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Category: Social Justice

Chinese labour in the global economy: exploitation and strategies of resistance

Written by Andreas Bieler and Chun-Yi Lee.

China is generally regarded as the new economic powerhouse in the global political economy. Some even talk of an emerging power, which may in time replace the US as the global economy’s hegemon. And yet, there is a dark underside to this ‘miracle’ in the form of workers’ long hours, low pay and lack of welfare benefits. Increasing levels of inequality have gone hand in hand with widespread working conditions characterised by super-exploitation. Nevertheless, Chinese workers have not simply accepted these conditions of exploitation. They have started to fight back. In a new special issue of the journal Globalizations, co-edited by Chun-Yi Lee and myself, the contributors have analysed these various forms of resistance by Chinese workers and the way they are organised. In this blog post, I will provide a brief overview of the contents of this special issue.

The Referendum Result: We’ve Got It Now!

Written by Christopher Pierson.

Britain remains in the grip of referendum fever with each side producing more and more frightening images of the Armageddon that awaits us on the other side of 23rd June if we make the wrong choice.

Meanwhile, the Swiss (who are more used to this kind of thing) had a series of referenda last weekend, including one on the introduction of a guaranteed basic income for every Swiss citizen.  A guaranteed basic income is a payment made regularly to all citizens solely on the basis of their citizenship and paid to them irrespective of their working status, their income or indeed any other non-citizenship characteristic.   The idea (amongst it supporters) is not to provide a ‚minimum‘ payment (a floor beneath which no-one should be allowed to fall) but rather to support the maximum sustainable payment (consistent with other economic imperatives). The sum provisionally suggested for payment in Switzerland was CHF2,500 (about £1,765) per month.

Working into poverty?

Written by Lucia Pradella.

Unemployment has reached unprecedented heights in Western Europe — wages are declining and attacks on organized labour are intensifying. Nearly a quarter of Western Europe’s population, about 92 million people, was at risk of poverty and social exclusion in 2013. That’s nearly 8.5 million more people than before the crisis. The number of working poor — employed workers in households with an annual income below the poverty threshold — is growing, and austerity is going to make things much worse in the future.

Critics of austerity argue that it is absurd and counterproductive, but European leaders disagree. During the latest round of negotiations with Greece Angela Merkel argued: “This is not about several billion Euros—this is fundamentally about how the EU can stay competitive in the world.” There is some truth in this. What Merkel does not mention is that workers in Europe, in Europe’s South in particular, increasingly compete with workers in the Global South.

Religious Orthodoxy v. Secularism: Bangladesh’s Tug of War

Written by Bahzad H. Joarder.

Bangladesh’s development trajectory since 1990, especially after democratic practices were reinstated has been a unique success story. It is widely regarded as a model country for development on social indicators. It remains one of the few developing countries that is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and is already well ahead of many countries including economic behemoths like India. With China ceding its market leader position in the RMG sector, Bangladesh, already a big player, is increasingly viewed as a potential leader in the sector. For a country once referred to as ‘bottomless basket’ by Henry Kissinger, one which has seen years of suffering, famine, poverty and political strife, the 21st century heralded new promises. Yet, those promises may remain unfulfilled potential, if Bangladesh fails in tackling a new adversary, one which threatens the very fabric of the post independent society- the rise of militant Islam.

Writing from the margins in Bangladesh

Written by Ikhtisad Ahmed.

The freedoms of speech and expression are the easiest to deride and subvert. Should a view deviate from the perceived wisdom of the masses – dictated by those in power – it is quickly marginalised, especially if it speaks uncomfortable truths. Hence common sense, empathy, rationalism and advocating equality are often labelled radical thinking derogatorily, and “liberal” is a term that has been irreversibly poisoned. There remain places in this world where the price for having the audacity to write is much higher than being painted a fool or made an object of ridicule.

How Attacks on Bangladeshi Bloggers is Erasing a Liberal Tradition

Written by Ibtisam Ahmed.

Bangladesh has seen a series of violent attacks against secular bloggers in 2015, culminating in multiple coordinated attacks on the same day in October. Although these are not the first attacks of their kind, the sheer volume (at least eight separate incidents), the common modus operandi (all attacks carried out using machetes), and the increasing boldness (going from attacks in accessible public spaces to breaking and entering individual homes) of the violence this year has been particularly damaging.

While the attacks have inevitably raised questions of free speech, internet security and local terrorism, one relatively uncommented aspect has arguably affected the national psyche in a much deeper and, worryingly, irreversible way. In a country with an overwhelming Muslim majority (89.5% according to the national bureau of statistics, 89.1% according to the CIA Factbook), the targeting of self-professed secularists has contribute to the steady erosion of the country’s liberal heritage.

Alternatives to privatising public services

Written by Andreas Bieler.

‘What we are for is equally important as what we are against’, declared Dexter Whitfield in his presentation ‘Capitalist dynamics reconfiguring the state: alternatives to privatising public services’ to a packed audience at Nottingham University on Wednesday, 16 September. Hence, when contesting privatisation of public services, it is not enough simply to resist these processes. It is also necessary to put forward concrete alternatives of how to organise and deliver these services differently from within the public sector. In this post, I will summarise some of the key points of the presentation, which was jointly organised by the Bertrand Russel Peace Foundation, the local University and College Union association and the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice.