CITU General Council: Surge in Toiling People’s Struggles

Hemalata

THE meeting of CITU general council, held in Kozhikode from March 23-26, analysed the impact of the policies of the BJP led government on the conditions of the workers in the country and chalked out concrete tasks based on its analysis.

The presidential address delivered by Hemalata, president of CITU and the general secretary’s report placed by Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU put the organisational and movemental tasks to be taken up by the general council, in the context of international and national situation.

The presidential address linked the conditions of the workers in our country with that of the workers across the world. The workers and other sections of toiling people are increasingly coming out in struggles including strikes in various parts of the world including in the advanced capitalist countries. These struggles with growing participation of workers are expressions of discontent and anger against the attacks on their livelihood and working conditions by the neoliberal policies being pursued by their respective governments. Despite the claims of upswing in the global economy, there has been no improvement in the conditions of the workers. Youth unemployment in many countries continues to be alarming. Even the World Bank, which said that the world economy was in ‘full swing’ for the first time since the global crisis was compelled to warn that this upswing would be short term without much prospect of improving the living standards of the people or reducing poverty. Many economists were of the view that another crisis may be round the corner.

Inequalities have reached vulgar levels. According to the Oxfam Report released in January 2018, 82 per cent of global wealth produced in 2017 was cornered by the top 1 per cent people who now owned more than half of the total global wealth. In India, the top 1 per cent cornered 73 per cent of the wealth produced by the toiling people in the country in 2017. Only 42 richest persons in the world owned the same wealth as the poorest half in 2017.

This amassing of wealth in a few hands is not because of their extraordinary talent, hard work or innovations, as many people are made to believe. The Oxfam report makes it clear that this is due to inheritance, monopoly, cronyism, tax evasions and of course, increased exploitation of the workers. Unemployment continues at alarming levels, particularly among the educated youth, due to these policies. In India, unemployment among the graduates and above has reached 23.8 per cent.

New technology, including robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things etc, is not used to reduce working hours of, or ease the burden on the workers. In the capitalist system, science and technology, developed not in isolation by some individuals, but through the involvement, directly or indirectly of the common people, is not used to benefit the people. It is used to increase the profits of the big corporates and business houses that own and control it.

Today, the world has enough resources, financial, scientific, technological, human etc to ensure education to all, health for all, food for all, housing for all, decent life for all. But under the capitalist system, this wealth, generated by the toil of the working people is not utilised for the benefit of the people who produce it. It is cornered by a few. The Oxfam report says that the $762 billion cornered by the world’s billionaires in 2017 alone, was enough to end extreme poverty seven times over. But the profit driven capitalist system will not allow it.

This discontent against the impact of the neoliberal policies is not being channelised in proper direction in many countries. It is being utilised by the right wing forces. This is particularly so in countries where the Left forces and social democratic parties have betrayed the working people whom they were earlier supporting, and switched to the side of neoliberalism. The traditional Left and social democratic parties which have been implementing neoliberal policies while in power are being rejected by the people. The right wing forces utilise the discontent among the people and divert it against other sections of the toiling people, their brothers and sisters working alongside them, on the basis of race, religion, region, gender etc. They disrupt the unity of the people and weaken the struggle against the neoliberal policies. When they come to power, they have been implementing the same policies. This is seen in several European countries like Italy, France, Germany, Greece, and the Scandinavian countries.

At the same time, the Left gained where it firmly supported and led the struggles of the workers against the neoliberal policies, as seen in Greece, Portugal, Spain, the increased influence of the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, the growing popularity of the Democratic Socialists in the USA etc, particularly among the youth.

Today, the working class and the toiling people are searching for alternatives. There is growing interest, particularly among the youth, in ‘Capital’, the magnum opus of Karl Marx, which was first published more than 150 years ago. The influence of World Federation of Trade Unions, the only militant and class oriented global trade union is also increasing across the world.

Neoliberalism, the latest phase of capitalism, is totally discredited and has become unsustainable. But what needs to be understood clearly is that capitalist system itself cannot be free of crisis. The decade long global crisis is only the latest in the series. In each crisis, the capitalists try to protect and even increase their profits by thrusting more burdens on the working people, which in turn bring down their purchasing power and lay the ground for another crisis. Even before the world came out of the 2008 crisis, apprehensions are being expressed that another crisis might be looming around. In such a situation, international finance finds it imperative to support and promote right wing forces which seek to divide the working class and disrupt the unity of the working people to weaken the struggles against neoliberal policies. This has become the worldwide phenomenon now. In India, the big corporates, both domestic and foreign, have been supporting the BJP and Modi by placing their resources - money, material and media, at its service. The BJP government has also been displaying authoritarian tendencies to suppress all opposition. The working class has to simultaneously fight all these three – neoliberalism, communalism and authoritarianism.

US imperialism is also trying to use its military and political might to intervene and suppress the progressive and Left leaning governments in Latin America and other countries to undermine Left forces and suppress resistance to the neoliberal policies there as well as gain control of the rich natural resources in these countries. On the one hand US imperialism has been talking of ‘fighting terror’; on the other it has been promoting terrorist outfits by providing them with financial and other types of support. India under the BJP regime has become a junior strategic partner to US imperialism abandoning the country’s long standing independent foreign policy.

It is significant in this situation to note that since the onset of the global crisis in 2008, China has taken several measures to increase domestic demand in the form on increasing minimum wages, providing housing to the rural and urban poor etc. These measures have resulted in increasing personal per capita disposable income, reduced unemployment to its lowest level in decades, and in lifting 6 crore people above poverty. It is transforming itself into an advanced manufacturing country focussing on information technology, robotics, aerospace, railways, electric vehicles etc. In the recently held National Peoples’ Congress, Xi Jinping, president of China has declared ‘History has already proven and will continue to prove that only socialism can save China’. Not only China, only socialism can save the world.

The general secretary’s report highlighted the conditions of the working class and other sections of the toiling people under the BJP led Modi government. The three significant features of the government’s domestic policy were – aggressive pursuit of neoliberal policies, open support to the communal and disruptive ‘Hindutva’ agenda of the RSS and increasing authoritarian tendencies.

The BJP government is trying to hoodwink the people through deceptive slogans even when in practice the various measures taken by it have led to the deterioration in the conditions of the vast sections of the workers, particularly in the unorganised sector, the micro, small and medium enterprises, the small traders, peasants etc. The same trend was witnessed in the recent union budget 2018-19. Demonetisation, GST, the union budget 2018-19 and the various notifications it has been issuing time to time were all utilised to transfer wealth, created by the blood and toil of the people, to the few big corporates, domestic and foreign. The last budget of the BJP led government also continued the trend of giving huge concessions to the big capitalist and landlord classes while imposing huge burdens on the workers and other common people who saw worsening of their working conditions and erosion of their incomes. Public sector is being dismantled. Coal mines have been opened up for private commercial mining. The BJP government, which never fails to evoke sentiments of nationalism, is privatising strategic sectors like defence and railways, jeopardising national interests. The Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance (FRDI) Bill 2017 puts the financial institutions on dock for non payment of loans but not the corporations which defaulted. On the one hand this will pave the way for privatisation of these institutions and on the other the common people are put at risk of losing their deposits fully or partially, when the banks become bankrupt.

In addition to the amendments to the labour laws, which have been discussed several times, the government has recently amended the Contract Labour Act removing whatever protection the contract workers had till now. The whole concept of permanent and perennial nature of jobs is being changed to ‘core and peripheral jobs’. Thus a worker performing permanent nature of work cannot claim regularisation. Similarly, workers working for an agency to which a particular job has been outsourced cannot be considered as contract worker and the principal employer has no obligation to ensure implementation of labour laws in that case. Penalties for violation of the amended Act have been reduced to a minimum. The government has also introduced Fixed Term Employment through a notification despite serious opposition to the move first introduced by the former NDA government led by Vajpayee in 2002, which the UPA I government was compelled to rescind under pressure from the trade union movement and the Left parties in 2007. The entire process is aimed at improving its ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ at the cost of the workers.

The attacks on dalits and minorities, particularly the Muslim minorities have increased. Their livelihood is being attacked by the so called ‘gau rakshaks’, to benefit the big corporate cattle traders. The communal outfits are seeking to control all the aspects of the day to day lives of common people, dictating what they can eat, what they can wear, whom they can befriend or marry etc. They are trying to throttle all voices of dissent or opposition through physical attacks, blackmailing, intimidation etc.

The government is also resorting to authoritarian measures by bypassing the Rajya Sabha, by claiming them as ‘Money Bills’, issuing notifications etc. While the government claims to be super nationalist, it is resorting to anti-national measures like privatisation including of railways, defence, handing over our natural resources to foreign and domestic private players etc.

It is in this context that there is a surge in struggles, by the workers, peasants, students, dalits and other sections of the society. The various sectoral struggles and the huge unprecedented joint trade union ‘mahapaav’ reveal this. The joint trade union movement is preparing for a multiple day country wide general strike. In this background an intensive and extensive independent campaign highlighting the issues related to the working and living conditions of all sections of toiling people, at the same time projecting the alternative pro-people policies will help in strengthening united struggles to defeat the neoliberal agenda of the ruling classes.

 

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