People's Democracy

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


No. 18

May 05, 2013




Broaden Unity, Intensify Struggles


K Hemalata



MAY Day is the symbol of the struggles of the working class for their rights. It is a symbol of the sacrifices and martyrdom of the Chicago heroes who laid down their lives in the struggle to establish the right of the workers for an eight hour working day. May Day continues to be a source of inspiration and motivation for the working class all over the world today, to continue the fight for the emancipation from all exploitation; to win what is their due.


The working class in India will observe this May Day with the historic two day countrywide general strike in the background. This general strike on February 20–21, 2013, at the call of the joint trade union movement evoked magnificent response from not only the workers but from all sections of the toiling people. Through this unprecedented strike the working class of India raised its united voice against the attacks on its hard won rights. These rights were not handed over generously by the employers or the government. They were won through bitterly fought battles in which hundreds and thousands of workers sacrificed all that they had including their lives. 


This strike also revealed the increasing maturity of the working class. The charter of demands on which the strike was based included not only the demands of the workers but also certain demands of the common people like price rise and universal public distribution system, employment and pension for all. It included the demand to stop disinvestment to protect our self reliance and national sovereignty. This has resulted in the wide public support for the strike. Organisations of peasants and agricultural workers like the All India Kisan Sabha and the All India Agricultural Workers’ Union called upon all their units to support the strike and organise demonstrations on their respective demands synchronising with the strike. In many states the traders closed their shops voluntarily in support of the strike.


However, the government which is totally committed to the neo-liberal policies dictated by international finance and US imperialism, rather than to the common people who have voted it to power, chose to ignore the demands raised by the united trade union movement and supported by the toiling masses. Though, because of the overwhelming response to the call for the strike, it was forced to call the trade unions for talks, it had nothing concrete to offer on the demands raised by them.


Even today, the government is more interested in attracting investments by offering more and more incentives to the foreign and domestic corporates and big companies at the same time drastically curtailing the subsidies to the poor. The determination of the UPA-2 government to vigorously pursue its anti-people and pro-rich policies was again made clear by the prime minister in his address to the meeting of Confederation of Indian Industries (CII). The prime minister expressed satisfaction at being able to curtail several subsidies – deregulation of the petrol prices, complete decontrol over diesel prices within the next few months, reducing the number of subsidised cooking gas cylinders and the expected reduction in the subsidies through the direct cash transfer for the targeted beneficiaries based on Aadhar.


At the same time the prime minister also outlined the measures being taken by his government to woo foreign investors. The government has already announced allowing FDI in retail trade, civil aviation etc. Now it wants to hasten the so called financial sector reforms that would allow private foreign banks and insurance companies to grab the savings of our people.


What is clear is that the disastrous impact of the neo-liberal policies, of the burdens imposed on the common people by the deregulation of the fuel prices, by allowing FDI in retail etc does not bother the government. It is more anxious to generate confidence among the corporates, national and multinational, by providing them all sorts of incentives, concessions and opportunities to exploit our workers as well as our natural resources.


It is not just the present government at the centre. The main opposition party, the BJP too does not have any alternative to these policies which have proved disastrous to the workers and the poor. It is not just a coincidence that the prospective candidates for the prime minister’s post of both the major political parties – Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi – chose to address the so called ‘captains of the industry’ to project their views on the development of the country. Both Congress and the BJP, which have been pursuing the neo-liberal policies while in power, whether at the centre or in the states, have once again made it amply clear that they would continue with the same agenda.


Experience in our country as well as the experience all over the world, shows that these policies increase exploitation and impoverishment and attack the basic rights of the workers and the people. They benefit only a handful of the big corporates, financial institutions and the rich. It is the increasing realisation of this reality that is leading more and more workers and all the other sections of the toiling people into struggles across the globe. In Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, England, in the USA, in Egypt and other countries, hundreds of thousands of workers have been coming out on to the streets opposing the attacks on their wages, bonus, pension and other welfare benefits, against the price rise and the attacks on their working and living conditions.


In our own country, we have witnessed big and resolute struggles by the workers – in Maruti, in Honda, in Hyundai, in Foxconn, in Regency tiles, in Volvo, in Brandix, Hero cycles, Mahindra and Mahindra etc –  not only in states where the trade union movement has been traditionally strong but also in states like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. One of the major demands, even in sectors where the workers are considered to be comparatively better paid, is the right to organise, the right to join the union of their choice, the right to collective bargaining, eight hour working day and effective implementation of all labour laws.


But given the hard core commitment of the ruling classes to the neo-liberal policies, the present struggles have to be further intensified. The unity that has been achieved in the trade union movement at the top level today has to be taken to the grass root level, to the workplace level.


Besides, there are large sections of workers, like the dalits, tribals, minorities and women, who are still not totally integrated into the mainstream working class movement. In addition to the economic exploitation by the employers, these sections also face social oppression in a society where feudal ideology is still dominant. Many of them are under the influence of divisive forces of different hues that seek to keep them aloof from the mainstream trade union movement, which in turn weakens the struggle against the neo-liberal policies. It is necessary for the trade unions to create awareness among all the workers about the historic background of the social oppression and mobilise all of them, including those from the so called ‘upper castes’ in the fight for the rights of the dalits, tribals, minorities and women.


The working class has to gear up for bigger and stronger struggles encompassing not only the entire working class but also all the toiling sections of the people that are adversely affected by these policies – the peasants, the agricultural workers, the artisans, the unemployed youth, the students etc.


On this May Day, let us pledge to broaden the unity of the toiling masses and intensify the struggle to change the policies. Let us follow the path of struggles shown by the Chicago martyrs.