May 27, 2013
More than eleven hundred dead, more than a thousand injured and dozens missing: This is the latest toll of the garment factory building collapse on April 24th in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The simple fact that for weeks after the catastrophe the bosses were incapable of saying how many workers were missing showed that in their eyes they were only bodies to exploit.
This is naked, criminal – and everyday – exploitation, such as found in the majority of poor countries, like Pakistan, Cambodia, Ivory Coast and Haiti. But it isn’t only a scandal of the poor countries, corrupt governments, and particularly revolting bosses. It touches all of us.
For if the assassins – the building’s owner and bosses who refused to evacuate their factory – are in Bangladesh, the people behind the assassinations are here. Their names are Benetton, Casino, J. C. Penney, Walmart.... They consciously encourage these abuses by demanding ever lower prices from their contractors.
They know that the profit margins they get are made by the super-exploitation of the workers, thanks to contractors who subcontract to still worse slave drivers. They say they have nothing to do with it, but they gladly pocket the money! It is one and the same murderous chain.
To blame workers who buy a T-shirt for a few dollars rather than a higher price makes no sense. Who imposes low wages and an impoverished retirement here in this country, which force people to count every dollar they spend? Who decides to go and exploit the misery of the world for their profit? The same big bosses! They are the ones with blood on their hands.
The big stockholders of the multinational corporations try to gain on both counts: by exploiting workers here and there. The barbarous and criminal exploitation of the workers of the poor countries and the ravages of finance, unemployment, and misery in the so-called developed countries are the two sides of the same system of exploitation.
The exploited of Asia, Africa and Latin America aren’t “unfair competitors” and still less enemies; they are our brothers and sisters in exploitation, who very often have to leave their country of misery to get hired here, on other assembly lines. The same destiny ties us, for we are all exploited, victims of the same exploiters.
In a country like Bangladesh, in the garment industry alone there are four to five million workers. The worst capitalist sweatshops have moved from Chicago, Lyon France and Manchester England to Shanghai, Dhaka and Mumbai, but in reality, the working class has never been so numerous. And today, as yesterday, the working class makes society run.
In Bangladesh, since the April 24th tragedy, gigantic demonstrations have forced the bosses to promise wage increases and factory safety. But in fact the workers have been fighting for these improvements for years. Workers’ strikes and confrontations with the police have increased with the growth of garment factories. Their battle to call to account the well-established exploiters who pay starvation wages has only begun.
The workers of the poor countries are in many respects the wretched of capitalism, but they won’t always remain such. They also form a force of millions of men and women capable of rising up and revolting. Their revolt is ours; their battle is ours.