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15 Apr 2020

Oliver Brotherton, In Defence of Marxism

Bangladesh: Workers bearing brunt of crisis organise massive protests and risk infection to demand wages

"Bangladesh: textile workers risk infection to fight exploitation", 16 April 2020

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.

With over 80 percent of the country’s exports coming from the garment industry, the global lockdown has accelerated the major crisis in the Bangladeshi economy. Naturally, the bosses have sought to offload the burden of this onto the workers, refusing to pay wages and expecting the workers to get by until the lockdown ends. This has led to an explosion of class-consciousness among workers in Bangladesh, with protesters defying the government’s restrictions to organise huge protests. Slogans such as “we want our wages” and “break the black hands of the owners” show that workers know exactly where to place the blame for the current crisis. The expressions of anger have so far taken the form of mass demonstrations, with some workers breaking down doors and windows in factories...