[Note from Livia Bocadacce: During 2016, social movements in France and in India have been huge and tough. In both countries, youth, workers, students, oppressed people fought against governments who disregarded their desires of freedom and decent life, and have faced violent repression. But in France, we don’t hear about Indian struggles such as Una Dalits’ movement or Hyderabad and JNU students’ protests. In India, the very strong French movement of last spring, called “Nuits Debout”, has aroused very poor coverage. Because we believe we have to learn from the crossed experiences of fighting, because we refuse a globalization only based on trade and forced migrations, because we hope a globalization that could encourage the circulation of critical thinking and collective–action repertoire, we proposed this article on the Nuits debout to Kafila. Hoping it will generate debates and further interests. ]
After a Nuit debout (night standing up), we wake up with a political strike (1)
Living in a moment is always pleasanter than writing about it— it’s always risky to draw conclusions about situations still evolving or to speculate about what they will become. Going on for now over three months [when this post was written – AN], Nuit debout is a new kind of spontaneous, social movement along the lines of « Occupy » and Spain’s « M15 » movement. It has taken on an unanticipated size and importance, all the while developing characteristic features of French society. I won’t go back over its development or its collective spirit. The two texts already published in the May and June issues of the Brooklyn Rail, the first by Anouk Colombani and the second by Ferdinand Cazalis et Emilien Bernard (CQFD, n°143, mai 2016) have provided sufficient detail and clarity to let us grasp the essence and dynamism of these mobilizations.
From the crisis in Iraq, a story is emerging of 40 construction workers in Mosul who have gone missing, some reports claim because they were trying to escape from the city and were captured by militants in the process. Many of these workers, feared kidnapped by ISIS, refused both their employers’ and the Indian government’s help to evacuate, as many have not been paid up to five months’ wages. Another report reveals that a group of 46 nurses from Kerala, working in a hospital in Tikrit, have refused to leave despite an offer from Delhi to help them evacuate. They need the money, as do their families back at home, so they would rather move to a safe zone in Iraq than return. Two nurses in the same hospital, who are on holiday in India, told the BBC that they would return despite the travel advisory issued by India advising citizens not to travel to Iraq. For them, failing to return means defaulting on loans taken to pay recruitment agents.
A few days before, on June 16, the NDA government announced that it was looking at liberalizing labour laws, primarily to make easier the retrenchment of workers. The UPA, and former PM Manmohan Singh in particular, also had labour law reform as an agenda, propelled by constant laments from industry saying ‘obsolete’ labour laws hindering growth and holding back the economy. The Vansundhara Raje government is already amending some state-level acts in Rajasthan to ‘liberate the corporate sector from the shackles of stringent requirements of the laws’, as one report put it.
It has been a long time in the making. The violence at Maruti-Suzuki’s Manesar plant on 19 July 2012, that led to the ghastly killing of the general manager, Awanish Kumar Dev was waiting to happen. While the killing was gruesome, I believe this is merely a ‘freeze shot’ of a larger film that has been playing for a very long time now. While it is the media’s wont to focus only on these moments of spectacular violence and then dish out reports from handouts provided by managements and the police, sometimes, such moments of conflagration do illuminate what has been in the dark for so long.
What follows below is an attempt to think through some of the issues that seem to me to lie at the bottom of the violent event. The ‘violent event’ here is not simply what took place in Maruti-Suzuki’s Manesar plant now; it is rather a shorthand for the whole series of such conflagrations that have been taking place over the past few years in the National Capital Region (NCR) – starting with Honda Motors and Scooters 2005, Graziano Trasmissioni 2008, and many others since – Rico Auto Industries, Pricol Ltd and so on. The struggle in Honda Motors that had been brewing for a long time had eventually spilled over into a series of public protests with severe police violence in the full glare of the media. Things have never been the same in the entire belt since. Rico Auto Industries incident in September-October 2009 subsequently became an important milestone – galvanizing as it did a number of other workers’ strikes. There it had started when the workers struck work after 17 of their colleagues had been dismissed ‘on disciplinary grounds’. Actually, the workers rightly felt that this was to quash their attempt to form a union. And while the workers were protesting at the gate, a group of hired goons attacked them, killing one of the workers and injuring many others. In the Graziano Trasmissioni the issue of contention was the reinstatement of 136 dismissed workers which led to a massive unrest in the unit in Greater NOIDA, leading eventually to an incident not very different from the present one. Continue reading Some Reflections on Capital and the Workers’ Movement After Manesar→