The death toll from the Rana Plaza factory building collapse in Dhaka has gone past 1000. Another 8 people have been killed in a fire in the Mirpur area of the same city – the death toll would certainly have been higher if the fire had broken out during the day, as it did last November at the Tazreen garment factory where 112 workers died1.
These ‘accidents’ are nothing short of industrial murder. There is no hiding the fact that there is a total disregard for the safety for the Bangladeshi garment workers who toil in appalling conditions for miserable wages. But this is not a regrettable excess to be blamed on a few rogue employers. It is inscribed into the very structure of the world economy. Cheapening the costs of labour power benefits not only the local gangsters who own the factories, but also the big international clothing companies like Primark who have swelled their profits on the cut-price labour they can find in the ‘third world’.
Furthermore, despite all the alleged reforms and advances of industrial production in the ‘west’, capital everywhere puts profit high above human life. Almost simultaneously with the terrorist attack on the crowds attending the Boston marathon, a fertiliser plant in West, near Waco in Texas, was destroyed in a huge explosion which left 14 dead and 200 wounded and levelled five city blocks. At the time, this was described as an accident. More recently, a paramedic who went to the scene has been arrested on suspicion of causing the explosion. But whatever the truth, the West explosion reveals the profound irresponsibility of capitalist production, since this plant containing such highly volatile materials was situated close to a nursing home, a school and a number of residential buildings. It brings to mind the Toulouse fertilizer factory explosion in early 2000 where 28 workers were killed plus one child. Ten thousand five hundred were injured, a quarter of them seriously. Total, who ran the plant, was cleared of all responsibility in subsequent proceedings. We could equally point to the siting of the Fukushima nuclear plant in an area highly vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis and again situated far too close to residential areas……
Sickened by the latest reports from Bangladesh, a sympathiser posted these observations on our discussion forum. We can only say that his anger is totally justified:
“the Bangladesh situation is reaching grotesque proportions, with horrific disasters - industrial murder - happening with sickening regularity. Why does anybody still bother to go to work in Bangladesh at all? God knows they barely even get paid! So why go? The answer of course is that under capitalism we all need even the most ridiculous and tiny amount of money the bourgeoisie can spare - wages: “a just wage for a just day’s work” or some such crap - just to keep going from day to day. We live on pittances squeezed out of the capitalists in circumstances that often threaten our very lives. And the threats don’t all have to be physical (fires and building collapses, or poisoned polluted surroundings) they can be psychological too, producing appalling miseries and unhappiness. Oh! How grateful we all should be, to the bourgeoisie; its generosity and love of humanity; its endless concern for the planet and the reign of peace world-wide! Where would we be without them? How could we manage without them, enforcing their extortionate mode of life on our existence, just so they can make their profit? And fight their vicious wars! If you don’t get crushed in a collapsing badly built factory, or burned to death locked inside one, there’s always the possibility of slow death at the hands of radioactive tsunamis, sudden extinction by remote bombings, rockets or drones, distasteful and agonizing elimination via chemical weaponry, or sudden erasure at the hands of sharp shooters from one side or another of their perpetually warring gangs: official or otherwise.
It isn’t just ‘industrial murder’ the bourgeoisie have invented, they have turned mass murder into an industry. It’s the only thing they’re good at now”. Amos 11.5.13
1 See the article written by our comrades in India: Workers burn to death in Bangladesh. See also also this article the Rana Plaza collapse by Red Marriot.