100 Million+ Indian Workers Take Strike Action!

General Strike IndiaThe 48 hour General Strike called by the Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU), comprising of 11 Central Trade Unions, once again saw massive participation of the working class, with over 100 million workers all over India participating in the 2 day strike. The capitalist media struggled its best to play down the effect of the strike, but the strike did see major shutdown in many parts of India and the industry association ASSOCHAM{{1}} estimating the losses due to the strike at Rs. 26,000 crores.

While this general strike comes after a gap of almost a year, last year also saw two major bandhs (total shutdown) called by the opposition parties on the issue of fuel price hike in May and in September on account of the big bang reforms such as FDI{{2}} in retail. This is also the 3rd time that all the Central Trade Unions (including the Congress’s INTUC{{3}} and BJP’s BMS{{4}}) have united on a common platform. The last period also witnessed massive protests by the youth and sections of the urban middle classes on the issue of the gang rape of a 23 year old student in Delhi which is also a reflection of this trend.

Impact of the 48- Hour General Strike

The strike as usual was total in Kerala and Tripura because of the strong presence of the left parties in the region. However in West Bengal, despite the attempts by the left parties to put up a strong show, Mamata Banerjee{{5}} forcefully kept the shops open and threatened the government employees with dire consequences if they joined the strike. The strike also exposed the brutal attempts by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to hold down the supporters of the left parties, with a panchayat (village council) employee’s ear chopped off for participating in the strike. While such goonda (bully) style enforcement of diktats and TMC’s routine attacks on the supporters of the left may work in the short term, but this sort of anti-working class policies being practiced so openly will only provoke a serious upsurge of the Bengali working people if things continue in this manner.

Photo: The Hindu
Police chasing protesters in Noida. Photo: The Hindu

The strike had a major impact in the national capital Delhi, especially in the suburbs like Gurgaon and Noida industrial belt. While the strike was largely peaceful in the Gurgaon region{{6}}, violent protests erupted in Noida with many vehicles burned, factory units set on fire & over 100 arrested on charge of violence. It remains to be seen what actually triggered this unfortunate episode. Initial reports suggest clashes between the workers and factory owners in a hosiery complex leading to the violent protests by the workers. But whatever the initial cause, it would not have started without a serious provocation on the part of the factory management (which are known to be anti-union and extremely brutal).

On Day 2, the Okhla industrial area in South Delhi witnessed violent protests as workers pelted stones on many factory units there. But once again it will be the workers who will be ultimately blamed for the violence, with the government even talking of invoking the draconian National Security Act (NSA) on the workers. The industrial belt in and around Delhi-Noida-Gurgaon region will be one of the key regions to watch out for as the region is likely to witness major strikes and protests by the working class.

The strike also witnessed massive participation of workers and even complete shutdown in other North Indian regions such as parts of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. In the Southern region (excepting Kerala), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh though only considered partially affected by the strike; but nevertheless saw millions of workers participate in strike action in different parts of the region (apart from the major urban centers). In the financial nerve center – Mumbai, the financial sector was paralyzed owing to the participation of the workers in the banking and insurance sector (both public and private). In Maharashtra as a whole, the strike did not have the desired effect because of the betrayal of some of the leading Trade Unions like the HMS{{7}} that control the crucial transport sector.

All in all, despite the limited 10 charter of demands by the Central Trade Unions, this strike shows the resolve and combative spirit of the workers against the pro-capitalist policies of the Congress led UPA government. While the leadership of Central Trade Unions are yet to chalk out a way forward and spell out clearly, what they finally want to achieve, but they have willy-nilly unleashed the massive potential of the Indian working class despite all the confusions and contradictions that is prevalent in the Indian Trade Union movement today.

opressionWhat Next?

With the Congress led UPA government seemingly hell bent on unleashing more of the highly unpopular big bang reforms and the general slowdown in the Indian economy as part of the global trend, the coming period will witness massive waves of protests that would put the Indian working class on par with the workers of Europe in resisting the onslaught of neo-liberal capitalism. The coming budget in March is likely to see more cuts in the so called welfare programmes (which have always been austerity driven to begin with!).

The situation begs today a complete revamp in the strategies and tactics for the TU movement. Since 1991 the working class of India have come out 15 times and have valiantly conducted general strikes against neo-liberal practices, but the leadership which is predominantly with the left parties is yet to show any ingenuity to take the struggle forward to challenge the Capitalist System which is the fountain-head of neo-liberalism. It is time that the leadership of the left/communist parties realize that there is no halfway in the struggle against this system, it is high-time that the working class is made to understand that the System of Capitalism is rotten to its core and no room for progressivism left within it, and hence its replacement with a democratic socialist system is the only way forward.

It should be noted that the last year’s stirrings against corruption and sexual violence that we saw outside of the parameters of the organised working class is an indication of the churning that is taking place in the society for a bolder and radical leadership. The left parties, in-spite of the ideological drawbacks and lacuna-es have a historic opportunity to lead the struggle encompassing all the emerging battles in the length and breadth of the Indian expanse, from anti-nuclear struggle at Koodankulam to anti-POSCO movement in Odisha.

The working class youth and even the sections of the urban middle class wage earners are no longer prepared to wait and watch, they are moving into action sometimes with even reactionary leadership or no leadership. Even the left parties and its ranks are not spared, in Tamil Nadu owing to the outdated response of the leadership towards the attacks on Daliths, the issue of Sri Lanka’s genocidal war and the living struggle of people in Koodankulam thousands of party card holders have rebelled and refused to renew their membership of the Communist Parties. Even minor splits have taken place in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and the Student/youth wing of CPI(M){{8}} in Delhi.

As we have pointed out in our previous articles, the coming period leading to the 2014 general election will be an interesting period as the Indian ruling classes battles to stay afloat against the stream of socio-political and economic unrest that is likely to grip the country. The issue of price hike, fuel price hike, cut in so-called subsidies, massive unemployment etc., are not only impacting the working class, peasantry and the poor, but also the salaried middle classes who are beginning to feel the pinch.

All the symptoms for a revolutionary upheaval in the society is in the making, not only in India today, but around the globe. The only missing element is the lack of a genuine mass political alternative that can really show the way forward for the Indian working class. Many challenges lie ahead for the forces of genuine socialism to reach out to the new layers of youth and working class.

[[1]] Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India[[1]]

[[2]] Foreign Direct Investment [[2]]

[[3]] Indian National Trade Union Congress [[3]]

[[4]] Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh [[4]]

[[5]] West Bengal Chief Minister [[5]]

[[6]] which has been majorly impacted by the strike of the Maruti Suzuki workers in the last two years [[6]]

[[7]] Hind Mazdoor Sabha [[7]]

[[8]] Communist Party of India (Marxist) [[8]]


  1. lot of them wanted a holiday or were scared of violence by brain hammered fugitives..
    Are all Indians included in 100 million workers ?

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