Saturday, June 21, 2014

Book Review: Learning from Latin America’s Social Movements

By David L. Wilson, Upside Down World
June 10, 2014

Clifton Ross and Marcy Rein, editors. Until the Rulers Obey: Voices from Latin American Social Movements. PM Press, 2014.

One thing most social movements have in common is a striking ability to take the experts by surprise.

At a forum in New York last year, a senior analyst from a leading DC-based progressive research group admitted that until a June 2009 coup forced former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya out of office, “Honduras wasn’t on our radar.” The analyst’s organization was one of the best sources of information on the country in the months following the coup, but before the headline-grabbing event it overlooked one of the most interesting political developments in the hemisphere.

A mass movement had grown up in Honduras over the previous decades based on militant unions, increasingly assertive organizations of indigenous and African-descended Hondurans, campesinos demanding effective agrarian reform, and rapidly growing feminist and LGBT groups. [...]

Read the full article:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Statements From Haiti and Bangladesh for Left Forum 2014

[These two statements from front-line labor organizations were read at the June 1 "Global Minimum Wage" forum at this year's Left Forum conference in New York City.]

Statement From Batay Ouvriye ("Workers' Struggle"), Haiti

To the comrades in attendance at the Left Forum this year:

In the name of Batay Ouvriye in Haiti, we salute all the workers, laborers and militants who are taking part in the 2014 Left Forum in the US. Also, we salute this initiative, particularly because it seeks to address a fundamental question: Reform or Revolution.

In the context of the organizational construction necessary to free all workers and all humanity, we are conscious of the need for well-coordinated linkage and relationships between vanguard organizations and the working masses, and with the popular masses in general, particularly in dominated countries. For this linkage to be effective, it must also enable us at the same time to advance toward our final objective. To achieve this, we must seek at all times to build the necessary capacity to go beyond and build the capacity to transcend. And this ability must be rooted in the very nature of what we are building, in its DNA. It is this intrinsic capacity that can ensure the necessary permanent surpassing of our struggles and organizations.

This is the only way we can struggle against the revisionism that naturally develops in struggles within the realm of bourgeois democratic rights. It is the surest way to always emerge onto the advancement that is needed each time. This is a key point.

On our side, within the necessary objective of seeking to surpass and to enable the struggles of sweatshop workers in general to move beyond their initial limits (the struggle of workers all over the world against this spreading blood-sucking form of capitalism), we are working to see how a global minimum wage can be established. This could be regional at first, maybe, taking into account the many different regional “Free Trade” agreements, but always toward the objective of achieving a comprehensive international minimum wage. This way, the working class would be able to battle, with strength, with a unity it would be building within the struggle itself. The ability to do this would enable the working class to become more and more conscious of its strength and potential, to struggle for more and to naturally enable its struggles to seek new levels, surpassing their previous objectives, developing new relationships and surpassing itself. That would once again be the role of the conscious vanguard that would emerge from the working class itself, to not only take hold of this possibility but to enact it and bring it to life.

The working class is the only class capable of moving this construction beyond and through the constant surpassing of its limits, without halting.

On the flip side, it is in the US that the upheaval we are seeking can take a shape and reach a level so high that it would project at once the emancipation we are all struggling for.

These two parameters highlight the importance of this 2014 Left Forum.

In this context, we salute once again this initiative to reflect on this necessary linkage, while the representative of our political tendency is bringing to you our vision on this ensemble of issues.

Long live the struggle of the popular masses, with laborers as their pillar, under the leadership of the working class!

Stay strong in struggle, always seeking to move beyond, and we will prevail!

Batay Ouvriye, Haiti

The Wage Struggle of Garment Workers in Bangladesh

Statement from Faiezul Hakim,
President of the Bangladesh Trade Union Federation
May 30, 2014

In Bangladesh, the garment workers are now very much class conscious. Especially, this has increased after the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, a suburb near the capital Dhaka last year, on 24th April 2013. In addition, the people of Bangladesh are also now concerned about garment workers’ conditions, like their wages, lifestyle, etc. The exception is the ruling class.

In 2013, the present Government declared wages for the garment workers through a Wage Commission. It was a farce. This commission declared the minimum basic wage for a garment worker to be 5,300 Bangladeshi Taka [BDT] (1 US dollar was equivalent to 80 BDT), where the basic wage is 3,200 BDT excluding house rent , medical allowance, transportation, education allowance, etc.

The trade unions linked with left parties demanded 8000 BDT as a total monthly wage. This is also the demand of SKOP, a organization of workers and employees. In contrast, we Bangladesh Trade Union Federation raised the demand of 18,000 BDT (where the basic wage is 10,000 BDT).

We also raised the question: on what basis did you people fix the wages. According to our calculation, one adult person needs 3200 calories per day, and according to this we can find the monthly food expenditure for a 4-member of a family in Bangladesh (especially in Dhaka) to be now around 10,000 BDT. Now we want to add house rent, transportation, medical allowance, allowance for children’s education, etc. It will be then 18,000 BDT (though house rent in the city is different from the periphery).

We have a marked difference from others. These trade union leaders have agreed on our point, but they ask: how could the garment owners give this money to the workers as wages? It is their position, and the reflection of the garment owners’ position also.

It is notable that when we were part of the state of Pakistan, they paid 155 Rupees as a minimum wage after a workers upsurge in 1969. Today it is equivalent to 18,000 BDT. This is basically the minimum real wage, not a humanitarian wage.

Many garment factory owners have not yet executed the minimum wage for workers of 5,300 BDT declared by the government. And the government is not interested in supervising this. Those who executed it, introduced new tactics. Suppose, before the wage declaration, that there were 20 workers working in a line of a factory. Now there are 15 workers. It means they terminated 5 workers, and now 15 workers are doing job which was finished before by 20. It creates pressure on the workers. It is important to mention here that the anti-labor law helps the owners.

After the mass killing of garment workers in the year of 2013 in Bangladesh, in the Rana Plaza building collapse, the Government of Bangladesh formed an investigation committee. That committee investigated, but the people of Bangladesh have not heard about their findings. But people do know that the victim’ families have not received real compensation yet—not from the government, not from the owners, and not from the foreign buyers. In addition, the factory buildings for garment production are ill-designed and life threatening.

We, the Bangladesh Trade Union Federation, are trying to build our units in garments area. We are discussing among the workers about the government, the state, and the global imperialistic and capitalistic system. We are going with political questions, which are to prepare to capture state power by a working class movement—not by the present election system but by people's political insurrection. We are also raise workers’ demands: trade union rights, 8 hours working time, appointment letters, no compulsory overtime, 6-month maternity leave with wages, etc.

The wage struggle of garments workers is not a local phenomenon—it is global. So we think it is the time to establish workers’ unity all over the world, which will enhance the working class movement throughout the world. It is our duty to expose capitalism-imperialism in front of the working class and people.

By abolishing the capitalistic-imperialistic system through people's struggle, we will enter again into socialism, a humanitarian society which will save our planet.