(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 20, 2011
Swadesh Dev Roye
THE forthcoming ‘March to Parliament’ on February 23, 2011 is not going to be an ordinary trade union action in the national capital. The country is poised to witness on the day an unprecedented, huge historic gathering of working class men and women coming from every nook and corner of the country. This will be a united action under the joint leadership of central trade unions, viz. the CITU, AITUC, HMS, AICCTU, AIUTUC, UTUC, TUCC and INTUC as well as the national federations of industrial workers and service sector employees.
AT HIGH PITCH
Reports of joint and independent campaigns being conducted by the trade unions in various states to mobilise the working people for participation in the proposed March to Parliament suggest that several lakhs of workers would march on the streets of the national capital on the day and thus add a new, shinning chapter to the post-independence history of trade union movement in the country on February 23. Indications are that, surpassing all previous records, it is going to be a gigantic demonstration of the workers.
Keeping in view the fact that it would not be possible for lakhs of marchers to assemble at a single point in and around the Ramlila Grounds before they march in the procession, it has been decided that their march to the Parliament Street would commence from several points like Ramlila Grounds, Rajghat, Samata Sthal, State Entry Road, Ajmeri Gate etc and ultimately converge in the Parliament Street. Additionally, thousands of people are likely to reach directly to the Parliament Street.
The trade union centres have unleashed the best of their organisational capacities to achieve a memorable mobilisation of workers for the ‘Delhi March’ from all over the country. For augmenting the initiative of their state units and industrial federations, the central leadership of these organisations has been addressing innumerable conventions, public meetings and also the general body meetings of cadres through the length and breadth of the country.
Since it is next to impossible for lakhs of people to travel down to Delhi on one and the same day, people shall start reaching Delhi from February 19 onwards. In order to provide accommodation to the people reaching Delhi in advance, arrangements have been made to erect make-shift accommodation in the entire Ramlila Ground. Further, a few dozen ‘Community Halls’ located in different parts of both Old and New Delhi have been booked. It is expected that more than one lakh people shall be staying in these accommodations. Apart from these advance contingents, lakhs of people from the neighbouring states shall be mobilised on the morning of February 23 by all the participating trade union organisations. Participation of women is going to be eye-catching.
The CITU centre started various preparatory steps since as far back as October 2010. A three-day extended meeting of the CITU Secretariat discussed the various aspects of the March and took appropriate decisions. In that meeting, various state committees were allocated quotas for mobilisation, totalling one lakh and sixty thousand. The General Council meeting of the CITU, that took place at Nashik on January 8 to 11, 2011, undertook a thorough review of the preparations. Reports revealed that most states are certain to exceed the allocated quota. In order to decorate the demonstration with the organisation’s flags, festoons, banners and placards with common slogans, such materials have been produced in big quantities. It is thus certain that the whole march is going to be a most colourful one.
The basis for the current phase of united struggles was laid at a national convention of workers, held at the Mavalankar Hall in New Delhi on September 14, 2009. With the participation of, literally, all the national trade union centres of the country, this convention adopted a five-point charter of demands that is given below.
1) Rises in the prices of essential commodities to be contained through appropriate corrective and distributive measures like a universal public distribution system (PDS) and curbs on speculation in the commodity market.
2) Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws or stringent punitive measures for the violation of these laws.
3) Concrete proactive measures to be taken for linkage of employment protection in the recession stricken sectors with the stimulus package to the industrialists; creation of job by augmenting public investment in infrastructure.
4) Steps to be taken for removal of all restrictive provisions based on poverty line in respect of eligibility of coverage of the schemes under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008 and creation of a national fund for the unorganised sector to provide for a national floor level social security to all the unorganised workers including the contract and casual workers.
5) Disinvestment of shares of central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) is not resorted to for meeting the budgetary deficits.
On the basis of these demands, continuous joint struggles have been launched and gradually intensified by the trade unions. In this connection, it would not be inappropriate to recall here some of the major actions conducted by the trade union movement in the recent past.
On October 28, 2009, workers came out into the streets in their lakhs or assembled at factory gates all over the country at the call of the central trade unions to observe an All India Protest Day. Then came a very successful dharna programme simultaneously staged before the parliament, at all the state capitals and in major industrial centres on December 16, 2009. the next action programme was the countrywide Satyagraha/Jail Bharo on March 5, 2010. With the participation of around 10 lakhs people, this programme was a big success.
However, the most powerful action of the current phase was the strike struggle of September 7, 2010. It was really for the first time since independence the country witnessed a joint strike action by all the trade union organisations, including the INTUC. The sweep of the strike was unprecedented and around 10 crore workers from all the sectors and segments of the economy of the country participated in it.
Now, if the strike action of September 7, 2010 is considered as the culminating action of the current phase which began with the October 2009 action programme, the February 23 action may well be regarded as the beginning of a new phase of joint struggles by the working class in the country against the anti-people policies of the UPA-II government.
It is very important to note that, undoubtedly, one major contributing factor behind the huge response from the people to the joint call of the trade unions is the historic unity of the central trade unions which has generated great enthusiasm among the grassroots workers. But the economic miseries inflicted upon the people due to the anti-people policies of the government have deeply agitated the minds of the toiling people against the government of the day. These are what are going to contribute in a big way to the mobilisation of the people for the February 23 March to Parliament.
Certainly the distinction of the current phase of the united struggles, which took off in September 2009, should not be undermined. But at the same time one must not underestimate, under any circumstances, the role of the Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions which steered the united struggles of the working class in India for a long period, spreading over almost two decades.
Let us recall that the working class in India have been jointly fighting in a consistent manner against the neo-liberal policies pursued by the successive governments. Under the leadership of a joint platform of trade unions called the Sponsoring Committee of Indian Trade Unions, the Indian working class has been continuously conducting bitter struggles against the neo-liberal policies. While the struggles were conducted mainly at three levels, viz., industrial, provincial and national, the forms of struggle included huge mobilisations, militant demonstrations, court arrest and strike struggles. Now we can say with confidence that, as a result of these struggles, the ruling classes in the country were compelled to exercise restraint in implementation of their disastrous policies of neo-liberalism.
A major highlight of the struggles launched by the Indian trade union movement opposing the policies of imperialist globalisation between November 1991 (year of the introduction of neo-liberal policies in the country) and August 2008 had been the 12 countrywide general strikes with reverberating successes. Every single successive strike in this period surpassed the sweep of the previous strikes. Moreover, numerous industrial and service sector struggles including strike struggles have been taking place on a regular basis. The Indian trade union movement has also been engaged in a grim battle against the ferocious foreign MNCs, braving atrocities including murders, imprisonment and vindictive dismissal from services.
The current phase of widened joint initiative of trade union movement led by the Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions, conducting united struggles to press the urgent issues of the toiling people and strongly oppose the policies of neo-liberalism, is the outcome of two decades of struggle against the doctrine of market economy under imperialist globalisation. The past united forum and the present extended unity platform must thus be viewed as complementary.
The advocates of neo-liberal policies under imperialist globalisation have all along been criticising us for our opposition to and struggle against neo-liberalism. Now it is time for us to undertake a massive campaign among the masses as to how our understanding regarding the anti-national, anti-development and anti-people character of the neo-liberal policy regime stands vindicated by the current spate of capitalist economic crisis. We must also educate the working class and the people as to how our successful resistance against total financial deregulation in our country could save, to some extent, the Indian financial sector and the economy from the intensity of the crisis and virtual collapse. We have to equip our leadership and cadres to take up this urgent task with topmost priority.
The ideology of class struggle teaches us that, in order to insulate itself from the impact of crisis, the capitalist class takes repressive recourse to shift the burden of the crisis on to the shoulders of labour. True to this ideological understanding, the working class all over the world is confronting a capitalist onslaught in the current situation as well. The crisis-ridden capitalist system has been adopting anti-labour steps one after another. Further, the bourgeoisie have been extracting huge concessions from their pro-capital governments, aimed to protect their profits from erosion amidst severe market stagnation. Such steps are taken in the name of increasing ‘productivity,’ realising ‘cost effectiveness’ and remaining ‘competitive’ in the market. The actual reason behind these avowed anti-labour designs is to protect the interest of the capitalist class from the impact of the economic crisis.
It is but natural that in the conflict-ridden situation, different social forces are acting according to their respective class interests. In this context we have to understand that the huge concessions granted to the capitalist class by the pro-capitalist governments of various nations are in discharge of their class responsibilities. Similarly, the anti-labour character of the governments is clearly manifested in anti-worker measures like imposition of wage freezes, restrictions on collective bargaining, ban on the right to form trade unions and right to strike, enactment of legislations in favour of the capitalist class, and also the anti-labour role of judiciary.
As a measure of introspection, we must admit that our fight against the policies of neo-liberalism has been by and large defensive. But the present situation demands militant offensives from the working class. We must understand that despite the deep rooted crisis of capitalism, the birth of a new social order cannot be spontaneous. The working class movement will have to organise the fight against the system in strict adherence to the ideology of class struggle.
It is surely
a matter of
great encouragement that the unity of the working class in the fight
the anti-people and anti-national policies of the government has been
breaking the barriers of ideological differences. The task of
strengthening the unity platform must be the priority of all the
unions. At the
same time the forces committed to the principle of class struggle must
carry forward the task of changing the correlation of forces in favour
committed to class struggles.
True, neo-liberalism has been exposed and the crisis has certainly destroyed the credibility of the neo-liberal ideology. The model of imperialist globalisation was drawn by the imperialist powers to address the crisis of capitalism that surfaced in the 1970s. Now with the re-emergence of the crisis, an objective situation has developed providing an opportunity to the working class to carry forward its struggle towards the ultimate goal of establishing a new, people oriented, progressive social order.