Report on bandh on 20th september

 

Introduction:

 

As part of the continuing dissident trend in india today, there was a large Countrywide bandh on the 20th of september 2012. The bandh call was in protest against a range of issues beginning from price hikes of fuel and rationing of LPG cylinders with a limit of six per year for subsidized cylinders. However, the most highly pitched issue was the allowance of FDI into retail. This issue in particular brought the petty bourgeois masses out in protest. It was on their base that most of the regional parties and petty bourgeois formations supported the bandh. The largest support came from several thousands of trade association representing approximately 50 million shopkeepers across the nation. The most impacted were the states in West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Assam, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tripura.

 

Almost all oppositional parties showed consensus on support over this issue, and combined their forces for the bandh. However, it was political compulsion and scheming and not any genuine concern for the condition of the masses that drove this decision of the parties. Several significant political shifts took place preceding the point of bandh which will have a strong impact upon the future political landscape of the country. The bandh, it’s scale of participation and the events immediately preceding it, reveal a capitalist regime in crisis,. The consequent political tensions building up reveal the dynamics of an objectively pre-revolutionary situation.

 

Thecharacterofthebandh:

 

While we stress, that the objective situation is pre-revolutionary, we also state that this will not automatically translate into a favorable subjective situation. The masses are in rebellion, but this phase of struggle continues to be ridden with contradictions emerging from the one fundamental contradiction of the absence of revolutionary leadership. This showed most glaringly in the character of the bandh. While its effect varied from place to place, what was seen most clearly was the absence of any consistent political support. Some of the parties which supported the bandh also supported the ruling party at the centre, like in the case of the SP, whilst some parties which were opposed to the ruling government and its reforms also opposed the bandh !

 

The effect of this was to sow confusion in the minds of the people, which ultimately worked to keep them off the streets. The Stalinists too showed opportunistic color where they organized the bandh entirely on a petty bourgeois plank, where workers had little say if any. Rail lines were blocked, but railway workers didn’t raise a finger ! The situation in our city in Pune showed the disparity between participation of workers and petty bourgeois most clearly. The bandh was felt only within a section of the city which had a substantial base of lower and middle petty bourgeois, in the old town. Busses, transportation, offices functioned like any other normal working day. No major marches were taken out. The workers unions were mostly silent and organized workers in public sector enterprises did not come out.

 

Whilst in North india, there were pitched support in Uttar Pradesh and around delhi, the impact of the bandh declined considerably when coming to central India. Yet, in Southern India, especially in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the bandh was reported to be ‘total’. In the latter state, though the ruling government is the Congress, the opposition TDP and TRS who represent the petty bourgeois of this state, came out in force and managed to channelize dissent against the Congress and its policies. It must be noted here, that the Telengana agitation over economic disparity is also gaining strength in the South. Likewise, the Kudankulam agitation too is gaining strength, all of these act as a contributing factor the success of any militant action in the region. However, even these mobilizations were weakened by the bad leadership they have received from bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties and organizations, and as such cannot succeed against the force of reaction being unleashed from the centre.

 

None of the parties however, seriously thought about mobilizing the working class in action ! Definitely not the bourgeois parties, but not even the Stalinist parties thought of it! That ensured that the characterization of the bandh would remain petty bourgeois in nature, and consequently would be fragmented, divided and thus easily tolerable for the bourgeois in power. To add to its weakness, was the fact that the Bandh was a simple 12 hour shut down. In other words, not even a full day’s strike ! Even so, it was enough to frighten the bourgeois who childishly complained about losing around $2.25 bn in trade. A figure that is most likely an exaggeration.

 

Thepoliticalsituation:

 

Several key political changes had taken place preceding the bandh call. Amongst them, was the victory of the Congress party in the presidential elections. The Congress succeeded in placing its candidate Pranab Mukherji (ex. Finance Minister and Congress party Oligarch) in the position of the president. Within that context, it also effected a re-allignment of sorts with regional parties notably with that of the Socialist party which presently rules the state of Uttar Pradesh and entrenching its alliance with the BSP. In doing so, it isolated the right wing opposition of the BJP and in time would succeed in isolating its troublesome ally from Bengal the TMC. This victory for the Congress ensured a dominating position not only in legislature but also in the executive, as well as emboldened them to effect a wave of reaction against the oppressed classes.

 

However, this would not happen without a challenge. Immediately preceding the bandh call, was the departure of the TMC from the coalition of the UPA. This threw the Coalition government into a crisis of sorts, but the Congress managed to bail out through forcing support from the Samajwadi(Socialist) Party and the BSP. This ensured that the Congress would be in power with a healthy majority of 60% of the parliament on its side. In an apparent repetition of the first UPA coalition government and its phasing out of the left front, the Congress this time managed to isolate and evict its troublesome ally the TMC, ultimately fortifying its position for its intended barrage of attacks against the people. The path was cleared now thanks to the wily genius of Pranab Mukherji and his presidential victory, for bringing in FDI in retail and aviation as well as pushing ahead with reforms in various other sectors.

 

The opposition to this reaction came chiefly from the petty bourgeois formations in North and east india. The TMC which was till now a key ally in the UPA coalition, consisting the second largest number of seats in the alliance after the Congress, was the strongest opponent of FDI in retail. Likewise, the BJP and SP as well as other regional and national oppositional forces took a stance against this policy. This was primarily aimed at winning over the petty bourgeois section of the population and went hand in hand with the opposition against diesel and petrol price hikes. The Stalinist parties unsurprisingly also pitched in, and shared a united front with the right wing BJP in its opposition against both FDI in retail as well as fuel price hikes. Perhaps hoping that they may be able to win back some of the petty bourgeois support it had lost. In its favor would be the contradictory stance taken by Mamta Bannerji and the TMC towards the bandh and FDI in retail and aviation. This of course, would be a necessity for her, to try to preserve her faltering base among the petty bourgeois in Bengal whilst not giving her opponents any room in her home state.

 

Such political calculations of course change nothing for the working class, if nothing is done to strengthen their position as a national force. At a time when class struggle is on the ascent, with workers showing the way at Manesar, Nasik and across the country, the time is ripe for strengthening the working class as a pole of power. This would give it the power to give leadership to the poor peasants and poor petty bourgeois. However, the Stalinists seem to be blind to the central role of the working class in any revolutionary Socialist and democratic agenda. The Stalinists seem to find themselves content with aiming for opportunistic alliances with other petty bourgeois and bourgeois oppositional parties. In this of course, they would be more than willing to compromise on their own position against these parties for the sake of sharing the dais with the likes of the BJP. Unity in action is being muddled into a suicidal popular front ! Sheer absence of revolutionary leadership too has meant that the working class is falling prey to this and other reactionary leaderships.

 

The regressive thinking of the Stalinists have worked hand in hand with the opportunism of the bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties to make this bandh which could have been a powerful mobilization of the masses, into a mere pin prick against Indian capitalism. Putting its faith on the petty bourgeois parties and regional bourgeois parties, the left front could not anticipate the flip flop from the Socialist party, wherein it declared its continued support for the Congress government at the centre. It’s plan of creating a pre-election ‘third front’ was thus washed away. What all of this has done however, notwithstanding the immediate failure of the bandh action, was to expose the political hollowness of the various bourgeois and petty bourgeois opposition in india and the fallacies that Stalinism carries with it.

 

The reactionary turn of the Congress party has weakened its bourgeois opposition. Though a fundamentally negative proposition, this failure presents some opportunities for the working class and for revolutionaries to organize. This is in no small part due to the heightened class struggles breaking out in India today, starting from Manesar to Nasik and elsewhere. The more demanding and aggressive the class becomes the more backward looking and reactionary the Stalinists appear. The lesser becomes their power to mislead the masses. The more the strength of revolutionary Bolsheviks emerge.

 

Conclusions:

 

While it is true that the government survives for today, it does so only on a thread. We must not lose sight of the fact, that we are still seeing the presence of a political crisis in India, one which will only deepen with the economic crisis. The Congress party which till date remains the preferred choice for the Indian bourgeois, is the ‘state bearing party’ which is bearing the brunt of the political crises. The fluidity with which political alliances are being made and broken are a symptom of this crisis. At the same time, other bourgeois and petty bourgeois alternatives are only revealing their hollowness. This will ensure that the bourgeois forces would collectively lose the support of the masses on whose base their power rests today. The Stalinists being the misleaders they are, can only buy time by temporarily pacifying the people, but can’t do much more than that. They stand as discredited as their bourgeois political counterparts.

 

This period should be interpreted as a golden window of opportunity to build up our forces and strike at Indian Capitalism. Notwithstanding, the immediate failure at mobilizing during the bandh, the weaknesses of oppositional parties reveals the existence of a void in leadership. One which is ripe for exploiting for a revolutionary Bolshevik Leninist party of workers. In this context the impending General strike in February 2013 assumes added importance and is reflective of the increasing frequency of militant mobilizations happening in india today.

 

 

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The Maruti July struggle : Where Caste meets Class oppression

Fact finding teams of New Wave New Delhi* have confirmed that the ‘murder’ of the executive at Maruti is in fact a lie and in all likelihood he died in an accidental fire. The factory at Manesar is now under lockout and workers are under threat of layoffs with plans of the plant being shifted to Gujarat.

The death of the executive has been highlighted by practically all news channels, however what was deliberately missed out in their coverage was the cause of the violence at the factory shop floor. Preceding the violent incident in July, a worker got into a brawl with the company’s casteist supervisor who repeatedly insulted the worker’s caste. After bearing this insult for long enough, his tolerance finally broke when he assaulted the supervisor. The Supervisor being of an upper caste background and the workers mostly lower caste. After this assault, the management had the worker fired from the company but no action was taken against the supervisor for his behavior.

The workers at Maruti’s Manesar plant rose in solidarity to defend their fellow compatriot during which the violence ensued. The company sought to tackle the workers with force and subdue them. A tactic which backfired and ended in getting the company’s HR executive killed. The present situation is still tense, with the factory being under lockout and the workers under threat of mass layoffs and unemployment.

What this incident shows :

The situation at Manesar shows in full the convergence of caste oppression and class oppression which is one of the central pillars of India’s proletarianization based economy. The workers at Maruti’s Manesar plant are one of the most exploited amongst organized workers, but consequently are also one of the most militant. They are a perfect example of caste oppression working to squeeze out exploitable workers from the countryside and force them into the urban industrial sphere, where they are taken as ready-to-exploit labor force.

The worker’s fight for better working conditions and freedom of organization at Maruti, goes hand in hand with the fight against caste divisions and caste oppression in the countryside. The convergence of oppression must be replied thus, with a convergence of militant struggle against the twin pillars of caste and class oppression in India.

Urgent need of solidarity:

Most unions have de facto abandoned the cause of the Manesar workers and anti-caste organizations have been conspicuous by their silence. This has allowed the thoroughly pro-bourgeois and pro-upper caste news media to distort facts to its own liking and paint the workers of Maruti as arch villains ‘hurting India’s growth’. The workers at Manesar face the unfettered vengeance of the Maruti management and of the Haryana state government. At this juncture the most criminal betrayal would be to leave them in this fight alone.

All progressive and revolutionary forces across the country, committed to the cause of the working class and its oppressed brethren in the countryside, must unite with the workers at Maruti in this struggle against the oppressive treatment on part of the Maruti management.

*[ http://new-wave-nw.blogspot.in/2012/07/press-statement-on-struggle-in-maruti.html press statement of New Wave Delhi ]

Presidential elections 2012

The spotlight in the last few months have been on the presidential polls of 2012. After facing a full year of turmoil and trouble, the press are portraying the presidential elections as a kind of acid test to show its political strength. Indeed this election has less to do with the office of the president *( An office which is legally bound to be apolitical and neutral to the political forces in power ), and everything to do with the political competition between ruling and opposition parties.

The months of uncertainty before the candidature of Pranab Mukherji *( the former finance minister and the ‘trouble shooter’ for the Congress ) saw most parties putting up their preferred political candidates, each with its own political consideration in mind. The schism between Congress and its allies, and likewise that of the BJP and its allies, only became sharper when the Congress in a political masterstroke chose Pranab Mukherji as its presidential candidate. The aftermath is for all to see, the opposition became divided as its own allies went with the Congress’ party’s choice of president, and the TMC in Bengal was left isolated and powerless in influencing the elections.

The president’s office is touted as being higher in stature and respect than that of the lower house, and as such his role is to sit as a neutral head of state, divorced from any political imperative. This stature is partly reflected in the nature of elections which take place through a secret ballot, thus divorcing it from the direct purview of a popular mandate, ensuring the president’s detachment from the lower house and its politics. All of this also creates an office which isn’t accountable to the people, and is perennially at the mercy of whoever is strong enough to dominate the lower house of parliament. He who controls the cabinet controls the president. Accordingly, the office of the president becomes reduced to an extension of power in the lower house. This dynamic has only been more fully revealed in these elections.

The Congress intends to use this election simply to consolidate its position in both houses of parliament, upper and lower. Having one of its own as the president would give it far greater power than would be the case if a neutral “person of standing” be chosen as the president *( as mandated by the constitution ). The opposition and other regional parties for their part are simply using the election as an opportunity to further their agenda, and gain greater say within the Congress led alliance by adding pressure upon it. The BJP led alliance only wants to undercut the Congress in this race to the highest office of the parliament.

But as things stand, their alliance is both dysfunctional and fragmented, breaking down as a result of the Congress’ choice of president. What these farcical elections show if anything, is the degradation of the high stature of parliament, ripping the mask of neutrality from itself, and the supremacy of the power of political parties and social forces. In this power game, the worst mistake for the political party of the working class would be, is to take sides between any of the candidates. The CPIM has done precisely that, and quite quixotically, fallen into the bourgeois’ trap. Naturally, its ranks have revolted leading to the dissolution of the SFI in JawaharLal Nehru University in Delhi.

Prelude to 2014 ?

The elections are without a doubt a prelude to 2014’s general elections. The power of the Congress would be immeasurably emboldened by a victory in the presidential elections, and would give it the boldness with which to push through many pro-capitalist reforms in parliament. Having isolated its troublesome petty bourgeois rivals and placated others *( like the Socialist party from U.P ) into an alliance, it has now gotten the necessary support to push forward more open market policies which would otherwise not been possible due to opposition from these regional parties.

The main objective of this presidential election is now clear. It was a calculated move to divide and weaken opposition to itself and strengthen its own position in parliament. A realignment is being undertaken now which would give it relative weight in a post 2014 scenario. The position and power of the president would most likely increase if there is no clear popular mandate, and a minority government would have to form. Neither the Congress led alliance nor the BJP led alliance seems poised to form government. In such a situation the Congress would be preparing for a hung parliament, president’s rule, and the complex scenario of a minority government. It’s critical in this period to consolidate the upper house of parliament and the office of the president with their own men.

What significance does the election really hold ?

The elections have revealed in full force, the farce of bourgeois legalism and the unmasked the truth of supposed halo of righteousness surrounding the bourgeois democratic system. Apart from the obvious unmasking of the farcical nature of bourgeoise parliamentary politics, the presidential elections have another significance.

The working class are not interested in the useless infighting between the bourgeoisie. But what significance the elections really do hold, is for preparing for a future of struggle. The worst nightmare for the Indian working class would be an empowered and capable Congress which can freely steam roll its way through with its pro-capitalist policies. That possibility would be much stronger now, if its able to win the presidential elections. We must prepare for the next 2 years when we will face increased attacks upon the working class and peasants. A vicious unleashing of expansionist capitalism aiming to deprive the masses of india, would be awaiting. The presidential elections in essence would become a bugle to unleash Indian capitalism’s Hounds of war.

Statement in support of the Dock worker’s strike

 

After failed negotiations between the government and the representative bodies of the dock workers, five major federations representing 60000 dockworkers across India have decided to go on strike this 6th of April. The strike will be a nationwide strike encompassing workers in all major ports of the country. We, the New Wave group whole heartedly support the strike action called by the Dock workers.

Against Government plans for corporatizing ports!

The Core reason for this strike action has been the government move to corporatize the major ports of India along the model of Ennore port. The move comes after the workers through great struggle won several wage benefits and work related benefits as part of an agreement under a Bilateral wage settlement mechanism in 2010. The new move towards corporatizing will be an attack against the port workers aiming to mull these benefits achieved after much struggle. In addition to endangering worker’s job security, it would negatively affect the running of the ports themselves. The RK Jain committee recommendations are a clear tactic to target the landmark achievement of the workers. Whilst the original deal itself has issues relating to promotional benefits, the benefits which did accrue (including various wage increment schemes) are under threat.

Why is the government corporatizing the ports?

Under Capitalism the bourgeois always seeks ways and avenues to expand its ambit of exploitation and new avenues to raise the rate of profit. The corporatization of major ports in India is one such step in this direction. No doubt, this also has in mind the recent victories of the dock workers and the effort to undermine them. If the government is allowed to go ahead with its plans for corporatization it will ultimately benefit the capitalist to the detriment of the workers and the public at large. BSNL is an ideal example of how a government corporation can be weakened to the point of selling out by such a corporatization action. The ports will not fare any better. No surprise then that the government saw it fit to ride roughshod over the concerns of the workers and implement its corporatization scheme. The ports as well as transport as a whole are a key public asset which must be defended from the interests of private capital as well as their bureaucratic agents who are interested in weakening them. The success of the Dockers struggle is going to be of decisive importance.

We Demand: –

A moratorium on all plans for Corporatization of Ports!

For a democratic functioning of decision making in all matters relating to Port development involving Rank and File Workers!

A secure wage agreement! And a mechanism to ensure the gains of the 2010 wage agreement!

 

The Causes and Consequences of the BSNL workers strike

– Comrade KrantiGarjana

Major workers unions in BSNL called a strike on 1st and 2nd Dec

Their main Demands were:
1) Govt compensate for the losses on 3G spectrum allocation.
2)Effect a roll back on Disinvestment of BSNL.
3)Provide Advance Technology to BSNL.
4)Make the company free from bureaucratic obstacles
At the end of the strike none of these demand could be achieved.
Throughout its history, the telecom sector has seen a decided discrimination in favor of private enterprises and every Bourgeois Govt in power under the direction of their Capitalist boses used the public sector telecom units as cash cows. Be it the BJP or the Congress both followed a policy of actively undermining BSNL. The situation became particularly adverse after the ‘liberalization’ of the economy. As a result of increased competition faced from private companies in the telecom sector, coupled with discriminatory practices of the government, the BSNL employees were pushed in the direction of militancy to defend their company. Obviously, the government’s attitude aims towards fully privatizing the company much to the detriment of the workers and employees . It was against this backdrop that the decision to strike was called. The final straw for the workers were of course the spectrum scandal.
The strike itself was unsuccessful in meeting any of its demands. The reasons put forward by the unions to abruptly call of the strike were :
1) To keep up competition with the pvt sector companies *(where militancy is less)
2) Customer welfare. i.e. minimal difficulty to the customer
3) To keep good relations between private corporations and the government
Thus, we see the core reason for BSNL’s present dismal state of affairs is due to the intention of the bourgeois governments and their bureaucrat lackeys.
The strike in Calcutta like the rest of the country was carried out in a most bureaucratized manner by the unions. But in Calcutta the workers openly disobeyed their union bureaucrat bosses and gatecrashed their way back to work by breaking the picket line. These workers who broke the picket weren’t scabs or from unions affiliated with the bourgeois parties, but active members of left wing unions which called the strike. This act was an open mutiny against the bureaucratization of the union and of the leadership. Incidents like this point towards the failure of the unions to present a militant alternative for the working class in BSNL . The net result of such unionism is that workers lose faith in the unions.
The only solution before us now is towards building a new militant working class leadership which can fulfill the much desired need for working class militancy at BSNL.

BSNL Strike December 2010

Statement of support for BSNL workers strike:

From the 1st of December this year, the workers of BSNL , India’s largest telecommunications provider, and one of the largest public sector companies in India, are on strike. The strike is against the divestment of state assets and the massive attacks on the working conditions and welfare of the workers in BSNL. The Rights of workers and living conditions achieved in India result from years of struggle against the capitalist system. The government attacks target all the victories won by the class in constant militant struggle. The Indian government’s economic, social and political offensive against millions of workers is ruthless and massive, but the struggle of the BSNL workers will be a watershed. We give our unconditional support to the strike called by the BSNL workers and employees under the banner of the JAC.

The demands raised in struggle are the following :

The abolition of the Pitroda Commission Recommendations :

The Pitroda commission is recommending huge lay offs and retrenchments under the guise of a retirement scheme for employees as well as a massive sell-off. These plans are part of a coordinated long term drive to break the militancy of the working class in BSNL and to hand over one of the leading state sector companies to India’s conglomerate owning families. The consequences of this would be devastating . Thus far, such a move has been pioneered by the congress government at the centre who are by a million strings attached to precisely these families.

Stop discriminating against BSNL!  :

Time and again the ruling government in power and particularly the Congress government has treated the BSNL in a discriminating manner. It has been held back from access to some of the best technologies in the market as well as having to pass through unwarranted bureaucratic hurdles to keep up competing with other private firms currently dominating the telecom market. Such discrimination has no justification and must be immediately halted.

A review of existing employment policies :

The present existing wage schemes for workers do not include pension benefits which have been halted since 2007. Also a review is needed on the pay scale and an overall increase of wages must be put into effect. Furthermore, the complications arising out of the absorbsions of employees of the ITS need urgent resolving. We demand that proper steps be taken to resolve this most urgent issue.

Whilst the aforementioned demands broadly describe the approach of the struggle as it stands we believe the following demands should be raised to take the struggle for the BSNL forward

1) Accountability and direct workers participation in all decision making process of the company :

State control over industry is meaningless if it is subjected to the whims of pro-capitalist bureaucrats who are more than willing to sell off public wealth at throw away prices. To ensure that the gains arising out of state ownership benefit the people, the workers who are the life and blood of the corporation must have a decisive say in running the company.

2) Guaranteed employment and good wages for all employees! :

We demand that adequate employment guarantee be granted to all employees working in BSNL which include a pension scheme for all new entrants in work. As well as increases in wage pay for both permanent and contractualized workforce. We also demand that contractualized workers be treated at par with permanent workers in BSNL without any loss of pay to permanent work force.

3) Make BSNL a model company for the country :

BSNL is one of the foremost public sector companies in India. To serve the interests of all people in the nation this essential industry must be given all necessary technical, political and legal assistance to become a model of efficient and democratized planning and development. It must be seen as an inspirational model of class infrastructural development for the prosperity of all citizens.

We call for national level solidarity of all state sector employees to come forth in defense of their rights and for the defense of public assets and state corporations in the greater welfare of the people.

The demands needed to save BSNL aren’t limited only to BSNL or to any single corporation for that matter. They are in essence part of a much broader struggle. To make the struggle for BSNL a true success we must mobilize behind these demands to a higher level of militant struggle culminating ultimately in a nationwide general strike in solidarity with all BSNL workers.

For a United Struggle !

United we rise divided we fall. For the struggle in the BSNL to succeed we need to make sure that the struggle remains a solidly unified one. For this we propose a network of nationally coordinated network of strike committees.