THE first meeting of CITU general council concluded with a clarion call to the working class of India to get ready for the two days’ country wide general strike called by the joint platform of trade unions from the national convention held in the national capital Delhi on November 11, 2021. The national convention decided that the general strike will be held during the budget session of parliament. The exact dates will be announced soon.
The CITU general council, which was originally scheduled to be held in Kolkata from May 30, 2020, had to be deferred due to the countrywide lockdown. It now met in Hyderabad on November 16-18, 2021.
345 members including 35 office bearers from 21 states attended the meeting. 48 of them were women. In addition, seven invitees and representatives of fraternal federations participated.
The meeting began with the hoisting of CITU flag by its president, Hemalata. The brief inaugural session started with C Ramulu, Telangana state president of CITU and also of the reception committee, welcoming the gathering. Prof Nageshwar, chairman of the reception committee and Tapan Sen, CITU general secretary addressed the gathering. A resolution in solidarity with the ongoing peasants’ struggle placed by JS Majumdar, CITU vice president was unanimously passed. ML Malkotia, CITU treasurer placed the resolution on condolence and homage to martyrs.
In her presidential address Hemalata noted that Covid pandemic and the associated lockdowns and restrictions wreaked havoc with the lives and livelihoods of the workers and toiling people across the world. In addition to loss of lives, crores of jobs were lost. The pandemic has exposed the failure of neoliberalism. It has also exposed the inadequacy of the capitalist system in meeting the basic needs of the people. The total number of Covid 19 cases and deaths was highest in the USA, the richest and the most powerful country in the world, where health care is insurance based and dependent on private health care providers. Similarly, many advanced capitalist countries in Europe, which have dismantled their once efficient public health systems failed to effectively contain the disease and save lives.
The pandemic also highlighted the contrast between the profit driven capitalist system and the socialist system where people’s welfare is the priority. Socialist China, where the new virus was first detected took fast and effective measures to contain the disease. Socialist Cuba not only successfully contained the disease in the first wave but also sent its medical teams to different countries including to advanced capitalist countries like Italy.
The rich capitalist countries are hoarding vaccines but are not ready to supply vaccines to the poor countries. Vaccine production is in the hands of big multinational companies
The ruling classes used the pandemic to impose further burdens on the working class and toiling people and come out of the economic crisis protecting their profits and amassing more wealth. Employers across the world resorted to retrenchments, non payment of wages, wage cuts, curtailment of pensions and other social security benefits, increase in working hours, amendments to labour laws to deprive workers of their hard won rights to organisation and collective actions.
Across the world the working class and toiling people are strongly resisting these attacks. Despite the restrictions, thousands of workers and toiling people joined the huge struggles that took place during this period – in the USA, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia etc. More than 1000 strikes took place in the USA, particularly in October 2021, with the month being termed ‘Strikectober’ by the media in the country. Workers from all sectors including companies like Amazon participated in the struggles
What is significant is that in many countries, workers and toiling people are not only raising their immediate demands but are also linking them to the neoliberal policies being implemented by their respective governments. These struggles have led to political changes in many countries. For the first time in many decades, all Scandinavian countries have elected centre left governments. Donald Trump has been defeated and many Democratic Socialists of America have been elected to the Congress, Senate and state legislatures in the USA. Left and progressive parties have won in several Latin American countries. Research agencies like Pew and Gallup have concluded that socialism as an ideology is slowly gaining acceptance even in the imperialist centre, the USA, particularly among the youth.
Ruling classes in our country too followed the same path of utilising the pandemic to fast track neoliberalism. The Modi led BJP government totally neglected to protect the lives of the people. Instead, it has been violating parliamentary norms, suppressing constitutional, democratic and human rights and resorting to centralisation of power and authoritarianism to push its neoliberal policies.
The working class, peasantry and many sections of toiling people are increasingly coming out into struggles in our country too. The historic farmers’ struggle, the November 26, 2020 joint countrywide general strike, the growing solidarity between the workers and peasants and the synchronisation of their united struggles are all very significant features. This unity needs to be strengthened and taken up to the grassroots level.
Tapan Sen placed the general secretary’s report in two parts. The first part dealt with the present economic and political situation and the impact on the workers and other sections of toiling people. The second part placed separately comprised the midterm review of the implementation of the direction and decisions of the 16th conference of CITU, organisation and the tasks to be taken up by this general council meeting.
The report said that three significant developments of this period were - Covid pandemic, the Modi government’s mounting attacks on the people taking advantage of the pandemic and the joint working class struggles, the historic farmers’ struggle and the growing unity between these two streams of joint struggles. Almost all CITU committees made commendable efforts to provide relief to the workers and people affected by Covid 19 and the lockdowns. CITU was the first to bring people into action despite the lockdown, initially calling upon them to raise their demands from their roof tops and balconies etc, then to step out to step up struggle. These efforts led to many joint actions and the November 26, 2020 general strike.
The major salient features of the ‘new situation’ in India are huge loss of employment, cutting down of welfare expenditure by the government, decimation of legal protection to the workers through a spate of notifications and ordinances curtailing the rights of workers by several state governments, not only ruled by BJP but also Congress, BJD, soon after the announcement of lockdown etc.
It was only the LDF government in Kerala that categorically announced that they would not make any anti-worker amendments to labour laws. It has been trying to implement alternative policies despite the constraints and limited resources. It has been providing free food kits, cash transfer to the needy. It has taken utmost care of the migrant workers, whom it calls ‘guest workers’, providing them with accommodation, food etc. Most importantly it has been strongly opposing privatisation.
The pro corporate class character of the BJP government has been exposed during this period. It has used the lockdown to push neoliberal agenda – the three farm laws, three labour codes, and amendment to General Insurance Act, Essential Defence Services Act, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Act have been passed during this period. The decisions to privatise two public sector banks, IPO in LIC, National Monetisation Pipeline, to amend PFRDA Act to take NPS Fund management out of supervision and regulatory control of PFRDA by forming a separate corporation or entity etc were announced. Air India was handed over to Tata at throwaway price. The government is using authoritarian and autocratic measures with blatant misuse of State machinery to suppress all dissent and opposition.
The class character of different political parties also became evident. Except the Left parties, no other party, neither the Congress which initiated neoliberal policies nor most of the regional parties which implement the same policies when in power in the states – opposed these policies of the BJP government. The project of labour law reforms aimed at eliminating labour rights was strongly opposed only the Left parties. The others either remained lukewarm and indifferent or endorsed this. It is only under the pressure of surging struggles that several non Left opposition parties had to at least formally oppose these policies. This experience points to the determinant role of class and mass struggles in changing the correlation of forces in favour of the people.
CITU has formulated a strategy of three pronged programmes – of independent campaigns and struggles, of joint activities with AIKS and AIAWU and joint activities from the joint trade union platform – to sustain and expand our activities during this period. This has been found to be effective in continuously raising the demands of the working class and toiling people throughout this period
The working class and toiling people conducted many struggles during this period at the national, state and sectoral levels.Bank, insurance, state and central government employees, defence production and telecom employees,medical and sales representatives, coal workers, steel workers, transport workers, scheme workers particularly ASHAs and anganwadi employees, workers in private industries in many states, participated in many agitations and struggles on their demands.
The general secretary’s report outlined the importance of and challenges in sustaining the joint trade union movement and emphasised the role of independent campaigns and struggles by CITU in ensuring that united struggles are taken to new heights. In this connection CITU’s slogans of ‘Reach the Unreached’ and ‘Link up issues with policies and expose politics that determine the policies’ assumes significance. It is with this approach that full steamed preparations must be made to ensure that the two days’ countrywide general strike during the budget session, is massive and unprecedented.
Another very important event of this period is the historic peasants’ struggle under the leadership of SKM challenging the might of the BJP government, the RSS and its various outfits. The struggle has inspired the entire working class and toiling people. CITU and the joint platform of trade unions have been actively supporting the peasants’ struggle on their demands from the beginning. The working class has played an important role in mobilising support to their demands and actions in the urban areas. The working class and peasants’ movements have been synchronising their actions leading to a situation of growing unity among these two basic classes producing the wealth of our country. This needs to be continued, strengthened and expanded up to the grassroots level. CITU state committees should take more initiative to ensure joint meetings with AIKS and AIAWU leadership at state, district and lower levels. Efforts should be made to jointly raise local issues of the workers, peasants and agricultural workers to develop class unity of the three basic classes of our society. It is only by developing such unity on the burning issues of the people that the communal divisive forces can be exposed and defeated.
The part on organisation noted that despite the many struggles and actions led by CITU these are not reflected in its membership. Attention has to be paid to convert our growing influence into organisational strength. The decision to form village/ block/ mohalla level coordination committees of CITU unions should be urgently implemented to enable better coordination among our cadres at the grassroots level and expansion of our activities. More attention must be paid to expand our work in the organised sectors, particularly in the modern industries at the centre of capitalist production. The issues of migrant workers and unorganised sector workers, particularly minimum wages, job security, social security etc must be taken up.
On the work among working women, the general secretary’s report emphasised that CITU committees at different levels must ensure that the meetings of coordination committees of working women at that level take place before the meetings of the concerned CITU committees. The all India convention of working women has to be conducted in April 2022.
The midterm review noted that though many of the concrete decisions taken in the 16th conference could not be implemented because of the lockdown soon after the conference, the direction of the conference – to strengthen united struggles and take them to a higher level of defiance and resistance – was always kept in mind. It was the guiding force behind the initiatives taken during this period. Now that the situation has eased, we need to seriously take up with increased vigour the unimplemented tasks taken up in the 16th conference.
45 general council members participated in the discussion on the first part and 47 in the discussion on the second and endorsed the formulations made in the report. After the general secretary replied to the points raised, the report along with midterm review and the tasks was unanimously adopted by the general council.
The general council unanimously passed resolutions on price rise of petroleum products and LPG, on privatisation, on atrocities on women, dalits and minorities, on New Education Policy and expressing solidarity to the transport workers’ strike in Maharashtra.
Simultaneous translation was arranged in six languages – Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada
The major tasks adopted by the CITU general council are:
- Massive state level demonstrations/ rallies on November 26, 2021
- Extensive preparations for the two days’ countrywide general strike during the budget session in 2022
- Concrete plan to increase membership to reach the targets set by the 16th conference
- Form coordination committees of CITU unions at village/ block/ mohalla levels
- Prioritising certain sectors like – railway contract workers, IT/ITES/ e-seva employees, gig workers, employees in schemes related to the health sector in addition to ASHAs, MGNREGA workers, rural non agricultural workers etc. Make efforts to develop national coordination among CITU unions in textile, security guards, railway contract workers
- Develop ideologically conscious, committed cadres
The general council meeting of CITU was preceded by a meeting of the general council tier of All India Coordination Committee of Working Women (CITU) onNovember 15. 41 women from 11 states attended the meeting presided by Mercy Kutty Amma, vice president of CITU. Hemalata, president, Tapan Sen, general secretary, ML Malkotia, treasurer, Swadesh Dev Roye and R Karumalaiyan, both national secretaries of CITU also participated. AR Sindhu, convenor of AICCWW and national secretary of CITU placed the report, which was adopted after discussion. The report made recommendations to the general council on work among working women. Intervening in the discussion Tapan Sen emphasised that women in decision making bodies of CITU have to assert to ensure that the decisions taken by CITU on its work among working women are effectively implemented. Hemalata made concluding remarks.