(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 13, 2012
ON MAY DAY 2012
Sharpening Contradiction between Labour & Capital
MAY DAY is now universally recognised and observed as International Labour Day. The eight hours' struggle of the American working class, which reached its climax in the Haymarket episode of 1886, continues to inspire the working class of all lands to fight.
FOR A BETTER
The men who led the struggle of the American working class and finally embraced martyrdom were not moved just by the demand for an eight hours' workday. Behind their heroic deeds lay a revolutionary philosophy which gave them the impulse to fight for an end to capitalism and creation of a socialist society.
The heroic and revolutionary deeds of American working class and their immortal leaders acted as an inspiration to the Indian working class too in its struggle for eight hours’ day, and for ending the exploitation of capitalism and building the higher social order of socialism.
The last quarter of the nineteenth century saw the development of capitalism to a stage where it indulged in forceful exploitation of the working class not only in regard to working hours but also to wages and service conditions. This inhuman exploitation and repression as was fully permitted by US law. Moreover, not to speak of other necessities of life, the availability of food was so bad that food riots frequently took place. The working class had to join the struggle for food in a big way. However, the administration acted extremely vindictively and sought to put down every outburst of struggle with heavy hands.
was the situation in
Ultimately, the mass working class struggle demanding eight hours’ work spread all over the industrial world after the May Day episode and continued its spread in the first quarter of the 20th century also, when workers in most of the countries won it.
That the working class movement is an international one was what Karl Marx stated in his inaugural address to the International Workingmen’s Association in 1864. That statement of Marx was confirmed in practical experience by the May Day episode.
the Second International,
founded in 1889, generally held a Marxist position in the
beginning, the most
significant and sinister characteristic of its
the many outstanding
strikes of the period was that of 2,00,000 British coal miners
in 1893. In the
Side by side with the consolidation and development of capitalism and sharpening of class struggle, however, an opportunist and reformist trend became visible in the Second International. The working class struggles that developed in various countries were not necessarily, in all cases, led by those adhering to the principles of scientific socialism. Other trends also wielded a powerful influence.
Thus while the principles of scientific socialism constituted the Second International's ideological basis, its activity inescapably reflected something different. Its congresses were attended by representatives of trade unions, including those with convictions far removed from scientific socialism, and persons from reformist organisations though the majority of delegates to its congresses in the 1890s were revolutionary socialists and Marxists. During the debates and adoption of resolutions, reformists usually found themselves in a minority, but they by no means abandoned their views.
This motley composition harboured definite dangers and there were indications that the opportunist trend was prepared to sacrifice the movement's basic aims for transient successes and partial reforms. Electoral gains and parliamentary means of struggle appeared as a strong line of thinking in the Second International. However, despite the bitter tussle between the opportunist and revolutionary ideologies, the question of an organisational break did not yet arise.
general popularity and
solemnity of May Day was also sought to be utilised by the
fascists but with a
different purpose --- to organise and defend
counterrevolution and to create
illusions and confusion in workers’ mind. It happened in
THROUGH GRAVE CRISES
While the early 20th century witnessed the First World War for a re-division of the world among the rich imperialist powers, the post-war period saw the bourgeois system passing through a series of crises one after another. In the second quarter of the 20th century, the biggest of the crises shook the capitalist world in 1929 and continued up to 1933. That was the severest world capitalist crisis till then.
Obviously, the working class was the biggest loser during that crisis. Tens of thousands of workers were laid off or retrenched in different countries. Financial institutions collapsed one after another; many manufacturing industries came to a standstill, resulting in huge job losses, misery and poverty.
Workers had to fight for defence of their jobs and living standard which was rapidly eroding.
September 2008, world
capitalism again went through a grave crisis with the
crumbling of the Wall
Street, which exerted its deep impact in the
between the rich
and poor in the advanced capitalist countries has reached its
over the last 30 years. An OECD report found that the average
income of the
richest 10 per cent is now about 9 times that of the poorest
cent across the OECD. In the
this period is also
witnessing an outburst of working class and toiling people's
struggles all over
the world, the latest being the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.
This extremely significant development of mass upheaval against capitalist exploitation shows how the contradiction between labour and capital is sharpening today and preparing a fertile ground for the working class struggles aiming at ultimate replacement of the system of capitalism itself. Thus the objective condition is there though its fruition depends on subjective factor.
In India, the neo-liberal economic policies have produced two Indias --- one very rich and the other mired in poverty and misery.
Big capitalists are the main beneficiaries of the neo-liberal reforms. The assets of Indian big business houses have skyrocketed over the past two decades. In the Forbes list, the number of dollar billionaires (net worth over one billion dollars or approximately Rs 5,000 crore) in India increased from 13 in 2003 to 55 in March 2011. On the other hand, the Planning Commission’s great discovery was that earning Rs 22.40 per head per day, millions of rural adults were no more poor!
The miserable plight of the working class is clear from the following facts. The total employment in organised sector, which was 2.82 crore in 1998 stood at 2.75 crore in 2008. As per the Annual Survey of Industries, the share of wages in the net value added went down to a low of 10 per cent by 2008-09 while it was close to 30 per cent in the 1980s and around 20 per cent in the 1990s. On the other hand, while the share of profits in the net value added was lower than the share of wages throughout the 1980s, (around 20 per cent), it went above the wages’ share in the post-1990 period of liberalisation and was around 30 per cent for most of the 1990s. Since 2001, it increased still faster and reached 60 per cent by 2008. The share of contract workers in the total workforce in the factory sector increased from 20 per cent in 1999-2000 to 32 per cent by 2008-09. These contract workers are not only deprived of security of tenure but also of social security.
At this critical juncture with backbreaking burdens on workers and other toiling masses, a series of struggles against neo-liberal agenda of the government and their effects are bursting forth in different sectors in India. But apart from sectoral struggles, there was the historic united strike of working class on February 28, 2012, at the call of all central trade unions and national federations on a 10-point charter of urgent demands of workers. This strike was not only countrywide; it also united all sections of the working class who joined hands to make it a unique success; at least 10 crore workers participated in it. Preceding the observance of May Day 2012, this general strike is a significant prelude to what is to come in near future if the government of India does not change its pro-imperialist neo-liberal economic policies. A good warning indeed!
In this context, the Indian trade union movement has the responsibility of mobilising and uniting the workers of all categories as a class and bring them to join the international working class in the struggle for overthrowing the very system that exploits them. The struggle is, in the words of Marx, not for any “smoothing over of the class antagonism, but the abolition of class, not the improvement of existing society, but the foundation of a new one."