Lecture by Ralf Ruckus

18 april 2023 - 15:45 — 18 april 2023 - 18:00

Leftwing Opposition against a Leftwing Regime – How Protests from Below Challenged the Communist Party in Socialist China between the 1950s and the 1970s

  • 18 April
  • 15.45 hours
  • IISH, Max Nettlau Room

Commentator: Lucas Poy

Abstract: After 1949, the Communist Party regime in China initiated a socialist development project that soon created new social contradictions and class hierarchies. These triggered social protests by disillusioned workers that also inspired leftwing actors and their radical critique of the socialist regime. In the first part of this paper, I present three waves of social protests – the strikes in 1956–1957, rebel worker’s protests 1966–1968, and the Democracy Wall Movement 1978–1980. I propose a two-dimensional definition to identify the leftwing nature of protagonists’ positions and to capture the role of radical oppositional forces involved in the protests. In the second part of the paper, I turn to diverging positions in the global left on protest and opposition in China up until today and the contradictions these positions produce. I discuss how leftwing actors can deal with such contradictions when intervening in social struggles in China and elsewhere through organized support, leftwing opposition, public debates, or historiographic documentation.

Bio: After studies in Berlin and London in the 1980s, Ralf Ruckus refused to start an academic career and worked in proletarian jobs instead, while staying engaged in social movements – from squatting to migrant and labor struggles. After militant inquiries on construction sites and in call centers in the 1990s, Ralf has supported workers’ struggles in factories and warehouses in Western and Eastern Europe and in East Asia since. In the 2000s, the analysis and support of struggles of workers, migrants, and women* in China became Ralf’s main focus. After translating a series of books written by Chinese workers, activists, and leftwing scholars into English and German (see gongchao.org and nqch.org), Ralf recently published The Communist Road to Capitalism. How Social Unrest and Containment Have Pushed China’s (R)evolution since 1949 (PM Press, 2021) and The Left in China. A Political Cartography (Pluto Press, 2023). Currently, Ralf is involved in research on the situation and agency of Indonesian migrant fishers and factory workers in Taiwan.

IISH Seminar: This lecture is part of the monthly IISH Seminar series.
In principle, seminars take place every first Tuesday of the month. The seminar is open to the public, but with regard to accommodation, we would like you to register, jacqueline.rutte@bb.huc.knaw.nl, under the mention of 'lecture'.