics.  Where's the class-based civil disobedience (both in places like China and here in the developed world), for example?

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Chen Guojun had boasted that he would lay off most of the workers and re-establish the plant under his own name. He won't be doing that now ... from his new office 6 feet underground. I'd say that was class warfare ... on both sides.

Incidently, one can find plenty of examples where the boss orders the killing of the workers. Here is an extreme example:

William L. Shirer wrote:
Himmler's directive of February 20, 1942, was directly especially against Russian slave workers. It ordered "special treatment" also for "severe violations against discipline, including work refusal or loafing at work." In such cases

special treatment is requested. Special treatment is hanging. It should not take place in the immediate vicinity of the camp. A certain number [however] should attend the special treatment.

The term "special treatment" was a common one in Himmler's files and in Nazi parlance during the war. It meant just what Himmler in this directive said it meant.

William L. Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 950

One could go on with a million more examples. Three or four Canadian workers are killed on the job, on average, every day. It is barely newsworthy in the society we live in.


Killing workers for profit is especially common for Canadian companies operating out of the country.  The asbestos industry in Quebec is one example.  The mining corporations in Africa and Latin America are other examples.

Workers when their backs are against the wall either become slaves or they stand and fight. These workers chose to stand and fight. I personally would have preferred to see a non-violent take over of the plant and refusal to co-operate because I think in the long term violence only leads to more repression and the fascists always seem to be able to afford more and bigger weapons.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

Retired Canadian TV journalist Harvey Oberfeld calls it like he sees it (here in BC). "The war is on", he says, in relation to the atrocities against the "middle" class and the poor in BC. See War on the Middle Class on his blog.

There's no question that the bosses and their political representatives are carrying out a war against the rest of us ... over a long period of time. If political leadership can't be found  to lead a fightback then, perhaps, we shouldn't be surprised if the approach of the Chinese workers finds an echo elsewhere ...


Unionist wrote:

Can anyone recommend any credible reading material about workers' rights (if any), unions, etc. in China? I confess to abysmal ignorance on that score.



I read China and Socialism: Market Reforms and Class Struggle by Martin Hart-Landsberg and Paul Burkett (Monthly Review Press) a few years ago. It was pretty good, I thought.


Thanks, RosaL and N.Beltov.



I'd say it beats this French alternative of killing yourself.

Labour unions on Friday accused France Télécom SA of failing to do enough to tackle a spate of staff suicides that they blame on chronic restructuring at the French former state monopoly.
Eighteen workers have committed suicide or attempted to kill themselves since the beginning of 2008, including six this year, according to the company's unions.