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Worker organising under the #pandemic: reflections from #China

Below is our (Chunag) translation of an anonymous Chinese article from the mainland left blog Worker Study Room (工人自习室), originally published in May 2020. It is the only attempt we’re aware of to provide a systematic overview of workers’ lives and job conditions, labour struggles and related activism in China since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in January, although there have been accounts of individual cases, some of which are cited here. It is also written from a perspective with which we are largely sympathetic. That said, the emphasis here, as in much writing of this style, is placed on somewhat schematic and dry documentation of exact demands made within the workplace and the precise order of events, to the exclusion of any substantial inquiry into the broader psychology of proletarians confronted with a moment such as this. The piece is a good representation of what we consider to be the most fruitful left-wing current in contemporary China, which concerns itself primarily with worker inquiry and the transmission of workers’ stories between factories. At times, writing from this current can produce a “workerist” form of analysis that sometimes risks missing the forest of capitalism in the trees of individual factory struggles, and which can occasionally even fail at its own allotted tasks when its descriptions of events are too banal to hold the interest of anyone aside from other similarly workerist activists.

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