Maruti Strike Ends or Is it So?

Photo: India Today

As suddently as it erupted, the 14 day strike at Maruti Suzuki plant at Manesar plant in Gurgaon has once again ended abruptly. After a 42 hour marathon negotiations involving the management, the Haryana government and the workers representatives, it was resolved on 21st October that the management would take back all 1200 contract workers, 64 suspended workers will also be taken back but 30 others continue to remain suspended, all transport services will be resumed, a ‘Grevience Redressal Committee’ and a ‘Labour Welfare Committee’ will be set up.

Though partial victory though it may seem, however if we look back at the events from the past 5 months the situation of the workers is back to square one. The agreemeent remains silent on the main demand of the workers all along i.e., recognition of their union by both the management and the government.

Workers of Maruti Coerced?

So how on earth after a heroic struggle, did the situation come to such a pass? The management for the time being may even treat its workers with kids-gloves and think twice before seeking attacking them once again, given its huge credibility gap and losses it has incurred during the last 5 months,  the Maruti Company is under enormous pressure from its share holders. But it would be naive to think that the situation is back to normal or even better than the old days before the strike.

What makes the situation uncertain and the agreement even less credible are the reports that are starting to come on how the negotiations were conducted. According to the Hindustan Times (HT) report (22 October, 2011), the workers representatives were literally held hostage by the management and the governement for nearly 3 days and were warned of arrest if they failed to reach a settlement with the management. Workers were not allowed to have any contact with the outsiders for advice and not even allowed to meet their families for 3 days. And to top it all, the workers were also being continously monitored by their so called leaders in the CITU and the AITUC to reach a solution (read compromise) with the management. (See also: http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Haryana/42-hour-marathon-peace-talks-that-broke-Maruti-deadlock/Article1-760163.aspx)

Industrial Peace! At what cost?

While more details are yet to emerge, to those of us attuned to the workings of the leadership of these Central TU’s this has not come as a surprise. They have betrayed them twice before and will do so in the times to come because that has always been their role of being in the way rather than showing the way forward to the Indian working class. However, cracks will start to emerge, if not already emerging, because the leadership of the Central TU’s do not have complete sway over the Maruti Suzuki workers or even its union leadership. The MSEU leadership though inexperienced has , displayed much more combativity and independent initiative and their actions were more driven by the militancy of the workers at the plant than the directions of the leadership of the Central TU’s.

The Bhupinder Singh Hooda led Congress government in Haryana might be congratulating itself for brokering an agreement through its mafioso tactics and khap panchayat (a feudal style summary (in) justice system like flogging and stone pelting and social ostracising) style diktats, but it would foolish to imagine that this will work every time for it is sitting on a powder keg of over 2 million workers in Gurgaon living and working in similar conditions as the Maruti Suzuki workers. If not in Maruti Suzuki, the struggle is bound to return in another plant or factory with more militancy and determination. As the situation in the industrial sector is far from being rosy, reminiscent to the medieval times, the new young workers are bound to resist such kind of oppression and super exploitation by the multinational corporations.

A ‘Grevience Redressal Committee’ or ‘Labour Welfare Committee’ is no substitute for a union. They will only remain a tool of the management or the government and far from welfare or redressal, is simply another mechanism to conduct war by other means. While the Maruti Suzuki workers have a long way to go in realising their demands, the 3 successive strikes in 5 months would definitely have build the consciousness of the workers and they will learn to overcome the mistakes made in the past. A strike, if anything else, teaches more than what the workers would have learnt in their lifetime and by their action have proved beyond doubt that they are more than a worthier match than their detractors would imagine.

Unprecedented Class solidarity

It is already evident that the Marut workers used all the social tools under disposal to strengthen their struggle, because of the support pages in facebook and messaging through the twitter, the Maruti Suzuki workers struggle got wide publicity and solidarity actions were held in many industrial centres in the country. Many messages of solidarity from fighting union organisations poured in from countries such as Australia, Brazil, South Africa, United States and many more. Next time round the workers of Maruti in particular and others in general will mount more sustained struggles which would pave way for significant victories and radicalisation of the working class.

Vacuum and Crisis of leadership

There is a vast gap between the aspirations of the workers and the leadership of the Central TU’s, whose only vision is to maintain the “good industrial relations” which is nothing but care taking the profit margins of the capitalist classes. In the era of globalisation and the oppressive neo-liberal agenda, the Trade Unions in most countries have become pawns and conduits of the capitalist regimes to offload the economic crisis on to the backs of the working people. In the west such as England & Wales new formations are breaking away from these ideologically bankrupt Trade Union centres to challenge the capitalist system.

It is only a matter of time and events such as the excellent show of class power and solidarity of the Maruti Suzuki workers that a new democratic & militant Trade Union centre would be built in India that can harness the energy of the young working class which will eventually challenge the system of capitalism to replace it with a Democratic Socialist system.

The crisis at Maruti is at heart a reflection of the crisis of global capitalism the world over. As the New Socialist Alternative (CWI – India) have always maintained, victory can only be ensured by challenging capitalism through the unionisation the working class through a mass mobilisation campaign by the Central TU’s ,which in itself has to be democratised, to bring in a new leadership based on the democratic will of the workers at the factory, city, state and at a national level.

Anand Kumar & Jagadish G Chandra

Bangalore