Thousands of Bangladeshi workers erupted onto the streets of the capital Dhaka yesterday in fury at the fire on Saturday at a garment factory that left over 123 dead and 150 injured.
The factory in the industrial section of the city is owned by Tazreen Fashions Limited, a subsidiary of the Tuba Group which exports clothing to the UK, US, Germany, France and Italy.
It counts as its customers the giant Wal-Mart (owners of Asda), Ikea and, it is believed, C&A.
This global company which feeds the department stores of the capitalist world produced its garments in a nine-storey building which, according to survivors and local fire officials, had no safe exit onto the street – those exits that existed were apparently locked from the outside.
When the fire broke out on the ground floor the women and men working inside had no chance of escape and were either burnt to death or killed jumping from upper stories to escape the inferno when thousands of bales of cloth went up in flames.
Behind these appalling facts lies not just a story of a terrible human tragedy but a savage indictment of the capitalist system and the companies in the US and Europe – many of them high street names – that reap huge profits out of the super-exploitation of labour in Bangladesh and throughout the world.
Dhaka is not an isolated tragedy, similar infernos are common throughout south Asia in the garment and other industries.
In just the month of September this year 289 were killed in a blaze at a factory in Karachi, while in the same month 40 died in a fire at a fireworks factory in Tamil Nadu.
Safety at these factories is virtually non-existent, as the owners drive for cost-cutting precludes even the most basic health and safety procedures.
After all for capitalism the life of a worker is cheap compared to the profits to be made out of their exploitation.
According to Siddiq Ur Rahman, the acting president of the Bangladeshi Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the families of the dead workers will get compensation of £760.
This is the price capitalism puts on a human life!
There is no room for complacency amongst the working class at home that such a tragedy could not happen here.
The Tories, the employers and the right-wing press have been waging a concerted campaign against the evils of ‘health and safety gone mad’ and the so-called ‘compensation culture’ under the guise of slashing red tape and freeing up business to rejuvenate the shattered capitalist economy.
To this end the Tory-led coalition announced in September its plans to completely smash up existing health and safety legislation and leave hundreds of thousands of workers completely unprotected, with thousands of businesses being exempted from health and safety inspections from April next year.
The simple fact of life is that there is not one single piece of health and safety legislation that has entered the statute book at the insistence of the bosses – every safeguard workers enjoy at work has been fought for and won by the trade unions, usually in the teeth of bitter opposition from the employer.
As the crisis of capitalism deepens, and the lust to extract the maximum amount of profit through the exploitation of labour sharply increases, so all gains made in the past are under attack.
The deaths of thousands of workers in southern Asia as a direct result of brutal exploitation is the future that capitalism holds out for the entire working class throughout the world.
There can only be one response to the criminal sacrifice of workers in the name of profit and that is to carry out the socialist revolution internationally and put an end to this barbaric capitalist system.