Face the Challenges, Grasp the Opportunities

(Text of AICCTU President S Kumarasamy’s Address in the Inaugural Session)

As we assemble here on 11.11.11, finance capital and corporate greed are put in the dock by the people in New York and other global citadels of capital. The oligarchs who pronounced the end of history are now facing the slogans, “bankers are bailed out, we are sold out”, “there is only one solution, that is revolution”. The Occupy Wall Street movement has taken place, when the American people seem to be thinking that capitalism is losing its ability to restructure and reconstitute itself. The agitation in its own way is taking an anti-capitalist turn, as capitalism’s economic legitimacy is losing its sheen. From our 8th National Conference, we welcome this fresh whiff of air and we dedicate ourselves to challenge corporate greed and control in India. We hail it and express solidarity with it in India by demanding “people’s right over people’s resources”.

But imperialism’s overreach in its war efforts is continuing. The war on terror is now rechristened as ‘humanitarian intervention.’ There were 40,000 bombings from the Libyan skies by Rafale fighters of France, by Euro fighters of the UK and by the Predators of the US. When Gaddafi was killed in violation of all international laws, Hillary gloated, “we came, we saw, he died.” The US Vice President Joe Biden points to the future: “In this case America spent 2 billion dollars and did not lose a single life. This is more the prescription for how to deal with this the world as we go forward than it has been in the past.” The geo political intentions of the US are spelt out by Paul Craig Roberts: “With Libya conquered, AFRICOM will start on other African countries, where China has energy and mineral investments. Where China brings Africa investments and gifts of infrastructure, Washington sends troops, bombs and military bases”.

We condemn the imperialist war on terror and its extension in the name of humanitarian intervention and regime change.

The US and its imperialist allies are busy planning their brand of regime change in Syria, Iran and Cuba. From our 8th Conference we declare that the Indian people and the toiling masses will stoutly oppose all imperialist and big brotherly interventions.

All institutions of the bourgeoisie in India are facing a credibility crisis. The judiciary, the parliament, and the seats of governance from the PMO to the BDO: all institutions are tainted with corruption. The Indian people are realizing that corruption is the essential bridge between bourgeois economics and bourgeois politics. The Congress-led UPA-II Government is corruption-ridden and crisis-ridden.

The BJP and its NDA allies with their share of mining and other scams cannot convincingly take on the government at the centre. Anna Hazare type movements enter to fill in this void. The very situation is pregnant with possibilities for the fighting forces of the Left. Price rise, growing inequalities, state repression through AFSPA and UAPA, Operation Green Hunt and other measures to deny livelihood and democratic rights to the people while paving the way for the loot and plunder of the country’s resources, are bound to ignite the fire of people’s resistance struggles. AICCTU calls upon the working people to rise to the occasion and forcefully intervene in the situation, for left resurgence through people’s resistance.

The Indian TU movement is passing through a critical and crucial stage. It has its challenges. It has its opportunities. Take note of a few facts. In 2005 there were 227 strikes, and 229 lock outs and 300 lakh human days of production were lost. But in 2010, there were 79 strikes, 20 lockouts with 17 lakh human days lost. Have the workers got a better deal? Is the fighting spirit on the wane? Annual growth in labour productivity in India was 3.7 per cent in 1998 and it went up to 7.3% in 2007. It remained the same at 1.2% in 1998 and 2007 in the European Union, whereas in the US it declined from 2% in1998 to 1.2% in 2007. Net value added by the Indian worker in 1998–1999 was Rs.2 lakh and it went up to Rs. 6 Lakh in 2008–2009, whereas in the same period, wages as a proportion to net value added declined from 18% to 11%. When labour productivity has gone up, real wages have come down. As more wealth is created by socialized production and as it gets concentrated with a few billionaires, workers become poorer and the ranks of the poor swell.


How has it happened?
While the fall of the socialist bloc provided the ideological background, the relocation of the production of goods and services to countries with substantial surplus labour led to the decline of the organized TU movement in the US. In India, LPG policies launched an attack on collective bargaining. The organized permanent workers in the public and private sector were deprived of their control over production, by huge contractualisation, casualization and outsourcing. The withdrawal of the state was accompanied by an increase in the number of non-regular employees in the govt sector like ASHA worker, para-teachers and other honorarium and consolidated payment employees. The so called Nehruvian social contract was also thrown overboard while the market was allowed to hold sway over all aspects of the economy. The judiciary contributed with many retrograde judgments.
There were other changes taking place in Indian society. The deepening, all pervasive agrarian crisis, the uneven industrialization and urbanization and the huge development of a formal and informal service sector, all play a very big role in the quantitative and qualitative composition of the Indian working class.

From 1834 to 1937 there was a big wave of global migration. 82 lakh Chinese, 1.02 crore Italians and 1.8 crore British people migrated to other countries. In that period 3 crore Indians migrated, and some 64 lakhs could not return to their native land as they could not afford their return journey. Now with LPG policies in full swing, interstate and intra state migration is taking place on a large scale. The TU movement should stand up and defend the rights of migrant labour.
The neo-liberal state, which is marked by the increasing corporate clout over it, the conniving bureaucracy and the judiciary together are taking the country back to the pre-1926 period by refusing TU rights, in Gurgaon–Manesar, Sriperumbudur–Irungattukottai and other rising modern industrial centres.
The fighting flags of the working class have not been thrown to the ground. They have passed on to different hands. Old and new have joined hands to hold aloft the fighting flag. Workers at Pricol, Hyundai, Maruti, ASHA workers, Para teachers are the latest flag bearers. A very big contingent of the Indian working class, with no legal rights and with nothing to lose, has emerged. Here lie the challenges and opportunities.
The TU movement has to fight to push back the neo-liberal policies. It has to go on the offensive, demand amendments to existing laws, demand new laws and changed policies. The organized section of the working class has to organize its vast unorganized counterpart. Unionization must take place in residential areas. Millions and millions will have to be brought into the arena of class struggle and the TU movement. Only this can provide the Indian working class with striking power. The working class is to be politicized and the TUs are to be democratized. For this, newer methods and avenues have to be explored in creative and imaginative ways.
This is precisely the point on which Pricol workers led by AICCTU are charting a new course, braving tremendous odds and succeeding in gaining TU recognition while continuing their struggle for a law to provide for TU recognition.
Capitalist production relations are not eternal laws.
History will progress through class struggle.

AICCTU’s 8th National Conference dedicates itself to the task of moving history forward.