portrait of this blog's author - by Stephen Blackman 2008

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

David Byrne 

News update. . . Gets down to Brass Tactics
Announces Free EP

Love This Giant brings Byrne and Clark together in provocative and frequently exciting ways, thanks in part to a slyly funky horn section and an overarching sense of brainy boldness.


David says
I did a record with St. Vincent (Annie Clark) last year and then we did a tour of North America and Australia that was like nothing I've ever done before—drums, keys and Annie and I supported by 8 choreographed brass players. We did the new material, but also a lot of recognizable songs, arranged for that group. The sound is incredible, and it's a bit of a visual spectacle as well. We were pretty excited at how it turned out. The critical and audience response was great too! Touring a group that size with a fairly complex show is a big financial gulp, so it has taken us a while to collect enough offers in North America and Europa, but now they are in and we kick off in a few weeks.

One of our business folks had the idea that we might offer a taste of what we're up to—to those who might have missed the tour or the record or maybe thought it was some weird arty collaborative project. So we put together a downloadable EP to give folks that taste. The EP has one song that didn't make it on the record (a waltz featuring some lovely glass harmonica), a couple of energized remixes of some of the album tunes and two live tracks of the sort of more familiar material we do in the set.

Did I say it's free? We're very excited at how this whole project came out so we want more folks to discover it. The link to the download is down below.

David Byrne & St. Vincent
Tour dates

Love This Giant Tour Dates:
6/12 - Montclair, NJ @ Wellmont Theatre
6/13 - Baltimore, MD @ Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
6/15 - Asheville, NC @ Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
6/16 - Manchester, TN @ Bonnaroo Music Festival
6/18 - Charlotte, NC @ Blumenthal Performing Arts Center – Belk Theater
6/20 - New Haven, CT @ Shubert Theatre
6/21 - Portland, ME @ State Theatre
6/22 - Shelburne, VT @ The Green at Shelburne Museum
6/23 - Ottawa, ON @ Confederation Park, Ottawa Jazz Festival
6/25 - Rochester, NY @ Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater
6/27 - New Bedford, MA @ The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center
6/28 - Red Bank, NJ @ Count Basie Theatre
6/29 - Port Chester, NY @ The Capitol Theatre
6/30 - Greensburg, PA @ Palace Theater
7/2 - Louisville, KY @ The Kentucky Center – Whitney Hall
7/5 - Des Moines, IA @ 80/35 Music Festival
7/6 - Highland Park, IL @ Ravinia Festival
7/7 - Grand Rapids, MI @ Meijer Gardens Amphitheater
7/8 - Ann Arbor, MI @ Michigan Theater
7/10 - Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theatre
7/12 - Kansas City, MO @ Crossroads KC
7/13 - Littleton, CO @ Denver Botanic Gardens - Chatfield
7/14 - Telluride, CO @ Telluride Town Park
7/15 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
7/17 - Eugene, OR @ Cuthbert Amphitheater
7/18 - Woodinville, WA @ Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
7/20 - Saratoga, CA @ The Mountain Winery
7/21 - Oakland, CA @ The Fox Theater
8/18 - Reykjavik, Iceland @ Haskolabio
8/20 - Oslo, Norway @ Folketeatret
8/21 - Stockholm, Sweden @ Filadelfiakyrkan
8/22 - Copenhagen, Denmark @ Falconer Salen
8/24 - Brussels, Belgium @ Bozar
8/25 - Utrecht, Netherlands @ Vredenburg Leidsche Rijn
8/27 - London, UK @ Roundhouse
8/28 - Birmingham, UK @ Symphony Hall
8/29 - Glasgow, UK @ Royal Concert Hall
8/30 - Salisbury, UK @ End of the Road Fest
9/3 - Lisbon, Portugal @ Coliseu Lisboa
9/4 - Portugal, Portugal @ Coliseu Do Porto
9/6 - Madrid, Spain @ Teatrp Circo Price
9/7 - Barcelona, Spain @ The National Auditorium of Catalonia
9/9 - Brescia, Italy @ Vittoriale Theatre
9/11 - Rome, Italy @ Auditorium Parco Della Musica
9/12 - Florence, Italy @ Teatro Verdi

Saturday, May 25, 2013

There are a number of albums in our lives it seems to me that evoke seminal moments in music history and they can be profoundly personal and they can be oddly eclectic and they can be middle of the road, pop, soul or jazz. Some transcend definition and hold moments of enlightenment that illuminate for us great moments of poetry. For me there have been many favourite album moments; the Stones first album with 'Route 66', the Beatles 'Hard Day's Night', 'Help' and 'Revolver' and of course 'Sgt Pepper', The Lovin' Spoonful 'Hums' featured large in my eardrobes and mind opening moments, Pink Floyd's 'Piper at The Gates of Dawn', Neil Young 'Harvest' Joni Mitchell 'Song to a Seagull', later there were the good Captain's 'Trout Mask Replica', 'Clear Spot', eccentric one off's like the delicious and still favourite Small Faces 'Ogden's Nutgone Flake' and later darker arts from the Velvets and 'White Light White Heat' and 'Loaded' as some sank into other experiences of existence pain, existential angst and heroin use, but through the gloom poetry music saw me through with John Cale's '1919' 'Fear' and Slow Dazzle' much later there would be Talking Heads '1977' and their entire output and also Brian Eno's entire oeuvre including my art school tutor composer Gavin Bryars' 'Sinking of the Titanic' not to mention playing violin in the art school studios with the short lived 'WhiporWills' and the output of the Portsmouth Symphonia.

'Love' and Arthur Lee's 'Forever Changes is one such album and the effect on me was like mind expanding drugs, it shook me and made me laugh, it made me think and it made me dance, it made me accept that you could still have a trumpet outside 'straight' music (LOL) above all it made me think, the singer spoke to me and me alone (a great poetic gift this) and it struck chords deep down inside of me with its lyric poetry. Above all it brought me great joy!
Big O (of course) have come up with a gem from Arthur and his final incarnation of 'LOVE' [mostly made up from the exceptional Baby Lemonade] who I missed in 2005 I think. I had tickets to see him here in Oxford and by then Arthur was clearly struggling with what was to turn out to be a form of leukaemia tho' he seems to have told no-one this from the outset. As he was a no-show we got our money back tho' could have seen them without Arthur and in retrospect I wish I had but so sad at missing Arthur I couldn't go. Later on we were to hear he had passed away. I was distraught after the excitement of finally thinking I was getting to see my hero, the man who introduced Jimi Hendrix to 'Hey Joe' and heroin (allegedly), the man who wrote 'Seven as Seven Is', 'Alone Again Or', 'andmoreagain' song titles like 'Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale' were always going to make this listener sit up. I must add I was a fan of THE WHOLE BAND and loved MacLean's rare vocals and songwriting too. I loved the drumming and I loved the trumpet playing, I loved the guitar and though I understand that especially 'Forever Changes' was Arthur's masterpiece it included work by other people too and later as the heroin took it's toll and the players changed and moved on, the band were never to equal the promise of  'Da Capo' so ably delivered in that first flash of Eden that was ' Forever Changes'. I must also add that they seem a little 'marmite' in that it I am told you either love them or hate them and this I don't understand either for me there was no choice!


How can you not!?

Here they are in Norway 2004

If you want more and haven't stumbled or sought it out the DVD of 'Forever Changes Live' at The Royal Festival Hall which is a permanent part of the Swappers Gold Collection locked away in the Vault you can get it here.
 Forever Changes Concert DVD here
Buy & download the mp3 here
Forever Changes Concert mp3

My attitude is that you need to see it and it should be on every shelf in the land . . . . . I'm off for some marmite on toast

Love peace and understanding


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Guys who drop by, friends and companions will know how important The DOORS were to me so it is with great sadness I share this and cannot put it any better than Big O . . . .

RAY MANZAREK R.I.P. 1939-2013

May 21, 2013 – 8:16 am Ray Manzarek, keyboardist and founding member of The Doors, has died. He was 74. Publicist Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald says Manzarek died on May 20, 2013 at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany, surrounded by his family. He had bile duct cancer. Manzarek founded The Doors after meeting then-poet Jim Morrison in California. The Washington Post reported that Manzarek had continued to remain active in music after Morrison's death in 1971. Manzarek had briefly tried to hold the band together by serving as vocalist, but eventually the group fell apart. He played in other bands over the years, produced other acts, became an author and worked on films.

Poster given to me by my then Art Teacher Julia at Gosford Hill School circa 1968

 . . .or just play this and TURN IT UP! Light My Fire written by Robbie and still a classic . . . . . .


Roslyn 1975 [no label, 1CD]

Live at My Father’s Place, Roslyn, NY; March 26, 1975. Very good to excellent soundboard (?)
Thanks to everyone who shared this and for keeping it alive:
Originally upped on Dime by tombstone, a.k.a. KB69 in April 2006.
Seeded on Trader’s Den in August 2007.
Reseeded at Dime by hothcanada.
Uploader’s notes:
On my last Ray Manzarek torrent I requested that someone seed this show if they had it. I got the date wrong. I thought (from memory) that it was June 18, 1975. I don’t know where I got that date but it turns out it was March 26, 1975. I found this brief, albeit great sounding, snippet of that very performance on a trip to Greenwich Village earlier today with my family. I believe it is soundboard. It certainly sounds so; there is no audience interference. I based the musicians on the info in Ray’s “Whole Thing Started With Rock n Roll” CD which lists these members as the touring band in early 1975. The boot I lifted these three tracks from lists the third song as “When The Music’s Over/Light My Fire” which is incorrect. Track 3 fades in during the solo section of “Bicentennial Blues” from the aforementioned LP which takes its chordal approach directly from “Light My Fire” before seguing into “Fire”. Then, unfortunately, the song fades out leaving Track 3 incomplete at both ends. It’s too bad, really, as the beginning of “Bicentennial Blues” is quite different from the solo part and sounds like it could have been right at home on the next Door’s LP had they stayed together long enough to record the follow up to “Full Circle”.

Ray Manzarek - Roslyn 1975
One: I Wake Up Screaming 8:57* (15.0MB)
Two: Downbound Train 7:38 (12.9MB)
Three: (fades in) Bicentennial Blues/Light My Fire (fades out) 5:22 (9.0MB)
*Ray recites Jim Morrison’s poem “Ensenada” during this track.
Ray Manzarek - keyboards, vocals
Charlie Harrison - bass
Terry Sales - guitar
Hunt Sales - drums

UPDATE: Big O posted another set with just Ray and Robbie - Riders on The Storm
Ray Manzarek - keyboards, vocals
Robbie Krieger - guitars
Ian Astbury - vocals
Philip Chen - bass
Ty Dennis - drums

Monday, May 20, 2013


Live in Austin, Texas!

Now we're talking! Here's a doozie from Big O again. get this before it disappears!
Love me some homespun Nanci Griffith and they don't get closer to home than this! A 1985 gig from Austin TEXAS!
My favourite period Nanci around the time of 'Once in a Very Blue Moon' when we saw here over here in Oxford. Still my wife's favourite album and nothing wrong with that. No sirreee Bob!

Can ya diggit?
I think you can!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The legendary PETER GREEN

over at Big O . . . of course

Big O have posted today a lovely set of Peter and The Splinter Group from 1998. For those of you like me who stopped following Fleetwood Mac
when Peter had his troubles and they went on to coke fuelled nonsense and commercialised glory this is a treat......listen to the guitar playing on this....beautiful breathtaking stuff. His voice may not have the strength it once had but he is clearly happy enough to sing such classics as 'Black Magic Woman' 'Keep Your Big Mouth Shut' and the set includes such PG standards as 'The Supernatural', 'Steady Rolling Man' and of course 'Albatross' and 'Green Manalishi' [BMW a favourite since I first heard it by FM all those years ago] here and all the better for that.

Enjoy! I certainly did

  . . . . . . . put 'Albatross' on and enjoy your Saturday morning.......

Monday, May 13, 2013

Some folks prefer the Helen Kane (Betty Boop) version, some folks the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.....but here's a message for the day to ALL my lovely readers out there.......

Ruth Etting - Button Up You Overcoat

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Maggie, Desmond and Me 

From the late Eighties to the late Nineties, so for nearly a decade I realise, I worked for the pre-eminent bookseller chain of B. H. Blackwell Ltd here in Oxford. I ran their Art and Poster shop for eight years after they went through four managers in the first twelve months they decided to appoint a specialist and having purchased me along with the front of house shop from MOMA Oxford who better, as doubtless I knew my stuff. I did many events and books signings under the auspices of the shop. With artists and authors ranging from people like the world class master photographers Eve Arnold, Elliot Erwitt and Robert Doisneau to artists David Mach, Glen Baxter, Roger Dean, Richard Wentworth and Brian Catling’s students of performance art at The Ruskin School of Drawing, my having become firm friends with the Ruskin Master of the fine artist Stephen Farthing
B. H. Blackwell Ltd 50 Broad St., Oxford
It also included a visit by Archbishop Desmond Tutu! Not perhaps known for his interest in the arts, he had heard through his publisher of the interest of Blackwell’s Art shop manager in a new book on the legendary photographer and hero of mine, Peter Magubane [Soweto: Portrait of a City, photography by Peter Magubane, New Holland, London, 1990] and I had tried to see whether we could do a signing not knowing where Peter lived or his availability. Blackwell’s Marketing & Publicity department in the form of the wonderful Karen George, enquired and came back to me saying Peter would not travel from his native South Africa but would I be interested in a visit from the man who wrote the foreword in his book, Archbishop Desmond Tutu?!

Me greeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu upon his visit to Blackwell's Art & Poster Shop 1990
I of course leaped at the chance. I mention this if only to show that Blackwell’s was used to having visiting dignitaries and important authors throughout the years and important bigwigs personally did not faze me! Having worked at MOMA Oxford for so long I was used to dealing with artists the like of David Hockney, Richard Hamilton, R.B.Kitaj, Leon Kossoff, and visiting dignitaries like the King and Queen of Spain no less!
Study for 'After Magubane' charcoal on handmade paper c.1985 A.Swapp
Archbishop Tutu was simply a hoot and we all thoroughly enjoyed his visit. An inveterate giggler, I liked him immensely and afterwards was able to ask him as I reflected on his astonishing ability to remember people, as a lady in the queue had gushed at seeing him again, they had met at so-and-so’s house in South Africa etc etc until he let it slip that he had absolutely no idea at all as to who most of them were let alone this woman who had greeted him like a long lost friend. The man’s gifted with people I tell you, a genius!
Study II 'After Magubane' charcoal on handmade paper c.1985 A.Swapp
Over the years working for Blackwell Retail I had become accustomed to signings with all sorts of authors in the main shop General Department run at one time by the lovely & much missed Alison Hiller, then her friend and fellow “supermodel” (sic) the legendary Sharon Murray. We had signings with poets, writers, academics, I recall Ian McEwen, Nick Hornby, Mr Bean, and David Attenborough and despite some certain objections (“not really our sort of thing”!) twice I was able to shake the hand and stare admiringly into the face of Muhammad Ali. Now royalty also visited Oxford, minor I admit the Duke of Kent for example and politicians and president’s too Bill Clinton stands out as one of the most charismatic people I have ever seen but never in all the years I worked there was such a hullabaloo as to when Margaret Thatcher was scheduled to come and sign her autobiography in the late nineties (1995?). The buildings of Broad Street were checked months in advance and when I say checked I mean really checked like for no other visitor. When the Clinton’s came there wasn’t this level of searching of buildings and marksmen on the roof!  The Art and Poster Shop was further up the street but the entire shop was searched from top to bottom and had the highest level of security folk check it out with sniffer dogs and they explored nooks and crannies I didn’t even know the shop had (going up into the ceilings was a surprise). 

study for ' A British Woman ' 2013 - A. Swapp

Now the Blackwell managers were told they were expected to work the signing and all seniors were expected to be on the doors of the Sheldonian Theatre (the shop itself not being quite grand enough). I asked what could be expected if we chose to say we’d rather not! For ideological reasons you understand. To my dismay it was made clear that it was part of my job to work and be on the door but if my objections being duly noted I could be put on duty on one of the doors around the back. Not wishing to put my job in jeopardy, that would come a couple of years later, I reluctantly agreed to work the door furthest away from the hullabaloo of her arriving up the front steps of the Christopher Wren designed grand building.
study II for ' A British Woman II' 2013 A. Swapp

Now we were all vetted and checked and briefed as to what was expected by the highest security level staff I had ever met, higher than any police public protection squad I had ever met before.
Come the day of the event the hullabaloo was at full tilt. The press had gotten hold of the fact of course and the student body had a significant presence of banner waving would be revolutionaries in the street. All the managers working that day had their best suits on and I took up my position round the back of the Sheldonian by the small back door leading to the bins which also served as the toilet fire exit. Comforted I had made my protest felt and compromised enough to satisfy my parents and family that I hadn’t exactly leaped at the chance to meet the woman. Now all was going swimmingly until the head of security came round the back of the building marching towards me with glimmer of a smile on his stern set face. Working on information received and certain protocols there had been a change of plan! What was going to happen now was that Thatcher was going to come in via Catte Street not Broad Street be hustled up the side of the Clarendon building between the Bodleian Library and into, yes you guessed it, the back entrance of the Sheldonian. With what felt like hours but in reality was minutes, I had the ex-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher stalking towards me through the rain and up the steps towards the toilet fire exit. Like nothing so much as a tiny raptor, she is small which distracted me momentarily and yet seemingly not the least fazed by any suggested ignominy of using the tradesmen’s entrance, she stalked towards me up the steps and hand firmly outstretched gave me a smile that would have frozen a wolverine in it’s tracks (they can sniff out the enemy you know) as quick as you like with barely time to think I merely stood back opening the door to allow her to pass, into the area by the bins and past the less than fragrant toilets! I had managed it! Nothing would have, or could have, made me shake the hand that had such blood upon it as far as I was concerned  and who had put so may out of work and after all had taken away my children’s school milk!

A British Woman II 2013 Andy Swapp
You may think I exaggerate but rarely have I felt in the presence of evil and yet this was one such occasion. It seemed so wholly apposite to allow her in through the back door that a somewhat malign smile may have crept across my face and she, spotting this , quickly withdrew the previously proffered hand back under her raincoat and perhaps with a passing acknowledgement that I had mastered the situation with diplomacy, I like to think at least with an element of decorum, that she realised she was not in the company of a fellow traveller but who had been polite enough to defer and yet somehow, opening the door to the bin area and the acrid smelling toilets raised such a smile upon my face that she may have been feeling this was a step too far but by this time I could not quite gauge the expression on her face! 

The things you see when you haven’t got a gun, as me Granddad used to say!

It did of course occur to me she may have had the last laugh in that after her funeral the other day it came to light that had I the gumption to get myself a copy of the book signed with her own fair claw it would now be worth some £2,500 -£3,000 but hey, all things considered I’d rather have shaken the hand of Muhammad Ali (twice!) shared a Guinness with hostage Brian Keenan in the White Horse, had a laugh with Nick Hornby, watched in awe as the painfully shy Rowan Atkinson transformed into Mr Bean as he came down the Main Shop’s back stairwell and talked about Marilyn Monroe with Eve Arnold.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

It's not ALL about the music.....

this just in from Big O


May 2, 2013 – 4:44 am Kishore Mahbubani says “Globalisation is the single biggest force affecting our lives on this planet… and the rise of Asia is going to transform the world beyond recognition.”*

These are the “factories” of 21st-century globalisation - poorly built shelters for a production process geared toward long working days, third-rate machines, and workers whose own lives are submitted to the imperatives of just-in-time production. By Vijay Prashad.
On Wednesday, April 24, a day after Bangladeshi authorities asked the owners to evacuate their garment factory that employed almost three thousand workers, the building collapsed. The building, Rana Plaza, located in the Dhaka suburb of Savar, produced garments for the commodity chain that stretches from the cotton fields of South Asia through Bangladesh’s machines and workers to the retail houses in the Atlantic world.
Famous name brands were stitched here, as are clothes that hang on the satanic shelves of Wal-Mart. Rescue workers were able to save two thousand people as of this writing, with confirmation that over three hundred are dead. The numbers for the latter are fated to rise.
It is well worth mentioning that the death toll in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City of 1911 was 146. The death toll here is already twice that. This “accident” comes five months (November 24, 2012) after the Tazreen garment factory fire that killed at least 112 workers.
The list of “accidents” is long and painful. In April 2005, a garment factory in Savar collapsed, killing seventy-five workers. In February 2006, another factory collapsed in Dhaka, killing 18. In June 2010, a building collapsed in Dhaka, killing 25. These are the “factories” of 21st-century globalisation - poorly built shelters for a production process geared toward long working days, third-rate machines, and workers whose own lives are submitted to the imperatives of just-in-time production.
Writing about the factory regime in England during the 19th century, Karl Marx noted, “But in its blind unrestrainable passion, its wear-wolf hunger for surplus labour, capital oversteps not only the moral, but even the merely physical maximum bounds of the working-day. It usurps the time for growth, development and healthy maintenance of the body. It steals the time required for the consumption of fresh air and sunlight… All that concerns it is simply and solely the maximum of labour-power that can be rendered fluent in a working-day. It attains this end by shortening the extent of the labourer’s life, as a greedy farmer snatches increased produce from the soil by reducing it of its fertility.” (Capital, Chapter 10).
These Bangladesh factories are a part of the landscape of globalization that is mimicked in the factories along the US-Mexico border, in Haiti, in Sri Lanka, and in other places that opened their doors to the garment industry’s savvy use of the new manufacturing and trade order of the 1990s. Subdued countries that had neither the patriotic will to fight for their citizens nor any concern for the long-term debilitation of their social order rushed to welcome garment production.
The big garment producers no longer wanted to invest in factories - they turned to sub-contractors, offering them very narrow margins for profit and thereby forcing them to run their factories like prison-houses of labour. The sub-contracting regime allowed these firms to deny any culpability for what was done by the actual owners of these small factories, allowing them to enjoy the benefits of the cheap products without having their consciences stained with the sweat and blood of the workers.
It also allowed the consumers in the Atlantic world to buy vast amount of commodities, often with debt-financed consumption, without concern for the methods of production. An occasionally outburst of liberal sentiment turned against this or that company, but there was no overall appreciation of the way the Wal-Mart type of commodity chain made normal the sorts of business practices that occasioned this or that campaign.

In the Atlantic world, meanwhile, self-absorption over the wars on terror and on the downturn in the economy prevent any genuine introspection over the mode of life that relies upon debt-fueled consumerism at the expense of workers in Dhaka. Those who died in the Rana building are victims not only of the malfeasance of the sub-contractors, but also of 21st-century globalisation.

Bangladeshi workers have not been as prone as the consumers in the Atlantic world. As recently as June 2012, thousands of workers in the Ashulia Industrial Zone, outside Dhaka, protested for higher wages and better working conditions. For days on end, these workers closed down 300 factories, blocking the Dhaka-Tangali highway at Narasinghapur.
The workers earn between 3000 taka ($35) and 5,500 taka ($70) a month; they wanted a raise of between 1500 taka ($19) and 2000 taka ($25) per month. The government sent in 3,000 policemen to secure the scene, and the Prime Minister offered anodyne entreaties that she would look into the matter. A three-member committee was set up, but nothing substantial came of it.
Aware of the futility of negotiations with a government subordinated to the logic of the commodity chain, Dhaka exploded in violence as more and more news from the Rana Building emerged. Workers have shut down the factory area around Dhaka, blocking roads and smashing cars.
The callousness of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Association (BGMEA) adds fire to the workers’ anger. After the protests in June, BGMEA head Shafiul Islam Mohiuddin accused the workers of being involved in “some conspiracy.”  He argued that there is “no logic for increasing the wages of the workers.”
This time, BGMEA’s new president, Atiqul Islam, suggested that the problem was not the death of the workers or the poor conditions in which workers toil but “the disruption in production owing to unrest and hartals [strikes].” These strikes, he said, are “just another heavy blow to the garment sector.” No wonder those who took to the streets have so little faith in the sub-contractors and the government.
Attempts to shift the needle of exploitation have been thwarted by concerted government pressure and the advantages of assassination. Whatever decent lurks in Bangladesh’s Labour Act is eclipsed by weak enforcement by the Ministry of Labour’s Inspections Department.
There are only 18 inspectors and assistant inspectors to monitor 100,000 factories in the Dhaka area, where most of the garment factories are located. If an infraction is detected, the fines are too low to generate any reforms. When workers try to form unions, the harsh response from the management is sufficient to curtail their efforts. Management prefers the anarchic outbreaks of violence to the steady consolidation of worker power.
In fact, the violence led the Bangladeshi government to create a Crisis Management Cell and an Industrial Police not to monitor violations of labour laws, but to spy on worker organisers. In April 2012, agents of capital kidnapped Aminul Islam, one of the key organisers of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. He was found dead a few days later, his body littered with the marks of torture.
Bangladesh has been convulsed this past months with protests over its history - the terrible violence visited among the freedom fighters in 1971 by the Jamaat-e-Islami brought thousands of people into Shanbagh in Dhaka; this protest morphed into the political civil war between the two mainstream parties, setting aside the calls for justice for victims of that violence.
This protest has inflamed the country, which has been otherwise quite sanguine about the everyday terror against its garment sector workers. The Rana building “accident” might provide a progressive hinge for a protest movement that is otherwise adrift.
In the Atlantic world, meanwhile, self-absorption over the wars on terror and on the downturn in the economy prevent any genuine introspection over the mode of life that relies upon debt-fueled consumerism at the expense of workers in Dhaka. Those who died in the Rana building are victims not only of the malfeasance of the sub-contractors, but also of 21st-century globalisation.
Note: Vijay Prashad’s new book, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South, is out this month from Verso Books. The above article was posted at CounterPunch.