People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 52

December 28, 2003

 Comrade BTR Birth Centenary Celebrations Commence


B Prasant


A MASSIVE rally held at the Netaji Indoor stadium in Kolkata on December 20 marked the commencement of the birth centenary celebrations of Comrade B T Ranadive.  The rally was held under the aegis of the Bengal state unit of the CITU.


In his address to the rally, former Bengal chief minister and veteran trade union leader, Jyoti Basu noted how from a very early age, Comrade BTR engaged himself in the task of organising and leading the working class in the most difficult of circumstances.  Recalling his long association with Comrade BTR, Basu said that the CITU was formed when the reactionary leadership of the AITUC started to indulge in the politics of exclusion.  Comrade BTR, recalled Basu, had raised the slogan of ‘unity and struggle’ and had played a crucial role in the formation of the CITU.


Comrade BTR, said Basu, always stressed on the need to build up an all-India confederation of TU’s and noted that he had been active in building up a coordination committee of TU’s across the country.  The NPMO was a direct consequence of Comrade BTR’s effort in these directions, noted Basu.  Comrade BTR was also keen, recalled Basu, to bring inside the folds of the organised movement both women and the members of the unorganised sector.  Comrade BTR underscored the necessity of the TU movement to include in its agenda the problem of unemployment and the plight of the unemployed.


Long associated with the Communist and the TU movement, Comrade BTR also essayed a remarkable role in the twin fight against revisionism and sectarianism.  In conclusion, Basu said that a fitting tribute would be paid to the memory of Comrade BTR by strengthening the Left TU movement nationwide and by augmenting the struggle against the anti-people and anti-BJP union government.  Basu also called for the transformation of the February 11 strike of the government employees into a nationwide general strike.


Reminiscing about Comrade BTR, veteran CITU leader Samar Mukherjee recalled how Comrade BTR had called for leading the TU movement into the arena of class struggle, rejecting out of hand all concepts of class collaboration.  Identifying the massive increase in the membership of the CITU, Mukherjee said that the task was to make the workers politically conscious and to lead them towards the establishment of socialism.  The workers’-peasants’ unity must be further strengthened and widened, concluded Mukherjee.


CITU leader Dr M K Pandhe said that the yearlong celebration of the birth centenary of Comrade BTR would conclude with a rally held on December 19 2004 in Mumbai.  Programmes would be organised in this connection in every state.  The CITU membership presently stood at 35 lakh, and Dr Pandhe said that the drive was on to make the CITU membership 40 lakh come December 2004.  The birth centenary celebrations of Comrade BTR, said Dr Pandhe, would be held through the widening of the base of the CITU. 


Dr Pandhe said that there were two kinds of TU movement in this country.  Those who kept themselves confined to the economic demands of the workers were revisionist in character.  Certainly, the economic demands of the workers formed an important component of the TU movement, but while organising struggles and movements, the workers would realise that there could be no end to exploitation unless fundamental social changes could be brought about, said Dr Pandhe. He recalled that before the formation of the CITU there had been no all-India workers’ strike and it was only in 1981 that such a strike could be organised.  Dr Pandhe called upon all TU’s to get involved in the united struggle against the policies of globalisation.


All-India general secretary of the CITU, Chittabrata Majumdar said that Comrade BTR stressed upon the need to organise the unorganised, the unemployed, and the women for, as Comrade BTR had pointed out, the reactionary elements would try to exploit these forces.  In this connection, Majumdar recalled the calculated anti-TU and ‘pro-kisan’ statements in 1970 of the then Congress prime minister, Indira Gandhi.


Comrade BTR, said Majumdar, always emphasised on the need to involve all strata of workers, and all sections of TU’s while organising strike actions.  Comrade BTR would call for ‘strike committees’ for this purpose.  Majumdar said that along with the aggressive imperialist globalisation, a relentless series of attacks were coming on the TU movement.  Campaigns of misinformation were being spread against the TU movement. 


At a time, Majumdar pointed out, when the entire society was plunged into economic dysfunction and when poverty was increasing by leaps and bounds, the resentment that would inevitably accrue among the people were being exploited by the ruling classes to lead an assault against TU rights. The working class must be made more conscious, and united TU movements must be relentlessly launched to resist the attacks by the ruling classes, concluded Chittabrata Majumdar.


General secretary of the Bengal unit of the CITU, Kali Ghosh said that the resolve to commemorate Comrade BTR’s birth centenary was taken at the Chennai all-India conference of the CITU. While highlighting the contributions made to the development of the trade union movement by Comrade BTR, Kali Ghosh said that the teachings of Comrade BTR must be reached out to each TU unit across the districts and must not be confined to central rallies alone.


President of the Bengal unit of the CITU, Shyamal Chakraborty who presided over the meeting strongly flayed the attacks being organised in a section of the media against the TU movement.  He said that unless every attack of the ruling classes was met with appropriate counter-action, the forces of authoritarianism would seek to clamp down on the nation itself. Chakraborty was sharply critical of the revisionist trend in the TU movement.  The TU movement, concluded Chakraborty, must equip itself to prove equal to the task of building up appropriate movements suiting the issues at hand.