There will be no more proletarian revolutions in China and around the world. Proletarian revolutions will not happen because workers in the industry of large-scale production today are not at the bottom of society and are not a major labor force demographically.
Today’s economy has been globalized. Technology has been advanced by the information revolution of the ’90s. The global economic structure is a North-South structure, typically, is the structure of made-in-China-consumed-in-America.
Manufacture in the US is just a small fraction of the US economy. 70% of the US GDP is in the service industry. Manufacture today has more white-collar employees due to automation and digitalization. Blue-collar employees in large-scale manufactures are not proletarian anymore. They are a unionized well-off interest group. They have secured jobs and generous pensions that workers in other trades are jealous of. When the minimum wage in the US is less than $10/hour, the blue-collar in unionized large-scale production, such as the car industry, has a wage of more than $30/hour. Workers in the industry of large-scale production have a social status higher than average. They are part of the middle-income class. Their living standard and financial position are better than many small business owners, the petty bourgeoisies.
The marginalized groups are those whose income depending on minimum wage. Their jobs are part-time, on-call, no unionized, have no contract, depending on tips from customers. But they are no the major production force that constitutes the production mode of the society. They are in the service industry.
When we are talking about class in Marxism theory, we are really referring to the groups in the basic mode of production and living. When Marx talked proletarian, he was referring to laborers in the production mode in that capitalist exploring industrial workers. The proletariat in the classical Marxism theory does not exist in today’s global economy. High tech industry represents the advanced production level and the labor force is engineers, such as in firms of Microsoft and Google.
Chinese industrialization process since 1949 always gives workers the highest social status and honor as workers are the leader class in a country the communist party is in power. It has always a dream for many Chinese to become a worker. If workers in China are the proletariats, then they are living in a country the proletariat is in power through the communist party.
In the last four decades, many western businesses invested in China, so we can say the workers in foreign factories are working for capital and indeed the foreign capital makes a profit by sourcing Chinese cheap laborers. Inevitably there were workers who had been explored miserably by capital from foreign countries and at home. Those incidents of mistreatment of workers, such as delay and deny salary payments, had been reported by the media and the Chinese government has made regulations to correct the situation and protect the interest of workers. Those exploitations did not spread on a large scale and did not last for long. It happened as Deng was crossing the river by feeling the stones. It is not intended to allow it to happen in socialist China.
The industries of large-scale production in China are mostly state-owned enterprises or enterprises privatized from former state-owned enterprises. These enterprises constitute the fundamental pillars of the Chinese economy and dominate the Chinese production mode. The production relationship in this socialist production mode is different from capitalist countries. Workers and management teams are no in a conflict of interest. Both workers and management teams share the same goal of making China prosperous. Workers are no object purchased by the capital to make a profit. For example, the Chinese telecommunication companies extend cell phone networks to even the most remote poor areas. Such business operation is impossible in the US as it is unprofitable. This business operation is not profit-oriented but social well-being-oriented.
On the surface, the market economy is the same in China and in the US. But deep down, China has dominating industries calculating not by company profit only but also include social externality. Even though China’s technology and business practice in the market economy is behind the western capitalist countries, China has a socialist production relationship. Because China has a more advanced production relation, China has the most advanced production power in the world. China leads the mobile pay because China has mobile network coverage to every corner of the country that no other country can match. In short, China rising from an inferior market position after joining the WTO is due to the competitiveness of the most advanced production relationship. The low production cost in China is labeled as cheap labor; however, the real reason is the socialist production relation. Workers are at the forefront of the production lines and know the detail of problems. In socialist production relations, workers are treated as a human that they have the incentive to improve production efficiency. In capitalist production relations, workers are treated as resources obeying the management dictation absolutely. In socialist production relations, workers and management work side by side to run the business together. The management cost is much lower as there is no conflict of interest between the management team and workers. In capitalist production relations, there is always a conflict between workers and the management team. Workers are run by the management team, not running the production. The conflict between the management team and workers needs higher internal controlling cost, and workers have no incentive to improve production efficiency. Workers are simulated by payment only and coerced with the threat of firing.
In 1949, when Red China was established, 90% of the population were in the countryside. The population in the countryside was poor as the production level is low. In the last four decades, China eliminates absolute poverty, most by industrialization. One major channel of poverty alleviation is letting the population in the countryside become workers in the cities. Workers in factories have a higher income than many countryside laborers. The youth from the countryside feel lucky to find a job as a worker in cities. They improved their living standard as a worker. They remitted their income to the countryside to support their families. They accumulate savings to earn their financial freedom. They learn new skills. They familiarize themselves with the active metropolitan. It is a springboard for them to jump into higher social stratification. Some of them can develop their own business after working as workers for a couple of years. Industrialization and poverty alleviation are two intertwining processes that changed Chinese society rapidly with a huge flow of social mobility that human history has never experienced before. Workers are not poor compare to labor in the remote countryside. Becoming a worker can get rid of poverty.
The poor population of the world is the population in areas not industrialized yet. They are poor not because they are proletariats, but because they don’t get a job. The poor population is marginalized by the present world economic-political system. They cannot get into the system as production laborers. If becoming a worker is ascending their social status, the worker is not a proletariat, and the workers need no proletarian revolution. There two ways to accomplish this: refugees rush into a developed country that will instantly elevate their economic status; BRI develops infrastructure in the developing countries to get the population there into the present world economic-political system. BRI push industrialization in the developing country, helping the marginalized populations to become workers and pull them out of poverty.
Marx concluded that the production force advancing will push human progress. But the superstructure suitable for the old economic base will resist the new advanced production level. So there is a conflict between the old superstructure and the new production mode. This conflict manifests as the chaotic social disruption that evolves into a revolution that will change the superstructure so to fit the new production mode.
2008 financial tsunami is the disruption the US superstructure cannot adapt to the new production level ascended by the information revolution of the ‘90s. However, China can adapt to the new production mode very well. After 2008, the economy in the western world stagnated with the increasing accumulation of debts by governments and households. China on the other hand keeps developing at a high speed, constructed a network of high-speed trains. China has a superstructure of a socialist society that can adapt to the new production mode. China has a socialist production relation. The socialist production relation and the new production power form an advanced economic base.
When Marx was talking proletariat, he considered the industry of large-scale production as the capitalist production mode. When we character a society by its production mode, we take the most advanced industry as the indication as that industry is the most advanced production power. Today, the most advanced production power is not the industry of large-scale production, but the high tech. The western world cannot adapt to the globalization created by high tech. Sp Trump wages trade war on China and rolls back globalization. Trump’s trade war is the modern Ludditism against technology advancement. Many thank tanks in the west fear the AI revolution, talking about disruptive and destructive innovations. China will lead the Industrial Revolution 4.0 as China has advanced production relations and advanced superstructure.
High tech represents the future production mode. In the high-tech industry, workers are not the production labor, the engineers are. As a result, the blue-collar workers cannot be an advanced political power. Blue-collar workers working in Google are juniors and food service workers. They are not the production workers.
The high-tech industry is booming in China. The Chinese government puts reform as government agenda. Reform is an ongoing job in China that adjusts the superstructure to adapt the production power continually. China is still behind the west in science and innovation, yet when advanced technology enters the production area, China can adapt to it fast. The US has an inertial superstructure that resists the advancement of the production power.
In a society that production mode is characterized by the high-tech industry, the workers are not the key production force, the engineers are. So we will have no proletarian revolution. In classical Marxism, the capitalist production mode is labor working on production materials. In today’s production mode, it the engineers working on production materials.
China does not need a revolution because China is reforming constantly to evolve the superstructure so the superstructure is continually modified to fit the new production power.
The US cannot have a proletarian revolution as the class represents the new production mode is not blue-collar workers but engineers. What the US needs is not a proletarian revolution but an intellectual revolution. The communist parties and socialist parties in the world should shift their task to organize the engineers, technicians, skilled workers, scientists to an intellectual political power to make an intellectual revolution that the US needed to adapt to the Industrial Revolution 4.0. Intellectuals are future production power and they should rise as political power to forge progress in the developed countries.