Xi Jinping’s important speech on trade unions and workers

It is at times difficult to keep up with these position papers by Xi Jinping. A couple of weeks ago he directly addressed workers at a meeting (29 October 2018) of new trade union leaders. I have yet to find an English translation, since not all are translated immediately, so here is a summary from the State Council website that was widely circulated in Chinese news services. Obviously, with socialism in power, the relationship between the communist party, trade unions and workers moves in new directions.

BEIJING — Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, called for mobilizing the country’s hundreds of millions of workers to make accomplishments in the new era and break new ground in the cause of the workers’ movement and trade unions’ work.

Xi, also president and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks during a talk with the new leadership of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) on Oct 29.

The Workers’ movement is an important part of the cause of the Party, while trade unions’ work is a regular and fundamental job for the Party’s governance, Xi said.

He urged upholding Party leadership over trade unions’ work, mobilizing hundreds of millions of workers to make accomplishments in the new era, strengthening ideological and political guidance for employees, and advancing reforms and innovations in trade unions’ work.

He told the ACFTU leadership to be brave to shoulder responsibilities, be enterprising and active, and make solid efforts to break new ground in the cause of workers’ movement and trade unions’ work in the new era.

Wang Huning, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and a member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee, joined the talk.

Xi, on behalf of the CPC Central Committee, congratulated the new leadership on the success of the 17th National Congress of the ACFTU and greeted workers, model workers and trade union workers of all ethnic groups.

Commenting on the work of the ACFTU and trade unions at all levels in the past five years, Xi said they made a lot of productive efforts in strengthening political guidance for workers, organizing employees’ work, protecting workers’ rights and interests, keeping the team of employees stable, deepening trade union reforms and innovations, and advancing Party building in the trade union system.

Trade unions should be loyal to the Party’s cause and put the principle of upholding Party leadership and the Chinese socialist system into the practice of workers, Xi said.

He stressed upholding the authority and centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee, and closely following political stance, direction, principle and path of the committee.

Trade unions should improve their ability to apply the Marxist stance, viewpoint and method to analyze and solve problems, he said.

They should align the firm implementation of the Party’s will with effective efforts to serve the workers, he said.

Xi said the working class should be fully utilized as the main force to accomplish the targets proposed at the 19th CPC National Congress.

He encouraged the country’s workers to devote themselves to their jobs, strive for excellence, and make unremitting efforts to create a happy life and a bright future.

Various competitions should be held with the theme of fostering new development philosophy, promoting high-quality development and building a modernized economy, he said. Faster work should be done to build a team of knowledgeable, skillful and innovative industrial workers, he said.

He also demanded efforts to cultivate more model and highly-skilled workers.

It is the political responsibility of trade unions to guide employees and the people in following the Party, and consolidate the class foundation and public support for the Party’s governance, Xi said. Although the times have changed, the work method of coming from the people and going to the people should not be changed, he said.

Trade unions should adapt to new situations and new tasks, he said. They should improve and strengthen ideological and political work for workers, and make more efforts to inspire the country’s workers to embrace shared ideals, convictions, values and moral standards, Xi said.

Rural workers should be included in trade unions to the largest extent to make them a new staunch and reliable force behind the working class, he said.

Online work should be taken as an important platform for trade unions to link and serve the workers and to raise their penetration, guidance and influence, he said.

Trade unions should adhere to the employee-centered working approach; focus on the most pressing, most immediate issues that concern the employees the most; and fulfill the obligation of safeguarding workers’ rights and interests and sincerely serving workers and the people, Xi said.

Work should also be done to help urban employees in difficulties out of trouble and offer timely assistance to employees who returned to poverty for different reasons, he said.

As the reform of trade unions is an important component of deepening overall reform, trade unions should meet the new requirements on reforming people’s organizations and create a working system of extensive connection to serve the workers, Xi said.

More strength and resources should be put into the community level to unite all workers around the Party, he said.

Meanwhile, the country will reinforce the education, management and supervision of trade union cadres, and improve the mechanism of linking the Party with workers and the people, he said.

Party committees and governments at all levels must implement the Party’s principle of wholeheartedly relying on the working class, and ensure the status of the working class as the master, Xi said.

The country should also improve and strengthen the Party’s leadership on the work of trade unions, move to resolve major problems in the work of those unions, build a quality and professional team of trade union cadres, and support the creative work of trade unions in accordance with laws and regulations, he added.

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On Lenin, lice, peasants and freedom: Arthur Ransome on the Russian Revolution

Some of the best materials on the Russian Revolution remain those works written at the time, especially those that capture the mood in a way that all-knowing historians pretend to do afterwards. Arthur Ransome’s two little books, Russia in 1919 and The Crisis in Russia, are great examples. He lived in Petrograd from 1903, so experienced much of it directly. He had access to the inner circles of Bolshevik leadership, attending meetings of the executive committee, interviewing the likes of Lenin, Zinoviev, Sverdlov and so on, and he was part of worker meetings and experienced every day life during the best and worst times.

Translator, folklorist, journalist, Ransome is listed in a Who’s Who at the time as a lover of ‘walking, smoking, fairy tales’. Even more: ‘It is, perhaps, his intimacy with the last named that enables him to distinguish between myth and fact and that makes his activity as an observer and recorder so valuable in a day of bewilderment and betrayal’.

A few snippets:

There was the feeling, from which we could never escape, of the creative effort of the revolution. There was the thing that distinguishes the creative from other artists, the living, vivifying expression of something hitherto hidden in the consciousness of humanity. If this book were to be an accurate record of my impressions, all the drudgery, gossip, quarrels, arguments, events and experiences it contains would have to be set against a background of that extraordinary vitality which obstinately persists in Moscow in these dark days of discomfort, disillusion, pestilence, starvation and unwanted war (Russia in 1919, p. vi-vii, in the midst of the ‘civil’ war, which included 160,000 troops from a dozen countries invading the USSR).

On the train to Moscow:

At last I tried to sleep, but the atmosphere of the carriage, of smoke, babies, stale clothes, and the peculiar smell of the Russian peasantry which no one who has known it can forget, made sleep impossible. But I travelled fairly comfortably, resolutely shutting my ears to the talk … and shifting from one bone to the another as each ached in turn from contact with the plank on which I lay (Russia in 1919, p. 10).

A discussion with Lenin:

More than ever, Lenin struck me as a happy man. Walking home from the Kremlin, I tried to think of any other man of his calibre who had a similar joyous temperament. I could think of none. This little, bald-headed, wrinkled man, who tilts his chair this way and that, laughing over one thing or another, ready at any minute to give serious advice to any who interrupt him to ask for it, advice so well reasoned that it is to his followers far more compelling than any command, every one of his wrinkles is a wrinkle of laughter, not of worry. I think the reason must be that he is the first great leader who utterly discounts the value of his own personality. He is quite without personal ambition. More than that, he believes, as a Marxist, in the movement of the masses which, with or without him, would still move. His whole faith is in the elemental forces that move people, his faith in himself is merely his belief that he justly estimates the direction of those forces. He does not believe that any man could make or stop the revolution which he thinks is inevitable. If the Russian revolution fails, according to him, it fails only temporarily, and because of forces beyond any man’s control. He is consequently free with a freedom no other great man has ever had. It is not so much what he says that inspires confidence in him. It is this sensible freedom, this obvious detachment. With his philosophy he cannot for a moment believe that one man’s mistake might ruin it all. He is, for himself at any rate, the exponent, not the cause, of the events that will be for ever linked with his name (Russia in 1919, p. 56).

This little bald-headed, wrinkled man, who tilts his chair this way and that, laughing over one thing or another, ready any minute to give serious advice to any who interrupt him to ask for it, advice so well reasoned that it is to his followers more compelling than any command, every one of his wrinkles is a wrinkle of laughter, not of worry.

Precautions against typhus:

The car seemed very clean, but, as an additional precaution, we began by rubbing turpentine on our necks and wrists and ankles for the discouragement of lice, now generally known as ‘Semashki’ from the name of Semashko, the Commissar of Public Health, who wages unceasing war for their destruction as the carriers of typhus germs. I rubbed the turpentine so energetically in to my neck that it burnt like a collar of fire, and for a long time I was unable to get to sleep (The Crisis in Russia, p. 26).

Trade unions:

When I was in Moscow in the spring of this year the Russian Trades Unions received a telegram from the Trades Union Congress at Amsterdam, a telegram which admirable illustrated the impossibility of separating judgement of the present position of the Unions from judgements of the Russian revolution as a whole. It encouraged the Unions ‘in their struggle’ and promised support in that struggle. The Communists immediately asked ‘What struggle? Against the capitalist system in Russia which does not exist? Or against capitalist systems outside Russia?’ (The Crisis in Russia, p. 36).