(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 24, 2011
Valuable Addition to Literature on Working Class Movement
M K Pandhe
Sukomal Sen, International Working Class Movement, Kolkata: National Book Agency, 511 pages, price: Rs 700.
Sukomal Sen’s book titled Working Class
of India: History of Emergence and Movement 1830-2000, will
like to read this book, which is the result of a painstaking effort to
the origin and development of the world trade union movement. The book
released on the eve of the 16th congress of the World Federation
Unions (WFTU) which was held in
prologue to the
book, George Mavrikos, general secretary of the WFTU, has aptly
“The following pages attempt to present the key points of this course
simple, direct and meaningful way. You will get acquainted with
unions in many countries around the world. The aim of this book
stimulate and equip the new shift of the working class to become more
in their struggle.” Naturally, this book will be read with great
by trade unionists not only in
GROWTH OF WORKING
analytical study with tracing the origin of the modern working
class. The Industrial
Revolution, which began in the middle of the eighteenth century in
As Sen points out, the harrowing conditions of the workers in these industrial undertakings made the workers think that the machine was their main enemy and the resistance to the exploitation commenced with destruction of the machine itself. By 1752, trade unions had started emerging slowly but anti-combination laws were also being enacted to suppress the growing trade union movement. The author points out how the Chartist movement in the mid-nineteenth century was a pioneering attempt to form a broad national combination of the working class.
Having traced the growth of reformist and utopian ideas in the working class movement, Sen deals with the contribution made by Karl Marx and Frederich Engels --- in giving the working class movement a scientific ideology in the Communist Manifesto and later in formation of the International Workingmen’s Association, popularly known as the First International (1864-1876).
Noting the growth of trade union movement in the early part of the twentieth century, the author highlights the reformist ideas developed by the class collaborationist leadership and the way Lenin had had to fight with great determination these reformist and other erroneous ideas within the working class movement.
Socialist Revolution in
The nine day
strike of the 50 lakh workers of
Sen lucidly narrates the growth of trade union and political
movements in the
former colonial countries of Asia, Africa and
deals with the
trade union movement during the Second World War. In the beginning, the
forces won victories in
However, it was the Red Army’s glorious fight that routed fascism and liberated the East European countries where People’s Democratic governments were formed. It changed the world scenario considerably, and acted in favour of unity in the trade union movement.
ISSUE OF UNITY
short-lived. The author describes how the Marshall Plan
US imperialists was attempting to control the European economy and how,
meeting at London on March 9, 1948, the western countries decided to
Marshall Plan. The WFTU was split in February 1949 and the
Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) was formed in a meeting at
period of the Cold
War, the ICFTU supported the aggressive policies of
explains how the revolution
Stalin, Sukomal Sen notes, the
The author then notes how the dismantling of the socialist system in the USSR and East European countries considerably weakened the WFTU. During the so-called Cultural Revolution, Chinese trade unions deserted the WFTU. Later, Italian and French trade unions too walked out of the WFTU. The later was in this phase passing through an extremely critical situation and its activities considerably declined.
The author further explains how the 15th congress of the WFTU, held at Havana in December 2005, restored the organisation’s anti-imperialist character and it accepted the principle of class struggle as the fundamental approach of the WFTU. Now the WFTU’s headquarters shifted from Prague to Athens and the organisation took concrete steps for a revival of its activities. The Trade Union International (TUI) became active and the presidential council meetings began to be held regularly.
The book notes how the WFTU now began to play a leading role in the struggle against imperialist globalisation. Despite resource constraints, the WFTU is today marching ahead with confidence and determination.
The ICFTU and WCL had merged to form the International Trade Union Confederation but there is no change in the policy of the organisation.
In the end, Sukomal Sen underlines the need for a socialist perspective for the working class movement. He clearly notes that the capitalist system is doomed to fail due to a severe economic global crisis. Through the World Bank-IMF dictates, world capitalism has launched severe offensives against the living standards of the working class. But Sen expresses his confidence that working class of the world would rise to the occasion and play a leading role as the grave diggers of the capitalist system.
It is thus that he emphasises the need for concerted struggle against class collaborationist policies of a section of trade union leadership while trying to build the unity of the working class. It is only by playing a leading role and mobilising all the toiling masses in each country that the working class would be able to march ahead towards a basic social transformation, to put an end to the exploitation of man by man and of nation by nation.
The author has collected voluminous material about the historical developments in the world trade union movement. The importance of the book for the trade union cadre all over the world in understanding their historic role in the present period cannot be exaggerated.
In sum, International Working Class Movement is a welcome addition to the literature on the world trade union movement.