People's Democracy

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


No. 06

February 10, 2013



Call for Expansion, Resistance to Neo-Liberal Offensive


R Karumalayan


THE Tamilnadu unit of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) held its 12th state conference at Trichy, from February 1 to 4, 2013. The place has been known for the heroic struggle of Golden Rocks railway workers in the pre-independence India. In the run-up to the state conference, all the 34 district units have already held their respective conferences with great enthusiasm, determination and well attended rallies.


Three propaganda jathas --- one from Chinniyampalayam in Coimbatore, another from the Golden Rocks and a third from Cuddalore --- toured respectively through the western, central and eastern Parts of Tamilnadu before they finally reached the conference venue. While some textile workers courted martyrdom at Chinniyampalayam in 1946 and some railway workers laid down their lives at the Golden Rocks, Cuddalore was the place where the 11th state conference of the CITU took place.



The reception committee under the leadership of CPI(M) district secretary Sridhar made elaborate arrangements with festoons, banners, hoardings and wall writings along with the portraits of late Comrades BTR, PR, V P Chindan, P Ramachandran and Pappa Umanath. The spacious hall of the Aristo Hotel, where the conference proceedings took place for four days, was named after late Comrade M K Pandhe. Veteran CITU leader R Umanath, founder general secretary of the CITU in Tamilnadu, graced the occasion despite his failing health, by hoisting the red flag amidst thunderous slogans renting the air.


After paying floral tributes at the Martyrs Column, the open inaugural session began with R Singaravelu, CITU state president, in the chair. The CITU’s all-India president, A K Padmanabhan, inaugurated the open session, narrating the political background in which the forthcoming general strike was going to take place. He assailed the ruling classes for their insensitivity towards the workers’ demands --- minimum wage, right to unionise and collective bargaining etc, and explained the importance of the first ever joint all-India general strike called for by all the trade unions in the post-independence India. He recalled his association with the Tamilnadu CITU, especially in Trichy which hosted the third  state conference of the CITU in the eighties. State AITUC general secretary T M Moorthy greeted the CITU’s 12th state conference.


The delegates session started with V Kumar, assistant general secretary of the state CITU, moving a condolence resolution. After observing two minutes silence and standing as a mark of respect to the martyrs who laid down their lives for the cause of working class, the conference got down to transact the main agenda --- to review the movements that the state CITU launched in the intervening period since its 11th conference and to assess the status of organisation. 


The report which the state CITU general secretary A Soundararajan, MLA, placed said the Tamilnadu CITU has got a unique experience of struggles in the units of the multinational corporations (MNCs) in and around Chennai and in the special economic zone (SEZ) at Gangaikondan in Tirunelveli. The report detailed the following aspects --- how foreign capital has poured into Tamilnadu, how the central and state governments facilitated their nestling and incubation, how the MNCs have been squeezing the workers’ blood with impunity, what are the expectations of the new generation of workers in these emerging industries of a new type, what new roles are expected from the trade union movement and how the Tamilnadu CITU could discharge these challenging jobs. All these points were prominently covered in the report. 



According to the report, CITU unions have been formed in 20 MNC units since the last conference. A fierce class struggle against the rule of capital is thus going on with all intensity. Besides these, there is the bourgeoning section of unorganised workers with their demands like social security, minimum wage and equal wage for equal work, etc. the CITU has been fighting consistently for this section. The report dealt at great length with these struggles, including those against the present AIADMK government’s decision to cut down the welfare measures meant for unorganised labour.


As Tamilnadu is experiencing an acute power shortage, more than seven lakh medium and small scale enterprises have been facing multiple woes and this is impacting both production and the workforce. The report took note of this situation in detail, including the experience of joint movements with the small and medium level entrepreneurs. 


The report also referred to the CITU’s solidarity with the dalit victims of Darmapuri carnage and also its experience regarding the ongoing countrywide joint movements.


Around 96 delegates took part in the discussion on general secretary’s report, on behalf of the 694 elected delegates who were attending the conference. Full two days were devoted to these deliberations, in the midst of which P Shunmugam, general secretary of the Tamilnadu Vivasayigal Sangam, an affiliate of the All India Kisan Sabha, greeted the conference. The delegates presented in all sharpness their views and experiences regarding various issues highlighted by the general secretary’s report --- the status of organisation and struggles, the present objective reality in Tamilnadu, the challenges and the resolve.


CITU vice president T K Rangarajan, MP, who greeted the conference, intervened in the discussion at one point, saying that criticism and self-criticism should focus the points related to our style of functioning and that it should be changed in accordance with the situation today.


During the conference, 11 books of relevance to the contemporary working class movement, including a biography of Dr M K Pandhe published by Bharathi Puthagalayam, were released by senior leaders of the working class movement and received by the upcoming leaders of the Tamilnadu CITU. The conference gave warm felicitation to the novelist D Selvaraj, a literary legend of the working class and one who won a Sahitya Academy award for his novel Thol on the life and movement of the tannery workers in Dindugul, Tamilnadu.



CITU general secretary Tapan Sen, while delivering the concluding address, appreciated the Tamilnadu unit’s experience in mobilising the workers in MNCs, adding that Tamilnadu CITU has given leadership to the entire working class movement in the country in this respect. Since the last national conference of the CITU, all the meetings of the CITU working committee, general council and other bodies have referred to this development in Tamilnadu and asked all its affiliates to emulate the example set by the Tamilnadu unit in this regard.   


On the question of unorganised workers in Tamilnadu, Sen asked the delegates that all welfare measures meant for the unorganised workers have to be treated and utilised as a means to reach out to this mass of workers. At the same time he emphasised that our class endeavour in this regard can remain confined to our fight in the welfare boards alone. Contract labourers in the organised sector are not an unorganised contingent of our class; rather they are an integral part of our movement in the organised sector. Sen asked the delegates to have this perspective in mind while mobilising the contract and casual workers in the organised sector. 


The CITU general secretary also drew attention of the delegates to the question of organisational expansion. While it is indeed true that the Tamilnadu unit has had a modest increase in its membership, it is not sufficient given the struggles launched and the successes gained in Tamilnadu and in view of our organisational network here. He asked the new leadership to ponder over this question of organisational expansion, in other words on the frustrating stagnation.



The conference unanimously elected a 138 members strong state committee which will have 36 office bearers.  A Soundararajan, G Sugumaran and Malathi Cittibabu were elected president, general secretary and treasurer respectively. The conference resolved to increase the CITU’s membership from the present 5.6 lakhs to 12 lakhs, to increase its cadre strength at all levels and to educate the middle level cadre who form a vital link in the organisation as a top priority, and to mount resistance to the neo-liberal offensive, both independently and jointly. The conference deliberated at length on the preparation for the ensuing February 20-21 general strike and resolved to make it a grand success in the state. To press the issues of working class in the state, the conference gave a call to organise various forms of protest across Tamilnadu on March 26. It also resolved to observe Women’s Day, March 8, as the day of resistance against the growing sexual attacks on women.


Finally the conference came to a conclusion with a huge rally in which more than 50,000 workers --- ranging from the tea garden workers of the Western Ghats to fishermen in the coastal stretch of Tamilnadu, from the engineering workers in North Chennai to beedi workers in Tirunelveli --- participated. A K Padmanaban, Tapan Sen, A Soundararajan, G Sugumaran and Malathi Cittibabu, among others, addressed the public meeting, appealing to the general public and in particular the working class of Tamilnadu to make the February 20-21 general strike a great example of class resistance against neo-liberal offensives.