“Betrayal Day”

Worker-Peasant Alliance?

Sandeep Banerjee

January 31, 2022. Angry farmers observed “Betrayal Day” at the call of various Farmers unions who conducted the 381-day continuous protest at different border points of Delhi with strong determination paying heavy price in terms of human cost—715 martyrs in the camps around Delhi and several other places facing police and saffron atrocities, for example in Lakhimpur Kheri in UP. But are the farmers only feeling betrayed?

Before the farmers reached Delhi in November 2020 there had been all-India general strikes 18 or 19 times since 1992 which were called by various Central Trade Unions and sometimes taking together many other “mass organisations” most of which were affiliated to various political parties who were at least once part of some or other state government and/or ‘Central’ government.

This time the central unions met in Delhi on December 3, 2021 and decided for a 2-day all-India general strike on February 23 & 24 against central Government proposed labour codes and other fallouts of policies of liberalisation-privatisation-globalisation. They fixed the days of strike deliberately, so that the strike days coincide with the Budget session of the parliament. But at end-January, those unions deferred the strike to March 28-29 (when the Budget session will be almost over) because of (i) rising Covid-19 pandemic and (ii) elections to various state assemblies and/or vacant seats of some representative bodies. Though, (i) interestingly, most governments were, by that time, announcing opening of the schools from early February and (ii) as per the argument of the unions and facts election arrangements, rallies (and even Hindu religious festivals) etc can/could go during pandemic but not general-strike!

Interestingly the party which inaugurated the liberalisation-privatisation-globalisation policies, the Indian National Congress, has their controlled INTUC as one of the unions which sponsored the strike. And it was during the Narsimma Rao—Manmohan Singh reign that the series of strikes started. When the ‘minority’ Congress government were placing initial ‘path breaking’ reforms inaugurating liberalisation-privatisation-globalisation (henceforth written as LPG) in India, the 121-member BJP was voting against motions but not the ‘leftists’ and some of their friends. 60-member left and many other opposition parties were staging walk-outs because—if all non-Congress opposition voted against the minority government, the government would fall, another general election would have to be conducted—which would put burden on people as there would be price-rise etc. This was a gem of left logic, as if the burden of liberalisation-privatisation-globalisation would be less than that of a general election!

Anyway, the farce was greater and messier later. During the mid-1990s a non-Congress non-BJP ‘friendly’ United-Front Government was formed in which the CPI was inside the ministry and CPIM supported ‘from outside’. (Everybody knows how bitter Mr Jyoti Basu was regarding the ‘historic blunder’ of the CPIM of not letting him become the Prime minister.) In that Government Mr Chidambaram was an important minister and policy maker.

Still later, after 6 years or so of BJP rule the UPA-I ministry and UPA-II ministry came one by one, both got ‘left’ support and both the governments only walked on the beaten track of Narsimma Rao and AB Bajpayee governments.

Did the governments and/or the capitalists bother much about those 18-19 all-India strikes blessed by so many parties called by party-unions and some so-called non-party unions in 28 years (or 25-26 years, leaving aside UF years). The first 11 all-India strikes were held in between a fifteen-year period, 1992 and 2007. They used their usual ploys of ‘law-and-order’ to make less participation in the strike. In some states the ruling non-Congress non-BJP governments also discouraged or opposed those strikes. And it was clear that these strikes, despite the attacks faced by millions of workers, could not etch any mark on Government policies. 10-12-hour workdays, tremendous oppressive working conditions for gig-workers (like delivery boys), all were there much before the promulgation of Labour Codes.

 A farmers’ unrest main forces of which were independent of those established political parties and even most of them not vouching for any candidates in the coming assembly elections, could make the government retreat. The farmers’ mahapanchayat in Muzaffar Nagar held on September 5, 2021 called for an all-India strike on September 27 last year. In that call the leaders in their addresses appealed to the workers to take up Government proposed Labour Laws, sales of Government properties to private entities etc very seriously and to try effectively by starting worker-resistance, and in cases required farmers would supplement these actions with farmers’ manpower. But no such gestures of the trade unions were seen even in that relatively favourable time, like, say, blocking Bharat Petroleum Head Quarter and state level offices, storming and ‘occupying’ some airports given away to Adani, in early December blocking (under-ground cable connections) of all Mobile towers of private players when those companies unilaterally increased tariff . They could also take up issue like—after cancellation of 3 Farm Bills Government must restart “Essential Commodities Act” to decrease prices of essential commodities within the level of purchasing power of the population.

 A strike call against the Government actions like labour laws (and inactions) are to be observed, but does the behaviour of the central trade unions amount to ‘betrayal’ towards the working class and the unorganised workers yet to be unionised and their families?

Once there were political formations who were described as ‘third-stream’ ‘groups’—the first qualification ‘third-stream’ defined the constituents as left-of-CPIM, that is those who do not go for formation of state governments and consequently that old clause no 112 of the CPIM party programme, and simultaneously opposed the ‘ultra-left’ line of boycotting mass-organisation, mass-struggle, indefinite boycott of assembly and/or parliamentary elections etc. the term ‘group’ signified that they are for making a revolutionary Communist Party. But it is no more there — some of the erstwhile constituents of the third stream have sided over to maha-gutbandhan with the Congress-CPI-CPIM and other local bourgeois groups (Assam, Bihar), some of them are in a process of abandoning the line of Democratic Revolution and so on, whereas for the last 45-50 years the groups only showed divergence in ‘political lines’ while converging to ‘joint actions’ to compensate for weakness of forces—this is a sad and bitter truth. And most of the trade unions and/or mass organisations are part of the ensuing (deferred) strike call.

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Vol 54, No. 33, Feb 13 - 19, 2022