- Published on 18 February 2013
- Written by www.icawpi.org
Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) extends its solidarity with the workers who are going on a two-day All India general strike on 20 and 21 February. While all the major trade union centres affiliated to various ruling class parties of the country have come together for giving a call for this strike due to the pressure from the working masses, the revolutionary and militant trade unions and workers’ organisations too have given a strike call for these two days. This strike is an opportunity for the workers across different sectors of the economy and regions to come together to highlight the burning problems of their common concern, which require urgent redressal. All the progressive, democratic and pro-people organisations and individuals of the country as well as the peasantry, the students, teachers, intellectuals, government and private employees, need to stand in solidarity with the striking workers in the struggle for achieving their just and genuine demands.
The strike call comes at a time when the imperialist world economy is going through its worst crisis after the Great Depression of the 1930s. The inherent contradiction of the capitalist economy between socialised production and privatised profit came into full force, leading to large-scale overproduction, unprecedented destruction of productive forces, high levels of unemployment, runaway inflation and mass impoverishment. The collapse of the imperialist economy was averted when monopoly finance capital resorted to Fascism in Europe and through massive militarisation and spending in the World War II, which was the direct result of the crisis in capitalism. During this period, achievements which the international working-class movement had won in the form of labour rights through decades of life and death struggles were virtually wiped out. In the post-war period, a resurgence of struggles by the working masses and the spectre of communism and national liberation movements forced the governments in imperialist, bourgeois and semi-colonial countries to recognise the rights of the workers under the garb of ‘welfare economics’.
The so-called Nehruvian Socialism adopted by the feudal and comprador ruling classes of India was nothing but an attempt to conceal their continued subservience to imperialism with a new mask. After transfer of power and declaration of sham independence in 1947, the Indian state merely carried forward the approach of the British colonial rulers towards to the workers – to nominally recognise some of their rights in response to militant working class movements – but in reality facilitating the unbridled exploitation of the labourers by domestic and foreign big capitalists. The comprador bourgeoisie and foreign capitalists preserve the prevailing semi-feudal and semi-colonial social relations for exploitation of cheap labour and plunder of natural resources of the country. They maintain wages at a below-subsistence level, depriving the working masses of even the basic necessities, keeping them dependent on agriculture and other land-related activities for survival, tying them in feudal bondage and perpetual debt trap, subjecting them to extra-economic coercion, and so on. Since the implementation of labour laws cut into their profits, the employers flout these laws with impunity in connivance with the state machinery. It is not surprising, therefore, that the dignity, social respect, political and legal rights, social security and political power – i.e., overall status and condition the workers experienced as individuals or as a class in the erstwhile socialist countries such as the USSR and China – are in sharp contrast to that of the workers of India. In the absence of even a bourgeois democratic transformation due to the colonial stranglehold followed by the persistence of a semi-feudal semi-colonial economy, the condition of the industrial workers in the country remains far worse than their counterparts of the capitalist countries as well.
Whether in urban or in rural areas, the predominance of pre-capitalist production relations has resulted in a vast mass of unorganised workers. Their occupation continues to be determined more by caste, religion or region, etc., and less by free choice. These fissures are cleverly used and manipulated by the employers to undermine working class consciousness or action even by the politically advanced 5 crore industrial workers - in itself a staggering number. In spite of such adverse factors, the industrial working class of India have fought heroic struggles including historic strikes for the betterment of their lives and for the country’s independence from colonial rule. But since the leadership of the working class movement in India has traditionally remained with the ruling classes (that includes the revisionist ‘Left’ parties such as CPI and CPM), the working people have often failed to protect their class interests against the relentless assault of the employers and the government. Nor could they play the role of the revolutionary vanguard in the class struggle by countering the Congress and the capitulationist line of the undivided Communist Party before and after the transfer of power. It was only in the Naxalbari Uprising and the subsequent formation of the CPI (ML) in the 1960s, that the workers of India finally found its correct ideological-political orientation and organizational form. However, even before the message of Naxalbari could reach the vast masses of workers in the whole country and they could reorganise themselves on the ideological foundation of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the movement was brutally crushed.
Nevertheless, it was primarily the workers along with the poor peasants who have carried forward the revolutionary movement in India from then on, protecting it for the last four decades from the twin dangers of the ruling classes and the revisionists.
A backward and regressive mode of production have ensured that the industrial sector in India remain marginal in the overall economy.In terms of its share in employment and GDP, the industrial sector has lagged behind agriculture and even the ‘service’ sector. Similar to the imperialist-dictated schemes like the Green Revolution in agriculture, efforts by the Indian state to boost up industrial production through PSUs have mostly ended in failure. In the global context of collapse of Soviet social imperialism and the ascendance of the US as the strongest imperialist power, the Indian ruling classes in the 1990s threw away even the fig-leaf of the ‘welfare’ state and opened the floodgates of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization. World Bank employees, IMF consultants and other comprador agents are being installed by the imperialist powers in key government posts like the Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Planning Commission members, Chief Economic Advisor etc. to implement their policies. Contractualisation of work, outsourcing, sweatshops, SEZs, sale of PSUs, ‘Disinvestment’, unrestrained inflow and outflow of Foreign Institutional Investment (FII) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in nearly all sectors of the economy, deregulation of the currency and fuel prices, withdrawal of subsidies and social security measures, etc. have followed in its wake. With the Indian economy swaying with the ebbs and tides of the worldwide economic upheavals, the rulers of the country seem totally incapable of controlling the spiralling inflation, skyrocketing price rice, or the growing unemployment and destitution of the people. Indeed, the Indian ruling classes have become the much-despised instruments of imperialist forces in extracting the labour and resources of the toiling masses of the country.
The close integration of the Indian economy with the imperialist global economy has darkened the menacing shadow of moribund finance capital, contributing not only to a brewing agrarian crisis but also a stagnant industrial sector, with serious implications for the country’s workers and peasants as well as the small and middle bourgeoisie. The global economic crisis which has paralysed the major imperialist countries has started to have a telling impact on the overall Indian economy – irrespective of the contrary claims made by the rulers – and the ‘10% growth story’ has already started to turn sour. Manufacturing has been badly hit by falling demands, and compared to the 6.9% growth shown by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) in April-June 2011, the IIP for the same period in 2012 decelerated to -0.1% and is still hovering around the 1% mark. Hit by such a severe crisis, industries have lost much of their capacities to generate employment, and are resorting to drastic cost-cutting measures like retrenchment, hire-and-fire labour policy, artificial depression of real wages, denial of legally stipulated social security benefits like ESI-PF, bonus, pension, healthcare, prolonging of working hours, and so on.
Worsening working conditions and adverse terms of work have led to a series of militant workers’ struggles all across the country in the recent times.In the Auto industry alone, there have been a number of struggles – Maruti Suzuki, Manesar (2011), Allied Nippon, Sahibabad (2010), Mahindra, Nasik (2009), Hyndai, Chennai (2011-12), Pricol, Coimbatore (2009), Bosch Chasis, Pune (2009), Honda Motorcycles, Gurgaon (2009), Volvo, Hoskote (2010), MRF Tyres, Chennai (2010, 2011) General Motors, Halol (2011), Graziano, Noida (2008), and so on. In many instances, workers destroyed machinery, burnt down plants and even killed managers in expression of their discontentment and rage. Such militant protests are often preceded by denial of longstanding demands of the workers, their intimidation, humiliation, ill treatment and violent repression by the management, inaction of the authorities and collusion with the management, etc. Predictably, the state comes down heavily on the workers to crush their ‘indiscipline’ and ‘unrest’. The role of the trade unions affiliated to the ruling class parties and the renegade ‘communist’ parties like CPI and CPM is often of the middleman who tries to placate the management and the state by reigning in worker’s militant movements. It is not surprising that in most of the cases, militant protest actions have been led by independent workers’ unions which have refused to comply with the diktats of the central trade unions.
The anti-people and anti-worker policies pursued by the Indian state in the last two decades have led to an overall decline in the standard of living, forcing the toiling masses of the country into a situation of acute impoverishment, malnutrition and destitution which is worse than sub-Saharan countries. Economic disparity has touched new heights, with 77% of the population surviving on less than 20 rupees a day. The propertied classes and the government in the country are increasingly resorting to fascist methods to tackle this explosive situation. Not only the basic political and democratic rights, but the statutory legal rights of the working masses too have been denied or subverted. The right to strike as a legitimate weapon of struggle has itself come under unprecedented attack. For instance, the West Bengal government led by Mamata Banerjee brought out circulars in 2012 banning state government employees from calling or participating in strikes. The strike of the workers at Blue Star Company at Wada in Thane district which began on 7 February 2013 for higher wages has been declared illegal. The Karnataka government even threatened striking doctors and health workers last month of booking under the National Security Act after terming their strike as illegal. In the more than 1000 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) approved by the government – which are being touted as ‘engines of rapid industrial growth’ – the right of the workers to organise themselves in trade unions or to call strikes are completely done away with. Other forms of collective struggle by the workers too are being undermined. It is this worsening condition of the working people of the country – particularly the industrial workers – and their demand for a fight back against the anti-worker policies of the government that have forced the central trade unions to come together and give a call for a two-day all India strike on 20 and 21 February 2013.
Let’s identify our enemies and friends. All the demands cited by the trade unions for calling the two day strike are genuinely connected to the problems faced by the workers in the country today. However, it is ironic that these very trade unions are directly related to the ruling class political parties in power – be it the Congress, BJP, CPM, and so on. These parties are directly responsible for implementing a series of anti-worker policies in the last two decades. The strike for them is mere tokenism and a calculated move to befool the workers in the name of struggle. As it is necessary to fight the ruling classes and their policies, it is equally pertinent to expose and smash the machinations of the reactionary and revisionist trade unions. A strike is a weapon in the hands of the working people. Trade unions controlled by the ruling class parties should not be allowed to misuse or blunt this weapon. As the world economic crisis deepens and the imperialist powers push us once again to the brink of war and fascism, the ruling classes in India are going to step up their assault on the workers, peasants, religious and national minorities, Dalits, Adivasis and the other oppressed peoples of the country. Only a high-tide of revolutionary and democratic struggles by the popular masses will be able to counter this impending onslaught. RDF appeals to the workers and their militant unions to seize the initiative, intensify the struggle for immediate economic demands and compliment with the political struggle for a revolutionary social transformation by smashing the two shackles binding the people of India – feudalism and imperialism. A successful two-day strike on 20 and 21 February 2013 with the aim of raising the wages as per the basic needs of the workers, full implementation of labour laws, against contractualisation and other related demands will be a step in this direction.