People's Democracy

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


No. 43

October 25, 2009


Mumbai University Holds Seminar on Working Class Movement

 P R Krishnan


A two-day national seminar on �Working Class Movement in India � Past, Present and Future� was organised by the department of Civics and Politics of the University of Mumbai on 24-25 September. The deliberations of this unique conference are of great importance to the academics, students, social scientists, trade unionists and intellectual community of this metropolis.


Held at the Kalina Campus of the University of Mumbai, the participants and speakers were from different universities from across the country. They included amongst others, professors, research scholars, trade union functionaries and experts from social science groups and teachers from different faculties. Since the subject related to trade union movement and its future, the organisers, the University of Mumbai, had particularly made it a point to send out invitations to leaders of all major central trade union organisations. The invited organisations were AITUC, INTUC, CITU, HMS, BMS, HMKP, state and central government employees� federations, Kamghar Aghadi and Shiv Sena led Bharatiya Kamgar Sena of Maharashtra. The representatives of these organisations came from different states of India.


The keynote address was delivered by Dr M K Pandhe, president of Centre of Indian Trade Unions. In the hour long speech, Pandhe referred to various stages of the working class movement. While tracing the history, he first spoke of the colonial period struggles waged by the working class. He then referred to the glorious role played by the working class movement in different parts of India in the Independence movement including the first textile strike of Mumbai in 1928 for release of Balgangadhar Tilak and the Bombay working class solidarity action in support of the historic Royal Indian Naval Mutiny.


He then spoke of the inspiring history of the trade union movement after independence. In that he also mentioned the occurrence of the splits in the trade union movement and the grounds leading to such splits. Pandhe warned the audience of the dangers inbuilt in the new economic policies pursued by the government. He said these are harmful signals for the nation. He then said that these onslaughts would be fought back by forging unity among various sections of the working class and the peasantry, irrespective of the political affiliations and differences. In this regard, he referred to the national convention held on 14 September 2009 in Delhi, which was attended by representatives from all the major trade union organisations and industrial federations. Pandhe said the demands contained in the resolution passed in this convention relate to soaring price-rise which affects all sections of common people, increasing joblessness and contractorisation etc. due to globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation policies pursued by the government at the behest of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation and the multinational corporations.


Pandhe�s speech touched all the aspects of the working class movement. His narration and the paper which the organisers had circulated amongst the participants dealt with different stages of working class movement in India. He pointed out that formation of a confederation of trade unions and forging unity with different sections of the toiling people will go a long way in achieving the demands of the working class.


Dr Jose George, head of the department of Civics and Politics of the university delivered the welcome speech. The inaugural session was chaired by Professor A D Sawant, pro vice chancellor of the University of Mumbai. The opening speech in this session was delivered by Professor Venkatesh Atreya of the Chennai based M S Swaminathan Foundation.


Apart from the inaugural function and the valedictory program, the two-day conference was divided into six sessions. Each one of these sessions comprised of six to eight panelists from different faculties and specialities besides the chairperson. The themes for discussion in the seminar were - working class movement in India � emergence and growth; working class movement � aspects of ideology, programme and strategy; working class movements in the industrial sector; struggles of the modern rural working class and its problems; working class movement in the era of liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation and working class movement in India vis-a-vis the various political streams, state response and challenges ahead. These sessions were chaired by Professor B Ramesh Babu, Sudhir Paranjape, leader of the Bombay University College Teachers� Union (BUCTU), P R Krishnan, secretary, CITU, Aruna Pendse, reader, department of Civics and Politics, University of Mumbai, K K Theckedath, MFUCTU and D Thankappan, vice president, New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI) respectively.


In all, the panelists comprised of forty three eminent persons. They had sent their written papers much in advance. The abstracts of these papers were printed in the program book circulated by the University. Besides their papers, the authors also spoke in the seminar touching upon the main features of their papers. The valedictory speech was delivered by Professor Prabhat Patnaik, vice chairman of the Kerala Planning Board who is an eminent economist from the Jawaharlal Nehru University. This session was chaired by T Jayaraman of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.


Dr  Sudha Mohan gave the vote of thanks. Many students and department staff worked hard for the successful culmination of the seminar. A special mention has to be made of Avinash Khandare, Manoj Kumar and Ravi Shukla.