Tag Archives: trade union movement

Working Class Movement and ‘Sudden Death’ of the 1980s – Challenges For Rebuilding the Left II


Let us call it ‘sudden death’ football style – even though, strictly speaking, there was no ‘tie’. Yet, even the highly frayed but continued existence of the earlier Nehruvian legacy (our version of the welfare state) had provided a kind of buffer that had kept in place an intricate balance between labour and capital. The Nehruvian state was no ‘socialism’ but it did represent a ‘social contract’ of sorts that had kept the worst caprices of capital in check and provided a certain legitimacy to issues and demands of labour. The balance was always tilted in favour of capital but was a balance nevertheless. This is what some ideologues of the neoliberal dispensation that succeeded it continue calling socialism – for that gave them the legitimacy, in the post-Soviet 1990s, to institute the unbridled rule of corporate capital. In that sense, there was a tie – and neoliberalism was the tie-breaker.

Protest_Photo, Image New Indian Express

The defeat of working class politics in the 1980s is a story that remains to be told – at any rate, properly analyzed. There are of course, layers and layers to that story  and no single article or even a book can do justice to it but it is nevertheless worth looking at some aspects – not all of which may have been apparent to players involved at that time. But that is precisely why it is so important to look back, especially if we are interested in building a movement in the future, avoiding the mistakes of the past.

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Workers Strike Back : Statement by NSI on the All India Strike

Guest Post by New Socialist Initiative (NSI)

All trade union federations in India, except the BMS affiliated with the RSS, have declared a one day nationwide strike on 2nd September against the price rise and economic policies of Modi government. One of the main demands is a minimum wage of Rs 18,000/ per month. At present the legal minimum wage in most of the Aountry is less than one third of this. The overwhelming majority of workers in India work for even less than the legal minimum wage. The condition of agricultural workers is the worst. In Pudducherry the legal minimum wage for agricultural workers is Rs 1650/ per month. On the other hand, if the minimum wage is calculated to provide consumption needs of three persons for fooAd, clothing, housing, education and medical expenses, then it should be around Rs 26,000/. Clearly, the economic system in the country has failed to provide even essentials of life to the most of its working people. Indian capitalism is a predatory system which feeds on the living labour of Indian people without providing them even the bare minimum needed to survive. Everybody in a working class family has to work. It is no surprise that India has the largest number of child labourers in the world. Working parents can not earn enough to take care of their children. Capitalism in India makes super profits from patriarchy and caste system. As Ambedkar said, caste is division of labourers. It divides workers and forces Dalits to do the least remunerative and dangerous work as agricultural workers, manual scavengers, sanitation workers and in other ‘untouchable’ activities. Women workers are paid a pittance. Without their unpaid extra domestic work, working class families would simply collapse.
All governments in India favour employers over working people. The Modi government however has been specially vicious in attacking workers. It has systematically degraded the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme by starving it of funds. The proposed GST is likely to stoke the fires of already high food inflation even higher. It has dismantled the existing labour inspection system for the sake of ‘ease of doing business’. Its law on Child labour permits children to work in household units. Make in India programme is premised upon Indian labour being cheaper than global competitors.
The strike call of 2nd September has broken new ground. The trade union movement so far has remained confined to the organised sector which employs only seven percent of the workforce. Workers in the unorganised sector work on contract with no job security. By making the demand for a reasonable minimum wage the main slogan of the strike, trade unions have taken an important first step towards forging the class wide unity of the entire working people.
New Socialist Initiative stands in solidarity with this strike and wishes it a grand success. The road to a society without capitalist exploitation, and which honours and justly rewards the labour of working people is long and arduous. Nationwide strikes which strengthen working class solidarity are its important milestones.



A Non-Obituary – Life and Times of an Insaan: Bobby Kunhu

Guest post by BOBBY KUNHU

“To be mortal is the most basic human experience, and yet man has never been able to accept it, grasp it, and behave accordingly. Man doesn’t know how to be mortal. And when he dies, he doesn’t even know how to be dead.” – Milan Kundera, Immortality
Insaan was a person who deliberately and desperately sought to mortalise himself in a world obsessed with immortality. He was very clear that he did not want to leave any footprints of his life when he died, no children, no money, no property, no awards, no monuments, no records, no pictures – except for those inevitable because of State restrictions that could trouble people who handled his death – like death certificate. He was working hard since his retirement towards his death fighting his way through the bureaucracy for anonymity in death! Then why am I writing about him disregarding his long cherished wish? Firstly his life was too important not to be chronicled; secondly whenever we joked that we would make a saint of him after he died he responded that he did not believe in an afterlife and what people did after he died was not his concern and finally, this is my way of grieving the loss of someone who was dear to me and whose relationship with me is not at all definable!
Insaan was not new to obituaries. In fact it was an obituary that brought him into my life. The story dates back to 1982, when Advocate P. M. Padhmanaban was visiting his relatives in Bombay. My grandfather, M. Rasheed had asked him to look up Insaan, his political co-traveler and fellow trade unionist from whom he had not heard in a while. On enquiries Padhmanabhan was informed that Insaan had succumbed to a long bout of jaundice and was no more. Dutifully he passed on the information to my grandfather, who wrote a long obituary in the Sunday edition of the Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi. The following Sunday as my grandfather was sitting with his cup of tea and perusing his morning newspapers at the Verandah of his Calicut house, Insaan walked in with a copy of the newspaper that carried his obituary!

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