ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dead Labour, Living Labour

The working class is re-emerging as a force for democratisation even as it faces increasing oppression.

May Day in our part of the world was preceded by the horrific news from Savar in Bangladesh where over a 1,000 workers are feared dead, trapped in a collapsed building where they were forced to work despite clear warnings of danger. The fact that workers could be forced to return to work in a patently unsafe building underlines their vulnerability – they were willing to face death rather than lose their jobs which pay them bare subsistence wages. Savar is not an exception. Just a few months ago more than a 100 workers were burnt to death in a fire in another of Bangladesh’s textile factories.

But then Bangladesh is no exception either. Working conditions are dismal all over south Asia, rather the global South. Even the rights and protections which the working class won over more than a century of struggles have often been eroded in the past few decades. The contexts and conditions surrounding the Savar tragedy are reminiscent of the oppressive working conditions of 19th century Europe and North America wherein lie the roots of May Day. There is the overpowering need to keep the machines running while reducing to the bare minimum every expense which would improve working conditions – wages, safety, duration of the working day, etc.

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