January 29, 2023
Seventeenth Conference of CITU: Unite and Fight for Pro-People Policies


THE 17th Conference of CITU that concluded on January 22, 2023 called upon the working class to get ready to combat and defeat attacks of neoliberalism and communal divisive forces, both being aggressively promoted by the Modi led BJP government. It exhorted the working class to uphold its unity and strengthen united struggles to achieve change in the policies in favour of the working class and all sections of the toiling masses.

The inaugural session was marked by welcome songs by Chintan Vikas, Janni and AIIEA troupe; the welcome address by the honorary president of the reception committee, introductory remarks by Tapan Sen, general secretary of CITU. Leaders of central trade unions from INTUC, AITUC, HMS, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC greeted the conference in the inaugural session. They underlined the need for united movements to rebuff the ruling class attacks on working class.  

Hemalata delivered the presidential address in the delegates’ session. The address emphasised the need to objectively analyse the struggles and experiences since the last conference of CITU in the context of the struggles and experiences of the working class globally. These indicate not only the failure of neoliberalism but also the bankruptcy of the capitalist system in resolving the present crisis without imposing more burdens on the working class and toiling people, and looting the natural resources and grabbing public wealth. Increased exploitation and expropriation is their only answer to the present systemic crisis of capitalism. Not only the economic crisis, there is an ecological crisis as well and the capitalist system is ineffective in resolving the contradiction between the capitalist path of development and the nature.

The increasing struggles and strikes of the working class across the world shows the increasing discontent against the impact of the present policies. The ruling classes are trying to divert this discontent and prevent this being utilised by the Left and progressive forces, by promoting right wing forces. This is seen in various countries in Europe, USA and other countries including ours. But where these struggles are led with a clear political ideological perspective for an alternative policy trajectory, the Left and progressive forces are gaining and also coming to power, as is seen in several countries in Latin America. However, even in these countries, the right wing is aggressively trying to subvert people’s mandate and is attacking democratically elected progressive governments as in Peru, Brazil, Bolivia etc. In some of these countries like Peru, the working class is fighting the right wing forces and for the restoration of the democratically elected president, facing serious repression including physical attacks and killings.

This shows the necessity of a comprehensive struggle against neoliberalism along with the fight against right wing ideology. This needs to be kept in mind while analysing our experiences and chalking out strategy and future course of action to improve the conditions of workers in our country. While the analysis has to be based on the existing reality, the objective should be to change that reality. The present reality cannot be an excuse for neglecting class struggle and getting diverted from our basic objective of changing the present reality. Class struggle, not class collaboration, can alone change the reality and lead us in the direction of achieving the constitutional objective of the CITU.

Tapan Sen placed the general secretary’s report in two parts. The first part analysed the present economic, political and social situation in the country and the conditions of the working class and reviewed the activities of CITU in the intervening period since the 16th conference. He said that ‘the conference has to evaluate and deepen our understanding of the overall situation including the reflections of the systemic crisis of neoliberal order, both globally and nationally, on all aspects on the economy, on the lives, livelihood and rights of the people and its serious ramifications in politics and the society, the vicious onslaught on democracy and democratic rights of the people and aggressive authoritarianism in the governance of economy, political system and also governance of the society. We have to review our role, work, movement and organisation as well as steps to be undertaken on the premise of such comprehensive understandings’. Real wages were coming down. Inequalities have been rising to the levels of colonial era. It is a crisis ‘of’ capitalism, not just a crisis ‘in’ capitalism. The task before the working class is to convert this crisis into consciousness towards social change.

The Ukraine war was a classic example of the catastrophic thirst for hegemony of imperialism and the neoliberal global order dictated by international finance. In the midst of the systemic crisis, the war is aimed to establish hegemony and control over natural resources, through expansion of NATO. Inflation, stagnation and recession situation is sought to be created to address the crisis imposing huge burdens on the working class and toiling people.

The Modi led BJP government has become a junior strategic partner of US imperialism; is obediently following the dictates of internal finance, and aggressively implementing neoliberal policies even when neoliberalism is acknowledged to be a failure and is discredited across the world. The passage of labour codes, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Act, the National Monetisation Pipeline, the National Land Monetisation Project, the Free Trade Agreements, the farm laws which the government was forced to repeal due to the historic struggle of the peasants were all manifestations of this. Despite all the big claims of the BJP government, the country’s economy is in doldrums and these policies are leading to the loss of self reliance and sovereignty of our country and destruction of its manufacturing capabilities.

As a result of these policies, agriculture is in crisis; unemployment has been growing; working conditions are deteriorating; real wages are shrinking; share of wages has come down; poverty and hunger are on the rise; inequalities have reached to obscene levels. There is increasing discontent and anger against these policies. The historic coal workers’ struggle, the two general strikes in the intervening period, one for two days, the massive struggles of the anganwadi employees, ASHAs, midday meal workers and other scheme workers, the innumerable struggles including strikes by the industrial workers and unorganised sector workers, the joint farmers’ struggle led by the SKM etc show the extent of this anger and the determination of the workers to fight against these attacks on their livelihood and working conditions. But the government is using the entire State administration and machinery and all State institutions to suppress these struggles. It is attacking the basic democratic and constitutional rights of the people to suppress any opposition to its policies. Besides, the RSS is aggressively spreading communal poison to polarise society for the electoral benefit of the BJP and to serve its corporate masters. On the one hand the RSS is openly committed to manusmriti that ordains inferior status to dalits, women, adivasis etc and justifies their social oppression; on the other, it is trying to bring larger sections of dalits, adivasis and women into its fold by false propaganda and misleading campaigns. The working class is also influenced by this. We have to expose these divisive machinations of the RSS led Hindutva outfits and all other communal forces.

The huge solidarity and support extended by the working class to the farmers’ struggle and the many joint and synchronised actions taken up by the joint platform of trade unions and the SKM opened up the possibility of strengthening unity between these two basic producing sections of our society. This unity and united struggles should be further strengthened. The Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally on April 5, 2023 called by CITU, AIKS and AIAWU is aimed at this.

The general secretary’s report also highlighted the alternative to the neoliberal policies that is sought to be implemented by the LDF government in Kerala to protect the interests of the workers, common people and also its efforts to protect the public sector. That is the reason that the Modi led government, as well as the ruling classes are particularly targeting the LDF government in Kerala. It urged the working class to spread the message of this alternative and mobilise the working class of the entire country in support of the LDF government in Kerala.

Efforts were made in the second part of the general secretary’s report on organisation, to self critically and critically analyse the shortcomings and weaknesses at all levels. The weakness in organisationally consolidating the influence gained through sustained campaigns and struggles, by increasing membership, recruiting suitable cadres, in heightening the political ideological consciousness of its cadres and equipping them to effectively counter the onslaught of neoliberalism and communal divisive forces were particularly pointed out. The report presented concrete measures to overcome these.

98 delegates in total participated in the discussions on the general secretary’s report – 40 including 10 women on the first part and 58 including 6 women on the second. In addition, several delegates gave their suggestions in writing. The discussions reflected the confidence in united struggles gained through the experiences of the intervening period and the determination to strengthen united struggles against the neoliberal policies and the divisive machinations of the Modi led BJP government in power. Delegates from almost all the states and sectors participating in the discussion reported about their plans to strengthen the organisation by increasing membership and raising the political ideological level of their cadres.

The future tasks, movemental and organisational, were presented by the general secretary, in a separate session.

On January 19, the conference commemorated the memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives on this day in 1982, the first country wide general strike after independence called by the joint trade union movement. The demands of that general strike included the demands of the peasants and agricultural workers, who participated in large numbers in the strike and demonstrations. The ten martyrs who were killed in police firing on that day included peasants and agricultural workers. CITU, AIKS and AIAWU have been observing January 19 as worker peasant solidarity day. This year, the posters for the April 5,  2023 Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally, called by CITU, AIKS and AIAWU were jointly released by the leaders of the three organisations during the 17th conference of the CITU.

Pambis Kyritsis, general secretary of World Federation of Trade Unions also addressed the delegates' session.

The topics selected in this conference for commissions were – ‘Organising workers in modern manufacturing sector – importance and challenges’; ‘On the changing profile of employment relations’; ‘Internal migration of workers in India in the context of neoliberalism and Covid catastrophe’ and ‘Working class fight against communalism- need for counter offensive’.

While the commission on ‘Organising workers in modern manufacturing sector’ was held in the main hall of the conference, the others were held in halls named after P Ramamurthy, the founder general secretary, BT Ranadive, the founder president and MK Pandhe who held responsibilities as both general secretary and president of CITU. A Soundararajan, DL Karad, Elamaram Kareem and Subhas Mukherjee chaired the commissions respectively and KN Umesh, R Karumalaiyan, S Dev Roye and AR Sindhu presented the papers. Altogether 229 delegates participated in the discussions on these topics.

In addition to the leaders of the fraternal trade union organisations from AIIEA, BEFI, CCGE&W, AISGEF, BSNLEU, etc the conference was also greeted by Vijoo Krishnan, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, A Vijayaraghavan, president of All India Agricultural Workers’ Union, PK Sreemathy, president of All India Democratic Women’s Association, AA Rahim, president of Democratic Youth Federation of India and VP Sanu, president of Students’ Federation of India.

The conference unanimously passed ten resolutions: i) on April 5th Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally, ii) scrap the four labour codes, iii) defeat of the divisive machinations of the Hindutva communal forces, iv) defend the LDF government in Kerala, v) restore the Old Pension System, scrap NPS, strengthen EPS and universal pension, vi) deteriorating industrial safety, vii) united struggles for the right to work, viii) solidarity to the working class struggles all over the world, ix) violence against women and x) immediate measures to control price rise

The general secretary’s report, the treasurer’s report and the future tasks were unanimously adopted by the conference. The conference elected a new team of 39 office bearers with Hemalata as president, Tapan Sen as general secretary and  M Saibabu as treasurer. 9 out of the 39 office bearers are women, a small increase compared to the last conference. The conference acknowledged the contributions of JS Majumdar, ML Malkotia, MA Gaffoor, KK Divakaran and KO Habeeb, the office bearers who had to be relieved as office bearers in this conference, but will continue to work for CITU and the trade union movement in other capacities.

Hemalata made the concluding remarks and on behalf of the entire conference, thanked the Karnataka state committee of CITU and the reception committee for the excellent arrangements for the conference. She congratulated the working class of Karnataka for the generous contribution for the conference. Meenakshi Sundaram, general secretary of Karnataka state committee of CITU presented the vote of thanks.

The massive rally in the afternoon of January 22, at National College Grounds, the venue being named after Maruti Manpade, was presided by S Varalakshmi, president of Karnataka state committee of CITU. The rally was addressed by Tapan Sen, Meenakshi Sundaram and Hemalata. Mahantesh, secretary of Karnataka state committee of CITU gave the welcome address and BN Manjunath, secretary of the Karnataka state committee presented the vote of thanks. Attractive performances of drum beating, dance, kolata, music etc were performed, not only by progressive professional troupes but also by anganwadi employees and young students, many of whom are children of construction and domestic workers.