Agenda of the Bourgeoisie versus Agenda of the People
What successive governments have been implementing in our country is the agenda set by the bourgeoisie, headed by the big monopoly houses of the Tatas, Ambanis, Birlas and others.. . . The people’s agenda is to lay new political foundations, become the decision-makers and reorient the economy to ensure prosperity and protection for all!
These opening remarks by the spokesperson of the Communist Ghadar Party of India were the central theme of a very important conference on "agenda of the bourgeoisie vs. agenda of the people" organized by Mazdoor Ekta Committee in New Delhi on October 21, 2012.
Working people from different sectors, including youth, veteran leaders and organizers of the working class and a large number of working women actively participated in the conference. Bright banners bearing the slogans "hum hain iske malik, hum hain hindostan, mazdoor kisan aurat aur jawan!", "desh ki daulat paida karne walon ko desh ka malik banna hoga!" and "ek par hamla sab par hamla!" adorned the hall, aptly summing up the spirit of the discussions at the conference.
The morning session was chaired by Shri Hanuman Prasad Sharma, a much-respected and experienced organizer of teachers and other government employees of Rajasthan. The session commenced with opening remarks by comrade J. Singh, one of the founder members of MEC. Comrade J. Singh recalled the struggles of the working class all over the country in the 1990's, against the liberalization, privatization and globalization agenda of the bourgeoisie, the betrayal of this struggle by the parliamentary communist parties and their associated trade unions and the circumstances in which various workers' unions had come together under the banner of Mazdoor Ekta Committee to fight for their rights. He highlighted the historic rally on February 22, 1993, calling upon all men and women of conscience to fight for the empowerment of the people, in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Masjid by the Congress and BJP governments in the centre and the state of UP respectively. That rally led to the formation of the Committee for People's Empowerment (later re-named Lok Raj Sangathan), and MEC was one of the leading organizers of that rally.
Santosh, a spirited leader of working class youth and one of the main activists of MEC, highlighted the struggles that MEC has waged over the years, always uncompromising in its defence of the interests of the workers. In particular, he recalled the bold struggle waged under the leadership of MEC, by the employees of Modern Foods, one of the first public sector units to be privatized in 2000. Right at that time, the employees of Modern Foods, led by MEC, had exposed the privatization program as nothing other than hand-over of crores of rupees worth of public assets created by the labour of our people to the monopoly capitalists for a pittance, a program aimed at enriching the monopoly capitalist houses manifold, at the expense of the working people. This work of the MEC would have been impossible without the constant leadership and guidance of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, Santosh pointed out. He then called upon Prakash Rao, spokesperson of the CGPI to address the gathering.
In his speech, comrade Prakash Rao pointed out that two decades of implementing the liberalization and privatisation program has exposed its true aim and content. The economic growth of the past 20 years shows that rapid wealth accumulation by a handful of monopoly capitalists has been accompanied by more intense exploitation of the working class, and heightened robbery and ruination of peasants and tribal peoples. Exposing the argument of "flight of capital" with which the PM and other spokespersons of the ruling bourgeoisie are trying to justify the recent round of policy measures, he pointed out that their real aim is to intensify the exploitation and plunder of the land and labour of our people, to generate enormous profits, and use this as the springboard to expand the sphere of influence of Indian multinationals abroad. The big capitalists want to collaborate with foreign monopolies to rapidly upgrade their scale of operations within the country. The ruling bourgeoisie in our country is an imperialist bourgeoisie, which has no regard for national rights or for any other rights except its own “right” to reap maximum profits and to attain big power status on the global scale.
Why should the youthful working class of our country accept this vision of development which assumes that they would forever remain a source of cheap labour power? Why should we accept globalisation of living standards only for capitalists and permanent backwardness for the majority of people, he asked. Pointing to the danger of compromising in any way with any aspect of this agenda, he called on all present to unite around the alternative agenda, the people's agenda.
He highlighted certain important aspects of the alternative, people's agenda. These include bringing trade under social control, state guaranteed protection of workers' savings and pension benefits from being robbed by capitalist speculators, strict legal enforcement of limit of working day for all workers without exception, equal wages for equal work for women workers along with adequate maternity leave, child care facilities at work and security when working late hours. They include the right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining, the right to strike to ensure that the employer fulfils his obligations and constitutional guarantee for the inviolable rights that belong to all workers, with effective mechanisms to severely punish anyone who violates these rights.
The people's agenda for agriculture can be achieved through State support and free technical assistance to enable peasants with small plots to pool their assets and form cooperative farms, with guaranteed State procurement of its output at stable and remunerative prices. Calling for the repeal of the colonial land acquisition act, he said that land must not be treated as a commodity to be bought and sold among private parties. Land use must be regulated according to a social plan, taking into account the needs of agriculture, industry, residential accommodation and other social needs. He called for a comprehensive public distribution system to ensure supply of all essential items of consumption in good quality and at affordable rates. Imposing a moratorium on debt service payments, putting a stop to militarization and unearthing the unaccounted "black" money of the exploiters were pointed out as some of the steps that will ensure sufficient resources to fulfil the needs of all the people.
Exposing vividly how the present system of parliamentary democracy serves to keep political power firmly in the hands of the bourgeoisie and the people out of power, comrade Prakash Rao put forward the people's agenda, which is to establish an alternative to bourgeois democracy, with a political process that ensures that it is the people who are the supreme decision-makers. Among other things, this would include Constitutional guarantee for the right of every citizen to select, elect and be elected, the right to recall the elected and to initiate legislation. He highlighted the role of constituency committees in enabling people to exercise their political rights and hold their elected representatives to account. Organisations of the people, such as MEC, have a vital role to play in this he pointed out.
Recounting the militant history of the MEC, he drew attention to the fact that today we are witnessing a new wave of militant struggle of workers in diverse sectors of industry and services, which is compelling the leaders of all the central trade union federations, affiliated to rival parliamentary parties, to come together on one platform. In this situation, there is a vital need for regular political discussion among the workers, among union leaders and activists cutting across barriers of party affiliation, about the bourgeois agenda and the people’s agenda. MEC is well placed to organise such discussions. MEC also has an important role to play in developing mechanisms for organizing solidarity actions in defence of workers who are under attack, guided by the slogan: An attack on one is an attack on all!
Concluding his speech, full of optimism for the task of developing the people's agenda, comrade Prakash Rao said: " The youthful faces in this hall, in combination with the experienced veterans, fills me with hope and full confidence that the future belongs to us and not to our enemies, even though they may look very powerful today. The future belongs to us who dare to take up the problems of society for solution. The agenda of prolonging this hateful system must be defeated. The people’s agenda must be brought to the centre-stage."
Shri Hanuman Prasad Sharma scathingly exposed the politics of collaboration with the agenda of the bourgeoisie, practised by the central trade unions affiliated to the parliamentary parties. Highlighting the anger and frustration among the workers, particularly the youth, against the present system, he described the work being carried out, of organizing various sections of the workers in Rajasthan, for taking forward the people's agenda. B.S.Sirohi, a veteran trade union leader from Ghaziabad, laid bare the real aim and content of the privatization, liberalization and globalization program, including the latest round of attacks on the livelihood of the people, and called for taking the people's alternative agenda widely among the workers. Referring to workers’ pension funds, he said the government had admitted only two years ago that there are tens of thousands of crores of excess in these funds. Now they want to hand this over to capitalists in the name of reform. Why should such funds not be used to provide housing and hospitals for workers? Referring to the need to oppose the acquisition of peasants’ land by the big capitalists, he said there is plenty of uncultivable land where industry could be located.
Comrade Mathew, a veteran leader of Kamgar Ekta Chalwal in Mumbai, expressed his firm and full support for the people's agenda, to end the growing exploitation and misery of all the working people. He highlighted the work of Kamgar Ekta Chalwal in organizing and leading the railway workers in the struggle for their rights and in popularizing the cause of the railway workers among the public.
Others who addressed the conference included Rajender Pathak, lawyer and trade unionist from Gurgaon who has been actively taking up the cause of the Maruti workers, Mohan Nair, a veteran activist of MEC, Imran Khan, President, Maruti Suzuki workers union in Manesar, O.P.Gupta, union leader from NTPC, Sukhbir, president of Vasant Vihar club employees union, Umesh Mishra, activist of MEC and Gaurav Mittal representing the AILRSA.
The afternoon session was dedicated to the theme of "organizing women workers". Opening this session, Sanjeevani, an MEC activist, who has been leading struggles of working women in Mumbai for nearly 30 years, said that the convening of this session was a proof of the importance that MEC has always given to organizing working women for their rights. Highlighting the many challenges faced by women in our society, she pointed out that the bourgeoisie considers working women as a source of cheap labour and are not in the least concerned with providing women even their most basic needs, such as toilet facilities. She described the various struggles that MEC has waged in defence of the rights of working women, always upholding the principle that the liberation of women is an essential condition for the liberation of the entire working class and for the establishment of the people's agenda.
Sucharita, a founding member of MEC, actively organising working women in Delhi, hailed the bold initiative of MEC in organizing this conference and clearly putting forward the alternative, people's agenda, as opposed to the present agenda of the bourgeoisie. She pointed to the great attention that MEC has always paid to organizing women as workers and as women. Women are denied not only their rights as workers, such as wage parity with men; they are also victims of threats and intimidation by the employers who use their vulnerable position in the society to increase their exploitation. Women are denied basic facilities such as toilets and security at work or while travelling at night. They are also denied maternity benefits, child care facilities, health care, etc. Women in Kashmir and the northeast are victims of state terror at the hands of the security forces. She emphasized the fact that MEC has been organising women with the perspective of establishing the people's agenda, of becoming the decision makers in society. For this, women have to get organized in their places of work and residence, and establish mechanisms to select their candidates for elections, to hold the elected candidates to account, to recall them at any time and to initiate legislation , she concluded.
Renu Nayak, a young MEC activist, spoke of the efforts of MEC to build the unity of women workers. There is a lot of pressure to accept and merge with the existing political process , she said, and to accept 33% reservation of seats for women in legislative bodies as the solution. But the worst kind of crimes against women are going on, right here in Delhi, which has a woman Chief Minister! We have had a woman President and in the past, a woman Prime Minister, and women Chief Ministers in several states, but are women any safer, she asked. She spoke of the need to organize women into samitis, which must work towards empowering women. Another young MEC activist, Chhaya, spoke of the many challenges faced in organizing women. Women are doubly exploited, at work and then again at home and in society. Young women today have a lot of aspirations but their dreams are usually cut short due to poverty and lack of resources, she pointed out. But once organized, women are a very potent force for change for the whole society, she asserted. Activists Punam Sharma and Boby Nayak also spoke of their experiences in organizing women.
Concluding the proceedings of the conference, Sanjeevani thanked the participants for their active and lively interventions. She expressed appreciation for this initiative of MEC, of organizing discussion around such a crucial theme and of boldly putting forward the people's agenda, to defeat the agenda of the bourgeoisie. Let us boldly take this agenda among the people, she declared. The days of the bourgeoisie are numbered. The future belongs to us, the people!
At a time when the bourgeoisie is launching new attacks on the working people every day, this conference of MEC was very significant. It exposed the lies with which the bourgeoisie is trying to justify these attacks and laid bare the real aim of these attacks -- to enable the big monopoly capitalist houses to become even bigger global players at the expense of the labour and resources of our people. It laid the basis for building the unity of the working people across all sectors of the economy, irrespective of their political or organizational affiliations, around the agenda of making people the decision makers, the real masters of society.
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar hails this conference organized by MEC as an important step forward in the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie.