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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 39 New Delhi September 17, 2016

The Working Class Strike — What it Means

Sunday 18 September 2016

by S. Sudhakar Reddy

The Indian working class successfully organised a historic, massive general strike on September 2, 2016, in which a large number participated actively. The pent-up anger of the workers and employees was reflected in the strike. This was an unprecedented struggle.

Banks, insurance companies, financial institutions, workers of big public sector companies (including navaratnas, miniratnas), coal, steel and mine workers, ports, unorganised workers, school and university teachers, karmcharis of universities, State and Central Government employees and almost all Asha and Anganwadi workers went on strike. The Indian financial institutions observed a total bandh. Transports in many States were off the road.

There was a total bandh-like situation in Kerala, Karnataka, Puducherry, Telangana, Manipur, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Punjab and many other States. It was moderately successful in other States also.

The government issued a routine statement that the strike did not succeed. But the corporate press agreed on an estimated loss of Rs 18,000 crores due to the general strike. Last year 15 crore workers participated in a general strike while this year it is estimated 180 million (18 crores) participated in a similer general strike.

The strike was successful. It was not a strike only on economic demands. The working class raised policy issues. It opposed FDI in defence, insurance and key sectors. It also opposed mergers and acquisitions of banks. They are demanding the scrapping of labour reforms which will hurt the workers. They are opposed to disinvestment and weakening of the public sector. They are asking for a minimum wage of Rs 18,000 and a minimum pension of Rs 3000 to all. They are asking for price-control through universal food security.

Every single demand is justified. The BJP Government tried to split the working class movement and influenced the BMS through the RSS. They announced some concession to some sections of employees to keep them away from the strike. The Labour Minister tried to mislead the workers by saying that seven out of eight main demands had been accepted. This is a big lie. Nothing worked. Crores of workers went on strike.

The Union Government should draw a lesson from this big slap of workers on its face.

The economic situation is turning from bad to worse. Foodgrains, edible oils, essential commodities are costing higher every month. Exports are stagnant. The value of the rupee is going down. There are drought and floods in different States. Farmers are in distress. Unemployment is on the increase. Education and health expenses are going up. These are making life miserable.

The government is satisfied with the GDP growth rate; that too is slowing down. ‘If the corporates are happy, the nation is happy’ is the philosophy of the BJP Government.

It is a one-man government which does not listen to any reasonable advice from anybody. According to them, “India is shining”. The Prime Minister is internationalising himself, not the nation.

The land ordinance was resisted by the peasantry. The saffronisation of education and attacks on Dalits are being resisted by students. Intellectuals and writers gave back their awards, expressing disgust at the dictates on culture and against the “right to speak”. Communalism is being used as the dirty weapon to divide the people and “gau-raksha” vigilantes are out with the full support of the RSS attacking the minorities and Dalits. One has to fight both ways: against the disastrous economic policies as well as the communal fascistic offensive; both struggles have to be combined.

A new communal or caste issue is raised by the outfits of the Sangh Parivar whenever the Modi Government takes any major economic decision that is disastrous to the country. This is done to divert the people’s attention from the economic policies.

Murder of Govind Pansare, Prof Kalburgi, Prof Dabholkar brought out the height of intolerance and fascist tendencies of the Hindutva forces. Murder of Mohammad Akhlaq as a punishment for beef eating brought to the fore the insecurity among the Muslim minorities. The BJP lost Delhi and Bihar in the State legislative elections. Kashmir is in flames with unending agitations. Dalits are on the warpath.

It is in this background that this historic strike of the working class has taken place. Resistance and struggles are going on against the government policies. The Union Government headed by Narendra Modi has completed half of its five-year mandate. They have chosen to be with the MNCs and corporates than with the people of the country. If they do not mend their policies they will have to face more massive, militant struggles in the coming period. Expecting the BJP to mend its ways is an illusion. People should get ready to resist, fight the anti-people policies of the Union Government and form broad platforms as the working class did on September 2, 2016.

Red salute to the working class for showing the path of resistance and struggle to the nation!

The author is the General Secetary, Communist Party of India.