Bangladesh

The workers and poor of Bangladesh are crushed between the COVID-19 pandemic and a severe economic crisis, while the government throws money at big business and wades in a swamp of corruption. For millions of people, winning a better society is a matter of life or death.

In the last week, over 20,000 workers took to the streets of Bangladesh to demand their wages after clothes factories stopped paying their staff due to a lack of orders. With the global coronavirus pandemic causing fashion retailers such as H&M, Walmart and Tesco to cancel their orders, many workers in Bangladeshi factories have gone up to two months without receiving any income. Now, in defiance of the nationwide lockdown, workers have organised massive protests demanding their money and risking infection to fight the bosses.

Massive student protests have been ongoing in Dhaka, Bangladesh related to road safety demands. On 29 July, two buses, with unlicensed drivers, crossed a footpath and collided, killing two students and injuring dozens of people. Since then, various neighbourhoods in Dhaka and neighbouring highways to other towns, such as Tangail and Narayanganj, have seen protests by students demanding justice and safer roads.

Forty-four years ago on 16 and 17 December 1971, Dacca fell and the Pakistani army surrendered East Pakistan in a humiliating defeat. Lieutenant-General A. A. K Niazi, Martial Law Administrator of East Pakistan, surrendered to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Joint Commander of the Bangladesh-India Allied Forces.

Since 21st September 2013 up to 200,000 Bangladeshi garment workers have been demonstrating and taking strike action to demand an increase in the minimum wage from $38 to $100. As the protests entered their fourth day the militant mood of the workers was apparent and the weakness of the politicians, the bosses and the trade union leaders in the face of a mass workers’ movement is being revealed.

Following the collapse of the nine-storey Rana Plaza at Savar near Dhaka last week, the death toll of workers killed in the disaster had reached 501 by the morning of Friday 3rd May. Many people fear that the death toll will rise above 1000. While a large number of workers are still missing and feared dead, their relatives have taken to the streets to protest against the brutality of the Capitalist economic system that caused this tragedy. This latest incident took place just five months after the Ashulia tragedy near Dhaka in which more than 110 garment workers were burnt to death in a Tazreen Fashions factory after a fire broke out. No-one has yet been held responsible, let

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Ever since a recently established war crimes tribunal came to the verdict of a life sentence against the Jamaat-a-Islami chief, Abdul Qadir Mullah, on 5th of February for crimes against humanity during the civil war in 1971, Bangladesh has been embroiled in clashes and unrest in which several people have been killed and wounded.

With two-thirds of its work force in the rural sector, Bangladesh’s agriculture contributes just 19 percent to its GDP. Sixty-six percent of exports are from the garment industry that makes it the third largest clothes exporting country in the world. It is perhaps the cheapest and most profitable place for garment manufacturers. However, the conditions of the workers, mainly women, are atrocious.

Forty years ago last month [16 December 1971] Dhaka fell. The laying down of arms by the Pakistan Army to the Indian Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora was the biggest military surrender in post-Second World War history. It was in the period when a revolutionary storm swept across the planet in the years 1967-74.

The episode of the signing of the instrument of surrender on 16 December 1971, at Paltan Maidan, Dacca and the subsequent breakup of Pakistan has been the subjection of controversial historical interpretations for the last thirty-nine years. A vast majority of this analysis reflects the interests of the different wings of the ruling classes of the south Asian subcontinent. Hence the official historians have grossly distorted the events and the real aspirations of the oppressed masses during the social blizzard that swept across the region between 1968 and 1972.

Bangladesh has attracted investment from multinational corporations, particularly in the textile industry, because of its supply of very cheap labour. Now, however, this new working class is starting to flex its muscles and a wave of militant strikes has spread across the country. The conditions have been created where the left could unite and struggle for the overthrow of capitalism.

In breaking away from Pakistan, the founders of Bangladesh in 1971 proceeded top set up a “Bengali” state, but this ignored the fact that there were other peoples also living within the borders of the country. The tribes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are an example of this. They have suffered terribly with tens of thousands being killed over the years, fighting back against national oppression.

One of the issues confronting the G20, and one the official communiqué is likely to duck, is the threat of climate change making parts of the globe uninhabitable. Nowhere is the peril more present and manifest than Bangladesh, home to more than 130 million people. The G20 leaders may smile for the cameras as their conflab closes, but the working people of Bangladesh are at the sharp end of capitalism’s failure to deal with threat of climate change.

Faced with mutiny at the Bangladesh Rifles Pilkhana barracks, and its spreading to many other areas, the government of Bangladesh, terrified at the consequences of such a sudden eruption of anger of the troops, initially offered to accept their demands, confirming its own weakness. Now the manhunt for the rebels is on, but the open challenge to their superior officers revealed by the ranks is an indication of how weak the state is and underlines the enormous revolutionary potential within society.