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…

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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Privilege (for the benefit of the privileged), identity and the Class War. By Mal Content.

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone.

… From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”

– Aldous Huxley: ‘The Doors of Perception’.

This was always going to be a personal account, anarchism is after all an extrapolation of the particular to the general. The author is an able-bodied (at time of writing), cis-male, heterosexual*, Working Class anarchist of North European heritage, self-educated with a few engineering and craft skills, living in the South of England, I don’t need a university lecturer to tell me that’s a position of considerable privilege in the modern world, and a potentially reactionary one, yet I’ve honestly never wanted anything from this society but to witness its demise. I’m also big, ugly, and in my fifties which helps when dealing with management and cops.

* I seldom use the word ‘straight’, it implies bias, and I’m not claiming my relatively banal proclivities as a badge of community with anyone.

Early on I questioned whether I was writing primarily for people more or less like myself, and dismissed the idea. Obviously it has its limitations, it wouldn’t be of much use to someone whose interest was, for example, the development of anarchism within Chinese culture. It is intended for people new to anarchist ideas, and privilege is a concept many find utterly baffling. Like reification* it’s a hard one to get your head around because it’s woven into the fabric of perceived reality, it’s largely invisible, especially if your contacts are all drawn from a narrow social base.

* Of course, privilege is a form of reification.

Privilege in this context is an absence or mitigation of oppression, seen from the point of view of the oppressed. At first sight it’s counter-intuitive, because no one ever feels privileged,* and the colloquial use of the word is a benefit of some kind, usually earned. It sounds dangerously close to the bosses’ view that we ought to be grateful for access to work, housing, health and education. It’s a demonstrable fact that the presence of any super-exploited group, migrant labour for example, depresses pay and conditions for all workers, so how does it work? How is it a privilege not to be excluded, underpaid, sexually abused, targeted by cops or attacked by bigots?

* There’s a lesson there; not even the ruling elite feel privileged, because they’re conditioned from birth to believe they deserve a bigger slice of the pie.

The liberal would claim these as basic human rights, but they have it backwards, society is oppressive by its nature, its institutions were specifically devised to divide and exploit us, so we each become acclimatised to the level of oppression we experience, and only when these lines are crossed protest that our rights have been violated. This is the liberal trap – it’s the oppression that’s normal, not the absence of it. For many these experiences are routine, and they may indeed consider it a privilege to walk home without being harassed, to apply for a vacancy and be offered an interview, or to attend and not hear that it has just been filled.

If X walks a steeper road than Y, all things being equal, Y will make more progress in a given time for the same effort. Capitalism requires us to compete by excluding others*, so as Y is ahead of X they will have the first choice of whatever they need for the next leg of the journey, and set off feeling positive and refreshed. So on through life; Y will always be where X isn’t, and X will have to work harder than Y just to avoid being left by the wayside. Y’s setbacks will be easier to overcome and of shorter duration. Believing in equality of opportunity, Y may conclude the demoralised and resentful X isn’t trying, or they may congratulate themselves on their own industry and cunning. Meritocracy is a nasty bourgeois trap, like justice, it’s a logical fallacy.

* Housing gentrification and social cleansing is a good example of this.

Read the rest of it.

The Tories want immigrants to save them from shortages? Fuck off

gal-dem

In a winter of discontent ruled by shortages, the Tories are turning to the immigrants they demonised to help them out.
Kemi Alemoru

Welcome to Britain. A land where Nandos and KFC, our premier chicken restaurants, are out of chicken. McDonald’s has no milkshakes. Our supermarket shelves are empty. Brexiteer-run budget pub chain Wetherspoons has pumped its own beer taps dry. The British Soft Drinks Association says we’re running out of gas to make our drinks fizzy. And thanks to nationwide fuel shortages, people are stuck in mile-long queues at petrol stations. Good luck. Outside of the motorway network an estimated 50%-85% of independent petrol stations in the UK currently have nothing left to give. We’re watching the nation coming apart at the seams.

What a silly little mess

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Uber drivers to strike on September 28th and October 6th

libcom

Uber drivers to strike on September 28th and October 6th

Two separately-organised strikes of Uber drivers are coming up over the next few weeks

The App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) has called for a national Uber strike on Tuesday September 28th. The strike is expected to be observed in at least eight cities, with demonstrations planned to start at 1pm on the day in each of the following locations:

BIRMINGHAM
Aston Cross Business Park, Ground Floor, Fazeley House, 50 Rocky Ln, Birmingham B6 5RQ

BRISTOL
The Coach house, Uber, Upper York St, Bristol BS2 8QN

GLASGOW
The Pentagon Centre, BizSpace, 36 Washington St, Glasgow G3 8AZ

LEEDS
Unit 58, Flexspace, Burley Road, Leeds LS4 2PU

LONDON
Uber Greenlight Hub London, Beaufort House, 15 St Botolph St, London EC3A 7DT

MANCHESTER
Building 4, Devonshire St North, Manchester M12 6JH

NOTTINGHAM
Unit C, King Edward Court, Nottingham NG1 1EL

SHEFFIELD
Spaces Acero, 1 Concourse Way, Sheffield S1 2BJ

Explaining the issues and demands behind the strike, the ADCU write: “There are three key points of dispute which has now led this to latest strike action:

· Uber’s failure to implement the Supreme Court ruling and pay waiting time which makes up around 40% of an Uber driver’s working time.

· The introduction of fixed price fares and the abandonment of variable fares which were based on actual time and distance travelled. This has led to reduced driver incomes and greater financial risk.

· Unfair dismissals without recourse. Uber’s introduction of a flawed real time identification and surveillance system in particular has led to many drivers being wrongly dismissed without right of appeal.

The union is making three key demands of Uber to immediately remedy the situation:

· Uber to pay all working time including waiting time and respect the Supreme Court ruling.

· An end to up front pricing, an increase of fares from £1.25 per mile to £2.00 per mile and for Uber to reduce its commission take from 25% to 15%.

· An end to unfair dismissals without right of appeal. Uber must also withdraw the use of the so-called Real Time ID surveillance and facial recognition system.”

The ADCU is a new union which was formed after a recent split in the IWGB union. The United Private Hire Drivers, the IWGB branch covering drivers, does not seem to be endorsing the September 28th strike call, and are instead asking Uber drivers to strike on Wednesday October 6th. Their demands for that strike are:

• Better rate per mile
• 15% max commission
• Transparency of charges on customers
• No fixed rate trips
• 50% surcharge on out of area trips
• No more unfair deactivations
• Reinstatement of unfairly deactivated drivers

The IWGB/UPHD are also planning a public protest in London to coincide with their strike, asking supporters to:

“Bring your car & join us to strike & protest together on 6 October at 10am. Meeting point: 10am at ASDA Car Park, Stepney Green, 123 Mile End Road, E1 4UJ Then drive to protest location at: Uber HQ, Aldgate Tower, London E1 8QN for 11am.”

They have also set up a strike WhatsApp group, which can be accessed via a QR code which can be found here.

Red and Black Telly roundup.













IWW WISE-RA Joins The ICL-CIT

IWW WISE-RA 11th September 2021


Fellow Workers,

It gives me great delight to inform you that we are now members of the ICL-CIT, thus strengthening our ties with Fellow Workers and, importantly, other anarcho-syndicalist and revolutionary unions, internationally. For those of you less familiar with this organisation, their project is exactly the same as ours, namely:

Its main goal is to contribute to deep social and economic transformation worldwide.

Our membership to the ICL-CIT will ensure that we remain focused on our project of empowering workers at a grassroots level, while also enabling us to co-ordinate the use of the weapons we have at our disposal in our fight against the forces of capitalism.

If you would like to get involved, please get in touch.

In solidarity,

William Sharkey
Secretary for the IWW (WISE-RA)

Colombia: Social movement organizing against neoliberal policies

Voices in Movement


Orginally published by Noticias de Abajo on May 4, 2021, translated by Shantal Montserrat Lopez Victoria.

In Colombia, Indigenous Minga along with unions, students, peasants and environmental organizations, are calling for a historic strike against the National Development Plan of the ultra-right-wing president Ivan Duque, which proposes a rollback of social rights.

Since April 28th, several cities and states in Colombia have been flooded by tens of thousands of protesters who are demanding the reversal of measures that go against the welfare of Colombian society. Among these measures are economic programs that propose the privatization of health and education, a lack of peace agreements as well as rollbacks for labor rights.

Thousands of protesters were met with repression and brutality by State forces and as a result there are cases involving people losing eyesight, physical and sexual violence, and protestors being killed. According to the Temblores Human Rights platform, figures are as follows: 13 murders inflicted by police, 68 physical attacks, 655 arbitrary detentions, 4 cases of sexual violence, not including unregistered events by human rights organizations who have also been stripped of their rights and harassed while documentation cases.

In an attempt to stop the marches and “contain these terrorists”, as Senator Alvaro Uribe refers to the demonstrators, the government began to deploy military troops and tanks in cities such as Cali and Bogota, contrary to the local governments’ decision to not use force. This confirms the fascist and dictatorial nature of the government which the corporate media does not accept.

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA – MAY 01: Protesters are seen during the national strike against the tax reform as they gather on the International Workers’ Day on May 01, 2021, Bogota, Colombia, 2021. Unions joined to call a national strike and demonstrations in major cities, urging participants to follow COVID-19 protocols as the heavy protest continues in the biggest cities of the country in Cali, Medellin, and Bogota. (Photo by Juancho Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Despite the militarization of the country, protesters continue fighting to make the government of Ivan Duque respond to the serious human rights violations. Thus, the Indigenous Minga, transportation and freight companies and other organizations are calling to maintain the national strike until we see measures that will benefit society.

Protesters achieved their main objective of withdrawing the tax reform, but the harsh economic crisis that the country is going through due to poor government management and the rejection of social welfare policies has made it imperative to change the course of Ivan Duque’s economic project in his National Development Plan. This initiative that has hit the most impoverished social sectors the hardest while favoring private entities close to the government.

If the people are demonstrating it is because “The government is more dangerous than the virus” yet the government continues with fascist proposals that are plundering the earth. The aristocratic government is trying to dispose of environmentalists, workers and students in a national project but no economic policy can be built on the suffering of the people.

The fall of the ultra-right government is imminent. Now, the only remaining question is if it will be through resignation or elections?