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Insurgency TrapLabor Politics in Postsocialist China$
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Eli Friedman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780801452697

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801452697.001.0001

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The History and Structure of the ACFTU

The History and Structure of the ACFTU

Chapter:
(p.29) 2 The History and Structure of the ACFTU
Source:
Insurgency Trap
Author(s):

Eli Friedman

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9780801452697.003.0002

This chapter has four objectives. First, it provides an empirical account of the activities of the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) from its founding in 1925 until the early 2000s. Second, it delineates major changes in trade union structure. Of crucial importance in this regard is the dynamic relationship between union, Party, capital, and working class. Related to this is the third point, which is an analysis of the emergence of “appropriated representation” that was solidified in the postrevolutionary period. Finally, it argues that on the whole, working-class organization in China has since the 1920s accepted the goals of promoting ethnonational autonomy and increasing productive forces. Although the danwei (urban work unit) system effectively incorporated and decommodified labor during the era of the command economy, the organizational logic of unions was and is that of the state. As the goals of the state and those of the working class increasingly diverged beginning in the 1980s, this presented new challenges for the union. Even if contemporary worker demands appeared similar to those of their counterparts in other regions and historical time periods, the ACFTU does not see increasing the material and political standing of its membership as an end in itself—and in this sense it challenges commonly held notions of what constitutes a “union”.

Keywords:   China, ACFTU, labor relations, labor unions, trade unions, working-class organization

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