This article is part of the industrial report that was presented at the 12 January meeting of the CPGB-ML central committee.
The exploitation of proletarians in Bangladesh, helping deliver the superprofits into which imperialism dips to buy off the labour aristocracy at home, is conducted in a more straightforwardly murderous fashion.
Documents and logos retrieved from the factory blaze that killed 112 garment workers and injured many more indicated that the sweatshop death trap was producing clothes for Walmart’s ‘Faded Glory’ line, as well as for other US and foreign companies.
November’s fire at the nine-storey Tazreen factory in Savar, north west of Dhaka, started in a warehouse on the ground floor that was used to store yarn, and quickly spread to the upper floors. Though most workers had left for the day when the fire started, 600 were still inside working overtime, and it was these who were trapped.
About a hundred died inside the building and another dozen lost their lives trying to escape from the upper storeys. One survivor, Mohammad Ripu, tried to run out of the building when the fire alarm rang but was stopped by managers, who said: “Nothing happened. The fire alarm had just gone out of order. Go back to work.” When people ran for the exit door they found it had been locked from the outside.
Tazreen was not a one-off tragedy. Since 2005, around 700, mostly female, garment workers have perished in similar fires, revealing a systematic flouting of safety rules that amounts to a policy of calculated manslaughter.
These corporate murders, blamed on local sweatshop bosses but carried out to feed monopoly capital’s insatiable hunger for cheap labour, are inseparable from the intense superexploitation that is essential to the country’s annual export of $18bn worth of garments.
Workers are fighting back courageously against this oppression, organising strikes to demand better wages and conditions. One union leader was found tortured and killed outside Dhaka last year, but the struggle will only intensify.