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💀 Ian Redrum 🎃 @isgoodrum
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"The participation of workers in management embodies the Party’s principles of running enterprises by relying on the working class."

Workers' congresses and workplace democracy in China.
For many, "China is socialist" is still a very controversial position to take. One reason for this is a general misunderstanding of how the Chinese economy actually operates, from top-level planning down to enterprise management.
I've already talked about how national-level political objectives are achieved at the firm level through Communist Party committees. You can find more information here.
You might wonder, then, how things work in reverse. How rank-and-file workers have input in the running of the firm, and how that input links up with central decision-making. The answer is the workers' congress system.
So what is this system? Simply put, it is a representative body of workers at each firm who deliberate and vote on managerial decisions. Here's what the law on state-owned enterprises has to say about it.
And here are the congresses' privileges. Among them are endorsement power over wage adjustments, supervision of leadership and election of the factory director (with government approval.)
The directly elected congresses meet at least twice a year. In the interim, a trade union committee handles day-to-day work.
This system isn't new. Here's a Peking Review article from 1965 discussing it.
And here's a post-reform affirmation of the system. This is from an enlarged Central Committee plenum in 1980.
A few questions emerge after reading about the basics of the system. First, how prevalent are the congresses? One industry survey estimates 80 percent of firms have them — including some private enterprises.
This rough percentage holds true today.
Another question is whether the congresses are effective tools of workplace democracy. Theory and practice don't always line up, after all.
The answer is complicated. The 1980s were considered a "golden age" for the congresses. By the 1990s, things were...worse.
Casework reveals a mixed bag during this period. Though the system was diminished, it didn't die. Many firm congresses (referred to as SWRCs in these documents) remained effective.
Plenty of managers got the boot in that era, if they didn't meet with the approval of their congresses.
So in this bleaker time there were still positives to be had. But things started changing for the better by the mid-2000s. Revisions to the law strengthened the congresses even further.
2007's Contract Law, which marked a partial return to the "iron rice bowl" system (more on that in another thread), bolstered the congresses more.
Expansion of the congress system was encouraged and protected in 2012's Provisions on the Democratic Management of Enterprises, drafted by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU).
The provisions strongly urge establishment of workers' congresses at firms across the country, both public and private. They also mandate minimum membership counts and maximum percentages of members from management: 20%.
They also lay out congress responsibilities. These are different for private and state-owned firms; SOE congresses have even more power.
These provisions don't carry the force of law, but look at the issuing authorities. CPC's CCDI (the top anti-corruption organ), the CPC Organization Department (party body that determines appointments and promotions — very powerful!) and SASAC, the governing organ for SOEs.
So even though it isn't a law per se, the provisions have a great deal of political heft behind them. There's far more interest in improving this system outside the ACFTU than most people will care to admit.
We find even more official expression of this in key documents from 2013, shortly after the 18th Party Congress. Recommendations from the CPC Central Committee include promotion of workers' congresses.
What do workers themselves think of the system? Worker evaluation of congress performance is, on the whole, positive.
You might think those positive percentages are low. But not every worker is gung-ho about participation in the system — remember, it's not mandatory to be involved.
And when pressed on specifics, surveyed workers who expressed doubt over the congresses' effectiveness admitted to successes.
Some more survey results. Satisfaction on key workers' rights issues is higher in firms that have established congresses'. Keep in mind these numbers are from before the Labor Contract Law in 2007 and the general improvements in workers' rights starting in the mid-2000s.
These improvements mean a greater degree of involvement in decision-making through the congresses.
You might be thinking this sounds very similar to European works councils. It's a fair point, one scholars have brought up themselves.
There are a few key differences, however. The old system is more resilient than many think; the work unit culture remains at many firms.
The other and more important difference is the party-state itself. In German works councils, for instance, (limited) worker governance begins and ends at the firm. But by integrating with the CPC committees, congresses have a direct link to the state apparatus.
This twofold revival of party committees and workers' congresses can't be mere coincidence. It signifies a reversal of the marketization that characterized the 1990s.
These are undeniable shifts back to a governance model prioritizing worker participation and democratic management — precisely in line with what we think of as socialism.
I don't usually RT my own stuff, but this one's particularly important. Sorry for people seeing it multiple times.
Bonus content: Pictures of workers' congresses both large and small.
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