People's Democracy

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


No. 16

April 21, 2013









To Reach the Unreached,

To Organise the Unorganised


K Hemalata


THE fourteenth conference of the CITU, held on April 4-8 in Kannur (Kerala), concluded with the clarion call to ‘reach the unreached’ and ‘organise the unorganised.’ It was more than 50 years since an all-India conference of such importance was held in Kannur. This created great enthusiasm among the CITU cadres in the district who made excellent efforts to approach and involve the non-CITU workers and people in the preparations. The slogan of the conference --- intensify struggles to change policies --- was widely popularised throughout the state.




The presidential address as well as the report of the general secretary unanimously adopted in the conference focussed on the challenges posed by the imperialist dictated international finance driven neo-liberal regime and the strategies to be followed to reverse these polices. The experiences of the international working class movement, the political and economic developments in the country, the experiences of the growing united struggles as well as the independent campaigns and struggles of CITU, the organisational strength and intervening capacity of CITU in the national developments that impact the working class and the people in general --- were all analysed with this perspective. The necessary tasks about the movement and organisation to meet this challenging situation were proposed in the report.


In his presidential address in the inaugural session, CITU president A K Padmanabhan said the unprecedented success of the two day’s general strike on February 20-21 and the support that it received from the common people was a clear proof that the working class struggles in the country had entered a new phase. However, given the firm commitment of the present government to the neo-liberal regime, the working class and the mass organisations must shoulder the responsibility of channelising the popular anger against these policies into a powerful mass movement.


Drawing attention to increasing inequalities, Padmanabhan said that there were 12000 individuals in the country (who constitute just 0.01 per cent of Indian population) whose combined worth is around one third of the gross national income of the country. While the top 20 per cent of the population own 45.3 per cent of the total income, the bottom 20 per cent own only 8.1 per cent. Mukesh Ambani’s house of 27 storeys is the world’s largest new house; it is 1300 times bigger than the average shack in the slums that surround it. Quoting Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze, he said there was probably no other country in the world history growing so fast for so long while its rank on Human Development Index (HDI) remained more or less unchanged. India’s HDI rank was 134 in 1980; it remained at 134 in 2011.




Despite claims to the contrary, the world economy has not yet come out of the crisis. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), global unemployment increased by 42 lakhs to reach 19. 73 crores in 2012; it was expected to further increase by 51 lakhs in 2013. Young people were particularly affected by the crisis. They remained job less for longer time with 35 per cent of them remaining unemployed for six months or longer.


While the common people were suffering due to the impact of the global economic crisis, not a single senior Wall Street banker, who was responsible for the crisis, was arrested or prosecuted. Rather they were bailed out and provided opportunities to take huge bonuses.


The European Union, which was severely affected by the crisis, is trying to come out of it by imposing austerity measures on the people. This means cutting down on their wages, bonus, and social security benefits etc the fact that these measures have proved to be a failure. However, the working class was not taking these attacks on its living conditions lying down. Big struggles including strikes have taken place during this period all over the world – in Greece, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, etc against such attacks. The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement in New York, the nerve centre of finance capital, with the slogan 99 per cent versus 1 per cent attracted the attention of people across the world. The uprisings of the so called ‘Arab Spring’ too started in the background of the working class struggles against price rise, deteriorating working conditions and attacks on the democratic rights etc.


Padmanabhan contrasted this with the approach of the Left and progressive governments in Latin America as in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, etc, which were taking pro people measures and firmly refusing to implement the neo-liberal policies dictated by US imperialism. Together with socialist Cuba, these countries strived to bring the Latin American countries together to challenge US hegemony. Socialist China has registered growth not only in terms of GDP but also by increasing the living standards of its people. In the wake of the global economic crisis, it took several measures to increase domestic consumption. It is the only country in the world that insisted in the formation of trade union in WalMart. It is acknowledged that inequality between urban and rural areas has stabilised and the inequality between regions has slightly fallen in China. Minimum wages rose by an average of 17 per cent in 2011.


The CITU president asked the delegates to keep this international and national situation in mind while deliberating on the general secretary’s report and take appropriate decision to strengthen unity of the workers and the people and launch powerful and decisive struggles in the coming days.


Padmanabhan also said uniting the entire working class requires addressing the specific issues of social oppression of large sections of workers like dalits, tribals, minorities and women who suffered due to continuing feudal practices in the country. The CITU has to be in the forefront in the fight against discrimination and violence against these sections and bring them into the mainstream of trade union movement.




The general secretary’s report was introduced by Tapan Sen in two parts – one which dealt with the political and economic situation in the country and the other which dealt with the organisation.


The report pointed out the unambiguous rightward shift in the political, economic and foreign policies of the UPA government which felt ‘unshackled’ as it was no more dependent on the support of the Left parties for survival. Even on such occasions when the US hegemonic drive sought to undermine the sovereignty of other nations, particularly in the oil rich Middle East and Afro-Arab regions, Indian government’s tilt towards US imperialism was clearly visible. It was succumbing to the pressures of the rich and advanced economies in matters like subsidies, opening our economy including agriculture, industry, finance and domestic trade for foreign agencies, even when these measures were detrimental to the interests of our own people and economy. It totally ignored the opposition to these policies from the entire political spectrum including its own allies and was resorting to browbeating them through the use of money, blackmail and threats to push through these policies.


The general secretary’s report analysed in detail the condition of the economy, the workers, the peasants and the people in general. It noted the relentless price rise that was deliberately imposed on the people, the growing unemployment, the aggravating impoverishment, the transfer of national wealth to a handful of corporates, the explosion of corruption, the aggressive disinvestment, the deteriorating conditions of the workers and the increasing attacks on their rights and the onslaughts on the people in general.


These conditions and the huge scams involving the ministers and leaders of Congress that have been successively unearthed during this period have led to growing resentment among all sections of the toiling people towards the Congress led UPA government at the centre. This was reflected in the setbacks the Congress suffered in the various elections to the assemblies during this period. The main opposition party, the BJP, wanted to capitalise on this anger but it had no alternative to these bankrupt policies. Besides, it continues to pursue its divisive communal agenda in various forms depending on the situation. The regional parties display an opportunistic attitude.


It was only the Left parties that resolutely and consistently opposed the neo-liberal policies and supported the working class in their struggles against these policies inside and outside the parliament. The recent victory of the Left Front in Tripura was a resounding endorsement of the performance and people centred policies of the government in the state. The increasing attacks on the Left, particularly in its strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala, were an attempt by the ruling classes to wipe out this resistance to the neo-liberal policies. While these attacks are perpetrated in the crude form of physical attacks, murders, burning of houses and offices, kidnaps, gang rapes etc in West Bengal, the methods adopted in Kerala and other states are different though physical attacks also do take place. The general secretary’s report exhorted the CITU cadres to educate the mass of the workers about the real reasons behind these attacks and mobilise them in support of the working class fighting for its rights in West Bengal.


A significant development of the period was that the agenda of opposition to the rightward shift in the policies of the ruling classes was taken up to some extent by the trade union movement. The joint trade union movement organised several campaigns and struggles including country wide general strikes focussing on some important issues that also included the demands of the people raised from the Left platform. This had its own political significance though it may not be in immediate electoral terms, the report asserted.




Analysing the experiences of the joint struggles, the general secretary’s report expressed satisfaction at the unity that has more or less stabilised during the period after the 13th conference. However, it felt that to sustain and strengthen this unity it was necessary to take the unity to the grassroots or workplace level. It also observed that joint struggles were more successful where independent initiatives and struggles were taken by CITU. Besides, CITU’s independent campaign helped in raising the awareness of the workers about the policies of the government and in raising their consciousness. It also noted some weaknesses in some states and industries where no efforts were made to effectively implement the decisions of CITU.


Contrary to the general perception that the workers in modern hi-tech industries were not prepared to join trade union struggles, the report found that many protracted struggles were conducted by the workers of the modern industries in different parts of the country in Hyundai, in Maruti, Foxconn, Reddy Labs, Regency tiles etc. Many of these struggles involved young workers including young women workers with the right to join the union of their choice as the main demand. CITU led many of these struggles which helped its expansion in the concerned states. The general secretary’s report emphasised the need to multiply such efforts to strengthen CITU in the private organised sector in a planned manner. At the same time the importance of organising the workers in the vast unorganised sector by prioritising the segments to be organised and utilising the provisions of the different welfare acts and boards was also stressed in the report. The experiences in different states shows that by organising the scheme workers it was possible to take the CITU to the village level and develop contacts with the other sections of the toiling masses like the peasants, agricultural workers etc.


The first part of the general secretary’s report concluded with the confidence that though the overall situation at the national and international levels posed serious challenges, it was definitely possible to face these challenges through serious pursuit of the ideology that guides the CITU and through mass mobilisation of workers. The growing discontent and participation of workers in struggles provided great opportunities to achieve our objectives.




The second part of the general secretary’s report analysed the organisational position of CITU and its functioning at different levels. It noted that there was considerable improvement in the functioning of the organisation at all levels. The struggles and the huge mobilisations led by CITU have earned prestige for CITU among all sections of the working class. However, this was not reflected in the increase in its membership. Though the unevenness in membership has come down marginally, still it continues.


Its presence in the organised private sector has definitely increased during this period, particularly among the contract workers, as was evident in several states including Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Tamilnadu etc. But these efforts need to be further strengthened. The trade union struggles cannot be effective unless the workers in the major and key industries are involved in the struggles impacting the production process, the report observed. Citing the experience in West Bengal, the report observed that CITU affiliated unions in the organised sector like in jute, engineering, and other manufacturing industries strongly resisted the state sponsored attacks on CITU and its affiliated unions in the state after the Trinamul Congress led government came to power. Despite the threats and provocations by the government and the administration they participated in the countrywide general strikes, signifying the importance of organising the workers in the organised sector.


While more than 60 per cent of its members come from the unorganised sector, compared to the vastness of the sector, it has been able to organise only a small section of the unorganised sector. Women members constitute around 32 per cent of CITU membership. However this was not reflected in the composition of the delegations to the state and national conferences and in the decision making bodies. Very few unions included the specific demands of women workers in their charter of demands and mobilised their entire membership on these demands. Efforts to identify, develop and promote women cadres were nominal.


The report self-critically noted the failure of CITU to address the specific issues of the socially oppressed sections like dalits, tribals and minorities from the class platform. This weakness must be overcome at the earliest. The conference decided to organise a meeting with the CITU cadres from these sections along with the state leadership of CITU to plan the future course of action.


The functioning of the CITU centre was seriously constrained due to the lack of adequate cadres. The conference decided that the state committees should depute the necessary cadres to the CITU centre to strengthen its functioning. The report also emphasised the importance of involving the common workers in the day to day functioning of CITU and pay more attention to cadre development at all levels.


The subjects for the four commissions --- ‘Importance of Democratic Functioning,’ ‘Changing Profile of Employment Relations and Challenges in Unifying the Class,’ ‘Social Issues – Role of the Working Class,’ and ‘Fighting for Alternative’ --- were chosen keeping in view the challenges before the trade union movement today and the need to strengthen CITU to effectively face these challenges and defeat the anti-worker anti-people policies.


The participation of the delegates in the discussions on the two parts of the general secretary’s report as well as in the discussions in the various commissions, the discipline with which the entire conference was conducted and the attention paid to the speeches from the dais and the enthusiasm with which the conference concluded clearly indicate that the coming days will be days of struggles. The working class is gearing up to fight not just for its own immediate demands but to change the policies and ultimately the course of the country.