When I visited Chongqing in 2011, I heard about migrant worker singing and performance troupes and a website dedicated to migrant workers and worker artistic troupes which “call out in song, use the arts to defend rights, and sing for the workers”.
This group of Chongqing migrant workers, aided by a small Chongqing NGO, formed the New Worker Art Troupe composed their own songs and gone to Beijing to perform. I was told that the troupe does not give interviews to journalists. I wondered about the troupe’s political sensitivity. After all workers singing songs protesting about their situation could be worrisome for the ruling Communist Party which doesn’t allow free and independent labor unions and pretends to be the revolutionary vanguard of the working class.
But perhaps I am too cynical. Although their website I saw in 2011 was taken down, they still have a microblog and a regular blog so they seem to still manage to skate on this side of socialist respectability!
I found a few recent articles about New Worker Art Troupe and the presence (or absence) of a real worker art movement in China. One of the articles mentioned the Beijing Worker’s Home 北京工友之家 that helped migrant worker writer Fan Yusu grow as a writer. Her literary worker art — her autobiographical essay about her struggles back home in the village and later on as a migrant worker and divorced mother of two made a sensation in spring 2017. Fan Yusu’s essay is translated elsewhere on this translation blog A Chinese Migrant Worker’s Story: “I Am Fan Yusu” 《我是范雨素》英文翻译.
The Baidu wiki has a history of the group through 2009
Some New Worker Art Troupe videos are at the links below.
Vimeo: 2005 performance in Shenzhen 打工打工最光荣 Working, Working, Glory to Workers
- A collection of a dozen New Worker Art Troupe 新工人艺术团 videos on BaiduOn Youtube :
- Song of Praise for Labor (translation of a Korean song) 勞動者讚歌 – 勞動與尊嚴 – 新工人藝術團
- Let’s All Unite to Get Our Back Wages 团结一心讨工钱
- Remembering that Year 想起那一年 新工人藝術團
- I Still Have A Long Way to Gone on the Road of Life 我一生中的路還遠遠遠遠沒有走完 新工人藝術團
- The Internationale 新工人艺术团~国际歌
Maybe they will produce a Chinese labor movement song like “Joe Hill“! 周小丘 That kind of struggle song might be a song too far in China though. Except for the Internationale of course. The students at Tiananmen sang that song.