Workers' revolt in Bangladesh

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Alf's picture
Alf
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Jun 21 2006 23:28
Workers' revolt in Bangladesh

Our comrades in India have just sent us this article about a massive workers' revolt in Bangladesh. I have seen nothing about it in the official press.

http//en.internationalism.org/ci/2006/workers-revolt-in-bangladesh

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Jun 21 2006 23:38

Quite important, wouldn't you say? Even Indymedia hasn't picked up on it or the usually prudent FAB.

Interesting. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

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OliverTwister
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Jun 22 2006 05:27

very interesting article.

Alf do you know if the National Germent Workers Federation played a role, and what was it? I don't think it would be correct to say that they have 'no presence' (20000 members last i heard)...

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Alf
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Jun 22 2006 10:04

For the moment I don't have any other informatioin than what's in the article. But you can try to contact the ICC comrades in India India@internationalism.org

martinh
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Jun 22 2006 11:09
OliverTwister wrote:
Alf do you know if the National Germent Workers Federation played a role, and what was it? I don't think it would be correct to say that they have 'no presence' (20000 members last i heard)...

Oliver,

I don't think the NGWF is part of the union centrals that the article refers to - unions in south Asia are usually divided up into centres (equivalent to the AFL-CIO or TUC) based on allegiance to one political party or another.

The NGWF are explicitly independent. As a union, they are not unproblematic but have had contact with the IWA and someone from Preston SolFed visited them about a decade ago. He was shocked by the poverty but did come away feeling that they do have a culture of full-timers and so on and he was also concerned that the rank and file were not fully involved, though if you're working a 16 hour day 7 days a week that's perhaps not surprising.

Interesting, if you google strike and Bangladesh you'll find plenty of stories about a strike called by the opposition Awami League to strengthen its hand in upcoming electoral reform negotiations. e.g.

http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/06/13/bangladesh.unrest.ap/index.html

It is of course no surprise that a strike for such ends gets publicity while a workers revolt doesn't.

Anyone with skype fancy calling the NGWF?

Contact details below:

National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF)

GPO Box 864

Dhaka

Bangladesh

+880 (0)19 340 268 telephone

+880 2 9562 562 fax

ngwf@aitlbd.net

There's a good chance someone there will be able to speak English.

Regards

Martin

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OliverTwister
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Jun 22 2006 15:40

There is a member of the IWW international commission in the area who met with the NGWF not too long ago... I'll pass this on smile

jaycee
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Jun 23 2006 11:41

i think the bit about the garment lobby convincing the government to keep the minimum wage so low in order to keep foriegn investment is a good counter argument to those who see the 'booms' in china and india as somehow showing that capitalism can still grow and expand in a progressive way.

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OliverTwister
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Jun 23 2006 14:27

I don't follow. Prior to 1914 wages were also kept as low as possible...

bastarx
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Jun 23 2006 14:30

The WSWS also has an article on it:

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/jun2006/bang-j19.shtml

jaycee
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Jun 24 2006 09:07

i mean that it shows how outsourcing doesn't loosen the grip of the main imperialist powers that much, as they still have so much control over the economic actions of these countries, through the threat of taking away their investment.

Also the fact that it isn't a real development of the productive capabilities of capitalism precisely because it is 'outsourcing', i.e replacing western workers with third world workers.

syndicalist
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Jul 5 2006 12:29

As an anarcho-syndicalist I have many disagreements with the ICC piece,but, I must say, it was informative and on-traget in many regards.

Below please find a recet statement by the NGWF. I'm forwarding this for information purposes only.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Details of Settlement in Nation-wide Struggle with Garment Employers

Through garment workers uprising , unrest sisuation , Long struggle of garment workers trade unions, an opertunity have come to the door to work for the garment workers in Bangladesh.

In the last uprising, unrest and struggle 2 workers have been killed , 15 were in prison or police custody ,5 still in prison, 8 cases were filled against several thousand workers. According to the BGMEA 174 factories became damaged orpertial damaged with losses of TK.1041827666.

Finally There was one Biletaral MOU , Tripertitte MOU and Biletaral Aggrrement signed with trade unions. First Biletaral MOU was signed between BGMEA-BKMEA and Garment Silpa & Sramik Rakka Monch (an umbrela of 12 garment workers organization) on 11th Jun at night. Second Tripertite MOU signed on 12th Jun among Government, BGMEA-BKMEA and SKOP (umbrella organization of 14 national trade union center).

Third and final BILETARAL AGGRREMENT was signed on 22nd Jun between BGMEA-BKMEA and 16 garment workers federations including the NGWF (National Garment Workers Federation).

Main elements of these Aggrrement and Mou’s are:

1. Management will provide Appointment letter and Identity card for the garment workers .

2. Workers will injoy weekly holiday, maternity leave and other legal holidays and leaves.

3. Management will not make any resistance(problem) in forming trade union and CBA.

4. New wage structure will be declare under the minimum wage board.

Beside these main 4 elements, there are some others things like reopen of all factories, withdrawal of cases / release of workers, not to fire the workers because of the movement, overtime payment for extra work included

in the MOU,s and Aggrrement.

In the biletaral Aggreement 3 other more things included like: Biletaral monitoring committee , Garment factories will be free from Tang (muscleman), physical or mental tourture free workplace.

Number 1 and 2 (appointment letter, identity card, weekly holiday, maternity leave and other holidays) will be implement from 1st July,06.

TASK OF THE UNIONS:

Now main task of the unions are : organizing & mobilizing, Campaign aboutaggrrement & MoU’s , Campaign about legal rights, forming union in the plant lebels.

ROLE OF NGWF:

NGWF was and is active in the whole time. 3 active member & organizers

were under arrest, now they are free. Police search all most all the brach committees executives in Savar, Gazipur branch . Savar and Gazipur offices till now not well funtioning because of police threat.

NGWF is the main partner of Biletaral Aggrrement. NGWF in the meantime publicized and distributed 50,000 leaflets. Going to publicize more 50,000 leaflets and 10,000 posters soon. Group meetings, local meetings and central meeting are continuously organizing. Already started campaign in

local base and central lebels.

Tomorrow NGWF is going to observe country wide “ Garment Workers Appointment Letter & Identity Card Demand Day “ because day after tomorrow 1st July 06 management should provide Appointment letters and Identity Cards for the garment workers according to the Aggrrement and MoU’s. NGWF also started process of forming the plant unions.

Role of consumers and friends organizations outside Bangladesh.

NGWF think, consumers and friends organizations can put pressure to the local companies through the buyers to implement the Aggrrement and to allow the workers to form the plant unions. Can monitor the sisuations and

developments. Can pressure to disclose their supply chain. Can make pressure to the companies to share local union/unions about the implemention of MoU and AGGRREMENT.Can organize actions against specific

company/companies if and when their suppliers will make barriers/problems against union formation. Can support to increase the local union’s capacity.

In solidarity

Amirul Haque Amin

General Secretary

National Garment Workers Federation

Bangladesh

29.06.06

syndicalist
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Jul 21 2006 05:24

Comrades:

For those of you interested in the situation of Bangladeshi garment workrs, we have just come acxross the site of the Bangldesh Garment Workers Information Network

http://www.bgw-info.net/index.php

This site clearly seems to be a central location for news, photos, listing of garment workers unions (with seperate links & photos) and other interesting information.

The site apppears to be a project of INCIDIN Bangladesh http://www.incidinb.org/index1024.htm

This group appears to have come out of several social and advocacy movements.

Mike Harman
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Jul 21 2006 08:19

In case anyone's missed it, there's now an article in libcom.org/news :

http://libcom.org/news/article.php/bangladesh-garment-revolt-140706

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Jul 21 2006 23:52

I welcome the libcom article on the garment workers’ revolt in Bangladesh because it provides valuable information about a massive struggle that was virtually blacked out by the official press. Its standpoint is essentially proletarian, since it aims to identify and support the tendencies towards class autonomy and unity that clearly appeared in the movement. It expresses an understanding of the role of the trade unions as organs of the bourgeoisie, introduced into the equation in order to contain and stifle the workers’ revolt. This understanding is mitigated by its ambiguous attitude to the ‘industrial union’ that operates in this sector, but this is something that can be taken up later.

It is a pity that the writer (RM) felt no need to acknowledge the contribution of the ICC’s comrades in India, who rapidly produced a very well informed article. This was linked to this thread on libcom, and the article was welcomed by quite a few people from different political standpoints. Communists working in countries like India do not work in easy conditions, and they deserve the solidarity of revolutionaries in the ‘developed’ countries.

In the concluding paragraphs of the article, the comrades of Communist Internationalist write

“There is no doubt that garment workers’ revolt has been the biggest and the most militant struggle so far of the working class in the history of Bangladesh. Despite all odds workers were able to rise up in revolt against brutal exploitation. They were able to develop their struggles in a courageous way in the face of violent repression. The explosion of this revolt and its persistence for nearly 20 days, despite all the repression, expresses great determination and will to fight of the working class. It is an important advance in the development of proletarian challenge to capitalist exploitation. This is the reason the bourgeoisie everywhere blacked out all news of this movement.

Experience of Bangladesh shows that physical absence of unions is not enough. Important thing is the ability of the working class to consciously reject the unions. Even more important is its ability to develop its own self-organization. Development at this level has been very rudimentary, if at all. Although this movement would not have developed if workers have not stood up to the repressive forces, in the absence of self-organization the revolt sometime took the character of rioting. While some of the weaknesses are expression of the lack of experience of the working class in Bangladesh, they also point toward the need for appropriating all the experience of the workers’ movement world wide. It is the responsibility of the revolutionary organizations of the communist left to contribute to the development of the workers’ consciousness of their class identity and of their historic goal the communist revolution which alone can put an end to the brutal exploitation of the working class not just in Bangladesh but throughout the world”.

It is probably this passage which is criticised somewhat obliquely in the article, which says

"Some commentators, from the bourgeois media to the ultra-left, have considered the working class's use of riot as a sign of organisational weakness. On the contrary, we see their use of riot[5] and fire as brave and intelligent in a situation where they faced brutal repression by a determined body of employers and the armed forces of the state. Property damage combined with withdrawal of labour is a time-honoured tactic of proletarians. Rioting also opens up an opportunity for the wider working class community to become involved in the struggle and immediately spread the perspective beyond isolated sectional activity. When the cops and army invade workers' living areas it is anyway inevitable that the neighbourhood is drawn into the struggle. The extensive use of this tactic is also an inspiring example of effective collective self-organisation that, for the garment workers, has been far more successful than all previous struggles".

In a footnote, RM says that Marx’s participation in the 1855 riots in London proves that "despite what moralistic ultra-leftists and bourgeois alike may say, Marx clearly saw rioting as a radical weapon of the proletariat".

I don’t want to look into the 1855 riots at this stage. I do want to argue that the organised tendency to which Marx belonged had already taken a clear position against the workers’ destroying the factories, seeing it as the manifestation of an immature stage of the “organisation of the proletarians into a class”. This is what the Communist Manifesto says on the matter

"The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first the contest is carried on by individual labourers, then by the workpeople of a factory, then by the operative of one trade, in one locality, against the individual bourgeois who directly exploits them. They direct their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of production, but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their labour, they smash to pieces machinery, they set factories ablaze, they seek to restore by force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Ages".

What should communists say now to, say, a group of garment workers who have got together to discuss the lessons of the movement? Would he simply condemn them moralistically for having expressed their rage in the destruction of the factories? No. But would he say bravo, next time, let’s do it on an even bigger scale? No. Leaving aside the rather important fact that by destroying the factories a lot of workers have undermined their own livelihood in a very immediate sense, our Indian or Bangladeshi communist would insist that such actions cannot be an expression of a growing consciousness, a confidence about taking charge of social and economic life. He would argue that.next time the proletarians should organise as a class – that they should advance beyond what our comrades call “rudimentary” forms of self-organisation, by holding general assemblies and forming responsible commissions and delegations, the embryos of a future workes’ power. That they should beware the trap of trying to form new unions – trade or industrial. That they should seek to spread the struggle even wider next time. Precisely because we are no longer part of a nascent proletariat, the workers in any given part of the world are perfectly capable of taking up the most advanced methods of the proletarian struggle without having to go through all the previous stages of their historic movement.

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Jul 22 2006 00:11

Hi

Alf wrote:
What should communists say now to, say, a group of garment workers who have got together to discuss the lessons of the movement? Would he simply condemn them moralistically for having expressed their rage in the destruction of the factories? No.

I don’t know if it’s intentional or not but I think you just moved from talking about what communists should do to talking about what Marx would think. Do communists seriously base their analysis on their interpretation of what Marx might think faced with the same situation?

I have to say, I once lived for a year basing my decisions on the philosophy “What would Kylie do in this situation?”. I know it sounds far fetched, but I made a lot of money that year, although it did corrode what remained of my mortal soul.

Alf wrote:
But would he say bravo, next time, let’s do it on an even bigger scale? No…

…He would argue that next time the proletarians should organise as a class

Honestly, it’s like reading someone’s theological interpretation of the opinions of Jesus.

Love

LR

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Alf
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Jul 22 2006 06:28

Can't see how I'm trying to say what Marx 'would' think. I referred to his organisation's position in 1848. And I talked about a case that is not very hypothetical - what communists in India or Bangladesh need to say right now in the wake of this movement. And there are communists in India faced with this question right now.

syndicalist
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Jul 22 2006 14:42

Are the Indian comrades from Kommunist Kranti (sp)?

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Steven.
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Jul 22 2006 16:33
Alf wrote:
It is a pity that the writer (RM) felt no need to acknowledge the contribution of the ICC’s comrades in India, who rapidly produced a very well informed article.

I'm not entirely sure about the author, but I know our style guide strongy advises against any writings about small political groupings, instead looking at the broader activities and tendencies of the class.

Beltov
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Jul 22 2006 18:46
syndicalist wrote:
Are the Indian comrades from Kommunist Kranti (sp)?

No, Communist Internationalist, the ICC's section in India. They've got a couple of pretty cool websites in Bangla and Hindi if I don't mind saying so wink

Bangla: http://bn.internationalism.org/

Hindi: http://hi.internationalism.org/

B.