On the General strike of 2nd September 2015

Background of current strike  –

In May 2014, the general elections brought the right wing BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party/Indian people’s party) led coalition to power. The previous government was not defeated because of a defeat of struggles, it was not reaction that brought down a supposedly progressive government, but public anger at the relentless attacks on the working poor. Rampant inflation, privatization, increased contractorization and casualization of labor, increased exploitation, land grabbing, deprivation, corruption, all reached their zenith under the previous administration, as did the people’s anger at it.

Modi came to power promising “Achhe din” (Good days), it was hoped that corruption, inflation, unemployment, and exploitation would end. Those who voted for the BJP, voted with the hope that the new government would at least lessen the suffering they endured in the past regime, but more importantly, to vent out their anger and choosing to punish the last government for following pro-capitalist policies.

It has been 16 months since the Modi regime came into power, in this time, the one thing it has proved more than anything else, is that it is in every way just as bad and in some ways worse than the preceding government. This government has been more brazenly pro-capitalist, more reactionary in its attacks on democratic values (like secularism and gender equality), and just as hopeless in its ability to provide for the masses. If Modi  and the BJP has proven one thing it is that in India’s so-called democracy, democracy stops dead the moment the ruling party wins the elections.

Within a short while of coming to power, three very noticeable changes happened in India. The first change, was that there was an increase in communalism (religion-based politics), with riots and communal polarization on religious lines happening throughout the country. Discrimination against Muslims and other non-Hindu minorities was bad enough earlier, but grew much worse under the BJP and this too in a very short span of time ! It has barely been a year since the BJP came to power and Modi became Prime Minister and communal (Hindu-Muslim) violence has increased exponentially !

The second change, was that in a very brief time, a slurry of anti-peasant enactments were attempted. Most notably, the Land Ordinance which sought to reverse the Land Act and all the safeguards conceded to the peasantry by the previous government. Of course, these concessions were achieved through relentless struggle forcing the government to amend the original Land Acquisition Act which was formulated in colonial times.

The third change, which has also caused much agitation in recent months, was an accumulation of anti-worker legislation which sought to increase work hours, take away welfarist concessions and give employers unprecedented power over their employees. It is these anti-worker enactments, which are now being protested in the general strike of 2nd September. Nearly all central trade union federations  and their affiliated bodies have backed the strike call. At the very last moment however, the right wing affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (Indian worker’s association) walked out of the strike action.

The Indian bourgeoisie was euphoric about the coming of the new Modi government, they celebrated Modi and his unabashedly exploitative pro-capitalist model in Gujarat, today the bourgeoisie is beginning to bewail the ‘lost sheen’ of the Modi government.

Demands raised –

The leading union federations at their national conference in July agreed on a 12 point charter of demands and a strategy for building the general strike. The 12 points in the charter are –

1. Urgent measures for containing price-rise through universalization of the public distribution system and a ban on speculative trading in the commodity market.

2. Containing unemployment through concrete measures for employment generation.

3. Strict enforcement of all basic labour laws without any exceptions or exemptions and stringent punitive measures for any violations of labour laws.

4. Universal social security cover for all workers.

5. Minimum wages of not less than Rs. 15,000/- per month with indexation.

6. Assured enhanced pension not less than Rs. 3000/- p.m. for the entire working population.

7. Stopping disinvestment in Central/State PSUs.

8. Stopping contractorization of permanent perennial work and payment of the same wages and benefits for contract workers as regular workers for the same and similar work.

9. Removal of all ceilings on payment and eligibility for bonuses or provident funds.

10. Compulsory registration of trade unions within a period of 45 days from the date of submitting applications; and immediate ratification of ILO Conventions C 87 and C 98.

11. Against Labour Law Amendments.

12. Against FDI in Railways, Insurance and Defence.

What stands out in this charter, is that the demands this time around are more radical and transitional in nature than in previous strikes. They can serve as a foundation to further the struggle in a socialist direction and challenge the rule of capital. Beneath all the surface confusion and bureaucratic reformism, the workers are seeking an alternative to the system that exists now and the unions are feeling the pressure of this desire for change.

Of course, such a change will not come from union action alone, that goes without saying. A change in a socialist direction necessarily requires political leadership. This means we must build a revolutionary party able to take the reins in the class struggle and lead the wave of mobilizations towards a socialist change and the abolition of the capitalist system.

Who is participating ? –

Eleven central trade union federations are participating in the strike action. The organization and build up of the strike has been in much the same vein as earlier general strikes last year and the years before. In other words, it was done by bureaucratic means. While mass meetings were held, strike committees at the local level haven’t been formed.

Central Trade Union Federations
Almost all central trade union federations are participating in the strike including unions linked with bourgeois parties. The INTUC for instance, the second largest union is participating in the strike, is linked with the Congress party. CITU and AITUC (with different CP links) as well as other leading leftist trade unions, such as HMS and NTUI are taking a leading role in the organization of the strike.

Initially, the BMS, aligned with the governing party, was supportive of the strike action, but on the 30th of August the union backed out on receiving government assurances of an increase in bonuses and a wage hike. This shows the fickle backstabbing nature of the union and the shallowness of its commitment. This action of the BMS will make government repression of the striking workers much easier now that their own affiliate union isn’t participating.

Public Sector Unions

The public sector is the bastion of regular employment in India. It is the area in which workers have won the greatest concessions. Together all public sector state owned corporations employ almost 20 million workers. While this may be only a small section of the Indian working class, it is a very  powerful one, running industries as vital as rail transport, coal mining and power. They are also the best organized among the workers.

In the last several general strikes the public sector workers have been among the most enthusiastic participants, and this time too, we can expect the same high level of participation.

The public sector has a lot to fight for with this strike action. Since the “liberalization” of the economy, the public sector has come under one vicious attack after another. The bourgeoisie have been busy withering away every gain the working class has won over the six decades since Independence. Nowhere more is this attack more evident than in the treatment of contract workers and of the process of contractorization of the workforce in the public sector. Partial privatizations and the rise of so-called ‘public private partnerships’ have made it even easier to attack the public sector workers.

In the realm of the public sector the fight for improved working conditions goes hand in hand with the fight against privatization and the need to secure welfare.

Port and DockWorkers

Port and dock workers are known for their militant history. They constitute one of the most vital and internationalist sectors of the working class. They have been at the forefront of the sharpest struggles in Indian history, and played a splendid part in the great naval uprising of 1946.

Port workers have suffered from the corporatization of ports which has led to massive job losses and increasingly precarious employment. In the last ten years alone, the number of dock workers has declined from over 100,000 to 60,000.

Contractorization, privatization, impoverishment and marginalization is what the dockers are fighting against and this strike will give them an opportunity to link with the struggles of other transportation workers who have been facing similar problems.

Road Transport Workers

Road transport workers will be participating in the strike. After the very successful countrywide strike of road transport workers on 30th April, when workers from state government enterprises, the private sector and even self employed sections participated, this is already yet another large scale strike action by road transport workers.

The problems facing the road transport workers are not uncommon in other transport sectors. Here too there is contractorization leading to increased exploitation. The pressures of rapidly changing oil prices have caused a domino effect where the burden of costs are being shifted to the road transport workers and they have to bear the disproportionate burden of road taxation and harassing enforcement measures.

Petroleum Workers

Refined Petroleum in India is provided chiefly by state corporations and a handful of private mega-corporations. As such they hold the reins to a key industry. If they go on strike, the most vital source of fuel runs out.

Telecom Workers

Since the corporatization of BSNL arising from the de-merger of Department of Telecom, it has suffered in various ways under successive neo-liberal regimes. To begin with, its sister company MTNL, was privatized and bought out by the giant capitalist Tata group, reversing most safeguards which public sector workers enjoyed. Thereafter, successive managements have overseen the decline of BSNL as the leading telecom company in India. It has been losing out progressively to private companies, mainly Idea mobile, Vodafone, Tata and especially Airtel and Reliance.

Along with corporatization came discrimination. BSNL has always been treated like a foster child by the government which was more than eager to roll the red carpet for the leading private capitalist firms in the telecom sector. The continuance of these attacks on BSNL has resulted in the company declining and becoming a loss-making company. It has suffered from both contractorization of its workforce and massive retrenchments. The number of employees in the company has declined from nearly 600,000 to around 200,000 today of which more than half (almost 100,000) are employed as contract workers.

The contract workers of BSNL who perform a range of tasks from office maintenance to line maintenance are denied most rights which accrue to regular workers, be it minimum wage, fixed working hours, or provident fund payments. A long and brilliant struggle has been waged by contract workers in BSNL which provide a stellar example for other contract workers to follow. Especially good example of struggles are how the fight against the management at BSNL’s Kerala branch was conducted.

Electricity Workers
The National Co-ordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers (NCCOEEE) has been mounting country wide campaigns against the new Electricity Bill, which will in effect sound a death knell for the demands for electricity as a human right. Affordable and quality energy to domestic consumers will come to an end if the new bill is passed. NCCOEEE had decided to go on a countrywide strike if the new Bill is introduced in parliament. Though it was listed, it could not be introduced in the Monsoon Session. Now, the unions have decided to concentrate on the 2nd September strike.

Other vital sectors
Also participating in the strike are defence sector employees and government scheme workers. The workers employed in the defence sector have to deal with governmental restrictions and high-handedness, while scheme workers have suffered the worst sort of discrimination and exploitation.

Anganwadi employment scheme workers who have shown the greatest enthusiasm for participating in the strike are also among the most exploited layer of the workforce. Theirs is a fight for respect and recognition as much as improved conditions.

Potential impact

Among other things, the strike will be potentially crippling to Indian capital. Practically every sector of the Indian economy is affected by the strike and as has been seen before, the scale and sheer numbers of workers involved makes such general strikes a dangerous affair for the bourgeoisie concerned above all else with its profits. The more absolute the strike is, the greater will be its destructive potential against the interests of the capitalists.

As important as the immediate impact of the strike may be, its longer-term subjective impact will be even more significant. This strike will boost the confidence of the working class and it ought to be a learning experience and a preparation for future confrontations. It will also bring together different sections of workers and give an opportunity to further cooperation and coordination among them. Most significantly, it gives an opportunity to bring together different public sector workers and transport workers together.

Preceding the strike action there have been huge mobilizations in Kolkata by peasants’ organizations involving nearly 200,000 participants. Very recently, the peasantry has won an important political victory by defeating the anti-peasant Land Ordinance Bill, forcing the government to let it lapse. The general strike organizers have reached out to the peasantry, and the solidarity emerging from this could have a tremendous long term impact for the future of the class struggle in India.

Lessons of previous strikes

Between 1991 and 2015 there have been nearly 16 general strikes at a rate of nearly one a year. Between 2010 and 2014 there have been 5 such strikes organized and led chiefly by central trade union federations. They were organized around demands which were reformist in nature, but they brought vital questions facing the working class to the fore. The strikes between 2010 and 2013 were among the largest strikes in history mobilizing up to 100 million workers! Whilst these mobilizations showed the strength and enthusiasm of the working class, and served to increase militant consciousness, they failed to extract the concessions that were aimed for. The bourgeoisie recovered rapidly after the initial shocks and brushed off the impact of the strike quite easily returning to business as usual.

The experience of these strikes must be assimilated to prepare for this strike as well as the planned indefinite strike for November 23rd. The objective of the strike after all, is to force the government to withdraw its anti-worker labor law amendments and to bring in much needed changes in the interests of the working class. The class must make the bourgeoisie feel its strength to win its demands, it would be a mistake to expect the enemy to be “reasonable” and compromise with them hoping for them to act in a rational or humane manner. Calls to do so are only traps to keep the working class exploited and perhaps increasing its exploitation. Let us not forget how in colonial times the British used the Round Table Conferences to repeatedly stymie the great mass mobilizations of Indians, and how Gandhi repeatedly swallowed this bait and let entire nation-wide mobilizations fizzle out into nothing. The Indian bourgeoisie uses the same tactics to deceive and pacify the Indian masses in our time.

Need for solidarity

The working class in India is now marching ahead, and it is coming face to face with the machinations of the Indian bourgeois-capitalist state. The Indian working class is huge and powerful, but so is its enemy. The key to success against the Indian bourgeoisie is to win the support of the peasantry and petty bourgeoisie which together are more numerous than the working class in India today. Numbers won’t win this struggle, political energy and good leadership of the masses in India will.

Added to this must be international solidarity. Appeals must be made to trade unions across South Asia, the gulf region and South East Asia to support and align their struggles with those of the Indian working class to concentrate and amplify the energy of the struggles of the workers in this region. Support from workers of every major nation, the US, the UK too must be achieved.

Now is a most critical time in the trajectory of class struggle in India and decisive struggles are about to be waged.

DOWN WITH CAPITALISM ! DOWN WITH MODI !

THE WORKERS UNITED WILL NEVER BE DEFEATED !

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FULL SUPPORT TO THE CONTRACT WORKERS STRIKE OF BSNL

SUPPORT THE STRIKE OF CONTRACT WORKERS ! FULL SUPPORT TO CONTRACT WORKERS OF BSNL !

On the 27th of November, the contract workers union of BSNL are taking a most important and necessary step. On this day nearly one lakh contract workers employed in BSNL are going on strike across India. It is a united strike action by all workers around eleven key demands crucial for the contract workers.

1) Regularisation of left out casual and contract workers.
2) Casual labor wage to be the same as the lowest wage of BSNL instead of DOT.
3) Minimum Wage as per Government Orders to be implemented for the contract workers, including higher wages for semi-skilled, skilled and highly skilled as per A, B, and C cities.
4) Wages must be paid through cheque/account in time. Even if contractor changes, the same workers should continue.
5) Implementation of Social Security measures like EPF, ESI, and Gratuity, Bonus.
6) HRA quarters to be allotted to contract workers.
7) EPF account to be opened by Principal Employer instead of contractor.
8) Issue ID cards by BSNL management.
9) Equal pay for Equal work for contract workers.
10) Vacate Victimisation – Reinstate all retrenched workers.
11) Recognize BSNL Casual Contract Workers Federation.

Nature of contract work and nature of exploitation.

The contract workers while employed by BSNL, are paid by the contractors. The contractor effectively acts like a seller of labor force, and the company its buyer. Because of this, the company management always tries to pass the buck on to the contractors, and the contractors themselves show now responsibility towards their workers. The Abolition of Contract labor act stipulates certain facilities and duties that the contractor must provide for the workers, chief among these are ensuring due payment of ESI, Provident Fund and payment of minimum wage. More often than not, they don’t honor any of these commitments. On the contrary, we have seen cases, where workers haven’t even gotten their pay for periods of 4-5 months and when this payment is given, it is done in a most irregular manner. This is despite a company directive, that the workers must be paid via cheque or through deposit in their account.

Duality of responsibility b/w company and contractors. Company management blaming contractors, contractors blaming company management.

When these irregularities are reported to the company, the company feigns responsibility by saying it is not their duty. This is far from the truth ! Being the company which employs the workers, BSNL is the main employer for the contract workers and it is their responsibility to ensure that the workers get adequate pay and decent working conditions. Likewise, the contractors pretend that all matters pertaining to labor rights is out of their hands, even when the law stipulates that they must observe due payment of wages and give facilities for workers to help in their work. Neither the contractor nor the management has any regard for the contract worker and his rights. We cannot and must not let the contractor go scott free with their wrong doings, but nor must we lose sight of the bigger picture in which the management becomes the main enemy.

Who is the main enemy ?

While the contractor may present himself as the immediate enemy, the truth is that he is only a small part of a much bigger system in which the main enemy are those that decide the company policy. We must fight at three levels. The first level faces the immediate enemy, that is the contractor. Every time, that the contractor fails his duties to the workers, or commits any act which is illegal (like non-payment of wages) the union and the organization must take it up with the management and demand the same of the management and report the contractor for his illegal act. On the second level we fight against the company’s local management, against whom we can demand immediate measures dealing with local conditions. At the third level, we fight against the very top management and in turn, the capitalist government itself, and demand changes in policy for the betterment of the condition of workers and changes in law to ensure decent working conditions and ultimately, for the abolition of the contract labor system.

This third enemy, is our main enemy and it is not just our enemy but of the whole working class of India. Even while fighting at the local and state levels, we are ultimately building up to the fight at the national level. In this, we must build unity amongst ourselves and between ourselves and the workers of India.

The need for unity and organization. Unity between all contract workers and unity between contract and permanent workers.

However, none of this can be achieved without the strength of a strong, militant and united organization of the workers. This step has been taken by the formation of the BSNLCCWF, but we cannot simply take it for granted. The organization must be strengthened by the constant vigilance and active participation of the workers in it. The organization in turn must function as an organization of the workers, taking the rank and file into trust in every decision it makes. The hallmark of a militant workers organization, is its steadfast commitment to the interests of the workers and fearlessness in defending and furthering it.

While we are building our own organization in BSNL, we must not be ignorant of the larger picture. The curse of contractorization affects not just us, but the whole working class of the country. By uniting our struggle with the struggle of all contract workers, and even non-contract workers, we will not only be strengthening our own struggle, but also furthering that of the entire working class. Remember, the main enemy is the capitalist class and its government.

Message of solidarity to the metro workers of Sao Paolo Brazil

To metro workers in Sao Paulo Brazil,

The New Wave Bolshevik Leninist, on behalf of the working masses of India greet you. We are a revolutionary organization in India struggling to rebuild the Bolshevik Leninist party in South Asia and the fourth international globally.

We express our solidarity with the strike action which you have decided to take. At the time when the world is watching the developments in Brazil around the Fifa World Cup, your strike action sends a strong message both to the capitalists in Brazil and capitalists worldwide. A message that they cannot take the lives of the working class and poor for granted ! That we won’t be pacified with shows of glory ! That the masses can and will fight for what is our just needs.

In this endeavour, we stand in solidarity with you and all the struggling people of Brazil.

In India too, we have seen the arrogance and intransigence of the capitalists during the Commonwealth games. Billions were squandered in scams and wasted over gaudy construction projects all to make the rich richer while the poor stayed poor. Hundreds of workers even died during the mega construction projects like the stadium in New Delhi where bonded labor was used for construction (despite it being illegal!) but the government turned a blind eye to this reality. That government has been justifiably thrown out of power, but the capitalists remain.

Should you succeed in your struggle, it will be an inspiration for the workers here fighting against capitalists who are just as corrupt, just as ruthless and just as brutal.

Long live international Solidarity !

Long live working class unity !

Interview with Dilip Pawar of the VKKS

On the 13th of May, comrade Adhiraj Bose had conducted an interview with Dilip Pawar of the VKKS (Vishwa Kalyan Kamgar Sangathana) which led the previous 50 day work stoppage at Bajaj and is leading the present work stoppage for an indefinite period to pressurize the management of Bajaj Auto Ltd to concede to the major demands of wage revision in Bajaj.

Q1. We have been interested in the developments around Bajaj Auto Ltd since the 50 day work stoppage you had undertaken last year, as this was a landmark in industrial worker struggles in Pune. We would like to know more about your union. What is the origin of the VKKS and how was it founded ?

The VKKS was founded in 2003. Before the VKKS the main union representing the workers in Bajaj’s Akurdi plant was the Bharatiya Kamgar Sanghathan or BKS which is affiliated to the Shiv Sena. They were a corrupted union and catered to the interests of the management. Often they would just pretend to act for the interests of workers taking token actions now and then, but nothing would result from this. In their 10 years of existence they could get only two very meagre pay rises.
The workers in general there were very discontented with this union.

Together we decided that enough was enough, and made our own new union independent of any political party. This was how the VKKS came into being in 2003. Our aim was to create a militant trade union independent of the bosses which could properly represent the interests of the workers. With our formation most of the workforce at Bajaj joined our new union. Our first action was to stage a hunger strike to get an urgent wage revision which had been pending for years that the previous union did nothing to achieve. We achieved it. The management still decided to suspend all striking workers for 4 days just to ‘save their pride’.

During this time we also built a coalition of trade unions across the industrial belt. The Shramik Ekta Mahasangh, was built out of militant company based unions throughout the belt. At present 112 unions are part of this coalition.

Our success had strengthened the union. Almost immediately the management’s heavy handed tactics and harassment started. Now that they had lost their pet union, they felt threatened by our existence. We thus, had to start a struggle for recognition. A court application was made at the tribunal. The rival union, BKS tried underhanded tactics like giving false affidavits to show a bloated union membership. We insisted on a physical check up to counter this. It was settled that the majority of the workforce were with us and that we had a separate existence.

The management hadn’t stopped harassing us though, the worker’s cooperative society premises within the factory was made a target. They cut off electricity and necessary infrastructure to try and break us. We had to move our office out of the factory premises to the present office building. We never stopped the struggle for recognition and finally achieved it in 2007.

Towards this time our union membership within the company had increased to around 2200.

In 2007, Bajaj had just established their new factory at Pantnagar and desired to move production over there as labor costs are much lower over there. They were also planning to close down the factory at Akurdi in Pune, which had been their main factory thus far. We were told to leave work and would go unemployed the next day. We were told “we would get paid at home”. We started a protest against this arbitrary shift of the plant. For 65 days we had gherraoed the plant with hundreds of workers sitting at the factory gates in strike. It was a massive show and a great success, we had support from all unions across the belt as well as from across the nation. 200 unions in the industrial belt alone joined our action at Bajaj as well as several social activist groups throughout the city. The result of this action was that the plant was not shifted. We made sure that none of our workers on strike were victimized.

Later on we were joined in by the Chakan unit of Bajaj as well with its 850 permanent workers who are mostly young. Now most of the production has shifted away from Akurdi to Chakan and Aurangabad. However, Pune remains their main production centre with Chakan being their best factory.

Q2. Can you tell us something about the condition of work for the workers at Bajaj factories in Pune ? What is the composition of work force in the factory like and what are the condition of work for different categories of workers like contract workers and permanent workers.

At present most of the production has been shifted away from Akurdi to other plants, most notably to Chakan. At Akurdi most of the workforce was old and aging and took voluntary retirement. The present factory workers there wouldn’t number more than 120. The majority of those who work there are company staff workers, they number around 2000.

At Chakan we have around 850 permanent workers as well as 700 contract workers. The main concern we face over there is that the wage revision has not happened in a long time. That is the core of our demand for which we are striking. The other core concern is the harassment at the hands of the management which continues.

The workforce at Akurdi gets an average wage rate of around Rs. 38,000/- while the equivalent worker at Chakan gets around Rs. 14,000/- as starting salary which rises up to Rs. 24,000/- at the third level of promotion, i.e. After 10 years’ work. The difficulties at work however, started when the total productivity methods were implemented in the factory which has led to straining the workforce with extended work hours, harsh shift timings and very little benefits.

The situation for contract worker is far worse than the permanent workers however. They are not given more than the minimum wage and their situation at the plant remain precarious due to the flexible scope of hire and fire at the plant. The same goes for so-called trainee workers who are basically students but made to work for nothing under a traineeship program from their respective colleges/institutions. The company makes liberal use of these trainee workers and contract workers as part of strike busting tactics, hiring extra workers to make up for the shortfall of permanent workers and keep production levels intact. More often than not, the police who would be called in would force them to work.

However, our union focusses only on permanent workers. It is very difficult to organize contract and temporary workers due to their temporary and precarious nature. An isolated struggle of such a workforce is bound to fail as the management can simply resort to firing them when they agitate. What can be gained then ?

However, we are concerned with the issues of contract workers and trainee workers. We have launched a legal action for this in the industrial tribunal. The issues facing the contract workers include absence of basic facilities like canteen, transportation and pathetically small wages (Rs. 150 to 200 per day, just bordering on minimum wages) .

An important point to note, is that Bajaj hires most of its workforce from out of state. There are workers from Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra etc. There are hardly any workers from Maharashtra now. The purpose is to sow divisions among the workers. One of our biggest success I believe, was to overcome this and preserve the unity of our organization.

Q3. Tell us about the upcoming action you’re taking and the background behind it. The issues are the same as the work stoppage last year isn’t it ?

The present action is being drawn along the lines of the last one. Again, it will be a work stoppage and not a ‘strike’ as such. It was supposed to start on the 28th of April but we deliberately delayed it and welcomed the management to negotiations. This was a deliberate action on our part, as the management had made preparations to curb our strike in advance.

By delaying the strike we are basically harassing them since they will have to pay for the contract and trainee workers which they will employ to curb our absence in addition to the permanent workers. Basically, this was a harassment tactic on our part. It will also give us more time to organize better for when the day does come to stop work. We will now begin our action on the 15th of May.

Like in the last work stoppage, this time too the entire industrial belt is in support of our cause. The Shramik Ekta Mahasangh is active this time as well. We are again gearing up for an indefinite strike in the same vein as the one last year.

The issues are again the same. The demand for shares it should be known is only a cover for the real demands for a wage revision and an end to management harassment of workers. We have no illusions on what to expect from the management, even during negotiations they don’t talk seriously and just waste time leading every negotiation to a dead end. The management which isn’t willing to give our legitimate wage revisions won’t ever give us shares in the company. We must fight to coerce our just demands from them.


Q4. What are your expectations in terms of outside support and solidarity ? How can we help ? What has been the role of Central Trade unions in this struggle ? Have they been proactive in supporting your struggles ?

At present we have international solidarity from the IndustriAll union based in Switzerland. They have been helping us with finance and raising awareness nationally and internationally on our struggle here.

We have solidarity from the industrial workers in Pune as well. We welcome as much support as can be had nationally and internationally. What we would appreciate most is to raise awareness on the coercion tactics the management uses against us.

We would really appreciate proactive support and solidarity from Central Trade unions like the CITU and AITUC etc, but most of them don’t understand our struggle. They are taken aback by the demand for shares and just sit on the sidelines confused. They don’t seem to understand or appreciate the core of this struggle or the energetic support from the workers.

We need all the support we can get here as we are fighting alone against a very well funded and well entrenched enemy. Bajaj is getting all manner of support from the government and political parties who are beneficiaries of Bajaj. Of late there was a report of the villages supporting Bajaj as well. I would like to point out, this is only half true. It is not the whole village or ordinary village folk who are supporting the management against us in any way, it is only the elite of the village, the sarpanch in particular who are supporting the company, as they get benefits from the company by way of labor contracts and land rents. This is not a new tactics for the management, at Mahindra and Mahindra they used this tactic to break a strike there. I feel this was due mostly to the lack of leadership there. This won’t work here, because there is a solid organized leadership uniting the workers.

We are a union which believes in solidarity actions. In the recent strike actions like in Godrej and Bharat Forge we were there supporting them. We participated in their rallies and meetings.

Perspective on the work stoppage at Bajaj

The nearly 50 day long tool down action at Bajaj’s Chakan plant was a landmark action by the workers of the Chakan industrial belt, both for it’s duration and the impact it has had in radicalizing the otherwise ‘peaceful’ situation at the Chakan industrial belt. The core issue of the struggle was over the ill-effects of the imposition of total productivity methods at Chakan modelled on the system at Maruti Suzuki and union busting tactics of the management at the Pantnagar plant.

The action at Chakan may be linked to the developments at the Pantnagar plant in Uttarakhand where the workers were deliberately denied from joining the Vishwa Kamgar Kalyan Sangathana ( VKKS ). The harrassment of workers at that plant led to the union at Chakan break the old agreement and make a fresh set of demands targetting an improvement of their working condition. The union leadership however, was limited from the start, by targeting shareholding in the company for workers as a ‘lasting’ means of improving worker’s wages. The leaflet distributed by the union expressed the ideological basis for their demand for shares, the belief in trusteeship, championed by Jamnalal Bajaj. This demand more than any other was what was highlighted by the union.

There were other issues as well. During the meetings, the question of condition of work for contract workers was raised more than once. Bajaj like every other major industry prefers the hiring of contract labor to use of permanent workforce. In the slump period in the auto industry, contract labor again gave way to the use of trainee workers. This together with the total productivity methods, squeezed out the highest possible productivity out of the workers at the plant, not to mention rendered them precarious owing to the contractual nature of work and the temporary or trainee status of the workers. However, the union did not raise these questions concretely in their charter of demands. On the contrary, the allotment of shares, which was stressed by the union, would only aid the management in exploiting the workers. With shareholding, the workers are tied in to the profits and losses of the company, and consequently, hostage to the policy of the management.

At no point was the tool down action directed towards more militant forms of protests like gheraos or factory occupations, or pickets. The result was that the company had a free hand in forcing the trainee workers to work overtime to compensate for production losses due to the tool down. Even though this was illegal, the union leadership preferred a legal course to tackling this than the more militant alternative of installing a gherrao of the factory. However, the enthusiasm of the young workers at the union ( their average age being 26 ), proved to be an inspiration for other workers to join in solidarity. The Shramik Ekta Mahasangh which was the umbrella body of industrial unions in the Chakan belt expressed their solidarity with the workers. However, no tool down action was taken by them.

All in all, the workers at Bajaj had to go on their own. The workers showed both determination and unity in carrying on the tool down action for more than 50 days beginning from the 25th of June till August 14th. This was all despite management tactics of harrassment and attempts to break the strike, not to mention, threats of shifting production away from the Chakan plant to neighboring Aurangabad. In the end the strike was ended ‘unconditionally’. The union leadership under has promised to ‘continue to press for the demands raised by the strike action including wage revision’.

Thus, the work stoppage action ended without any demands conceded, and a murky uncertain future awaits for the suspended workers. The management feels emboldened with its success in ending the struggle without any concessions made, and in potential for shifting production to any other plant in the country.

The unity of workers which has been building up albeit in a somewhat distorted manner since the general strike of 2010, has tremendous implications for the future of the worker’s movement. The Bajaj tool down action represents both the problems and the potential in mobilizing workers in India.

The larger picture :

Though the action at Bajaj ended without consequence, the significance of this work stoppage action can’t be ignored in the larger picture. Since the beginning of market reforms and what is generally called ‘neo-liberal’ growth, the condition of workers in India has become more and more precarious. Contractorization, casualization and rationalization of workforce in addition to privatizations of public companies have added to the burdens of the working class. The ‘boom years’ of the Indian economy also saw the birth of a new phase of class struggle, with the workers at Honda revolting. Soon after, the Gurgaon industrial belt became the scene of the most significant labor movement in recent times centered around Maruti. The rest of the country has not been immune to this. It was not too long since the workers at Mahindra’s Nasik plant struck work after the arrest of it’s union leadership there.

With worsening conditions of work, and the entry of millions upon millions of freshly proletarianized peasant populations ( people who’ve been rendered wage slaves due to loss of subsistence income from the countryside, pushed into the cities or factories to find work ), a new young working class has been created out of the most rebellious and desperate section of india’s populace. The increasing intensity of struggles, with frequent cases of workers turning violent, is an unsurprising outcome of the brutality of the system upon the lives of these populations. With shrinking stable job opportunities, owing to a stagnation of organized employment, most of these wage slaves end up with the worst kind of work in the unorganized sector, if not end up unemployed yet again.

The increase of this reserve labor has strengthened the ability of capitalists to impose their will upon the workers. It is not for no reason that the management at Bajaj could compensate the loss of man hours as easily with trainee workers. The system favored him, but the times are against him. The world crisis has affected india, and the problems of a proletarianizing economy founded on the systematic destruction of peasants and petty bourgeois, has come crashing in. Workers become more rebellious and there is an ever present danger of it becoming violent. The example of Gurgaon-Manesar industrial belt stands as a warning before the greedy bourgeois.

With this new method of exploitation, there have been new movements of resistance against it. The movement for organizing contract workers for decent, secured job opportunities through their regularization, epitomizes this. The proliferation of contractorisation in Indian industry has given new impetus to the movement to organize contract workers. There is not a single major company where contractorisation has not taken roots, and consequently, there is an ever present struggle against the conditions which it brings about. This is one area which can combine the struggles of workers in private industry with those in public industry where contractorisation is emerging in a major way. Take the case of BSNL where almost 100000 workers work as ‘outsourced’ contract workers. But while the significance of the struggle seems obvious, the nature of the movement is restrained to a company specific approach. No focussed effort seems to be in place to create a movement of all workers against contractorisation uniting both public and private sector workers. Building such unity is the need of the day !

This is not unconnected with the developments in the public sector. The crisis has forced the government to aggressively target the public sector for increased privatizations. The results have been a spree of strike actions by workers against privatization. Coal India Ltd, BSNL, Neyvelli lignite have all been witness to workers protesting efforts at privatizing these companies. These have so far been successful in restraining any efforts at completing the privatizations of these companies. The question of contract workers and overall, the question of improving work conditions are not unrelated to this. Privatization brings with it a worsening of working conditions, and increasing precariousness of work. The workers of the public sector companies are essentially waging a defensive struggle against privatization and against losing the security that comes with state ownership. This stands in contrast with the actions in the private sector where existing conditions of work are being challenged.

The public sector is a fortress for the working class, and a lifeline for giving sustainable secured employment. It accounts for a majority of organized workforce in the country as well as being in the commanding height of the economy. Uniting the workers of these two sectors would strengthen the working class in their struggle against Indian capitalism. This would not be possible without the necessary political leadership.

Appeal for solidarity for the garment workers of bangladesh !

The workers of Bangladesh need our solidarity !

On the 26th of April Bangladesh was shaken by the worst industrial disaster in the history of the country. The collapse of the Rana plaza structures have left up to 350 dead and nearly a thousand injured many of whom are still trapped in debris ! This disaster and the one at Tazreen garments preceding it have exposed the exploitative nature of the garments industry as well as the vested political interests behind this exploitation.

But the workers are not silent ! They refuse to be victims of this exploitation any longer and have gone on the warpath with a general strike action demanding better working conditions and decent wages. The present strike is of historic importance in the history of the worker’s struggle in Bangladesh and has succeeded in mobilizing most of the 3 million workers employed in the 5000 sweatshops which dominate this industry.

At this critical juncture it is indispensable that we throw our fullest support to the workers in their time of struggle. The workers of India, the US, the UK and France especially must extend their solidarity to the exploited workers of Bangladesh.

Capitalists anywhere are the enemies of workers everywhere !

The big capitalist MNCs who lord over major economies of the world are the protectors and beneficiaries of the sweatshop industry which is so prevalent in Bangladesh. India’s capitalists have played a leading role in the upkeep of the political interests which protect the garment bosses, while the capitalists of the USA and Europe, in particular big retail chains like Wal mart who source their material from these ‘third world’ sweatshops, are a vital economic linkage contributing to the exploitation of the workers there.

All of these big moneyed interests are looking out for each other to ensure the sustenance of this system. To this alliance, the working class must counter pose it’s own ! One which is forged on solidarity in class struggle against the capitalist looters ! For this we must work towards constructing a joint action in coordination with the garment workers in Bangladesh.

Tactics of support :

As our first tactics we should address the immediate relief for the workers and their families who are victims of this building collapse. We may start with a petition against the bangladeshi government demanding action be taken against those responsible for this building collapse and give compensation to the families who have been aggrieved.

In terms of international solidarity workers in the US and UK who stand at the consumption end of the chain, can begin enquiries commission in their own companies to ensure that there is no profit from sweatshop labor and a call by trade unions condemning cheap labor exploitation in Bangladesh.

The workers in India hold a key strategic position in this respect, where their own capitalist rulers are actively engaged in harboring the political regime *( through huge loans regular political and military protection) and which encourages this vicious exploitation through sweatshop labor. An example for us to follow has been set by the protests around Marikana massacre in Africa where a committee for solidarity was set up by labor activists and other democratic activists.

United we fight ! Divided we fail !

Lenin’s May Day Leaflet

 

The Workers Holiday — May First

Comrades! Let us look carefully into the conditions of our life; let us observe that environment wherein we pass our days. What do we see? We work hard; we create unlimited wealth, gold and rich fabrics, brocade and velvet; we dig iron and coal from the bowels of the earth; we build machines, ships, castles, railways. All the wealth of the world is created by our hands, is obtained by our sweat and blood. And what reward do we receive for our hard labor? In justice we should live in fine houses, wear good clothing, and in any case not want for our daily bread. But we all know very well that our wages scarcely suffice for a bare existence. Our bosses lower the wage-rates, force us to work over-time, unjustly fine us. In a word, they oppress us in every way, and, in case of dissatisfaction on our part, they promptly discharge us. We time and time again discover that those to whom we turn for protection are friends and lackeys of our bosses. We, the workers are kept in ignorance, education is denied us, that we may not learn to struggle to improve our conditions. They hold us in bondage, discharge us on the slightest pretext, arrest and exile anyone offering resistance to oppression, forbid us to struggle. Ignorance and bondage — these are the means by which the capitalists and the Government, always at their service, keep us in subjection.

What means do we have to improve our conditions, to raise our wages, to shorten our working day, to protect ourselves from abuse, to read intelligent and useful books Everybody is against us — the bosses (since the worse off we are, the better they live), and all their lackeys, all those who live off the bounty of the capitalists and who, at their bidding, keep us in ignorance and bandage. We can look to no one for aid; we can rely only upon ourselves. Our strength lies in union; our salvation in united, stubborn, and energetic resistance to our exploiters. They have long understood wherein lay our strength, and have attempted in all manner of ways to keep us divided, and not to let us understand that we workers have interests in common. They cut wages, not everybody’s at once, but one at a time. They put foremen over us, they introduce piece work; and, laughing up their sleeves at how we workers toil at our work, lower our wages little by little. But it’s a long lane that has no turning. There is a limit to endurance. During the past year the Russian workers have shown their bosses that slavish submission can be transformed into the staunch courage of men who will not submit to the insolence of capitalists greedy for unpaid labor.

In various towns strikes have broken out; in Yaroslavl, Taikovo, Ivanovo-Voznesensk, Belostok, Vilna, Minsk, Kiev, Moscow and other towns. The majority of the strikes ended successfully for the workers, but even unsuccessful strikes are only apparently unsuccessful. In reality they frighten the bosses terribly, cause them great losses, and force them to grant concessions for fear of a new strike. The factory inspectors also begin to get busy and notice the beams in the capitalists’ eyes. They are blind until their eyes are opened by the workers calling a strike. When in fact do the factory inspectors notice mismanagement in the factories of such influential personages as Mr. Tornton or the stockholders of the Putilov factory.

In St. Petersburg, too, we have made trouble for the bosses. The strike of the weavers at Tornton’s factory, of the cigarette workers at the Laferm and Lebedev factories, of the workers at the shoe factory, the agitation among the workers at the Kenig and Varonin factories, and among the dock workers, and finally the recent disturbances in Sestroretsk have proven that we have ceased to be submissive martyrs, and have taken up the struggle. As is well known, the workers from many factories and shops have organized the “Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class,” with the aim of exposing all abuses, of eradicating mismanagement, of fighting against the insolent oppressions of our conscienceless exploiters, and of achieving full liberation from their power. The “Union” distributes leaflets, at the sight of which the bosses and their faithful lackeys tremble in their boots. It is not the leaflets themselves which frighten them, but the possibility of our united resistance, of an exhibition of our mighty power, which we have shown them more than once. We workers of St. Petersburg, members of the “Union” invite the rest of our fellow workers to join our “Union” and to further the great cause of uniting the workers for a struggle for their own interests. It is high time for us Russian workers to break the chains with which the capitalists and the Government have bound us in order to keep us in subjection. It is high time for us to join the struggle of our brothers, the workers in other lands, to stand with them under a common flag upon which is inscribed: Workers of the World, Unite!

In France, Great Britain, Germany, and other countries, where the workers have already united in strong unions and have won many rights, they have established the 19th of April (the First of May abroad) [Before the October Revolution the Russian calendar was 13 days behind the West-European] as a general Labor holiday.

Forsaking the stuffy factories, they march in solid ranks, with bands and banners along the main streets of the towns; showing the bosses the whole might of their growing power, they gather in numerous large meetings, where speeches are delivered recounting the victories over the bosses in the preceding year, and indicating the plans for struggle in the future. Through fear of a strike, not a single factory owner fines the workers for absence from work on this day. On this day the workers also remind the bosses of their chief demand: the eight-hour working day — 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, and 8 hours rest. This is what the workers of other countries are now demanding. There was a time, and not so long ago, when they, like we now, did not have the right to make known their needs. They, too, were crushed by want and lacked unity just as we now. But they, by stubborn struggle and heavy sacrifices, have won for themselves the right to discuss together the problems of the workers’ cause. We send our best wishes to our brothers in other lands that their struggle should quickly lead them to the desired victory, to the time when there shall be neither masters nor slaves, neither workers nor capitalists, but all alike will work and all alike enjoy life.

Comrades! If we will energetically and wholeheartedly strive to unite, the time will not be far distant when we, having joined our forces in solid ranks, will be able openly to unite in this common struggle of the workers of all lands, without distinction of race or creed, against the capitalists of the whole world. And our sinewy arm will be lifted on high and the infamous chains of bondage will fall asunder. The workers of Russia will arise, and the capitalists and the Government, which always zealously serves and aids the capitalists, will be stricken with terror!

April 19, 1896.

Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class

On the Garment’s workers struggle in Bangladesh

On the Garment workers struggle in Bangladesh :

The garment workers in Bangladesh are up in arms against the cronic exploitation and mistreatment meted at them by the garment bosses. The tipping point was reached when the 8 storied tall Rana plaza collapsed killing several hundreds of worker’s families living there. Already reports are coming out involving workers attacking textile factories burning them down.

Bangladesh has been tense since the Shahbag uprising which mobilized students and a large section of the progressive petty bourgeois intelligentsia for the trial o war criminals responsible for crimes against humanity during the 1971 liberation war. Soon after the movement had began, workers struggles emerged after the disastrous fire in the Tazreen garments factory which used to supply to Wal Mart. The garment worker’s movement has gained a new vigor, aided by the disintegrating pre-revolutionary political situation.

The garments industry – an industry steeped in brutality :

Bangladesh’s economy is dependent entirely on the most shameful exploitation of it’s poor. This reflects clearly upon the condition of garment workers which has been exposed by the deadly disasters plaguing the sweatshops which dominate the industrial landscape of bangladesh. The garments industry is one that has been historically notorious for the exploitation of cheap labor starting from manchester’s cotton factories in the 19th century and to the sweatshops of bangladesh of this century. The textile industry in Bangladesh remains a labor intensive one where profits are based upon reducing as far as possible the cost of employment, including safety for workers.

In this context it is very important to note that the bulk of the 3 million workers employed by the industry are women workers. The bosses prefer employing women workers due to their particular skills in sewing as well as difficulties in organizing for struggle. The latter is the main reason behind the preference for women workers in this industry. It is the desire of the factory owners for control and discipline over the workers under their employ which is indispensable to allow for the vicious exploitation which is imposed upon their workers.

The importance of the industry and vested interests :

The garments industry alone accounts for 70% of bangladesh’s exports and 10% of it’s GDP. This ‘economic strength’ is sought on the basis of minimum wages of as low as rs. 1700 *( $34) per month. It is no surprise then that every major textile and garments producer is seeking more investments into bangladesh to perpetuate the exploitation of it’s people. Equally unsurprisingly, many major international retail companies led by the likes of Wal mart have used Bangladesh as a preferred sourcing destination. Of late, this ‘favorable’ situation has attracted among others, heavy Indian investments into the garments sector, attracting up to $600 million *( out of a total of $935 million dollars of investments ) last year alone.

Apart from major foreign interests, there are powerful politically linked indigenous capitalists who run the majority of the 5100 garments factories in Bangladesh. The Rana plaza at Savar belonged to one such garment oligarch, Sohel Rana. Politically, he was a leader of the youth wing of the Awami League which is the ruling party of Bangladesh. These companies are by and large dependent on exports to advanced countries primarily the USA which corners the lion’s share of Bangladeshi textile exports.

Bangladesh’s garments industry is a major beneficiary of proletarianization which has been brought about by, among other things, ecological terror imposed by India through it’s dam building *( by blocking the natural flow of water from rivers across the border thus drying many rivers in eastern and western districts of Bangladesh) and domination over Bangladesh’s sovereign EEZ (through holding key strategic islands near the Bangladesh border and sealing off direct access to the bay of bengal). Indian capitalism has played a vital role in ruining bangladeshi agriculture in these two ways. In addition to that, India has played a key role in providing political and military security to the ruling government in Bangladesh which has been of critical importance in defending this most vicious impoverishment in the Bangladeshi countryside. We see the results of this proletarianization in the deaths in the garment sector disasters.

It is the combination of various economic and political factors together with the context of proletarianization of bangladeshi society which has made the bangladeshi textile sector the second largest in the world, second only to the likes of China.

Character of existing struggles :

One of the highlights of the movement of the garments workers is it’s spontaneity. The norm of most struggles of textile workers in bangladesh hitherto has been to conduct wildcat strikes against their bosses. A nationwide strike too has been undertaken before, but by and large, the strikes of garment workers have been sporadic and spontaneous. Notable instances have been the strike of textile workers in 2006 and again around 2009 following the soldier’s mutiny. Among the demands made by the workers, the chief among them have included fair wages, decent working conditions and dignity of work. It is notable in this context that most of the 3 million workers employed in the garments industry are women workers. This is partly so as a deliberate policy of the garment factory owners who take advantage of the perceived weakness of women workers and the relative difficulties of organizing them politically and within trade unions to control them.

The nature of the present wildcat general strike has been characterized by ‘plebian anger’ directed against the very means of production in which they work. The first object of anger for the workers have been the garment factories themselves. Soon after the tragedy at Savar, garments workers have burnt several factories in protest. This action has been reminiscent of Marx’s description of the initial period of struggle by the proletariat in the Communist Manifesto : “They direct their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of production, but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their labour, they smash machinery to pieces, they set factories ablaze”. However, unlike the primitive workmen of the mid 19th century that Marx described, the garments workers aren’t interested in ‘restoring the abolished status of the medieval workman’ but in achieving higher standards of welfare and better conditions of work !

This combination of plebian anger with a more advanced trajectory of struggle is a potentially revolutionary combination which can open the way for further more advanced struggles in the near future and gives the garments workers’ fight immense importance in the socio-political landscape of Bangladesh. What is severely lacking in this picture is the presence of an organized revolutionary force which can channelize this raw energy and lead the workers through more advanced tactics in their battle against the viciously exploitative garment bosses and their imperial protectors.

At the same time, the nature of the industry compels us to assume an internationalist perspective for the worker’s struggle in Bangladesh. We must be ready to form a solidarity of textile workers and retail trade workers in india and the US respectively to support the struggle of the workers in Bangladesh. Support from the Indian working class is critical for the struggle in Bangladesh, as it is Indian capitalism which has through it’s agencies ensured the political domination over Bangladesh which has made the exploitation in the garments industry possible. Likewise, solidarity from workers in US retail companies particularly those like wal-mart and others are critical in strengthening the fight in Bangladesh and thwarting the chain of capitalism which runs from Bangladesh to the Americas and Europe.

Demands to put forth :

The struggle of the garments workers reveals all that is corrupt and exploitative about capitalism in Bangladesh. To fight this system, we must place forth demands which correspond to the deepest needs of the workers. A gamut of transitional demands must be built in order to give a consistently revolutionary direction to the struggle of workers.

1) Compensation for all aggrieved workers and punishment for the garment bosses :

The most pressing immediate struggle aims immediately at the compensation for the workers who have lost life and limb due to the factory collapses at Rana plaza and Tazreen garments. The government must be pressed to give immediate compensation to the workers and their families not only to cover their health costs but to cover loss of prospective loss due to loss of income. In addition to this, the owners of Rana Plaza and Tazreen garments must be brought to book for their criminal negligence that has resulted in the death of nearly 500 workers.

2) A guarantee for decent working condition and labor practices :

The core of the struggle of garments workers is to achieve decent working conditions including proper safety in factories and a living wage. The workforce in Bangladesh is notoriously underpaid and ‘cheap’. This situation must be alleviated by the immediate implementation of a law guaranteeing a minimum living wage which covers the basic needs for a family of 4 and which would be adjusted to inflation and cost of living index. With each rise in inflation there must be a proportional rise in the living wage.

3) Nationalization of the garments industry :

Private garment factories both local and foreign are responsible for the worst labor practices in Bangladesh. But they get away with this because of their political protection. The only solution for destroying this vicious matrix of exploitation that characterizes the Bangladeshi garments industry is to nationalize the industry and place it under worker’s control. This is a precondition for any real advance in decent working conditions.

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.

 

 

Statement in support of Bank worker’s strike

All out support for the strike !

On the 22nd and 23rd of August up to a million bank workers across india will go on strike. The reason ? Cuts in social security for bank workers ( like cutting of leave, excersizing variable working hours and cutting down retirement benefits )! the closure of ‘loss making’ bank branches in the rural sector! the implementation of unilateral directives on service conditions, and last but not the least, the proposal of the banking regulations amendment bill which seeks to weaken regulation of banks! In this struggle to defend their rights and people’s welfare, we express our all out support for the strike.

Defeat the evil scheme!

It was only after deliberate and sustained attacks on the public sector banks and their workers, which have been more than used as a beast of burden for big private Indian capital, that the bank workers have come to strike. World over, as more and more banks are verging on bankruptcy and collapse, Indian capitalism in its emergent phase seeks more capital and easy finance for expanding. Hence, the need for leeching Indian banks, now that foreign banks are no longer a reliable option. Indian banks have hitherto been saved only by the threat of militant action which has forced it to act more responsibly and under regulation, the same threat which has also forced it to undertake a socially responsible role in the countryside. The Capitalists and their government however, view this as a hindrance towards their enrichment.

Naturally it would be necessary for them to curb the worker’s militancy and welfare for the sake of greater profits, and equally necessary them to divert capital of the banks away from priority sectors like the rural sector and into the pockets of big industry. The pressure is ever present to mould banking in accordance with the model of western imperialist countries which has shown itself to be a failure. They must not succeed ! That is precisely where the banking laws amendment bill comes into the picture. As one of its main objectives in the statement of objectives, the bill seeks to bring Indian banking in line with “international best practices” which are nothing but bringing in line with the same ‘best practices’ which have destroyed banks across the world. They must not succeed !

Welfarism has been our victory!

Along with nationalization of banks, came social control. There has always been an improvement in the condition of work for workers in nationalized enterprises, and an assured commitment towards social spending. This change has come about only because the bourgeois was afraid of the strength of the working class and its overbearing threat to its existence, that they were forced to make these concessions to us. Now they want it all back ! But the workers will fight back as they have always, and thus far we have succeeded in defending public banking from their nefarious designs.

In this our demands aim at the preservation of all social security and welfare to which bank workers have been a beneficiary, and expand it into spheres which it is needed.

We demand : Fixed working hours ! Proper pension on retirement ! Compassionate Appointment! Wage increment proportionate to rise in inflation !

In addition to these, we also demand that banks continue to function in priority sector areas like the rural sector, where rapacious and exploitative village money lenders leech poor peasants to death. In this private and foreign banks must not be exempted and should be forced to undertake Social spending. If they fail *( which they will !) they must be nationalized ! After all, was not social necessity the very reason for nationalization of banks in the first place ?

Down with the bourgeois government ! For a government of workers !

The bourgeois government at the centre has been rolling on cash ‘donated’ by bourgeois corporate houses. As such, they’re nothing but their lackeys doing their bidding, and in many cases, the rich are themselves seated in the house of power ! Unsurprisingly, they want greater infusion of private capital and foreign capital into Indian banking, with the obvious lame excuse that Indian banks need more capital. Fact is, they cater to their master’s desires *( read corporate needs ) and to their own greed, by virtue of the ill gotten wealth they sit upon. So for them, public sector banks have to be crippled, and private banks and their foreign friends have to be encouraged.

Nationalized banking, which has created obvious benefits for the people of the country as well as for bank workers, have since been hijacked and distorted by this bourgeois government. A glaring example of this has been the way in which bad loans have been handled. It is a fact that most of these bad loans and non performing assets are corporate debts owed to public banks, but instead of pulling the axe on corporate loans and black listing non-performing corporates, the government is trying to find more avenues to fund them ! The case of Kingfisher airlines is a perfect example. This is proof enough that only a workers government can bring about responsible banking. We must not have any illusions on this government led by the bourgeois, and struggle for our desired political change. Our aim however, must be to reconstruct Indian banking along Socialist principles which seek to build up the productive power of the population rather than destroy it.

Strengthen the struggle !

The strike action which has united up to a million bank workers across the country is a first concrete step in the larger struggle of the bank workers in India. However, this must be strengthened and taken forward. The direction of change is unquestionably towards bringing about the transformation of finances along Socialist lines.

Under Capitalism finance capital assumes a destructive function *( Look at Greece ! ). This is only partly changed by its nationalization which brings some accountability in banking. But we cannot be satisfied only with this. In India, not only is the banking sector not fully nationalized, even the nationalized banking is held hostage to the desires of the bourgeoisie and its destructive needs. The result is the use of nationalized banks as beasts of burden for the purposes of the big bourgeoisie. The big capitalists like the Tatas and Birlas of course, are the foremost beneficiaries.

We must strive for bringing about complete nationalization of the banking sector, but under workers control ! Only under worker’s control will there be a stable financial system which is able to take care of the real needs of the people and not be slaves to the demands of the bourgeoisie !

Our war cry must be nationalization the private and foreign banks under worker’s Control !

And

For workers control over public sector banking !