March 12, 2023

Intensify Worker-Peasant Struggles

Vijoo Krishnan

THE ever deepening systemic crisis of capitalism, the unprecedented pandemic, imminence of the second global recession in a decade (a phenomena not witnessed in the last eight decades) have all exposed the fact that under the neoliberal paradigm we are seeing a fast paced regression into barbarism. The utter insensitivity of the ruling classes to the increasing inequality, unemployment, poverty, hunger and disease faced by the vast majority and unbridled drive to maximise profits of a minuscule section of corporate cronies even during the devastating pandemic is a case in point.

Globally the richest one per cent of the world have accumulated nearly twice as much wealth as the rest of the 99 per cent of world’s population put together over the last two pandemic years. In India we have seen cronies of the BJP government amassing wealth even as the masses were reeling under indebtedness, poverty, unemployment and hunger. More than 40 per cent of India’s wealth is owned by 1 per cent of its population. The total number of billionaires in India increased from 102 in 2021 to 166 in 2022. In stark contrast nearly 23 crore people – the highest in the world – live in poverty. The worst manifestations of the regression into barbarism were the mass exodus of migrant workers during lockdown, floating dead-bodies on the Ganga due to absence of oxygen and bare minimum health facilities even as the corporate communal regime accumulated crores in the name of PM-CARES and their cronies accumulated wealth by loot of national resources, take-over of public sector undertakings and so on. The last eight years of Narendra Modi led BJP government have also witnessed an unprecedented number of distress suicides by the peasantry, agricultural workers, daily wage workers and unemployed youth, a staggering number of more than 4 lakh. Agrarian crisis has intensified leading to pauperisation, dispossession and precarious situation for the peasantry. In order to divert attention from this dismal situation they have resorted to communal polarisation, attacks on minorities and the oppressed, the latest being the burning alive of Junaid and Nasir in the name of gauraksha. Militant struggles have been built across the globe by the working class and the peasantry building resistance to neoliberal policies. India has also witnessed massive struggles over the last eight years and even achieved historic victories that have forced the authoritarian regime to retreat.

The All India Kisan Sabha has launched independent struggles and expanded its reach to newer regions over the last eight years. The Kisan Sangharsh Jatha and the Kisan Sangharsh Rally organised independently by the AIKS in November 2016 was the first all India protest against the Narendra Modi led BJP government’s disastrous demonetisation decision. Struggles of the peasantry in Rajasthan and the Kisan Long March from Nashik to Mumbai could defeat ruling BJP governments and force them to accept demands, thereby giving a clear message that the BJP government was not invincible. These struggles caught the imagination of people and generated confidence. AIKS also took initiative to build issue-based unity and launch joint struggles. The Bhumi Adhikar Andolan and relentless struggles were one of the main factors that forced the Narendra Modi led BJP government to withdraw the draconian Land Acquisition Ordinance. This was the first defeat handed over to the authoritarian corporate communal government by united movement. The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee an issue-based unity of over 250 farmers’ organisations with AIKS playing a significant role could also build up massive mobilisations around the issue of remunerative prices and freedom from indebtedness. The central trade unions coming together and launching coordinated struggles under their leadership has been a pioneer in this regard. Agricultural labour unions have also jointly had struggles with AIAWU playing a lead role.

A conscious initiative was made to build united struggles of the working class and peasantry to combat and resist the corporate-communal government and the neoliberal policies. Over a decade of continuous engagement, collective decision making and coordinated united action, a rock-solid unity of the class fronts representing the three producing classes, the CITU, the AIKS and the AIAWU has been achieved. United class action transformed from mere statements of solidarity or token support into active participation in struggles built up independently by each of these organisations.

In 2018 when the corporate media was busy writing epitaphs for the red flag, the most militant struggles were led by CITU, AIKS and AIAWU. After an intensive joint campaign on Quit India Day on August 9, a massive joint action of civil disobedience and courting arrest – jail bharo was held in which over half a million participated across the country. This was followed up in quick succession by the first ever joint mobilisation of the three organisations in front of the parliament. It was on September 5, 2018 that the Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh rally was held upholding the fundamental guiding principle of worker-peasant unity. A feature of the recent general strikes by the working class has been a simultaneous call for Grameen Bharat hartal by the peasantry and agricultural workers on the same day. These incessant struggles had built an atmosphere against the authoritarian corporate-communal Narendra Modi led BJP government. During the pandemic and the lockdown when the whole world was still grappling with the disease and an all pervading sense of fear was prevalent, at the initiative of the working class the three organisations within a month of the lockdown came forward for united struggle demanding income support, food security, employment under MGNREGA, unemployment wages, universal health facilities and social security.

The BJP government however retaliated through an attack on the peasantry and the working class while giving humongous concessions to the corporate cronies. The three pro-corporate farm laws aimed at handing over Indian agriculture to the corporates and four labour codes snatching the hard-won rights of the working class, all aimed at maximisation of profits and unbridled loot were brought in the most undemocratic manner. It hit at the very federal structure of the constitution. The move was resisted with all the might of the peasants and workers. The central trade unions called for a general strike on November 26, 2020 while the issue-based unity of the peasantry, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha called for Grameen Bharat hartal and Delhi Chalo from states neighbouring the national capital. It was a 380 day long resolute struggle with the active support and participation of the working class and the agricultural workers, with the martyrdom of nearly 750 farmers that the BJP government was forced to apologise and withdraw the farm acts. It has also failed to implement the labour codes in the wake of resistance. The coordination between the Samyukta Kisan Morcha and the central trade unions and unity in action was a major factor for the victory achieved. It is notable that withdrawal of the Electricity Act Amendments was a demand also of the SKM struggle and was also an issue of the working class. The support of the peasantry to the struggle of the workers of Vishakapatnam against privatisation of Vizag Steel Plant is also notable. Yet another defeat was handed over to the ruling classes when the electricity workers in Maharashtra defeated attempts to privatise power distribution firms and hand them over to the Adanis. 

On September 5, 2022 at a massive Mazdoor Kisan Mahadhiveshan at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi it was decided that on April 5, 2023 a Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally emphasising the protection of the hard-won rights of the peasantry and the working class will be held. The specific thrust is against the neoliberal economic policies and the corporate-communal, authoritarian BJP government. The year 2023 being a crucial year, this rally is envisaged as the beginning of incessant protest actions seeking to continuously put the class issues on the agenda of the nation and also create an atmosphere for a pro-people alternative. Mobilisation of lakhs to make it one of the biggest ever actions of workers and peasants is planned. Amplifying the message of the struggle to reach out to the masses in the nook and corners of our country, to mobilise workers and peasants as well as all sections of toiling masses and well-wishers by reaching the unreached and maximum houses, an intensive campaign is going on jointly.

The Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Rally on April 5 will raise the burning issues of the peasantry and the working class like legal guarantee of minimum support prices at C2+50 per cent, monthly minimum wage of at least Rs 26,000, 200 days of work and wages not less than Rs 600 per day under MGNREGA, food security, withdrawal of Electricity Act Amendments, social security pensions, food security etc. It will be a clarion call against the Hindutva fascist forces in defence of the democratic rights of the people and federal rights of states. It will be a resolute political ideological counter to the neoliberal corporate-communal regime and a united move to advance towards an alternative. This will act as the fulcrum for building broadest unity around a people’s alternative and hand over a decisive defeat to the enemies of the people.