July 24, 2016

CITU All India Working Committee Calls for Intensifying Campaign on Sept 2 Strike

K Hemalata

‘INTENSIFY the campaign for an unprecedented countrywide strike on September 2; consolidate the organisation and march forward towards the 15th conference’ were the calls given by the working committee of CITU which met in Nasik from July 14-16, 2016. The meeting was attended by members and invitees from all over the country. A K Padmanabhan, president, CITU hoisted the red flag of CITU to mark the beginning of the meeting and presided over its sessions. Dr D L Karad, general secretary of Maharashtra state committee of CITU and chairman of the reception committee welcomed the working committee members. Addressing the inaugural session, Padmanabhan noted that the Modi led BJP government at the centre had completed 25 months in office in July and this month also marks the completion of 25 years of the advent of neoliberal policies in our country. The BJP government is pursuing the same neoliberal policies as the Congress led UPA that have been hurting the interests of the common people, with increased vigour. It was trying to mislead the people through its dubious claims of achieving development. Unemployment, job losses, price rise continue to haunt the people. The entire government policy was aimed at providing more concessions to the big corporates, both domestic and foreign, and protect their interests. The state governments led by various parties, except the Left parties, were also pursuing the same policies. The basic trade union rights of the workers are under attack. There is large scale victimisation of workers in many states. The growing discontent against these policies was visible in the struggles of different sections of the toiling people. The struggles of the central and state government employees, the bank and insurance employees, the electricity workers in Haryana, the transport workers, the garment workers and the scheme workers etc were some of the notable struggles of this period. Having an obedient and supportive government at the centre, RSS and its various outfits have unleashed their disruptive agenda, particularly in states like UP, where elections are due. The unity of the people and the working class, essential to strengthen struggles against neoliberal policies is under attack by these forces. The working class must defeat such disruptive forces of all hues and protect its unity. Padmanabhan also pointed out that despite all claims of recovery and growth, the global economic crisis continues unabated, causing unbearable burdens on the working people all over the world. Unemployment has increased. In 2015, there were 197.1 million unemployed across the world, 27 million more than the pre-crisis figure. Disparities, between the countries and within the countries are widening. The recent vote for UK’s exit from the European Union, being termed as ‘Brexit’ is a reflection of the impact of the crisis and is seen as a ‘revolt against the hegemony of globalised finance capital’. This has reverberations in different countries of European Union. The military invasions of the US have led to an increase in terrorist activities, endangering the entire world. According to a UN study, only 10 countries in the world can now be said to be free from conflict. Along with unemployment and loss of jobs due to the economic crisis, the refugee problem has also resulted in the growth of various extremist groups in different countries. At the same time, people are participating on an unprecedented scale in protest actions including massive rallies and strikes in various countries. In the US, the struggle for a minimum wage of USD 15 per hour that was started in enterprises like Walmart and fast food units has developed into a national movement. The struggle in Walmart is significant as it employs 14 lakh employees in the US and 8 lakh more in other countries. Its sheer size forces its suppliers to reduce prices and in turn reduce wages and do away with safety requirements. Walmart’s own workers are also paid low wages. The struggle in Walmart for increased wages will have a wider impact. The strike in Verizon, the largest telecom company, in which 39,000 workers struck work for 45 days and compelled the employer to reach an agreement, increasing wages and regularisation of temporary workers, is another big struggle. Working days lost due to strikes and disputes have increased by 400 percent between 2014 and 2015. There were 12 big strikes in the US in 2015. French workers are in struggle against the amendment to the existing law increasing working hours. Workers of all sectors including transport and energy were on roll on strike since May 17. Massive demonstrations and rallies are being held since March 31. A record breaking mobilisation of 13 lakhs was held in Paris on June 14. After ‘Brexit’ many have started talking of ‘end of globalisation’. The anti-US imperialist and democratic governments in Latin America have suffered setbacks during the recent period. The intervention of pro-US forces funded and directed by US agencies have increased in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and other countries. Dilma Rousseff was deposed in Brazil by a ‘coup’ through its parliament, by such forces. The happenings in Latin America show the working people all over the world that there is no mid path for social systems. With finance capital on the prowl and mass media under corporate control, people have to be organised under strong political organisations with proper programmes to safeguard their interests. Padmanabhan said that the Indian working class and other sections of toiling people have to keep these developments in mind when they prepare to intensify the struggle against the neoliberal policies. The experience of the past 25 years has shown that the struggle must aim to reverse these policies and for alternate policies. This can be successful only by strengthening unity of the people overcoming the influence of forces that seek to perpetuate divisions on the basis of religion, caste, region etc. The working class must take the lead in fighting against social oppression, attacks on women and children, on the socially oppressed sections etc, which have seen a rise. Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU placed the report which dealt with the political and economic situation in the country and the activities of the organisation after the meeting of the general council in December 2015. Referring to the decision of the Ranchi general council meeting of CITU, the general secretary’s report self critically noted that the efforts to strengthen the Left in the elections to the five state assemblies held in April – May could not be successful, except in Kerala. In Kerala, because of the sustained struggles of various sections of the working class led by CITU, which helped in exposing the anti-worker and anti-people character of the policies of the UDF government in the state, people voted for the victory of the LDF. The Left parties won in most of the working class areas including in the areas of plantation workers, traditional sector workers like cashew, coir, fisheries etc. But in West Bengal, the Left suffered serious setback, with the Trinamool Congress retaining power with increased seats. In Tamil Nadu and Assam too, Left drew a blank. The report noted the weakness of CITU in inculcating political consciousness among the mass of its members. The call of the 14th conference of CITU, to ‘reach the unreached to intensify struggles while exposing policies as well as the politics of such policy regime’ could not be effectively put into practice. The necessary organisational and educational initiatives have to be taken to achieve this objective, the report emphasised. The general secretary’s report saluted all the cadre and supporters of CITU and the Left parties who were bravely resisting the attacks unleashed by the TMC goons with a patronising administration in West Bengal. These attacks have further intensified after the declaration of the results. The report called upon all the state committees and affiliated unions to make the entire working class of the country aware of the character of these attacks in West Bengal, meant to weaken the Left in the country, which was the only force fighting consistently against the neoliberal agenda. It called upon the entire working class to stand in solidarity with its fighting comrades of West Bengal. In Kerala, the RSS was trying to create a situation of conflicts and tensions by attacking the Left. Left processions are being attacked in a conspiracy to defame the LDF and cultivate and increase the influence of RSS in the Kerala society. This has to be fought organisationally, politically and ideologically. The report questioned the claims of overall development by the government and affirmed that nothing has improved for the mass of the working people. There was decline or stagnation in all sectors of production and slow down of service sector; even the corporate media had to acknowledge the horrible state of affairs in employment generation. The all-round decline in employment and in real wages along with continuing price rise has made lives of people miserable. Despite the low and falling price of crude oil in the international market, the government has hiked fuel prices four times in the last six weeks till June 2016. While the oil companies pay around Rs 26 per litre of petrol, people are forced to shell out almost three times that amount. All the liberal concessions showered on the corporate big business lobby, both domestic and foreign, could not attract employment generating investment. The government is determined to open our economy further to FDI despite the fact that whatever FDI has come into the country till now had not contributed much to either employment generation or added value to the domestic economy. The devastating impact of these policies is evident in steel, aluminium, engineering and large segments of manufacturing sector, particularly on the small and medium scale industries, which are closing down in large numbers. Liberalising FDI norms in the railways, defence, pharmaceuticals, civil aviation, food processing and retail trade is bound to have adverse impact on self reliance in our economy and the livelihood of crores of our people. The BJP government has demonstrated its commitment to private corporate sector by its drive for privatisation of the most successful public sector companies and strategic infrastructure. It has resumed the former NDA government’s decision of strategic sale of the public sector companies. Our major ports are being sought to be converted into corporate companies with the objective of privatising them; the related bill is already ready with the government. This anti-national character of the policies being pursued by the BJP government, which brands all those who oppose their policies as anti-national, must be understood and exposed. The report also noted the machinations of the RSS and its affiliates to escalate the communal conflicts and tensions in various parts of the country aimed at communal polarisation and electoral benefit of the BJP. This is also meant to weaken the struggles against the BJP government’s neoliberal agenda thereby serving the interests of their corporate bosses. The BJP government and its machinery are directly patronising the criminal and terrorist activities of the Hindutva outfits and paving the way for sabotaging investigations. This is seriously compromising India’s fight against terrorism. Attempts are made to subjugate all sections of society to the hegemony of these ‘Hindutva’ forces. Ministers, MPs and MLAs who have taken oath in the name of the constitution are making provocative statements which have fomented riots or riot like situation in different parts of the country. This is nothing but conscious attempts by the RSS to force its ‘Hindutva’, ‘Brahmanical’ agenda on the entire people of the country and a direct affront on the constitution. Asserting that it is only the working class movement that can and should shoulder the responsibility of exposing these enemies of humanity, the report called upon all CITU cadres to make the entire working class aware of the need to trounce the attempts of these right wing forces and strengthen working class unity. It emphasised the need to draw a road map of activities for simultaneous struggle against the neoliberal policies and the communal divisive forces. The general secretary’s report strongly criticised the government’s persistence in amending the labour laws in favour of the employers. The government seeks to ensure that 90 percent of the establishments in the country are exempted from inspection, through its decision of 10 percent randomised selection of establishments for inspection through its ‘Shram Suvidha Portal’ which could not capture even 20 percent industrial establishments till now. It is in this situation, where the government has apparently declared a war on the workers that the joint trade union movement decided for a country wide general strike on September 2 this year. The general secretary’s report called upon the CITU to devote its entire might to ensure that this strike becomes the biggest ever strike in the history of the working class movement of the country with the en masse participation of all sections of working class in the country. Extensive campaign must be conducted among all toiling people to ensure their widest support to the strike. The demands should be linked to the concrete sector specific issues of the working class in different sectors exposing the government’s anti-worker policies. Alternative to these policies have to be popularised. Strike preparations must focus on sectors like transport, industrial clusters, and scheme workers etc to have a serious impact on the economy and make the strike highly visible. As a prelude to the strike, it is necessary to ensure massive participation in the mass rallies and satyagraha on August 9, the Quit India Day. The report highlighted the importance of bringing out campaign material in the form of leaflets, pamphlets and booklets etc in lakhs in each state to educate the cadres and workers on the demands raised. This was highly essential to dispel any attempts to create confusion among the workers by the government. BMS which has now abandoned the joint movement claiming that the government was displaying a ‘positive approach’ towards the demands is most likely to join the government to spread confusion. The working class must be prepared to resist any attempts to disrupt their unity and break the strike. The grass root level unity of workers that could be developed to some extent during the last country wide general strike on September 2, 2015 should be further cemented and strengthened by taking joint campaign to the lowest possible level. All CITU committees up to the lowest level must be activated during this campaign. Though the situation is challenging, it is also pregnant with tremendous opportunities as dissatisfaction is growing among all sections of toiling people and they are coming into struggles. Workers in several parts of the country are going on spontaneous struggles and strikes, even when they are not organised into any trade union. The campaign for September 2 strike should be utilised to channelise this discontent and anger into an effective united struggle against the anti-people and anti-national policies of the BJP led government, the report asserted. 42 members participated in the discussion and provided rich inputs while endorsing the report. The report was unanimously adopted after Tapan Sen summed up the discussions and replied to certain issues that were raised. The working committee of CITU welcomed the resolution of the national council of All India Kisan Sabha extending support to the September 2 strike and calling for an all India agrarian strike. It also adopted a resolution on ‘Worker Peasant Joint Actions’ placed by Deepak Dasgupta and seconded by Elamaram Kareem, both national office bearers of CITU. The resolution called upon all its units to organise joint meetings and other activities along with the AIKS and AIAWU in support of the demands of the peasantry and agricultural workers, particularly the demand for minimum wages for agricultural workers and adequate minimum support price for the farmers. It also called for joint actions in support of the September 2 country wide general strike. The working committee of CITU authorised the CITU centre to finalise the state wise delegation for the 15th conference of CITU, on the basis of the membership fees for 2015 received by the CITU centre before August 6, 2016. It was decided that the proportion of women in the delegation should be in accordance of the proportion of women members in the state and in any case not less than 20 percent. The working committee also decided that serving workers, the young, SC, ST and minorities should also be properly represented in the delegation. The convention of All India Coordination Committee of Working Women will be held on September 29-30 in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh. The working committee directed all the state committees of CITU to ensure that working women from different sectors participate in the convention. The CITU state president/ general secretary/office bearer in charge of working women also have to participate in the convention. In his concluding address, Padmanabhan thanked the reception committee, the Maharashtra state committee and Nasik district committees of CITU for the excellent arrangements made for the meeting. The volunteers, most of them young industrial workers, introduced by D L Karad were greeted with thunderous applause and slogans.