Massive struggles in Bangladesh and China

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All over the planet, the working class is being subjected to increasingly unbearable levels of exploitation and poverty. And in the countries which the bourgeoisie hypocritically calls ‘developing economies' the workers are treated as no more than cattle.

But for several years, these wage slaves have been resisting more and more. In Egypt, in Dubai or in Vietnam, revolts have been brewing and sporadically exploding, each time involving tens of thousands of workers.

The existence of these struggles is hardly known about in the rest of the world, or totally ignored. The bourgeois media operate a complete black-out: hardly anything gets through about these immense strikes or the terrible repression meted out to militant workers.

The press has been no less silent about the recent massive struggles in Bangladesh and China.

In Bangladesh: textile workers in struggle

The textile workers of Bangladesh have a grim record: the lowest wages in the world: $0.22 an hour. In India, where most of the population lives in the most utter deprivation, wages are twice as high ($0.44 an hour). And yet the situation in Bangladesh has been getting worse: in certain factories, even these miserable wages are not being paid out!

So after months of suffering and sacrifice, the massive and violent reaction of the workers was in proportion to this inhuman treatment. On 10 May, in the Rupashi pullover-making factory in Narayanganj (a port city at the centre of the country's textile industry) the workers' anger exploded and they physically assaulted their boss. "The next day, the workers of Rupashi went to work and found the factory closed and bolted. The workers then decided to go in procession to the other factories in the town shouting slogans against exploitation. Thousands of other workers left their workplaces to join them. There were clashes with the factory security guards. The violence spread like wildfire: 20,000 workers trashed and burned dozens of textile factories and bales of cotton" (‘Des Nouvelles du Front', dndf.org).

In 2006 thousands of workers' revolts hit certain industrial sites. But this time, the workers were acting even more massively and violently. They didn't hesitate to sweep aside all the security fences around their factories to come together and confront the army, which resulted in some very bloody street battles. These sites are almost like labour camps, surrounded by barbed wire fences and permanently protected by armed guards. By attacking the factories and the army, these 20,000 workers were driven by the desire both to destroy the machines that are used to torture them and to risk their lives confronting their jailers.

In China too, workers fight the effects of the crisis

For the last 15 years China has been presented as a new capitalist El Dorado. To believe the highly qualified liars of political economy, the Middle Kingdom is being spared by the economic crisis. Even better, China will help to lead the world economy out of the recession! Obviously the truth is somewhere else, and here also the working class is the first victim of the crisis. For example  "in Daqing alone, 88,000 employees have been laid off in the last two years" (ibid. Daqing is a town of one million inhabitants in the province of Heilongjiang). In the country as a whole, around 30 million migrant workers have lost their jobs since last year.

But bit by bit combativity is growing, Despite the pitiless repression handed out by the Chinese Communist Party, the workers are less and less prepared to be trated like animals. Since the beginning of March, "thousands of workers in the North East of China demonstrated their discontent in the street, demanding payment of their benefits and the liberation of their representatives[1]. Demonstrations took place in the towns of Daqing and Liaoyang, at the heart of the industrial basin of Manchuria, which has been hard hit by the economic crisis. Around these towns, the state industries directly or indirectly employ nine out of ten people. But the output of these heavy industrial plants is falling and unemployment is growing. When it was announced that heating allowances would be stopped and that there would no longer be any social security for workers who had been laid off, thousands of Daqing workers, up to 30,000 of them, came out onto the streets every day since the beginning of March. They gathered in the square of the ‘Man of Iron', the name of a legendary hero of the proletariat in the 1960s. They camped out in front of the HQ of Petro China, the state company which employs them. ‘We are the men of iron' they shouted under the windows of their bosses. In Liaoyang, similar motives pushed the workers to brave the cold and the sandstorms, tens of thousands protesting in front of local government HQ." (ibid) 

This wave of struggle is typical of the general rise of militancy in the Chinese working class in the face of the economic crisis. "in the course of the first three months of the year, as job cuts and the forced return of migrants to their region of origin shot up, China saw 58,000 ‘mass incidents'. The government itself has talked about strikes, street demonstrations and blockades and other forms of popular struggle. These figures come from the agencies charged with surveying political stability in continental China, situated in Hong Kong. If this tendency continues throughout the year, 2009 will break all previous records with more than 230,000 of these ‘mass incidents' compared to 120,000 in 2008 and 90,000 in 2006" (ibid)

From Vietnam to Dubai, from China to Bangladesh, we are seeing increasingly massive and violent struggles, The question posed here is: what is the future of these struggles? To answer this, we have to see them as part of an international process, of the gradual return of the proletariat to the terrain of the class struggle all over the world.

In the ‘developing' countries, the militancy of the workers, the massive nature of the strikes, and the courage of the workers in the face of ferocious repression can and should inspire the workers of all countries.

But the despair which pushes them, as in Bangladesh, to smash up a factory or confront the forces of repression with no other perspective than to die in a bloodbath, also shows the extent to which these workers need the struggle of the workers in the central countries, in Europe and the USA, to appropriate the long experience of the oldest battalions of the world proletariat.

For these struggles to have an echo, for the fighting spirit of the workers to encourage others, it is vital to beak through the wall of silence imposed by the bourgeoisie and give maximum international publicity to every important struggle.  

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[1] These ‘representatives' are usually elements that the Chinese state has pointed to as the most militant workers and who have been thrown in prison as a result. Given the lack of information, we don't know to what extent these ‘representatives' are actually recognised by the majority of workers in struggle.

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