Slave Labor: China is Karl Marx's Britain of Our Day

Karl Marx's solutions to the problems that he saw were not very effective or correct. But he was correct in his observations of slave-type labor in Britain, as noted in his book Capital. If he were alive today, I wonder if China would be the object of his opprobrium. It would deserve to be.

Yesterday on The Right Balance, Greg Allen made a keen observation. He said, to wit, that China gets away with both the excesses of Capitalism and the excesses of Communism.

China in 2007 is very similar to Britain of the 1800's. In his book, Capital, Marx refers to the business owners as having "the were-wolf's hunger for surplus labor". The Chinese government is today's 'were-wolf' business owner.

Capitalism to excess is bad. Communism is just plain excessive, and therefore always bad. We complain--and rightly so--when American capitalists use capitalism to the point of extortion. But we are strangely silent when the Chinese Communo-capitalists do the same thing.

In Capital, Marx shares anecdote after anecdote of forced labor in Britain, where employees, including youth and children, were compelled to work 12-hour days, and sometimes more. Similarly such frequent anecdotes exist in China today. Here's one:
China's government is forcibly moving young women of the ethnic Uighur minority from their homes in Xinjiang to factories in eastern China, a Uighur activist told the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

Rebiya Kadeer, jailed for more than five years for championing the rights of the Muslim Uighurs before being sent into exile in the United States in 2005, called for U.S. help in stopping a program she said had already removed more than 240,000 people, mostly women, from Xinjiang.

Kadeer, nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus the women being transferred under the guise of "employment opportunities" were single and ranged in age from 16 to 25.

The women faced harsh treatment with 12-hour work days and often saw wages withheld for months, Kadeer said, describing the women as "cheap slave labor and potential sex workers."
Marx writes that
The same blind eagerness for plunder that in the one case exhausted the soil, had, in the other, torn up by the roots the living force of the nation.
China can't live forever like this. Unfortunately, the world largely turns a blind eye to the atrocities being committed there, effectively encouraging them to go on for longer than they need to.

But what can we do? After all, we still haven't finished most of our Christmas shopping.


  1. Frank,
    I think that everybody 'turns a blind eye' because they are afraid of what will happen. Fear, not principle, is unfortunately the key factor when it comes to people's decisions and reactions. If we were to put some kind of trade embargo on China, or even attempt to do anything about atrosities that happen in China, the threat of economic retaliation would be great. If something to that magnitude were to happen I think that it would be devestating to the US economy. People see that has the consequence and don't want to act on situations such as this. Personally, I think it is a matter of time before something like that happens, and I think that China knows it and is gearing up for it and we as a country are not and are just denying it and doing nothing about it because we are afraid. I don't know of any way to prevent an economic downturn if we slow or even stop our trade with China. I do know that it is going to happen eventually, why not get it over with while we still have a little integrity and it won't be as devestating as it would in the future. The best thing I can think of is start making stuff we get from China here in the US, the problem is people in America want cheap stuff, but won't work for cheap, but the chinese do, just not willingly, and apparently nobody that can do anything about it, won't.

  2. The scary part is the Chinese government probably doesn't care if there's a huge downturn. And I suspect neither does the American establishment. On The Right Balance, Greg Allen's guest (I forget who) also made the statement that because China artificially maintains the value of its currency favorable to other currencies, it is sitting on a huge bubble that is waiting to burst.

    You're right about the cheap stuff. My youngest son learned a great lesson when he bought a 3-dollar watch the other day. It soon broke. He got about 60 bucks thereafter from family and friends for his 8th birthday. To that, I said "Cool! You can buy 20 more watches!" He replied, "Why would I want to do that, dad. Those watches are worthless."

    I wish we adults were that smart.


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