What is the meaning of “strike”? In a general sense, it means to hit something or someone. In the definition of an activist, it has a special meaning. The meaning is to halt activity to show non cooperation to an authority to show the activists dissatisfaction. Now the question comes, when would you stop cooperation with the authority to prove your point. Is it going to be the first measure of your activism to pass the knowledge of discontent or the last. If the authority is an organization, then you are talking about a limited group of people.
For example, factory workers against factory management or unions against a certain industry. The bigger the scale, the greater the impact, impact on a nation. If I am not satisfied with the way my parents impose every decision then I can stop eating. The intended effect is to hit the conscience of my parents to start listening more to my side of the story. Well the societal impact would be negligible unless I die from hunger and taxpayers have to press charges against my parents! Let’s hope it doesn’t go that far, but it does, sometimes!! When a group of people stand against an authority than the impact and the consequence gets bigger and greater. The payment for a society gets greater too.
For example, if your transportation sector goes in strike, meaning halt of activities, then it’s not only the owner who are effected financially, but also general people suffer. But if you have private cars, it doesn’t affect you directly. But regardless the message is conveyed, questions will be raised from all works of life for the reasons. If it’s a factory, then the same scenario. Owners will listen to the demands and a constructive solution can be found. So in an ideal scenario, strikes are a way to force the stronger hand to listen to the message and find a solution. If it’s a national issue then I think it’s a complex equation. You want the authority to fail, so they are forced to listen to the people. People are willing to face the consequences of financial and social activity to halt to express their distrust and dissatisfaction with the governing system.
Total non-cooperation has been successfully used in many part of the world, even in Bangladesh. That non-cooperation can hurt the governing power to the very core, as it stops financial activity, hence less tax money; shows lack of support among population. The governing people can use force to overcome and that might force non-violence to violent movement.
It’s not unheard of someone shouting a bit louder to convey the message to the deaf society. But the question remains, what is the message, who’s conveying and why. In Bangladesh, whenever you hear the word “strike”, it always ends up with authority using force and people coming back from strength to strength. Sometimes, the people take proactive action to show the authority, ‘bring it on, we are ready’. Let it be for a World Cup game or for their land getting occupied by some stronger entity; let it be an accident or a national issue-the first victims are cars. If GM or Ford knew it, they would’ve supplied no down payment cars from their showrooms in Bangladesh to make sure they are plenty on the roads, to come back to the dealer for repair works!! The tactics haven’t changed on the streets since my childhood and from what I read and hear since last forty odd years. What has changed, are the issues, the people who call them and general populations approach towards it.
The first major national movement I saw was when Ershad Chacha had to leave the precious. Although I don’t remember a lot, I did enjoy the odd days off from school. Next were the odd days off from school again, and I was a whole hearted supporter of a nationwide Hartal. It had nothing to do with me, I enjoyed the vacation and showed my support to the causes (although I barely knew any of them) by not even studying. A pure democratic supporter in a democracy. The impact was felt in the tests and most of the time it wasn’t positive! As the days passed, and the issues became clearer, I started losing those ‘patriotic’ supports for the action. The day before strike, the showdowns, the tear gas or riot police, the picture of some proud leader carried away with fake blood, and the Tk.50 per day ‘workers’ dead body made me wonder, I wish the political parties could find an alternative. With the economy more market driven and many of the politicians being businessmen, they started talking about alternatives. The party in power plays the saint and tells people what a havoc strikes bring to the national economy, and promises not to take the measure when not in power. But the call of the precious is too strong and promises are made to be broken.
When in opposition, the parties go back to the only tactic they learned from the golden 60s, “Strike”. All in the name of ‘greater good’. The current ring barriers are too evil, and must go so strike to take them down. The power machines move, blood is spill to count heads of the ‘proven’ leadership of tomorrow. Each strike on head is one step closer to a higher position. Each Tk. 50 dead body is one step closer to bring prosperity to the nation by destruction of public and private property. We have to force people to understand that this is for their good, so the ‘showdowns’ start a day before. Two or three BRTC buses burned is not only a message to the tyrants but also an opportunity for a bus owner to have less competition on the road. It’s a way to save private enterprises from unnecessary state run competition! New blood with the old mentalities are vetted in the process, the more muscle flexed on the street for both parties mean more hands of blessing on them.
The fight on the street is to bring the emperor back the crown. The peasants might be shot to protect their land by the olive giants, but thats not a pro public issue. The emperor lost its fort, so blood must be shed on this red morning to bring justice back on the land. The peasants don’t have food on the table, no future of job, no education but those are not the issues, the issue is the monarch must be changed!!
Those who support strikes today will oppose tomorrow, when their monarchy will be in power, and vice versa. Those who’ll get a day off on a Thursday to make it a three day weekend will also show their disgust to the current monarchy, until their bus will be burnt by a valiant knight. Staying in the parliament and speaking their side of the disappointment is so backdated way of bringing rights and justice to the people. All equations are solved on the street. I always thought maybe with newer bloods in the system the style will change, but now I see the system only bring those in, who think like the system. So the musical chair game continues. Question is how long are we going to stay as by-standards in this game and clap. Can we give them some alternatives or will they take it? I don’t know, but until then it seems we are stuck with the emperors to “strike” back when ever they wish 🙂