Tonight I saw a great documentary, “The Factory,” by Rahul Roy on the struggles of Indian workers and communities against multinational corporations and the state that serves them. In this case the documentary revolves around the struggle of workers to form a union in a Suzuki auto plant.
The documentary is a reminder that there are human faces behind the products we take for granted, and those faces are poor and oppressed.
I had attended a powerful protest out the front of Myer and David Jones in the city marking the anniversary of the collapse of a rudimentary garment factory in Bangladesh. The protest was small but it was powerful because of the enacting of a play that featured the words of the survivors and the families of the deceased. What made it even more powerful was the contrast being drawn with the indifferent shoppers hopping along with their branded designer shopping bags full of consumer goodies.
To be sure some were hostile, shouting epithets and yet others supportive. But It is the indifference I remember most.
One of the interesting things about “The Factory” is the way the workers describe how it was that they began to acquire class consciousness. A consciousness of their status as a working class and how it is that they fit into a global division of labour.
That is important because globalisation gives global multinational corporations immense structural power with respect to labour. Capital is free, but labour is immobile. Tackling neoliberalism at the national level won’t slay the beast, surely a lesson to be learnt from the travails of the pink tide in Latin America and Syriza in Greece.
What is needed is a global class consciousness that sees workers and activists thinking global and acting local. That sees workers and activists working together across borders in solidarity despite national, ethnic and religious diversity.
To borrow from the classic slogan of The World Social Forum, that is how we can make a new world. A new world for the better.
Easier said than done, yes, but that is what must be done and the first step in it being done is recognising it must be done.
Together we can make the world a better place.