Anyuan is called “China’s Little Moscow” for its revolutionary fervor that recalls the glories of the Chinese Communist Party in the aftermath of the October Revolution. Shortly after founding the Party in Shanghai, in 1921, some leaders, including Mao Zedong, Li Lisan and Liu Shaoqi, traveled to the southeastern town on the border of Jiangsu and Hunan provinces to understand the situation of mine workers.
The miners were in turmoil, and something remarkable seemed to be rising up. The newborn Communist Party’s extraordinary organizational force seemed to find in Anyuan just the right spark (Elizabeth Perry tells the story in Anyuan: Mining China’s Revolutionary Tradition, University of California Press). In 1922 the miners rioted. Their battle was the first significant event connecting the Party with a grand struggle.
Nearly a century later, the Anyuan miners again took to the streets earlier this week. This time, however, their struggle was not “with” but “against” the Communist Party.
The reason for the strike is simple: On Feb. 29, the Beijing government announced it was cutting 1.8 million workers from the payroll of state companies. Most of them are miners. The announcement is official because it came from the mouth of Yin Weimin, Minister of Human Resources and Social Security (an Orwellian name, given the results of its activity). These people, who emerge from the bottom of the earth each day after hours of exhausting work, have little else to do without their mining jobs.