On the occasion of May Day 2013, MEL interviewed Com Santosh Kumar, spokesperson of the Mazdoor Ekta Committee, on the issues facing the working class at this time. The interview is reproduced below.
Q. What is the message that you want to give on this May Day?
Today there is an intense struggle between the capitalist class and the working class. The working has a long history of fighting for its rights and in the course of this struggle, it has won certain rights, in India and worldwide. One of these significant rights is the right to an 8 hour working day. Today this is being openly flouted and workers are forced to work 12 hours at a stretch and often, without any specified time limit at all.
Another important right that workers have won through their struggle is the right to organise themselves into unions to defend their interests. This right too is under severe attack. An important area of struggle has been for security of livelihood. Today even work of a permanent nature is being contracted out and there is no job security.
I am inspired by Marx’s call that . . . “We workers have nothing to lose but our chains. We have a world to win”.
Today the working class is coming together. The successful general strike action on February 20-21 showed the might of the united working class. Then why do we have to slave away like this? Today the means of production are in the hands of the capitalists. They can hire and fire workers and exploit us as they will. They control the state machinery. So what I would like to say is -- the working class needs to take political power in its hands and take over the means of production. Only then can we ensure a secure future for the coming generations.
Q. What are the major obstacles in the working class movement?
A major problem in the working class movement in our country is the fact that the main communist parties have organised workers only around their economic demands but have done nothing to raise the political consciousness of the workers. They have not organised workers as a class. So when it comes to the fight for minimum wages, workers go to the communist parties but when it comes to elections, they vote for parties of the capitalists such as the Congress Party or the BJP.
Our working class is divided on the basis of political parties, trade unions, caste, religion, region and according to differing wage levels. In the working class movement there is very low level of political consciousness, as to what is the source of our problems. There is a lot of illusion spread about the existing political system and process, the illusion that this system can serve the wellbeing of the workers provided there are “good” people in power. Workers are told that through collective bargaining we can win some of our demands but we are never told that this system works only in the interests of the capitalist class whose interests are antagonistic to those of the working class. In this manner the working class continues to remain a tail of one or another party of the capitalists.
This politics of division in the working class movement has to be ended and the working class has to come forward in the class struggle, to wrest political power from the capitalist class.
Q. For the coming Delhi state elections and the Lok Sabha elections, what kind of intervention do you propose?
Elections under the present political system and process are a means to declare the agenda of the capitalists as the “people’s mandate”. All the political parties of the capitalists, the Congress Party, the BJP, other regional parties, all field their candidates for the elections.
The working class should utilise the elections to put assert its rights and organize the working class around its claim for political power. All trade unions, workers organizations, women’s organizations, youth organisations, etc. should come together to field their own candidates in the elections. We need to organise ourselves into samitis in our workplaces and residential areas, rising above party affiliations, caste, community and other petty considerations. Through our samitis we should select and field our own candidates in the elections, as well as hold our elected representatives accountable to us and exercise control over them. This will lay the foundation for a new kind of politics.
At the time of elections all sections of the working people -- workers, peasants, women, youth, students, intellectuals, doctors and other professionals -- take an interest in the politics of our country. This is a good occasion for the working class to enter the electoral arena with its own agenda for navnirman of society.