People's Democracy

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


No. 33

August 14, 2005



Working Class Must Unite And Fight


Sukomal Sen


GURGAON is now a hotly discussed issue among the trade unions, political parties, MPs, media and the common people. The shocking outrage has provoked protest not just in India but also from many international trade unions, including Zenroren of Japan.




Article 27 of the Japanese Constitution says, ‘All people shall have the right and the obligation to work; standard for wages, houses, rest and other working conditions shall be fixed by law; and children shall not be exploited”. And Article 28 adds, “The right of the workers to organise and bargain and act collectively is guaranteed.” 


And the provisions of the Indian Constitution, and the Indian Trade Union Act 1926 and Industrial Disputes Act 1947 guaranteeing trade union rights and lawful functioning of trade unions are known facts and need not be quoted here.


The above references are being quoted in the context of the flagrant violation of both the Japanese labour laws and the Indian labour laws which guarantee trade union rights by the Honda Motor Cycle and Scooter India Ltd (HMSI). And also in the context of the government of Haryana acting in collusion with the Japanese MNCs and resorting to such a barbarous attack on hundreds of striking workers in Gurgaon on July 25, 2005.


The workers struck work when the HMSI management, enraged with the workers daring to form a workers’ union, dismissed and suspended altogether 54 employees and declared an illegal lock-out of the factory. The brutal lathicharge by Haryana police, together with the  Honda management’s violation of all labour laws, came as an extremely shocking and shameful incident in the history of independent India.




Gurgaon of Haryana, because of its proximity to Delhi, the national capital and allured by various forms of incentives offered by the Haryana government, has become an ideal hub of foreign direct investment in India. These MNCs are enjoying all extra-amenities provided by the government, which, however, keeps a blind eye towards labour laws violation by these MNCs. 


Moreover, because of location of a large number of MNCs, good infrastructure like roads, water and electricity provided for such investment and the luxury hotels, malls and super luxury apartments for the rich and the neo-rich, Gurgaon has also become an attractive destination for the elite of the society as an ideal place to live in. In fact, many families of the elite society of Delhi have already shifted there.




The savagery with which the Haryana police attacked the protesting workers and mercilessly injured at least 700 of them – repeatedly hitting directly on their heads – is rare in post-independence period and has therefore drawn the attention of the entire country. The real character of a capitalist state vis-à-vis the workers has been nakedly revealed by this brutality of the police with the connivance of the administration and the MNC owners. The exploited workers, who are also victims of  blatant denial of basic trade union  rights, were subjected to severe repression. It is actually a ferocious class-struggle unleashed from above by the MNCs and the State on the exploited working class.


In the wake of globalisation, MNCs make financial investment in any country – India or elsewhere – not for the welfare of the people of the host country, but for maximisation of their profits. Similar is the case with the big indigenous capitalists also. They subject the workers to inhuman exploitation, try to deny all labour rights and blatantly violate labour laws of the land. Universally, it is a class-conflict between the capitalists and the working class. The tragic and inhuman episode of Gurgaon on July 25, 2005 has shown that the class character of a capitalist State is never a theory, but always a stark reality in practice.




Violation of labour laws in India is not a rare phenomenon. Many MNCs as well as the indigenous capitalists openly violate labour laws with impunity. The government of the land does not only remain a simple bye-stander but also actively helps the capitalists to deprive the workers of their legitimate trade union rights and benefits which the workers rightfully deserve.


Whether it is working hours, leisure time, pay rise, bonus, conditions of service, fair treatment to the women workers and any other benefit which are minimum requirements of the workers for a human living – not to speak of the amenities for a decent work according to the ILO standard – are being flatly denied. In the globalised economy where maximisation of profits is the sole motive of capitalism and the capitalist State, the working class is a natural victim everywhere in the world, particularly in the third world countries. The workers of the so-called sunrise and other upcoming industries are especially vulnerable.


The same such thing happened in Gurgaon. Pushed to the wall by the oppressive treatment of the Honda management, the workers ultimately dared to form a union and duly applied to the State Labour Commissioner for its registration. The commissioner simply sat over the file for over two months. It was only after Left parties MPs took up the matter with the chief minister, who found no other way at the end but to ask his labour department to grant the registration, was the union registered. Is any further proof necessary to confirm the allegation of collusion between the State and the MNCs for the suppression of workers?   


It is therefore natural that shocked at the inhuman brutality of the police on the workers, the entire country came out in massive protest. Ultimately, faced with the rising tide of countrywide protest and indignation – both inside the parliament and outside as also the anger voiced by the National Human Rights Commission demanding a CBI probe into the incident – the government of Haryana brokered a settlement between the management and the workers’ union resulting in resumption of work by the workers. But the agreement had humiliating conditions like giving of good-conduct certificates and undertakings to accept so-called enquiry by the management against a number of workers and the consequent punishment that may follow.




While the ghastly barbarities by the police force on the workers of Honda factory angered almost all trade unions and political parties and the common masses of the country, the corporate world is yet to learn the lesson. On the contrary they are up in arms against the Left trade unions.


Most shameful was the statement of the Japanese envoy in Delhi threatening that such labour protest might affect the prospects of FDI in India. This statement from a foreign envoy is not only audacious and unwarranted but also humiliating for the country. FDI does not mean that the MNCs are at liberty to create a jungle-raj in their factory premises and treat the workers as beasts of burden. 


The corporate world in India is also daring the Left trade unions and sermonising the workers to ‘keep away from politics’. As Times of India in its August 1 issue reported, the secretary general of FICCI while counselling the workers to ‘keep away from politics’, warned “corporate employees and workers should not fall prey to radical trade unions promoted by Left parties. However, the act by the police was an obvious over-reaction…”  Another senior corporate executive in Kolkata belonging to RPG yelled, ‘We hope Gurgaon does not become like Kolkata as the Left has already started sowing seeds of unions in the city’. Another corporate executive of KPMG gleefully remarked, “The entire episode was politically engineered. The district authorities were right as what they did, just that they overreacted’.


What an audaciously direct challenge to the workers for daring to resort to rightful trade union activities to protect the workers from the merciless exploitation by the MNCs and the Indian corporate world? The capitalist world in collusion with the State is up in arms to foist a bitter class struggle on the workers from above. The workers will accept this challenge.


The government of India and the state governments would also have to take proper lessons from the Gurgaon episode. Enamoured by the temptation of FDI, they should not forget that India has a Constitution and a set of labour laws enacted by the parliament which guarantee some minimum labour rights and defined working hour to the workers. If the governments fail to ensure implementation of such laws and give a free rein to MNCs or indigenous investors to violate these laws at will, then the repetition of Gurgaon cannot be prevented, however lamentable it may be.




Working class and the common masses eagerly want industrialisation and other developments in the country. If it is done through proper policy framework, without banking on the dictates of World Bank-IMF-WTO and the unbridled profit craze of the corporate world and the MNCs, then the mass of the people can really be benefited.              


But the neo-liberal economic policies championed by the country’s ruling classes and supported by a section of intellectuals, academic community and media, consider unbridled exploitation by MNCs and all capitalist investors as panacea for country’s economic prosperity. But the last two decades of history has proved that World Bank-IMF dictated neo-liberal theory itself is faulty and misconceived only to enrich the rich and it utterly fails to solve the country’s deep economic problems – particularly of the common masses. On the other hand it inflicts more and more misery on the common people, render the workers a surplus entity and formidably increases joblessness. Neo-liberal economic theory of globalisation only serves the interest of the rich and elite, maximises the profits of the capitalists and further marginalises the poor. India is a glaring example. The corporate world’s revengeful yelling at Gurgaon episode is a further confirmation.




Industrial peace is ideal, if the owners of the capital provide minimum necessary benefits to the workers and accept their labour rights and dignity. However, homilies on industrial peace serve no purpose because it is not a one-way traffic. Responsibility for industrial peace rests both on the workers and the owners of capital. In fact, the latter has the primary responsibility for industrial peace by ensuring a minimum standard of living and service conditions to the workers. But if the owners are allowed a free rein to recklessly exploit the workers and deny their legitimate labour rights, then the organised protest and resistance by the workers will be a natural corollary. This must be understood clearly by the capitalists as well as the governments.


However, flashpoint Gurgaon has again proved before entire India and the whole world that at a certain unbearable point of exploitation and oppression, the labour finds no alternative but to flare up. And this flare up in Gurgaon has served to give a timely fillip to  the entire working class of the country to unite and bravely fight against mercilessness of capitalist exploitation and State’s brutality and for implementation of existing labour laws. Gurgaon has shown the path to the working class.