Chinese Students and Workers Confront Global Capitalism

We can grasp the dynamics of contemporary global capitalism through the prism of Foxconn. Nearly a million young Chinese workers assemble over 50 percent of all the electronics products consumed on the globe at 30 of its factories in China. In those massive production complexes armies of young men and women perform monotonous repetitive assembly tasks under quasi-military discipline 60 hours a week for minimal pay.

Foxconn, controlled by Taiwanese billionaire Terry Gou, is China’s largest exporter and 60th largest global corporation, with annual revenues of $79 billion (2010). Its largest corporate customer is Apple, whose iPhones and iPads it manufactures, but most other major global electronics companies also contract Foxconn for their final assembly tasks. Sophisticated components and parts are manufactured in Korea, Japan, Europe and the USA, shipped to China for final assembly, and then re-exported for sale to more affluent consumers in North America, Europe and Japan. About $5 of the cost of an iPhone or iPad pays the wages of the Chinese workers who assemble them, while another $5 goes to Foxconn executives and shareholders. The rest goes to the manufacturers of sophisticated components and to Apple’s gross profits, currently about 36 percent of gross revenues.

Foxconn is a linchpin of the most profitable sector of global capital. Although its own operating profit margins are razor-thin, shaved by the constant cost-squeezing of Apple and other corporate customers, Foxconn has made itself indispensable to global capital by fully utilizing its strategic position in China.

Foxconn first constructed two massive factory/dormitory complexes with half a million workers in China’s first export- processing “free trade” zone in Shenzhen. After living costs soared in Chinese coastal cities and a wave of despairing Foxconn workers hurled themselves from windows of its high-rise dormitories, Foxconn sought sites in interior Chinese cities, where workers living closer to their home villages could be paid lower wages than in Shenzhen. To help Foxconn cope with the breakneck pace demanded by Apple to supply its latest lines of iPhones and iPads, provincial political authorities scrambled to enlarge airports and roads, distribute tax breaks, and facilitate the construction of new factory/ housing complexes in Chengdu and Chongqing, Zhengzhou and Taiyuan. Local authorities help Foxconn recruit hundreds of thousands of new assembly workers, plus thousands of industrial engineers pouring out of vocational schools.

The most “flexible” workers employed by Foxconn are “student interns” between 16 and 18 years old (and occasionally as young as 14) supplied to Foxconn by vocational schools. Thousands of “student interns” are assigned to work long hours at various mind-numbing repetitive tasks at Foxconn factories regardless of their

major field of study. Those who try to escape these harsh conditions are warned that they will not receive their school diplomas if they leave. Although they receive a minimum wage (and no benefits at all since they are not covered by labor law), many student interns actually are forced to pay for the privilege of being exploited by paying tuition and placement fees to their schools.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 44 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 13 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 9 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.