People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 12

March 21, 2010

Thirteenth All India Conference of CITU Begins

 

G Mamatha from Chandigarh 

 

THE 13th all-India conference of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) began in Chandigarh, Punjab, on March 17. The five day conference from March 17 to 21 is attended by 2500 delegates from all over the country.

The conference started with the flag hoisting by all-India president of the CITU, Dr M K Pandhe, followed by homage to the martyrs. The president of the reception committee, Dr Joginder Singh Paur, former vice chancellor of the Punjabi University, Patiala, delivered the welcome address. The inaugural session was greeted by the central trade unions, viz the AITUC, BMS, HMS, TUCC, UTUC, AICCTU and INTUC. George Mavrikose, secretary general of the WFTU, and Andre Bogui, South Asia director of ILO, also greeted the conference. 

M K Pandhe delivered the presidential address. Speaking about the national and international situation, he said the conference is taking place at a time when the world is at a crossroads and the working class has to make a positive contribution to shaping the destiny of the world. The recent global capitalist crisis has brought to the forefront the inevitability of the periodic crisis in a capitalist system.

As a result of globalisation, speculative trade has got a powerful boost; and its real beneficiaries are the multinational corporations who operate through worldwide financial institutions. During 2007, for example, speculative trade in commodity market was five times bigger than the total trade in stock market. It has reached scandalous proportions; it has been revealed that it was ten times larger than the world GDP.

The drive towards privatisation and market economy always leads to speculative tendencies and the capitalist mode of production is bound to create such a crisis. The US economic bubble busted when the topmost investment banks became bankrupt. Those who opposed government intervention in economic matters had to ask for nationalisation of toxic assets of the bankrupt companies. The US government had to shell out 700 billion dollars from the taxpayers’ money to save those companies from collapsing.

Pandhe said with the advent of globalisation, several foreign companies had invested in US, while several US companies had investments in other countries. The crisis in US, thus, spread to other countries and soon acquired the shape of a global crisis. The UK government had to provide 400 billion pounds of taxpayers’ money to save the banks from collapsing. All countries in European Union had to prepare bailout packages totalling 1.8 trillion euros (2.4 trillion dollars) to save from bankruptcy of their banking system, while Iceland had to nationalise all the banks to save them from utter bankruptcy.

Capitalism attempted to put the burden of the crisis on the shoulders of the working class and the poor people. The International Labour Organisation estimated that as a result of the global crisis the unemployment level in the world is going to reach 20 crore! Bailout packages were given to big corporates and financial tycoons, but no relief was given to the workers who lost their jobs due to severe recession engulfing the economy. 

Pandhe emphasised that the tax burden of the bailout packages ultimately fell on the working class and the common people. The collapse of the share markets in leading capitalist countries resulted in the workers losing trillions of dollars of their pension funds, which were invested by the pension authorities in speculative activities. In our country, the workers were saved from this horror due to the Left parties’ strong opposition to the UPA government’s move to pump the pension funds into speculative activities. In several countries, wage cuts were imposed on the workers, adversely affecting their living standards. 

Pandhe said to blunt the edge of working class struggles, attack on their trade union rights have acquired a global character. Elementary trade union and democratic rights of the workers are being undermined to suit the interests of the capitalist class. Those who were not responsible for the global crisis suffered most while those who created the crisis received all the protection by the capitalist state power. 

The global economic crisis had severe impacts on the Indian economy. Indian exports were drastically reduced and the textile and garment, leather, engineering goods, jewellery and diamond cutting industries were seriously affected. There was a drastic slowdown in Indian economy and there was a reduction in industrial output. According to the Assocham, about a crore of workers lost their source of livelihood due to the global crisis. 

Pandhe observed that if the Indian banking industry did not collapse, it was because the banks were owned by the government. Even the Life Insurance Corporation was not affected since it was in the public sector. If the UPA government had succeeded in privatising these sectors, the impact of the crisis in India would have been far more severe, he maintained. 

In line with other advanced capitalist countries, the UPA government announced a liberal ‘stimulus package’ of an estimated Rs 5 lakh crore to save the Indian industry. However, no relief was given to the workers who were the worst victims of the crisis. The experience of this bailout package shows that the amount pumped in, only fattened the big business houses, both Indian and foreign. Imposition of 12 hours day of work, enhancement of workload on the workers, closing down industrial units without following the legal procedure, retrenchment of workforce without paying statutory compensation became the order of the day. The government of India callously connived with these depredations to save the big business houses and their profitability.

Commenting about the foreign policy of the UPA government, Pandhe said when all the world witnessed firm opposition to the US hegemony, which has hit hard the very concept of unipolar world, the UPA government has accepted subservience to US imperialists’ global machinations. The joint military exercises between India and US Air Forces at  Kalaikunda, naval exercises in Malabar and infantry exercises in Madhya Pradesh have tied India’s strategic interests with US bandwagon. India’s refusal to pursue the Iranian gas pipeline deal, the UPA government’s support to the sanction imposed by UN against Iran, India’s commitment to the US goal in Afghanistan, India’s watering down its policies at the Copenhagen climate summit, India’s growing defence ties with Israel, India’ s determined pursuing of the anti-national nuclear deal with US imperialism, Manmohan Singh government’s liberal concessions to the US capital facilitating their faster entry in Indian industries, etc, are some of the indications of a clear shift in foreign policy of the UPA government. This stance has considerably weakened India’s position within the non-alignment movement. 

Pandhe said that after achieving success in the recent parliamentary elections, the UPA government is pursuing the policy of globalisation and market economy with more determination. It is no more dependent on the support of the Left parties which is making government arrogant in doggedly pursuing their pro-World Bank and IMF policies.

Speaking about the price rise, he said the prices of essential commodities have increased sky-high making the life of toiling people more difficult. The government refuses to ban the forward trading in essential commodities. Minimum support price was fixed so low that peasants find it uneconomic to produce food grains. The sugarcane growers were also denied adequate price for their sugarcane by sugar millowners. The collapse of public distribution system has made the condition even worse. The recent rise in petrol and diesel prices has only added fuel to the fire.

Talking about the disinvestment drive of the UPA government, he said it would ultimately lead to privatisation of all public sector undertakings. The total reserves of the public sector have reached Rs 5.50 lakh crore while the number of loss making units have reduced considerably during the last five years. The performance of public sector undertakings shows much improvement and hence there is no justification for disinvesting the profit making public sector undertakings. The public sector undertakings have played an important role in building a self-reliant economy in India and World Bank wants to see the giving up of this role by the public sector. The central trade unions have opposed this move of the government. However, the UPA government is determined to mop up Rs 25000 crore from the public sector to meet the budgetary deficit. This policy has to be resolutely resisted by the united movement of the workers.

Pandhe said remarkable trade union unity has been built in India against the privatisation moves of the union government, against contractisation and casualisation of labour, and many joint programmes were held in the recent past.

He said India’s struggle against globalisation cannot assume a powerful shape unless the vast masses of peasant and agricultural workers are drawn into it. The CITU would continue to work towards building this solidarity.

Pandhe concluded exhorting the delegates to educate the working class that there would be no material improvement in the working and living conditions of our working class without abolition of the capitalist exploitation and establishment of a socialist system. An ideological struggle in the trade union movement is of paramount importance to eliminate the bourgeois ideologies prevailing among the working class. He called on the delegates to dedicate themselves to this historic task so that massive struggles are built up in the forthcoming period against capitalist onslaughts. Armed with revolutionary ideology of the working class, he said we have to move forward, despite heavy odds, in the direction of achieving the goal  of socialism on the Indian soil. 

35 foreign delegates from 15 countries are also participating in this conference. They were introduced and felicitated in the inaugural session.