In this year of COVID19, the organized ‘working class’ movement completes a hundred years of its history. It was on October 31 1920, that the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), the first central trade union organization, came into being. This might be a good occasion to take stock – to look back into history from what can only be described as a very troubled and difficult present – and peer forward into the future.
The year of COVID19 reveals, among other things, the very fragile and unstable nature of this entity called ‘the working class’ in countries like India. The monstrous situation arising out of the pandemic only provides us the window to that long and endless process by which the ‘working class’ is constantly made and remade. In a very important sense, unlike the peasantry which has a far more stable existence (till, for the requirements of Capital, it is uprooted and thrown into urban labour markets), the working class is an inherently structurally unstable social group. Given that its fate is tied to the requirements, caprices and maneouvres of Capital, the working class is not given to us readymade, once and for all. For as long-term changes in industry and technology occur or capital takes flight in the face of worker militancy, the working class too undergoes changes.