People's Democracy

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


No. 39

September 25, 2011




Seminar Stresses Grassroots Level Workers’ Unity


C P Aboobacker


CALICUT, or Kozhikode, is the city where colonisation was initiated by Vasco da Gama in 1498. It is also in the heartland of anti-colonial struggles in Kerala. Now the same ancient city of Calicut is going to host a CPI(M) party congress, the first ever here. A number of programmes have been planned and are being implemented as part of the run-up to the party congress that is due in April 2012. Keluettan Padana Gaveshana Kendram, the education wing of the district party committee, is heading these socio-political programmes like seminars, symposia and addresses. 


One of its kind was held on September 20, at the historic Town Hall. It was a seminar on “The Relevance of Working Class Unity in the Present Day World Situation.” Working class struggles against the neo-liberal policies of the respective governments are raging the world over.  The crisis in imperialist camp, accompanied by price rises and anti-labour measures, has ignited the torch of people’s struggles against the capitalistic regimes. Working Class struggles are raging not only in Greece, Spain, Portugal and France, but also in the United States, Britain and other imperialist nations. The democratic uprisings in the Arab world and the ascendancy of Left and democratic governments in Latin America are induced by the working class movements.  


The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which was fragmented after the fall of the Soviet Union, was reorganised in 2004. With its headquarters in Athens, WFTU is exercising a vibrant and active influence on the working class, earnestly organising the working men and women of the world in a fight against neo-liberalism.




Since the early 1990s, India too is witnessing widespread class upsurge in various industries and spheres. Though organised under various banners, the working class is coming together. The bourgeois politics has become obsolete to abysmal levels because of corruption, sale of public sector undertakings and theft of the national wealth. It is becoming increasingly clearer that only the working class movement and the organs of other oppressed people can save the nation.


Of course, there are challenges to working class unity. There must be political and ideological clarity to overcome these challenges.  


These points were made by A K Padmanabhan, president of the CITU and vice president of the WFTU, Kanam Rajendran (AITUC) and Chandrasekharan (INTUC) at the said seminar.


Inaugurating the seminar, A K Padmanabhan said trade union activity was considered unnecessary during the days after India became a republic with a full-fledged constitution. But later developments proved that without trade unions the interest of the working class would be in a peril. Hence the workers and employees began to follow the path of trade union struggles, without which the working class would not have survived. “But since 1991, when the globalisation measures were put in practice, the old capitalist jargon that trade union TU activity is unnecessary again is being trumpeted. Pro-imperialist philosophers and historians told the world that it was the end of history, as also of class struggles. “But the present series of struggles in Europe and America and also in the Arab world have shown that all prophecies of the agents of neo-liberalism are false,” said the speaker. “The working class is forced to go on strike for its very subsistence.”


Just a glance at the ILO report at its 100th session will show that after the neo-liberal reforms began to be introduced in the 1980s, the plight of the working class has deteriorated. “Priorities should change in the face of the fact that inequality grows and economic imbalance grows,” says the report. Workers are being pushed into an abysmal state of impoverishment over the last 30 years. Confidence in governments and ruling institutions is fading because workers are suffering due to the policies pursued at the behest of hegemonic powers in the field of economy and trade. The workers themselves have no role in devising or executing these anti-worker, anti-people policies. They are suffering due to something which is not their own. They were promised a decent wage for decent work. What happened is that they were asked to work for bulging the capitalist profits, while they were given a pittance in the name of a wage. They were promised a decent wage, but were pushed to indecent levels of life.




“However, with all this long talk on the plight of the working class, the ILO prescribes a very wrong medicine to the ills the working class suffers from; the diagnosis is correct to the core, but prescription is entirely wrong,” said Padmanabhan. The cure according to the ILO is a conciliation with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and WTO. But this ‘cure’ will take the working class to nowhere. But, foreseeing this danger, the working class movements in different parts of the world are getting united, putting aside all the differences.


It is in this background that eleven national trade union centres and some regional trade unions came to an understanding to unite for the cause of Indian workers. It is a welcome step on the part of these unions in the face of the anti-people, anti-worker policies of the central and state governments that are under the spell of the neo-liberal policies.


“But unity at the top level of the trade union movement would not suffice; there must be unity at the grassroots level. The struggle against the hike in oil prices in Kerala has forged a new awareness, an awareness for unity. Only struggles would bring that unity. There may be and there are political and ideological differences; but yet there is urgency for unity because whatever the Indian trade unions have achieved since 1926 are threatened by the neo-liberal agencies. Let us get united lest we should all perish,” A K Padmanabhan said.


Kerala INTUC president Chandrasekharan also emphasised the need of working class unity while pointing out that they should not forget their duties when they fight for their rights. He said he is a Congressman, but yet he doesn’t approve the economic and labour policies adopted by the Congress ministry at the centre or that in the state.


Kerala AITUC secretary Kanam Rajendran expressed agreement with A K Padmanabhan on all vital issues raised by him.


The seminar was characterised by the warm felicitation extended to A K Padmanabhan on his election as vice president of the WFTU. He was given mementos and garlanded by leaders of various trade unions. T P Ramakrishnan presented a memento on behalf of the Kelu Ettan Padana Gaveshana Kendram amidst great ovation.


Elamaram Karim moderated the seminar, K T Kunhi Kannan welcomed the speakers and the audience and K K C Pillai proposed the vote of thanks.