Mazdoor Ekta Lehar’s reporters have interviewed a few leaders who had participated in the 2nd September strike. We are publishing a selection of the interviews here
Com. Birju Nayak (Secretary, Mazdoor Ekta Committee)
MEL: What was your experience of the 2nd September 2015 strike that has just been organised?
Com. Birju Nayak: The strike was affected the whole country. All sections of the working people are very angry. All workers – whether they are mental workers, or labourers working with their hands, airline pilots or loco driver – are unhappy with their condition and are ready to fight to change it. They are fed up with the exploitation that is increasing day by day. There is no control over prices and real wages are decreasing by the day. Labour laws are not implemented in many industries. Justice appears unrealisable for the worker.
MEL: What was your participation like in the strike?
Com. Birju Nayak: The Delhi Committee of Mazdoor Ekta Committee (MEC) was charged with the responsibility of ensuring the success of the strike in South Delhi. All the unions of this area held a meeting a month before the strike. We made our plan. A common banner was prepared. MEC carried out a significant role in establishing a coordination committee of all unions of South Delhi and providing leadership. Many unions and workers organisations – allied with political parties and independent unions, country-wide and Delhi based – united with one purpose. Street corners meetings were held at several places in the important industrial area of Okhla. The significance of the strike was explained and an appeal was made to the workers to make the strike a success.
MEL: What is the aim of MEC?
Com. Birju Nayak: Today there are 11 recognized unions in the country . There are lakhs of other unions across the country. Crores of workers are with one or another union and there are crores of workers who are not in any unions. The reins of power are in the hands of the ruling capitalist class. Whichever party or coalition of parties come to power, they work for this class. In this system of political parties, the working class has been tied to various different political parties. This wipes out any unity and strength of workers as a class.
History shows us that from 1920 when AITUC was established till independence, nearly all the workers were in struggle under one banner. Post 1947, the bourgeoisie made a very definite plan to break down AITUC and many small unions were set up. The number increased from one to two, from two to three, and so on, so that today, there are hundreds of unions. Every parliamentary party has split the class and made its own union. This situation contributes directly or indirectly to preserve the capitalist system .
MEC was born about 25 years ago. Even then we saw, like today, that workers were divided into various unions. We are very clear that the working class is one, and our enemy is the capitalist class. Every worker is exploited. Then why are the workers divided? This will only benefit the capitalist class.
We are of the view that the working class cannot achieve its aim as long as it is divided like this. The working class has to unite around its programme and intensify the struggle against the prevailing capitalist system.
We are making efforts to bring all unions country-wide on one platform like MEC did in South Delhi in the course of preparing for this strike, so that the working class will be united as a class.
We are committed to the task of organising the working class against the present capitalist system. MEC works in various other places besides Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai.
MEL: What are the next steps?
Com. Birju Nayak: We have to try our utmost to preserve the unity that has been built of the working class organisations. This unity has to be broadened and strengthened. The consciousness has to be brought to every factory and work place that the working class has one common interest which is opposite to the interests of the capitalist class. The working class has to have its independent programme. We have to make one strategy for the struggle of the working class.
MEL: The justification given for workers not uniting under on banner is the ideological differences. What is your suggestion for resolving this problem?
Com. Birju Nayak: Ideological differences is not a new thing. It is not necessary that any two people must have the same view. The important questions is – should such ideological differences be the basis for dividing the class? Absolutely not, in my view. There can be ideological differences within the communist movement. It is harmful to the workers’ movement to take these differences amongst us into the movement, give contrary messages to the workers and divide them on this basis. We communists must discuss these ideological differences constantly and must unrelentingly keep trying to establish the common programme in the interest of the working class.
Comrade Ram Sagar Gupta (General Secretary, CITU, South Delhi)
MEL: What has been your experience of the recent general strike?
RSG: We had organised a number of meetings in South Delhi on behalf of our union, CITU. We also took part in the meetings organised by the central trade unions for organising the strike. This strike was against the anti-worker and anti-farmer policies of the government. Government is making changes in the labour law that are anti-worker which are being called 'reforms'. These reforms are a matter of life and death for the workers. If these pro-capital reforms are carried out, then the attacks on the workers will intensify. At the present, there are a number of laws to guarantee minimum wages. However the factory owners don't follow the law and neither does the government take any steps to force them to comply with the law. The goondas of various members of parliament and legislative assembly are hired for various posts in the companies to keep the workers in submission. With this kind of patronage, the factory owners don't even give the workers their ESI, PF, minimum wages and dismiss them whenever they want. The workers know what is going on. Workers and farmers are being oppressed and persecuted by the government, elected by the votes of the workers, in the same manner as the British used to do before independence when workers tried to make unions or tried to assert their right.
Under the leadership of Modi, the BJP had promised 'acche din' to the people before coming to power, but the workers are facing terrible days now. In the name of 'shramevjayate' (labour will triumph), laws guaranteeing labour rights are being eliminated and representatives of our ruling class make a mockery of our workers when they are abroad.
Factory owners had to declare a holiday for workers on the strike day. However, it is the workers coming out in their 1000s on the road that made the strike so successful. The success of the strike must bring this understanding among the trade unions and workers that our rights can be guaranteed only through our unity. The capitalists are truly afraid of such a consciousness among the workers. This is why we must get organised and fight for our rights.
MEL: What was your contribution in making the strike successful?
RSG: As CITU, we organised meetings of committees, unions, area committee and district committees. We organised various activists and workers into committees. In addition to working at the factories level, we reached out to workers in the residential colonies, organised street-corner meetings, distributed leaflets to mobilize support for the strike. As the strike grew closer, we ran a tempo with loudspeaker throughout the industrial estate continuously for days to do propaganda for the strike. All the unions, including Mazdoor Ekta Committee, INTUC, AITUC, IFTU and various other trade unions worked together and jointly mobilized for the strike. The success of the strike is the result of this concerted effort.
Several organisations that are sympathetic to the workers also supported the strike. Such organisations believe that society runs because of the labour of workers and farmers. These included Janawadi Mahila Samiti and youth organisation, DYFI. There are many parties like the Congress party, BJP and the Aam Admi party who shed crocodile's tears for workers and farmers, but did not support the just strike of the workers. CPI(M) supported the workers strike in every possible way and were in the front ranks in the mobilization through tempo announcements and leaflet distribution. Workers must not get lost in the false propaganda of the other parties but must understand that only the communist parties fight for the rights of the workers.
MEL: What is the next step?
RSG: We have brought out a leaflet thanking the workers for making the strike a success. We will go amongst the workers and we will organise them. We will continue to wage the struggle for fulfilment of the demands of the strike and to oppose the anti-worker, anti-farmer policies of the government. We will continue our efforts to organise the workers and take the struggle ahead.