Published on Socialistworld.net, by Anand Kumar, Feb 26, 2013.
The 48 hour general strike called by the Joint Committee of Trade Unions JCTU, comprising of 11 Central Trade Unions, once again saw massive participation of the working class. On 20 and 21st February, over 100 million workers all over India participated to say ’No’ to neo-liberal reforms. Although the strike was declared a ’partial success’ by the mainstream (bosses’) media, the strike did see a major shutdown in many parts of India. The industry association, ASSOCHAM, estimated losses due to the strike at Rs. 26,000 crores ($ 4.77 billion) … //
… More than 100 million workers take strike action:
As usual, the strike was solid in Kerala and Tripura because of the strong presence of left parties such as the CPI(M) in the region. However in West Bengal, despite the left’s attempts to put up a strong show, the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee kept the shops open by force and threatened government employees with dire consequences if they joined the strike. The strike exposed brutal attempts by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to hold down the supporters of the left parties; a panchayat (village council) employee’s ear was chopped off for participation in the strike! While such goonda (bully) style enforcement of diktats and the TMC’s routine attacks on supporters of the left may work in the short term, these sort of anti-working class policies being practiced so openly will only provoke a serious upsurge of the Bengali working people, if things continue in this manner.
The general strike had a major impact in the national capital, Delhi, especially in suburbs like Gurgaon and in the Noida industrial belt. While the strike was largely peaceful in the Gurgaon region (which has been majorly impacted by the strike of the Maruti Suzuki workers in the last two years), violent protests erupted in Noida with many vehicles burned, factory units set on fire and over 100 arrested on charge of violence. It remains to be seen what actually triggered the unfortunate episode. Initial reports suggest clashes between factory owners and workers in a hosiery manufacturing complex leading to violent protests by the workers. But whatever the initial cause, it would not have started without a serious provocation on the part of the factory management (who are known to be anti-union and extremely brutal) … //
… What Next?
With the Congress-led UPA government seemingly hell-bent on unleashing more highly unpopular ’big bang’ reforms and the general slowdown in the Indian economy as part of the global trend, the coming period will witness massive waves of protests that will put the Indian working class on a par with the workers of Europe in resisting the onslaught of neo-liberal capitalism. The coming budget in March is likely to see more cuts in the so-called welfare programmes (which have always been austerity driven to begin with!).
The situation begs today for a complete revamp in the strategies and tactics for the Trade Union movement. Since 1991 the working class of India has come out and valiantly conducted general strikes against neo-liberal practices 15 times, but the leadership which is predominantly with the left parties is yet to show any intention of taking the struggle forward to challenge the capitalist system which is the fountain-head of neo-liberalism. It is time that the leadership of the left/communist parties realised that there is no halfway in the struggle against this system. Workers need organisations which draw the conclusion that the system of capitalism is rotten to its core and allows little or no room for reform. Its replacement with a democratic socialist system is the only way forward.
Last year’s protests against corruption and sexual violence that we saw happening outside of the usual parameters of organised working class action is an indication of the churning that is taking place in the society for a bolder and radical leadership. The left parties have an historic opportunity to lead the struggle encompassing all the emerging battles in the length and breadth of India – from the anti-nuclear struggle at Koodankulam to the anti-POSCO movement in Odisha.
Working class youth and even sections of urban middle class wage earners are no longer prepared to wait and watch; they are moving into action, unfortunately sometimes with reactionary leadership or no leadership. The left parties and their ranks have been found lacking. In Tamil Nadu owing to the outdated response of the leadership towards the attacks on Daliths, the issue of Sri Lanka’s genocidal war and the living struggle of people in Koodankulam, thousands of party card holders have rebelled and refused to renew their membership of the Communist Parties. Even minor splits have taken place in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and the Student/youth wing of CPI(M) in Delhi.
As we have pointed out in our previous articles, the coming period leading up to the 2014 general election will be an interesting time as the Indian ruling class battles to stay afloat against the stream of socio-political and economic unrest that is likely to grip the country. The issues of constant price hikes, of fuel price rises, cuts in subsidies, massive unemployment etc., are not only impacting on the working class, peasantry and the poor, but also on the salaried middle classes who are beginning to feel the pinch.
New Socialist Alternative calls for an end to all price hikes, the cancellation of all workers’ and small farmers’ debts, the nationalisation of banks and insurance companies and of the multinationals that attempt to get a stranglehold on retail and on farming. For a programme to fight elections on socialist policies that will benefit the 99% and do away with the power of the vastly over-privileged 1% of Indian society.
All the symptoms for a revolutionary upheaval in society is in the making, not only in India today, but around the globe. The only missing element is the lack of a genuine mass political alternative that can really show the way forward for the Indian working class. Many challenges lie ahead for the forces of genuine socialism to reach out to new layers of the youth and the working class.
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Protests, rallies mark second day of strike, on The Times of India, Feb 22, 2013;
Largest Urban Greenhouse in the US Opened in Cleveland … as a Worker-Owned Cooperative, on It’s Our Economy.us, Feb 28, 2013: It’s Our Economy seeks to educate, organize and mobilize Americans to shift the power from concentrated capital to the people: Homepage; Who We Are; Contact;
Time to be Honest about Jobs, on Dissident Voice, by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, February 28, 2013;
Employment growth in the UK: the sectoral view, on Real-World Economics Review Blog, by merijnknibbe, Feb 26, 2013.