Are burning down their factories.
That’s how I started a recent letter to a comrade about the wave of strikes, riots, and factory sabotage in the Bangladeshi garment industry. He published it on his new blog, Diligent Dispatches and Discourses, a site that I would recommend keeping an eye on.
In the wake of the Dec. 12th Port Shut Down and May Day, there has been a lot of debate about rioting and property destruction. There has also been a lot of debate about whether production workers or unemployed/ precariously employed folks are the people who are going to make the revolution. What is more powerful: general strikes inside workplaces or blockades and barricades from the outside? Finally, there has been debate about whether militant, illegal action is something that only privileged white males can do, or whether it is a central part of decolonization and revolt against white supremacy. Our comrade Will covered this issue of “privilege politics” in his controversial piece on this site, and it was elaborated more recently in the thorough and thoughtful piece called Escalating Identity.
The situation in Bangladesh seems to cut through all of these debates – the same people who are striking are rioting and blockading streets and factories. When workers go out on strike they draw into the vortex the precarious workers and unemployed folks of the slums – their neighbors, and family members – who turn single-workplace struggles into general working class insurrections. And these Bangladeshi garment workers, some of the most militant workers in the world, are women of color, not “white male outside agitators”!
My letter provides links to some excellent journalistic pieces from libcom that document the dynamics of these struggles.
Of course, Seattle is not Bangladesh, and there are no factories getting smashed here, just the windows of the Nike stores that sell clothes possibly made in those factories. It is worth remembering though, that there ARE factories here – in the sprawling industrial belt from SODO and the South End through S. King County. We should not ignore them. They won’t be quiet forever.
We can’t imitate the Bangladeshi workers, and instead should be thinking about how we can build effective solidarity with their struggles while we effectively struggle here, both inside and outside the workplace. But as one of the most combative layers of the global working class, the garment workers’ self-activity does show us something about the global class struggle and how it could unfold in ways that radically transcend the narrow debates we are engaged in today.