The Working Class in the Coming Elections

DP Buxi

Although the working class in India has displayed chronic weakness on the question of independent political assertion, it never indicates apathy towards politics. At crucial political junctures it has taken a political stand, like the 1945-47 period of struggles against the British Raj, or in the struggle for food and democracy in the late 1960s that preceded the fall of Congress monopoly, or in the historic railway strike of 1974 which became the harbinger of anti-autocracy struggle against Emergency. However, the general political behaviour of the working class could be described in the words of Comrade Charu Mazumdar, that the workers would rally around red flag trade union movement to achieve their economic demands, but would not hesitate to vote for Congress in the elections. He held it as an outcome of “economism”, the sin of opportunist leadership, which conveniently forgot to propagate the role of the workers in emancipating other exploited and oppressed classes and declined to represent the future in the movement of the present. Lack of political role of the working class cannot be explained in isolation from the opportunist, social-democratic degeneration of Indian Left movement. As Lenin warned in December 1912, “For, strange it may sound, in capitalist society bourgeois policy may be carried on by the working class, too, if the latter forgets about its emancipatory aims, becomes reconciled with wage-slavery, and confines itself to seeking alliance with one bourgeois party, then with another, so as to obtain fictitious ‘improvements’ in its slavish conditions.”

As early as in September 1871, Marx advocated active political intervention by the working class in these words: “Living experiences, the political oppression of the existing governments compel the workers to occupy themselves with politics whether they like or not, be it for political or social goals. To preach abstention from politics to them is to throw them into the embrace of bourgeois politics. The morning after Paris Commune, which has made proletarian political action an order of the day, abstention is entirely out of question...”

Presently the Indian working class is confronting the second generation economic reforms of BJP-led NDA Government which are nothing but the latest Indian version of liberalisation and globalisation drive advanced by the US-led global capital. In addition to the “disinvestment” of profit-making PSUs; corporatisation of government departments and outsourcing of government functions, drastic downsizing, growing casualisation and contractorisation; slashing the wage and other benefits, there is a particular emphasis on snatching trade union rights including the right to strike, in consonance with the fascist politics of the BJP and Sangh Parivar.

No doubt the working class has come out in a chain of protest campaigns and resistance struggle at different levels in response to the growing onslaught. However, despite its united action the working class is yet to emphasise the political dimensions of the ongoing struggle and narrow sector and trade mentality still prevails the organised sector.

In order to radicalise the Indian working class movement we mooted the task of restructuring trade unions to enhance their socio-political role. A creative mass political campaign was launched among the workers to develop their class and political consciousness, retrieving the revolutionary spirit of the vanguard workers with bold propaganda of communist ideology. The positive response to our primary efforts in this direction only indicates the potential of this new venture. The coming elections would be another opportunity before the Indian working class to assert independently through a meaningful intervention. With this view, a comprehensive ‘Charter of Indian Working Class’ may be prepared; primary outline of which may be as follows:

While popularizing the Charter, the pre-election declarations of the NDA Government to woo workers and employees must be thoroughly exposed. We must challenge the moral right of the NDA to speak for workers, because this government has all along attacked the livelihood, rights and dignity of the working people. Simultaneously, it must also be highlighted that the Congress has been a pioneer advocate of liberalization, and it still indulges in competitive communalism. The battle against Saffron fascism must ensure the assertion of working people as a political force and strengthen Left and democratic forces.q