Indian Workers Speak for Themselves

Rajiv Nagar,
Lalan Kishor Singh

The following two articles were written by two rank-and-file workers in Nagpur, India and is being circulated as a leaflet among workers as a contribution to reviving the country’s labor movement. — Editors

Hindi translation here.

I. The Workers Themselves Have to Pull the Labor Movement Out of the Abyss
We will not give up; We will not keep quiet; We will keep on fighting till the final victory!

Comrades, Capital has gone out on a stubborn campaign in its expansion. Capital is focused on removing every obstacle in the way of its development. For this, one country even fights war against another country. Capital survives by sucking the blood of living labor, so it first attacks the working class. BSNL[1] and defense workers in India are examples of this. Living among laborers, when we listen to the workers, the despair among the workers is clearly visible. As they themselves speak, “the worker is dead”! There is no unity among the workers today. The workers are calling themselves dead, scattered and helpless. The bitterness in their words is clearly visible. There is a mess in the things because the workers movement is in the abyss today. A new beginning is necessary today, the wait must end because “I” can become “US,” “We” cannot be me. There is collectivity in “we” and “us.” A direct view of this was presented by the workers of America. During the Corona period in America, when the workers were left without jobs by the closure of their companies, the workers found new ways to live in the calamity period. They learned to live. Companies started opening when the Corona wave subsided. The workers were sent a call to return to work. Then “I” personally started to decide for myself that I will not go back to work. Gradually, I turned into We – We turned into US. Today in America, it has become a decision of ten million workers. The decision not to return to work became a collective decision. Clearly, the American working brothers and sisters have started the process of laying the foundation of the labor movement from the ditch itself. In India, workers of different companies are struggling with different demands. When the workers of BSNL struggled to save their jobs, the workers of the defense industry stood up against corporatization. With segmentation and different demands, the workers’ struggles remain fragmented. This is exactly what capital wants: that the workers movements remain fragmented and separated from each other so that it becomes easy to deal with these fragmented struggles! We think of state power and capital as separate, whereas in capitalist democracy, only the power of capital is the most effective “power.” That’s why the workers’ struggle has to develop into a united struggle against capital itself and not remain fragmented struggles against different units of capital! Political parties and their unions, on one hand, help the government to corporatize the Defense Industry as a first step towards privatization, and on the other hand, inspire the workers to agitate for government takeover of the State Transport Corporation of Maharashtra. To understand the character of political parties and the unions today, Hitler’s example might be appropriate. Hitler writes in My Struggle, “the working class should subdue every other movement under their own so that the labor movement may progress.” But when Hitler came to power, he did not hesitate to crush the labor movement as a priority before crushing all other forms of resistance against his regime! The fascists have a record of saying something and doing exactly its opposite! Watching the conduct of political parties in India, it seems that Hitler’s ideology has not only survived but has adapted and strengthened itself in accordance with totally different conditions existing today. The movement of the workers of Maharashtra State Transport Corporation is on! Their strike is on for the last three months. So far, more than 10,000 workers have been suspended in the movement. The jobs of around 3,000 laborers have been lost, yet the national unions, parties as well as the local unions have remained calm and silent, since most of the unions do not look at any movement of workers from a class point of view. All these unions keep the movement isolated at the industry level. Like BSNL, they treat the defeat of the defense workers’ strike as the defeat of the defense workers alone whereas, from the class point of view, the defeat of the defense workers is surely a defeat of the entire working class. We workers have to keep in mind that every movement of workers is a battle of Labor against Capital. We have to start the movement from the ditch itself by waging a united struggle against capital. For this, there is a need of a working-class approach and workers’ own mobilization from below into their own organizations because the tradition of following instructions from above has become a noose around the neck of the working-class movement. —Invocation Workers Unity, Nagpur, India

II. Worst Times Ahead…Coming together for Dialogue and Struggle are prerequisites to confront and halt this advancing menace!

Everything is a game of capital. Sometimes private capital is turned into national capital and at other times it is the other way round. The parliament and the state facilitate this change of form. That is why since the day the banks were nationalized, mind-boggling amount of 45 lakh crore rupees[2] were written off for the capitalist class as bad loans by these banks. In other words, these 45 lakh crore rupees were removed from the loan recovery process. And they went into the pockets of the very same capitalists who defrauded these banks! The nationalization of coalmines and other industries was a process of capitalism itself, and now a game of reverse process of denationalization/ re-privatization or “monetization” of these industries by handing them over back to those very capitalists is visible. Undoubtedly this move is meant for the expansion of capital. An immediate example of this can be seen in the deal of Air India. Air India owned by Tata was nationalized in 1953. Even after nationalization, Tata’s shares continued to remain in that company. Now, Tata has 100% ownership of Air India again. It was because originally the Tata’s were the owners of Air India before nationalization. At the time of nationalization, the Tatas were the owners of only two single-engine planes, and now they are the owners of 127 planes as a reward for the so-called monetization. Recently, the Government of India bought two planes for the Prime Minister and the President. The cost of these planes were 16,000 crore rupees according to the news item published in Hindi newspaper Nava Bharat. On the other hand, Air India was sold with all 127 planes at rupees 18000 crores, the only caveat being Tata’s obligation to retain all the employees for one year. After this period, the private company is free to offer VRS to the Air India employees or find some other ways to retrench them. The employees have already been served notices to vacate their quarters. This is not the case as if this has happened only with Air India workers. Sixteen industries, including BSNL, have been on the block till now for privatization and the only excuse given is that the employees do not work sincerely and that is the reason for the industries to run in losses. The facilities and benefits hard-earned by the railway workers are being curtailed. After the corporatization of the defense industry, even their working conditions and other benefits for which defense employees fought for decades and won, have been curtailed. Service rules and conditions have been changed whereas, at the time of corporatization, the government had said that workers’ living conditions and service conditions as well as facilities they get at work-shops and the floors will not be changed due to corporatization, the first step towards privatization. The big industrialists today are buying all those public sector industries which are purportedly sick and loss-making. Does that mean that industrialists are entering into loss-making deals? Absolutely not! There are two reasons for this. First being that the management of these industries, hands in glove with the present Government have intentionally turned these industries into loss-making ones, which have been working excellently earlier. In this way, the industrialists get to buy these industries dirt cheap! The second reason is that the nationalized industries are handed over to monopoly private players, thus strengthening the vice-like grip of the Autocratic Fascist forces in this country (i.e., the present-day rulers). They are doing this job very well! The reason for this is that the entire system as well as the power structure is based on capital-labor relationship. The right to property is a sacred right in this country, and there is no limit to owning property here. This is why, in a system of wage-earning, the managing committees (or the bureaucracy) are corrupt and are cooperating with the government in destroying the state-owned industries to promote private property. This, in turn, encourages and strengthens autocracy. One reason this is being achieved so easily is widespread Alienation existing among workers. A live demonstration of this alienation was seen when the BSNL workers were victimized, other workers from nationalized industries remained silent… and because of this alienation of worker from worker, the government is in a position to dispose of all nationalized industries into private hands so easily. Alienation exists among workers to such an extent that workers today turn a blind eye to other workers’ movements. This is visible in the state Maharashtra; while the ST workers’ strike is going on and more than 1,300 workers have been retrenched, and more than 11,000 workers have been suspended, the capitalist class in collaboration with the existing government is immersed in its attempt to privatize all the nationalized industries and even create conditions for the sale of the landed properties of peasants. The one-year-long struggle of the peasants of India have succeeded in stalling these pro-industry laws in agriculture for the time being. The very same industrialists, who defaulted on their loan payments, are buying the state-owned industries cheaply. It is not as if the entire working class in India is completely silent on the attack on their livelihood, and working conditions. Workers in many industries have been on strike in recent months – e.g., 20,000 electricity workers of Jammu and Kashmir were on strike from December 19 to 21 against proposed privatization. 900,000 bank employees all over India were on strike for two days (December 16 and 17, 2021) against the proposed privatization of some of the nationalized banks and other issues. More than 90,000 state transport workers in Maharashtra are on strike since October 27, which today enters its seventy-fifth day! The workers are adamant in their demands and have thrown a challenge to the management as well as the Maharashtra government in spite of suspension of 11,024 and termination of 1,333 workers. A few more examples of recent workers’ struggles in India may be cited. However, the fact is that these struggles remain limited within a factory or an industry and fail to become a nation-wide struggle of the working class! The situation demands deep collective reflection and assimilation among the workers whereby alienation among workers and isolation of their struggles would come to an end. We should understand that our strength lies in our unity which alone can bring an end to the present alienation and isolation. There are ample examples of this throughout the world. Karl Marx’s call was for the workers of the world to unite so that alienation (or isolation) between workers of different industries, not only within a country but throughout the world, ends! There is an urgent need for workers of different industries to come together for dialogue so that the path of our struggle is illuminated. —Mazdoor Unity (Workers Unity)

[1]  BSNL stands for Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited, a government-owned telecommunications service provider. [2] 45 lakh crore rupees is equivalent to about 600 billion US dollars. In the Indian numbering system, a lakh is 100,000, a crore is 10 million. Therefore, one lakh crore is a trillion (1,000,000,000,000).


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