Working Class
Build a Vibrant and Dynamic Working Class Movement !

(Address by Comrade S Kumarasamy, AICCTU President,
to the 9th National Conference of AICCTU)


Eduardo Galeano, the author of Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of Pillage of the Continent wrote: “Reality is not destiny; it is a challenge. We are not doomed to accept it as it is.”

The people and countries the world over are challenging and trying to change the cruel reality imposed by the neo-liberal agenda of finance capital.

Following the pink wave in Latin America, it is now the turn of Europe. ‘Regime Change’ took place in the opposite direction in Greece. Spanish people are demanding food, job and roof with dignity and chanting ‘tick-tock tick-tock’ to indicate that the days of the austerity regime are numbered. The Europe of the old and the new are witnessing people’s struggles against austerity measures and demanding pro-people change. The pro people anti-imperialist march of Latin America is continuing. USA is coming to terms with Cuba.

A few years back, in the US, indebtedness became the precondition not just for material improvement in the quality of life, but for the basic requirements of life. Financiers sought to wrap debt around every possible asset and income stream. Now 50 million people in the US carry a student debt burden.

A part of the energy generated by the 99% vs 1% Occupy Movement was channelized into the 15 dollars per hour minimum wages movement which spread across the length and breadth of USA. Europe witnessed movements for minimum wages and for scaling down inequalities in incomes. In Asia, it is a welcome relief, that Indonesia which saw the world’s worst massacre of communists and their sympathisers a few decades ago, is now seeing millions marching in the streets of Jakarta and other cities with the demand for minimum wages. Though China is regularly increasing minimum wages, it has seen numerous wildcat strikes in 2014 and 2015 on wages and service conditions.

Finance capital is forcing Greece to make big cuts in pensions, public employment and social spending and attempting to make Greece an example of the fate of debtor countries that choose to resist austerity measures; but the people of Greece are determined to foil this conspiracy.

The world economic order is also seeing a shift. China, in addition to its efforts on BRICS, the Silk Road initiative, and Shanghai Co-operation has come up with an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). In addition to its start-up capital of 50 billion dollars it has promised to pump in another 50 billion dollars. US allies like South Korea, Australia, UK, France, Italy, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Germany have lined up in the queue to join the AIIB initiative. The US was barely able to mask its rage when it said, “We are wary about a trend towards constant accommodation of China which is not the best way of containing a rising power.”

The US led imperialist ‘war on terror’ has created the Frankenstein’s monsters of Taliban, Al Quaeda and the ISIS. People are fleeing Syria and Libya. 3,500 people met their watery graves which put an end to their dreams and lives in the Mediterranean Sea in 2014. The death toll is 1,500 till now in 2015. Europe should transcend its obsession with internal recession and boldly face its xenophobic fringes, and reach out to the boat people.

Trans border disasters like tsunami, floods and earth quake and the biggest disaster of them all, imperialism, have brought to the fore, the urgency for South Asian solidarity in confronting these disasters.

The US led neo-liberal order with its disastrous trajectory of severe economic crisis, permanent global war, growing ecological disaster and the spiral of terrorism and imperialist intervention are confronted by the struggle between labour and capital, manifested in mass resistance and popular protests across the world and the efforts of countries to challenge the dictatorship of finance capital.

Back home, the Modi government is finding the going tough, as it completes its one year of rule on May 26. People are not willing to buy its argument that development has to be measured by some numbers in the GDP growth rate. Modi is trying to project India as a fast moving lion on the prowl rather than as a slow moving elephant. ‘Make in India’ is nothing but inviting capital to loot and plunder the natural and human resources of our beloved country. It is an attack on land and labour rights. It is an attack on food security. It is nothing but accumulation by dispossession.

It is true that the neo-liberal agenda has been in existence for the past few decades. But the Modi government represents a quantitative and qualitative change in pursuit of this agenda. It has the temerity to ask peasants who own less than 5 acres to quit agriculture; it asks the middle classes to give up subsidies and not to expect anything from the government. It wants to do away with the existing provisions of consent of 80% of the people in the gram sabha and social impact assessment before land acquisition.

This government is active in the business of dismantling and demolition. The very forces who demolished Babri Masjid are now demolishing the public sector, the planning commission and the collective bargaining processes and institutions. It is weakening the railways, the defence and the finance sectors of the country. It has launched a veritable war on labour rights by dismantling the existing labour laws and by bringing in new anti-labour legislations.

‘Make in India’ is also opening up defence production to the domestic and international corporate sector. Anil Ambani stated that Modi lamented the fact that India is not even making tear gas on its own. Neither of them need shed any tears on this score anymore as it will be taken care of by corporate India very soon.

Anil Ambani has given a war cry against the three Cs - CBI, CVC and the CAG – a pointer to the future direction of unregulated capitalist plunder. While the Modi government goes on an arms/armaments buying spree from the US and Israel, and signed an agreement with France to buy 36 Rafaele fighter planes, it is making a mockery of its own ‘Make in India’ slogan.

Raghuram Rajan and the financial wizard Arvind Subramanian are outdoing each other in lashing out against the financial sector. Arvind Subramanian stated that Bank Nationalisation is a millstone around the neck of the Indian economy. For Raghuram Rajan, “Undoing this legacy may turn out to be one of the most crucial tasks for the RBI.”

Since labour is a subject in the concurrent list of the constitution and since state governments are vying with each other to woo investments, Modi government is launching an attack on labour laws in collusion with the state governments. Rajasthan is the leader in the pack. It has amended the Trade Unions Act, Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act and the Factories Act. The central government, by introducing the Small Factories Bill has exempted 14 labour laws by one stroke for factories employing less than 40 workers. The amended Apprentices Act is another example of the government’s attempt to do away with regular permanent employment.

There is a vicious attack on democracy. When Modi asked the Supreme Court not to yield to the pressures of five star activists, it was only a veiled pressure on the Supreme Court to fall in line with the wishes of the government in matters such as denying bail to Teesta Setalvad and going slow on corporate scams. The Gujarat government’s Control of Terrorism and Organised Crimes Bill is an updated version of TADA, POTA and MCOCA. It provides for detention for 180 days without any charges, immunity from prosecution for anything done in good faith and with intentions to do it in pursuance of the Act. It makes confessions before the police admissible.

There is a systematic attack on minorities. The atmosphere vitiated by the Hindutva forces gives an impetus to attacks on dalits and women. The othering and demonising of Islam and the witch hunt of Muslims are some effective communal tools. Rabid communalism is also utilised to drive a wedge in the fighting unity of the masses. The onward march of corporate communal fascist forces is to be stopped in its tracks.

The emerging situation is full of possibilities for fighting forces. Common masses have started seeing this government as Company Raj and as a government of Ambanis Adanis and America. Its promises of ‘acche din’ (good days) and return of black money have turned out to be cruel jokes on the Indian people. BJP was given a big thrashing in Delhi elections. The coal workers, the bank employees and the BSNL employees have carried out successful strikes. The honorarium and contract employees are rising up in struggles throughout the country. These are reflections of the fighting mood of the working people.

But we also find a decline in the electoral performance of the left forces. There is also a disconnect between the left and the young emerging India, with some exceptions of course. The modern world has created unimaginable wealth. Technology makes it easier for everyone to see the wealth that is the result of socialised production. Needs and wants are social in nature. People aspire for a better life. The aspirations are multi-dimensional. Trade unions have to play a social role. They have to be democratised. Workers have to be politicised.

Capitalist restructuring has brought a change in the composition of the working class. This has posed new challenge and the trade union movement has to do a lot to rise up to the occasion. Fresh ideas and new initiatives to break the narrowness of the TU movement are absolutely necessary. New industrial zones, belts are to be concentrated upon and new categories of workers are to be organised. We have to attract and nurture a big contingent of young activist cadres and leaders. Area level work with a social dimension has to be pursued with consistency and commitment to reach out to the unorganised workers.

The February 20, 21 2013 All India Strike by the working class was a contributing factor to the defeat of UPA government. The time is now ripe for an all India strike action on the part of the working class. AICCTU will definitely move in this direction. It is hoping that the other central trade unions will also be thinking on similar lines.

The working class should reach out to the peasantry and the democratic forces. AICCTU which is part of All India People’s Forum, in its 9th conference is advancing the slogan, “Call Of Every Village And Town, Company Raj Down Down!”

From the midst of all the destruction and dismantling, we will have to build a live dynamic responsive proactive working class movement.

Let me conclude with the words of Galeano,
“In the history of humankind, every act of destruction meets its response, sooner or later in an act of creation.”

Liberation Archive