Today marks the beginning of a two- day general strike in which the working class of the whole of India will rise with one voice to declare their dissatisfaction at the horrible conditions being imposed upon them by the crisis of capitalism. This unprecedented action should not be seen as a one off event or as simply a demonstration. Rather, it is indicative of the pressure that has been building up within Indian society over the last period and is symptomatic of the on-going fight within the trade unions to force the leadership to come up with a fighting solution to the problems which are faced by the workers on a day to day basis.
The Indian economy is slowing down. What we as Marxists have understood to be an inevitable outcome of the world crisis of capitalism is daily becoming more and more evident to the ruling class within India to the extent that they can no longer deny the fact that a slowdown is underway. And the prospects facing them strike terror in their hearts. The inability of companies to do deals on a world market more and more glutted with unsold and unsellable products and of the government to borrow money is just one of the expressions of the current crisis of overproduction. The other is the way in which this translates onto Indian soil. Being faced with an unfavourable world market and being unable to develop the internal market after a prolonged period of record growth, the financial crisis within India is worsening on a daily basis.
From Liberalisation to Desolation
Since the liberalisation process opened up in 1991, certain sectors which had been privatized and opened up to foreign investment have shown significant growth. This was linked to the general period of boom throughout the world economy and the massive inflating of a debt bubble in the west. The Indian economy grew by leaps and bounds becoming one of the “Asian Tigers” and along with the other BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) a force within the world market. But all of this progress would not have been possible had it not been built on the toil and misery of working people and the ever worsening conditions which exist within the countryside as well. Progress in India has been possible on the back of the further super exploitation of its population.
This whole situation has changed though. At the onset of the crisis in 2008, India, China and a number of other countries continued to show growth and appeared unaffected by the chaos that ensued in the west, but nonetheless, as India has grown more and more a part of the world economy, and as capitalism has reasserted itself within China, this global crisis of capitalism has not left these countries unaffected. India’s growth over the last period has been built primarily on foreign direct investment in a number of sectors and the exporting of raw materials to China (which consequently went into the production of commodities to be sold primarily in the west). The recession in the west, the crisis in the Eurozone and the slowdown of the American economy were inevitably at a certain stage going to make their impact felt in India and this is what we have begun to see.
The crisis in India is self-evident to working people as the ability of companies to maintain their current levels of profits has become shaky to say the least. The slowing down of the economy sends shivers down the spine of every Congress and BJP politician and all of those landowners and big business men who know that this will lead to big convulsions within Indian society. We saw the potential for this in the response of people across India to the gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi (http://www.marxist.com/agony-of-indias-growth.htm).
Although the ruling class is split on how to get out of the oncoming crisis. they all agree on one thing in particular, the fact that they refuse to pay for it themselves. To defend their own material interests the ruling class is being forced by the situation to attack working people on every front. They insist that working people must pay for this crisis and from price hikes and inflation to the constant attacks on trade unions and their ability to organise, to the high unemployment that is making life miserable for many young people while the living conditions of the masses are being squeezed every single day. All of this is being done in the name of maintaining the capitalist system.
February the 28th 2012
This process has not passed without the awareness of the working class though and in the past 2 to 3 years we have seen the re-emergence of the class struggle, from small scale militant strikes in a number of factories in different states to defend pay and conditions and to increase wages, to local protests against corruption and struggles against a whole number of issues. We have begun to see a rebirth of the class struggle which has cut across the religious and ethnic communal divide to unite workers in action against their common exploiters.
This was demonstrated in magnificent form when on February the 28th 2012 a one-day general strike was organised by all of the main trade union federations (http://www.marxist.com/other-india-rises-in-massive-general-strike.htm), the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) , the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) and the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh(BMS), who allagreed to hold the joint action around a number of demands including an end to corruption in government, the enforcing of trade union rights enshrined within the Indian constitution and the end to the casualisation of the labour force. This action saw 100,000,000 workers going on strike, the biggest general strike in world history, and demonstrates the sheer strength and weight of the working class within society when it decides to move. As the old expression goes, not a light shines or does a wheel turn without the kind permission of the working class.
This showed the gigantic potential of the working class to take the running of society into its own hands. If this movement had been channelled into a proactive campaign, not just against the effects of the capitalist crisis but also for a solution to this crisis based on the nationalisation of the means of production under democratic workers control and the planning of the economy based on the needs of working people and not for the profits of the few, then the whole game would have changed.
Two Day General Strike
Needless to say this has not happened and the demands of the trade unions remain unmet by the government. As has already been explained, this government or any other government based on a market economy, on capitalism, will continue to be unable to offer a solution to working people.
The Communist Party of India MP and General Secretary of AITUC, Gurudas Dasgupta, has said that the bad situation that the country is facing has been leading to job losses, and ongoing corruption has been emptying the government treasury.
The trade unions have been forced to return once again to the struggle and further fight for the basic demands that they had made last year and now a new action has been planned; a two-day general strike on the 20th and 21st of February. You can read the joint declaration of the National Workers Convention held on 4th of September 2012 at the bottom of this page for a full list of the demands being fought for.
One or two day general strikes can provide a focal point, to unite workers across the communal divide, without religious sentiment and all of the other conflicts used by the ruling class to divide working people, but in and of themselves they cannot provide a lasting change to society. Without direction and a clear plan of action the tremendous energy and élan created by such movements can lead to demoralisation and defeat for the working class.
When Communist Party of India MP, Gurudas Dasgupta, was asked why he had initiated this action he stated, “This is not the country envisaged by Bhagat Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru or Sardar Patel. This is a country that has been taken over by the rich and powerful. People are yet to get independence from poverty, unemployment, corruption and injustice.”
“Never before have all the trade Unions come together like this. This unity will be our weapon. Having a two day strike is a tough task which we have not done before. Our preparations will have to be robust. We are aware that the common man will face difficulties. But the condition of workers is very grave and desperate. Newspapers will write against us. The court might act against us. The government and employers will unite against us.”
We would agree with Comrade Dasgupta. This is certainly not the India envisaged by Bhagat Singh. When Bhagat Singh was alive he was not simply fighting against British imperialism but also against the lackeys of international capital on Indian soil, the landowners and factory bosses, who through joint collaboration with the Imperialists were sapping the lifeblood from the masses.
These people remain in power today and in spite of the progress of the last 66 years, the tasks of the revolution Bhagat Singh was fighting for, the socialist revolution, remain incomplete to this day. Even the basic tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution, the settling of the land question, that of national unification and the institution of basic bourgeois democracy, have not been implemented. And the capitalist ruling class itself will remain forever unable to solve these problems.
Globalisation over the last 20 years has seen horrible conditions imposed upon the Indian masses and has caused misery and destruction to the environment, but this has also had a progressive character in that it has strengthened the Indian working class. The Indian working class is now bigger and stronger and in certain respects more organised than it has ever been in its history. We have seen the rebirth of the Indian working class in the recent period and this movement will begin to bear fruit in the coming period.
Need for a Political response
Although the methods of exploitation may have changed in these last 66 years, the root cause of the people’s misery remains the same as does the cause of the current crisis. The capitalist system itself and the exploitation of working people are to blame and they are threatening to destroy all that has been achieved in the past. If the advanced capitalist countries in the west are unable to afford healthcare and decent housing and education for their populations or to stem the tide of corruption, what hope do we have that a capitalist government in India will be any different?
Until we destroy capitalism, until the working class takes power into its own hands, nationalises the banks, the land and industry throughout the whole of India and starts planning production based upon the needs of the masses, life will get more and more unbearable. We must not shy away from this fight. It is a fight that we can and must win, but to do so we will need to fight for a genuine socialist programme.
A step forward was taken on February the 28thlast year when 100 Million went on strike for 24 hours, but a great deal of time has passed between then and now. The immediate task is to fight to build the two day general strike so that last year’s action pales in comparison but at the same time a political struggle must be waged and pressure brought to bear on our political leaders in the Communist Parties to provide a genuine alternative to the neo-liberal policies of the capitalists.
This National Convention of Workers held on 4th of September, 2012 at Talkatora Stadium, New Delhi, participated in by workers representatives from all over India from all sectors, expresses its deep concern and anguish at the total non-response of the government to address the burning issues of the working people viz. containing price-rise, universalization of social security rights for unorganized sector workers, ensuring proper minimum wages, mass scale contractorization, rampant violation of labour laws and onslaught on trade union movement in the country through various forms of countrywide programmes and agitations in a democratic manner since last three years. Such non-response of Govt. to the all-in-united activities and persuasion by trade unions is nothing but an affront on the democratic rights and aspirations of the working people of the country, which the trade union movement cannot accept lying down.
While condemning the government for its inaction and total indifference towards the miserable plights of the working people who keep the wheel of the economy moving, this National Convention strongly opposes the move of the Govt. to curtail budgeted allocations for pro-people employment and welfare schemes like NREGA and ICDS meant for rural populace and women and child care respectively. The Govt. is hell bent upon carrying the financial reforms by amending the bank and insurance laws to allow entry of MNCs and Corporates in these vital sectors and also pushing through the privatization process in phases through disinvestment of shares in blue chip PSUs in the core and strategic sectors of the economy. The Govt. is gifting natural and mineral resources of the country to corporate and MNCs paving the way for their loot.
Labour law violations are on increase, corporates have been given free hand to suppress democratic trade union rights including the basic right of forming a trade union and increase in deployment of contract labour on jobs of regular nature. Many millions of workers employed to run several central govt. schemes, like ICDS, ASHA, mid-day-meal, sarva-siksha etc. are being denied even the statutory minimum wages and associated rights. The state administration has become subservient to MNCs, and Corporates. The recent unfortunate incident in Maruti-Suzuki Plant in Manesar and its aftermath including the arrest of 150 workers and dismissal of over workers is a glaring instance of corporate govt. nexus.
It appears the govt. is bent upon continuing the same anti people economic policy even seeking to enact legislations that run contrary to the interest of working people and their social security rights besides generating a severe recessionary impact on the national economy. The growth of economy is as low as 5.2 and index of industrial production declining to less that 1 percent with unemployment situation aggravating severely. The Convention expresses its deep concern at the refusal of the Central Govt. to respond to the just demands of the united platform of trade unions on which the country had witnessed, as never before, a massive general strike on 28th February 2012.
The Convention while taking note of the precarious economic situation of the country, steep rise in the price of essential goods and commodities and all out attack on trade union and social security rights and rampant labour law violations decides to further intensify the joint struggles, that were being carried out for the last three years on the following demands:
While reiterating the five point demands formulated jointly by the Central Trade Unions and Federations for:
1) Concrete measures to contain price rise,
2) Concrete measures for employment generation,
3) Strict enforcement of labour laws,
4) Universal social security cover for organized and unorganized workers and creation of National Social Security Fund and
5) Stoppage of disinvestment in Central and State PSUs/Undertakings, the National Convention demands immediate action by the Govt. of India to ensure:
- · No Contractorisation of work of permanent/perennial nature and payment of wages and benefits to the contact workers at the same rate as available to the regular workers of the industry/establishment.
- · Amendment of Minimum Wages Act to ensure universal coverage irrespective of the schedules and fixation of statutory minimum wage at not less than Rs 10,000/- linked with cost price index.
- · Remove all ceilings on payment and eligibility of Bonus, Provident Fund, Increase the quantum of gratuity.
- · Assured Pension for all.
- · Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days and immediate ratification of the ILO Conventions Nos. 87 and 98.
- · The National Convention adopts the following action programmes to press for once again the above burning issues facing the working people:
1. State / District / Sector level Joint Conventions during September, October and November 2012
2. Satyagraha/Court Arrest/Fill jails on 18th / 19th December 2012 in all the states throughout the country
3. March to Parliament on 20th December 2012 (mobilization by the unions from the states adjoining Delhi)
4. Countrywide Two Days General Strike on 20th and 21st February 2013
The National Convention appeals to the working people of the country and their unions/federations irrespective of affiliations to respond in a massive way the call for countrywide united struggle and participate en mass in the action programmes formulated by this all-in united platform of workers and employees to press for these vital demands embracing all sections of the toiling class.