I HAVE SEEN THE FUTURE AND IT WORKS
is an impressionistic account of a recent trip to the Far East by a
member of Wildcat. It was not published
was interesting to see how deeply rooted my Euro-centric view of the
world was. Although I knew that the center of capital accumulation
has long been transferred from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it was a
shock to see it.
is no capitalist crisis in the Far East. Here is the biggest boom in
capitalism's history. The 15 countries in the Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation produce more than half the world's GNP and about 40% of
countries with relatively modest growth rates, like Korea, are
developing faster than Britain ever did. New freeways are being built
everywhere; files of identical workers' apartment blocks stretch to
the horizon in all directions.
recently achieved 25% growth in industrial output in one year. The
human meaning of this dry statistic was made clear when I arrived in
the city of Guangzhou, in the Guangdong Special Economic Zone. Here
development knows no bounds. Armies of disposessed sleep on
newspapers on the pavement, waiting for work. All along the 150-mile
road from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, new factories are being built,
Chinese and foreign investors taking advantage of China's built-in
Third World colonies. By making small adjustments to the status quo
in the countryside, the government can release just the right number
of peasants onto the labor market at minimal wage levels. It has
become axiomatic in the West that Stalinism failed. China is a
helluvun argument against this.
they have perestroika without glasnost. The right-wing students who
were crushed in Tiananmen Square in 1989 were wrong - Chinese capital
needs the former without the latter. It has just the right mix of
development and underdevelopment, a one-party police state, social
democracy (nobody actually starves), and naked, brutal market
capitalism. If a new bloc of capitalist states emerges in the Far
East to challenge the USA, China will be its leader.
most depressing thing about the Far East is not the development, the
pollution, the lemming-race toward ecological disaster, the ugliness
of the buildings, it is the lack of resistance to all this. Billions
of people work from dawn to dusk for peanuts with scarcely a whinge.
The workers at the Hanbee Shoe Company went on strike for three
days in late February. Several hundred went on strike again in June.
They were among the largest labour protests in a country where
strikes are almost unheard of (Guardian, 17.Nov.93). This
refers to China, where people work 12 hours a day for about $30 a
there are occasional strikes in Korea, but its a drop in the ocean
compared with capital's triumphal death-march. Given the economic
boom, you might expect at least a wave of money-militancy - strikes
for higher wages and benefits which capital can afford to concede, as
in Britain in the sixties. But as yet, virtually nothing. The Far
East is the bosses' dream, and our nightmare, and there is no sign
yet of the working class waking up.
is not to say there is no struggle at all. The most encouraging sign
in China is the emergence of large bands of expropriated peasants
who rob trucks and trains, kill cops, and burn down police stations.
They are fighting against proletarianization and progress. Viva!
could be speaking too soon while the wheel's still in spin. But I
wouldn't get too excited about a strike here, or a riot there. The
working class of most of East Asia is further from being conscious of
itself than at any time in history.