Towards the CITU 15th All India Conference: Unify the Class: Intensify the Struggle
A K Padmanabhan
THOUSANDS of Red flags of CITU were hoisted at union offices, work places and residential area on November 7, the day that marks the beginning of the centenary of the Great October Revolution. CITU secretariat had called upon all the affiliated unions, to observe this day as the Flag Day of the 15th All India Conference of CITU. This conference is to be held in Puri, Odisha from November 26-30.
The organisational preparations for the all India conference had begun with the district conferences and then to state conferences. While it was decided earlier that West Bengal and Tripura conferences will be held after the all India conference, only Jammu-Kashmir state conference had to be postponed after fixing the dates. The reason for this is obvious, given the situation in Jammu-Kashmir.
During the 44 months after the 14th conference at Kannur, Kerala in April 2013, there have been very important developments in political, economic and social spheres. It can surely be said that all aspects of life of the citizens in the country have been seriously affected.
The general elections in 2014 have resulted in the formation of a government at the centre which is controlled and guided by the RSS. It is a combination of the pro-corporate neo-liberal economic policies and the divisive Hindutva agenda that is being implemented in the country.
The trade unions in the country have been in the forefront of struggles against the economic policies being implemented in the country during the 25 years of neo-liberalism. CITU with a clear-cut class orientation has been taking a leading role in these struggles. It was with such a perspective, CITU took lead along with those organisations which were prepared to fight against these policies, to organise the first All India General Strike on November 23, 1991. By 2009, this joint action developed into a united platform of all the eleven central trade unions and various independent national federations, representing almost all sections of employees and workers.
The 14th conference in Kannur had called upon the CITU unions to reach out to all the unreached workers – those who have been unionised by the CITU and also others and the vast sections who are still not unionised.
After the Kannur Conference, CITU committees and unions had taken up the issues confronting the workers conducting intensive independent campaigns and struggles. At the same time, CITU had the clear vision that the unity developed during the past struggles had to be carried forward.
This understanding is based on the necessity of unifying the working people which should develop into class oriented unity of the working class. The unity developed from 2009 was based on an agreed charter of demands. These demands were not those confined to that of the workers alone. The demands in the charter were demands of all sections of people.
This charter based unity has to be developed into class unity and for this CITU has stressed on the necessity of developing unity at the grass root level – unity at the work places and in residential areas where CITU cadres and activists should be able to discuss with the workers on our issues and its relations to the policies of the government. This should lead to more intensive struggles.
CITU’S stress is on linking the issues of the workers to the policies of the government and these policies to the politics of the ruling class. It is only by doing this that the call of the Kannur Conference of “intensifying the class struggle to change the policies” can be put in practice.
With the Modi government at the centre, the situation has become more critical. The government in the name of speeding up reforms has let loose an offensive against the working people. The overall impacts of the government’s policies on the lives of all sections of the working people including peasants and agricultural workers have been disastrous.
It is this situation that forced the trade unions to go for the 16th General strike after 1991, within 15 months of the government coming to power. And again the next strike had to be called on the same date this year – September 2, 2016.
The strike on September 2, 2015 saw the participation of 15 crores of workers. About 40 percent of those who participated in the strike were non unionised workers. This was made possible by the united campaign undertaken by the unions – the effort to reach the unreached. This year’s strike, we know, had the participation of more workers and employees.
These two strikes could be made successful despite the withdrawal of BMS at the last minute in 2015, on the plea of giving more time to the government to implement its ‘assurances’! But, even BMS, though without joining others, had to announce a namesake decision for strike and enact a drama of withdrawal. This drama was enacted with the active connivance of the government, which held discussions with the BMS and declared that the demands of workers have been accepted. BMS had, as we all know, given a ridiculous call of ‘victory celebrations’ on the eve of the strike day.
It was again proved that this ‘acceptance’ of demands was only a farce. Those statements were only aimed at disrupting the strike by confusing the workers. It is in such a background, more workers and employees had participated in the strike, defeating all efforts of disruptions by BMS and the government.
CITU’s understanding is that the unity attained during the past years has to be strengthened and carried forward. The effort should be to build up and strengthen unity at the lower level, with joint campaigns and struggles planned and implemented at the national, regional and sector levels.
The government being determined to go ahead with their so-called labour reforms, with the declared objective of ensuring ‘ease of doing business’, more and more workers will be forced to come out on struggle. The decision to go for strategic sale of important public sector undertakings, the refusal to fix the minimum wages on the basis of the 15th Indian Labour Conference and the related judgment of the Supreme Court; the amendments to the labour laws; dismantling of the enforcement wings of the labour department; denial of trade union and democratic rights and negation of the basic demands of the scheme workers, anti worker amendments to social security schemes including EPF and ESI, etc has resulted in deep resentment and anger among the workers. Shooting up of prices of essential commodities, and severe reduction in job opportunities are already creating havoc in the lives of the poor. The rural masses – peasants, agricultural workers and other sections of rural workers are facing severe problems.
All these require more united movements demanding implementation of alternative policies, ensuring at least minimum guarantees to the working people. This requires unity of all sections of working people.
It is this unity that is being disrupted by the communal forces in the country. The RSS and its ‘parivar’, with the help of the government at the centre and many of the state governments are on an offensive against this unity. The developments in J&K and the cross-border attacks from Pakistan are dangerously being used to further divide the people on communal lines. Along with this are the jingoist slogans and war mongering by these communal forces.
One other major issue that is of great importance today is that of the social oppression that the casteist and disruptive forces are unleashing against dalits and tribals. The attacks on women and children in the country have been on the upswing and not a day passes without such attacks being reported.
Trade unions and working class as a whole will be failing, if these issues of social oppressions are not taken up and fought back effectively.
The task for the CITU in the present situation is to see that the neo-liberal policy implementations are challenged effectively through the maximum mobilisation of all sections of toiling masses along with the projection of the alternative policy framework. Simultaneously the struggle against the communal forces of all hues has to be strengthened. On the issue of social oppression, there should be immediate interventions and workers mobilised for fighting shoulder-to- shoulder with the socially oppressed sections who are under attack. CITU is well aware that all these require an organisation much stronger, both in quantity and quality. The basic commitment of the organisation towards strengthening class struggle and upholding the ideal of socialism – the complete emancipation of the society from all exploitation – has to be taken to all its members.
The conference being held in the Centenary Year of Great October Revolution will further strengthen the impetus to march towards our goal. Keeping these difficult tasks in mind and the challenges that are there, we should redouble our efforts to strengthen the working class unity and intensify our struggles.