Riots in Singapore

Shimmering opulence built on unbridled exploitation of toilers

Singapore and Dubai are often held out by the rulers and capitalists of our country as aspirational examples. Time and again we’ve heard them tell us how they’ll make Mumbai like Singapore and Delhi like Dubai.

Shimmering opulence built on unbridled exploitation of toilers

Singapore and Dubai are often held out by the rulers and capitalists of our country as aspirational examples. Time and again we’ve heard them tell us how they’ll make Mumbai like Singapore and Delhi like Dubai. The recent riots in Singapore in December 2013, following the death of a worker, and the deportation of scores of Indian workers by the authorities however have revealed once again that unrestrained exploitation and torment of workers is what the glitzy glamour of Singapore rests on.

A young Indian construction worker, Sakthivel Kumaravelu, was run over on December 8, 2013 by a private bus in the “little India” area of Singapore. This is an area of narrow streets and rows of shop-houses which is a legacy of the 19th century British colonial rulers who laid out the city in ethnic zones. Following this, almost a thousand people are believed to have participated in protest demonstrations. What lies behind this anger?

The “People’s Action Party” (PAP) has been ruling Singapore and is credited with transforming Singapore from a colonial outpost in the 1960s into a global financial hub with world-class infrastructure, an “efficient” civil service and the world's highest concentration of rich tycoons. However the regime is extremely dictatorial and uses extremely harsh methods to keep the working people in line so that exploitation can continue without any hitch.

Tens of thousands of workers especially from India and other countries of South Asia have been brought in to Singapore to work at relatively low wages. Foreign labour makes up about 20% of the population and is mainly deployed in sectors where they can be paid very low wages and forced to work for long hours often under insecure and unsafe conditions – such as construction and domestic work. Their wages range from US$ 370 to US$ 565 per month; in contrast the national average wage in Singapore is about US$ 3,573. Thus they are forced to live in squalid conditions far removed from the glitzy glamour that characterises Singapore for the Indian bourgeoisie. Many such workers live in crowded dormitory compounds, some housing up to 8,000 people, on the fringes of the island. In their free time which is quite scarce, workers gather in “Little India”. Is it a wonder that they reacted in the way they did when one of their compatriots was run over?

The Singapore authorities reacted to the incident in a typically fascist manner. Instead of addressing the fact that the rights of these workers should be protected and trying to ensure that they paid fair wages and are provided with facilities commensurate with the general standards of the host country so that they can live with dignity there, Over 50 workers were deported and warnings were issued to hundreds of others to conform to the fascist order or face the consequences. It is significant to note that the Singapore government intends to increase the number of foreign workers from 1.3 million at present to 2.5 million by the year 2030, to ensure that there is an adequate supply of cheap labour for the capitalists to exploit and torment and increase their wealth and profits. The point to note is that Singapore is considered a haven for the bourgeoisie of the world, precisely because the government of that country, in collusion with the international bourgeoisie, ensures the super exploitation of workers, in particular the foreign workers. It serves the imperialist bourgeoisie to have a large section of the work force deprived of all rights, living in the worst of conditions, in order to drive down the wages of all workers.

The government of India has been completely silent on this attack on Indian migrant workers in Singapore. This reveals the collusion of the Indian ruling class with the Singapore government. The Indian state has a shameful record of colluding with the capitalists and governments abroad to facilitate the super exploitation of Indian workers abroad. It does not raise its voice when Indian workers abroad are subjected to racist attacks and indignities – something which is often done to make them accept even more exploitative working conditions. This is the case in countries like Canada and Britain, as well as in Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries, whose economy is built on the shoulders of migrant workers from South Asia. The Communist Ghadar Party condemns the Indian state for colluding with the Singapore government and refusing to defend the rights of Indian workers in that country.

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