The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Regime Contested

Dec 5, 2022

This article is translated from the Nov. 30th issue, #2834 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary workers group of that name active in France.

In China, on the weekend of November 26 and 27, picking up the baton from the Foxconn workers’ revolt, thousands of demonstrators in at least a dozen cities and in universities protested not only against the government’s zero-Covid policy, but also against its dictatorship.

The death of ten people in a burning building in Urumqi, the Uyghur capital of Xinjiang, gave new impetus to this protest movement. Like tens of millions of Chinese at the moment, the inhabitants of Urumqi have been confined under quarantine, for more than a hundred days. The health restrictions are such that the authorities chain the doors of the buildings to prevent people from leaving. For many Chinese, it was these obstacles to the arrival of help that caused the death of the ten residents of the building. After the fire, thousands revolted, taking to the streets of Urumqi and forcing the local government to announce an easing of constraints.

The Chinese government seems to be at an impasse. It sticks to its zero-Covid policy made of cynical and brutal confinements, which it imposes with its authoritarian traditions, because the coronavirus epidemic is on the rise again while few of the elders are vaccinated, and those who are vaccinated received inferior vaccines. If they were decimated by disease, it would pose other political problems for those in power. But the challenge now goes beyond the zero-Covid policy. Like a drop of water overflowing a vase that is too full, the tragedy in Urumqi has brought out hundreds of demonstrators in large cities like Beijing or Guangzhou, even thousands in Shanghai, and in universities. The demonstrators defied the regime and its police, brandishing blank pieces of white paper against the dictatorship, singing the Internationale or the Chinese anthem which begins with “Stand up! people who no longer want to be slaves,” and shouting slogans like “Xi Jinping, resign” and “Down with the Chinese Communist Party.”

All this underlines the crisis that society is going through, including layers of the petty bourgeoisie, the intellectual workers or those who aspire to rise socially. Economic development, which could allow youth to think that they could get rich, is at half-mast. Unemployment, especially among young graduates, has soared. The real estate crisis is a disaster for those who had invested in an apartment as insurance for their old age. Added to this is the concern of part of the youth in the face of rising tensions with the United States, or the nationalist and war- mongering speeches toward Taiwan.

Young people, often described as resigned and individualistic, have made this the first protest of their lives. These demonstrations, which took place across the whole country, are a first since 1989 and the revolt then crushed in blood on Tiananmen Square. They were preceded by protests from the workers imprisoned in the prison-factories a few days earlier. Xi Jinping, who at the 20th Congress of the CCP wanted to assert himself as the sole master of Chinese policy, naturally becomes their target.

On Sunday, November 27 and Monday, November 28, the government arrested many demonstrators. On Monday the 28th, government forces occupied the locations of demonstration to prohibit any gathering. Censorship on social networks has reasserted itself. Power tries to close the lid. But the power is faced with the youth whose future is blocked and above all faced with the Chinese working class, hundreds of millions strong organized in giant factories. They alone would have the means to offer a perspective to the revolt, although there is no guarantee that it will succeed.