Over 100 Million Stop Work

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).

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-style:italic”>The recent period has also witnessed massive protests by the youth and the urban salaried middle classes on the issue of the gang rape of a 23 year old student in Delhi – also a reflection of the growth of mass protest.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-style:italic”>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).

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-style:italic”>The strike also saw a massive participation by workers and even complete shutdowns in other North Indian regions such as parts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. In the Southern region – excepting Kerala – that is in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, although only considered to be partially affected by the strike, nevertheless millions of workers participated in strike action in different parts of the region apart from the major urban centres. In the financial nerve centre of India – Mumbai – the whole financial sector was paralysed by the participation of the workers in the banking and insurance sectors (both public and private). In Maharashtra as a whole, the strike did not have the desired effect because of the betrayal of the leaders of some of the main trade unions like the Hind Mazdoor Sabha that controls the crucial transport sector.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-style:italic”>What Next?

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-style:italic”>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.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-style:italic”>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.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-style:italic”>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.