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With the Tuscan massacre, slavery returns home

By Giorgio Cremaschi

Stories of people burning alive in textile factories punctuates the history of industrial development and working conditions. March 8 commemorates the massacre of workers in a factory fire more than a century ago in the United States.

After travelling the world leaving devastation and massacres of workers in its wake, now, thanks to the crisis, globalisation is back to where it departed, and so we, too are dying like workers in Bangladesh or China.

In the United States these migrant workshops installed in the old industrial areas are called sweat shops.

In Italy, the massacre of seven Chinese workers in a fire in a garment factory in Prato, Tuscany on Sunday was presented as an extreme isolated case, almost as if it was in the natural order of things for the Chinese community.

Media coverage put particular emphasis on how closed the Chinese community is (which is absolutely true) in order to diminish what had happened. And above all, so as not to address the real issue, which is that in Italy, in industry and the services sector the workplace is sinking to levels once labelled Third World.

The issue is not that the deaths are Chinese, but in Italy people are working like slaves for a pittance, and that this could happen to anyone. Because there are people who make money putting their brand on what is produced for a few pennies, and the cuts in our wages weighs on us a little less if we can buy clothes at low prices. Before you had to buy from afar the goods produced by slaves, but now the distance is much shorter, because we have the slaves here at home. And this boosts profit margins.

If we do not stop the infernal machine of globalisation; if we do not restore strength and dignity at work, whatever the colour of the skin or shape of your eyes of the workers; if we continue to talk about competitiveness and productivity at all costs; if we continue to accept as inevitable the fact that the workers are exploited here, because otherwise they will simply be exploited elsewhere; if we continue to worship what Pope Francis has called the God of Money; if we continue to descend into nineteenth-century capitalism, this capitalism will hurt us with even more ferocity.

If we want to stop it, we need to begin to say that in Prato seven workers were killed, just as seven workers were killed in the fire in 2007 in Thyssenkrupp’s plant in Turin. Not seven Chinese, but seven workers in Italy, victims of the slavery of globalisation.


Translation by Revolting Europe


About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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