Peace and Bread

Come September, the Left in India gets rejuvenated. Their ritualistic annual peace march on September 1 continues to be enveloped in empty rhetoric against imperialism. The authorities bother little about their peace cry on the streets because it has hardly any relevance to the Indian context though war-mongers are at home, within ruling and opposition parties as well. For lasting peace and democracy in the middle east and dozens of conflict zones, more precisely areas of low-intensity war, what is needed is a continuous solidarity movement with the peace marchers across the world. Condemning Israel and its backer America and that too in vaguely coined slogans, is not enough to help peace movement grow, both here and abroad.

The end of Vietnam War was not really the end of war economy. Now they have more than one Vietnam on their plate. The overall crisis in the economy and politics is global. And global military-industrial complex needs war to tide over the crisis. Unless military-industrial complex is attacked at the roots, unless America’s or for that matter NATO’s interventionist policies are attacked continually, hundreds of peace marches won’t be able to stop wars, positional or otherwise, in the middle east and elsewhere.

No doubt the Left occasionally talks of peace for the Iraqis, they show sympathy for the Palestinians but they don’t go beyond issuing harmless press statements when it is the question of war and peace in the sub-continent. They simply avoid the disturbing issue as if they have nothing to do against their own government that is out and out fascistic denying peace to a vast number of people in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir and in Central India where Indian security and para-military forces are waging war against indigenous people.

The peace accord recently clinched by Modi’s government and Naga Liberation Movement led by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland [Isak–Muivah]— NSCN(IM)—doesn’t figure in their peace discourse though it is a serious issue for a large number of Naga people who have been fighting for freedom since the days of Nehru. As the details of the deal have not been made public, there is every reason to believe that Pan Naga Council as envisaged in the agreement may escalate more tensions instead of bringing in permanent peace in the region. The crux of the matter, however, lies elsewhere. So long as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a source of permanent war, not peace, remains in force, peace will remain elusive to the people in the region, Naga accord or no accord.

The people in the region must be allowed to breathe freely. But the Left’s peace agenda doesn’t cover them. September 1 march has very little impact on broad masses though they have been organising it, somewhat routinely for decades. The government of India is continually waging war against its own people whenever there is a voice of dissent from the aggrieved. Opposing local wars should be part of wider peace movement otherwise the number of marchers would decline every year.

This year September is going to have special significance in Left’s political culture. A nation-wide industrial strike on September 2 called jointly by all central trade unions cutting across party-affiliations is likely to bring in some hope for toiling masses across the country. The strike is mainly against sweeping ‘labour reforms’ seeking to curb labour’s rights and social security net as guaranteed under the existing labour laws. The other related issues are land bill and anti-people measures by the Modi government.

The basic aim of Modi’s new industrial relations bill is to do away with labour-intensive industries and making labour-organising difficult. Organised sector workers and employees have already lost much of their bargaining power even in the absence of new labour act. And whatever remains of social security protection will vanish when the new bill becomes the Act. True, it is difficult to organise nation-wide industrial strike frequently by accommodating so many divergent political interests, sometimes working at cross-purposes, in labour movement. Then a token strike or two in a year is no answer to the mounting aggressive posture shown by the government and corporate houses. Gone are the days when workers even in a single establishment dared to launch weeks-long strike while raising strike funds in advance. Labour Movement has always been defensive in this part of the globe but with the advent of neo-liberal stick they are showing too much defensive action without being really forced to do so. Panic seems to have gripped the entire movement. It is next to impossible to reverse the systematic reduction in labour force without initiating a sustained struggle against massive automation drive by corporates even in areas where it is totally unnecessary.

The very idea of labour-intensive industry has taken back-seat. And the Left has taken it as a fait accompli. If jobless growth is the strategy of the government and corporate India, strikes should be organised for job-oriented growth, with concrete plans acceptable to broad masses. No, that is not on the agenda of the Indian Left, they just react to spontaneity. If today organised sector workers and employees look too powerless before the diktats of their employers and government, it is because they continue  to think in terms of sectarian interests while paying lip service and somewhat indifferently, to the plight of people in general. The gradual curtailment of democratic space has not really made the Left promote loudly to the toilers and oppressed peace and bread, they always try to pose themselves as pragmatic and compromising with their reformist approach.

Vol. 48, No. 7, Aug 23 - 29, 2015