In the last two years the move to privatize public sector units through divestment to individual capitalists has picked up momentum. Already Modern Foods, Bharat Aluminium (Balco), Computer Maintenance Corporation (CMC), VSNL, Hindustan Zinc have been privatized and more are on the anvil. While the actions within the working class against this anti-national programme are becoming more and more powerful, other sections including middle strata are questioning this policy. However many political and trade union leaders are also spreading despondency within the working class that while it is politically correct to oppose privatization, it is only symbolic and the programme of privatization, liberalization and globalization cannot be stopped, since "there is no alternative to it". The movement cannot move forward even one step in real terms unless this cynicism and pessimism is not fought tooth and nail with arguments, programmes and powerful united actions.
It is with this in mind that Lok Raj Sangathan organized an important conference; "How to block privatization and end the anti-labour offensive". The audacity, optimism and the timeliness of the topic attracted over a hundred trade union leaders, journalists, judges, political activists, environmental activists and other working people.
Organised in the well known Peter Demello Bhavan, home to the All India Port and Dock Workers Union near Masjid Bunder at Mumbai on April 7, 2002, the conference was divided into three important sessions.
The inaugural session was presided over by Justice S M Daud, well known jurist and vice president of Lok Raj Sangathan. The key note addresses were delivered by Prakash Rao, national convenor of LRS and Radhika from Communist Ghadar Party. Prakash explained the importance of all sections uniting in this movement and pointed out that LRS had recognized it very early and besides supporting the trade unions in their struggle had independently filed a Public Interest Litigation against privatization of Modern Foods. He also noted that according to Mr. Arun Shourie, Union Minister of Disinvestment, LRS is the only organization, other than the trade unions of the privatized PSUs, to challenge privatization in the courts. However the courts are inconsistent and are not upholding what is written in the directive principles of constitution and some are instead calling privatization a purely an executive decision. So all the more there is need to come together beyond party and union lines to oppose this attack he concluded.
Radhika in her detailed exposition took up several important issues. Among other things she pointed out that struggle against privatization does not mean upholding the old public sector as socialistic. These were public assets built to assist the big capitalists and at their behest as in the Bombay Plan. But that does not mean that they should be privatized by the government. After all they are public assets built with people’s money and the sweat of workers in these enterprises. The issue is who controls the state sector. Today the big capitalists control it and hence the PSUs serve them but if the people seize control of the state then these assets can be deployed to serve an economy of which people are the center and not profits of individual capitalists. In fact this large state sector was a global phenomenon of capitalism after World War I. In the last 15-20 years globally a capitalism in crisis is demanding that the state hand these assets over to them at throw away prices. This was behind Reagan and Thatcher’s programme in the eighties and this is also the driving force behind the Indian government’s drive to privatize in the nineties. That is the reason successive governments be they of Congress, BJP or the Third Front have all followed the same policies. Clearly, we should not fall into the trap that only BJP is the cause of privatization and hence we should all unite to bring Congress back to power as some leaders are advocating. The current communal violence, fascisation like POTA and privatization, liberalization and globalization are all part of one indivisible strategy of the bourgeoisie to come out of the current crisis at the cost of the mass of working people and the times call upon us to build a truly solid political unity of the working class and all the people of India against the big bourgeoisie by putting forward our own independent programme to solve the political and economic crisis", she said (see elsewhere in this issue for the full text of CGPI speech in the conference.)
The first session comprised of presentations by Com. Nachne of LIC Employees Federation, Shankar Salvi, Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat, Pravin Nadkar, AIFTU and Shivanand Kanavi, a senior journalist. Justice Daud, chaired the session.
The second session was marked by presentations by Dada Samant of Kamgar Aghadi, Y G Joshi, Govind Yadav of Modern Foods, National Railway Mazdoor Union, Dhote Patil of Port and Dock Workers Federation, Arvind Vaidya of Teachers Union, George Gomes, Gaikwad, Anil Tyagi of SUCI, Shekhar Kapre of Ladhaku Garment Mazdoor Sanghatana and Girish Raut of Valvan Bunder Virodhi Samiti.
The presentations were marked by seriousness towards the issue and earnestness to take the movement forward. The speakers brought their rich experience from different sectors and their political experience to throw light on different aspects of privatization and anti-labour offensive.
The conference concluded by passing resolutions against communal violence in Gujarat, against privatization and for increasing political unity against this bourgeois offensive.
People’s Voice welcomes this initiative of Lok Raj Sangathan that has immediately raised the level of the discussion against privatization and is aimed towards formulating an aggressive action programme of political unity.