The largest strike in world history is happening and you don't know about it.
None of the major news outlets in the “Western” world have anything about this massive general strike in India. Of the ones that have stories about India, most of them are about a supposed terrorist strike in the country. Maybe its the concentration over control of the media in the United States (and worldwide for that matter). Regardless of the reason, this revolutionary event is not being covered. But I plan to break down that veil of ignorance and tell you about this historic strike.
Steven Argue in the Santa Cruz edition of Independent Media Center wrote about this strike two days ago. He said that
“with all 11 central trade unions participating, the working class of India will strike for 48 hours at the end of this week. One hundred million workers are expected to strike…This is expected to be the largest strike in India’s history. Tens of millions of workers participated in a similar one day general strike last February 2012. This strike has been called against the anti-worker policies of the governing coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by the Congress Party. Workers’ demands…include:
* Raise the National Minimum Wage to 10,000 Rupees! (The current minimum wage is between 5500 and 6500 rupees, depending on the state and the industry.) [currently this translates to in US Dollars between $101.76 to $120.76 dollars and the demand is to raise it to $183.55. But note that there are high food and petroleum prices in the country which caused a strike two years ago and to be more specific, look on numbeo and at a Centad report from 2008]
* Secure Pensions For All!
* National Social Security For Unorganized Workers!
* End Delays in Registering Trade Unions!
* End Outsourcing and Subcontracting of Permanent Work! [which sounds a lot like demands in the U.S.]”
He further urged to “revolutionaries and unionists around the world [to]…support this strike and its demands,” noting that there will need to be more than just this two-day strike to bring about major changes, and that in order to “force the Indian capitalist government to give in to working class demands, workers must attempt to strike until the government gives in to their demands.” Argue even attacks the
“various reformist Stalinist (USSR line) and Maoist currents,” saying they “lack a revolutionary program” and have “become defenders of the capitalist state.” His final point is that the workers must take control with a revolutionary workers party, and put in place a “revolutionary socialist program” (“a planned socialist economy and workers’ democracy”) by way of a proletarian revolution to smash the capitalist state.
All of these ideas seem to echo what Karl Marx and Frederich Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto. They wrote that “The real fruit of their battles lie not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers…It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes…he proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation. They have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property…Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word…The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.”
I still come back to the strike itself. What else about this strike should you know, other than what Argue wrote? Well, an article in the Hindustan Times may give some background as well. They write that:
“Central trade unions on Wednesday said the success should serve as a wake up call to the government for settling their demands, even as they deplored reports of violence on the first day. Union leaders regretted that they were being blamed for causing Rs 20,000 crore loss to the economy and wondered if the government was aware of the loss accrued due to 2G license row, concession extended to corporates in the last budget and farmers’ suicides…the government was never ready for talks with the unions when they announced the strike in September last year and even when the matter was raised in Parliament and at the standing labour committee’s meeting where the Prime Minister was present…the AITUC general secretary said…Right to strike is guaranteed by the Constitution and nobody can declare illegal…The two-day strike has been called up 11 central trade unions to press for their 10-point charter of demands which include pensions for everyone along with removal of ceiling on bonus and provident fund…Dasgupta deplored the violence in Noida and Ambala, and tendered his “apology” for the inconvenience caused to the people because of the strike. He said the trade unions had no option but to call the strike…barring the states of Delhi and Maharashtra, transport sector came to a standstill in the rest of the states while strike was complete in the banking sector…While industrial workers shut down production…the post offices and the income tax offices were largely affected.”
As such a report tells some specifics it wasn’t enough for me, so I went further. I found an article in Al-Jaazera about the strike. They wrote that: “a strike by millions of low-skilled workers in India has seen banks close and public transport disrupted…an estimated 100 million Indians, angry about rising prices, low pay and poor working condition, walked off their jobs on Wednesday, on the first day of a two-day strike organised by eleven major trade unions…Earlier this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh…had asked for the strike to be called off…In many areas public transport was not running, banks were closed and most shops and offices kept their shutters down…Several trains were stranded at stations as protesters blocked railway tracks…The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimated losses from the strike at more than $3.7bn.” Even though the cost from the strike is supposedly high, most of that loss will be suffered from those at the top of the capitalist structure. In a better note, the shutting down of much of the economy due to this strike is powerful because it shows the workers can take control away from the greedy capitalists, the international financiers and other bourgeoisie.
Libcom.org gives some background on this strike in a post in January. One of their bloggers wrote that:
“The strike has been called because workers have said ‘enough is enough’, after two years of the government refusing to negotiate with unions on any issue…Recent months have seen a mounting wave of militant worker struggles in India, strikes for union recognition in India’s expanding auto sector, including a two-day occupation of a Hyundai plant, a wildcat strike by Air India personnel, and walkouts by telecom workers and coal miners against the central government’s privatization plans…Despite seeing growth of around 9% each year, more than four hundred million Indians live in absolute poverty. Only a handful of countries enjoy similar growth, yet Indian workers have not even been flicked so much as a crumb from the bosses table…Indian workers are starting to switch on to the fact that they ‘system’ only serves the wealthy and the bosses. The last few year has seen a dramatic rise in the number off millionaires and billionaires, yet jobs are lost, wages cut, and unions rights pushed back. India’s richest fifty five people have 1/6th of all the country’s wealth.”
What the International Socialist Group, based in the UK is very relevant here. They wrote that the crucial element of this struggle is that India’s working class, its proletariat, is united together in pushing “a long-term strategy…[to make] the government…make good on previous assurances to basic standards of living, and [put in place] a fundamental right to work in a country where poverty is higher than in all the countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined.”
This strike, which I fully support, can hopefully inspire others to do the same in their respective countries.This struggle also shows how people can stand up to a rotten capitalist system, something that could be done in the belly of the world capitalist system in the United States and the advanced industrialized countries. Dead Prez put it wonderfully in their song, Globalization:
The new name in the twenty-first century of Imperialism/Is really globalization/And when you think about that/When you read about that
When you study about that/Globalization really means the Globalization of Capital/You don’t hear people talking about the Globalization of Labor /But you know working people all around the world/have more in common with each other/Than they have with their own so-called leaders or the rulers/The ruling class that is of the Society/So people should…Globalize resistance…Who cares if you get stepped on, get stepped on/In the name of progress/They business has no conscious/All they want is profits…Oppressive domination, Resiiiiiiist”
From this, I repeat what activist Steven Argue wrote:
“Workers of the World Unite!!!
International Solidarity to the Indian General Strike!!!”