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Issue #1714      December 9, 2015

International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

United Nations General Assembly

“Slavery is not a horror safely consigned to the past; it continues to exist throughout the world, even in developed countries like France and the United States. Across the world slaves work and sweat and build and suffer. Slaves in Pakistan may have made the shoes you are wearing and the carpet you stand on. Slaves in the Caribbean may have put sugar in your kitchen and toys in the hands of your children. In India they may have sewn the shirt on your back and polished the ring on your finger. They are paid nothing.

“Slaves touch your life indirectly as well. They made the bricks for the factory that made the TV you watch. In Brazil slaves made the charcoal that tempered the steel that made the springs in your car and the blade on your lawn mower. Slaves grew the rice that fed the woman that wove the lovely cloth you’ve put up as curtains. Your investment portfolio and your mutual fund pension own stock in companies using slave labour in the developing world. Slaves keep your costs low and returns on your investments high.

“Slavery is a booming business and the number of slaves is increasing. People get rich by using slaves. And when they’ve finished with their slaves, they just throw these people away. This is the new slavery, which focuses on big profits and cheap lives. It is not about owning people in the traditional sense of the old slavery, but about controlling them completely. People become completely disposable tools for making money.”

Kevin Bales: Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, 1999

Since 1983 December 2 has been recognised as the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery that had been adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. They dedicated this day for the awareness of contemporary forms of slavery such as extreme labour exploitation, human trafficking, forced recruitment of minors for use in armed forces and forced marriages.

Although the United Nations has made an attempt to challenge these issues we still have a staggering statistic that shows that slavery rates are higher than ever before.

So what’s driving it?

Trade deals like the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), of which Australia is a part, are creating the circumstances for being soft on contemporary slavery.

Malaysia, for example, (Also a signature of the TPP) has been put on Tier 3 for having a long history and increase in human trafficking, forced labour, sex trafficking and child labour abuses. During the negotiations of the TPP the investigations on contemporary slavery went down to practically nonexistent.

Then Barak Obama removed Malaysia from the Tier 3 category list to Tier 2 list in order to proceed with TPP deals, Obama’s move has been called “shrugging off global slavery for the interest of the TPP deals” and “Obama has turned its back on the victims of trafficking”. Some might be surprised that this is happening in the year 2015.

The fundamentals of capitalism haven’t changed, the very essence of capitalism is slavery and though there are different levels of modern day slavery, today all workers suffer a kind of slavery whether it be wage slavery or chattel slavery.

What is slavery?

Definition: “Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture or birth and are deprived of the right to refuse to work or demand better conditions or wages.”

Slavery is usually used in the past tense, but by analysing our society we can identify that we are literally slaves today. In the context of slaves being property and having an “owner” isn’t really used in the same context today though we do have a modern day slave labour which indebts us to banks by eternally paying off loans in order to merely subsist.

Another issue of the growing slavery problem is the rise of private prisons: prisoners who are stripped of their rights; workers who are no longer allowed to unionise and are often paid extremely poor wages. This has been exposed more recently in Australia with extreme exploitation of overseas workers on work visas or in Australia as students. The corporations don’t have to give these workers sick days, health insurance and holidays.

But who’s winning the race to the bottom for 21st-century slave labour?

The US holds more than 25 percent of the world’s prisoners; US corporations see prisoners as the best strategy for corporate profit. According to the Wall Street Journal “more than a third of all US states allow borrowers who can’t or won’t pay to be jailed”. So, if you’re struggling to pay off your loans you might be a victim of 21st century slavery, an example of the deepening crisis and problems of the capitalist system. as the genesis of capitalism is slavery.

This is why the United Nations is struggling to resolve the issues of slavery because it is built into a society that creates the conditions for slavery, with corporations that benefit from wage slavery or chattel slavery. To actually tackle the issue of slavery would mean to tackle the issue of capitalism.

Next article – Dingo

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