(Factory Stories #1, January 2012)
“Longmenzhen” 龙门阵 means chatting, telling stories, so “gongchang longmenzhen” 工厂龙门阵 [name of this magazine] means talking about what happens in the factory. People who’ve never worked in a factory before often get it wrong and talk [about the factory] using stereotypes. Those who’ve experienced it and are familiar with life in the factory often think, “there’s nothing to talk about”. Although it’s a topic people often discuss with friends, relatives and other workers, it still seems mundane and trivial, something that doesn’t deserve to be publicly discussed; something you chat about in private and then forget.
But it’s precisely these trivial incidents and this mixture of feelings that make up workers’ living environment, that shape workers’ consciousness, and that trigger and influence workers’ action. Going further: the future of society is already hidden within these realities. Only when workers understand these real circumstances in their entirety can they find a basis for collective exit from the present situation. The first step is to thoroughly and carefully survey, record and analyze the situation of the working class – that is, to obtain first-hand material.
Today, factory workers are the main creators of wealth in society. But since bosses hold the power within the industrial system, what social development grants to workers is poverty and disenfranchisement (although many workers from the countryside have improved their families’ economic situation through hard work and frugality). Commodity prices rise faster every year, but many workers make only enough to get by or less. From the 2008 crisis until now, the gap between the rich and poor has only increased.
But in these last few years, it is easy to notice a transformation of workers’ consciousness: they seem to be developing a more intense and conscientious awareness of their plight and demands, and they more often resort to actions creating more pressure on capital. The drive to control workers and oppose the improvement of workers’ conditions (including active meddling in legislation) shows an extreme level of concern among capitalists. Management personnel in every factory regularly talk about strikes and go-slows, while lawyers and experts in the field of industrial relations organize training courses on the topic… On the other hand, workers usually lack the advantageous circumstances and the self-conscious combativeness of their rulers. Of course workers also learn from struggling – they summarize the experience and communicate it with others. Usually scattered, they require more attention from those who wish to collect and arrange the records of these struggles in order to spread them among other workers.
The central goals of this publication are to develop a thorough understanding of the factory and workers’ real situation, to analyze the lessons gained from past and present struggles, and to spread information. We still believe that the power of the empty-handed working class is far greater than that of the whole propertied class. But it is also clear that we are standing at only the beginning of the road.