THE joint platform of central trade unions and independent sectoral federations (CTUs) has given a call for countrywide two days’ general strike against the anti-people, anti-worker and anti-national destructive policy regime of Modi government with a clarion call to “save the peopleand save the nation”.
WIDENING UNITED PLATFORM
This is going to be the 21st countrywide general strike against the retrograde neoliberal policy regime since its official advent in 1991. During the three-decades-long struggle, through every successive general strike, interspersed by numerous sectoral actions in both organised and unorganised sectors of industries and services; the united platform of trade unions got widened and strengthened finally bringing all major central trade unions in it, in 2009. Although, after BJP’s coming to power at the centre, BMS deserted the united platform in 2015, it made no impact. Rather, in various united sectoral platforms of struggle, like the defence sector, BMS unions continued to participate despite the pro-government role of their central leadership.
The process of widening the united platform displayed another important feature. It not only comprised the central trade unions, embraced almost all the independent all India federations and unions representing the workers in major service sector establishments like government employees, both states’ and centre, banks, insurance, telecom, defence etc. In this continuing process of widening of the united platform, also developed sectoral and workplace level united platforms of actions, increasingly drawing the workers and the unions beyond affiliations of its constituents including large segments of non-unionised workers of organised and unorganised sectors.
RAISING CONSCIOUSNESS & BROADENING MOVEMENT
Another issue needs to be consciously taken note of, particularly at the present historic juncture. The struggle against neoliberal policy regime through successive agitations, including strike actions; the workers' response and anger were more against the impact of those neoliberal policies on their lives and livelihood, rights and entitlements resulting in miseries; than against the very neoliberal policy regime and their political operators.
The three-decades-long consistent strike struggles both, sectoral and national level, besides numerous joint agitations, have not altogether gone in vain. Raising consciousness on the policies and their perpetrators in the polity is a continuous process. Working-class consistent interventions, in the background of aggravation of systemic crisis of capitalism and its grave impact on the lives and livelihoods of all toiling sections; has gradually paved the way for drawing other sections of society, raising their voice and coming forward in organized actions.
The beginning of the second decade of the century, in particular, started revealing these two distinct features more visibly. On the one hand, the systemic crisis of the neoliberal capitalist order started exposing the bankruptcy of the neoliberal policy regime; on the other hand, was the exposure of the aggressive and atrocious barbarism on the part of the capitalist class promoting and speeding up such process of mass-miseries. At the advent of BJP rule at the centre, particularly in its second term, such attacks and onslaughts on the people got heightened and reached their peak. The struggles against the impact of the neoliberal policy regime, involving the two main producing classes in the economy and its all-pervading impact on the people at large did start the process of exposing more convincingly the real face of the vicious policy regime and its political operators in the governance.
The country has witnessed the most atrocious process of an authoritarian onslaught on the lives and livelihoods of the people and also on their rights. The entire pandemic period has seen the inhuman and cruel face of the ruling policy regime. The pandemic miseries and helplessness of the people are being shamelessly utilised to push through, without any attempt to camouflage, the most vicious and destructive operations on the economic policy front, political governance and societal governance in a brazenly authoritarian manner. The retrograde farm laws were articulated to ruin peasant agriculture and establish absolute control of profit-hungry corporate class on the agricultural economy, further endangering the food security of already hunger-stricken people and the self-reliance.
Labour codes were articulated to impose conditions of slavery on the working class to satisfy the insatiable lust for the profit of the capitalist class through desperate minimisation of labour cost in the midst of continuing crisis and consistent and perpetual decline and destruction in the productive economy along with alarming joblessness, loss of earnings and alarming spread in extreme fragility of employment relations. In the continuing gloom in the economy, inflation pushing up the prices of essential commodities of daily survival including food items, fuel, electricity, medicine and other public utilities; in the background of sharp dwindling down of the average earning level of the common populace; the price rise of essentials is just not happening, it is being made to happen as an instrument of corporate/big business’ loot and extraction on the people at large. Unemployment has risen to an alarming level along with continuing job losses and degeneration of the quality of employment leading to large scale impoverishment, destitution and hunger. The budget of 2022-23 reveals the arrogant continuance of the same perpetual destructive exercise.
The privatisation of PSUs always remained an integral part of the entire neoliberal process. In the process of last three long decades’ pursuit of the same policy through multi-pronged routes, finally now attained an almost new crony format through national monetisation pipeline project paving the way for handing over the public sector network, particularly those in the infrastructural sector to private corporates, both foreign and domestic, virtually free, to allow them to mint revenue without making any investment.
WIDENING INEQUALITY & MISERIES OF THE PEOPLE
And in that process, India’s rank in “ease of doing business” (read looting the people and country’s asset) index steeply rose to a higher level as a result of India’s going steeply down in the index on hunger and degeneration in the quality of life of the common people. India has become the home of the worst ever obscene income inequality, impermissible in any civilized society.
To quote the figures from various authentic survey reports, “The top 1 per cent in India owns more than one-third of wealth while the poorest half of the population own less than 6 per cent. By 2020, the income share of the top 10 per cent in the country reached 57 per cent, while that of the bottom half of the population has fallen to only 13 per cent. The top 1 per cent alone grabbed 22 per cent of national income.”
During the year, India recorded negative growth in GDP meaning, thereby, an absolute decline in value (wealth) generation in the economy and a handful of top billionaires from the corporate class could increase their wealth by more than 40 per cent on the average, and a sizable number of them could manage an eight to ten-fold increase in their fortune. This meteoric increase in their wealth did come without any value creation just by looting the people and national exchequer and assets through the schemes of governance articulated by the government itself. Cronyism is being promoted to a level of limitless plunder of the nation and the people in perpetuity under Modi rule.
SURGING, WIDENING & DECENTRALISATION OF STRUGGLES
But that is not all. The period also witnessed surging struggles of all sections of toiling people heightened to a new dimension. This period witnessed the 20th countrywide general strike by the working class, the biggest ever since 1991, on November 26, 2020, despite, and in the midst of worst-ever Covid pandemic and associated lockdown from end-March 2020, completely paralysing mobility throughout the country and prohibiting all kinds of movement, gathering, mobilisation and collective activities for months together.
The countrywide strike took place innovatively defying all such prohibitions and hurdles with decentralised initiatives in tens of thousands of workplaces and industrial centres among the grass-root level workers both in organised and unorganised sectors, demonstrating a different level of involvement and commitment to meet the challenge of the time reflecting a different level of spirit and consciousness.
And, from the day of the general strike, the historic year-long all united farmers’ struggle started surrounding the national capital against the retrograde farm laws. This struggle also witnessed continuity of the same spirit as well as decentralised initiatives through active physical solidarity actions by the working class, by all trade unions irrespective of affiliations, not merely around the national capital but throughout the length and breadth of the country, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
The countrywide active solidarity actions by the joint platform of trade unions did ultimately develop a solid bridge of its unity with SKM; with both the united platforms extending wholehearted mutual support and their demands; and which finally focused on a determined opposition to the barbarous regime of corporate-loot on the people in entirety. The unity of the working class and peasantry, in the process of actions and solidarity, has reached a new dimension - the struggles against the impact of the retrograde policy regime signaling the long-cherished prospect of gradual transcending into the struggle against the policy regime itself; and its political operators in governance.
CULMINATION OF UNITED STRUGGLE
Thus, the active support of the working class and the peasantry on respective demands is having a common point of culmination. Confronting the onslaught of big-corporate-led governance, both have identified the common enemy. This is the launching pad of the forthcoming phase of the united action of the working class - the countrywide general strike of March 28-29, 2022, against the anti-worker, anti-people, anti-national destructive policy regime. That is why the battle cry is against the corporate plunder of the national assets and the peoples’ livelihood and rights. The battle cry is for “mission India” to “save the people and save the nation”, with a political focus of the strike action by the working class, not merely to defend the rights and livelihoods, but also to save the nation against the process of perpetual onslaughts and destruction.
Let us carry the forthcoming general strike of March 28-29, 2022, to a qualitatively new height to challenge the authoritarian and destructive regime itself - marching with determination towards transcending into a higher level of consciousness to defy, combat and decisively defeat the politics of neoliberalism.