Do you have anything I can read about the "active struggle to increase workers’ control over society and revolutionise the relations of production" in China under Mao?
As we are not a blog that focuses on reading communist literature or literature on the history of communism, we feel it is not adequate to answer this question with a simple reading list. However, the question of how there was an active struggle to increase workers control and revolutionize the relations of production is a pressing one, and deserves a thorough response.
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR) was a massive upheaval in social, economic, and political life in the People’s Republic. It was in this context that China saw a massive shift from the economic policies both capitalist states and the USSR (both in its socialist and capitalist periods).
In the factories, workers and local revolutionary committees maintained a strict political line and focused on the welfare of workers in their workplace. In Charles Bettelheim’s work, The Cultural Revolution and Industrial Organization in China, textile workers interviewed on the changing of relations remarked on the welfare of workers achieved in the GPCR:
“We pay particular attention to working conditions and are guided in this by the Chinese Communist Party. We are concerned with the welfare of the workers and the preservation of human initiative. In the old society things were very different. The capitalists did not care about such matters. […] There are two additional fifteen minute breaks for physical exercises designed to prevent work-related disabilities. These are at the same time military exercises, for we must all be prepared in case of an imperialist invasion.
All doctors attached to the infirmary are required to make daily rounds of the shops. This reduces the need for a worker to consult a doctor elsewhere. […] There is no charge for consultation and medication. […] Of course, we do not claim that we have done enough to improve working conditions. We must make even greater efforts, for there are always new problems to be solved.”
Other factories in China operated on similar platforms, as well as paying wages regularly above the cost of living, providing special assistance to workers in extraordinary working conditions, and providing more assistance to working women and mothers. Many of the larger factories offered educational facilities for workers, teaching technical skills, engineering, and more. During the GPCR, workers struggled to replace the individualist idea of “professional advancement” with serving the people- using these more advanced skills and new responsibilities to be useful and for the benefit of the collective and the whole people.
Most industrial workplaces in China were attempting to “learn from Daqing,” a petroleum complex that, following the end of Soviet aid as a result of the Sino-Soviet split, necessitated massive effort of workers and administrators working together, not just to earn more money, but to expand China’s resources and provide for the revolution and the people. Daqing was upheld as a model to follow for the PRC because it ended the country’s reliance on foreign oil and maintained a proletarian political line.
In Daqing and other factories, problems were discussed collectively, and daily, and so solutions were formulated outside of a purely technical outlook. In the USSR and capitalist countries, factories had "economics in command”- meaning production was seen as primary, along with monetary incentives, specialists, profit, etc. The top-down method of Soviet leadership in the economy was abandoned as workers made a serious effort to include political cadre in production and themselves in management. Before the GPCR, the division between workers and management was stark, similar to the USSR. Management was appointed by central administration and the factory party committee, which focused almost entirely on production and technology without much (if any) conversation with the workers. The GPCR flipped this model, and put “politics in command.” Factory committees were completely dissolved and replaced with mass organizations such as management teams and revolutionary committees, with the revisionist line of management eliminated as the workers and masses rose up under the leadership of the Communist Party. Piece wage systems were abolished, individual and group bonuses were increasingly eliminated, and production teams took over much of the work of management. Some factories implemented yearly production goals after lengthy, factory-wide discussion, and production teams even deliberated on their own wages based on experience, skill, and attitude. Furthermore wages were set on a system that averaged wage differentials to 1:3. Management, political cadre, members of the revolutionary committees, and administrators all participated in production as the GPCR went on. “Triple combinations” of workers, administrators, and technicians were formed to solve technical problems and make innovations. Factory workers began focusing on the needs of the country as a whole, instead of just their workplace.
Political study of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and other socialist thinkers was also common in factories, in order that workers would be more able to investigate and forge solutions to both economic and political issues.
When the Deng Xiaoping clique within the Party gained power, these achievements were all reversed, washed away and replaced with the all-too-familiar system where all authority was placed into the hands of factory managers.
This ask is already quite long, and we have really only touched on industrial production- but these achievements were deeply felt in the rural regions of China as well. During the GPCR, peasants in the countryside (who still made up 80% of the population) formed independent mass organizations in the People’s Communes, and directly confronted the bureaucratic methods of work by leadership and Party cadre. Production team leaders were elected and subject to recall. Village revolutionary committees were formed and exercised day-to-day leadership in villages and on Communes, similar to urban revolutionary committees did in city neighborhoods. Peasants began painting, writing, performing, and became involved with politics, and the expansion of education and healthcare brought immediate benefits to people who had never had access to it before. The rural Communes were advised to “learn from Dazhai,” which was a brigade of a Commune in Shanxi Province. Dazhai transformed its hills into fertile land, struggled against capitalist mentality in agriculture, and constructed new housing and community projects in villages. In the late 1970s, again with the rise of the Deng clique, the Communes were broken up, land was distributed to individual peasant households, and privatization brought an end to the collective healthcare system and “barefoot doctor” initiative.
The key achievement both in industry and agriculture towards revolutionizing social relations was in putting politics in command. By putting politics in command, the PRC was able to transform enterprises into interrelated political units, dramatically changing the relationship between workers and managers, between city and countryside, and further advancing the class struggle and demonstrating, especially considering the reversal of these achievements, that a proletarian political line is essential to the development of socialism and of communist transformation.