Joint Statement: International brands must act urgently and cease all production in Myanmar

Received via Global Women’s Strike and English Collective of Prostitutes.

Joint Statement

International brands must act urgently and cease all production in Myanmar to weaken the military dictatorship and force them to step down

On February 1st 2021, the military in Myanmar carried out a coup and arrested the elected government members and seized power as the State Administrative Council (SAC). On February 5th, when a general strike and street protest known as the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) began, women garment workers were on the frontlines. Some 3,000 women workers came by bus from their factories in the industrial zones to join the protests in Yangon.i Garment workers remain central to the CDM. Millions of people have taken to the streets, risking their lives and their livelihoods, to demand an end to dictatorship and in support of democracy for Myanmar.

Thousands of garment workers (90% women) have been on strike for months. The army and police have responded to the peaceful protests with deadly force, including shooting live rounds into the crowds. Over 1300 people have been killed by the military and police in the past ten months, More than 1,750 have been detained, and raped and tortured in other ways while in custody. Women trade union leaders and workers from the garment industry are among those killed and arrested.ii iii In order to repress the workers’ opposition, military personnel have been deployed at factory gates, and martial law has been imposed in the industrial zones so that protesters are judged by a military tribunal under military law, risking years in prison.

Before 2010 many Western brands were unwilling to operate in Myanmar because they didn’t want to be associated with the draconian working conditions and other atrocities taking place under military rule. Along with 19 other brands, H&M, Primark, Tesco and New Look have signed an industry agreementiv – known as Action, Collaboration, Transformation (ACT) – that commits to ensuring the local factories producing their goods uphold workers’ rights to a living wage, collective bargaining, safety and other guidelines for termination and compensation. ACT has ended operations in Myanmar, but many brands that have signed the agreement, like H&M and Lidl, are still sourcing from Myanmar. This is unacceptable. Now that military rule has returned, the same ruthless conditions are recurring and worker’s rights cannot be ensured – why are brands not pulling out?

Reportedly factory owners and employers are taking advantage of the coup to undermine worker’s rights. Many permanent workers have been sacked and replaced with temporary workers on a daily wage. Employers are also known to be working in collaboration with the army to destroy the trade union movement by informing on trade union activists, providing soldiers with names of trade union members they find problematic or who oppose the military coup and having them arrested. Most trade union organizers are now in hiding, yet still active in the movement.

Despite wages for garment workers in Myanmar being among the lowest in the world, multinational corporations are a significant source of income for the military junta. The cut-make-pack (CMP) garment sector exports for the fiscal year 2020/21 were reported to value US$3.24 billion. The garment industry in Myanmar constitutes US$6bn of annual exports (approx. 30% of all exports).vi Many factories sit on land owned by the military with rent from the factories funding them. In addition to exploiting workers to fund the coup, the military is also widely reported to be exploiting natural resources to further finance their crimes. The destruction of people and destruction of the natural resources go hand in hand.

On September 3, 2021, two of the largest trade unions in Myanmar, the All Burma Federation of Trade Unions (ABFTU) and the Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM) put out a joint statement condemning the actions of the employers and calling on Western brands to stop sourcing their products from Myanmar suppliers.vii Garment workers organised in the Industrial Worker’s Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) as part of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar are calling for comprehensive economic sanctions.viii

“Together with the Myanmar Labour Alliance, a coalition of 185 organisations including trade unions and students, teachers, health workers, engineers’ networks, strike committees, and youth, women and LGBT networks are calling for comprehensive economic sanctions to remove the military regime and restore democracy, human rights, and workers’ rights in Myanmar as quickly as possible. The brands and their lobbyists must stop insisting that they can stay in the country under these conditions. By staying in the country, they objectively defend and legitimize a terrorist regime.”

Khaing Zar Aung: President of the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar (IWFM), an executive committee member of the Confederation of Trade Union Myanmar (CTUM), and a member of the Myanmar Labour Alliance.

Given that over two-thirds of Myanmar’s garment exports are for the UK/EU and US markets,ix we have an opportunity and an obligation to act in solidarity with the garment workers and all those opposing the coup and the military’s crimes in Myanmar.

We, the undersigned, join the trade unions of Myanmar in their call for international brands and retailers to urgently take action:

1.Withdraw from Myanmar to put pressure on the military dictatorship to step down.

2. When withdrawing, consult with Myanmar garment unions for an exit plan to ensure transparency and due compensation to the workers, and contribute humanitarian aid to the workers and people of Myanmar.

3. Publicly join the international condemnation of the military coup in Myanmar and call for democracy to be restored. Actively support the Civil Disobedience Movement, trade unions and the National Unity Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (NUG) in their efforts to stop this brutal military dictatorship.

Issued by Global Women’s Strike and No Sweat

Signed by…

EA minded to permit waste water re-injection at Surrey oil site

DRILL OR DROP?

The Environment Agency is seeking public comments on its proposal to allow Angus Energy to dispose of waste water underground at the Brockham oil site in Surrey.

Angus Energy site at Brockham, Surrey, on 16 December 2018. Photo: Brockham Protectors

Despite local concerns, the EA said it was minded to permit water re-injection at Brockham.

In a draft decision document, the EA said it was satisfied that risks had been identified and that operating procedures were “sufficient to mitigate the risk to groundwater”. There was no need for groundwater monitoring, it said.

A public consultation opens on Wednesday 29 December 2021 and runs until Monday 31 January 2021. Comments can be made online or by email

Details

Waste water, also known as produced or formation water, often comes to the surface during oil and gas extraction.

It is usually very salty and may be radioactive. Companies seek to re-inject it back underground to avoid expensive water treatment and to support the pressure in the hydrocarbon reservoir, improving hydrocarbon flows.

Angus Energy has previously said it would give up the Brockham site if it could not re-inject waste water.

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We want council housing and homes for life!

Focus E15 Campaign

Another family has been moved into the hostel Brimstone House in Victoria Street in Stratford during the last eight weeks. This means that Newham Labour council and Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz still think that rooms built for single young people are adequate to house families. This has to stop! People need to be housed in decent housing. Shame on the council and those in local government who sit by and let the housing crisis in Newham escalate whilst people suffer and homes remain empty.

This family is a father, a mother and a four month old baby. There is just about space for a double bed and a sofa. Currently the father sleeps on the sofa while the mother sleeps with the baby in the bed, which is against the advice from midwives, health visitors and GPs about safe sleeping for babies. It is just not appropriate for an adult to sleep all night on a sofa.

There is little or no ventilation, the room is quickly filled with cooking smells which can be overpowering, and the toilet flush does not work properly despite repeated requests for it to be fixed, it has not been repaired. The alarm continues to go off in the building and there is drilling early in the morning. It is no wonder that these parents are distressed, tearful and unwell. There is no space and nowhere to put their belongings. It is clear that Brimstone House is no place to raise a child and the housing is not suitable.

Meanwhile, the roomy council flats around the corner on Carpenters estate remain empty and there are trees growing out of them! What a waste. We want to save every single council flat on this estate because this housing offers the chance for long term stability, community and cheap rent. A chance for a decent life.

Please join us on Saturday 18 December 12-2pm on the Carpenters Estate where over 400 home have stood empty for over a decade, where currently a ballot is underway and where the council is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to secure a yes vote to its regeneration scheme which will mean demolishing 60% of the estate.

We need more council homes, not fewer!

We need families like the one above from Brimstone House, and the thousands of others on the housing waiting list and those in temporary and emergency accommodation, to be housed decently.

Join us on Saturday 18 December at 12 noon in the middle of Carpenters Estate in Stratford (near the shop) to fight for housing, to make a stand against capitalism, against racism in housing and to restore people’s dignity.

Please share and join the facebook event

Comment on the question of ‘revolutionary minority’

AngryWorkers

Another fragment in AngryWorkers’ process of soul searching. If you want to read up on other texts we have written, check out this recent one on ‘What does it take to be organised politically?’ or this biographical rumination on ‘How not to be organised’.

When we first posted the article on the Revolutionary minority, I had a problem with it but didn’t say anything. I am very aware that we all have a lot of baggage and there is nothing more boring and annoying than old lefties fighting old battles. But the question of ‘the left’ or ‘the revolutionaries’ is clearly important to some of us and it keeps cropping up so now I have to say what worries me about it.

First of all we have published a few articles which state that we don’t think there is a kind of spectrum of the ‘left’ with us at one end and the Corbynites, say, at the other. Most of us agree that there is a clear gulf between us and most of the ‘left’.

But the term ‘revolutionary minority’ to describe us bothers me. In one sense who can disagree – we’re revolutionaries and there aren’t many of us compared to the ‘left’, so what’s the problem?

Well wouldn’t most people in most of the left groups think of themselves as the ‘revolutionary minority’, even if they don’t actually use those words? So its a totally subjective label and it doesn’t help to clarify why we are different. That differentiation has to be done by concretely showing the differences of outlook and practice – ie why we think the notion of the vanguard party leads to people seeing the working class as the passive subject of their work and not the real revolutionary force in society, etc etc. What we think distinguishes us has to be spelt out and not asserted by labels.

But more problematic for me is that this label, ‘revolutionary minority’, can potentially make worse an existing problem – that people who have read revolutionary books, who regard themselves as ‘revolutionaries’ make the mistake of thinking they are the moving force in revolution. This is what I was trying to write about in the piece I did for the November meeting – the ‘revolutionary’ preacher syndrome or the ‘revolutionary’ propagandist.

So strong is this attitude that I think everything has to be done to fight it and I’m worried that if we bestow upon ourselves this label then it can tend to make fuzzy the reality that the only revolutionary force is the working class in its self organised efforts to transform the mode of production.

You see, I think it’s a fair question to ask is Angry Workers a revolutionary organisation? Well in one sense obviously yes but in another sense the answer is ‘It remains to be seen’, i.e. the test is in practice. Can the group find ways to play a useful part in the rebuilding of working class revolutionary organisation? It’s not enough to have ‘good ideas’ and great aspirations. Can people turn those into activities that lead to the development of the class. The first thing by no means automatically leads to the second.

So by all means show by concrete examples where our outlook and practice lies on the other side of a deep divide from both the reformists and the vanguardists, etc. etc., but be very careful of doing/ saying anything that might tend to confuse the relationship between us, the people with revolutionary outlooks, and the class who has the potential revolutionary power to change the world.

We’re hiring! Seeking trainee anti-capitalist researcher

Corporate Watch

Corporate Watch is looking for a trainee anti-capitalist researcher – help us spread the word!

Note: As part of our commitment to fighting structural inequalities, we actively encourage applications from people of colour and Black applicants. We also welcome applications from working-class people, (ex-)prisoners and those with criminal records. We do not require formal qualifications or a university degree.

Corporate Watch is looking for a trainee researcher. We’re looking for someone to join us as we investigate companies and capitalism, expose where power lies, and find information to help fight the corporations and others who are wrecking our world.

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Mikhail Bakunin and antisemitism.

Chapter Thirty-Six of The Authority of the Boot-Maker by Mal Content.

I like Bakunin a lot, I have great regard for this tireless revolutionary, who spent several years in prison chained to a wall and whose personal history shows him to have been also a kind and generous man. He influenced not only the collectivist strand of anarchism with which he is associated, but nihilism and anarcho-syndicalism. He warned against the authoritarianism of Marx and his followers, and correctly predicted the horrors of state Communism. The title of this work is taken from one of his more famous quotes – and he was always good for a quote.

I’m by no means a ‘Bakuninist’ however, any more than I’m a Marxist or an ‘Einsteinian’. Had we been contemporaries I would have had serious differences with him. In his personal correspondence he made a number of statements of crude antisemitism I find repellent and unworthy. He blamed a Jewish conspiracy for capitalism, as Churchill and Hitler would later blame one for Bolshevism. In fact, he seized on Marx’s enthusiasm for a central bank as evidence that he too was in thrall to this conspiracy.

“5.  Centralization  of  credit  in  the  banks  of  the  state,  by  means  of  a  national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.”

– Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: “Manifesto of the Communist Party”

The ugliest and most frequently repeated of the antisemitic rants attributed to Bakunin, which amid lurid accusations of sectarianism and parasitism claims “this Jewish world today stands for the most part at the disposal of Marx and at the same time at the disposal of Rothschild” might be a caricature*. Allegedly from a letter to the Bologna section of the International in 1871, the earliest source I have been able to find is a German publication from 1924, when there were other agendas at work.

* And somewhat nonsensical, as absurd as Marx’s allegation that Bakunin was a Russian agent.

In his published works, Judaism is only referred to in the context of his critique of religion in general. Was he simply using ‘Jewish’ colloquially as a synonym for bourgeois? Populist antisemitism was opportunistically appropriated by some 19th Century revolutionary movements, especially in central Europe. The perennial myth that Jews belonged to a secret transnational society, that they possessed hidden wealth, power and influence* resulted from ignorance and suspicion, as ever. Arguments framing them as moneylenders, profiteers and oppressors of the Slavs, must have seemed facile even at the time. The victims were not bankers but Working Class Jews and surely Bakunin had personal dealings with such people.

* Like Freemasonry, which Bakunin briefly dabbled in.

None of these factors, nor his bitter rivalry with Marx and other intellectuals who happened to be Jewish, nor his natural disdain for the social hegemony of the Abrahamic religions, excuse these comments. They are at odds with the rest of his work, for example his assertion that: “I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free.” Or “The freedom of all is essential to my freedom.”

Proudhon was also a paranoid anti-Semite, but do not come away with the idea that antisemitism is a founding principle of anarchism nor that it has any place in the movement. There is a long and noble tradition of anarchist thought and action in the Jewish communities of Russia, Britain and the United States, and they have always been in the forefront of the fight against fascism. Peter Arshinov, in his eponymous history of the Makhnovist Movement relates that Nestor Makhno, on coming across an antisemitic poster, asked who had put it up. When the man stepped forward, Makhno drew a revolver and shot him. The rest of his unit, being recent defectors from a nationalist contingent were immediately stood down and sent home.

Ideas should not be tied to personalities or they become tainted. People will always judge the personality rather than the idea because it’s less effort. The recent fashion of dismissing a person’s entire canon for any ill-conceived word or action is not anarchist, it’s clearly rooted in liberalism, as is guilt by association. Ideas can stand or fall on their merits regardless of the character of the person articulating them, this requires quite a mature perspective. The modern habit of using social justice issues as a stick with which to beat one’s political rivals is borrowed from Marx and Engels, via Lenin & co. The point is that people are flawed, I can’t be any different, nor can you. As the man himself wrote:

“Real humanity presents a mixture of all that is most sublime and beautiful with all that is vilest and most monstrous in the world.”

― Mikhail Bakunin: God and the State

So we are safest when we follow ideas rather than people, and trust our own judgement. In the words of someone who never, so far as I know, expressed any political views but comes across as a great humanitarian:

“Research your own experiences: absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own”

– ‘Bruce’ Lee Jun Fan.

Life on Carpenters Estate -a life worth fighting for

Focus E15

A local resident speaks to Focus E15 campaign about what Carpenters Estate means to her.

When I reminisce about my best moments growing up, I always think of the Carpenters estate. I can’t imagine growing up in a more fulfilling community.

Across all generations we supported one another. You had the over 65s, some who had known each other since the 2nd World War. They had grown up together and then raised their children together. It was a very close, caring and supportive community that felt more like a family. Us children would all attend Carpenters primary school and play together afterwards in the lovely green spaces and park. There was so many different cultures too, I tried so many different cuisines and learned a lot by being around different ethnicities and religions. I actually believed the whole world was multicultural like the estate I grew up on, because to me Carpenters was the only world I knew.

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Fossil fuel extraction plans “vastly exceed” safe climate limits – UN

Drill or drop

Fossil fuel production planned by national governments “vastly exceeds” the limit needed to keep global temperatures at safe levels, the United Nations said today.

Egdon Resources’ oil production site at Wressle, North Lincolnshire. Photo: Union Jack Oil

Despite greater climate ambitions and net-zero commitments, oil and gas production is expected to rise sharply and planned cuts to coal extraction are just modest.

A report for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says countries have predicted they will produce more than double the fossil fuels (110%) in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting warming to 1.5C.

The 2021 Production Gap Report looks at the discrepancy between governments’ planned production of oil, gas and coal, and the global fossil fuel production levels needed to limit warming to 1.5C and 2C.

Since the first report in 2019, the gap is largely unchanged. Total fossil fuel production is expected to increase to at least 2040, creating an ever-widening production gap, it said.

Today’s report, produced by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), said governments’ production plans and projections would lead to about 240% more coal, 57% more oil, and 71% more gas in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author on the report and scientist at SEI, said:

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‘Wreckers of the Earth’: 300 London-based companies destroying the planet

Corporate watch

The Wreckers Portal 2021

The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.” Utah Phillips

Capitalism is burning up our planet, devastating ecosystems and communities in its ceaseless hunger for profit. Everything is for sale, and the one great goal is growth: producing and consuming ever more stuff, even as it kills us. This engine of mass destruction is driven by burning forests: the long-dead forests of fossil fuels, and the living forests of today. Though we all play our parts in the consumer system, some people play much bigger parts than others. The people killing the earth are those directing the machine – and crushing any resistance to it.

Our Wreckers of the Earth project has two aims:

  • to identify and map 300 of the main planet-killing companies, banks, investment funds and institutions, with their bases in London;
  • and to help show how they work together as a coordinated system of power and profit.

London: a global hub of ecocidal capitalism

London is home to fossil fuel giants and to many of the worst mining polluters. It is the world’s second-largest financial centre (after New York). It is the key financial marketplace for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and for trading oil, metals, minerals and other “commodities” sucked out of the earth. Lax regulation and tight security make London a money-laundering haven for the world’s tyrants, oligarchs, and billionaires. The legacy of the British empire still lives in the infrastructure and services London offers: insurance markets, law firms, arms dealers, PR agencies, down to prestige shopping and investment property.

NB: all the information here was updated and checked in September 2021.

How can I access the information?

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Ways of Life 3: Indigenous Anarchism

This is Africa

African forms of democracy and egalitarianism exists independent of, and predates, modern Western progressive social movements. It is time we revived their histories from systematic erasure, because they may hold the key to our collective future.

Editor’s note: This article is the third in a three-part series investigating different ways of organising human life on earth. The first and second articles in the series can be read here and here, respectively. Happy reading!

Indigenous Democracy

An epiphany of cosmic proportions dawned upon me during a taxi ride from Kampala International airport to the city last year.  My incidental travel companion was the Ugandan filmmaker Dilman Dila; and in his unhurried, quiet, and measured tone, this is what he said:

“Of the 53 major “nations“ in the region today known as Uganda (name arbitrarily taken from one of them, Buganda, by the British), only 10 featured any kind of hierarchical political structure. The majority of them, with population size from 1 to 3 million, lived in entirely egalitarian organizations, voluntary cooperatives, and share/gift economies, without centralized political power, high levels of inequality, or warfare.”

The filmmaker continued, “for instance,

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