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Note: The 823 Artillery Bombardment occurred between August 23 to October 5, 1958, between People's Liberation Army and Republic of China troops located in Mainland China and Kinmen along with surrounding islands, respectively. Historians consider this to be part of the second Chinese Civil War.

Taking Control of a Factory— Hsinchu Glass Factory Worker

Autonomous Participation in Economic Democracy


Historical Background

When I was a child, whenever my mother talked about anything, she always started from when she was 5 years old. After talking for 2 to 3 hours, she would get to what she really wanted to talk about. I had no patience for my mother's tedious way of talking about things when I was a child, but realized later that since my father worked away from home for much of the time, she had no one to talk to but us. She was illiterate and raising children alone and could only repeat her life story about not having a family and having to support herself since she was a child so that her children would never forget. I also didn't realize until later why my mother, who had no social connections, planned for the future and finished things over 5 or 10 year periods.

Global neoliberalism increases income disparity daily in every place on earth. The idea of economic democracy has been raised once again. In 1986 when Taiwan was still under martial law, a series of managing investors of Hsinchu Glass Factory (52% of which was owned by the state) tried repeatedly to transfer assets out of the firm for their own benefit and seize control of the worker's pensions and benefits. Their actions pushed the factory into serious financial difficulties, including debt to workers in the form of back wages. Ultimately, over 700 employees went to the government to see if it was possible to use an unregulated neighborhood credit club to raise funds and establish a temporary, employee-run regulatory board for the factory. After complex negotiations between managing investors and the government, the workers successfully took control. After 10 months, the factory generated enough income to pay all back wages, and even raised salaries. Due to the nature of the times, the temporary board had to return control to the managing investors after the factory got back on track, thus ending this period of economic democracy. Since these investors had no intention of running the factory, it closed soon after the handover in 1989.

My mother was much like the many other women of the time who had no education. Whenever she encountered a difficult to solve problem, she looked toward the people, events or scenes that appeared in her dreams for answers. Before, I just thought this was her own way of justifying her decisions, but now understand that fantastic dreams, no matter how fantastic, are just another way of thinking about problems. Over the last several decades, my mother's life story and her endlessly expanding dreams have found their way into my own consciousness. Or maybe my mother's humble way of speaking and doing things has taught me something. She has taught me why the situation surrounding anything is important, and how to overcome the limitations of reality by continuously conversing with fabrications. She also taught me that when doing anything, you have to think about what its implications might be 10 years hence. I didn't get married until I was 48 years old. After my son was born, my mother followed local customs and dressed him cotton gauze baby clothes. She said she had saved the clothes since I was born, and had been looking forward to using them again for 48 years.

Note: For more information, see interviews and research conducted by Peng Kui-chih and others. This introduction was used with the permission of Peng Kui-chih.

Contemporary Interpretation The take over of the Hsinchu Glass Factor y during martial law by workers who had no training in leftist economic theories, made me realize that autonomous economic democracy can be successfully developed based solely on practical life experience and struggle. Their story started me thinking about possibilities for practical contemporar y par ticipator y democracy and economics. Due to global neoliberalism, any micro practice of economic democracy will encounter economic pressure from the region or country in which it takes places, as well as from the global flow of capital across national borders. Therefore, TheCUBE


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