On repression and reform.

Author:Li Lu
Position:Contemporary China: The Consequences of Change

The Need for Organization

In China, there are different components of society with different interests, such as students, workers and intellectuals. Although at this point, it is very difficult to have real factional infighting when one is facing such an immensely powerful enemy, when the only time one's own interests become apparent is when the government gives up some of its tight control.

At, you have a huge government, which has destroyed all civic organization and basically demolished society, even the family institution to the point where the basic relationship boils down to the government and the individual. When an individual tries to do something, the government steps in. When there is nothing else to fall back on, when one is fighting alone against the powerful government and the three million soldiers, it is impossible for one to get anywhere, to succeed.

So the most important strategy for the democracy movement is to form some kind of institution between the government and the individual. Whether that is in the form of a civic organization, trade organization, neighborhood association, regardless of what it is or whatever form it takes, there has to be an institutionalized society lying between government and individual. That is the only precondition for any kind of pro-democracy or dissident movement to occur on a large scale.

We still have not accomplished that yet. We do not have those forces between the government and individual. Basically, I am talking about institutional forces, the elements of a so-called civil society that function independently and serves certain interest groups. For instance, the reason for the demonstrations of 1989 was the large alliance of student unions across the country Many were not official student unions, though official student unions exist. But we have lots of student clubs and unofficial unions built around the official ones, and somehow these are permitted within the campus. These formed the backbone of the organizational infrastructure of the larger national student movement.

Now the same thing has to be true for the workers, peasants and intellectuals. The Tiananmen demonstrations were the beginning, the first time that national independent labor unions began to be built. Of course, they are still small in number and are more symbolic than substantive. However, this idea of independent organization has begun to resonate across the board since 1989. Right now, independent unions certainly...

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