Bangladesh Fire

I hate to do this to you, but next time you pick up some clothing at a retail store to purchase, just think that the worker who made it might well have burned to death in an inferno.

Many people mistakenly think imperialism just means attacking or invading smaller and weaker countries. While that is certainly a part, it’s not the main aspect of world imperialism headed by the US. The main point is to secure profits for multinational corporations. Militarism and war is the last resort to that end.

There are three main objectives imperialism pursues to ensure profits for corporations: controlling natural resources such as oil, raw materials and minerals, controlling and dominating over markets, and controlling and exploiting cheap labor. Unlike in the 19th and first part of the 20th century when exploitation of poor and underdeveloped nations by the developed countries was more direct and often involved military presence, imperialism accomplishes its goals mainly, though not exclusively, through corrupt and Mafia like local governments that benefit the local ruling class and business owners, and through and beyond them, and to a larger degree, the transnational corporations of the wealthy countries.

Naturally, the preference is to have direct presence in the country in the name of military or police trainers or advisors or better yet to have a military base and even troops to ensure workers don’t revolt or a working class party doesn’t come to power, but it’s not always feasible or even necessary. Such local governments which represent the local bourgeoisie do a fine job putting out workers’ revolts and keeping wages down on their own, though often with assistance from the US and its allies. Incidentally, the police departments of some major US cities, including Los Angeles and New York and others, have been sent to developing countries to train the local police to suppress their workers.

The alliance between global imperialism headed by the US and corrupt local governments
is ideal for the former since it hides its culpability behind the latter since they seem to be the party in direct charge. Furthermore, any direct involvement by the government of the multinationals in oppression of workers is minimized in the eyes of their own public and justified under cooperation,development,and training.

Neoliberal policies and “free trade” which was championed and boasted by Clinton and continued to this day was a renewed effort to open up more markets and sources of cheap labor for US corporations with countries where labor was cheap and was to stay cheap and where local businesses could not compete with companies of the developed world, practically, not only handing over their markets but also their cheap labor. One such country has been Columbia which both Bush and Obama renewed “free trade” agreements with which has the highest number of assassinations against its workers and labor leaders in the world.

Garment industry which retailers and major brands use to make their huge profits is particularly oppressive with unbearable working conditions, infamous track record in ignoring worker safety and low pay. It’s the largest employer in Bangladesh With a $20 billion business making it the second largest exporter of cheap clothing to developed countries after China. A typical garment worker in Bangladesh makes $56 a month.

Besides keeping wages down, the alliance also prevents the implementation of any meaningful safety standards since any such prevention ultimately is a cost that reduces profits. Garment industry is especially susceptible to fires due to storage of large amount of flammable fabric and loom and especially acrylic which often result in raging infernos burning workers to death in large numbers. More than 300 workers have died in garment factory fires in Bangladesh since 2006. Such accidents which are largely preventable are made worse when they do occur due to the pressure put on the managers and supervisors to deliver the products fast and cheap. Also, to control worker movement and prevent theft, doors are often kept locked.

Many of the workers who survived the latest fire at Tazreen Fashions garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where 112 workers burned to death and 150 were injured, said that exit doors were locked and there was no emergency exit. When they tried to flee, managers told them to go back to their work stations.

This particular factory which employed 1400 workers, most of them women – about 70 percent of the workers – had previously been found to be in violation of safety standards which presumably retailers demand of factories. Nevertheless, an Associated Press reporter discovered clothes and account books that indicated the factory was used by a host of U.S. and European retailers. Concerned about their reputation, these retailers tried to distance themselves from the infamous sweatshop. Wal-Mart said that a previously conducted safety audit had showed the factory was “high-risk” and had decided to stop doing business with them, but a supplier had continued to use the factory without their knowledge. Sears said it learned after the blaze that its merchandise was being produced there. Disney likewise said none of its vendors were permitted to make Disney-brand products at the factory.

But, this is not the only factory that had such an accident. nosweat reported that in February of last year, 22 workers died in a fire at the Garib and Garib sweater factory in the southern district of Gazipur, Bangladesh, where clothes were made for H&M. At least 20 other workers were injured in the blaze, many with serious burns. At least 28 more Bangladeshi garment workers died and dozens more were injured after a fire broke out in June of last year at the “That’s It Sportswear Ltd” factory located 16 miles from the capital Dhaka. Several workers appeared to have suffocated, while others jumped to their deaths trying to escape the burning building. Another factory fire killed at least 21 workers and injured a further 50 in 2011. To make matters worse, the surviving workers are out without a pay. Such is the condition of the world ruled by US Empire.

If you think companies like Walmart are unfair to their workers here, you should see how they or their representative government in collusion with corrupt governments that work with them do to their workers.

We must begin to think and act globally. We must show solidarity with the workers of Walmart and Hostess and others who fight for livable wages and healthcare and against union busting and must also actively support workers of the developing nations as our sisters and brothers.

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