Workers and Workplaces in Revolutionary China

Workers and Workplaces in Revolutionary China

Workers and Workplaces in Revolutionary China

Workers and Workplaces in Revolutionary China

Excerpt

Stephen Andors

In the winter of 1973-74, some of the workers on one of the loading docks in a district of Shanghai harbor put up a bigcharacter poster, or "ta-tzu-pao." They urged their fellow workers to "be the masters of the wharf" and not "the slaves of tonnage." They went on to argue that the use of bonuses and money incentives related to the absolute levels of tonnage they handled ultimately led to inefficiency, mitigated against worker involvement in planning and technical innovation, and generated wasteful competition between work squads. The editors of Jenmin jih-pao (People's Daily) noted that the issues raised were of fundamental political significance in socialist society.

In the winter of 1948, a worker on the Shanghai docks named Little Number Four Son Hsia froze to death during a snowstorm because he could find no sheltered place to sleep. His fellow workers fortunate enough to find room huddled in the foul smelling, freezing public toilets along the sprawling treaty port's shoreline, while many others were forced to sleep in semi-sheltered areas out-of-doors.

These are only two of the many similar images which emerge so starkly from the materials presented in the pages that follow. They illustrate not only the enormous material improvements which have characterized China's industrial and economic transformation, but also the nature of the political vision which has informed the daily life of the Chinese working class. This book begins and ends with descriptions of the Shanghai docks . . .

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