Fearful Reality

Kyle Muntz reviews Harvey Thomlinson’s novel The Strike

In a small town along the northern border of Heilongjiang Province, people gather to protest the closing of the Bright Moon electricity plant:

Still after the night blizzard neighbors had emerged in ones and twos from concrete stairwells strung with garlic bulbs… We can’t let them sell our factory Mrs. Gao said… They will steal our children’s future. There’s people going hungry.

The workers organize a strike, and are immediately labeled “dangerous … subversive criminals.” Their leader goes into in hiding, forbidden even the possibility of coverage in the news or collaboration with workers in other provinces. In China’s new economy, the inefficient state-owned factory is a relic of a past most of the country has already abandoned – yet, following half a year of unpaid wages, its loss will leave hundreds without work, a whole way of life coming to an end beneath an impenetrable media silence. This has happened before and it will happen again, in a hundred similar towns all across the country. But that doesn’t make it any easier to live with now.